THE SALE OF PAKISTAN

Only the Air-Condition Pakistani class could think of such a wheeze and get away with it. Who says our leaders are brain dead? May Allah continue to shower His blessings upon the Zardari/Bhuttos, the Sharifs and all their hanger ons! Amen.

“Islamabad has established an extraordinarily welcoming investment environment that financiers will find hard to resist. The government’s Corporate Agriculture Farming (CAF) policy — spelled out on the Board of Investment’s website — effectively legalises foreign land acquisitions. It permits state land to be purchased outright or leased for 50 years, and allows investors to determine the size of their acquisitions (with no upper ceiling). These features apply to a broad range of agriculture from crops, fruits and vegetables to forestry and livestock farming.”

What a brilliant idea! Sell the most fertile parcels of state land to the oil saturated Arabs [the Saudis, the Emiratis and the assorted dung heads of Arabia] pocket your commission and live happily ever after in the Disney world of Dubai and the fleshpots of London’s Edgeware Road/Park Lane. As to the landless, sweating masses – turn them into Talibans, a la Swat style and get the Americans to keep them in their place by ‘droning’ them.

Only the Air-Condition Pakistani class could think of such a wheeze and get away with it. Who says our leaders are brain dead?  May Allah continue to shower His blessings upon the Zardari/Bhuttos, the Sharifs and all their hanger ons! Amen.


Putting the country on sale

The Nation, Jan. 31, 2010.

For those of us who had thought that the scheme of leasing out a million acres of agricultural land to foreign investors had been shelved by the government, the statement of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi last week served as a rude awakening. Shamelessly reaffirming his government’s commitment to go ahead with the sinister plan, he gave odd justifications for going ahead with it. He was in Dubai for a meeting of Frie-nds of Pakistan who are supposed to help us in this time of need. The Arab countries that have expressed interest in this unethical land grab, obviously have a poor sense of friendship. The message they, as well as the other so-called friends, are sending out is that when a friend is in need, exploit the friend and get a good price for his family silver.


One has yet to see anything worthwhile coming out of this motley group of countries that have created yet another club for the avowed purpose of helping out Pakistan in consideration of the price it has paid for fighting terrorism and to strengthen the now not-so-new democracy. Going by the Foreign Minister’s recent statement, it seems that the club serves the interests of the generous prosperous friends more than those of the one going around the globe with a begging bowl. Knowing the desperation of the beggar friend whose functionaries do not miss an occasion to register their economic helplessness and to plead with servile eyes and tones for some charity, these so-called affluent friends seem to be finding good bargains for whatever is to be grabbed in the state of Pakistan. All in the name of friendship of course.

It is surprising that after the treatment meted out to us by our best friend and ally, we still have a stomach for these so-called friendships, and as if one were not enough, we are willing to follow the tunes of this assortment of pied
pipers.


The government, instead of relying on such fickle friends, should be focusing on the wealth of resources at its disposal waiting to be managed properly.
After all, that is what it is there for. Or does the democratic government
believe that its sole purpose is to stay afloat in the short term, even if it means auctioning the country’s vital resources in a grand loot sale? Certainly, something better is expected of a democratic government.

In a ridiculous attempt at justifying the scheme, the Foreign Minister has now informed us that the land that the government intends to lease out is not owned by anyone. By that he means that the land is not owned by any private
individual. But does that mean that these precious acres are lawaris? Does he not know that land not owned by any private individual is owned by the state of Pakistan and is therefore collectively owned by the people of Pakistan?
Does he not know that the government is entrusted with looking after this land and not to sell it off to greedy friends mouthing sincerity? Does the government have no obligation to find ways of util-ising the invaluable resource for the betterment of the people it claims to represent?

