January 19, 2006

La Paz Effect in Pakistan

The ripple effect of Evo Morales’s stunning presidential win in Bolivia is being felt – and closely watched – as far away as Pakistan, as shown by a recent op-ed in The News, one of Pakistan’s leading English dailies.

The recent sweep of left leaning presidents in Latin America (referring to the election of anti-neo liberal candidates in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela and Chile, as well as Bolivia, over the past year) is instructive for Pakistan, writes Farooq Sulehria: “Latin America was the first continent turned into a laboratory for neo-liberal experiments. Ironically, it also is the first to stand up in rebellion.” While Pakistani President Musharraf is “busy implementing…come what will” the free trade and privatization directives of the World Bank and IMF, Sulehria argues that there are lessons to be learned for Pakistan about the rising of Latin resistance to this model:

“By opening up economies to ‘market forces’, Latin American countries were promised significant poverty reduction. In fact, what happened was a significant increase in the hold exercised over Latin American economies by multinationals, especially US corporations. Between 1990, and 2002, multinational corporations acquired 4,000 banking, telecommunications, transport, petrol and mining interests in Latin America.”

Sulehria closes with this warning:

“For the last two decades, Washington has forced neoliberalism (read poverty) down third world throats in order to make the world better for US business. To many the US economic empire, spreading at gunpoint, seemed unassailable. But now, unable to defeat rag-tag Iraqi militias and rapidly losing allies in Latin America, the empire stands exposed to others on the globe. Others, including Pakistan, are watching and learning.”

DAVID MONTERO reports from Islamabad, Pakistan for the Christian Science Monitor.

Posted 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

Perils In Pakistani Earthquake Relief, Parallels to Katrina

Pakistan is more than just a U.S. ally in the war on terror – it’s also an eerie doppelganger of hard core Republican economic strategies, according to Afiya Shehrbano, a sociologist in Pakistan who points out ‘scary affinities’ between the how the Bush and Musharraf administrations handle disaster relief.

“In fact, [the Musharraf administration’s attitude] is eerily reminiscent of the kind of hard-core Republican strategy that is shaping the reconstruction process in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's flooding of New Orleans. First of all, disasters are not indiscriminate, as the fatalists like to believe. Class, race and gender play integral roles in the nature and extent of damage, as do the flaws of rural housing and inadequate infrastructure,” she writes for The News of Pakistan.

The disaster clean-up after Katrina, she writes, is moreover a warning of both what to expect and what to avoid in Pakistan post quake.

She argues for example that, like FEMA, the ranks of Pakistan’s Relief and Reconstruction Authority have been stocked according to the calculus of patronage and profit, rather than skill and merit. Relief efforts should be conducted with a view toward ecological considerations and the needs of the affected people, not lining the pockets of the military, “who have become notoriously involved in real estate as side-businesses in every part of this country,” she advises.

“Note also the likeness in 'optimistic' conservative economic agendas that the Bush administration promised New Orleans victims and which our administration is pushing after the earthquake. Both have pledged to make the affected areas into capitalist utopias through free trade pacts,” Shehrbano observes, concluding, “It is really the right moment for civil society to step in and organise its efforts towards a meaningful, people-oriented rebuilding of the affected communities.”

David Montero, a freelance journalist in Dhaka, Bangladesh, covered the Pakistani earthquake for the Christian Science Monitor and other publications.

Posted 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

Bangladesh Tastes Bolivia's Revolt

Will the breakneck speed of trade liberalization, as
prescribed by the IMF and WB, push Bangladesh toward a
street revolution a la Bolivia? That’s the warning of
AJM Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan, a professor in the
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at
University of Dhaka, in an editorial in
">The Daily Star,the country's largest English language daily newspaper.
“In recent years Bangladesh has become an ideal place for
international money lenders such as the IMF and WB,” he writes.

The adoption of neo-liberal policies, Bhuiyan cautions, has
already resulted in big blows to the nation’s economy.
The closing down of one of the largest and long
standing jute mills in the country, for example, cost
thousands of people their jobs, effectively destroying
the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of their

The history of the IMF and WB policies in Latin
America are a bracing wake up call for Bangladesh and
other developing countries, the author says, tracing
the history of peasant uprisings in Bolivia. “If the
government [of Bangladesh] continues to adhere to IMF
and WB recommended policies, is the vision of a mass
of hungry and poor people seizing the capital like
Bolivians for food, education, shelter, and healthcare
in the near future out of the question?”

Others have echoed his cries. Rapid trade
liberalization, undertaken to appease the World Bank,
is costing Bangladesh dearly, slowing down its
economy, a former commerce minister, Tofail Ahmed,
recently told a trade expo.

DAVID MONTERO is a freelance journalist
currently based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His writing has
appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation,
and Mother Jones, and other publications.

