Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pakhtun Benchmark

Farhat Taj writes in the Daily Times of a grand jirga where all of FATA and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa (formerly N.W.F.P) was represented, and
Whatever is the mutually agreed upon anti-terrorism strategy of the US and Pakistan, the jirga members were unanimous that they would measure the decrease or increase in terrorism on the criteria set in the Peshawar Declaration jointly approved in a similar grand jirga in December 2009. The two key causes of terrorism identified by the Peshawar Declaration are: strategic depth policy of the military establishment of Pakistan; and the Arab expansionism embodied by al Qaeda under the garb of global Islam. To end terrorism, the policy of strategic depth has to be given up and al Qaeda has to be crushed.

Killing or capturing al Qaeda terrorists may not be a difficult task. To give up the strategic depth idea would be a great deal of work. This implies that targeted military operations have to be undertaken in several parts of Punjab, like Muridke, Jhang, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur, etc. The Punjab-based militant organisations that are banned, but continue to function under new names, have to be really banned and crushed. To root out the terrorist mindset, the state will have to eliminate the curriculum and literature taught in Pakistani schools and madrassas, which is based on hatred of women, Jews, Hindus and Shias and violent jihad against them and, last but not the least, all the Taliban infrastructure and their important leaders in FATA and Pakhtunkhwa province have to be eliminated through targeted military operations.

....

Hardly any jirga member was confident that the state is ready to initiate all these measures. Therefore, they agreed to convene another grand jirga within the next few months to address the evolving situation, following the Pak-US strategic dialogue.

Is Harvard still a elite school?

Well, if Professor Greg Mankiw is representative of the lot, then Harvard is losing its lustre.

He wants to examine whether Americans are undertaxed compared to other developed economies.

He has taxes as a fraction of GDP.
France 0.461
Italy 0.426
Germany 0.406
UK 0.390
Spain 0.373
Canada 0.334
US 0.282
Japan 0.274

The meaningful figure is the taxes paid as a percentage of income, and no matter how many Americans there are or what their incomes are, the average tax burden is 28.2% of their income.  But since this does not suit Professor Mankiw's politics (i.e., he believes Americans are more than adequately taxed), he multiplies by the per capita income to get the actual $$ paid in taxes, and instead of being second from the bottom, the US moves to the middle of the pack - because US incomes are higher.

As Prof. Brad DeLong points out, using Mankiw's criteria, North Korea is a low-tax haven (even if they tax 100% of income), because even at a tax rate of 100%  they would pay only $1700 (PPP) per year while Americans pay $13,097 at at tax rate of 28.2%.

The Capitol

_MG_2025-Edit

On a desi alarmist

CIP was highly offended by my providing this link to frontpagemag.com - an interview with Republican Vijay Kumar, candidate to the US House of Representatives in Tennessee's fifth Congressional district.

The interview begins with FP saying to VK "You are one of the rare individuals running for office in America who is actually making the issue of Islamic Jihad a significant part of your campaign". It only goes downhill from there.

VK believes that Islam drives a fourteen-century old jihad, aimed at dominating the world. That it extends into our times, he shows by quoting Maududi. Any peace with the lands of Islam, he claims is only a truce, occurring only when a stalemate exists, and is accepted by Muslims only because it is pausing to gain strength. The Axis of Universal Jihad consists of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. The war VK describes is primarily ideological, and the four steps he wants taken immediately are:
1. Stop all immigration from the Axis of Jihad nations.

2. Stop paying Islamic tribute–so-called “aid”–to Pakistan, Egypt and the Palestinians.

3. Support those moderate, secular, Muslims–there are many—against theological fundamentalists.

4. Build a United Front of Victims of Jihad. That is where Jew and Gentile, Saxon and Slav, Hindu and Buddhist, Norwegian and Nigerian, Catholic and Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox, have common ground. All can unite to contain the extremist ideology, because all historically have been victims of Universal Jihad.

---
My take: here in the US where the Christian Right are an influential voter bloc, and where Catholic bishops and nuns take politically significant stances on things like abortion, health-care and immigration, we should be cautious about claiming that we have managed to decouple religion from politics and the affairs of the state. The matter of fact is that this decoupling of religion and politics is even more elusive in most Muslim-majority states.

Iran is not a threat to the United States; the hullabaloo in the US is because Iran poses a threat to Israel (and so, for those whom Israel is the 51st state, by extension, the US is threatened). In any case, Iran which is mostly Shia, will not lead any time soon the Muslim world which is predominantly Sunni.

Pakistan has made a practice of sponsoring "non-state actors" - read jihadists - to pursue its foreign policy goals in Afghanistan and India. However, the biter has been bit; the jihadis it has sponsored are busy blowing up Pakistan itself. Moreover, to the annoyance of the Chinese, these jihadis are penetrating Chinese Turkestan, and to the annoyance of Russia and the Central Asian Republics, the jihadis are spilling over there as well. Pakistan is controlled by army, bureaucracy and some wealthy landowning (and recently industrialist) families, and Islamization is their cynical way of maintaining control over an increasingly impoverished and falling-behind-in-human-development burgeoning population. (People think of India when they think of the population explosion, but India has merely tripled its numbers since Independence; Pakistan has increased five-fold!). Moreover, by holding a gun to its and the world's head ("nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of fundamentalists") Pakistan's ruling elite has made itself undisplaceable.

Lastly, Saudi Arabia - their sponsorship of Salafi doctrine around the globe has served to foster conflict between Muslims and their neighbors. They provide the ideological force behind many of the disorders we see in the Muslim world. Think of Saudi Arabia as providing the Marx and Pakistan the Stalin.

It is to the US's eternal shame that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are its allies. It puts paid to any notion that the US represents a shining city on a hill, and other such symbology.

I do not see anywhere VK asking for a war of extermination, pace CIP. As to restricting immigration, worrying about demographic warfare, etc., I do not buy into those ideas. As to waging a battle of ideas or other - we have to accept people by their actions (not by what they profess) {that is the import of the First Amendment}. Judging by actions, we have little to fear from most. Whom we have to worry about are the ruling elite of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and their proxies. I wouldn't even say we have to fear them. As long as the freedom of expression remains, so that Islam can be critically examined without fear, just as Christianity or Hinduism or other religions have been, the battle of ideas is unavoidable.

The danger VK poses is that his fears will be seized upon and converted into action against a great many blameless people. His diagnosis of the situation is vastly exaggerated. And as the US has found, 5K soldiers, $1 trillion+ and many foreign civilians later, overreaction to a threat can be far worse than the threat itself. Cooler heads must prevail.

PS: from India's view point, Pakistan poses an immediate threat of death and destruction (e.g., Mumbai Nov 26, 2008). Indians greatly resent the world's - particularly the US, China, Saudi Arabia and UK's continuing nourishment of the Pakistani jihad machine.

Why the delay?

A United Nations investigative report into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was due to be released March 31 (i.e., today). The NYT reports (temporary link)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accepted an urgent request from Pakistan to delay presentation of a U.N. report on the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the world body said on Tuesday.

The report on a nine-month inquiry by a three-person U.N. panel, was originally due to be presented by Wednesday, but Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari requested it be delayed until April 15, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Nesirky gave no reason for the Pakistani request.

Anujan on BRF speculates based on some news-items that this is an effort to bury the report altogether. But why?

Nesirky told reporters that the report was completed and was ready for delivery. But he said neither Secretary-General Ban nor the Pakistani government had seen it.

Patents on genes

How much of the "free-enterprise" system relies on government-granted property rights is made a little clearer by a judge's decision to invalidate some patents on human genes.

