Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ayaz Amir's "phone call" count

I completely forgot to mention this piece by Ayaz Amir yesterday. As I said last week, Ayaz Amir loves writing (and nonsensically complaining) about the events immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Specifically, he laments that we caved in so easily to America's pressure. As an illustration of our pusillanimity, he says (and has been saying for 5 years now) that all it took was one phone call from Colin Powell to convince or intimidate Musharraf. Well, in an effort to mock him, I have now started a count for the number of times that Ayaz Amir uses the words "phone call". The count currently stands at one. We will be updating this every week.

The dumbest lawsuit ever

I came across this news (it's fairly dated) while surfing the internet. Apparently, this guy feels that he looks like Michael Jordan, and he's tired of having to deal with questions and comments about it. So tired, in fact, that the resultant emotional suffering and pain are worth an ostensible $832 million. Perhaps we can get our resident legal experts, Alien Panda and NB, to comment on the merits of this case.

Oh, Eto'o!

I'm sure most have heard by now: Samuel Eto'o is out for 2-3 months. Maybe I'm being naive here, but is this really a big deal? Poor Saviola is dying to get a game. Plus Barca signed Gudjohnsen away from Chelsea this summer, which was a big acquisition. And, of course, there's a couple of guys called Messi and Ronaldinho to score a goal when you need one. Remember, Barca coped extremely well with injuries last year - they played without Messi and Xavi during the latter stages of both la Liga and the Champions League. Look, is Eto'o a big loss? Of course he is - only players named Sheva and Henry are better in front of goal. But Barca, in my eminently fallible opinion, won't suffer much. If they don't win the league or the CL this year, it'll be because (a) teams like Chelsea, Inter and Real have improved and (b) they seem to be overconfident every now and then. But the Eto'o injury won't cost them too much.

Friday, September 29, 2006

We have a fifth reader!

And he/she is pissed. For the benefit of our other four readers, here are no.5's comments in response to my last post:
an idea... maybe it's because Muslims don't identify themselves with people who blow up mosques but they do identify themselves by their religion and its reputation. It's like Christians being expected to protest against the imperial actions of Bush and his government and Blair and his government based on the fact that both presidents identify themselves as Christian... and at least there you can also say they represent the Christian demographic because of democracy and so are somehow answerable. Still, it would be weird to expect Christians to do it based on that fact alone... that other Christians do unconscienable things. I don't understand why there is one rule for Muslims and one for Christians in these matters.

Why are Muslims expected to protest against murders?

Also, I think stating that there are "a lot of parallels to be drawn between the inner-city black community in the U.S. and the Muslim world" is faulty and I actually resent it. Sure there are similarities of injustice etc. But, until you are a member of either of those communities (and I'm not talking about an elite western-educated privileged member), you can't tell people to "step up." It's so complicated... I hate it when people make it sound so easy from their arm chairs...: "Forget all those years of indoctrination- the reason why you're living on a dollar a day isn't because of corporations exploiting your labour (because did you know, you're sub-human?) or foreign governments supporting the dictatorship you're living under. Or because well, us rich people want to keep as much money as we can! It's because you mister, are a lazy bum. You're stupid and you need to take a shower...and then get producing, our GDP is pathetic! The rest of the world are laughing at us!"
Luckily for me, these arguments have more holes than swiss-cheese-if-it-was-actually-wood-and-infected-by-termites so dismantling them one by one shouldn't be too difficult.

No.5 says that Christians don't protest against murders committed by Christians, so why should Muslims protest murders by Muslims? There are several issues here, so I want to proceed carefully and systematically.

First of all, the use of the term "Christians" is not particularly astute. The reason I used the word "Muslims" is because the people who commit the "murders" we're talking about, do so in the name of Islam, whether they are Shia or Sunni. "Christian" murders, or crimes, are not committed in the name of religion. They are usually, but not exclusively, the result of power politics. The argument presented by no.5 is a variant of the one my mother poses: why is Islamic terrorism Islamic but terrorism committed by others "Irish" or "Sri Lankan". Well, because the Islamic terrorists are committing terror in the name of Islam, whereas the IRA committed terrorism in the name of Irish identiy. The same concept applies to the Tamils in Jaffna or the Basques in Spain.

Secondly, the notion that "Christians" don't protest crimes by other Christians is laughable. Perhaps no.5 missed the million march in London, before the Iraq war even started. Or the one in New York. Or the one in Melbourne. But that's ok. Thanks to the internet, and specifically wikipedia, at the click of a button you can see for yourself exactly how many protests there have been by "Christians" against the Iraq war, both before and after March 2003. By the way, I stopped adding up the number of people attending these once I crossed 2.5 million.

Thirdly, the reason Muslims should protest murders by other Muslims is because, according to them (us?), they are extremely angry at the fact that Israel and the U.S. are responsible for countless Muslim deaths. Said anger is reflected in riots, marches and violent protests that take innocent lives. In fact, said anger does not even need a Muslim death to spark it. Said anger can be sparked by a drawing with colour in it or by a quote from an emperor a really long time ago. Isn't it reasonable to expect that if said anger manifests itself so violently as a response to said insults, then it should manifest itself when Sunnis blow up Shia mosques in Ramazan? Aren't innocent Muslims dying then? Ask yourself, no.5, what would be the reaction if an American cruise missile landed on a mosque on the first day of Ramazan and 20 innocent Muslims were killed. Now compare said hypothetical reaction to the reaction when it actually happened, only the perpretrators happened to be other Muslims. If you'd like, I could start spelling hypocrisy with a capital H.

