Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Concern for Children
CFC is having an exhibition on Friday in Karachi. I'd give details but Panda told me that blogger pages are currently banned in Pakistan right now, probably because of the situation in Balochistan. (Which is why I'm guessing I've been given some breathing space by Ahsan to post). Anyways, below are the photos I contributed to the exhibition. The writeup they asked me to send is also posted underneath.

I worked at CFC as an intern during the summer of 2005, from around June to September. I had the privilege of working with a great team comprising of both interns and CFC permanent staff. Everyone involved sought not only to contribute to the community, but to maximise their respective personal experiences as much as possible through the project.

I was glad to be able to contribute something to CFC at a stage where Sheila was looking to build upon CFC’s credibility and foundations. Moreover, the way the entire team centred in on the task of renovating and rebuilding the clinic ended up being somewhat demonstrative of CFC’s commitment to both the community and its broader ambitions. This was important not only with respect to donors, trustees and local residents but also to the staff themselves, who had in many ways become disillusioned by some of the prior administrators.

With CFC I was fortunate to be assigned a fair degree of responsibility and liberty, though Sheila and the accounts people kept a close tab on our expenses. Together Rahmat, Parvez and I were able to coordinate the construction teams (masonry – electric, painting and carpentry). Strikes in the city and false promises by some of the masons cost us two or three days, but for the most part we stuck to the schedule and rebuilt the clinic within 20 days. To make up for lost time Parvez worked Sundays. Moreover, the three of us were consistently engaged in physical construction ourselves (brickwork and carpentry), which was fun for me anyway.

On those occasions where we were able to leave the workers on autopilot, I had to photographically document Machar Colony for the brochure. Both Parvez and Rahmat were disarmingly polite and helpful to the local people which allowed us to move freely within the community. Obtaining photographs of houses, schools and children was greatly facilitated by their courtesy, not to mention Rehmat’s ability to speak Pashto. Still, general suspicion and Pakistani social propriety did prevent me from gaining access to some areas which would have allowed for some great photos. However, I did get to know a lot of the local kids pretty well, who then lead me to a couple of excellent vantage points within the colony. The swimming hole was one such place, as were the sewage draining points.

Once the rebuilding was complete, I focused on editing the photos and putting together the new brochure and logo. Unfortunately by that time my date of departure for University had nearly arrived. Though I completed the brochure in electronic format, I was unable to follow through and help CFC with the problems it faced in during finishing and printing.

By the time I left in September I could feel the very important difference the project had made in the local residents and in the staff. In a more tangible sense, I could see the difference in the clinic and I was proud to have been a part of that. I was later told that the patient turnover at the clinic had multiplied as a result. Moreover I was very happy to hear that the scope of the project and the responsibilities of the staff involved have since increased, and continue to do so. CFC’s performance since that summer and especially during the tragic events following the South Asian Quake serves to evidence the organizations phenomenal growth in capacity and efficiency since it was restructured in 2005.

Given that I am primarily a law student and not a photographer, I am honoured to be able to contribute to this exhibition. My objective in taking these pictures was pretty straightforward. I wanted to connect with the subjects in these photographs and personalise the relevant issues, so as to prevent myself from ever becoming disassociated or dispassionate. I hope everyone attending this exhibition extracts the same sentiment.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Quote of the day II

"Bugti's death will only add to the growing fears about the country's future and the danger inherent in a policy of killing political opponents rather than holding a dialogue with them."

Ahmed Rashid, in his column on BBC. I will not for one second pretend that I know more about Pakistani politics than Ahmed Rashid. But calling Bugti a "political opponent" is letting him off quite lightly. The man was responsible, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly, for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers and the destruction and bombing of gas pipelines.

As I said in an earlier post, I think of him as a terrorist. For the record, I think Islamabad has treated Balochistan far too shabbily and unfairly, and I'm not just speaking of this present government. But Ahmed Rashid writes his column as if he believes only one side is wrong in this conflict. And that's not true.

This is Why I dropped my Math Major
Anyone who has been to college/university knows that Math professors (and students) are slightly looney. Not in a Courtney Love (random book recommendation: Heavier Than Heaven) kind of way but in an endearing, understandable kind of way. It's almost as if people studying Math (and Physics, no doubt) are allowed some leeway by the rest of society to be slightly more, uh, eccentric than the rest of us. I think this is because we assume that one has to be crazy to be able to understand and develop concepts and theorems that the rest of us can't even begin to comprehend. To borrow a term from the field, they simply exist on another plane.