Triple whammy on the Republican Party

Professor Brad DeLong:
To understand the Republican Party today, you have to recognize that right now it is bespelled by three curses:
  • The curse of Ronald Reagan: it believes that over the long haul somehow America can tax like Calvin Coolidge and spend like Lyndon Johnson and everything will come out fine because it is morning in America.
  • The curse of Richard Nixon: it believes that the purpose of politics is to win high-paid jobs with no heavy lifting involved and to humiliate your political adversaries, rather than to make a better country and a better world, and so anything goes.
  • The curse of Barry Goldwater: it believes that the big threat to liberty comes from government attempts to enhance equality of opportunity, and so the Republican Party must abandon its historic commitment to equality of opportunity.
The Republican Party may never again have a legitimate place in American civil life. But if it does, it will only be because brave men and women working within it lift these three curses.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Without comment

Zafar Hilaly in The Jang, Pakistan:
But, then, violence is common to Muslim political culture. Fourteen out of 37 caliphs were assassinated from 755 to 1258 AD, which is often described as the "golden age of Islam." In fact, according to a revealing article published in the Friday Times (March 26), "ninety years of Ummayyad rule witnessed hundreds of skirmishes between rival Muslim armies. These included the armed invasions of Medina and Mecca by Umayyad armies, when rocks and flaming arrows were rained upon the Holy Ka'aba until it collapsed". The fact that such data has been collated by Muslim scholars bothers some, because otherwise they could have dismissed it as "infidel" cant.

Nothing has changed

Pakistani Army Chief visits Washington. Returns home with a pile of goodies.

This by-now-ancient cartoon is still topical.
inset_cartoon_queue19170_7767251

QOTD

Fatima Bhutto: Should I die to prove Pakistan is dangerous?

Mr. Homo Erectus

Sorry, missed posting this:
_MG_1964

Monday, March 29, 2010

Winner of the Longevity Sweepstakes

Homo Erectus existed for 9 times longer than our species of human has been around.
Meet the winner, and see the scoreboard below.
_MG_1966

_MG_1951

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trade is 130,000 years old, older than language

As per the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, trade is 130,000 years old. If we believe Wiki about language, and the Smithsonian, then trade preceded language (something which didn't occur to me till posting this photograph).
Trade: Smithsonian exhibit

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kirttimukha - The Conservatives Consume Themselves

Kirttimukha is a symbol in the Indic traditions. The Lord Shiva had to assuage a monster's appetite, and, borrowing words from Heinrich Zimmer, "suggested that the monster should feed on the flesh of its own feet and hands. Forthwith, to this incredible banquet that incredible incarnation of blind voraciousness proceeded. Ravished by its congenital hunger, it ate and ate. And having devoured not only its feet and hands, but its arms and legs as well, it was still unable to stop. The teeth went through its own belly and chest and neck, until only the face remained." This face is Kirttimukha (roughly face of glory) and is part of the symbology of Lord Shiva.

------
After the passage of Health Care Reform, David Frum, a conservative, resident at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), wrote, among other things this
Waterloo

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

And so on. The Wall Street Journal went after him thusly:
In Washington, political defeats always produce finger-pointing, so the conventional wisdom has suddenly turned on a dime and decided that Republicans were wrong to have opposed ObamaCare. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was especially taken yesterday with blogger and Bush speechwriter David Frum’s argument that if only Republicans had negotiated with Democrats, they could have somehow made the bill less awful than it is.

Mr. Frum now makes his living as the media’s go-to basher of fellow Republicans, which is a stock Beltway role. But he’s peddling bad revisionist history that would have been even worse politics.

And next you know,the American Enterprise Institute fired him.

PS: Paul Krugman on the firing of Frum.

PPS: WaPo

----

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Republican Stupidity

HuffPo

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has a message for all the attorneys general and Republican lawmakers who are threatening lawsuits and claiming that an individual mandate for insurance coverage is unconstitutional: You don't have to abide by it -- just set up your own plan.
....
....
Speaking to the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Wyden discussed -- for one of the first times in public -- legislative language he authored which "allows a state to go out and do its own bill, including having no individual mandate."

It's called the "Empowering States to be Innovative" amendment. And it would, quite literally, give states the right to set up their own health care system -- with or without an individual mandate or, for that matter, with or without a public option -- provided that, as Wyden puts it, "they can meet the coverage requirements of the bill."

"Why don't you use the waiver provision to let you go set up your own plan?" the senator asked those who threaten health-care-related lawsuits. "Why would you just say you are going to sue everybody, when this bill gives you the authority and the legal counsel is on record as saying you can do it without an individual mandate?"

The provision actually was taken directly from Wyden's Healthy Americans Act -- the far-more innovative health care reform legislation he authored with Republican co-sponsors. In that bill there is also an individual mandate that would require Americans to purchase insurance coverage. But states that found the mandate objectionable could simply create and insert a new system in its place. All it would require is applying for a waiver from the Department of Health and Human Services, which has a 180-day window to confirm or deny such a waiver.

Shri Ramachandra Kripalu Bhajamana

PS: March 24 was Rama Navami.

Tulsidas's composition rendered by MS Subbulakshmi,


Lata Mangeshkar,


and a fragment by Jagjit Singh.


PS: From the comments by Rajan Parrikar (read the comments!)
Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (realplayer)

Anuradha Paudwal

Monday, March 22, 2010

Andrew Sullivan on Obama

Obama has bet that this is his destiny. He is extremely cautious from day to day, staggeringly flexible on tactics, but not at all modest when you look at the big picture. He still wants to rebuild the American economy from the ground up, re-regulate Wall Street, withdraw from Iraq, win in Afghanistan, get universal health insurance and achieve a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine in his first term. That’s all. And although you can see many small failures on the way, and agonising slowness as well, you can also see he hasn’t dropped his determination to achieve it all.

This is what we’ve learnt this year: Obama does not mind defeats if they are procedural or about others saving face. He’s happy to admit error; to give his opponents a chance to lunge at his jugular; to let opponents enjoy a day in the sun; to shave off any small stuff as long as the big stuff remains. He seems oddly impervious to personal insult: he doesn’t mind being affronted by the Chinese or humiliated by Netanyahu as long as it’s a matter of symbolism. On substance, he wants what he wants; and, on the big stuff, he has given up on nothing yet.

From here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Indian complaint

Vir Sanghvi in the Hindustan Times:

Here is a hypothetical situation. Imagine that the Indian police arrest a man who had advance knowledge of the 9/11 plot. Not only did he work with the conspirators but he had also been sent to New York several times to conduct reconnaissance so that the terrorists would be able to successfully execute their assault.

Naturally, the US would want to extradite this person so that he could be tried in a US court for his involvement in one of the worst acts of terrorism in recent times. Assume now that India not only refused to discuss the extradition but also denied the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) any access to the suspect. “We will tell you what he is saying,” the Central Bureau of Investigation would insist. “There is no way you can interrogate him face to face.”

Take our scenario further. Imagine now that even as the US seethes at being denied access to this important link in the 9/11 case, India announces that it has done a deal with the man. He will plead guilty to all charges. So, there is no question of the death penalty under our law. Nor is there any prospect of his being prosecuted under American law. Part of the deal is that we have assured the suspect that we will never extradite him. As for the sentence, that is still to be worked out but it will be decided on the basis of the deal that we have made with the terrorist.

How do you suppose America will react?

The answers are obvious. There would be a diplomatic incident. The secretary of state would call our home minister (or perhaps our prime minister) to insist that the terrorist is handed over to the FBI. India would be accused of betraying the war on terror. How can we prosecute the man in our country, we would be asked, when the crime he was involved in occurred in America? There would be threats galore. We would be warned of a suspension of aid. Summits would be cancelled and so on.

I have spent some time outlining this scenario because it closely parallels something that has actually happened: except that in this case, the terrorist was involved in 26/11, not 9/11. And it is not India that is refusing to extradite him but America that has told us to go take a flying jump.

Stuff

This morning's collection:

1. A lament that Internet retailers won't do business with Pakistan.

2. On Nirupama Subramanian's "finding one's inner Pakistani".

3.Nirupama Subramanian's interview on PTV (Urdu/Hindi)


4. General lament.

5. Model Islamic Montessori school.

A little photo processing

What a little extra sharpness and contrast do for a photograph.

