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Archive for July, 2011

(Source: ETrib) #BBZ4Prez #ThatSoundsLikeaRapSong #HisCampaignShouldbeinTwitterHashtags #LOLZ

Disclaimer: For the PPP jiyalas who get supremely offended by all posts barely criticizing their political party, the Bhuttos, and related offspring, take a deep, deep, deeeeeeeep breath…

Last week, the Chairman of the PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari joined Twitter! This was apparently quite newsworthy, so much so that the Express Tribune reported, “The first tweet by Bilawal, whose handle is @BBhuttoZardari, read: @AseefaBZ how do i fix my profile picture so our faces aren’t cut off?

Yes, this was news! BBZ is on Twitter! He’s just like us! Tweeting about inane things like profile photos and reading the newspaper! And like other political counterparts, he can now connect to…0.01% of Pakistan’s masses! Party of the people, I tell ya.

Are you still breathing deeply, PPP supporters? I’m just being facetious! Ha, ha! (Please don’t come at me with virtual pitch forks! Ah! Dementors!)

Twitter can be quite useful, particularly when news agencies report that the heir to the Bhutto throne (just kidding, jiyalas! I meant the Chosen One! Stupefy! Hee!) will be contesting the general elections from the PPP’s stronghold of Lyari, in Karachi. Bilawal’s father, President Zardari made the announcement Monday while speaking to former party activists and MNAs, stating, “Bilawal is your future MNA and despite being away he is keenly monitoring developments in Lyari.” Dawn reported,

According to sources, President Zardari asked National Database and Registration Authority officials to devise a programme for Bilawal Bhutto for his interaction with the people of Lyari so that he could track events and developments in the area from London. The president said that PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto was keen to see Lyari become a thriving and vibrant place, free from acrimony and criminals, the sources added.

Does the programme involve Skype? Google + hangout sessions with Lyari’s best & brightest gangsters? According to the Nation, “Bilawal would come to Pakistan in September this year and thereafter will remain in contact with the people and elected representatives of Lyari by holding regular meetings. He would also oversee the development projects and other matters related to the neighborhood.”

But despite news agencies’ claims that BBZ would contest the upcoming elections (in 2013), he, via Twitter, clarified, “Took my first breath in Lyari. special place in my heart for Lyari. want so much more 4 Lyari. Still not running in next election.” (TGFT – Thank God For Twitter.)

Back in April, Saba Imtiaz cited PPP leaders in an article for the Express Tribune, who said Bilawal “will not be jumping headfirst into politics and will first learn the workings of the party inside-out.” And although BBZ will take on some “political responsibility” in September [see above], MNA Farahnaz Ispahani told Imtiaz that PPP’s General Secretary Jahangir Badar “will take Bilawal under his wing and he will be working with senior provincial leaders, such as current Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.” She added,

Bilawal has specifically expressed interest in the party’s youth wing, which was very dear to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. He will be looking into modernizing the Peoples Youth Organisation, and bringing in new ideas, media technology etc. through intellectual and practical exercises.

Imtiaz in her piece, projected, “By working with the youth wing, Bilawal could possibly galvanize young voters and Bhutto family loyalists.” This move could also allow BBZ to build up momentum, earn credibility, and “learn the ropes” of the political world before he contests the elections in Lyari, not because the party ultimately fears losing the area – which has been a PPP stronghold since 1967 – but potentially because they want to show that Bilawal earned his political power.

And herein lies the irony. Can you truly earn what was already entitled to you? Don’t get me wrong – in many ways, I appreciate that Bilawal isn’t contesting the elections in 2013 just because he can. He’s not just being thrust into power prematurely. However, much of this still sits uncomfortably within the parameters of dynastic politics. This is therefore still a symptom of a much larger problem with politics and leadership in Pakistan, which is and has historically been personality-based. But given that this is our current reality – do we accept this as a given and appreciate efforts by the PPP to groom a leader rather than usher a child into the political ring? At what point will we feel that BBZ earned his political badge?

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Mumbai Blasts Coverage

Via NY Times.

