Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who was behind Shahanshah’s murder?

The murder of Khalid Shahanshah, incharge of PPP co-Chairman Asif Zardari’s security, was the second targeted killing of a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief security officer. Three years ago, Munawar Suharwardi, chief of security to the late Benazir Bhutto, was also killed in a targeted hit in Karachi in a similar manner. Benazir had termed the murder a message from the military rulers to her. Benazir, as we know now, was ultimately assassinated.Like the murder of Suharwardi three years ago, the assassination of Shahanshah has also been termed by PPP aides as a ‘message’ – this time to Zardari, who became the chief of the PPP after the assassination of his spouse Benazir. One parallel between the two assassinations is that Khalid Shahanshah was killed driving out of his residence, as was Munawar Suharwardi. Another potentially contentious point about Shahanshah’s murder is that he was a key witness to Benazir’s assassination in 2007. The then government had even taken him into custody as a part of the investigation into the incident. He was later released.Shahanshah survived death twice before – first on October 18, 2007, when twin bomb blasts rocked Benazir Bhutto’s welcome rally in Karachi, and later on December 27, 2007, when Benazir was killed in Rawalpindi. The killing of his chief security officer has shocked the PPP co-chairman. He has expressed grief and sorrow over the death of his loyal security officer and directed the provincial government to take steps to arrest the killers. Zardari will not attend the funeral of his chief security officer due to security reasons. Shahanshah was busy in arrangements for the birthday celebrations of Zardari on July 26. After his death, the party has cancelled all celebrations for the day.Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, and almost all the cabinet ministers and advisers, have also expressed concern and offered condolences to Shahanshah’s family. Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza rushed to the hospital immediately after the murder and described the killing as a barbarous act and a conspiracy against the democratic system.He said that those involved in the bomb blasts in Karachi were also behind this murder, and that the government would take every possible step to arrest the killers. Shahanshah was an activist of the People’s Student Federation (PSF) and later played an active role as a party worker till his death. He had also contested an election for a seat in the National Assembly on a PPP ticket from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) stronghold, Azizabad, in 2002. Being an active worker and a close aide to the late Munawar Suharwardi, he served the party with zest and enthusiasm. Later, he left the country and lived in exile in the United States. When Benazir Bhutto decided to return to the country, Khalid was included as a security team member of the PPP Chairperson. He was subsequently selected for the job of chief security officer to Asif Zardari and was posted at Bilawal House.According to PPP Karachi chief Faisal Abidi, the Namaz-e-Janaza of Shahanshah will be offered at a ground near Bilawal House in the afternoon. He appealed to the provincial party members and local leaders as well as workers to attend the funeral. He will laid to rest at the Azizabad graveyard.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Abhijeet shown the door

Controversy erupted on the sets of Ek Se Badhkar Ek because playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya objected to the participation of a Pakistani singer in this weekend reality show. Consequently, Abhijeet—as he puts it —quit the show. Others say he was shown the door. Abhijeet Bhattacharya and choreographer Ahmed Khan were judges on Zee’s weekend reality show which features TV actors and singers performing in jodis. Among the new entrants in the wild card round, there were Sanober Kabir and Mussarat Abbas. Pakistani contestants have often participated in the various channels’ music reality shows. Past objections Mussarat Abbas was a contestant from Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007. Abhijeet has earlier protested against Pakistani singers. In 2003, he even petitioned the government seeking a ban on Pakistani singers performing in India. This time, he said, “If Mussarat sings, I will not judge him.” Abhijeet said that to allow foreigners to participate in the show was unfair to Indian talent. On another note, referring to Pakistani singers giving playback for Bombay’s movies, he said, “It’s a matter of great shame that our music directors should go to Pakistan to get Atif Aslam to sing because he didn’t get a visa to come here. Yahaan hamare singers bhukhemar rahe hain (Our own singers are dying of starvation here).” Fired or quit? Media reports have said thatAbhijeet had been shown the door due to his behaviour. But the singer states, “I spoke to the channel. They said they couldn’t change the format, so I have quit. It was mutual. But it’s sad that I had to leave because of a non-entity Pakistani singer.” Tarun Mehra, programming head of Zee, states that he isn’t aware of the fact that Abhijeet had walked out. According to him, “We can’t change the format of the show.. it’s about singing and dancing. We will have to find a replacement.” Diplomatically, Mussarat says that he will miss Abhijeet on the show: “I understand what he means. The fact that Indians aren’t allowed to perform in our country is amatter of embarrassment to us.We have such deep cultural and family links.”