That's why I wasn't the least bit surprised when I came across
this fellow in the news the other day. I remember speaking about him and the Poincare conjecture (don't bother clicking, you won't understand) with my student advisor at college, who was head of the Math department at our school. He told me some Russian guy had published his proof of the conjecture on the internet and that the world (well, the world of mathematicians anyway) was waiting for confirmation of its veracity. I guess the wait is over.

Quote of the Day

"After every 10 years, they gift us dead bodies of our elders. We will not forget this."

Sardar Akhtar Mengal, in reaction to Bugti's death.

I Know, I Know
Ok, so rejoicing at someone's death may not be the nicest or most politically correct thing to do. But the man was a terrorist and an impediment to the advancement of the Balochi people. I say our country is better off without him.

My only concern is obviously the reaction to his death. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be viewed as a martyr. There were
riots in Balochistan and in Karachi last night and I expect more of the same today, though a curfew has been put in place in Quetta for now. The next seven days in my opinion are crucial. If the government doesn't handle this adroitly, we could be in for a serious crisis. Given Musharraf's track record over the last few years, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I finally figured out what to call this enitre mess: L'affaire Hair. With a soft "h". After all the stupid headlines that I've read over the last few days (stuff like "Hair Comes Trouble!"), I'm quite pleased with this development. It's catchy, it rhymes, it's short and sweet and, most importantly, it lays the blame for the fiasco exactly where it belongs: Darrell Hair. Given that this blog is in its infancy, I doubt very much that it will catch on. But one can always hope.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jinnah and Gandhi, Living Side by Side. In Chicago.
Speaking of the NYT, they had a great piece on Pakistani immigrants in the U.S. versus Pakistani immigrants in Britain. Why do the former go to grad school and become lawyers and the latter blow themselves up? (I'm being simplistic, of course). Some interesting stuff here, not least of which is this tidbit:
The stretch of Devon Avenue in North Chicago also named for Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, seems as if it has been transplanted directly from that country. The shops are packed with traditional wedding finery, and the spice mix in the restaurants’ kebabs is just right...Indian Hindus have a significant presence along the roughly one-and-a-half-mile strip of boutiques, whose other half is named for Gandhi.
One thing I can safely say is that the U.S. is probably the best in the developed world in integrating immigrants into its society and economy. By the second generation, most immigrants consider themselves bona fide Americans. This is plainly not the case elsewhere, especially continental Europe. And now in Britain, the government is looking into reasons why.

A Tad Naive, Yes?
The New York Times reports that the State Department has opened an inquiry to look into Israel's use of weapons it bought from the United States. Shockingly, some of them may have been used against civilians. The point of the inquiry?

Several current and former officials said that they doubted the investigation would lead to sanctions against Israel but that the decision to proceed with it might be intended to help the Bush administration ease criticism from Arab governments and commentators over its support of Israel’s military operations. (Emphasis added)
So basically, the U.S. is under the impression that opening an inquiry will placate Arabs and their governments. An inquiry that is highly unlikely to lead to any public criticism, let alone sanctions. Yup, that'll work.

Hairific or Hair-Raising or any other lame title with the word "Hair" in it
So Darrell Hair was apparently willing to quit umpiring if the ICC paid him half a million dollars. Brilliant. Come on fellow Pakistanis, I'm sure we can manage $500,000 if we spread our net far enough. Email friends, family and work colleagues. Tell them you need money to get rid of Darrell Hair. I'm sure they'll oblige. And if you know any Sri Lankans, get them in on it as well. They'll be happy to help.

By the way, after the whole
Ganguly/Chappell fiasco, and now Darrell Hair's pretty embarassing email released by the ICC, I think all cricketers, coaches, managers, board members and ICC officials should realise that email probably isn't the way to go. Stick to post, people.

Friday, August 18, 2006

An American Conservative Newsletter on Islam!

A prof just forwarded this newsletter to me, and its rather shocking. Normally I would find this hillarious and the work of a small, retarded group but what is alarming is that their book "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)" is on the NYT best sellers list.

On a different note, there's an excellent article by Michael Byers, an International lawyer, in the London Review of Books entitled "War Crimes", if you've got time check it your nearest library; the online version is subscription only but i'll try to find a free copy.

Alien Panda

P.S.the novelty of signing myself as Alien Panda is wearing off faster tahn i anticipated, but I shall persist!.

P.P.S here's that newsletter.