Before:
grab1
After:
grab2

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Intimations of Spring

Intimations of Spring

_MG_1913

_MG_1911

Is God Dead?

Maybe, maybe not.

What is sure is that "Khuda" is dying.

See this & this, or this.

Amazing Devotion to Photography

Rajan sent me the amazing story of the lengths photographer Greg du Toit went to get the perfect photograph. Here.

Young Urban Middle-Class Pakistanis' Manifesto

Nadeem Paracha spells it out. 


I reproduce just 3 points here:
10. Democracy is a deeply flawed system that has destroyed the world. Totalitarian monarchies with entrenched security and bureaucracies are much better and in line with our Arab origins. Please do not compare us to India. We have nothing in common with them except our DNA, culture, cuisine, language, music, and geography.

11. Our ideal form of government is the modern day Caliphate, or, as we like to call it, the rule of technocrats. In this form of government, our posh uncles will pass stern orders in their clipped Oxbridge accents and Italian suits that will be supported by a medieval council of jurists whom we like to call the independent judiciary.

12. Lately, we have been reading some Chomsky, Klein and Zinn (all five articles) and appreciate how these believing Muslims provide us with the intellectual ammo on exposing how the perfidious Jews conspire to rule the world.

Delusions-4

Irfan Husain points out that the Sharif's brothers' "party {PML-N} is indeed ideologically very close to the Taliban’s extremist position on a wide range of issues."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Delusions-3

Pakistani journalist Ayaz Amir weighs in:
Punjab can no longer live in a state of denial
If FATA represents the cutting edge of terrorism in the name of Islam, Punjab, unfortunately, is the hinterland of this phenomenon. Or, to borrow a phrase from the repertoire of military folly, Punjab is the strategic depth of bigotry and extremism masquerading in the colours of Islam.
...
The extremism Pakistan is now battling is thus a gift whose line of descent can be traced from Zia to Musharraf. The army's predicament can be imagined. The ghost it is trying to lay to rest was conceived and tested in its own laboratories. This is the Pakistani way of doing things. First create a problem and then invoke the power of heaven to eliminate it.
...
Our rendezvous with our present extremist-flowing troubles did not come about from out of the blue. We had ploughed the land and watered it for a long time.
...
The terrorism we are now fighting is not a provincial subject. It is not confined to any one province. It is a composite whole, organically tied together, growing not from any isolated virus but from a sickness of the mind and soul which had the whole of Pakistan, or at least its strategic quartermasters, in its grip.

Why did Pakistan arrest Afghan Taliban?

Former UN mission chief Kai Eide has his own theory.

The arrest of key Taliban leaders in Pakistan stopped a secret channel of communications with the United Nations, the former UN special representative to Afghanistan said Friday in a BBC interview.

Or you can read the transcript of his interview here:
Q: There are many interpretations of reasons for these arrests. One is that Pakistan wanted to stop this channel of dialogue, not just with you, but with the representatives of the Afghan government, including President Karzai, some of his brothers, because Pakistan wants to be in control of this process. Pakistan denies this, but what do you say to that interpretation?

KE: I find that interpretation to be probably the right one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Delusions-2

Pakistani Punjab's Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif (brother of Nawaz Sharif) "argued that his party, the PML-N, shares a common cause with the Taliban —that of opposing Gen Musharraf and his policies and rejecting ‘dictation’ from abroad — and therefore the Taliban should ‘spare’ Punjab." (Dawn)

In Pakistan this has been taken to mean that Mr Sharif is saying that the Taliban can strike those provinces and people who aren't "rejecting dictation from abroad" or that are not against Musharraf's policies, and there is a furore.

But what I want to highlight is this question that the Dawn editors ask:
Why is it so difficult for the PML-N to condemn terrorism outright, with no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’?

As they point out
That Mr Sharif could possibly be ignorant of the threat posed by the Taliban is impossible. As chief minister of Punjab he has sat at the apex of that province’s administration for over a year and a half now. Countless secret and not-so-secret memos will have arrived on his desk detailing the atrocities and crimes committed and planned by the Taliban. The secret interrogation cell that was attacked in Model Town, Lahore, only a few days ago was run by provincial authorities.

Delusions

The News, Pakistan
LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif expressed grief over series of suicide attacks in the country, which, according to him, were being carried out by Muslims, as non-Muslims could not dare take risk of their lives.

The chief justice further remarked that India was behind these attacks as it was financing terrorists to destabilise Pakistan. The CJ made these remarks Monday while hearing two identical petitions challenging possible extradition of 12 arrested Afghan Taliban.
....

As mentioned before, the fact that the dogs of hell that they unleashed are biting them is something that the Pakistani establishment finds it hard to accept.

The Chief Justice is marginally less deluded - he accepts that the suicide bombers are Muslim. He rationalizes that by saying only Muslims would be so brave. And as usual, these brave Muslims are paid by India.

A more sane voice cries
Lahore has been attacked twice inside of a week, the attacks killing scores of people and injuring and maiming many more. The intelligence agencies failed all ends up yet again, and as per usual, specially the premier agency aka the Mother of All Agencies which seems to have its finger in every matter — from disappearing people to formulating the country’s foreign policy to destabilising the government whenever it is perceived to be stepping ‘out of line’ — except in running the yahoos to the ground and nipping their evil in the bud.

You might well ask what I mean by the title of this piece. Simple: the Crazy Right are the successors of the Crush India Brigade of the late 1960s and early 1970s which gave us the Bangladesh tragedy (which of course had other reasons too); rump Pakistan is the country we are left with after the breakup of Pakistan as a result of the exertions of the crazy Right. They might well succeed yet again.

Speaking of intelligence, this Dawn editorial worries about the missing information:
By now every Pakistani knows about the TTP, {Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan} or at least something about its key leaders, its agenda and its range of operations. The state has done well to take on this pre-eminent threat in Fata and Swat/ Malakand.

But there is a veritable alphabet soup of militant groups about which little is known. Here are just a few names: the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jaish-i-Mohammad, Fidayeen-i-Islam, Harkatul Jihad al-Islami, Ghazi Force, Abdullah Azam Brigade, the ‘al Almi’ suffix attached to several groups, Sipah-i-Sahaba. What has the Pakistan Army or the government told the public about these threats? Who are the leaders of these groups? How large are their cadres, in the dozens, the hundreds, the thousands? Where do they operate? What is their agenda? The public knows next to nothing about the answers to each of these questions — and that information black hole is a serious worry.

No doubt all in the pay of India.

The Dawn editorial expresses fear, concern; this next from another Pakistani publication is the height of paranoia:
ISLAMABAD: India has evolved a master plan to cause severe damage to Pakistan economy under the garb of talks and assigned an important target to its intelligence agency RAW to provide over one trillion rupees to anti Pakistan Taliban through Afghan transit.

Well placed sources told Online Saturday that Indian intelligence agency RAW has started providing financial assistance to Taliban through alcohol and beetle nut (chalia) under Afghan trade to use them to serve its nefarious designs while they were earlier being assisted through drug trafficking.

Sources told RAW at present was supplying over two hundreds containers of alcohol and beetle nut illegally to anti Pakistan Taliban every month in the name of different companies through Afghan transit. This way billion of rupees are being distributed among Taliban so that on one side Pakistan economy could be undermined and on the other side Afghan Taliban could be strengthened financially in order to use them for fulfillment of its vicious designs.

If only India were that cunning! On that other hand, that one trillion rupees, even it is Pakistani rupees, amounts to tens of billions of dollars, and surely there are better uses for it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The "Good" Taliban kill Pakistanis

From observing the Pakistani English newspapers, and Pakistani TV (the Urdu package on Dish Network), I assert that there is a sizeable Pakistani commentariat that seeks to stick its head in the sand regarding the Taliban.

This attitude seems to be predominant in people from Pakistani Punjab (Pakjabis) and representatives from the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz Sharif's faction, and much less so people from the other provinces or other parties - PPP, ANP, MQM. (One should note that Pakjabis constitute a majority in Pakistan. - Wiki).