Turnaround for US and Iran

In two weeks, the period it has been granted, Iran might make known its intentions on its nuclear plans, and hence the future of its tenuous links with the US. The talks in Geneva did not result in Iran’s accepting the so-called “freeze for freeze” deal — a halt in its uranium enrichment in return for no strengthening of UN sanctions. There is no guarantee that at the end of the deadline, Iran will decide, as expressed by the US, between confrontation and cooperation. But after all the threats and counterthreats in recent weeks, the very fact that Iran and the US got together at one table for the first time concerning the nuclear issue represents a huge turnaround for both sides and provides distinct signs that a collision course is being averted.
By agreeing to send Undersecretary of State William Burns to Geneva to join talks between the EU and Iran, Washington has shown what has been acknowledged from the outset: Any realistic solution to the nuclear crisis must involve active US engagement. And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pronouncement that he was interested in direct talks with the US, and interested in the idea of a US diplomatic mission being opened in Tehran for the first time since the 1979 revolution, constitutes a remarkable U-turn. These are major shifts by both the Bush administration and Iran and look light years away from the recent rhetoric and threats.
There are, of course, those who still expect the US or Israel or both to launch a military strike on Iran, but the recent peace overtures are persuading more people into realizing that international, regional and local considerations weigh too heavily against such a military adventure. The US cannot embark on a major military operation while its forces are bogged down in Iraq, tensions everywhere else in the region are rife, and many of the US’ allies in the region are opposed to the military option. In addition, a military strike against Iran would wreak havoc on the already troublesome energy situation as Iran sits on a huge oil reserve of its own and overlooks the world’s most important transit route for oil. Also in favor of at least a cooling down in tensions between the US and Iran is the fact that other international powers, most notably Moscow, are disinclined toward a military strike, even if they are not necessarily opposed to an escalation of international sanctions against Tehran.
As tenacious and willing to go to the brink as Iranian leaders may appear, in the final analysis they are consummately pragmatic. Iran is a modern institutionalized state, and while it has the elements of a theocracy, it is ultimately rational and capable of placing the welfare of the whole above all other considerations. Before reaching the stage of no return, the “rational camp” in Tehran would put the breaks on, halting the brinksmanship tendencies evinced by Ahmadinejad. The repercussions for Iran, regionally and internationally, would be too great. Iran holds too many political and economic cards that Washington is interested in, and the people in Tehran know that Washington holds many of the keys that will unlock their ambitions.
What has been said and done have not been figments of the imagination. The recent Israeli military exercise, apparently a rehearsal for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities; the Iranian test-firing of missiles in reply; Iran’s threat to block the Strait of Hormuz, the lifeline of the world’s oil supplies, if attacked were all real and had — and still have — the world watching and worrying. However, for at least the moment, diplomacy has taken over.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Legal expert says McCain may not be eligible for White House

Friday, July 11, 2008 14:42 EDT
Legal expert says McCain may not be eligible for White House
At the end of a pretty stressful week for John McCain, he's now being told by a constitutional scholar from his own state that he may not eligible for the presidency in the first place.
Professor Gabriel J. Chin of the University of Arizona wrote the analysis suggesting that McCain's birth in the Panama Canal Zone while his father was on active military duty qualified him as a citizen under a law later enacted by Congress, but didn't make him a "natural-born citizen," which is what the Constitution requires for the presidency.
This issue has been kicking around constitutional circles for a while, and Chin's opinion is decidedly a minority view. Indeed, earlier this year "the Senate approved a nonbinding resolution declaring that Mr. McCain is eligible to be president. Its sponsors said the nation's founders would have never intended to deny the presidency to the offspring of military personnel stationed out of the country."
That's almost certainly true. But it may be a tougher argument for McCain to make now that he's devoted to "strict constructionist" interpretations of the Constitution.
After all, if you start messing with the language of the Founders, next thing you know, you've got a constitutional right to privacy, and we can't have that, eh?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why is the Iraqi "government" telling the United States to leave ?

This past week all the news has been about the so called Iraqi government telling the United States that it needs to either set up a time table for withdrawal or withdraw immediately. At first I didn't know what to think; could it be that the Maliki government really isn't a puppet government after all and it got the balls to tell the US that it needs to leave ?
But then I realized that couldn't be further removed from reality. I think this is more of a case of Bahgdad taking orders from Washington, who themselves are taking orders from Tel Aviv, to get as many troops out as possible in order to attack Iran as soon as possible. One of the main a reasons given that the United States couldn't attack Iran now is because too many troops are bogged down in Iraq. Well there you go; take out a 100,000 or so troops and you'll be ready to liberate the shit of Iran in no time.
They're running out of patience in that shitty little country. They know they themselves can't attack Iran, they would have done so already if they thought they could get away with it without taking too much of a hit. So the time has come again, for the United States to do their dirty work for them.

The FBI's plan to "profile" Muslims

July 10, 2008 The U.S. Justice Department is considering a change in the grounds on which the FBI can investigate citizens and legal residents of the United States. Till now, DOJ guidelines have required the FBI to have some evidence of wrongdoing before it opens an investigation. The impending new rules, which would be implemented later this summer, allow bureau agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask "open-ended questions" concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person's travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation.
The rumored changes have provoked protests from Muslim American and Arab-American groups. The Council on American Islamic Relations, among the more effective lobbies for Muslim Americans' civil liberties, immediately denounced the plan, as did James Zogby, the president of the Arab-American Institute. Said Zogby, "There are millions of Americans who, under the reported new parameters, could become subject to arbitrary and subjective ethnic and religious profiling." Zogby, who noted that the Bush administration's history with profiling is not reassuring, warned that all Americans would suffer from a weakening of civil liberties.