Dear Fellow American,

Yesterday, Islamic radicals detonated a series of bombs in crowded trains in Bombay, India killing nearly 200 people. Also yesterday, in a separate incident in India, Islamic terrorists lobbed a grenade into a bus, killing many of its occupants.

Murder by radical Muslims is not new to the people of India, Spain, France, England, Israel, Indonesia and many other countries around the globe. And we must never forget the thousands of Americans who have died here at home and abroad at the hand of Islamic terrorists.

What prompts these attacks? What do these terrorists hope to gain? HUMAN EVENTS wants you to have the answers to these questions, answers you are unlikely to find in the mainstream press. That's why we are giving away a free copy of the New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusade).

Numerous books have tried to explain the religion in whose name these terrorists acted. Most of these books strike a common theme: "True" Islam -- as opposed to the terrorist's "extremist" version -- promotes peace, justice, freedom and tolerance. The problem with this argument is that it is false and, therefore, dangerous, since it blinds us to the true nature of the enemy we face. But now, in the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Islam expert Robert Spencer reveals what all the mainstream media conceal about Islam.

Exposing myth after myth of the "Islam means peace" establishment, Robert Spencer, in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, tackles all the hot-button issues regarding Islam and the Crusades, including:
  • Why modern-day jihad warriors (like those in Canada, U.S., Britain, India and elsewhere) despise democracy and will do all they can to resist it.
  • Mohammed: the "Perfect Man"? That's how Muslims regard him. Details about his character and in Mohammed's career of bloody conquest that make him a dangerous role model.
  • The roots of Islamic terrorism and violence in the Koran.
  • The stifling effect Islam has on science and free inquiry, accounting for its failure to prosper -- and hence of its murderous envy of the West.
  • How the much-ballyhooed (and grossly exaggerated) "Golden Age" of Islamic culture was largely inspired by non-Muslims.
  • The ghastly lure of Islam's X-rated Paradise for suicide bombers and jihad terrorists.
  • How Mohammad ordered -- and rejoiced in -- the assassinations of his enemies. How he lied and broke treaties as a matter of course.
  • Islamic law: how it institutionalizes oppression of Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims in Islamic societies.
  • How the Koran and Islamic law treat women as nothing more than possessions of men
    Islam's only overarching moral principle: "if it's good for Islam, it's right".
  • The Crusades: not acts of unprovoked aggression by Europe against the Islamic world, but a delayed response to centuries of Muslim aggression.
  • Why Western leaders who think non-Muslims can "win hearts and minds" among Islamic jihadists are naive.

Does it sound like honest, straightforward journalism to you? Good. Because it is truly remarkable how much truth can be uncovered by an honest investigation of the facts. For example did you know:

  • The good news about the economy just keeps rolling in. Thanks to the Bush tax cuts three years ago, the federal deficit is shrinking and millions of new jobs have been created
  • Federal regulations and subsidies contributed to the Enron fiasco.
  • Taxpayers can expect to shell out an additional $50 billion each year to cover expanded welfare roles if the proposed "guest-worker" bill recently passed by the Senate gets through the House.
  • Hillary Clinton could use millions of dollars, raised by her husband through speaking fees, for her potential presidential election campaign. China and other foreign interests are major contributors.
  • In an encouraging sign for the future, strong conservative leaders have been winning straw polls in state conventions around the country.
  • Teenage girls who have abortions are twice as likely to commit suicide and are much more likely to suffer other mental-health problems.
  • The National Education Association -- the nation's largest teachers union -- spent over $90 million from 2004 to 2005 on (mostly liberal) political activities.
  • The Iraq war is consuming far less of the U.S. GDP than other wars in the past.
  • A government agency sponsored a drug conference that included a lecture titled "You don't Have To Be Clean and Sober... Or Even Want To Be".
  • It costs more for the United States Postal Service to deliver a letter than for a gas company to deliver a gallon of gasoline to the gas station.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Edhi's Autobiography: A Mirror to the Blind

In my mind, he's the Pakistani who most deserves to be discussed on the 14th of August. For those of you who don't know, the few internationals who stumble across our little blog, Abdul Sattar Edhi is probably the singularly most committed and visionary philanthropist in Pakistan. He has often been referred to as 'Father Teresa' for lack of a better reference. It's also a name that he understandably dislikes (it is a little fruity). Apparently he was also called 'Roti' when he was a kid because he was fat round, bald, and brown in the way we desis are.

This book is inspirational, and to such a degree that even I (jaded as I am) was left both surprised and immensly moved. Before opening the book, I had expected a sermon about charity. However, the opening chapter focuses entirely on his reaction to the death of his four year old grandson, which occurred while he was on site attending to victims of the
Ghotki train disaster. Immediately the narrative becomes deeply personal, and the reader is drawn in.