Now to no.5's second paragraph. No.5 says I shouldn't say anything about the black community or the Muslim world, because I'm not "really" from there, on account of being Western-educated (Benazir Bhutto, Imran Khan and anyone who is anyone in our army is also disqualified by no.5 under the same condition from speaking about issues in the Muslim world). I really wish no.5 would attack my argument (which I'm perfectly willing to engage as you can see), rather than my background, which is petty and immature.

No.5 then says I'm telling people to "forget all those years of indoctrination". I'm not quite sure what this means. The only indoctrination that has taken place in the Muslim/Arab world, is by other Muslims/Arabs. I could research and provide links to the spread of Wahabism behind Saudi money, but I'm too lazy, so I'll ask you to just trust me on that one.

No.5 then goes on to say that the Muslim world is "living on a dollar a day" because Western corporations are "exploiting their labour". Hmm. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Screw it, let's do it the hard way. First of all, very few in the Muslim world are dirt poor, or "$1 a day" type poor like you suggest. Here are the figures for GDP per capita for the countries that I know are Muslim. Divide by 365 and you get the per day numbers. Afghanistan ($800), Algeria ($7200), Azerbaijan ($4800), Bahrain ($23000), Bangladesh ($2100), Bosnia ($6800), Egypt ($3900), Ethiopia ($900), the Gaza strip ($600), Iran ($8300), Iraq ($3400), Jordan ($4700), Kazakhstan ($8200...Borat would be so proud), Kuwait ($19200), Kyrgyzstan ($2100), Lebanon ($6200), Libya ($11400...never knew their flag was that boring by the way), Malaysia ($12100), Morocco ($4200), Nigeria ($1400), Oman ($13200), The Motherland (oh wait, I'm not really Pakistani am I? Anyways the number is $2400), Qatar ($27400), Saudi Arabia ($12800), Senegal ($1800), Sudan ($2100), Syria ($3900), Tajikistan ($1200), Tunisia ($8300), Turkey ($8200), Turkmenistan ($8000), UAE ($43400), Uzbekistan ($1800), the West Bank ($1100), and last - and pretty much least in this case - Yemen ($900). So no.5, as you can see, a couple of rich countries, a couple of dirt poor countries, but mostly lower-income type countries that get by without doing too great.

And by the way, I'd really like some evidence on the whole corporations-exploit-the-poor-labour-because-they're-sub-human thing. I do know there's plenty of evidence out there to suggest that the people doing the exploiting, especially in the Middle East, are wealthy and profitable Arab oil and trucking companies that employ poor South Asians without adequate work benefits. But I've yet to come across any evidence that western companies do the same, as a matter of course, in the Muslim world. If you present any such evidence, I'll be glad to admit I was wrong. Well, I won't be glad to admit I was wrong, but I will admit I was wrong nonetheless. The infintely more likely explanation for Muslim countries being relatively poor is their technological and educational backwardness. Perhaps you can refer to the post that initially riled you up in the first place, and compare university numbers and standards.

Anyways, this entire post took way longer than I thought, if only because I decided like an ass that I should produce all those figures when I should have just given one link and stopped right there. But my points still stand. In the future, if you have any issues with what I write, please respond with verifiable facts and figures to back claims like "Christians don't protest murders by other Christians" or "Muslims live on $1 a day because of evil Western corporations". Privileged, Western-educated elites, you see, find it way too easy to debunk claims backed by no evidence. Just ask Darrell Hair.

What does Islam stand for today?

My opinion on Tom Friedman's writing closely mirrors that of mine on Sex and the City: really liked it in the beginning, liked it less but still followed it, liked it more again, grew to despise it. But today, he does ask a pertinent question.

As someone who has lived in the Muslim world, enjoyed the friendship of many Muslims there and seen the compassionate side of Islam in action, I have to admit I am confused as to what Islam stands for today.

Why? On the first day of Ramadan last year a Sunni Muslim suicide bomber blew up a Shiite mosque in Hilla, Iraq, in the middle of a memorial service, killing 25 worshipers. This year on the first day of Ramadan, a Sunni suicide bomber in Baghdad killed 35 people who were lining up in a Shiite neighborhood to buy fuel. The same day, the severed heads of nine murdered Iraqi police officers and soldiers were found north of Baghdad.

I don’t get it. How can Muslims blow up other Muslims on their most holy day of the year — in mosques! — and there is barely a peep of protest in the Muslim world, let alone a million Muslim march? Yet Danish cartoons or a papal speech lead to violent protests. If Muslims butchering Muslims — in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan — produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today?
By the way, don't bother clicking on the link if you don't have a TimesSelect membership. It costs $45 or something like that, per year, but only $25 for students. I highly recommend it because you get their op-eds, plus some pretty cool multimedia stuff and some interesting blogs/analysis stuff, but who the hell cares what I recommend?