To further expose his poverty of vision, the Foreign Minister said that the land to be leased out is not under cultivation and therefore we should not object to handing it over to the foreign investors who will pump in the
resources to cultivate it. Is it the best our democratic government has to offer us? If investors from distant lands with no tradition of agriculture can come and cultivate it, it should not be difficult for Pakistanis to do it, what with an agricultural heritage and knowledge going back to pre-historic times. Instead of wasting government funds on retrogressive schemes like the Benazir Income Support Programme that make beggars of able-bodied citizens rather than helping them stand on their feet, couldn’t the government spend them on helping landless farmers cultivate the land that it wants to throw away to foreign investors?

It is very unfortunate indeed that the government would insist on pushing such a hare-brained and patently nefarious scheme down our throats at the insistence of its dubious friends. But then, it is not just one nut in the
machine that the government is mowing down Pakistan and its citizens with. Whether it is for loans taken from the foul international financial institutions or for aid that it hopes to get from its best friend under the Kerry-Lugar Act,
or for crumbs it hopes to collect from the so-called Friends of Pakistan, the government is willing to compromise the well-being of the people in whose name it governs the country.

To be fair, the present government is only partially responsible for this state of affairs. In recent times, all successive governments have followed the same path. Whether it was the ‘Islamic’ dictatorship of Ziaul Haq or the quasi-democratic governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif that followed, or the moderate-dictatorship of Musharraf or the Q-government that he gave birth to, those at the helm of affairs have shown a similar poverty of
vision when it comes to managing the country’s economy and the abundant resources at their disposal. They come with new mantras and programmes, but beneath the shallow surface, nothing changes on this count. Those in charge of the future of the Paki-stani people have shown a propensity to become willing partners in their exploitation at the hands of investors, states and multilateral financial institutions. Together, this evil partnership has made a rich land poor, turning its gold to dust.

Granted that the present government has inherited much of this legacy from its predecessors, there is still no excuse for continuing with it, especially when the cost has become too high for the people of Pakistan to bear. More
than millions and billions of dollars that the government is breathlessly running after, what is actually required is a political vision that appreciates the true worth of this land and its people.



Going gaga over grain


By Michael Kugelman
Dawn News, Sep. 17, 2009.


Last May, while Pakistan’s military was waging its offensive in Swat, Islamabad officials were simultaneously launching another offensive in the Gulf: a charm offensive to secure investment in Pakistani farmland.

Appearing at ‘farmland road shows’ across the region, the investment ministry representatives depicted Pakistan’s soil as the perfect solution to the Gulf nations’ food insecurity.

Such efforts have paid off for Islamabad (and according to media reports, more shows have been staged in recent days). Pakistan’s farmland is an increasingly popular target for wealthy, food-importing nations who, because of the volatility of world food markets, are taking food security matters into their own hands. These states (and also private investors) aim to buy or lease farmland overseas, grow their own crops and export them back home.

Given their lack of transparency, the details surrounding these investments are sketchy and the facts elusive. In Pakistan, uncertainty reigns over the exact amount of land made available to investors, the quantum of land sold or leased so far, and who is in fact doing the investing.

Still, even without these details, there is strong evidence to suggest that the race for Pakistan’s farmland — if not halted prematurely by farmers’ opposition or investor change-of-hearts — could trigger droves of land deals, acute resource shortages and even political strife.

Islamabad has established an extraordinarily welcoming investment environment that financiers will find hard to resist. The government’s Corporate Agriculture Farming (CAF) policy — spelled out on the Board of Investment’s website — effectively legalises foreign land acquisitions. It permits state land to be purchased outright or leased for 50 years, and allows investors to determine the size of their acquisitions (with no upper ceiling). These features apply to a broad range of agriculture from crops, fruits and vegetables to forestry and livestock farming.

Land investors flock to countries with strong legal protections. Cambodia’s government has reportedly established a national land concession authorising public land to be allocated to foreigners — and the country is now experiencing what the BBC describes as an ‘epidemic of land-grabbing’. Conversely, in India, foreign companies are banned from owning farmland — and considerably fewer investors have come calling.