The book is both a personal account and the discussion of a personal ideology. He talks about his political experiences, his observations about people in general and different quarters of Pakistani society in particular. He has a natural distaste for self promoters, mullahs, snobs, demagogues, and an apathetic and selfish elite.

I'm a big fan of Edhi’s perspective on religion. He focuses on its spirit and implementation, and not its pedantic particulars. He abhors discrimination in the provision of social services on the basis of religion, class or ethnicity. He laments that Islam has been reduced by the mainstream of its followers to a series of somewhat irrelevant rituals. When he spoke his mind on the matter, he was criticized for preaching, as he was not formally schooled in Islam.
He responded by implying that he was in a better position to say what he wanted compared to most scholars, given the way he had chosen to practice his religion.
Another surprise is that Edhi is perpetually angry. He remains casual about his furious temper, and his frequent outbursts seem to have kept the foundation's staff on their toes. His anger also results in some laugh out loud anecdotes. From his awkward and spontaneous proposals to nine different nurses in his dispensary, to his watermelon smashing, to his apocalyptic 'memon' outbursts about his wife buying a 10 rupee Pepsi, it becomes clear that Edhi is eccentric to the point of being a little mad. But that's why he's loved.

As hard and uncompromising as Edhi is in some parts of the book, he's a complete softie in others. His wife
Bilquis, for whom his adoration is evident, is the most frequently mentioned recipient of his softy-ness. Beyond her, the tender half of his emotions are reserved for his children and grandchildren, and most importantly the destitute and forgotten for whom he has built his organization.

Edhi's autobiography also has a dark undertone, obvious when you consider that Edhi's foundation is the exclusive provider of free burial services in a city of over 15 million. He describes recovering abandoned corpses that had bloated and disintegrated in water, or had been consumed by parasites. He talks about how he would lift them up himself, wash them, wrap them and bury them. Mortality is a recurrent theme in the book. Often, his own life was threatened as he would turn up in the midst of an urban fire fight to rescue the injured, or alternatively when he'd receive death threats. In one slightly hazy situation which Edhi describes as a political conspiracy on a national scale, he even felt compelled to leave Pakistan and fly to London to ensure his own safety. The book benefits from these incidents, as they lend a certain urgency and tempo to the story, and prevent it from losing any of its steam.

This is an important book. Moreover, it is written articulately and is highly readable. But the reasons to get a copy don't end there. I picked up mine for Rs 75 from a hoity toity bookshop at the point in Karachi. Once in London, I then went to the Edhi Centre to find out more information. Turns out the book here is free, and they gifted me four copies. How Memon is that?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I was a Proud, Proud Father

Damn. I was at the Post office today on the High Street, mailing a CD to someone in Karachi. There were about eight or nine people queuing, some with children and another four people were behind the counter. All the strangers in the queue were chatting softly to one another, in that hushed and polite Post office kinda way.

So I'm facing the counter, addressing an envelope, and suddenly everyone bursts out laughing. I turn around and there’s this adorable giggly black kid, not more than 3, who’s staring and pointing and me.

I ask some guy "What did he say?" and he’s like:

"That you’re his daddy."

For one fleeting, very male moment, my immediate instinct was to deny it completely and utterly, and possibly leave. Then I started laughing, and looked at his apologetic looking mom. To my surprise, she was kinda fine. A certain acronym came to mind, and for another fleeting, very male moment, I too shared in the fantasy of being his dad. Then I snapped back and resumed the suckfest of posting my CD.

I should also add that I came home and discovered that my fly was completely open the entire time. Somehow I feel like this is relevant information.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

War Reparations

Here's a letter sent to me by my supervisor; its a letter sent to the Independent that was heavily edited by them for no real reason. Kind of like the Marco Polo letter I sent to Dawn NB, they put words in my mouth!!!

"Robert Fisk's anger is palpable ('The truth of Blair's 2urgent diplomacy"' 29 July). The utter frustration with the position adopted by the Prime Minister seems endemic within the UK so what it must be like in occupied Palestine, or Lebanon perhaps explains why the Israeli's refer to almost all adult male casualties as 'militants'.

