Friday, July 30, 2004

Silent Screams

Silent Screams
By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
July 30, 2004



Like an experimental rodent
From here I could hear
The whispers
Silent and Potent
Ultrasonic
Beyond perceptual limitations
For us the two legged men and women
Theoretically bonded in breathy symmetry

Like a tethered animal to be slaughtered
From here I could see
The glare
Blinded and clobbered
Infrared
Beyond perceptual limitations
For us the oblivious munching animals
Rhetorically grounded in flaky poetry

Bobby Fischer
Is on the run
But hounded, deported
Into a closed circuit monitored room
His every move
Opening, middle and the end game
Groomed
But Shan’t be notarized and catheterized
It’s the justice served
So they said in ample flare

It’s the justice served
So they said in fumble grumble
Smothering justice
Dying children in bombarded jungle
In ripped apart towns
Under the desert sun
Or blackened moon
Forcibly humbled
for further decorum
to mellow, to swoon

We could mumble
The silent whispers
Silent screams


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Right Wing's Deep, Dark Secret

Dear Readers,

This is an interesting article that perhaps could be perceived cynical to many, and some may even could proclaim "The Left Wing's Deep, Dark Secret" in similar fashion, still it does shed light on politics and its intricacies.

Regards,

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)


The Right Wing's Deep, Dark Secret

By John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, writers for the Economist, are co-authors of "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America" (Penguin, 2004).

BOSTON — One of the secrets of conservative America is how often it has welcomed Republican defeats. In 1976, many conservatives saw the trouncing of the moderate Gerald Ford as a way of clearing the path for the ideologically pure Ronald Reagan in 1980. In November 1992, George H.W. Bush's defeat provoked celebrations not just in Little Rock, where the Clintonites danced around to Fleetwood Mac, but also in some corners of conservative America.

"Oh yeah, man, it was fabulous," recalled Tom DeLay, the hard-line congressman from Sugar Land, Texas, who had feared another "four years of misery" fighting the urge to cross his party's too-liberal leader. At the Heritage Foundation, a group of right-wingers called the Third Generation conducted a bizarre rite involving a plastic head of the deposed president on a platter decorated with blood-red crepe paper.

There is no chance that Republicans would welcome the son's defeat in the same way they rejoiced at the father's. George W. is much more conservative than George H.W., and he has gone out of his way to throw red meat to each faction of the right: tax cuts for the anti-government conservatives, opposition to gay marriage and abortion for the social conservatives and the invasion of Iraq for the neoconservatives. Still, there are five good reasons why, in a few years, some on the right might look on a John Kerry victory as a blessing in disguise.

First, President Bush hasn't been as conservative as some would like. Small-government types fume that he has increased discretionary government spending faster than Bill Clinton. Buchananite paleoconservatives, libertarians and Nelson Rockefeller-style internationalists are all furious — for their very different reasons — about Bush's "war of choice" in Iraq. Even some neocons are irritated by his conduct of that war — particularly his failure to supply enough troops to make the whole enterprise work.

The second reason conservatives might cheer a Bush defeat is to achieve a foreign policy victory. The Bush foreign policy team hardly lacks experience, but its reputation has been tainted — by infighting, by bungling in Iraq and by the rows with Europe. For better or worse, many conservatives may conclude that Kerry, who has accepted most of the main tenets of Bush's policy of preemption, stands a better chance than Bush of increasing international involvement in Iraq, of winning support for Washington's general war on terror and even of forcing reform at the United Nations. After all, could Jacques, Gerhard and the rest of those limp-wristed continentals say no to a man who speaks fluent French and German and has just rid the world of the Toxic Texan?

The third reason for the right to celebrate a Bush loss comes in one simple word: gridlock. Gridlock is a godsend to some conservatives — it's a proven way to stop government spending. A Kerry administration is much more likely to be gridlocked than a second Bush administration because the Republicans look sure to hang on to the House and have a better-than-even chance of keeping control of the Senate.

The fourth reason has to do with regeneration. Some conservatives think the Republican Party — and the wider conservative movement — needs to rediscover its identity. Is it a "small government" party, or does "big government conservatism" make sense? Is it the party of big business or of free markets? Under Bush, Western anti-government conservatives have generally lost ground to Southern social conservatives, and pragmatic internationalists have been outmaneuvered by neoconservative idealists. A period of bloodletting might help, returning a stronger party to the fray.

And that is the fifth reason why a few conservatives might welcome a November Bush-bashing: the certain belief that they will be back, better than ever, in 2008. The conservative movement has an impressive record of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Ford's demise indeed helped to power the Reagan landslide; "Poppy" Bush's defeat set up the Gingrich revolution. In four years, many conservatives believe, President Kerry could limp to destruction at the hands of somebody like Colorado Gov. Bill Owens.

