Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Pakastani Actress Veena Malik Magazine Cover Causes Death Threats

12.12.2011 (11:12 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Pakistan ::

Should this magazine cover cause Muslim religious leaders to call for the execution of actress Veena Malik?

While this shot stretches the usually PG-rated theme that reigns here at Black Shards to the breaking point, the answer has got to be a resounding “No!”

First, it’s Malik’s body – she can do what she wants with it, regardless of whether her claim that editors’ airbrushed out a thong she may or may not have been wearing.

Second, Pakistan’s mullahs have no legitimate authority over Malik nor the right to issue any sort of fatwah against her, as they so famously did against author Salmon Rushdie, thus all but silencing his voice of dissent.

Third, Pakistan’s ISI is hardly a force for internal or international good and Malik and other Pakistani citizens should speak out against the organization and demand its reform at every opportunity, even if it means baring arms.

As beautiful as Malik’s pose is, the purpose in showing it here is not to admire her femininity but to hold this space in reserve against a day that hopefully will not come – the day the mullahs take their revenge on another woman to dared to defy them.

The world is watching.

h/t ZionsTrumpet

Pakistan and Hiding bin Laden

04.05.2011 (9:41 am) – Filed under: National Security,Pakistan,Terrorism ::

Does anyone seriously believe that the Pakistani government did not know Osama bin Laden was living – and living large – in their country? Please. Pakistan’s intelligence service is corrupt, but they are far from incompetent. At best they turned a blind eye to the U.S.’s most-wanted terrorist. But it’s far more likely parts of the ISI knowingly helped conceal bin Laden for years.

Pakistan’s Army Killing Taliban in Mingora

23.05.2009 (10:04 pm) – Filed under: Pakistan,Terrorism ::

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Not long ago we were worrying about Pakistan’s apparent lack of will to grapple with its Taliban problem and wondering if the government there – and the nuclear weapons it controls – would stay in power.  Now Pakistan’s army is going house-to-house in Mingora to root terrorists out of the Swat valley’s main city and having success.

Maj Gen Athar Abbas:

“This is an extremely difficult, extremely dangerous operation, because clearance has to be done street by street, house by house.”

So how is it going?  Pretty well, according to reports. 

The BBC says that the Taliban deny that 17 of their terrorists have been killed in the city.  Meanwhile the Pakistani army claims that more than 1000 Taliban have been killed in this month’s offensive versus a loss of some 50 government troops.

One has to take these numbers with a grain of salt.  But it appears that Pakistan is doing very well against the terrorists, which leads me to question if the Taliban weren’t deliberately lulled in to a false sense of their own strength by the government in Islamabad.

Doubtful.  Nevertheless, the effect at the moment is the same, whether through dumb luck or brilliant bluffing, the Taliban is exposed and being pounded for it.

According to the BBC, “The [Taliban] spokesman also said the Taliban would fight the security forces to their last breath.”

One can only hope.

Democrats Evolve Stance on Terrorist Interrogations

04.12.2008 (2:12 pm) – Filed under: India,Pakistan,Terrorism ::

Glenn Greenwald reports the inevitable: Democrats’ attitude about harsh interrogation techniques has changed now that their man has been elected and is about to assume responsibility for the continued security of the free world.  It’s an unenviable job in many respects, in particular with regard the potential for being blamed for the 9/11, 7/7, or Mumbia that takes place on U.S. soil.  Not coincidentally, Indian leaders are confronted with the same question.  How hard should they press "baby-faced gunman" and murderer Azam Amir Kasab?  What rights do terrorists caught in the act of mass murder have?  And do those rights diminish because of the threat of follow-up terrorist attacks?

Greenwald:

"in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility."  And:  "’I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,’ she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures."

Diane Feinstein is a very liberal Democrat, so her reversal is telling.  Democrats, to their credit, will do what’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorists.  Good for them – it’s their responsibility now, one they desperately wanted to take on.  That Democrats’ over-the-top denouncements of the Bush administration’s policies on interrogation was mere politics is now obvious, as I predicted on many occasions.  They will do what they have to in order to meet their new responsibilities.  That will make many progressives angry but should help alleviate some of the fears the rest of the country has about the Democrats’ willingness face the real difficulties in the world.