"But the proposed moves to insert an international peace-keeping force in Southern Lebanon and to provide help for Lebanon to rebuild seem dreadfully inappropriate. Quite why a peace-keeping force should be stationed in South Lebanon rather than in North Israel is hard to understand. UN experience is that it has much more to fear from Israel than Hizbollah. And quite why the international community should be called upon once more to make good the terrible injuries suffered by Palestinians, and Lebanese, both to their citizens and to their infrastucture, is inexplicable.

"Even if one accepts the doubtful proposition that Israel's actions somehow began as 'self-defence', so disproportionate has been their response that the tradition of calling aggressive states to account for the damage they have caused through war reparations seems entirely proper.

"Until reponsibility is placed upon the government of Israel to make good their wanton destruction, the international community will be called upon to subsidise the most murderous foreign policy by one state against its neighbours in contemporary times."

Monday, August 07, 2006

London Demonstrations for Lebanon
For those of you who dont know or live elsewhere, there was a demonstration in London of (what was said to be) approximatley 100'000 people on Saturday the 5th of August. The march started in Hyde Park and ended up with a rally at Parliament Square. Rather than write a lengthy narrative I figured I'd bullet point my thoughts.
As far as its People are concerned, the UK has a Conscience that must be Respected and Appreciated.
Seriously dude I love this aspect of Uk Society. They're so charged! They'll come out in huge numbers and from all over the country. Its not just Londoners. I walked with a contingent from Birmingham that bussed down just for the march. The whole nation tries its best to be an active party to its foreign policy, and not only when its own troops are involved. What's more is that they'll shout they're hearts and lungs out, they wont shy from signing pointless petitions, forget universities - high schools will mobilize. For the four years I've lived in London, whether the issue be Iraq, Darfur, the Tsunami, the Kashmir Quake or even the civil rights of individuals like Menzes, the people of the United Kingdom have not disappointed through apathy even once. They're seriously quite awesome.

The 'Other' Tony
Though I know absolutely nothing about the guy, a lot of people seem to think Tony Benn is iconic of this collective conscience. I get the vibe that he's an old school lefty. If anyone wants to build upon this in-depth character analysis, or suggest other iconic alternatives to Tony Benn, please feel free.
TheAttempted Megaphone Coup
Ok, I hate it when this happens. A group of protestors, led by any given individual, is chanting whatever, one particular slogan/thing. Then some ego tripping ass nugget pops out of nowhere and tries to usurp the chant by shouting a completely different slogan (often with the assistance of a megaphone). The resulting confusion results in a situation where no one knows whom to repeat after. Everyone end up quiet and fairly annoyed at the disruption while the needy and ineffective demagogue continues to linger around, pissing people off even more.
Demonstrators With Visas Can Never be as Cool
Not that being a rabble rouser isn't enormous fun. It is a rush to get charged up, shout like no other, electrify the crowd and have their thunderous collective chant follow your own. I rediscovered the power and volume of my own voice on Sunday when I led, looking like one of those furious Arab dudes.
For a while I actually thought I might be arrested for looking too scary. Initially that seemed somewhat cool, ill admit. But then I remembered what I learned in my Criminal Law lectures; mountains of ensuing paperwork and detention boredom will pretty much kill your criminal glamour buzz. Moreover, the Uk is home to the worlds most non-threatening looking Policemen. With their tall goofy hats, pant shirt attire and complete lack of cool weaponry they somewhat resemble genial middle aged employees at an office party, by whom no serious angry male would like to be arrested.
Finally my dad would react to my consequent deportation by greeting me at the Karachi airport with a friggin bat, possibly looking to recover some of the satisfaction he sacrificed to fund my education.
So yeah. I tried to kind of hush up after that, but by then the other demonstrators were pressuring me to continue. Fortunately though I lost my voice after about a half hour. It came back this afternoon.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Arguing in Shallow Little Circles

I think we should all admit we don’t know shit. Frankly I think both of you (Panda and Ayla) are only scratching the surface of facts and analysis. At such a level, it’s easy to offer rhetorical substantiations of either position. For the Anti Hezbs, look to Panda's lengthy comment. For the Pro Hezbs, here is an example what a completely ignorant college kid (me in this particular instance) can do when armed only with a selection of ‘indisputable’ Wiki-facts.


Hezbollah’s 10% of the vote should not be dismissed as paltry. The party with the most success in the recent election was “Current for the Future” with 36 Seats. The slot for the second biggest party is hotly contested:

  1. Progressive Socialists: 16
  2. Amal Movement: 15
  3. Hezbollah: 14
  4. Free Patriotic Movement 14

Hezbollah, on its own, is therefore only two seats away from being the second biggest party in Lebanon. Moreover, the Resistance and Development Bloc, a joint ticket by Hezb and the other main Shiite party (Harkat), won over 80% of the votes in the second round showing that the south of the country is fairly unequivocal with respect to its allegiances.