Pakistan, like Cambodia, provides the legal cover farmland investors look for. However, the CAF goes beyond legal protections. It also offers generous financial incentives such as 100 per cent foreign equity; exemptions on land transfer duties; and customs-duty-free, sales-tax-free agricultural machinery imports.

Legal protection and financial incentives — what more could a foreign land investor in Pakistan want? Security, of course, and Islamabad purports to have this covered as well, through the formation of a 100,000-strong security unit. Pakistan’s government is so serious about concluding land deals that it has offered to deploy a force almost a fifth the size of the army to protect investors’ new holdings.

A rash of foreign land acquisitions in Pakistan would deepen the country’s resource crisis. Pakistan already suffers widespread water shortages, and could be water-scarce by 2020. However, supplies could dry up much sooner if enormous quantities of water are siphoned off to support large-scale, water-intensive agricultural production schemes.

To understand the scale of Pakistan’s water shortages, take a look at Aquastat, the FAO’s water statistics database. Of all the nations most often associated with relinquishing farmland, only one — Kenya — has less water availability per capita than Pakistan’s 1400 cubic metres. In fact, of the nearly 200 countries listed in the database, only 35 have less water than Pakistan — many of them the parched countries of the Gulf that are seeking the water-laden farmland they lack at home.

Indeed, quests for overseas farmland are water hunts as much as they are land hunts. Yet investors are seemingly so seduced by Islamabad’s legal and financial inducements that they disregard the fact that Pakistan’s water supply can barely sustain its own farming, much less that of immense foreign agribusiness projects.

Pakistan’s water and energy shortages could also limit the possible benefits accruing from the deals, including better technology, more employment and higher crop yields. With limited energy to operate upgraded farm machinery, and limited water to irrigate cropland, farming job prospects could suffer and talk of increased yields could become irrelevant.

Land deals could mean not just compromised small-holder livelihoods but also widespread displacement. Not surprisingly, critics argue that big land acquisitions could spark violent responses and mass political unrest. Such predictions may be premature — other than in Madagascar, opposition has been relatively localised — but they are not far-fetched in Pakistan.

Here’s why. According to the World Food Programme, 77 million Pakistanis are already food-insecure, and many of them live in the country’s most volatile areas. Foreign land holdings could cause a flare-up of this food vulnerability powder keg at the worst possible time. During the height of last year’s global food crisis, Pakistan imposed export bans to keep domestic food prices down.

According to a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the UAE — which hopes to grow rice and wheat in Pakistan — then requested blanket exemptions from these bans.

Islamabad eventually relaxed export restrictions on Basmati rice. So a politically explosive scenario — such as the UAE trucking rice out of a drought-stricken or war-ravaged Pakistan and exporting it back to the Gulf while hungry locals look on — is not at all unrealistic. Throw that investment-protecting security force into the mix, and things could get really ugly.

Furthermore, there are long-standing rifts between Pakistan’s rural poor and its wealthy, landholding elite. Scores of huge land acquisitions — particularly if they displace poor labourers — would exacerbate these class-based cleavages.

Ominously, the Taliban’s actions in Swat reveal a new ability to exploit class divisions by pitting landless farmers against their landlords. Militants may well use farmland acquisitions as a pretext for fomenting a fresh class revolt in Punjab, the fertile, populous province coveted by the Taliban and reportedly ground zero for the farms race in Pakistan. Such a thought is enough to make one wonder if those farmland road shows are really worth the effort.

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Insanity is in my genes

Politics was never my favourite discussion. In fact, it is something I always felt reluctant to talk about. The reason wasn’t that I am not interested in current affairs. It was because I always fear reactions of people on topics related to politics or affairs of this country. For some reason, you get a strange kind of harshness in people when they talk about this country, its politics and current affairs. They are just not themselves.