I linked to some stuff earlier in the week which made clear exactly how I feel about the subject. Muslim hypocrisy on issues such as freedom of speech and, more importantly, the killing of innocent Muslims is mind boggling. Anger on the Muslim/Arab street, I feel, is almost as much a psychological issue as it is a politcal/legal one. Think about the anger Israel arouses, with its treatment of Muslims. Now compare that to Saddam Hussein's treatment of Muslims. Or to al-Assad's treatment of Sunnis and the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 80s. Or to the Taliban's treatment of all Muslims, but especially women and the Hazara after their capture of Mazar-i-Sharif, brilliantly captured in The Kite Runner. Why is their such a discrepancy? Why does one lead to protests, explosions, riots, and vandalism and the other to "shit happens"? Can we get Malcolm Gladwell on this, please?

In my mind, there are a lot of parallels to be drawn between the inner-city black community in the U.S. and the Muslim world. Both have been hard done by, and never properly apologized to. But both also have to, at some point, step up and accept responsiblity for some of the shit that goes on in their midst. You can't keep blaming someone else for your problems. Is it an evil Zionist-Crusader conspiracy that the entire Muslim world has something like 500 universities (less than one-tenth of those in the U.S., by the way), and not one of them in the world's top 500? And is it the neo-imperialist's fault that the all of the Arab countries put together have a lower GDP than that of Spain? Spain! They friggin drink wine with their breakfast, take 2 hour naps during their work day, and still have enough time left to out-produce an entire region. What does that say about the region in question?

Anyways, that's my rant for the day. One of our three readers says I need to calm down with my posts. So I'm calming down and stopping here.

Excerpt of the day

I know most people don't equate reading a book on IR theory with going to a rock concert, but you do sometimes come across a real gem. Like this, from Charles Lipson's book on democratic peace theory:
To celebrate [German] Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop's fiftieth birthday in 1943, several aides game him a beautiful box, decorated with semiprecious stones. They had planned to fill it with copies of all the important treaties and agreements he had concluded. They finally chose to leave the box empty because the Nazis had trampled every agreement Ribbentrop had made. As one aide told Hitler at supper, "We were thrown into great embarassment...There were only a few treaties that we hadn't broken." Hitler's eyes filled with tears of laughter.

For some reason, picturing Hitler and his buddies yukking it up because of all the treaties he broke just makes me laugh.

L'affaire Hair

Is this the end of l'affaire Hair? I sure hope so. Kamran Abbasi goes a little overboard, calling it "the greatest controversy in the history of cricket" (really? bigger than Bodyline, when diplomatic relations between Australia and England were at risk? Bigger than match-fixing and Hansiegate?) but his point is well taken. Let's just get over this, forget about it and move on. For one thing, I really don't want the PCB to get carried away and try to bring disrepute charges against Hair. We have to remember, not guilty does not necessarily mean innocent. Trying to prove that Hair is out to get us, in a court of law, would be more than arduous, though Sambit Bal thinks there's enough in Madugalle's statement to convince us we might have a case. I'm not so sure. Two fairly impartial observers, Angus Fraser and Simon Hughes, say they had slight suspicions about the state of the ball, but nothing serious. But just the fact that there are slight suspicions mean we can't really prove Hair was being unfair, per se, when he thought there was tampering. I mean, in all honesty, 80-90% of proven ball tampering cases in cricket's history have involved us. It doesn't make his actions right, but I really don't think there's a great enough sense of injustice (or more importantly, evidence) to go through with a counter charge against Hair. I'm just happy with a result which ensures that he won't umpire any of our matches ever again.

And what about Inzi's punishment? I'm delighted, just overjoyed. Truth be told, I would have liked the ICC to ban him from one-day cricket forever. It's so ridiculous that he's still playing one-dayers at 37. He's probably still our best ODI batsman, but who the hell cares? If we can add 12-18 months to his Test career, isn't it worth it? Does any serious cricket fan think ODI cricket is more important than Test cricket? The man has carried alot of weight, both literally and metaphorically, for a long time now. He's already struggling with a back injury. We have an unbelievably tightly packed schedule over the next 18 months or so (off the top of my head, it's Champions Trophy, Windies for a 3/5 series at home, in South Africa for another 3/5 series, the World Cup and a 3/5 or 3/7 India tour some time later in 2007). My biggest fear is that he plays everything up to the World Cup, and then no matter what happens, retires from all forms of the game after it, because the World Cup is such a seminal event in ODI cricket. But if he wasn't playing ODIs at all then, as a marker of time, the World Cup wouldn't mean anything, and he could play at least until the India tour in 07, maybe even later.

Look, the guy is, by far, by FAR, our best player, Yousuf's and Younis' recent form notwithstanding. He's still our best player of pace, especially away from home, and he's the guy the opposition wants the most, unless the opposition happens to be India, in which case Younis' wicket will do nicely, thanks. And you simply cannot put in words what he means to the test team. Sure, our ODI team won't be as great if he's not playing. But open with Hafeez and that idiot Farhat, play Shoaib Malik at 5, and everything else is still the same; that's not a huge drop-off. But in tests, if he's out, you're looking at either Malik or Iqbal at 5, with Iqbal/Afridi to follow, and that doesn't really inspire confidence, does it? He should go the Lara-before-he-became-captain-again route, retire from ODIs and just play tests to extend his career. Of course nothing like that will ever happen, because of our country's unhealthy obsession with ODIs and the World Cup. But it's what should happen.