Other facts should also be considered before a dismissive attitude is adopted towards Hezbollah’s 10% of the Lebanese NA.

Panda quotes the country demographics as 40% Shia, and 70% Muslim. However it is mistaken to presume that a proportionate amount of seats (i.e. 40%) should have been acquired by Hezb for to be considered representative of the Shia. The Bloc of which Hezb is a part won 35 seats which constitutes 27% of the total number. Secondly, even though Muslims number 70%, Lebanese Christians were given equal representation in the NA. If the vote for Hezbollah’s Bloc was entirely Muslim, that’s 51% of all the 68 Muslim Seats in the country. Considering that those 68 seats equal 70% of the country, this could possibly give the Hezb Bloc around 35% of the popular vote. A figure which isn’t too far off from the original 40% of Shias in the country.

Alternatively if the vote was more diverse and not exclusively Shia or Muslim (i.e. implying heavier weighted Christian voters and a smaller total vote %) then this would strongly contradict the point Panda made later on. Hezbollah can hardly be said to practice narrow and theologically exclusive politics if it has electoral support spanning across Lebanon’s multi religious community. To his credit Panda admits that the Hezb have a lot of support from various quarters. The Wiki website also had some of these stats:

87 percent of Lebanese support Hezbollah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hezbollah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hezbollah along with 80 percent of Duze
and 89 percent of Sunnis.

(Poll taken on the 26th of July 2006)

I do not understand however how Panda feels that broad support will not translate into votes if (and when) the time was to come for elections. Security and welfare (Arguably Hezbollah’s strongest cards) would play well in any election, particularly in light of the needs the whole of Lebanese society (Christian, Druze Shia and Sunni), will face during and after the current Israeli assault.

Panda then talks about the Hezb's charity work for Palestinian refugees and recognizes their contribution in this regard. However he feels that the very need for their charitable efforts stems from the fact that Palestinians are treated as second class citizens by the Arab States and peoples. From what I understand, his view is that Hezbollah are the hypocritical and self righteous curers of a problem that they and they're backers themselves are parties to creating and maintaining.

Frankly, there has been no analysis here, or any examination of the facts. Blame has simply been assigned. The Palestinians second class status, (where it does exist and it is by no means universal at a social or even state level) is a product of the socio economic status and conditions of guest Palestinian populations. These conditions are in turn a product of the fact that they are refugees. In that sense they face the same stigma that all refugees face from overburdened host states. Having actually studied Refugee situations while at Uni, I have no doubt on this issue; guest-host antagonism is a central part of the course. Moreover, Palestinian political activity within their host states can be destabilizing (often because of inflamed local Arab sympathies), which exacerbates this problem. Whilst I am aware of the incidents of infighting, (our own Zia was phsycially involved in the Jordan quellings) the fact remains that the Arab countries, (both state and populace) have hosted massive Palestinian refugee populations and have supported them politically, monetarily and militarily since the British mandate. It is therefore completely inappropriate to take the Arab relationship with Palestinians, and in any way rate it as even a distant, distant second to Israel’s ethnic cleansing and occupation.

Anyway. How any of this can detract from Hezbollah’s charitable efforts is beyond me. In all logic and probability, the efforts to improve the standard of living of the Palestinian refugees is probably something that will help them to overcome their second class status. Hezbollah is therefor one of the few organizations looking to rectify the problem that Panda himself identified.

There are also other contentions.

Perhaps my biggest grievance is that Hezbollah does a disservice to the Palestinian cause by tainting it with a vision of a pan-Islamic caliphate (Hezbollah's main objective).

They have abandoned this goal. So no more big grievance. (Dahr Jamail (2006-06-20): 'Hezbollah's Transformation'), Asia Times Online, as quoted by Wiki). Feel free to admit evidence to the contrary but do refrain from maintaining your opinion without as much.

Also consider what would happen id there was a viable peace solution, that would be a death blow to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah would not disarm immediatley if there was a peace solution, the accumualated distrust of Israel would not be overcome so quickly, even if there was actually a comprehensive settlement. Their ‘Reason for being’, as Panda considers it, would therefore remain for a considerable amount of time.

Furthermore, the Irish experience clearly demonstrates that there is an important role for ex militant liberators to play in the political aftermath of a peace deal. Hezbollah is already well established politically, and is socially committed in Lebanon.