There were three blasts in Mumbai today during rush hour today, reportedly hitting Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazar areas. According to the Guardian’s live updates, “There were no confirmed numbers of fatalities or injuries but NDTV quoted reports saying 10 people have been killed,” while the Indian Home Secretary says over 60 people have been injured. The numbers are likely to rise. Although BBC News reported, “The blasts coincide with the birthday of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed nearly 170 people,” this is untrue. Kasab’s birthday is in September (!).

There is no news yet on who perpetrated the blasts, but according to NDTV, this was confirmed as a terrorist attack. At this time, a lot of people like to perpetuate rumors. I’ll be following news outlets and journalists on my Twitter timeline and keep this space updated. Our prayers go out to those in Mumbai.

UPDATE 1100 EST: NDTV reports Mumbai police & the Home Ministry suspect the Indian Mujahideen. NDTV is now discussing the areas were targeting, noting that the three areas were all very crowded and the “near-simultaneous” attacks occurred at a time at a busy time (7:00 pm IST). Al Jazeera noted that this attack occurred just a few days after the anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

UPDATE 1110 EST: Friends in Mumbai, for places to stay, people needing rides, and medical care, see this spreadsheet. The Guardian cited Maseeh Rahman who told the news agency,

The home ministry said it’s a terrorist attack and has rushed three teams from the newly-created National Intelligence Agency to Mumbai, including forensic experts.

Most people were injured at Zaveri Bazaar, where Mumbai’s bullion traders and jewelry shops are located, and at Opera House, where diamond exporters have their offices and workshops.

Zaveri Bazaar is close to the city police headquarters, and has been bombed by terrorists twice in the past – in 1993 and in 2002. This time the improvised explosive device was placed inside an electrical meter box.

The third blast was near Dadar Railway Station in central Mumbai at a road intersection known as Kabutar Khana (Pigeon House), where devout Hindus come to feed the city’s pigeons.

UPDATE 1120 EST: Via the Express Tribune, the MP of South Mumbai tells NDTV – avoid rumor mongering, avoid messages that spread communal discontent. NDTV also says that an IED has been found hidden in an umbrella. The Home Minister says that the official casualty account is 10 dead, 54 admitted to hospital [i.e., injured]. Two teams from Delhi and Hyderabad have been dispatched to Mumbai, which has been put on high alert. The Home Minister is appealing for calm.

UPDATE 1142 EST: Death toll has risen to 13. Crowd management, according to Al Jazeera English, is an issue and an impediment to rescue work. The most intense blast was at the Opera House. Officials are urging people to remain calm to facilitate in these efforts. NDTV spoke to Prithviraj Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra, home of Mumbai, who said the number injured is now 83 . He also did not want to comment on who the perpetrators of the blast are – saying instead that their first priority is to help people in need.

UPDATE 1155 EST: 13 people killed, 81 people injured is latest count, via NDTV. All three blasts were caused by IEDs. Via the WSJ, “Vikas Mahekar, a member of the Maharashtra nationalist group the Shiv Sena, in Colaba: “We immensely condemn the attacks…All these talks of a safer Mumbai is just an eye wash. The reality is out for everyone to see today.” Because of the low-intensity of the blasts, hope the toll will stay relatively low: NDTV (Strongest was at Opera House, where the IED was hidden in an umbrella).

UPDATE 1205 EST: Via the Guardian updates, “NDTV is reporting that two members of the Indian Mujahideen, who have been blamed by Mumbai police for the attacks, were arrested in the city yesterday.” Again, remember that Indian officials are not commenting on who committed the attacks.

Via Channel 4, here is a map of the blast locations:

UPDATE 1210 EST: Via Twitter, @AnandWrites has created a crisis crowdmap post-attack. Here it is.

UPDATE 1330 EST: NDTV keeps speaking to eyewitnesses, who basically discuss the chaos and the blood that was “everywhere.” Via the WSJ, “News channel NDTV says police are already looking at footage from a CCTV near the bus stop in the Dadar area and another in the Opera House area.” Death toll has risen to 21, 120 injured. According to NDTV, the leads are “currently very sketchy.” According to the Home Minister, all of the injured have been taken to hospitals. The blasts occurred at 6:45 pm IST, within minutes of each other, therefore allowing officials to conclude that attacks were coordinated.