What this verdict does mean is that we have no chance of winning the Champions Trophy (which is completely fine with me, by the way) unless Shoaib and Asif somehow share 5 wickets between them in every opening spell (which, if you've watched them recently, isn't completely outlandish. It's outlandish, but not completely outlandish). For such a horrible runner, Inzi's been a remarkable finisher in ODIs, either batting first or chasing, especially since he was made captain. But like I said, fuck the Champions Trophy. I'll actually be very pleased if we don't make it out of the first round, because that'll mean there's less of a chance of Shoaib or Asif getting injured. We need those two for the Windies, who have a pretty strong batting lineup and will play us tougher than most people think.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Musharraf on the Daily Show

If you missed it last night, here's part 1 and here's part 2.

Does Anand Vasu read fiverupees?

No, he doesn't. But he does use the term I gave to the Darrell Hair fiasco (admittedly, a fairly easy term to come up with) about a month ago: l'affaire Hair. With a soft "h". For the record, someone should tell him it's "l'affaire Hair", not "l'affair Hair". "Affair" in French is a feminine noun, you see, so it must end in an "e". By the way, how obnoxious do I sound right now?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This is going to be great

I have been waiting for this day for more than a month now. Pervez Musharraf, our President and Chief of Army Staff, will be on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight. If you're not in the U.S., don't worry, you can watch it on the TDS's website the next day.

Shabaash, Shabaash!

Looks like I'm not the only one who's had enough of the Mindless Medieval Assholes. The provincial government in NWFP told cinemas to close during Ramazan. Their response? Somewhere between "chal chal" and "go screw yourself".

Snide letter to the editor of the day

Dawn, today.

Quote of the day

"Who knows, I (might) get another chance to swirl my shirt in the air."

Sourav Ganguly. I wouldn't hold my breath, bro. I really wouldn't.

Ah, Irony

This column by Bill O'Reilly is just brilliant. In it, he attacks what he calls "hyper partisans" who he defines thus:
A hyper-partisan is a person who does not seek the truth; rather, he or she tailors information to fit a preconceived political viewpoint. What is actually happening in the world is not important to these ideological zombies; it's all about reinforcing their core beliefs.

We're also treated to other gems, like:
So let's start mocking all these hyper-partisans and begin to encourage critical thinking in America. It's much more interesting and it's far better for the country, because an acceptance of fact-based reality is crucial to solving problems.

Good one. Now let's wait for the three hour speech from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decrying anti-Semitism.

As bonus material, here is my all-time favourite Bill O'Reilly moment. Don't you just love youtube?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The coup-er becomes the coup-ee (but not really)

I read this story with considerable interest. The political situation is on such a knife-edge in Pakistan that a blackout (which is a truly a mundane event back home) led people to believe that there may have been a coup. There are a couple of issues here that I think bear mentioning.

One, my track record on predictions notwithstanding, a coup against Musharraf is highly unlikely. Opposition to him is concentrated in the lower/officer ranks of the army and, as I read here and here, he got rid of senior army personnel who don't share his vision for Pakistan very quickly after September 11, 2001. Is everyone in the military happy with Musharraf? No, of course not. But I think the top leadership supports him, and that's what matters, at least if we're talking about a coup. I think he's much more likely to be assassinated than toppled in a coup, if only because an assassination won't need the support of the top brass of the military.

Two, I really think Musharraf needs to understand that a continuation of the status quo after 2007 would be unsustainable at best and completely, utterly disastrous at worst. When I say continuation of the status quo, I mean him retaining both the presidency and his uniform, parliament dominated by a rag-tag collection of political opportunists who don't share the president's vision (i.e. the Chaudhrys and the rest of the Q-League), and a marginalisation of the two biggest parties in Pakistan, the PPP and the PML-N. There are simply too many people unhappy right now. Let's list them, shall we? The aforementioned PPP and PML-N (because they want to play a role in the system rather than exist outside it), the religous parties (because they don't want to fight terrorism and are unhappy with Musharraf's alliance with the U.S.), the NGO/liberal crowd (because of the religion column issue, the Mukhtaran Mai issue and the Hudood issue), the middle class (because of rampant inflation), the Hamid Gul/Mirza Aslam Beg/ISI crowd (because of the alliance with the U.S. and the attempted rapprochement with India), the Baluchis (too obvious), the Sindhis (Kalabagh), the Pathans (a little bit Kalabagh and a little bit Waziristan) and, of course, local publishers (because Musharraf chose Simon and Schuster Ltd for In the Line of Fire, hitting a bookstore near you soon). Meanwhile, the only people who are happy are the property and business owning elite and, uh, that's it.

What can be done? Well, I'm glad you asked. It's almost too simple, which is of course why it'll never happen. You ready? Ok, here goes: reach out to the PPP. Offer Benazir the Shaukat Aziz role in the short term, with a promise that soon enough (perhaps 3 years, i.e. 2010) you'll step aside and she can become President, in an election she will surely win. Give up the uniform and leave the army in the hands of someone you trust. Tell the Mindless Medieval Assholes to go fuck themselves and to fight an election on just their deeds not words, of which there are very few (billboard destroying aside). And get on the phone to Saudi Arabia, and tell Nawaz bhai he can come back.