It does not have near enough the support of Hamas in Palestine (it is Shia)

Panda said “Shias represent teh largest demographic group in Lebanon”. So why is that suddenly not near enough? Alternativley If Panda means that Hamas does not support Hezbollah, firstly they do, and secondly why does that matter for Hezbollahs future?

and its electoral support in Lebanon is hardly encouraging.

(I have dealt with this. Being two seats away from the second biggest party is probably a bit better than encouraging for an organization that, thus far, is primarily military in nature.)

I have a big problem with theological politics, especially in a multi-religious community.
I have discussed this issue above.

Yes an Islamic revolution worked in Iran, but you just have to look at Algeria where the Islamic sectarian parties turned on each other. The point when a party operates upon the purity of its vision it will always seek an impure being upon which to impose its dictat; at the moment for Hezbollah the greatest evil is Israel, but the Christicans and other variants of Islam still remain the lesser evils

This is a speculative opinion, and it is completley valid with respect to the example upon which it is based. I do not for a minute dispute the possibility, or the opinion's plausibility. However, it cannot be regarded as presumptively true that any organization in any country would follow exactly the same pattern simply because it is an Islamic resistance group. Hezbollah's relationships with Lebanese minorities need to be studied before an accurate opinion can be formed.

Oh and you can not call the Shias of Lebanon a 'disenfranchised' group, they are the largest denomination. And your very assertion that Hezbollah charities are working for the Shias in Lebanon validates my earlier point about sectarianism.

They are working for the Shia because the Shia also happen to be the most affected by poverty. CNN itself refers to them as the “traditionally poor and dispossessed Shiite community" (also as quoted on Wiki). Being the largest denomination has nothing to do with dismissing disenfranchisment. Shia's were also a majority in Iraq, where their disenfranchisement was self evident. This point is frankly a little bizarre and nonsensical.

And your statement that Hezbollah does not target civilians is just plain wrong. A bomb blast at a pizzeria or a club does kill civilians, as do rockets fired in settlements; Israeli civilians are still civilians!

I agree in that Hezbollah has no problem targetting civilians. However, they have a better track record with respect to their civilian- soldier target ratio than Israel, Hamas, the United States, and the IRA. Their targets have overwhelmingly been military.

The other civilisans being targeted are the 18 year old Palestinians on whom the bombs are strapped.But perhaps my absolute distaste for Hezbollah is a result of watching a video distributed by Hezbollah of 10 year old kids singing and dancing adn performing a song 'give us Klashnikovs adn the square will be filled with blood; give us a bomb and the gates of heaven will open for us with the blood of Israelis' and some more bollocks about martryom. These are 10 year old Kids!! so yes i am absolutely, most positively sickened to my gut by Hezbollah and wish them anything but good.

I fail to see how Hezbollah is exclusively responsible for the events you describe. The Palestinian culture of death is a well documented phenomenon. The social glory awarded to a murderous suicide bomber is just the flip side of the grief and rage experienced when a Palestinians are killed by Israeli troops. It is the frequency and manner in which Palestinians in the occupied territories and in refugee camps (read Sabra and Shattilla) encounter death which gives rise to these kinds of violent songs and dance.

These songs are part of popular Palestinian culture. As unfortunate as that may be, it is the fault of no single body, be it a militant group or the parents. No organization could be capable of even creating such a culture independently. Children learn from other children, from their elder siblings, and also from their parents, all of whom exist and have grown up in the midst of death. Everyone sings the same songs in Palestine. The parents hear it and they don’t object, they sing along.

I feel that a similar mistake was made by the interviewers on BBC's Panorama. They have seen militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah utilizing this culture to wage war, and have drawn the conclusion that they therefore created/sustain it. While they are guilty of the first, they are not guilty of the latter two. The culture now maintains itself, albiet with Israels help. Hezbollah and its militant agenda are amongst the the benefactors, but it would be completley incorrect to say that without them propping it up, this culture would simply fizzle away.

And this crap about martrydom has gone on too long, if you belive in religion and in Islam then you ought to realise that Hezbollah is sentencing children to eternal torture.

This is a cheap shot given your own religious views and doesn’t deserve any response.

So there you go.

Some of that I meant, and where I did its obvious. A lot of it however, I'm completely unsure of, and some I actually disbelieve. If you want to know how that's possible after having written all that, then read this. ALL of what I wrote is just something that I came up with after reading someone else's 'facts'. Information is cheap and overabundant. People are too eager to convert their fluff based speculations into fully entrenched positions. Maybe its more honest to say that one has a perspective, or a gut feel, and it'd certainlybe better to discuss it accordingly.