When the British electorate buried President Bush's hero, Winston Churchill, and his Conservative Party, Lady Churchill stoically suggested the "blessing in disguise" idea to her husband. He replied that the disguise seemed pretty effective. Yet the next few years vindicated Lady Churchill's judgment. The Labor Party, working with Harry S. Truman, put into practice the anti-communist containment policies that Churchill had championed. So in 1951, the Conservative Party could return to office with an important piece of its agenda already in place and in a far fitter state than it had been six years earlier. It held office for the next 13 years.

The real reasons Bush went to war

Dear Readers,

There is nothing new on the allegation that the Bush administration's real purpose of invading Iraq was to secure the increasingly dwindling oil supply. John Chapman is a distinguished civil service worker, and his analysis on this highly publicized issue invokes a fresh perspective. In our energy hungry world, oil and gas play not-so-surprisingly a dominant role for various nations' strategic move and global politics. It is not only U.S. the sole nation entrenched in the politics of fossil fuel, other small to larger nations are into it in full vigor too. Peace loving folks around the world must protest in oil and other theology driven wars that has and had caused so much destructions and deaths, and at the same time we must also seek to understand the opposing nations, like France, Germany, China, Russia, India and others, those who have vital economic interest in the same black diamond, what are their short or long term goals? Could they be trusted blindly?

It is unfortunate that in the global arena, the fierce competitions among the nations and states for depleting natural resources like oil and gas, and increasingly water, are becoming major obstacles for achieving lasting peace, solving the problem of depressing poverty and deadly diseases, since, behind the scenes, in the backstage of illuminated podium, there are constant political battles, muscling and juggling economic interests, in most cases, in favor of the mighty and powerful.

Regards,

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)



The real reasons Bush went to war


WMD was the rationale for invading Iraq. But what was really driving the US were fears over oil and the future of the dollar

John Chapman

There were only two credible reasons for invading Iraq: control over oil and preservation of the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Yet the government has kept silent on these factors, instead treating us to the intriguing distractions of the Hutton and Butler reports.

Butler's overall finding of a "group think" failure was pure charity. Absurdities like the 45-minute claim were adopted by high-level officials and ministers because those concerned recognised the substantial reason for war - oil. WMD provided only the bureaucratic argument: the real reason was that Iraq was swimming in oil.

Some may still believe the eve-of-war contention by Donald Rumsfeld that "We won't take forces and go around the world and try to take other people's oil ... That's not how democracies operate." Maybe others will go along with Blair's post-war contention: "There is no way whatsoever, if oil were the issue, that it would not have been infinitely easier to cut a deal with Saddam."

But senior civil servants are not so naive. On the eve of the Butler report, I attended the 40th anniversary of the Mandarins cricket club. I was taken aside by a knighted civil servant to discuss my contention in a Guardian article earlier this year that Sir Humphrey was no longer independent. I had then attacked the deceits in the WMD report, and this impressive official and I discussed the geopolitical issues of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and US unwillingness to build nuclear power stations and curb petrol consumption, rather than go to war.

Saddam controlled a country at the centre of the Gulf, a region with a quarter of world oil production in 2003, and containing more than 60% of the world's known reserves. With 115bn barrels of oil reserves, and perhaps as much again in the 90% of the country not yet explored, Iraq has capacity second only to Saudi Arabia. The US, in contrast, is the world's largest net importer of oil. Last year the US Department of Energy forecast that imports will cover 70% of domestic demand by 2025.

By invading Iraq, Bush has taken over the Iraqi oil fields, and persuaded the UN to lift production limits imposed after the Kuwait war. Production may rise to 3m barrels a day by year end, about double 2002 levels. More oil should bring down Opec-led prices, and if Iraqi oil production rose to 6m barrels a day, Bush could even attack the Opec oil-pricing cartel.

Control over Iraqi oil should improve security of supplies to the US, and possibly the UK, with the development and exploration contracts between Saddam and China, France, India, Indonesia and Russia being set aside in favour of US and possibly British companies. And a US military presence in Iraq is an insurance policy against any extremists in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Overseeing Iraqi oil supplies, and maybe soon supplies from other Gulf countries, would enable the US to use oil as power. In 1990, the then oil man, Dick Cheney, wrote that: "Whoever controls the flow of Persian Gulf oil has a stranglehold not only on our economy but also on the other countries of the world as well."

In the 70s, the US agreed with Saudi Arabia that Opec oil should be traded in dollars. American governments have since been able to print dollars to cover huge trading deficits, with the further benefit of those dollars being placed in the US money markets. In return, the US allowed the Opec countries to operate a production and pricing cartel.

Over the past 15 years, the overall US deficit with the rest of the world has risen to $2,700bn - an abuse of its privileged currency position. Although about 80% of foreign exchange and half of world trade is in dollars, the euro provides a realistic alternative. Euro countries also have a bigger share of world trade, and of trade with Opec countries, than the US.

In 1999, Iran mooted pricing its oil in euros, and in late 2000 Saddam made the switch for Iraqi oil. In early 2002 Bush placed Iran and Iraq in the axis of evil. If the other Opec countries had followed Saddam's move to euros, the consequences for Bush could have been huge. Worldwide switches out of the dollar, on top of the already huge deficit, would have led to a plummeting dollar, a runaway from US markets and dramatic upheavals in the US.