UPDATE 1630 EST: (Last one of the day) Death toll: 21 dead, 141 injured.

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The Palestyle Clutch (Source: Fashion Compassion)

When was the last time you looked down at your trendy-but-questionable harem pants and asked yourself, “Where did these come from?” No, they did not claw its way out of the ’90s, fresh from an MC Hammer video, as much as your friends might like to tell you (don’t worry, they’re just jealous). Aladdin didn’t call, asking for his pants back (honestly, you might need new friends). No, harem-pants person. Those pants were the result of a long and complex value chain, and in some instances, players (often the people making the garments in countries like Bangladesh or Pakistan), were exploited in the process. The ethical fashion movement aims to address and remedy some of these issues – many labels using fair trade or ethical practices or producing eco-friendly products. Ayesha Mustafa is the Pakistani founder of Fashion ComPassion, a UK-based ethical online retailer that markets socially responsible luxury brands. In the eight months since Fashion ComPassion was established, she has worked with companies like Polly & Me (with Chitrali women in Pakistan), Palestyle (with Palestinian refugee women), and Beshtar (Afghanistan). Below, she tell us more about her organization:

Q: What inspired you to establish Fashion ComPassion? How did your past interests or background converge for the creation of this innovative organization?

Fashion and giving back to society have been my two biggest passions and Fashion ComPassion is a combination of the two. I had been toying with the idea of creating my own fashion company for awhile, and just decided I needed to make that call and switch careers.

Growing up in Pakistan and the Middle East where one sees discrepancies in wealth, poverty, and a lack of opportunities for girls and women, I wanted to create a platform that could directly support the most marginalized. I also interned at Grameen Bank when I was 17 and saw the transformational impact it had on women, their families and society. This stayed with me and throughout my life, I have worked and volunteered with organizations that supported women causes/rights.

Q: Fashion ComPassion currently supports four labels with four different influences – Polly & Me from Pakistan, Palestyle that empowers Palestinian refugee women, Beshtar from Afghanistan, and Savannah Chic, which is designed by African artists. How did you go about forming these partnerships and did you initially want Fashion ComPassion to be global in scope?

The mandate of the company is to create a platform for women artisans in the developing world, i.e Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, so from the onset I wanted it to be global but focus on countries that are war-torn and where there is a real need to help and empower women. I started with a vision document about the company and first i approached Polly & Me, and the rest just fell into place with research and referrals from friends and family.

Currently, I have added new brands in the portfolio: (1) Bhalo is a limited edition clothing and accessories label that works with women in Bangladesh. The products are made from ethically hand woven and naturally dyed cottons and silks. Bhalo works with two fair trade organizations, and provides employment, healthcare, child care to women who otherwise would not be employed due to mass production. Bhalo works with the same fair trade organization as People Tree. (2) Lost City is a NY label that works with artisans in Lucknow, India to revive their traditional craftsmanship with contemporary style.

I am no longer working with Polly & Me and Savannah Chic at the moment and in the midst of creating a new online website for the garments and goods.

Q: According to your philosophy, “Not only do we source responsibly from brands that contribute to society and empower women, our aim is to also donate a percentage of our sales to charities that support marginalized women in various communities around the world…” How does Fashion ComPassion do the due diligence in ensuring their brands empower women? What charities do you currently support?

We have strict criteria when we look at brands to partner with and support. Some of the things we look at are:

  1. Why was the company formed? Was it created to address a social problem, and what is the mission or mandate of the company?
  2. Does it have a strong social development ethos?
  3. How is fashion and social development combined to form the label?
  4. Does the brand work or partner with any local fair trade or women right organizations?
  5. How are the artisans paid?
  6. What are their working conditions?
  7. Are the artisans trained and given creative guidance?
  8. Are they given any other assistance in terms of health care or child care?
  9. Does the label support the community and give a certain percentage back?
  10. Can the label provide evidence and documents to support how they are helping and empowering the women they work with?

Fashion ComPassion is also committed to give back 2% of its annual profits to various women organizations that are fostering positive change and impact on women. I am looking at three at the moment, but since I am part of Women for Women International’s Junior Leadership circle, I would like to help with one of the countries they are setting up a Country Office in or a project they are focusing on.