Across the Pacific, India faces a similar challenge in regard to the recent terrorists attacks in Mumbai.  They are planning to "administer truth serum" to an alleged Pakistani national named Azam Amir Kasab. 

Police interrogators in Mumbai told The Times that they are poised to settle the matter of Kasab’s nationality through the use of "narcoanalysis" – a controversial technique, banned in most democracies, where the subject is injected with a truth serum.

The method was widely used by Western intelligence agencies during the Cold War, before it emerged that the drugs used – typically the barbiturate sodium pentothal – may induce hallucinations, delusions and psychotic manifestations

American anti-torture activists would probably consider truth serum treatments a form of torture in its own right.  Certainly it violates the spirit of America’s constitutional right to refuse to incriminate oneself.  India seems prepared to address the issue more directly than we can here in America.  In fact, a friend from India has doubts about whether the truth serum plan is real.  He says that Indian authorities are more likely to beat the fire out of the terrorist than to use finesse.

That’s fine by me.  Kasab and his fellow terrorists gave up the right to the protections of civilized society when they fired their first shots in Mumbai.  Whatever happens to him at the hands of the Indian government, Kasab himself justified his treatment by his own treacherous, murderous actions.  The bottom line is that facts about what others in his terrorist cadre might be planning must become known, through whatever means necessary.  Gentlemen’s debates about whether or not to torture – and how to define the term – come after the fact in the comfort of a secure environment, not in the heat of battle.

That’s a truth that the Democrats in Congress are beginning to come to terms with. 

Hitting Pakistani Targets Without Permission

19.02.2008 (10:28 am) – Filed under: Pakistan,Terrorism ::

Failing to act decisively – or at all – when in possession of intelligence about Osama bin Laden is perhaps Bill Clinton’s biggest failure as president and his longest-lasting legacy. 

Now, writing about the U.S. missiles that killed Abu Laith al-Libi, an al Qaeda commander, MSNBC says:

Having requested the Pakistani government’s official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval. The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was notified only as the operation was underway

Officials say the incident was a model of how Washington often scores its rare victories these days in the fight against al-Qaeda inside Pakistan’s national borders: It acts with assistance from well-paid sympathizers inside the country, but without getting the government’s formal permission beforehand.

It is an approach that some U.S. officials say could be used more frequently this year, particularly if a power vacuum results from yesterday’s election and associated political tumult. The administration also feels an increased sense of urgency about undermining al-Qaeda before President Bush leaves office, making it less hesitant, said one official familiar with the incident.

"In the past it required getting approval from the highest levels," said one former intelligence official involved in planning for previous strikes. "You may have information that is valid for only 30 minutes. If you wait, the information is no longer valid."

From that perspective I can understand the logic of performing unsanctioned strikes.  Also playing into that equation must be the fact that, while these territories are part of Pakistan as it is drawn on maps, this area of the country is essentially ungoverned, at least in the national sense.

Still, on their own these sorts of unilateral actions cannot be sustained in the long run.  The Pakistani National Assembly that results from yesterday’s election will undoubtedly want to have a say in matters, something that may reduce, rather than increase, the number of such strikes. 

Hopefully the Bush administration will engage Pakistan again on this issue and create a mutually agreed upon plan for continuing to press the terrorists in the country’s untamed areas.  Failing that, the fight must go on.

Lessons from 1968

01.01.2008 (11:06 am) – Filed under: Pakistan,Society ::

Bob Herbert draws some parallels between 1968 and 2008 today but it seems to me that his message is incomplete.

The Vietnam/Iraq comparison is obvious, of course, and somewhat appropriate.  But there’s not going to be the equivalent of Tet in Iraq or even Afghanistan, unless we completely take our eye off the ball again, always a possibility, I know.  Different wars, different outcomes.

No, what’s missing from Herbert’s recounting of the death of political hope for half a generation of Americans – those of an age with John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King – is an explanation of how the dreams of a nation can die and what the effects can be.

JFK and RFK represented, to paraphrase Eric Segal, the opportunity for the (relatively) young people of America to take control of their country and lead it while they were still in the primes of their lives.  When the Kennedy sons were gunned down that opportunity was lost and the old men took over again. 

Hope died with them, but not because either Kennedy was a genius of unique ability or because their messages were so transcendent.  Hope died when my father’s generation realized that the blind hatred of a single mental defective could, in a single split second, undo the good works of so many more deserving people.