Bush had many reasons to invade Iraq, but why did Blair join him? He might have squared his conscience by looking at UK oil prospects. In 1968, when North Sea oil was in its infancy, as private secretary to the minister of power I wrote a report on oil policy, advocating changes like the setting up of a British national oil company (as was done). My proposals found little favour with the BP/Shell-supporting officials, but Richard Marsh, the then minister, pressed them and the petroleum division was expanded into an operations division and a planning division.

Sadly, when I was promoted out of private office the free-trading petroleum officials conspired to block my posting to the planning division, where I would surely have advocated a prudent exploitation of North Sea resources to reduce our dependence on the likes of Iraq. UK North Sea oil output peaked in 1999, and has since fallen by one-sixth. Exports now barely cover imports, and we shall shortly be a net oil importer. Supporting Bush might have been justified on geo-strategic grounds.

Oil and the dollar were the real reasons for the attack on Iraq, with WMD as the public reason now exposed as woefully inadequate. Should we now look at Bush and Blair as brilliant strategists whose actions will improve the security of our oil supplies, or as international conmen? Should we support them if they sweep into Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia, or should there be a regime change in the UK and US instead?

If the latter, we should follow that up by adopting the pious aims of UN oversight of world oil exploitation within a world energy plan, and the replacement of the dollar with a new reserve currency based on a basket of national currencies.

· John Chapman is a former assistant secretary in the civil service, in which he served from 1963-96

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Flood in Bangladesh

Dear Readers,

Though flood occurs every year in Bangladesh due to its lower riparian location, this year's flood has already proven to be devastating for millions. The intensity of flood water, the number of villages and towns submerged under water, the overflowing sewers and the apparent lack of "war-footing" by most of the elected political leaders in handling this calamity, are shocking. The Bangladesh Observer correctly points out that the overall reaction from the "civilized" world is quite uncivilly "lukewarm". And there are equally senseless comments made and actions taken by the two supreme leaders of Bangladeshi politics.

" Prime Minster Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh was recently quoted by the media as saying in Bogra, her political heartland, that the floods are a blessing! She explained that it fertilizes the land with the sediment it brings. It doubles crop production the next year. She, however, did not say how people survive in a flood affected year. For the record, it needs ten years to compensate for the damage done by a year’s flooding."

"The Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina has gone one step further advising the incumbents to follow her policy of 1998 as she left for a four day visit to India. Are we to assume that there is nothing for the opposition to do when the whole country is under floods? Both the leaders have shown great insensitivity to the grave situation facing the country."

United Nations and a few individual nations have recently taken initiatives in addressing the severe flood situation in Bangladesh though the government of Bangladesh is still kept saying that Bangladesh does not need any foreign assistance. One may wonder on the validity and wisdom of these quite arrogant attitudes on the part of Bangladesh government. There is no shame in asking for foreign assistance, both relief and logistical in the face of a natural disaster. The Daily Star reports, " if the UN secretary-general were formally moved by Bangladesh government earlier on, we could have gotten ourselves some lead-time in tackling the pressing needs for reaching succour to millions of destitute people having very little food, water and medicines to survive. From this standpoint, we are a bit confused by the appeal-related sensibilities of the government in regard to a natural disaster of such enormity and destructive sweep. Now that the UN has taken the initiative, it is for the government to do all it can to expedite the inflow of assistance."

Regards,

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)

A few relief organizations:

1. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society
Address National Headquarters
684-686 Bara Maghbazar
1217 Dhaka
Postal Address G.P.O. Box 579
Dhaka
Contact Information Tel: (880) (2) 9330188 / 9330189 / 9352226
Fax: (880) (2) 9352303/8311908
Telex: 632232 BDRC BJ
Telegram: RED CRESCENT DHAKA
E-Mail: bdrcs@bangla.net
Language of correspondence English
People Chairman: Maj General Z A KHAN (Retd.)
Vice Chairman: Prof. Dr. Gazi ABDUL HAQUE
Secretary General: Mr A.F.M. Obaidur RAHMAN
Treasurer: Dr. Fazlul KABIR

2. World Food Program

In the United States:
US Friends of the WFP
PO Box 11856
Washington, D.C. 20008
*Contributions by US taxpayers are tax-deductible

a. In Japan:
Post Office Account JAWFP
Account No. 00290-8-37418

b. In Italy:
Conto Corrente Postale/Postal Account
No. 89132005

c. Elsewhere in the world:
Chief, REA
Resources Division
WFP - Via Cesare Giulio Viola, 68/70
00148 Rome - Italy

3. Islamic Relief International Head Office
19 Rea Street South
Birmingham
B5 6LB
UK
Tel: 0121 605 5555
Fax: 0121 622 5003
Email: HQ@islamic-Relief.org.uk
Website: www.islamic-relief.com
Website contact: queries@islamic-relief.com
Online donation queries:donation-queries@islamic-relief.org.uk

The Great Himalayan Meltdown

As predicted by environmentalists floods are increasing both in frequency and devastation because of global warming. Snows and glaciers at the source of the rivers flowing into Bangladesh are melting at an unprecedented scale causing massive damage to lives and crops in the entire subcontinent. Due to the growing incidence of floods the world has gotten used to the miseries entailed. The Western dominated news media is circulating reports of snow melting in the Andes but there is no information on the ice-melting in the Himalayas.