This makes sense on so many different levels it boggles the mind. Musharraf's true ideological ally is the PPP. Of this there can be no doubt. He wouldn't have to waste precious time and energy debating no brainers like marathons, religion columns and Hudood laws. The PPP also happens to be the one true national party Pakistan has. So it would help on the inter-provincial harmony front. And it would be massive for the stability of the political system, Mush and BB sharing power; Nawaz in the opposition, just like it was meant to be. I really can't imagine three people who need to have a ménage à trois more than these three. If I was a Pakistani mother, I'd say "Aww, they're so perfect for each other."

Like I said, it'll never happen though, because I don't think Musharraf's ego (or BB's, to be fair) is small enough for this type of power-sharing agreement. There have been rumblings, however, that something might be up vis-a-vis Musharraf's people and BB's. I guess one can always hope.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Quote of the day

"When Karzai became president he told us there would be homes and jobs, but there is nothing for us. If he gave us the fare, we'd move back to Pakistan."

A 19 year-old former refugee. Oh, dear. Is this our fault too, Mr. Karzai?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nice fact-checking, AP!

The Associated Press, in this video report, says Musharraf seized power in a coup. 17 years ago. What's a decade between friends, eh?

"What do I do now?"

A professor was speaking to some of us the other day about being careful when choosing dissertation topics. He told us about this poor guy who was working on his dissertation and doing field work in Iran and had to return home in the late 70s. Why? Because his dissertation topic was: The Stability of the Shah's Regime.

Mea Culpa

I always thought Atal Behari Vajpayee was one of those rare politicans who was actually a statesman, and did things because he thought they were right rather than play to the gallery, as many others are wont to do. Perhaps I was wrong.

Really smart person of the day

As usual, Irfan Hussain has it right.

I would add that I am far more horrified by the endless Muslim-on-Muslim killing going on in Iraq than by anything the pontiff could possibly say. According to UN estimates, an average of a hundred Iraqis are being killed every day, almost invariably by other Iraqis. And all too often, many of the victims are tortured to death. When Israel killed a thousand Lebanese civilians in a month of senseless bombing, Muslims (and others with a conscience) around the world were rightly incensed. But approximately the same number of Muslims are being killed by other Muslims every 10 days in Iraq, and there are no protests anywhere. Before the invasion of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein tortured and gassed his own people with impunity, I do not recall any Muslims condemning him publicly.

Applying these same double standards, when Nato forces accidentally kill Afghans, we are furious. But when the Taliban kill innocent Afghans in suicide bombings, and assassinate teachers for teaching girls, we look the other way. Similarly, when the Iranian authorities rig elections and suppress their own people, we are silent spectators. But when President Ahmedinejad is seen as standing up to the West, we applaud him loudly.

You can read another great piece on Muslim hypocrisy vis-a-vis the Pope's remarks here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Qazi Hussain needs to read this

The BBC published translations of Mukhtar Mai's blog here. As bad as the rapists and murderers Mukhtar Mai writes about are, the people who argue for the continuation of institutional mechanisms that countenance these horrendous crimes are no better: the Mindless Medieval Assholes. And only slightly better are those who want these issues to remain under the carpet because (a) our "image" is harmed and (b) doesn't rape happen everywhere, yaar?

Quote of the day

“If I said he was in Pakistan, President Musharraf would be mad at me. And if I said he was in Afghanistan, it would not be true.’’

Hamid Karzai, in response to a question about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts.

Is this some sort of joke?

Chris Mannix says the Bulls will win this year's championship. The friggin' Bulls. Let's forget for a moment the fact that the Ben Wallace acquisition was seriously overrated. Does Mannix seriously believe Chicago has a stronger team than, say, Miami? What about the Spurs? A pissed-off Dallas? Phoenix, with Amare back? Really? He believes Chicago will four 7-game series this year when last year they didn't manage even one? Does the fact that there are six question marks in this post preceding the one at the end of this sentence tell you how I feel about this idiotic idea?

Déjà vu

Neo-conservatives are at it again. Andrew Sullivan asserts that Iran is "on the brink of nukes". Uh, no it's not. The IAEA recently criticized this sort of bullshit peddling, noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90% or more while Iran has only enriched it to 3.5%, and that too under the monitoring of the IAEA. A few months ago, the NYT ran a story on how experts predicted Iran was 5-10 years away, at best, from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Some even put the date at 2020. I just have one question: aren't American neo-cons a little tired from the last time they hyped intelligence about WMD allegedly held by a state in the Middle East? Seriously, how masochistic are these people?

How do you exercise "double caution"?

Don't know, but Rajnath Singh might.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"Back to the Stone Age"

I know Ayaz Amir is going to have a great time with this story. For five years the poor people (including me) who read Dawn on Fridays have had to deal with his whiny, populist, reality-ignoring, ego-driven drivel on why we should have held out for more from the Americans in exchange for our support against the Taliban. How many times has he written the words "one phone call" in the last five years? Seriously, can we get an estimate on this? Can't google come up with some tool to count exactly how many times one person has used the exact same phrase?