It’s difficult to recover from such a blow.  In a way Jimmy Carter was the beneficiary of the sickly rejuvenation of the dream that died in 1968, a pale imitation doomed to failure.

Today we see Pakistan reeling from a blow of even greater proportions.  Benazir Bhutto, gunned down in the streets in similar fashion to the Kennedys, represented the best hope of a nation to leave behind the aged baggage of a millennia-old repression and move into the future in concert with the free people of the west.

Hope may have died with her.  In response to her killing the Musharraf government  clamped down, putting boots in the street and closing off the truth from the people, even in regards to the manner of their flawed but courageous champion’s death.

Both Musharraf and Sharif represent Pakistan’s past.  They are the country’s old men who, if America’s example holds true, will hold on to power long after they are wanted.

The future there is even less certain than ours was in 1968, for though some of America’s best were killed by our worst Americans knew and still know that our system of government allows the people to demand course corrections when needed.

That is the kind of hope that the people of Pakistan need right now.

Pakistan and Merit

31.12.2007 (11:07 am) – Filed under: Pakistan ::

Tariq Ali says that Pakistan deserves more from its opposition – and its ruling government – in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. 

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People’s Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.

Dynastic politics is a sign of weakness, not strength. Benazir was fond of comparing her family to the Kennedys, but chose to ignore that the Democratic Party, despite an addiction to big money, was not the instrument of any one family.

He’s right – it is not a good idea to base a political party with aspirations of ruling a nation on a family name.  Ms. Bhutto’s son may prove to be a reasonable leader – in 20 years time – or he may not.  The nation, it seems to me, would be better served to let the Darwinian effects of a meritocracy decide the party’s leaders rather than following a simple lineage of marriage and DNA.

More:

The issue of democracy is enormously important in a country that has been governed by the military for over half of its life. Pakistan is not a “failed state” in the sense of the Congo or Rwanda. It is a dysfunctional state and has been in this situation for almost four decades.

At the heart of this dysfunctionality is the domination by the army and each period of military rule has made things worse. It is this that has prevented political stability and the emergence of stable institutions. Here the US bears direct responsibility, since it has always regarded the military as the only institution it can do business with and, unfortunately, still does so. This is the rock that has focused choppy waters into a headlong torrent.

The military’s weaknesses are well known and have been amply documented. But the politicians are not in a position to cast stones. After all, Mr Musharraf did not pioneer the assault on the judiciary so conveniently overlooked by the US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. The first attack on the Supreme Court was mounted by Nawaz Sharif’s goons who physically assaulted judges because they were angered by a decision that ran counter to their master’s interests when he was prime minister.

The handling of Ms. Bhutto’s return, her failed protection, and the bungling of the aftermath of her murder all point against the legitimacy and maturity of the Pakistani government as represented by General Musharraf.

Other commentators such as Andrew McCarthy disagree with Ali’s sentiment that the Pakistani military is the central problem and see it as the only source of stability in Pakistan.

Appointing a mere boy as the leader of a major opposition party does nothing to dispel that idea. 

Yet the military’s artificial enforcement of stability cannot last.  Countervailing forces will only build – as they’ve done under Musharraf’s rule – until they cannot be restrained.  The resulting explosion could easily – and may yet – be worse than the effects of having allowed events to take their natural course.

This is why Pakistani executives’ regular undermining of the Supreme Court is so damaging:  There is no rule of law to fall back on in times of trouble, nothing that can and must be defended when the principles of government are ever-changing.

Where is the leader who will recognize that principle?  Where are the political groups that realize that ability, character, and ideas matter more than bloodlines and military force?  The latter, it seems, would lead to the former, assuming the absence of a fundamentalist revolution, a major assumption.

Bhutto Dynasty to Continue

30.12.2007 (11:43 pm) – Filed under: Pakistan ::

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The NY Times writes that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been selected to be the future leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, replacing his slain mother.

The moves by Ms. Bhutto’s opposition party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, were clearly aimed at marshaling an outpouring of grief and anger to electoral advantage in the Jan. 8 parliamentary election. 

His father, Asif Ali Zardari, said he would manage the chairmanship on his son’s behalf until he finished his university degree, for a minimum of three years.