The predominant mood in the subcontinent is one of resignation. Prime Minster Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh was recently quoted by the media as saying in Bogra, her political heartland, that the floods are a blessing! She explained that it fertilizes the land with the sediment it brings. It doubles crop production the next year. She, however, did not say how people survive in a flood affected year. For the record, it needs ten years to compensate for the damage done by a year’s flooding.

The Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina has gone one step further advising the incumbents to follow her policy of 1998 as she left for a four day visit to India. Are we to assume that there is nothing for the opposition to do when the whole country is under floods? Both the leaders have shown great insensitivity to the grave situation facing the country.

The government has announced that they are preparing for the post-flood situation implying they have nothing to do in the flood situation. At a time when the Indian Air Force is sending out helicopters to rescue marooned people, this is the response of our leadership. It is really very unfortunate.

People need dry places for shelter and the government should use all its resources to move people to safe places. Waster-purifying tablets, oral saline and dry food should reach the distressed as soon as possible. People should also be encouraged to purify their water by alum and make their own salines. The single cell protein spirulina should be distributed so that people do not suffer from hunger. The whole country should be on a war-footing. Instead, we have idealistic trash thrown at people when they need real succor.

The government has decided not to appeal to the international community for help. This is strange. Global warming was not done by us. Those who are responsible should pay. The government should immediately access the almost 6 billion dollars that are in the pipeline to meet immediate relief needs. It should also get funds from the “Carbon Fund” set up by the Kyoto Treaty as it is particularly focussed on such contingencies arising from the greenhouse effect.

Within the country the three agencies related to flood forecasting -- SPARSO, Meteorological Department and the Flood Forecasting Center should co-ordinate. The current Flood Forecasting Center located in the Water Board relies on data from India when they can easily get more accurate information from SPARSO, another government department. The insensitivity and cavalier manner in which the flood is being handled is a shame to the nation.

Even the NGO response is lukewarm. The nation clearly remembers how vocal they were in subverting the Flood Action Plan (FAP) that was conceived after the floods of 1988. They should be asked to explain their patriotism. They had said then that the money earmarked for FAP would be utilized for poverty reduction and an environment-friendly FAP. Where is that plan now?

The Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh has proposed that they will sit with counterparts from Nepal, Bhutan and China for a permanent solution of the flood problem. This is the first time that India has agreed to involve China in the process. The prime minister Manmohan Singh has also constituted a panel to recommend a solution to the floods within six months. It is unfortunate that the Indian authorities are not including Bangladesh in their scheme of things. Bangladesh should request India to involve the lower riparian as well.

Source Link: http://www.bangladeshobserveronline.com/new/2004/07/28/editorial.htm

Monday, July 19, 2004

A voice for the poor in AIDS battle

A voice for the poor in AIDS battle

''Does the world care enough? The global spending for HIV/AIDS is $4.7 billion. The global military budget is $956 billion, or $2.6 billion a day. Does such a world promote access for all? Does spending of this kind speak of an ethical world?"

Perhaps the world does not care enough about HIV/AIDS with its paltry spending of $4.7 billion comparing to military expenditure ($956 billion), however, as long as Reverend Michael J. Kelly and many other like him selfless human beings are alive and waging the battle against AIDS, other diseases and against social injustice around the world, there is still hope for the mankind.

Here is the full article published in The Boston Globe:

A voice for the poor in AIDS battle
Priest focuses on orphans, elderly
By John Donnelly, Globe Staff July 19, 2004

BANGKOK -- At the end of the day, he shuffled from meeting to meeting. His back was bent. People passed him on either side, paying him no attention.

The Rev. Michael J. Kelly, 75, an Irish-born Jesuit priest and retired university professor in Zambia, deliberately moved toward his destination, a conference room at last week's 15th International AIDS Conference, so he could drop his next bombshell.

He smiled in anticipation. ''Maybe it's my age," he said, a light shining from his eyes. ''But I feel I'm able to be bold and challenging."

Although Kelly is little known to the world outside the AIDS community, his writings, lectures, and gentle one-on-one coaching of those working on AIDS prevention have had great impact on the fight against what may become the world's deadliest pandemic ever. Many view him as one of the movement's great thinkers.

Long ago, he warned about AIDS threatening farm production and schoolhouses because it would kill so many in the prime of their lives; he called for a greater focus on orphans, and he spoke out about the need to treat mothers after they receive a dose of medicine to help prevent the transmission of the virus in childbirth.