Posted 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2005

What Japan can do for quake victims in Pakistan

Japan offered US$20 million in aid to Pakistan following a powerful earthquake.

Kyodo News agency reported Thursday that Japan also plans to send some 100 troops.

Japan has sent a disaster relief team and an emergency medical team and pledged US$221,000 worth of relief goods, including blankets, tents and water purifiers, to Pakistan.

In addition to these aid, Japan should be able to do more thing as a country which have survived frequent earthquakes.

Yomiuri Shimbun said in October 12th's editorial that Japan can play major role.

Japan should provide not only immediate relief aid, but also long-term restoration assistance to Pakistan.

This does not only mean monetary and material assistance. For example, Japan, a country often struck by earthquakes, is good at making long-term plans for post-earthquake reconstruction. Excellent quake-resistant engineering technology this country has developed also will be very helpful in reconstructing buildings and other infrastructure.

Japan could play a major role in international assistance for Pakistan.

Posted 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2005

Will India and Pakistan cooperate on a rescue effort in Kashmir?

A powerful earthquake hit Pakistan-India Border including Kashmir, which is is well known as a high-risk area for earthquakes.

A multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, Voice of America reported that the international community had offered condolences and aid pledges for victims of Saturday's massive earthquake in Kashmir that officials fear killed thousands. And in Washington, President Bush said initial U.S. deployments of assistance are underway.

At the same time, Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun expected that Indo-Pakistani tense relations might be improved through cooperation activities in Kashmir.

Considering recent lull of Indo-Pakistani tension over Kashmir and Saturday's region's strongest and worst natural disaster, Asahi said, these two countries are likely to cooperate to rescue quake-devastated region .

However, they didn't work well together on devastating avalanche which had killed almost 300 people in the region this February.

Asahi said it depends on high political judgment if India and Pakistan implement cooperation and support activities together.

Posted 11:28 PM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2005

Australia's Anti-Terrorism Offensive: Unease Down Under

While the U.S. continues to debate the possible civil liberties implications of the U.S. Patriot Act, a similar act is causing great unease among human rights groups in Australia, according to the Korean newspaper OhmyNews. In early September, Australian Prime Minister John Howard proposed a body of new measures, which he termed a response to the London subway bombings last July. The new anti-terror laws would strengthen the hand of law enforcement by permitting the detention of suspects up to two weeks without charges; facilitate surveillance of individuals for up to a year by (among other things) forcing them to wear tracking devices; and create a new crime of "indirect incitement" to terrorism.

The story’s author, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, editor of the online journal Asia Rights, asserts that such initiatives are not an effective response to terrorism.

“After 9/11,” writes Morris-Suzuki, “experts around the world repeatedly emphasized that responses to terrorism must involve two strands. The first is a security response: stricter surveillance of airports and other likely terrorist targets, increased information gathering about likely terrorist groups etc. The second is the long-term response, tackling the root causes of terrorism.”

"Governments …have been quick to come up with security responses to terrorism, but are much more reluctant to take the difficult steps necessary to tackle the long-term, root-cause side of the agenda…."

"Al Qaida and its allies… are doubtless delighted to see the steady erosion of free speech and human rights, and the increasing marginalization of Islamic communities in developed countries. Every retreat of the front-line defenses of free speech and human rights is an advance for their own brand of bigotry and totalitarianism. ‘Standing firm against terrorism’ requires a determination to deny them that satisfaction.”

Among the regional powers that will no doubt be watching developments closely in Australia are Thailand and the Philippines—identified by the U.S. government as primary new operating centers for al-Qaida and its allies.

Posted 01:20 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2005

A Vietnamese perspective...

Vietbao cartoon.jpg
From VietBao Online.

Posted 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2005

India's reaction to a U.S. visa denial

NarendraModi-HindustanTimes.jpgA prominent Indian minister was recently denied a US visa on grounds that he violated religious freedom.

The official, Narendra Modi, heads India’s western state of Gujarat, a hub of Hindu-Muslim tension. In 2002 rioters in the state killed more than 1,000 Muslims. The carnage was in retaliation for the torching of a train car carrying Hindu radicals, killing nearly 60 (see this BBC analysis).

Some human rights groups accused Modi of complicity in the anti-Muslim violence.

While Modi, a fringe figure of the Hindu right, is little loved by most Indians, the snub wasn’t received well. Local newspapers ran the visa denial story front page with banner headlines. A current affairs list-serve for Indo-Americans scored more than 100 messages on the incident both angry and adulating. One careless poster called for a renewal of anti-Muslim riots.

The ruling Congress party, arch rival to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, protested the decision, while some leading editorialists, better accustomed to demanding Modi’s scalp, pinched their noses and called it unjustified and “simply bad”.