Broadly you can come across three types of people when it comes to political discussions:

The first is the concerned type. They seem really concerned about this country and current affairs. Sometimes they’ll get you in hot arguments. Even if you’re not confronting them, they will get confronted themselves; and if you will, they’ll get even more confronted and will get you confronted as well. But you’re never sure what will come out of this hot argument except of the heat that will vanish the moment they’ll walk out of door.

You would also find a type of people who’re just made to speak and to be listened. They’re born leaders, as people would tell them. Because they sound really good, even if you’re not sure you’re quite getting what they’re saying. They talk about the higher purpose of life, something that is far higher than you your self and anything thing else that you think is important to you.

Then there are some people who’ll tell you they don’t give a damn about this country and whatever is happening in it. But if you look at the tone with which they say it, you’ll know how much damn they’re giving about it, in fact, far more than they were supposed to. This is the disappointed type. There was a time they loved this country and wanted everything to be alright but then something made them lose or they got better things to worry about. They’ll convince you to lose hope, or you can go to hell for all they care. But the funny part is they won’t let you live at peace in the hell as well and will keep poking you there from time to time.

One day we all will be terrorists!

“Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.”

– Chris Hedges (in an article of the same title)

My generation grew up in a different Pakistan. A different Lahore, a different Karachi, a different Peshawar, a different Quetta, a different Islamabad and an entirely different country.

In Lahore, people sat in Pak Tea House and Coffee House and talked about politics, poetry, religion, culture and friendships gave birth, on a daily basis, to youthful romanticism of our times: the mutual seduction of kindred spirits within the confines of our cultural values and the gentleness of Urdu poetry, songs, geets (lyrics) and the Lahori humour. We celebrated basant (the kite-flying festival), maila-charagha (the festival of lights) and Urs Data Gung-Baksh (the festival of a saint). We observed Muharram with great reverence.

Karachi used to be alive 24 hours a day all year round. It was a city of “lights”, “fashion”, hustle-bustle of a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. Ethnic diversity and tolerance was the hallmark of this city.

Peshawar was a beacon of hospitality, a tribute to human gentleness and an affirmation of a rich community life.

Quetta’s apple-laden trees decorated its roads everywhere and the Balochis colourful existence found its spirit in its music, songs and even in its cuisine. Moreover, Pakistan’s rural society existed in purity, simplicity and the zealousness of hard working people.

Pakistan was a different country then: we lived in relative peace, tolerance and mutual harmony. A delicious puri nashta cost one rupee, petrol was Rs 2.50 a gallon, schooling was cheap, sugar and food were plenty, and a round-trip by PIA from Lahore to Karachi was Rs 250.

The majority of Pakistanis were poor even then, but there was no mass starvation, deprivation suicides, forced prostitution, massive collective depressive communities, agonising socio-psychological conditions, economic collapse, and no one knew of crippling demoralising inner fears. We did not know of institutional violence and extensive state terror – though police brutality and legal system atrocities were common, bureaucracy was horribly cruel, corrupt, inefficient and unbelievably powerful vis-à-vis the citizenry, commerce thrived on black marketing and the political class wholly and completely indulged in vested interests, inappropriate use of political power and mismanagement of state affairs.

Even though we lived with a million vices as a nation, but strangely enough, life was not as painful as it is in today’s democratic Pakistan. Neither was the entire nation, every one of its citizens, gripped with such forceful, depleting and paralysing fear – a fear that the management of the survival of this country has gone out of control. A fear that we all may be blown away from existence the next moment, if not literally then at least in a metaphorical sense!

Do you realise the seriousness of our contemporary political crisis?

The present state of our deplorable existence is the work of our decade long political leadership inclusive of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship and the incumbent political dispensation in the country.

The fundamental failure of our national policy is this country’s ruling elite’s destructive all time political-economic-military alliance with the US and its allies (now India included).

Even at the time that I have described as the “golden days” of Pakistan’s past, our ruling elite was fully and comprehensively politically engaged with the US and its allies. However the US was in a different political mode then: it was fighting its own self-invented “demons” – the communist ideology and the communist nations (though communism was not a threat – it was a political experiment to solve mass poverty). The objective of American foreign policy was global political-economic and military domination.