Now, he wants much more attention given to the dire situation of the vast number of grandparents who are taking care of orphans, their grandchildren, on their own.

At the AIDS conference, he delivered five lectures. In each, he said, he tried to challenge conventional wisdom.

On orphans, he said at one seminar late in the week that no one was paying attention to the longer-range issues of caring for them. ''We are now being deluded by one of those AIDS myths," he said. ''The myth that families are coping, that communities are coping."

On the elderly, he asked: ''Who will be guardians for the guardians? Who will care for the caregivers? Their pictures are not nearly as appealing as the pictures of the children, and not nearly as appealing as pictures of some women."

And then he had more basic questions: ''Does the world care enough? The global spending for HIV/AIDS is $4.7 billion. The global military budget is $956 billion, or $2.6 billion a day. Does such a world promote access for all? Does spending of this kind speak of an ethical world?"

Kelly was born in Tullamore, Ireland, one of seven children of a company secretary and a housewife. Three of the Kelly brothers became Jesuit priests. In 1946, he started his religious and educational training, and served in his order until the mid-1950s. He received his wish to go overseas and came to Zambia. He is still there, 40 years later, a Zambian citizen.

In the late 1980s, he began to think much about this new disease in Zambia that caused a body to shrivel. He first noticed his students becoming ill. And then a son of President Kenneth Kaunda died, and the president acknowledged that AIDS had killed him.

Kelly became interested in the disease. He knew that those with HIV and AIDS would soon need help.

''I have a strong commitment to work for the poor, for justice, for marginalized groups," he said. ''Here was a new class of people emerging who were quite likely to be marginalized."

Kelly, who had retired from the University of Zambia, began researching and writing about the issue, and his work became well known to the relatively small circles of those who were closely watching AIDS. In 2000, at the AIDS conference in Durban, he was invited to speak to the assembly.

At first, he wasn't sure he was up to it. ''I felt like I was a small farm boy who would be far better off digging in the garden," Kelly said. ''Instead, I was being part of the political agenda, the global agenda of AIDS."

He is part of the faith-based and civil society leadership against AIDS. He helped start a 17-member Mobile Task Team, a group of people for many disciplines that is trying to help governments in southern Africa cope with fixing educational systems.

Peter McDermott, chief of the HIV/AIDS section at UNICEF, lived in Zambia during the late 1990s and often sought out Kelly for advice.

''He saw HIV coming in and affecting children long before anyone else," McDermott said, adding that Kelly's writings on AIDS' impact on education in the 1990s was ''seminal to this day."

''He pushed me a lot on orphans," said McDermott, who worked for UNICEF in Zambia. ''And he pushed me on mothers. His mantra was: 'You're missing the point. You need to keep the parents alive.' "

Stephen Lewis, the special envoy on AIDS in Africa to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said that during his three years on the job, Kelly has been a mentor to him.

''He is the most principled and lovely human being I have met in my journeys of the last several years," Lewis said at the AIDS conference. ''He is incredibly knowledgeable, particularly in the field of AIDS and education. He gives Jesuits one of the best names they ever had."

But now Kelly seems weighed down. It's the pandemic, he explained, and the inability so far to stop it.

Even though some who went to the conference left feeling optimistic about turning back the epidemic, Kelly decried people's high expectations: ''They expect us to get things done in three or four or five years. It's not going to happen."

He also said he yearned to go home to Zambia. ''When I get there, I feel I am coming back to real earth, to real people," he said.

One of the first things he will do upon returning, he said, will be to look up three HIV-positive staff workers at the Jesuit housing in Lusaka and see how they are faring. Then he will get back to his writing, even if he is feeling depressed.

''I have a passion to do something," he said. ''Anything that will save one person is worth all the effort."



Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Trafficking of Weaker Vessels

Dear Readers,

Exploitation of "weaker vessels", poor women from the poor nations, enslaving them, auctioning them after examining their bodies in open market like soon to be slaughtered animals for religious creed, and selling these profitable commodities to rich Arab sheikhs in the middle-east or to other money-magnet of our world for forced domestic or brothel servitude, while keeping the outlaws, the pimps and the odious "sheikhs" out of the loop of laws, and threatening the victims by using the "hudood" laws or scaring them for their illegal immigrant status point toward a dysfunctional "civilization" where the world, the all pampered "free world" keeps numb or utter the weakest protest as a mere token for the sake of political gain in the region.
"A Bengali woman can be sold in Pakistan for Rs 70,000 to 150,000 - depending on age and looks. Auctions of girls are arranged for three kinds of buyers: rich visiting Arabs (sheiks, businessmen, visitors, state-financed medical and university students), the rich local gentry, and rural farmers. Hidden in the slums of Karachi, Pakistan is a flourishing trade in young women and girls from Bangladesh."

Can the Bangladeshi female Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia or the female opposition leader Sheikh Hasina undertake any concrete initiative for these poor women languishing in vain? What is the purpose of United Nations? Is it for being a "vessel" for the powerful overlooking the distress of the weak or something else altogether?