There is nothing in this story that we didn't already know. While the words "stone age" are definitely provocative, needlessely so in fact, the premise still stands. It was in our best interest to extend cooperation to the U.S. the minute that first plane went through the WTC and abandon the Taliban. Screw that, it was in our best interest to have never supported the Taliban in the first place. But that's another story entirely.

I always laugh when people suggest we should have bargained harder on September 12th. Does anyone remember the Pakistan of Sepetmber 12th? Did the Pakistan of September 12th really have any sort of position from which it could bargain? We were on the verge of bankruptcy, a pariah state, both region-wide and internationally, and had no chips with which to bargain. We were like the friend of the street gangster who went too far one day and messed with the Italian mafia without us knowing. Well, the Italian mafia paid us a visit. And when the mafia visits, you shut up and do what they say. Or you get bombed back to the Stone Age.

Less than $5 million? A bargain, I say!

New York magazine calculates how much it would cost to have a child, without actually bearing or rearing one yourself.

Ijaz, the Fraud

So cricinfo decides to commemorate Ijaz Ahmed's birthday today, calling him a "man of many hundreds", a "gifted and prolific batsman" and telling us how valuable he was because of 6 of his 12 hundreds came against Australia. See, this is what happens when sports writers go by just numbers and statistics. In actual fact, Ijaz was one of those annoying players who was never good enough to win an important test match but never bad enough (at least compared to the all star bunch of Pakistani middle order batsmen in the 90s not named Inzamam) to be dropped. Every time he'd come to the crease when the chips were down, using that god-awful stance, I just knew he was going to get out. And he always would. He never did anything when it mattered and scored all his runs either when (a) against average or below average bowling attacks or (b) the series was over or (c) on dead pitches.

Need proof? Ijaz's first hundred came in the late 80s against a bowling attack of, wait for it, Bruce Reid, some guy named Anthony Dodemaide, Steve friggin Waugh as first change, and three spinners: Tim May, Allan Border and a leggie called Peter Sleep. His next hundred (fine, I'll admit it) was a good one, coming in the second innings as we chased an impossible 430 at the MCG. Number three came in a dead rubber match, in an era in which Australia were kings of losing dead-rubber matches. The next one came in the very next match against a formidable New Zealand team, whose bowling consisted of Danny Morrison, Dion Nash, Cairns, Dipak Patel and Gavin Larsen, who weren't exactly Bond, Tuffey, Oram and Styris. (That was a joke; only Indian readers will get it).

Anyway, our prolific one-down next made a hundred on the deadest Headingley pitch ever. I distinctly remember watching this match, completely flummoxed by the fact that Wasim and Waqar didn't run through England like they always did, and ended up conceding 501 in the only innings England batted. The next two came against average New Zealand and Sri Lankan teams. Next came another dead-rubber hundred, this time against a West Indies team so good, it was the first to be given a 3-0 whitewash by Pakistan. Number 9 was another gem against Australia, on a pitch which yielded 18 wickets for almost 1500 runs. He reached double figures with an innings which, as usual, would mean nothing, because there was no way we were going to chase more than 400 against Australia in less than a day. His 11th was a good one, because it helped us beat Sri Lanka and win that Asian Test Championship thing, which was more famous for being the first time most of the world was introduced to what is known as the Shoaib Akhtar yorker. And our man of many hundreds made his last one in yet another dead-rubber match, again not making any impact on the game.

Am I being too harsh? I don't think so. Compare his hundreds to Inzi's, which always seem to come when (a) we're in a seriously tough position, (b) we're pressing for a win or (c) when there're 150,000 Indians screaming for blood. What did Ijaz ever do when we needed him? Against good bowling attacks, or on difficult pitches? Nothing. In terms of importance of series/difficulty of opposition and conditions, these were Pakistan's toughest test series (because one-days don't count as cricket) in the 90s: '92 in England, '93 in the Windies, '94 at home vs Australia, '95/96 in Australia, '96 in England, '98 in South Africa, '98 at home vs Australia, '99 in India and '99/00 in Australia. Taking dead rubber matches out of the equation, here were Ijaz's numbers for those series: DNP against England, DNP against the Windies, 27 against Australia, 38 against Australia, 68 against England (remember, the dead Headingley pitch), 15 against South Africa, 140 against Australia (remember, the 1500/18 pitch and the good-for-nothing 4th innings in the third test), 10 against India and 23 against Australia. His numbers are atrocious when you look at them with a discerning enough eye. But that's the thing: you HAVE to be discerning when looking at a guy's stats. With crappy teams, easy pitches and useless bowlers around the world these days, anyone can have a healthy average and look like a good/great batsman without actually being one (look no further than Yousuf before 2006). But it's the Inzis, Dravids and Steve Waughs, the guys who produce against tough teams, against tough bowling attacks and in difficult circumstances who can be truly called great batsmen. Ijaz didn't so he isn't.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mein aap sey....mohabbat karta hoon

Hilarious article in the NYT today about American Muslims and the inherent contradictions they face when dating. All I could think about when reading this was my mother and all other women her age in Pakistan. You could substitute any of them for the women interviewed in this article, and they would all say the same thing.