The basic argument is that Mullah Omar's Taliban are good. The other Taliban are sponsored by the US, India or Israel and have taken the "Taliban" name in order to bring the Taliban into disrepute.

Well, one can make a good case that the "good" Taliban have no compunction in killing Pakistanis. Now, the Taliban have not claimed credit for the killings mentioned below, but I argue that they are the most likely culprits.

On March 4, five Pakistani construction workers were shot dead in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Jang
The Pakistanis worked for the Saita Construction Company, a Japanese joint-venture with a contract to repair the road from Kandahar to Panjwayi district.

On March 14, a roadside bomb killed another Pakistani construction worker and wounded six more. The Reuters news-item is instructive (excerpts):
"It was a roadside bomb that hit the vehicle of Pakistani construction workers, killed one of them and wounded six more," police officer Mohammad Asif told Reuters.

Last week, five Pakistani employees of the same Pakistani construction firm, CITA, were gunned down by unknown people in another part of Kandahar. {Not CITA, but SAITA, the Japanese company.}

No one has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack of last week or Sunday's one on the Pakistani nationals in Kandahar.

The Taliban mostly claim responsibility for attacks on Afghan government, foreign forces and anyone backing them, but the group has rarely targeted Pakistanis. (Reporting by Ismail Sameem; Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Jerry Norton)

The implication being that there is a mystery here, when there is none. This story from 2009 tells us what SAITA does:
The Times report states that Saita is "engaged in reconstruction efforts," a description that obscures their actual role in the Afghan war, which is akin to what Anthony James Joes calls "counterinsurgent force multipliers," ....

For several years, Saita has designed and constructed USAID's 'Southern Strategy Road,' (SSR) "to ensure a long-lasting transportation corridor between Kandahar City and the district center of Arghastan."

....The SSR "was declared by the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador, and the Commander of NATO forces as strategic to the success of the NATO mission in Afghanistan." The "anticipated impact" of the road includes "benefit[s to] the continued effort to control AGE forces in the southern areas of Afghanistan along the Pakistan border."

It seems obvious that given a NATO/US offensive to sweep Kandahar free of the Taliban has been announced that anyone building roads to further that objective will be a target; and in this case they happen to be Pakistanis. It also is interesting that the Taliban know enough about their targets to not claim responsibility for the killings - so that the cognitive dissonance inherent in "good Taliban" does not get any worse.

Recycle guns!

The Gun-Totin' States of America have an eminently Green attitude towards guns used in crimes - recycle them!

Read of this insanity here.

Excerpts before this news-item is buried somewhere:

WASHINGTON – Two guns used in high-profile shootings this year at the Pentagon and a Las Vegas courthouse both came from the same unlikely place: the police and court system of Memphis, Tenn.

Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that both guns were once seized in criminal cases in Memphis. The officials described how the weapons made their separate ways from an evidence vault to gun dealers and to the shooters.

...
In fact, on the day of the Pentagon shooting, March 4, the Tennessee governor signed legislation revising state law on confiscated guns. Before, law enforcement agencies in the state had the option of destroying a gun. Under the new version, agencies can only destroy a gun if it's inoperable or unsafe.

So the gun of a felon can return to kill again and again. I imagine some will become collectors' items, after they've been used in several crimes.

The history of the two guns in the recent attacks was described by officials from multiple law enforcement agencies on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the investigations. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives provided reports on the gun traces to the investigating agencies, but is barred from publicly disclosing the results.

At the Pentagon, gunman John Patrick Bedell carried two 9 mm handguns, one of them a Ruger.

Law enforcement officials say Bedell, a man with a history of severe psychiatric problems, had been sent a letter by California authorities Jan. 10 telling him he was prohibited from buying a gun because of his mental history.

Nineteen days later, the officials say, Bedell bought the Ruger at a gun show in Las Vegas. Such a sale by a private individual does not require the kind of background check that would have stopped Bedell's purchase.

Mike Campbell, an ATF spokesman in Washington, would not confirm the details. He would only say Bedell "appears to have purchased the gun from a private seller."

The gun already had changed hands among gun dealers in Georgia and Pennsylvania by the time Bedell bought it. Officer Karen Rudolph, a Memphis police spokeswoman, said her department traded the weapon to a dealer in 2008 for a different gun that was better for police work.

The Ruger had sat in Memphis police storage for years at that point, after being confiscated from a convicted felon at a 2005 traffic stop.

The trail of the gun used at the Las Vegas federal courthouse is older and harder to pin down. Johnny Lee Wicks, an elderly man enraged over cuts to his Social Security benefits, opened fire with the shotgun at the security entrance to the courthouse. He killed one officer, Stanley Cooper, and wounded another.

Wicks, like Bedell at the Pentagon, was killed by officers' return fire.

Before that courthouse attack, what records exist suggest officers in Memphis confiscated that gun in 1998.

A judge in Memphis ordered the sale of the shotgun as part of a criminal case, and the proceeds of that sale went to the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, confirmed sheriff's spokesman Steve Shular.

He said the gun dealer who bought it later sold the weapon to a dealer in Nevada. It is not clear how Wicks got the shotgun.

Rich Wyatt, a former police chief in Alma, Colo., who now operates a gun store — and who has bought weapons from police agencies — defended the practice of police selling guns.

"Maybe if they put the money they made selling the guns into training those officers better, they'd be better off," said Wyatt. "Nobody ever, ever questions selling a car that was used in a crime. I am sad that officers were shot, but I don't care where the guns came from. To say we need to chase guns is not the issue, we need to chase people."

What these supposedly intelligent people don't realize is that they've made the police get into the enterprise of turning illegally owned weapons into legally owned weapons.

Cartoonist Sabir Nazar

The Pakistani cartoonist, Sabir Nazar, whose cartoons appear in The Daily Times and The Friday Times, hosts his cartoons on a blogspot blog. Worth a browse, if you're familiar with the area.

Friday, March 12, 2010

OMG!

Believe it or not!

The Foreign Ministry officials who will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) here on Friday have claimed in official documents that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination saved Rs150 million, which would have been spent by the then President Pervez Musharraf on his foreign trips but he had to cancel those trips after she was killed.

But one thing is missing from the auditor general’s report: how General Pervez Musharraf spent Rs1.4 billion on his 80 foreign trips during two years (2005-2007). His foreign trip to USA to launch his book “In the Line of Fire” in 2006 cost Rs270 million alone. But, ironically, the AGP report is silent over the spending of such a heavy amount by the then president on the publicity of his autobiography in the US. But the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has been cited as reason for non-utilisation of these millions.

....

Apart from Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the bombing in the rally of Benazir Bhutto on October 18, 2007 in which 150 workers had died has also been cited to justify the saving of Rs16 million meant for civil works.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chairman, House SubCommittee on ME and South Asia on LeT

Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, Chairman House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
"Bad Company: Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the Growing Ambition of Islamist Militancy in Pakistan" (PDF file)

Some excerpts:
While U.S. attention has focused primarily on al-Qaida, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) and other violent, Islamist extremist groups in Pakistan have been growing in both capability and ambition. As was demonstrated in the horrific Mumbai attack of November 2008, the al-Qaida model of perpetrating highly visible, mass-casualty attacks appears to have migrated, with enormous potential consequences for the United States.
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We need to take this threat very, very seriously. The LeT is a deadly serious group of fanatics. They are well financed, ambitious, and most disturbingly, both tolerated by, and connected to, the Pakistani military.
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There is, in fact, no reason to doubt that Pakistan’s military is likely paying compensation to the families of the terrorists killed in the Mumbai attacks. These are our allies in the war on terror.
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But it would be unfair and wrong to suggest that the LeT problem is strictly confined to Pakistan and the Middle East. In fact, one of the key facilitators of the Mumbai attack was an American of Pakistani extraction. Unfortunately, the LeT enjoys a substantial global network stretching from the Philippines to the United Kingdom.