Regards,

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
July 14, 2004

Trafficking of weaker vessels
ASIF J. MIR

Women are being sold like ani-mals in Pakistani markets. Trafficking in persons – the illegal and highly profitable recruitment, transport, or sale of human beings into all forms of forced labour and servitude, including trafficking into forced marriage – is a tragic and complex human rights abuse. Like it or not, the increasing trend lays bare the sort of future we are ill fatedly going to see. Bangladeshi women are being kidnapped, married off to agents by unsuspecting parents, trafficked under false pretenses, or enticed by prospects of a better life, into brothels in Pakistan. Border police and other law enforcement agencies are well aware of the trafficking through entry points into Pakistan like Lahore, Kasur, Bahawalpur, Chhor and Badin.

In cases of women trafficking, coercive tactics are used to control women. In many cases corrupt officials facilitate the trafficking, accepting bribes to falsify documents and provide protection. Without such corruption and complicity on the part of state officials, trafficking could not thrive. Pakistan treats trafficked persons as illegal aliens, criminals, or both, exposing them to further abuse. By targeting the victims instead of the perpetrators, it thus allows the abuses to continue.

The buyers of these unfortunate women fix their prices after examining and scanning their bodies. They humiliate and sexually harass them in public. A Bengali woman can be sold in Pakistan for Rs 70,000 to 150,000 - depending on age and looks. Auctions of girls are arranged for three kinds of buyers: rich visiting Arabs (sheiks, businessmen, visitors, state-financed medical and university students), the rich local gentry, and rural farmers. Hidden in the slums of Karachi, Pakistan is a flourishing trade in young women and girls from Bangladesh. The forced trafficking of Bangladeshi women into Pakistan for the purposes of domestic or sexual slavery has been going on for at least 10 to 15 years. The majority of is lured from with promises of jobs, decent pay and a better life. They often end up in brothels in Bangladeshi paras (slums) in Karachi, although as their numbers have grown, brothels have been found in small towns throughout Pakistan.

In recent years, as the number of Bangladeshi women and girls trafficked into Pakistan has increased, the practice of selling female has become more clandestine. They are held under terrible conditions: they are not given proper food and are kept in crowded rooms. To compel the women and girls to provide the desired services, the pimps threaten to expose the women’s status as illegal immigrants or denounce them under the Hudood laws, which penalise, among other things, sex outside of marriage and impose long prison terms and severe corporal punishment. Those who resist are beaten or worse. Instead of protecting the Bangladeshi women and girls by arresting those accountable for their illegal sale and forced prostitution or forced marriage, the Pakistani government imprisons the luckless women while allowing most brokers and pimps to go free.

In many cases Bangladeshi women and girls arrested by police in raids on brothels suffer prolonged detention, usually because they lack legal counsel or the financial resources to pay bail or surety. In other cases, the police allows pimps to bail out the women and take them back to the prostitution dens. Meanwhile, the pimps go free. Some pimps involved in the sale of Bangladeshi women and girls are occasionally arrested by the police, not one has ever been prosecuted or punished by the government for trafficking or for any of the other abuses resulting from trafficking and forced prostitution. Thus, the government, instead of dealing with the problems, seems intent on victimizing the victims.

The 2004 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report the launching ceremony of which was performed by Secretary of State Colin Powell was recently made public. With respect to Pakistan the Report notes that the arrests and conviction, a number of cases may be smuggling, the law enforcement officials do not often distinguish between trafficking and smuggling. It says that Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked persons. Women and girls are trafficked to Pakistan from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Burma, Nepal, and Central Asia for forced commercial sexual exploitation and bonded labor. Girls and women from rural areas are trafficked to urban centers for commercial sexual exploitation and labor. Women trafficked from East Asian countries and Bangladesh to the Middle East often transit through Pakistan. Like other South Asian countries including India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan, Pakistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List this year “because of a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.”

Pakistan does not consistently differentiate between trafficking and smuggling so actual rates of prosecution are difficult to determine. Lack of resources also limits victim assistance efforts. Government officials greatly need training on the distinction between trafficking and smuggling.


Source Link: http://www.nation.com.pk/daily/july-2004/14/EDITOR/op2.asp


Racism at root of Sudan's Darfur crisis

Dear Readers,

Many may think it an one-sided article, but the following lines raise a serious concern: "Arab states should condemn Sudan; otherwise their anger over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rings hollow. How can they protest the killing of Palestinians when their kin exterminate Africans in Sudan?"

Regards,

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)


Racism at root of Sudan's Darfur crisis

By Makau Mutua

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The visits by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Sudan last week gave hope that the genocide in Darfur can be arrested before an entire people is obliterated.

But anyone - including Mr. Powell and Mr. Annan - interested in averting more tragedy there must understand that Darfur is not an accidental apocalypse of mass slaughters, enslavement, pillage, and ethnic cleansing. The Darfur pogrom is part of a historic continuum in which successive Arab governments have sought to entirely destroy black Africans in this biracial nation.