Er, yeah, I lost signal for a bit

Check out this professor. Serves that insolent little brat right. (Link courtesy of Andrew Sullivan)

C Raja Nostradamus?

I read this piece in the Indian Express before the Havana meeting between Musharraf and Manmohan. His thoughts on a joint mechanism to deal with terrorism are fairly uncanny to say the least, given what actually transpired. Clearly, he's better at doing the whole prediction thing than me. As the three readers (and I know there are three because I emailed them and told them to read it) of this blog know, I predicted an easy win for Man United if Thierry Henry was not 100% fit. Well, he wasn't. And Arsenal won. (For the record, I've had much worse predictions in my time. Before the India-Australia 2001 series - the Laxman/Harbajhan series - I predicted in the Herald that the recently recalled Matthew Hayden would struggle mightily against the spin, and should not have been brought back into the team. He only went on to score 549 runs at 110 with a double hundred, a hundred, a 90-odd and a 70-0dd. In three tests.)

Back to the issue at hand, however. I'm really pleased the two of them got a chance to meet and that the Mumbai blasts only cost us two months. In the past, something like that - even though there was no evidence implicating Pakistan in any serious way - would have set the peace process back years. It speaks to the goodwill created over the last two and a half years that we're back on track. I just wish, as the Daily Times does, that the Indian media would wait a few days before going completely insane and blaming us for terrorist attacks, robberies, rapes, the Chappell/Ganguly mess and their HIV/AIDS problem. And more than the media, I wish the BJP would just chill the fuck out. Seriously. To their (well, Vajpayee's anyway) enormous credit, they helped get the ball rolling on this. Now they should just shut up and let Manmohan carry on what they started.

Evil vs Evil

The most frustrating arguments (and trust me, that's saying alot) I often have with people in Pakistan invariably involve Israel. The hatred that it invokes is truly astonishing, even for a state with many failings. For example, during this summer's war between Hezbollah and Israel, I almost cried myself hoarse trying to explain why I supported neither side. Should Israel have killed more than 1000 people, a majority of which were civilians? No, of course not. But just because Israel is more successful at killing than Hezbollah does not make it more evil. Run this thought experiment: Hezbollah suddenly acquires Israel's ability to wage war. Now ask yourself: how many Israelis would die? An easier question to answer might be, how many Israelis would be left living? Not very many I would imagine, given the whole we-call-for-the-destruction-of-Israel-and-all-Jews thing. So it was nice to see someone saying pretty much exactly the same thing today, albeit with a slightly wider forum.
This, from the Washington Post today:

"An accurate reading of what happened and what south Beirut means might produce a different picture. Israel had the means to impart greater destruction, but that does not mean intrinsically that it is more brutal. If Hezbollah had bigger rockets or more accurate ones, it would have done not only the same, but undoubtedly more."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The word is supercilious, I think

I went to watch Little Miss Sunshine the other day (hilarious, by the way) and saw a trailer for this, a movie based on Idi Amin and his rule in Uganda. I'd always heard snippets here and there about this guy without knowing anything in great detail, so I came home and googled him. Turns out, he gave himself quite the title: His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, King of Scotland, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

Women's Non-Rights Bill, Contd.

I'd like to preface anything I say with the fact that I have a lot of respect for Asma Jahangir, and believe she's done more for Pakistani women, and Pakistan in general, than most people can dream of. But there's something seriously wrong with her logic here. She essentially says that the MMA can't be blamed for this fiasco because their position has always been "clear" and "consistent" and that we should not have expected anything different. Uh, ok. By that logic, 9/11 shouldn't be blamed on Al-Qaeda because they too have been clear and consistent, and nobody should have expected any different from them. I have a feeling Ms. Jahangir's position is more than slightly influenced by her, shall we say, distaste for the government in general and Musharraf in particular.

Either way, this issue has created quite a bit of buzz both nationally and internationally. Dawn, in its typically understated way, sets the record straight here. The BBC website has a nice summary here, without really telling us anything we don't already know. And somehow I missed this piece from the NYT a couple of days ago, in which the eminent information minister said about getting the bill through parliament, "We are not under pressure. We have the majority. We can take it through any day." Alrighty, then.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Tribute to Cojones

Here is someone I'm proud to know. I cant think of anyone else (let alone a woman) who'd have the guts to travel alone to another continent where A) they don't speak the language and B) they've never been before. I look at what she's writing, and am struck by how none of it is contrived, and how so much of it is actually profound. Most importantly, it's being written without any audience in mind. Nowadays, that's something to be savoured and appreciated.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What software is this guy using?

Look, I'm from Karachi. Lived there pretty much my entire life. And I can safely say there is no way in hell Karachi is this clean and organized. Whatever this guy is using, it clearly allows him to airbrush throngs of people, massive traffic jams and general chaos out of his pictures. Must have cost a fortune.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shut up, Jose

Just please, shut up.

Mindless Medieval Assholes

I wanted this blog to be curse-free when it started and even told my fellow bloggers, NB and Alien Panda, to refrain from crass language. But I'm sorry. I can't help it. The MMA just drives me insane. If I had a scale for things that piss me off, people who put their college sticker on their car would be a 3, the Aussie cricket team a 6, neo-conservatives an 8 and the MMA a 137.