There is a temptation to think that the LeT is really India’s problem; that the LeT is really just interested in the so-called “liberation” of Jammu and Kashmir. While it’s true that the primary area of operations for the LeT has historically been the Kashmir valley and the Jammu region, the LeT has also undertaken repeated and numerous mass casualty attacks throughout India and, in particular, directed at the Indian government. But the idea that this group can be appeased on the subject of Kashmir is dangerous nonsense.

The LeT's true goal is not Kashmir, it is India. And the LeT is not shy about announcing that its intention is to establish an Islamic state in all of South Asia. Neither does it hide or try to play down its declaration of war against all Hindus and Jews, who they insist are “enemies of Islam.”

In the wake of the Mumbai attack, investigators uncovered in computer records and email accounts a list of 320 locations worldwide deemed by the LeT as possible targets for attack. Only 20 of the targets were locations within India.
....
This group of savages needs to be crushed. Not in a month. Not in a year. Not when the situation stabilizes in Afghanistan. Not when things are under control in Pakistan. Now. Today and everyday going forward. We’re not doing it, and we’re not effectively leading a global effort to do it. And we’re going to regret this mistake. We’re going to regret it bitterly.

FICCI : Task Force Report on National Security and Terrorism

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) issued a report in November 2009, from which the following recommendations are quoted:
MANAGING PAKISTAN: SETTING THE GROUND RULES

It is not only terrorist organizations in Pakistan that challenge the very concept of India. There are many in the political establishment and the Pakistan military that also share the belief and are therefore the source of moral strength and material support for the terrorists. For these terrorist organizations and their mentors in Pakistan the very idea of democracy and the strength of the Indian political system symbolised by regular elections and transition of power from one party to another are a challenge to their medieval philosophy and their very existence.

India needs to be 'Sanitized' from influece from or affliction by radical elements of Pak/Afghan origins that have their focus on destabilising India. We, therefore, need a coherent policy to deal with cross border terrorism and a strategy to make sponsorship of terrorism prohibitive for our neighbours. India must have a basket of options, which it could use against Pakistan. These options include: economic, trade, media and publicity, foreign relations, military and covert measures.

* So far India's response has been reactive and defensive. India must make Pakistan realise that continued use of terrorism against her will hurt itself more than India. Untenable arguments that the state of Pakistan has very little control over non-state actors should be rejected. It is also important that some of the people within the establishment, the media and civil society rid themselves of this belief. Non-state actors such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which are active in the tribal areas near the Afghan border, maybe outside the control of the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, but the anti-India terrorist organisations indulging in cross border terrorism in Indian territory are the surrogates of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies.

* It is equally fallacious to believe that the so-called soft attitude and double standards of the West on Pakistan will change. We have been paying a heavy price for it. They will not and it must be factored in India's response. Indian expectations of a hardline by the Obama administration against Pakistan have also been belied. After assuming office, President Barack Obama has been following the traditional US policy of closing its eyes to Pakistani use of terrorism against India as long as it co-operates with the US against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which pose a threat to American lives and interests. Pakistan has always taken advantage of such double standards in the US counter-terrorism policy.

* Countries like USA, Saudi Arabia and China will not cut off economic and military aid to Pakistan. Most recently, the Kerry-Lugar bill, which triples US aid to Islamabad, seems to have ignored New Delhi's concern about use of Pakistani soil for terror attacks in India, as it requires presidential certification that the Pakistan Army is making "concerted efforts" against Taliban. By doing so, the bill, which is supported by the Obama Administration, indicates that its focus is on Afghanistan and appears to be mute on the terrorist attacks carried out by terrorists [sic] groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad in various parts of India, which the United States is very well aware of.

* India should not bluff itself into believing that linkages with J&K and Afghanistan will disappear, we will have to work through that disadvantage. India has reasons to be concerned over renewed attempts in the US and the UK to rationalise Pakistan's inaction against the LeT and other anti-India terrorist groups by linking it to the so-called Kashmir issue and the Indian presence in Afghanistan for assisting in the economic and educational development of Afghanistan. Such attempted linkages, however, must be strongly rejected.

Sizing Response Options —
The Hard Options

* Inflict Economic Pain: India has several economic tools at its disposal, including stopping all imports from Pakistan, banning overflight by Pakistani airlines, and significantly restricting travel between the two countries. No doubt, Pakistan will retaliate but the pain will be asymmetrically more for Pakistan.

* Covert Retaliation: Immediate reprisal strike should always be an option. India must revive its covert capabilities and be abel to take deniable covert actions inside Pakistan. India should be prepared for such action.

* Surgical Strikes: One option is to conduct "surgical" strikes in Pakistan, particularly in PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) terror camps. This can be done. India seems to know with reasonable certainty where these camps are. Such strikes are feasible and even legitimate under the terms of the UN Charter when the country is attacked or under imminent threat. We should not be led into believing that the international community will support India in case we respond with strikes across the border, to a Mumbai-type attack even in the future. But respond we must. And if we respond with surgical strikes, we should prepare mechanisms to deal with international disapproval when it comes and more importantly, be prepared for escalation of war with Pakistan. For this, operational preparedness in terms of equipment and ammunition would be critical. This however is not a subject for open discussion.

* All Out Assault: Should a Mumbai-style attack happen again, India can— and should— launch a limited but intense attack on the PoK. Of course, such an assault should have clear geographical objected and be ceased unilaterally to avoid escalation.

* Leveraging Water Issue: Indus Valley Treaty is highly tilted in favour of Pakistan. India is sparing water even beyond its treaty obligations. Water is a very serious issue for Pakistan and India channelising water for irrigation and power can seriously pressurise Pakistan.

* In cases where tangible evidence exists of terrorists using Pakistan territory for training, shelter, movement, financing, weaponising of terrorists (with or without state support) action must be initiated for international actions against Pakistan under UN Security Council resolution no 1373 etc.

The Soft Options

* Sharing Intelligence: Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani during the NAM Summit in July agreed that India and Pakistan "will share real-time credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats". Both the countries have a long history of attempting intelligence cooperation - but it has seen little success. There is a view, that sharing of intelligence is a bad trap India should not fall into. If Pakistan is provided with correct and specific intelligence, they will cover their tracks, locate their points of leakage and in due course see to it that all good intelligence sources dry up. If Pakistan is provided generic intelligence, it will claim that India is falsely implicating them with political motivations and will try to bring down India's international credibility. Acceptance of the exchange is also by implication conceding the position that Pakistan state is innocent and only few rogue groups are responsible.

* Joint Military Interaction: The two militaries have not even been able to agree on allowing senior military officers to speak at each others' training institutions like the Staff Colleges and National Defence Colleage, a proposal that formed part of 'Military Confidence Building Measures', due to reservations from both the sides. Lt. Gen Satish Nambiar (FICCI Task Force member) is the only Indian military officer (serving or retired) to have addressed the Pakistani National Defence College in March 2007 on the subject of peacekeeping. Given the fact that the two countries are major contributors to UN peacekeeping, this is an arena that can be exploited as an option.

* Economic Free trade Zone: President Zardari has interest in opening of the country's markets to free trade with India. Such a plan has long been under discussion and can be explored.

* Cultural Contacts: Enhance people to people contact through carefully planned and executed program that could include - education institutions, arts and crafts, forum of intelligentsia, business institutions, parliaments, government institutions, etc.

The report goes on to say:

* The Mumbai attacks is the first of a new kind of terrorism.
- It shows the rise of a strategic terrorist culture - the terrorists intended the attack to serve multiple objectives.
- The terrorist groups have improved capabilities that recognise gaps in counter-terrorism and internal security measures.
- The terrorists used modern technology in their operations for planning, command, control and communications.

The report has recommendations to handle the emerging situation:

* Use the help of friendly countries to have more effective counter-terrorism measures.

* Develop the capability for both covert and overt preemptive strikes in Pakistan.