My point through all of this was therefore to get others to come out and say:

“Yeah, I don’t know shit.”
“I don’t have a very informed opinion and that’s ok.”
“What I actually have is a gut inclination based on my life experiences and bias’s, and bits and pieces of information I've read, heard and picked up.”
“Also, I promise not to argue that inclination vociferously just because someone else’s inclinations offend me”
“In other words, I’m not out to attack other peoples presumptions with (and because of) my own presumptions.”

These are things that I make myself say. Do the same and seriously just disarm, please. Maybe then we can discuss things with an objective to learning about what someone else thinks, and why. It'd be less acrimonious too.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Clarification, Assholes!

To begin with, the Alien Panda blog is not, and never has been, a secret forum where I express my views about different animals; this is obviously neccessitated by allegations of beasteality. In fact the blog was only started after NB started this blog!

Moving along I'm going to try and add a link to a bbc documentary that I've just watched and that deserved to be seen. NB and I had a long conversation about the role of Hizbullah and what role it plays in middle eastern politics and why I have an absolute distaste for them; though not exactly related the documentary looks at Islamic charities (another topic that we touched upon). Do let me know what you guys think.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

AkS's Strange Alter Ego

Just so you all know, this was AkS's first entry to this blog, in the form of an inane comment:

Alien Panda said... Mere human, you are no match for me. Once I have finished traversing the globe and arrive at your pitiful planet, rest assured that I shall have no mercy on your decrepit soul and you will enter an abyss of eternal torture.

Measly human all this shall happen for I am the holder of a Ten Quaids (as us Pandas call it, Rupees is soooo last year, darling).

Apparently AkS sometimes moonlights as a camp extra terrestrial panda who wanders around the planet with ten rupees. Moreover AkS, you cannot "traverse" the Globe, and then "arrive" at the Planet. You had already arrived at the Planet once you began traversing it.

I should inform you guys that after leaving this great message, he texted me and proceeded to tell me that someone had "said some shit" on the blog. This was said as though the "shit" in question was of a serious (phadda) type nature, and I was going to get my ass kicked. Three seconds later when I called him out on his stupid plot, he then proceeded to giggle insanely for a solid five minutes. He then sheepishly confessed and tried to deny that he was really weird.

Even more interestingly, AkS had mentioned that he had created a blog in order to post the original comment. I then accessed his dormant blog via his profile. The name AkS chose for his great first endeavor was "Alien Panda and the Bicycle Mistress". In all probability God alone knows why because I'm fairly certain AkS doesn't know. The page begins with a picture of a somewhat rabid looking panda, holding an
ice cream cone in one hand and a self glorifying red spotlight in the other. There is then one solitary post which says:

Pandas 2017-
Here me all ye human, your world is doomed; we the Pandas of Zerbicron 7, are on our way to liberate our brethren. And here I don't eman those dumbass earthy pandas that do nothing and eat bamboo, fools are to lazy to have sex; by my brethren i mean the Kangaroos. You have subjugated them for far too long earthlings, be prepared for your evetual demise!

I think we were all aware that AkS was somewhat enigmatic. But these recent ramblings about kangaroos have added a new dimension to our understanding of what remains of AkS's mind post alcohol abuse. To understand AkS, it seems we must explore his obsession with Pandas, Kangaroos, and Marco Polo Sheep.
None of us were ever informed of this blog. Hence the reason this is particularly fascinating; because AkS is talking to himself and no one else. It is a snapshot of his true self. Endearing as it might be, I think AkS must cede that this is definitive evidence that he, is a complete and utter choot.


Alien panda has arrived.


Welcome Choots to our blog. Post whatever you want, just remember that this is a PUBLIC forum. Anyone can read it, and its intended that everyone should. So all our jokes about StK's hobbys (and AiB's habits) should be omitted. Leave that for the group email. Frankly im not even sure if i want to be reffered to by name. I know its lame, but for the time being maybe we should just stick to intials.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Originally uploaded by

Ok. Seems like I can now post photos from the fiverupees Flikr account. Damn vaisay. I feel all old and shit. I didnt know this was possible, all these interlinking websites and services. Im a friggin dinosaur.


Ok. Im trying to get this stupid thing working. Thank you AkS for your retarded comment. Yes I edited the original post which comprised of the sole letter 'n'. No your comment did not merit a further post. In fact, if you reply again, I will simply expand upon this post, again.