Quick rundown of what's been going on the whole women's rights issue: Government (read: Musharraf) wants changes, is too chicken to say or do anything for 7 years except form committees, decides against repealing Hudood laws and instead settles on amending them, MMA raises hue and cry against proposals, government caves and the bill is watered down to a point where they might as well not pass it.
Poor Musharraf. He should just cancel his trip to the U.S. right now. The mainstream American press is fairly anti-Pakistan to begin with, and now he's going to have to answer questions about (a) Bugti's killing, (b) the North Waziristan deal and (c) this misleadingly named women's rights bill. Not great for a guy who's so adroit in his handling with the media that he once told the Washington Post that women get raped to get visas and citizenship, then denied he made the comments, then ended up with egg on his face when the WP put the entire interview on its website as an audio file.

The thing to note is that it's his own fault. At heart, I truly believe that he wants to better the state of women in the country, his nonsensical attempt to shut Mukhtaran Mai up notwithstanding. But if he wants to further women's rights, why the hell did he ally himself with the MMA? As the Daily Times editorial (linked above) notes, his natural ally is the PPP. But he's too power hungry and stubborn to change course and cut a deal with them. So he's forced to stick it out with the MMA and the luminary Chaudrys, who are ideologically far to the right of Musharraf, and if this anonymous source is to be believed, helped sabotage the entire bill.

Here's the lesson: if you're a Pakistani woman, just pray you don't get raped. That's all you have; a prayer. It's fitting that prayer is rendered the only option by the people who believe most strongly in it: the Mindless Medieval Assholes.

What's next, the iFridge?

Device by electronic device, Apple is taking over the world.

Quelle horreur!
So Nicolas Sarkozy lands in the U.S. and says that French people love wearing American jeans and American burgers and pizza, and that all French parents want their kids to study in the U.S. How much do you think this guy makes les français squirm? (By the way, just a hunch, but I think he wins next year's election. Not really going out on a limb there, given him and Ségolène Royal are tied in pretty much every poll, and have been since about March of this year).

Even stranger than a French politican singing America's praises is the
U.S. government being appreciative of Syria's efforts in thwarting an attack on its embassy in Damascus. All we need now is for Mohammad Sami to become a good bowler, and we'll know the apocalypse is nigh.

The truth, but not the whole truth
Fareed Zakaria says the Bush administration's rhetoric - lumping all Islamic opponents of the U.S. in one basket - is counter productive and that the U.S. should seek to exploit the differences between Shias and Sunnis, Persians and Arabs, and Asians and Middle Easterners. As he notes, representing Muslim opposition to the U.S. as a monolithic entity is precisely what the leaders of that opposition want. He's exactly right. But while his focus in the piece remains on how America's words play a role in uniting opposition, what about its actions? As Vali Nasr says in this interview with Jon Stewart, Hezbollah has made giant strides in its popularity with Sunni Arabs as a result of the Lebanon conflict, a conflict which only went on as long as it did because of America's complicity. And we all know how easy it has been to use the Iraq debacle to recruit and unite extremists. This doesn't, of course, take away from his point, which is well taken and perfectly valid.

Quote of the Day

"Mumbai was Mumbai. There we had everything, here one cannot have the life or fun we did in India."

An "associate" of mob boss Dawood Ibrahim. According to this piece from the BBC:

"Ibrahim lives like a king...home is a palatial house spread over 6,000 square yards, boasting a pool, tennis courts, snooker room and a private hi-tech gym. He wears designer clothes, drives top of the line Mercedes' and luxurious four-wheel drives, sports half-a-million rupee Patek Phillipe wristwatch, and showers money on starlets and prostitutes."

Just one question: if this life of his in Pakistan doesn't measure up to the one he used to have, just how good was his life in Mumbai?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Maybe they should have never left Highbury
As if draw, loss, draw wasn't a bad enough start to the season, Arsenal will be without Henry for tomorrow's Champions League clash against Hamburg. Wenger says he'll be ok for the weekend (a HUGE game at Old Trafford) but keep an eye on this one. Anything less than a 100% Henry and they'll lose to United, who've looked very good so far. And that would in turn pretty much mean the end of their Premiership hopes. Has a contender ever taken just a month to lose any prospect of winning the league?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Deciphering Inzi!

Do venture a guess as to what the big man of Pakistani cricket is saying here. And then he goes on to do this and this. At least he's not the only one suffering a bit of misfortune.

What's more distracting than talking on your cell phone while driving?


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Here's the New York Times article on Maria Sharapova's win at the U.S. Open. Read the headline. Now click on this article over at, the website of the biggest sports magazine in the U.S. Coincidence?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Master's Degree in Cricket Diplomacy?
Having been kicked out of a pub for protesting that they should switch over from the football (Wales v. Brazil) and put on the Pakistan v England cricket game (I might have mentioned that the Welsh are crap and sleep with sheep!) I ended up following the cricket online at the Guardian website. They have the best coverage of the game by far and it can at times be ridiculously funny. Anyhow, I came across a comment by some random woman who happens to be researching her Master's degree on cricket and International Relations! How cool is that? Check out her brand spanking new blog here.