* Deploy better surveillance, identification and monitoring technology.

* Have a unified investigative cell for the whole of India to avoid bureaucratic and political fragmentation of efforts.

* Improve first responder preparedness.

* Carry out terrorism prevention and incident management drills in each metro city.

* Make very clear the lines of authority and responsibility for decision making.

* Take tactical steps while the overall strategy matures.

* Undertake a vulnerability assessment and use whatever resources are currently available to fill the gaps.

The report says given Pakistan's political and military set-up, it is very unlikely that Pakistan will change absent coercion - "unbearable costs". Therefore India must also direct effort to:

* Isolate the jihadis ideologically and create fissure within the jihadi groups.
* Destroy jihadi recruiting infrastructure and training camps
* Compel Pakistan to supplant madrasas with modern institutions
* Neutralise fundamentalist and terrorist leadership
* Disallow Pakistan to gain foothold in Afghanistan as this will ultimately consume Central Asia in jihadi fervor

Since none of the options currently available to India are adequate to the purpose, India must build up new capabilities.

Boodon se baatein

Reuse in the Hindi and Tamil markets :)



More complete song.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gull

Simply didn't want to leave Jihadi Sethi on the top of the blog any longer.
_MG_1841

PS: I just noticed that Firefox on Windows simply truncates the photograph on the right. Dunno why.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Najam Sethi

Najam Sethi, Pakistani journalist. Sorry, Hindi/Urdu only. Will post a summary later.
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PS: The disappointing thing is that Najam Sethi says that he is against jihadi tactics because they haven't worked in extracting anything from India, and not for any other reason.

Hatred of Pakistan

Hamid Mir on Capital Talk was highly upset by this VHP youth wing girl's composition. He forgot to compare this to Hafiz Saeed and Abdur Rahman Makki's dire warnings to India, and the facts that they are joined at the hip to the Pakistani Army, and that they have actually killed people in India. Moreover, this girl is only promising retaliation if the Jihad against India continues.

Dog in the surf

dog2
Surfin' dog

Gull

Gull

Alice in Wonderland Deciphered

English literature doctoral candidate Melanie Bayley argues in the NYT that Alice is Wonderland is a satire on mathematics.
But Alice’s adventures with the Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and so on have often been assumed to be based purely on wild imagination. Just fantastical tales for children — and, as such, ideal material for the fanciful movie director Tim Burton, whose “Alice in Wonderland” opened on Friday.

Yet Dodgson most likely had real models for the strange happenings in Wonderland, too. He was a tutor in mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, and Alice’s search for a beautiful garden can be neatly interpreted as a mishmash of satire directed at the advances taking place in Dodgson’s field.

In the mid-19th century, mathematics was rapidly blossoming into what it is today: a finely honed language for describing the conceptual relations between things. Dodgson found the radical new math illogical and lacking in intellectual rigor. In “Alice,” he attacked some of the new ideas as nonsense — using a technique familiar from Euclid’s proofs, reductio ad absurdum, where the validity of an idea is tested by taking its premises to their logical extreme.

US policy relies on wrong productivity measures

Tonelson and Kearns in the NYT address the argument that deregulation and free trade drive innovation, which drives labor productivity up, and lead to wage gains. The problem is that the wage gains have not kept up with productivity gains since the 1980s. This is attributed to workers not keeping their skills up-to-date. But there is another possibility, that the productivity measure is flawed.

But what if wages lag because productivity itself is being grossly overstated, especially in the nation’s manufacturing sector? Then, suddenly, a cornerstone of American economic policy would begin to crumble.

Productivity measures how many worker hours are needed for a given unit of output during a given time period; when hours fall relative to output, labor productivity increases. In 2009, the data show, Americans needed 40 percent fewer hours to produce the same unit of output as in 1980.

But there’s a problem: labor productivity figures, which are calculated by the Labor Department, count only worker hours in America, even though American-owned factories and labs have been steadily transplanted overseas, and foreign workers have contributed significantly to the final products counted in productivity measures.

The result is an apparent drop in the number of worker hours required to produce goods — and thus increased productivity. But actually, the total number of worker hours does not necessarily change.

This oversight is no secret: as Labor Department officials acknowledged at a 2004 conference, their statistical methods deem any reduction in the work that goes into creating a specific unit of output, whatever the cause, to be a productivity gain.

This continuing mismeasurement leads economists and all those who rely on them to assume that recorded productivity gains always signify greater efficiency, rather than simple offshoring-generated cost cuts — leaving the rest of us scratching our heads over stagnating wages.

And if that is the case:
Above all, if offshoring has been driving much of our supposed productivity gains, then the case for complete free trade begins to erode. If often such policies simply increase corporate profits at the expense of American workers, with no gains in true productivity, then they don’t necessarily strengthen the national economy.

UN's first all-women peacekeeper force

Made of Indians.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Visions of infinity


Wiki: Français : Linteau. Provenance: Cambodge, province de Siemreap, Prasat Koki (Phnom Kulen). Style de Kulen, 9ème siècle, grès. Au centre: Indra, dieu de l'orage et gardien de l'Est, entouré de serviteurs. Musée Guimet,Paris.

For the longest time, I've wanted to post Heinrich Zimmer's rendering of this traditional story from the Brahmavaivarta Purana.  It represents the most expansive cosmological vision of the ancient world, IMO, and is a triumph of the imagination.    A short extract from this story appears in Misner, Thorne, Wheeler's Gravitation.  Note: a day of Brahma is 4.32 billion earthly years.


....[Indra, the chief of the devas] summoned Vishvakarman, the god of arts and crafts, and commanded him to erect such a palace as should befit the unequaled splendor of the king of the gods.

  The miraculous genius, Vishvakarman, succeeded in constructing in a single year a shining residence, marvelous with palaces and gardens, lakes and towers.  But as the work progressed, the demands of Indra became even more exacting and his unfolding visions vaster.   He required additional terraces and pavilions, more ponds, groves, and pleasure grounds.  Whenever Indra arrived to appraise the work, he developed vision beyond vision of marvels remaining to be contrived.  Presently, the divine craftsman, brought to despair, decided to seek succor from above.  He would turn to the demiurgic creator, Brahma, the pristine embodiment of the Universal Spirit, who abides far above the troubled Olympian sphere of ambition, strife and glory.

  When Vishvakarman secretly resorted to the higher throne and presented his case, Brahma comforted the petitioner.  "You will soon be relieved of your burden," he said.  "Go home in peace."  Then, while Vishvakarman was hurrying down again to the city of Indra, Brahma himself ascended to a still higher sphere.  He came before Vishnu, the Supreme Being, of whom he himself, the Creator, as but an agent.   In beatific silence Vishnu gave ear and by a mere nod of the head let it be known that the request of Vishvakarman would be fulfilled.

  Early next morning a brahmin boy, carrying the staff of a pilgrim, made his appearance at the gate of Indra, bidding the porter to announce his visit to the king.   The gate-man hurried to the master, and the master hastened to the entrance to welcome in person the auspicious guest.  The boy was slender, some ten years old, radiant with the luster of wisdom.  Indra discovered him amidst a cluster of enraptured, staring children.  The boy greeted the host with a gentle glance of his dark and brilliant eyes.  The king bowed to the holy child and the boy cheerfully gave his blessing.   The two retired to the hall of Indra, where the god ceremoniously proffered welcome to his guest with oblations of honey, milk and fruits, then said: "O Venerable Boy, tell me of the purpose of your coming."

  The beautiful child replied with a voice that was as deep and soft as the slow thundering of auspicious rain clouds.  "O King of Gods, I have heard of the mighty palace you are building, and have come to refer to you the questions in my mind.  How many years will it require to complete this rich and extensive residence?  What further feats of engineering will Vishvakarman be expected to accomplish?  O Highest of Gods," — the boy's luminous features moved with a gentle, scarcely perceptible smile—"no Indra before you has ever succeeded in completing such a palace as yours is to be."