Q: Where do you see Fashion ComPassion in the next year? In the next five years?

In the coming year, I would like to build greater awareness of Fashion ComPassion and its brands by focusing on various events and collaborations with organizations that have a similar mandate. The new website will be launched with an online shop which will allow customers to buy products directly. I am also looking at pop up stores to sell some of the brands.

In the long term, because my biggest industry inspiration is Joan Burstein, the founder of Browns, I want to make Fashion ComPassion follow Brown’s footsteps and be the one-stop shop for high-end and unique ethical fashion.

Q: The convergence of fashion and social impact is a really fascinating marriage right now with organizations like Elvis & Kresse and Goodone, which supply ethical and eco-friendly clothing to fashion stores. In the value chain, how does Fashion ComPassion market these brands to the larger or more mainstream markets?

Fashion ComPassion’s purpose is to bring together high-end socially responsible brands from the developing world and create a market for it in the UK and other countries like the US. We are starting with an online website that will sell to customers globally, we also organize events at galleries, boutiques, and form partnerships with other ethical fashion brands and women organizations. We have also taken part in fashion shows and plan to be part of trade shows for ethical fashion. With time, we plan to supply our brands to other online fashion sites in the U.S. and ethical fashion boutiques there.

Q: What has been the reaction so far to Fashion ComPassion? What has been your biggest success and failure so far?

The reaction so far has been phenomenal. I honestly didn’t except such a positive response from customers, press, retailers and other individuals. I think I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have had it not been for the help and support of numerous people that have believed in me and the company.

The Beshtar Burqa Dress (Source: Fashion ComPassion)

My biggest success was when Beshtar’s Burqa Dress was one of the pieces of Vogue’s Green Carpet Challenge. In less than three months since I started the company, the dress was included in this prestigious selection which included some of the most well-known designers that are working on their ethical lines.

I wouldn’t call it a failure but not being able to find the right socially responsible brand from Pakistan that I can work with and make a name for in the UK. This is something that I am researching and have talked to various individuals in Pakistan both in social development and fashion. I hope that very soon, I can get a brand from my own country and create a positive image of Pakistan through fashion.

You can become a learn more about Fashion ComPassion by visiting their website or joining their Facebook page

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Via NY Times.

Everyone is weighing in on the news that the U.S. is halting hundreds of millions of dollars (basically, a lot of zeroes) in military aid to Pakistan. According to news agencies, about $800 million in military aid and equipment - over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual American security assistance to Pakistan – could be affected. The NY Times noted in its coverage, “This aid includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border to combat terrorism, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in training assistance and military hardware…”

Given the spiraling relations between the U.S. and Pakistan in recent months, this news is not all together surprising. But it still is a pretty significant public move by Washington. Cue reactions. India – not surprisingly – welcomed the development, saying “a heavy presence of arms would have disturbed the equilibrium in the region.” Pakistan – via Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas – essentially stated, “We didn’t need yo money, anyway!” (His actual statement: “We can conduct our operations without external support.” But you get my gist.) The U.S. Ambassador to India, Thomas Pickering, made this point,

We tend to need Pakistan more than Pakistan needs us. That’s the current dilemma, because in many ways the United States is utterly dependent on Pakistan for logistical access to Afghanistan. In some respects this situation is paradoxical, because in my own view the United States is in Afghanistan more to avoid destabilizing Pakistan than for almost any other reason.

Hmm. In The AtlanticSteve Clemons makes a similar point:

…The raw truth is that America has no real choice but to remain engaged with Pakistan — but this can’t be a binary arrangement in which Pakistan extorts and the US turns a blind eye to Pakistan’s role empowering rogue regimes and animating some of the world’s worst transnational terrorists.  Slow disengagement, a decrease in financial support (as the US has just done) — though not a full suspension — some arm-twisting of its patrons like China and Saudi Arabia and some strategic clarity in the Obama administration on what the real prize here is — which is a less psychotic Pakistan…

 Jeffrey Goldberg (also for The Atlantic) believes that humiliating Pakistan is not a good policy, noting, “It seems that it would be more in the American self-interest to speak quietly to Pakistan at moments like this, rather than to deliver a public spanking.” He added, “I will make a bold prediction: Six months or a year from now, we will look back on the withholding of aid as a failure of policy.”