In fact, Zogby's statement only begins to touch on the many problems with these proposed rules. The new guidelines would lead to many bogus prosecutions, but they would also prove counterproductive in the effort to disrupt real terror plots. And then there's Attorney General Michael Mukasey's rationale for revising the rules in the first place. "It's necessary," he explained in a June news conference, "to put in place regulations that will allow the FBI to transform itself as it is transforming itself into an intelligence-gathering organization." When did Congress, or we as a nation, have a debate about whether we want to authorize the establishment of a domestic intelligence agency? Indeed, late last month Congress signaled its discomfort with the concept by denying the FBI's $11 million funding request for its data-mining center.

Establishing a profile that would aid in identifying suspects is not in and of itself illegal, though the practice generally makes civil libertarians nervous. When looking for drug couriers, Drug Enforcement Agency agents were permitted by the Supreme Court in United States v. Sokolow (1989) to use indicators such as the use of an alias, nervous or evasive behavior, cash payments for tickets, brief trips to major drug-trafficking cities, type of clothing, and the lack of checked luggage. This technique, however, specifically excluded the use of skin color or other racial features in building the profile.
In contrast, using race and ethnicity as the -- or even a -- primary factor in deciding whom to stop and search, despite being widespread among police forces, is illegal. Just this spring, the Maryland State Police settled out of court with the ACLU and an African-American man after having been sued for the practice of stopping black and Latino men and searching them for drugs. New Jersey police also got into trouble over stopping people on the grounds of race.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled last year in State v. Calvin Lee that a defendant's plausible allegation that the arrest was initiated primarily because of race would be grounds for discovery: The defense attorney could then request relevant documents from the prosecution that might show discriminatory attitudes and actions on the part of the police. Because racial profiling is most often felt by juries to be inappropriate, its use could backfire on the FBI. Suspects charged on the basis of an investigation primarily triggered by their race could end up being acquitted as victims of government discrimination.
If the aim is to identify al-Qaida operatives or close sympathizers in the United States, racial profiling is counterproductive. Such tiny, cultlike terror organizations are multinational. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is a Briton whose father hailed from Jamaica, and no racial profile of him would have predicted his al-Qaida ties. Adam Gadahn, an al-Qaida spokesman, is from a mixed Jewish and Christian heritage and hails from suburban Orange County, Calif. When I broached the topic of FBI profiling to some Muslim American friends on Facebook, a scientist in San Francisco replied, "Profiling Muslims or Arabs will just make al-Qaida look outside Islam for its bombers. There are many other disgruntled groups aside from those that worship Allah."
It is a mystery why the Department of Justice has not learned the lesson that terrorists are best tracked down through good police work brought to bear on specific illegal acts, rather than by vast fishing expeditions. After Sept. 11, the DOJ called thousands of Muslim men in the United States for what it termed voluntary interviews. Not a single terrorist was identified in this manner, though a handful of the interviewees ended up being deported for minor visa offenses. Once it became clear that the interviews might eventuate in arbitrary actions against them, the willingness of American Muslims to cooperate declined rapidly, and so the whole operation badly backfired.

John McCain's First Wife Speaks out

Buzz up!
The UK Times scores the first interview with John McCain's first wife in the 2008 campaign season:
McCain likes to illustrate his moral fibre by referring to his five years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. And to demonstrate his commitment to family values, the 71-year-old former US Navy pilot pays warm tribute to his beautiful blonde wife, Cindy, with whom he has four children.
But there is another Mrs McCain who casts a ghostly shadow over the Senator's presidential campaign. She is seldom seen and rarely written about, despite being mother to McCain's three eldest children.
And yet, had events turned out differently, it would be she, rather than Cindy, who would be vying to be First Lady. She is McCain's first wife, Carol, who was a famous beauty and a successful swimwear model when they married in 1965.
She was the woman McCain dreamed of during his long incarceration and torture in Vietnam's infamous 'Hanoi Hilton' prison and the woman who faithfully stayed at home looking after the children and waiting anxiously for news.
But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries.
When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons
had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.
Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self.
Today, she stands at just 5ft4in and still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at 70, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering.
For nearly 30 years, Carol has maintained a dignified silence about the accident, McCain and their divorce. But last week at the bungalow where she now lives at Virginia Beach, a faded seaside resort 200 miles south of Washington, she told The Mail on Sunday how McCain divorced her in 1980 and married Cindy, 18 years his junior and the heir to an Arizona brewing fortune, just one month later.
Carol insists she remains on good terms with her ex-husband, who agreed as part of their divorce settlement to pay her medical costs for life. 'I have no bitterness,'
she says. 'My accident is well recorded. I had 23 operations, I am five inches shorter than I used to be and I was in hospital for six months. It was just awful, but it wasn't the reason for my divorce.
'My marriage ended because John McCain didn't want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens...it just does.'
Some of McCain's acquaintances are less forgiving, however. They portray the politician as a self-centred womaniser who effectively abandoned his crippled wife to 'play the field'. They accuse him of finally settling on Cindy, a former rodeo beauty queen, for financial reasons.
Read the
full article here. Last week, McCain was pressed on his marital infidelities at a town hall meeting -- watch video and read an account here.