  Full of the wine of triumph, the king of the gods was entertained by this mere boy's pretension to a knowledge of Indras earlier than himself.  With a fatherly smile he put the question: "Tell me, Child!  Are they then so very many, the Indras and Vishvakarmans whome you have seen—or at least, whom you have heard of?"

  The wonderful guest calmly nodded.  "Yes, indeed, many have I seen."  The voice was as warm and sweet as milk fresh from the cow, but the words sent a slow chill through Indra's veins.  "My dear child," the boy continued, "I knew your father, Kashyapa, the Old Tortoise Man, lord and progenitor of all the creatures of the earth.   And I knew your grandfather, Marichi, Beam of Celestial Light, who was the son of Brahma.  Marichi was begotten of the god Brahma's pure spirit; his only wealth and glory were his sanctity and devotion.  Also, I know Brahma, brought forth by Vishnu from the lotus calix, growing from Vishnu's navel.  And Vishnu himself—the Supreme Being,  supporting Brahma in his creative endeavor—him too I know."

 "O King of Gods, I have known the dreadful dissolution of the universe.  I have seen all perish, again and again, at the end of every cycle.  At that terrible time, every single atom dissolves into the primal, pure waters of eternity, whence all originally arose.  Everything then goes back into the fathomless, wild infinity of the ocean, which is covered with utter darkness and is empty of every sign of animate being.   Ah, who will count the universes that have passed away, or the creations that have risen afresh, again and again, from the formless abyss of the vast waters?  Who will number the passing ages of the world, as they follow each other endlessly? And who will search through the wide infinities of space to count the universes side by side, each containing its Brahma, its Vishnu, and its Shiva?  Who will count the Indras in them all—those Indras side by side, who reign at once in all the innumerable worlds;  those others who passed away before them; or even the Indras who succeed each other in any given line, ascending to godly kingship, one by one,  and one by one, passing away?  King of Gods,  there are among your servants certain who maintain that it may be possible to number the grains of sand on earth and the drops of rain that fall from the sky, but no one will ever number all those Indras.  This is what the Knowers know."

  "The life and kingship of an Indra endure seventy-one eons, and when twenty-eight Indras have expired, one Day and Night of Brahma has elapsed.  But the existence of one Brahma, measured in such Brahma Days and Nights, is only one hundred and eight years.  Brahma follows Brahma; one sinks, the next arises; the endless series cannot be told.  There is no end to the number of those Brahmas—to say nothing of Indras."

  "But the universes side by side at any given moment, each harboring a Brahma and an Indra: who will estimate the number of these?  Beyond the farthest vision, crowding outer space, the universes come and go, an innumerable host.  Like delicate boats they float on the fathomless, pure waters that form the body of Vishnu.  Out of every hair-pore of that body a universe bubbles and breaks.  Will you presume to count them?  Will you number the gods in all those worlds—the worlds present and the worlds past?"

  A procession of ants had made its appearance in the hall during the discourse of the boy.  In military array, in a column four yards wide, the tribe paraded across the floor.   The boy noted them, paused and stared, then suddenly laughed with an astonishing peal, but immediately subsided into a profoundly, indrawn and thoughtful silence.

  "Why do you laugh?" stammered Indra.  "Who are you, mysterious being, under this deceiving guise of a boy?"  The proud king's throat and lips had gone dry, and his voice continually broke.  "Who are you, Ocean of Virtues, enshrouded in this deluding mist?"

  The magnificent boy resumed:  "I laughed because of the ants.  The reason is not to be told.  Do not ask me to disclose it.  The seed of woe and the fruit of wisdom are enclosed within this secret.   It is the secret that smites with an ax the tree of worldly vanity, hews away its roots, and scatters its crown.  This secret is a lamp to those groping in ignorance.  This secret lies buried in the wisdom of the ages, and is rarely revealed even to saints.  This secret is the living air of those ascetics who renounce and transcend mortal existence; but worldlings, deluded by desire and pride, it destroys."

  The boy smiled and sank into silence.  Indra regarded him, unable to move.  "O Son of a Brahmin," the king pleaded presently, with a new and visible humility, "I do not know who you are.  You would seem to be Wisdom Incarnate.  Reveal to me this secret of the ages, this  light that dispels the dark."

  Thus requested to teach, the boy opened to the god the hidden wisdom. "I saw the ants, O Indra, filing in long parade.  Each was once an Indra.  Like you, each by virtue of pious deeds once ascended to the rank of a king of gods.   But now, through many rebirths,  each has become again an ant.   This army is an army of former Indras."

  "Piety and high deeds elevate the inhabitants of the world to the glorious realm of the celestial mansions, or to the higher domains of Brahma and Shiva and to the highest sphere of Vishnu, but wicked acts sink them into the worlds beneath, into pits of pain and sorrow, involving reincarnation among birds and vermin, or out of the wombs of pigs and animals of the wild,  or among trees, or among insects.  It is by deeds that one merits happiness or anguish, and becomes a master or a serf.  It is by deeds that one attains to the rank of a king or brahmin, or of some god, or of an Indra or a Brahma.  And through deeds again, one contracts disease, acquires beauty and deformity, or is reborn in the condition of a monster."

  "This is the whole substance of the secret.  This wisdom is the ferry to beatitude across the ocean of hell."

  "Life in the cycle of countless rebirths is like a vision in a dream.  The gods on high, the mute trees and the stones, are alike apparitions in this phantasy.  But Death administers the law of time.  Ordained by time, Death is the master of all.  Perishable as bubbles are the good and the evil of the beings of the dream.  In unending cycles the good and evil alternate.  Hence the wise are attached to neither, neither the evil nor the good.  The wise are not attached to anything at all."

  The boy concluded the appalling lesson and quietly regarded his host.  The king of gods, for all his celestial splendor, had been reduced in his own regard to insignificance.   Meanwhile, another amazing apparition had entered the hall.

  The newcomer had the appearance of a kind of hermit.    His head was piled with matted hair; he wore a black deerskin around his loins; on his forehead was painted a white mark; his head was shaded by a paltry parasol of grass; and a quaint, circular cluster of hair grew on his chest: it was intact at the circumference, but from the center many of the hairs, it seemed, had disappeared.  This saintly figure strode directly to Indra and the boy, squatted between them on the floor, and there remained, motionless as a rock.  The kingly Indra, somewhat recovering his hostly role, bowed and paid obeisance, offering sour milk with honey and other refreshments;  then he inquired, falteringly but reverently, after the welfare of the stern guest, and bade him welcome.  Whereupon the boy addressed the holy man, asking the very questions Indra himself would have proposed.

  "Whence do you come, O Holy Man? What is your name and what brings you to this place?  Where is your present home, and what is the meaning of this grass parasol?  What is the portent of that circular hair-tuft on your chest: why is it dense at the circumference but at the center almost bare?  Be kind enough, O Holy Man, to answer, in brief, these questions. I am anxious to understand."

  Patiently, the old saint smiled, and slowly began his reply.  "I am a brahmin.  Hairy is my name.  And I have come here to behold Indra.   Since I know that I am short-loved, I have decided to possess no home, to build no house, and neither to marry nor to seek a livelihood.  I exist by begging alms.  To shield myself from sun and rain I carry over my head this parasol of grass."

   "As to the circle of hair on my chest, it is a source of grief to the children of the world.   Nevertheless, it teaches wisdom.  With the fall of an Indra, one hair drops.  That is why, in the center all the hairs have gone.  When the other half of the period allotted to the present Brahma will have expired, I myself shall die.  O Brahmin Boy, it follows that I am somewhat short of days; what, therefore is the use of a wife and a son, or of a house?"

   "Each flicker of the eyelids of the great Vishnu registers the passing of a Brahma.  Everything below that sphere of Brahma is as insubstantial as a cloud taking shape and again dissolving.  That is why I devote myself exclusively to meditating on the incomparable lotus-feet of highest Vishnu.  Faith in Vishnu is more than the bliss of redemption; for every joy, even heavenly, is as fragile as a dream, and only interferes with the one-pointedness of our faith in Him Supreme."