What do you think? First, remember that U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan has not been impacted. Second, from a strategic perspective, the U.S. cannot afford to turn off all military aid to Pakistan, particularly given their presence in Afghanistan. It’s just not going to happen. They are, however, halting just enough to make a statement – both to the American public as well as to Pakistan. But in the grander scheme, will this move impact the chess game that is U.S.-Pakistan relations? Ayesha Siddiqa told Reuters, “America understands that Pakistan needs money. Pakistan is insolvent. It cannot disengage (from the United States), so eventually it will turn around.”

So based on the punditry and statements, here’s what we have: the U.S. knows they can’t fully cut off Pakistan. Pakistan knows that the U.S. knows this. Pakistan knows they can’t fully disengage from their relations with the U.S. The U.S. also knows that Pakistan knows this. So both know stuff that the other knows they know. 

If you’re like me, your head hurts right now too.

But because I’m a fan of comedians-who-are-better-pundits-than-actual-pundits, here’s a good breakdown of the situation by Stephen Colbert (barring the fact that the “terrorist”  in the clip sounds more Mexican than Pakistani):

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Under Pressure (Sing It, Queen)

Via NY Times/Associates Press

On Tuesday, the NY Times came out with a punchy, no-holds-barred piece, reporting that Obama administration officials believe that the ISI was behind journalist Saleem Shahzad‘s death last month.

Wait. What’s that you say, Captain Obvious? We’ve been saying that for the past month? Oh.

Well, there’s no evidence like new evidence (*jazz hands*). The NY Times cited new intelligence obtained before Shahzad’s May 29th disappearance, showing that senior ISI officials had “directed the attack on him in an effort to silence criticism.” Administration officials, who said the evidence was reliable and conclusive, stated that the ISI’s actions were “unacceptable and barbaric.” Another official told the NYT, “There is a lot of high-level concern about the murder; no one is too busy not to look at this.”

A TIME piece Tuesday further explored the ISI-related development, discussing how journalists like Najam Sethi and Ejaz Haider heavily criticized the military/ISI for their alleged role in Shahzad’s torture and subsequent murder. In the article,  Omar Waraich wrote, “The ISI denies that it ever threatened Shahzad or was involved in the kidnapping or killing of the journalist. The ISI has contacted Sethi, Haider and other journalists whom it feels have unfairly represented the spy agency.” Sethi told TIME, “For what I’ve been saying since the bin Laden raid, I have incurred the wrath of the ISI. The agency has officially expressed its anger and annoyance and irritation.”

This “wrath” could even turn into a court case, noted Waraich. A lawyer who served as deputy attorney general under Gen. Musharraf, Sardar Muhammad Ghazi, has filed a 20-page petition against Sethi, Haider, and Hamid Mir, telling TIME, “These people are criticizing my armed forces. They sit and castigate the army. I can’t tolerate it. There should be somebody who should come forward and say the media should be controlled.” Waraich added,

In the petition, he accuses Sethi, Haider and Mir of being “out to promote the foreign agenda to destabilize and denuclearize Pakistan.” He alleges that the journalists are intent on allowing India to “expand [its] boundaries” and are influenced by the American, Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies.

So apparently anyone who questions the actions of the state are conspirators to the Zionist/RAW/American degree? Somehow this does not surprise me.

What does infuriate me is the subsequent pressure (Waraich noted that one pro-army website even superimposed the star of David on Haider’s forehead to brand him as an Israeli agent) on journalists and figures willing to ask questions. The elements behind these tactics know very well that the aforementioned journalists aren’t foreign agents, evil mouthpieces for evil enterprises. But they’re manipulating the masses who feast madly on the coattails of conspiracy theories. They’re leveraging the anti-[insert here] sentiment that already pervades the atmosphere, framing the nationalist narrative as “with us-or-against us.” Poison lurks in that kind of polarization. For a nation crippled by the alleged transgressions of our security apparatus, this type of thinking gets us nowhere.

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