For his part Modi, who was popularly elected, told a news conference that the denial was "an attack on Indian sovereignty."

"Will India also consider what America has done in Iraq when it processes visa applications of Americans coming to India?" he asked.

The snub did one good thing and two bad things. For the good, it condemned religious bigotry and burnished the US record toward Muslims.

But, it also gave Mr. Modi a chance to grandstand.

And most importantly, it hurt nationalist sentiment. The aspiration for global belonging has emerged in the last decade as a dominant force in India, a nuclear power with more degree-holders than the population of France and more English speakers than the US and UK combined.

India is also one of only a handful of countries which still view the US favorably, according to a new Pew Global Attitudes Poll. Even a minor slight from Uncle Sam is received here like a punch in the stomach.

[Photo from the Hindustan Times]

Posted 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2005

"Americans have no place in Iraq"

For the second anniversary of the Iraq war, events are taking place all around the world, especially organized by the Anti-war movement. In Mumbai, India, an anti-war rally followed by a peace march is scheduled for Saturday March 19th. In this event, one person, Osama Hussein, seeks the support of Indians for a free Iraq. ‘‘We need your support. We don’t want to give our country to the British or to the US just to get rid of one dictator", Hussein told the local population of Mumbai. The Iraqi citizen, who says he was a victim of Saddam's regime, created a year ago the National Foundation Congress, Iraq, which offers peaceful resistance to American occupation of Iraq.
For Hussein, Iraq's oil was the true reason for the American invasion. ‘‘America wants to make Iraq a base in that region and then gradually move on to Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt,’’ he said. ‘‘This is just the first step.’’

Posted 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

The Economist (Part I): Special Report on Anti-Americanism

This week's print issue of the Economist (Feb. 19-25, 2005) has a three-page analysis of world perceptions of America and Americans, in the aftermath of two recent polls (one conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, previously discussed here; and another from the BBC). The article is premium content, but the site sometimes runs free-access days sponsored by advertisers (as is the case today, Feb. 22). In any case, it's an intelligent, well-written analysis of the current state of anti-Americanism around the globe -- well worth locating in print if you can’t get it online. (Excerpts inside.)

Though anti-Americanism spans the globe, the phenomenon is not everywhere the same. It mutates according to local conditions, and it is seldom straightforward.
No wonder. Most people's feelings about America are complicated. "America," after all, is shorthand for many other terms: the Bush administration, a Republican-dominated Congress, Hollywood, a source of investment, a place to go to study, a land of economic opportunity, a big regional power, the big world power, a particular policy, the memory of something once done by the United States, a set of political values based on freedom, democracy and economic liberalism, and so on. It is easy to be for some of these and against others, and some may wax or wane in importance according to time, circumstance, propaganda or wishful thinking. So it should be no surprise that some people can hold two apparently contradictory views of America at once. The incandescent third-world demonstrator, shrieking "Down with America!" in one breath and "Can you get me a green card?" in the next, has become a commonplace.

The piece begins with France, which it calls "the locus classicus of anti-Americanism." One source of anti-Americanism here, the author writes, is

the rivalry between France and America, based on their remarkably similar self-images; the two countries both think they invented the rights of man, have a unique calling to spread liberty round the world and hold a variety of other attributes that make them utterly and admirably exceptional. Jealousy also plays a part ... French anti-Americanism tends to rise when France has just suffered a setback of some kind, whether a defeat at the hands of the Germans, a drubbing in Algeria or the breakdown of the Fourth Republic.

The author then goes through many of the world's nations, from Angola to Vietnam, examining the state of anti-Americanism and identifying underlying causes in each:

In Iran, for example, anti-Americanism is a tool exploited by the regime "to divert attention from its many failures."

In Indonesia, it’s "largely an armchair affair."

The piece concludes by pointing out that recent polls show anti-Americanism in many cases may have much to do with the reelection of George W. Bush and policies specific to the current administration, then saying:

That is the, perhaps short-term, view of some non-Americans. It is accompanied by another view, increasingly common among pundits, which holds that America is losing its allure as a model society. Whereas much of the rest of the world once looked to the United States as a beacon, it is argued, non-Americans are now turning away. Democrats in Europe and elsewhere who once thought religiosity, a belief in capital punishment and rank hostility to the United Nations were intermittent or diminishing features of the United States now see them as rising and perhaps permanent. Such feelings have been fortified by Mr Bush’s doctrine of preventive war, Guantánamo, opposition to the world criminal court and a host of other international agreements. One way or another, it is said, people are turning off America, not so much to hate it as to look for other examples to follow—even Europe’s. If true, that could be even more insulting to Americans than the rise in the familiar anti-Americanism of yesteryear.

Posted 02:08 PM | Comments (1)