In the present day world, the policy objectives of the US and its allies remain same: worldwide imperialist hegemony and exploitation by the west’s multi-national corporations.

However, in the contemporary equation, the west’s enemies have been redefined: Now we are the “demons”. They have declared a war against Muslim nations, their people, their faith, their culture, their traditions, their values and customs, their history and even against their existence as we know it today. Huntington in The Clash of Civilisations warns that if we do not transform our civilisation to a western model, then we must be prepared for an ultimate obliteration through successive wars at the hands of the west: we are given no choices.

Seven hundred Pakistani citizens died in American drone attacks in 2009 alone. It is not accidental!

What the US and its western allies do not understand is that their present war is not against an economic-political ideology (communism). This war is against a people, a faith, a history, an existential reality, an entirety of a civilisation, an actual formidable historical presence and an enduring spiritual entity. They, the US and its allies (which include collaborating political elites in Muslim countries), cannot win this war. Indeed, they can unleash havoc, a wave of destruction (as they are doing now), but they cannot and will not win!

Coming back to the context of Pak-US relations, consider the following most plausible scenario in the immediate future:

Through covertly managed organised violence, collaborations, propaganda, bombings and political manipulations, the US succeeds in destabilising Pakistan to an extent of complete political chaos, limited anarchy and a near civil war situation. Under the pretext of threat to international security, American and NATO forces are moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are seized, a puppet regime is installed: Pakistan is de-nuclearised, India (the newest US ally) becomes a dominant regional power, Iran is contained, China-Russia growing political clout is checked, the US/west’s historical global dominance is achieved – the world is saved!

Is that what the Pakistani nation wants and deserves?

Imran Khan’s perspective on Pakistan’s foreign policy and domestic priorities is correct: we need to politically-militarily disengage Pakistan from the US/west’s global objectives. We need to immediately end this so-called War on Terror against our own citizens. We need to negotiate peace with political dissidents in NWFP, Balochistan and in every corner of Pakistan. We must appreciate the fact that political dissent is not terror!

We ought to, by engaging our own citizens and political dissidents, quietly and secretly do a complete “cleansing” of the foreign elements and local collaborators involved in organised violence in our country. This can only be accomplished by a determined, independent, nationalist and highly efficient political leadership that can make the national policy without American influence and interference. And this is the ultimate requirement of our times.

At last, Mian Nawaz Sharif said something right the other day: the public in Pakistan needs to think in revolutionary ways now.

Allow me to go one step further: what we need is a revolutionary political leadership in this country. We deserve a change in the political mindset and political conduct of this nation’s leaders. We need fresh leadership in Pakistan.

We all do not need to be politically loyal to our contemporary political dispensation or to our present political allies. We must completely reject a global political system of US/west’s dominance.

We all ought to be political dissidents! After all, dissent is a vital element of the democratic political process. It is a duty of an engaged citizenry!

One day we all might be considered terrorists by our western “friends”.

Never mind. So be it!

–By Dr Haider Mehdi
The writer is an academic, political analyst and conflict-resolution expert.

Russian TV reports Blackwater death sqauds in Islamabad

There are persistent reports in the Pakistani, US and world media about the Blackwater/Xe death squads roaming the streets of Peshawar and Islamabad. There are reports by “The Nation” in the US media. The Bill Maher show had several guests and the author of the book on Blackwater/Xe who discussed Blackwater/Xe activities in various countries of the world. This excerpt from Russian TV also exposes the Blackwater/Xe death squads in Islamabad which are seeking targeting assassinations in the country. It is to be mentioned that this was the expertise of General McChrystal. In fact Admiral Mullen brought him to Afghanistan because of his special talents. Various defense analysts in Pakistan are also naming Xe/Blackwater as a death squad which is looking for Abdul Qadeer Khan.