  "Shiva, the peace-bestowing, the highest spiritual guide, taught me this wonderful wisdom.  I do not crave to experience the various blissful forms of redemption: to share the highest god's mansions and enjoy his eternal presence, or to be like him in body and apparel, or to become a part of his august substance, or even to be absorbed wholly in his ineffable essence."

  Abruptly, the holy man ceased and immediately vanished.  It had been the god Shiva himself; he had now returned to his supramundane abode.  Simultaneously, the brahmin boy, who had been Vishnu, disappeared as well.  The king was alone, baffled and amazed.

  The king, Indra, pondered; and the events seemed to him to have been a dream.  But he no longer felt any desire to magnify his heavenly splendor or to go on with the construction of his palace.   He summoned Vishvakarman.  Graciously greeting the craftsman with honeyed words, he heaped upon him jewels and precious gifts, then with a sumptuous celebration sent him home.

  The king, Indra, now desired redemption.  He had acquired wisdom, and wished only to be free. He entrusted the pomp and burden of his office to his son, and prepared to retire to the hermit life of the wilderness.  Whereupon his beautiful and passionate queen, Shachi, was overcome with grief.

  Weeping, in sorrow and utter despair, Shachi resorted to Indra's ingenious house-priest and spiritual advisor, the Lord of Magic Wisdom, Brihaspati.   Bowing at this feet, she implored him to divert her husband's mind from its stern resolve.  The resourceful counselor of the gods, who by his spells and devices had helped the heavenly powers wrest the government of the universe from the hands of their titan rivals, listened thoughtfully to the complaint of the voluptuous, disconsolate goddess, and knowingly nodded assent.  With a wizard's smile, he took her hand and conducted her to the presence of her spouse.  In the role, then, of spiritual teacher, he discoursed sagely on the virtues of the spiritual life, but on the virtues also, of the secular.  He gave to each its due.   Very skillfully he developed his theme.  The royal pupil was persuaded to relent in his extreme resolve.   The queen was restored to radiant joy.

  This Lord of Magic Wisdom, Brihaspati, once had composed a treatise on government, in order to teach Indra how to rule the world.   He now issued a second work, a treatise on the policy and stratagems of married love.  Demonstrating the sweet art of wooing ever anew,  and of enchaining the beloved with enduring bonds, this priceless book established on sound foundations the married life of the reunited pair.

   Thus concludes the marvelous story of how the king of the gods was humiliated in his boundless pride, cured of an excessive ambition, and through wisdom, both spiritual and secular, brought to a knowledge of his proper role in the wheeling play of unending life.

___

India is adhering to the Indus Water Treaty

Tariq Tufail on Changing Up Pakistan (CHUP!).
Even our Indus water commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah and ex-finance minister, Dr. Mubashar Hasan agree that no provable water theft is being committed by India.

Therefore, the inescapable conclusion is that India is not violating the “letter” of the treaty, even if it may be maximizing its usage as accorded to India by the treaty.
Official and Media Pakistan has been raising noise about the Indus Water Treaty with India. So this conclusion—by Pakistanis— is important.

PS:
Early last month, Pakistan's army chief, General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, outlined a rather different vision. In a presentation to the media, he asserted that the Pakistan army was an “India-centric institution,” adding this “reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved.” His words were not dissimilar in substance from the language used by jihadists such as Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed in recent speeches. — Praveen Swami in The Hindu
Notice how another issue - water disputes - is being added to make the Pakistani military indispensable, even when there is no basis for a dispute.

PPS: Hafiz Saeed, e.g., here
“Look at India’s attitude, especially after the 9/11 attacks. It has taken advantage of Pakistan’s weaknesses and made dams and stopped our water. Pakistan, for its defence, will have to fight a war at all costs with India if it is not prepared for talks on Kashmir and water,” Saeed said in an interview to Frontline, a private TV channel.
or this, by Abdur Rehman Makki, Saaed's deputy:
He warned that jihadis were ready to fill the Ravi river with “blood on the water” to avenge what he alleged was India’s denial of river waters to Pakistan.

“Kashmir had become a cold issue. But by denying Pakistan water, India has ensured that every farmer in Punjab is lining up with his tractor and plough, ready to overrun India".

At one time, jihadis were interested only in the liberation of Kashmir, but the water issue had ensured that “Delhi, Pune and Kanpur” were all fair targets, he said. {This a few days before the Feb 13 Pune blasts.}

Mississippians Turn to Iran for Health Care Help

Mississippians Turn to Iran for Health Care Help.

PS: London Times on this.

Pak-Af

MK Bhadrakumar in Asia Times.
The US's AfPak special representative Richard Holbrooke has run into head wind almost simultaneously in four key capitals in and around the Hindu Kush - Islamabad, Kabul, Tehran and New Delhi.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

QOTD

Vivek Gumaste in rediff.com
To deem Pakistan as a failed state is a generous overstatement. It does not qualify as a state at all, period. A state must have a degree of accountability. A state must have a functioning hierarchy. Pakistan has neither. At the helm is a dysfunctional government with little jurisdiction over its geographical domain or its subjects.
...
Pakistan remains a conglomerate of anti-India interests masquerading as a nation and this is not going to change in the near future. The earlier this dawns on India the better.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

LeT's role

kgoan on BRF posted this about the Lashkar-e-Taiba that I want to preserve:
Folks, Re: The LeT:

As you all know, every jihadi group has some sort of relationship to the Pak Army - formal or informal. Of all these groups the LeT (I'll keep calling them LeT) is unique. Unlike every other group, the LeT *is* the pak Army.

Folks need to grok this point: For example, in the media we frequently hear of the "rogue" ISI. This is, as I hope you all know, rubbish. The ISI is made up of officers on deputations from the Pak Army, it is no more "independent" than the pak artillery corps. It's part and parcel of the Pak Army. The ISI isn't a "state within a state", the Pak Army has that role.

A similar thing holds with the LeT.

The role the LeT plays is crucial. Everyone here should know the importance the officers mess plays within any armies structure in "bonding" officers together. In a rigorously hierarchical organisation, the officers mess is where every officer gets to be "one of us". The hierarchy still exists, but the officers mess "socialises" officers together.

A similar function holds in, say, police canteens. Ask any police officer and he'll tell you the importance of such places.

This is where the LeT comes in: It plays two crucial roles in the Pak system: One is to socialise the Pak army folk, across *all* ranks, into the "islamist" aspect. Note: Islam-ist, NOT Islam-ic. It acts as an outlet where some low ranker can speak on equal terms with a higher rank on "islam-ist warriorhood". It acts just as the officers mess does, but aimed at reinforcing the "jihadi" (in its army meaning) culture of the Pak Army.

It's other role is eqully crucial: there are a lot of non-army folk that are crucial to the pak Army (the engineers, scientists, plain civvies etc) tht have no formal entry to the "officers mess" culture. These folks entry into the Pak Army culture is via the LeT. i.e. the Islam-ist aspect.

The LeT is as much a part of the Pak Army as their various welfare organisations. The LeT is as important a glue in the Pak Army as the Agricultural Department. (For those of you folks who don't understand why that's important, and may seem amusing or unimportant, note that the pak army Agriculture Dept is more important for the average Pak Officer in his daily life, than the Pak nuclear command auhority. See it's the Agriculture Dept that plays a *crucial* role in thngs like plots being given to officers. It is *the* heart of the material reward system within the Pak Army).

The ISI can't act outside it's Pak Army authority - but the LeT can because of it's "across all ranks" and "islamist" nature. A bearded havaldar is equal to a clean shaven colonel in a LeT social gathering. Note, this is not a contradiction. The ISI acts on Pak Army instructions from a top-down hierarchy. The LeT ensures the Pak Army has a bottom up feedback from it's Islam-ist rank and file.