Darfur is not a mere humanitarian disaster that access by international relief agencies can reverse. The raison d'ĂȘtre of the atrocities committed by government-supported Arab militias is the racist, fundamentalist, and undemocratic Sudanese state. What is required for peace in Sudan is either regime change, in which a democratic, inclusive state is born, or a partition, in which the black African south and west become an independent sovereign state free of Khartoum and the Arab north.

Sudan, like most African postcolonial states, is partially a victim of imperial cartography. Thoughtlessly carved out by the British during the 19th-century scramble to claim Africa, Sudan is a forced crucible of Muslim Arabs and black Africans. The blacks in the south either hew to their ancestral traditional African religions or have converted to Christianity. The fact that black Africans in Darfur are exclusively Muslim has not stopped the Arab Janjaweed militias and the government from exterminating them.

Race - not religion - is the fundamental fault line in Sudan, though religion has certainly added fuel to the fire in the south. Indeed, since independence from the British in 1956, the demon of Sudan has been race. The Arab north, except for brief periods when token Africans were included in government, has exclusively held political and military power. To protest political exclusion, military repression, enslavement, and economic exploitation, Africans in the south rose against the state several years after independence.

Since 1983, the armed insurrection in the south has drawn a scorched earth response from Khartoum. President Omar Bashir and his fundamentalist Islamic government declared a holy war against African groups in the south - the Dinka, Nuba, and Neur peoples. More than 2 million people have been decimated, millions more have been internally displaced, and hordes have been exiled.

Khartoum's genocidal policy in Darfur and the south is also a grab for resources. The Arab north is arid and barren, but the south is arable with vast oil deposits Khartoum covets and badly needs. In the west, in Darfur, Arabs seeking to escape the spreading desert kill and displace Africans for more productive land.

But there is a reality check. Khartoum has been unable to vanquish Africans militarily in the south. That's why Khartoum now appears ready to conclude its peace agreement with the south. But just as the guns are about to fall silent in the south, Arabs in Darfur have killed at least 30,000 Africans and displaced more than a million from their homes and villages.

Both the US and UN through Powell and Annan - whose mediators and proxies, particularly Kenya, are helping broker the peace deal - must make it clear to President Bashir that the accord between Khartoum and the south won't stop the diplomatic isolation and international condemnation of Sudan unless it ends its genocidal policies in Darfur and allows aid workers to care for victims and assist their return home. Both Powell and Annan must speed up work on a UN resolution to condemn the atrocities in Darfur and the south, and to impose sanctions on the Sudanese government and its leaders.

The African Union (AU), the continental body of Arab and black African states, must end the hypocrisy in Afro-Arab relations. Sudan, the bridge between black and Arab Africa, should lead in rewriting the historical script between the two peoples. Since the slave trade era, Arabs have violated and dominated Africans. Yet the Organization of African Unity, the AU predecessor, ducked these inequities under the doctrine of noninterference in the internal affairs of sister states.

The AU has stayed that odious course. It's telling that the AU has not denounced Sudan for the Darfur atrocities. And, at its annual summit in Addis Ababa last week, the AU declared that the Darfur killings did not amount to genocide. Although the killings clearly meet that definition according to the Genocide Convention, unfortunately Powell also failed last week to declare that the Darfur killings meet the definition of genocide. The AU offer to send just 300 soldiers to Darfur to protect aid workers, monitors, and civilians from Arab militiamen - in an area the size of France - demonstrates lack of political will to confront Sudan.

Important, too, is that Arab states should condemn Sudan; otherwise their anger over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rings hollow. How can they protest the killing of Palestinians when their kin exterminate Africans in Sudan?

The tragedy of Darfur wouldn't be permitted if it were taking place in Europe. But African states must take advantage of the interest by the UN and the US to bring about maximum diplomatic and economic pressure, including sanctions, to hasten regime change in Sudan. Khartoum must be put on notice that only an open and inclusive democracy will save it from partition into two states, one black African, the other Arab.

• Makau Mutua is professor of law and director of the Human Rights Center at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Source Link: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0714/p09s02-coop.html

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Bring back the state

Francis Fukuyama shocked the world with his 'End of History' thesis that the market would take over the role of mighty nations. But 9/11 changed all that. Now, in this exclusive article, the world's foremost economic philosopher argues that our very survival depends on stronger government

Sunday July 4, 2004
The Observer

The death of Ronald Reagan last month and the moving tribute paid to him by Margaret Thatcher remind us that we still live in their shadow, in an era in which the chief impulse of politics has been to reduce the size of the state. That agenda was critical in its time, for it was clear that the enormous growth of state sectors in the developed world in the 20th century had become economically harmful and socially stultifying. China and India have begun to free themselves from excessive state control, which reached monstrous dimensions under communism.