FO still in denial about Blackwater

ISLAMABAD – While not denying the news, official spokesman of the Foreign Office Thursday declined to comment on reports about Ambassador to USA Hussain Haqqani’s letter written to Foreign Secretary as well as the Director General of ISI saying, “It is purely an official matter”.

During the weekly Foreign Office briefing, spokesman Abdul Basit was asked whether or not the Ambassador had deliberately leaked the official classified communication as was reported in a section of media. Thus by staying mum over the issue it could be implied that the spokesperson did not deny the leak as was reported.

It transpired from the briefing that US AfPak policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan would be amongst the most contentious issues to figure in the scheduled meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and his US counterpart Barack Hussain Obama in New York on September 24.

President Zardari had already publicly denounced the US AfPak policy ahead of proceeding on his US visit. Thus it has given credence to the impression that the nearly six-month-old US AfPak policy has already has many question marks.

Answering a question, the spokesman said that Pakistan has already rejected the terminology of AfPak and conveyed its point of view to Washington.

“Since Pakistan and Afghanistan are two different countries with different cultures and situations, therefore Pakistan has rejected this terminology”, Basit said.

He said on the Western border there are various problems including terrorism and added that Pakistan has been taking steps to tackle these issues very seriously.

The spokesman said Pakistan would not allow any foreign troops including the US to launch any military operation inside Pakistan.

He said Pakistani forces are capable to fight the terrorists and militants and they had proved it in the recent operation against such elements in Swat and other areas.

He rejected the allegation on Pakistan for causing instability in Afghanistan and said in fact Pakistan itself is suffering from the spill over effect of terrorism from Afghanistan. The Nation.



Teeth Meastro hs submitted an invitation to Pakistanis. We reproduce that here. With all the wheeling and dealing by our country’s leaders compromising on all national issue only to ensure that their own stay in power is secured it does seem that our very own leaders elected / bureaucratic and military have unleashed yet another wrath unto the people of Pakistan by allowing the menacing extra-military force called Blackwater to establish a strong foothold in Pakistan.


Blackwater or recently known as Xe is a rogue military force comprised of ex-military personnel that has had a very bad reputation of being instrumental in a number of assassinations and armed bullying in Iraq and Afghanistan and it appears that they are now being welcomed into Pakistan.


This is OUR country, and there is no justification to import a team of non-Pakistani militia to come into Pakistan and establish themselves for any reason what so ever. The excuse that is being thrown around is that they are entrusted with the elite task of protecting the interests of the American Embassy in Islamabad, which I believe is hogwash.


As responsible and patriotic citizens of Pakistan I believe we as a team can out-fox our corrupt leaders in exposing this menace, this same organization played havoc with the lives of Iraqi nationals, let them not trample over us. We can wield power in numbers, literally found at every corner of the street in Pakistan, we as patriotic citizens of Pakistan can be an invisible force that chooses not be be trampled by an external force trying to run our lives.


What can you do?

  1. Help document all their locations across Pakistan on a Map hence making it public knowledge, at Map.Pakvoices.net, this I believe is a noble thing to do since they’re definitely a security risk for us Pakistanis and the least patriotic thing that we can do is point out these rouge militia [NOTE: All submissions will need to be verified before going live]
  2. Help take pictures / videos of any encounters you may have with this militia, spot them on the street, snap a picture and post them on either on Youtube / flickr [without unnecessarily exposing yourself] you can also submit them as an incident at Pakvoices or email to iReport@Pakvoices.net
  3. You can also symbolically join the Facebook group EXPEL Blackwaters & US marines from Pakistan
  4. More importantly do join the effort to spread the word making more and more Pakistanis become aware of this increasing menace in Pakistan, a few good suggestions have been suggested by Talkhaaba

Please NOTE: All submissions made to the PakVoices.net website will go through some degree of verficiation to ensure correctness before going public. Dr. Alivi of TeathMeastro

by: Moin Ansari

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