Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Charter of Democracy in peril

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is breaking the Charter of Democracy that Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had signed in 2006.

Zardari wants to keep the bad provisions inserted in the constitution by dictators, because it would be politically inexpedient to remove them as his party had promised. At issue is mainly Section 58-2(b), which makes it easy for the president to topple a democratically elected government.

If Zardari were to keep to the agreement, then Nawaz Sharif's PML(N) has promised to support Zardari's PPP. If these two parties were to work together, they could bring the Pakistan Army under control at last. Nawaz Sharif is willing, but Zardari is not.

The Bush administration must make it clear to Zardari that he must follow through.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire is your destiny

Boston Brahmin and the Missus saw "Slumdog Millionaire" last weekend at the West Newton cinema. Loved it!

It's the kind of predestined love story, with two Dharavi urchins growing up as orphans, one brother becoming a gangster, that used to be common in the seventies Manmohan Desai or Prakash Mehra films. In fact, Zanjeer (1973) comes up as one of the answers to the TV quiz show in the movie. The main thing added by the British director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is proper character development, fast camerawork and editing, and good production values.

You have got to see this movie -- it will make you laugh and cry the way movies no longer do. Before you go, please read this review by the Boston Globe critic. You might also want to read Simon Beaufoy's article in the Guardian after the Mumbai attacks.

Boston Brahmin's only complaint is that the movie is not widely released. In the West Newton cinema it's playing on two screens, but most cinema chains don't have it, which means most of America cannot see it (you can see the trailer on YouTube). Also, a word of caution: the first few scenes are extremely violent and disturbing, and not for children.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crowley versus the truth

In the current issue of The New Republic, Michael Crowley says that the Afghan war is very difficult and could become a quagmire for Barack Obama.

But Crowley's article is based on a string of cliches from armchair analysts, like this one:
Meanwhile, the recent savagery in Mumbai has India and Pakistan at each other's throats again, a development that indirectly benefits Afghan insurgents.

This single sentence is enough (although there are many more in this ponderous article) to demonstrate Crowley's cluelessness.

The "recent savagery" in Mumbai is the handiwork of the Pakistani extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, a long-time protege of the Pakistan military. The Mumbai attackers were trained, according to the captured terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab, by military officers.

Given this, India has shown remarkable restraint. India and Pakistan are not at each others' throats, because they understand what Crowley and his ilk don't --- that the civilian government in Pakistan lives in fear of the Pakistan army. It is the Pakistan army that is against peace with India. It is the Pakistan army that will not countenance any Indian help for Afghanistan --- it made that a condition for helping the Americans. It is the Pakistan army that is responsible for harboring the Afghan Taliban in Quetta, and allowing them to stage raids into Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers. And it is the Pakistan army that prevents the U.S. from prosecuting its war within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA in Pakistan. This is what makes the Afghan war difficult, not some romantic notion of unconquered Afghans since Alexander the great, another cliche that Crowley presses into service.

Crowley's entire article is shallow. Boston Brahmin hopes that Obama has better counsel, or God help us.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The New York Times is behind the times

The New York Times editorial board is either ill-informed about Pakistan, or just deliberately being dense.

Last week's editorial about the Mumbai attacks was urging Indian police not to point fingers, and admonishing India in advance against going to war with Pakistan, when there have been no signs of any such war being prepared.

Now that more and more evidence is emerging that the Mumbai attacks were planned and executed by Pakistanis, today's editorial at last mentions that Pakistan needs to cooperate.

But then it goes on to say:
India’s growing investment and intelligence network in Afghanistan also is feeding Islamabad’s insecurity and sense of encirclement. India must be transparent about its involvement in Afghanistan.

What?? So now, the Times editorial board is making excuses for Pakistan's terrorist bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008, which killed 58 people. Every U.S. intelligence expert knows that this bombing was orchestrated by the ISI through an extremist organization.

When I last checked, Afghanistan and India were sovereign countries. Afghanistan can host as many embassies as it likes, and Indians can make as many investments as they want. Any "feelings of encirclement" are Pakistan's problem and cannot be used to excuse a terrorist bombing. This editorial (link) is an apologia for what is rapidly looking like a terrorist state.