But there are signs that the Reagan-Thatcher era is ending and that the pendulum will swing the other way. Many recent problems have tended to come from the lack of sufficient state oversight, as with the Enron, WorldCom and other auditing scandals, or the privatisations of railways in Britain or electricity in California. The easy gains from privatisation and deregulation have long since been achieved.

The real date of the end of the Reagan-Thatcher era, however, was 11 September, 2001. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington put back on the table foreign policy and security, which are pre-eminently issues for nation states. The United States created a new cabinet-level agency, the Department of Homeland Security, in direct response. But 11 September also underscored a key feature of the post-Cold War world. While the great problems of world order in the 20th century were caused by too-powerful nation states such as Germany, Japan and the former Soviet Union, many of the problems of our current age, from poverty to refugees to human rights to HIV and Aids to terrorism, are caused by states in the developing world that are too weak.

This lies at the roots of Africa's development problem; and a band of weak or failed states from North Africa through the Balkans and the Middle East to South Asia has become the breeding ground of radical Islamism and terror.

It is important to distinguish between the scope of states, and their strength. State scope refers to a state's range of functions, from domestic and foreign security, the rule of law and other public goods, to regulation and social safety nets, to ambitious functions such as industrial policy or running parastatals. State strength refers to the effectiveness with which countries can implement a given policy. States can be extensive in scope and yet damagingly weak, as when state-owned firms are run corruptly or for political patronage.

From the standpoint of economic growth, it is best to have a state relatively modest in scope, but strong in ability to carry out basic state functions such as the maintenance of law and the protection of property. Unfortunately, many developing countries either combine state weakness with excessive scope, as in the case of Brazil, Turkey, or Mexico, or they do little, and what little they do is done incompetently. This is the reality of such failed states as Liberia, Somalia, or Afghanistan. Some, such as the Central Asian dictatorships that have emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, manage to be strong in all the the wrong areas: they are good at jailing journalists or political opponents, but can't process visas or business licences in less than six months.

The Reagan-Thatcher revolution was properly directed against excessive state scope, seeking to reduce regulation and government interference with private economic activity. But applied to developing countries, it had a perversely damaging effect. The policies known as the Washington consensus, pushed by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, including such measures as privatisation, trade liberalisation and deregulation, failed to take account of missing institutional capacity in many developing nations.

Excessive zeal in pursuing this 'neo-liberal' agenda undermined the strength of states to carry out those necessary residual government functions. Russia went from a state that controlled all aspects of the economy and civil society to one that could not collect taxes or protect its citizens from crime. It turns out that privatisation, while reducing the scope of states, takes a fair amount of state capacity to implement cleanly. This is something Russia did not have as it sold off telecoms and energy companies to well-connected oligarchs.

Thailand liberalised its capital markets before it had an adequate bank regulation system; the result was the collapse of its currency during the Asian crisis of 1997. Elites in sub-Saharan Africa used IMF-mandated structural adjustment programmes to cut core state functions while increasing the size of the patrimonial state. Dealing with the Aids crisis has become immensely more difficult due to the cuts in state capacity that have taken place in most African countries in the past generation.

It is perhaps in light of experiences like these that Milton Friedman, dean of free-market economists, said a couple of years ago that his advice to former socialist countries 10 years earlier had been to 'privatise, privatise, privatise.' 'But I was wrong,' he added. 'It turns out that the rule of law is probably more basic than privatisation.' The cost of learning this lesson was high.

The 11 September attacks underlined the fact that the lack of governance in poor and troubled parts of the world like Afghanistan could have profound security consequences for the developed world. This has led to the ironic result that George W. Bush, who said when he was running for the presidency in 2000, 'I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation building', has embarked on major nation-building exercises in Afghanistan and Iraq in his first term. The American experience in both countries has underlined another unpleasant truth: while the US has the ability to reach around the world militarily and unseat regimes, it does not have a corresponding capability or the institutions to provide them with strong governance.

The international community also needs new institutions. The United Nations, usually tasked with organising post-conflict reconstruction, suffers from weaknesses both in legitimacy with respect to its democratic credentials, and in effectiveness in its ability to intervene and provide security. The international community did stabilise Bosnia and Kosovo, but it rules both countries like a European raj; it has no idea how to create self-sustaining institutions in either place that would permit a graceful exit. The UN needs reform and to be supplemented by other, overlapping multilateral bodies, such as Nato or the Community of Democracies, to act where it cannot.

In what now seems like the distant era of the dotcom revolution, a lot of Silicon Valley techno-libertarians saw an increasingly stateless world in which governments 'got out of the way' of wealth creators. Unfortunately, that world is one in which a lot of other, less beneficent actors run free as well. Radical Islamists can make good use of the web to post videos of their beheaded captives. With globalisation, coercive technologies have become democratised and more freely available to 'super-empowered individuals'.

Nation states, with their legitimate monopolies of force, will have to fill this vacuum. State building, as well as state-deconstructing, is something we will have to think seriously about in the post-Reagan era now unfolding.

· Francis Fukuyama's latest book will be published by Profile Books on Thursday, at £15.99.