At the news conference, the elder Mr. Zardari said he would not run in the election and therefore would not be the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

That job, he said, would probably go to the party vice president, the veteran party leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim, but that was a decision, he added, that would have to be made by party leaders.

To say the Wikipedia link above is sketchy would be overstating its completeness.  So what do we know about Fahim?

Not much.  Allegedly the job of prime minister was his for the taking in 2002.  All Fahim had to do was disavow Benazir Bhutto to step into the position and he refused.  Loyalty clearly counts for something,  But what, exactly?

The selection of a college student as their nominal leader shows that the PPP is in trouble.  Will Fahim be a capable leader and steward of the Bhutto legacy?  Will he embrace the anti-terrorist positions that, in large part, cost Benazir Bhutto her life?  And will he cede leadership of the party to her son when the time comes?  All questions without answers. 

Personally I find the idea of a 3rd generation Bhutto dynasty somewhat uninspiring.  Is there no more capable leader for the party of democratic reform in all of Pakistan than a 19-year-old boy?  Yes, he has the right name.  But at present that, plus some vaguely defined tutelage at the hands of his murdered mother, is all he has.  I understand that emotions are running high right now and that Ms. Bhutto, were she still among us, would want the PPP to use everything it has to win the upcoming elections should they be held as scheduled.  Yet in the long run relying on the namesake of a royal line is a poor substitute for selecting leaders based on merit.

These reservations aside, I’m glad to see that the PPP is not giving up without a fight.  The Pakistani people, like people everywhere, deserve to choose their own leaders as they see fit, to replace them using the ballot box if they disappoint, and to hold political criminals accountable to the rule to law.

It had been clear for some time that the PPP was the only major party capable of delivering these principles to the people.  Whether that’s still possible remains to be seen.

Murder on the Road to Democracy

27.12.2007 (10:25 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Liberalism,Pakistan ::

I have to admit that I’m stuck on Benazir Bhutto. 

Quoting Mark Steyn again, “She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be”.

Writing about her murder, Andrew McCarthy had this to say about the nation she once led and, I think, would have directed again in 2008, had she not been blown up in the streets of Pakistan’s capital:

There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.

Then there is the real Pakistan: an enemy of the United States and the West. 

McCarthy isn’t speaking of the official government of Pakistan, of course, but rather of the large, festering pockets of Islamic radicals who seethe just beneath the surface of our erstwhile ally’s society.

The real Pakistan is a place where the military, ineffective and half-hearted though it is in combating Islamic terror, is the thin line between today’s boiling pot and what tomorrow is more likely to be a jihadist nuclear power than a Western-style democracy.

In that real Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto’s murder is not shocking. There, it was a matter of when, not if.

Pervez Musharraf, McCarthy says, is not the problem.  In his view the people of Pakistan are the problem and he pulls out the CNN poll that showed Pakistanis supported Osama bin Laden 5% more than Musharraf and 5 times more than George Bush.

But Benazir Bhutto was a threat to the jihadists because she was both hostile to their fundamentalist beliefs and likely to gain power next year.  She was killed because people supported her and this fact demonstrates yet again how inherently evil the jihadists are and that there is hope yet for Pakistan to join the ranks of civilized nations.

McCarthy doesn’t think that is likely and I can’t say as I blame him, although I do expect someone to step up and hoist Ms. Bhutto’s banner into the air, regardless of the risk.

The transformation from Islamic society to true democracy is a long-term project. It would take decades if it can happen at all. Meanwhile, our obsessive insistence on popular referenda is naturally strengthening — and legitimizing — the people who are popular: the jihadists. Popular elections have not reformed Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Neither will they reform a place where Osama bin Laden wins popular opinion polls and where the would-be reformers are bombed and shot at until they die.

we should at least stop fooling ourselves. Jihadists are not going to be wished away, rule-of-lawed into submission, or democratized out of existence. If you really want democracy and the rule of law in places like Pakistan, you need to kill the jihadists first. Or they’ll kill you, just like, today, they killed Benazir Bhutto.

On this point westerners should all be able to agree, though I expect that we won’t.

We are too scattered and too scatter-brained to circle up around the truth, which is that there is no truce to be negotiated with men whose immediate response to Benazir Bhutto’s leadership is to plot and execute cold-blooded murder.

Denying this, our intellectual elite, represented so well by the likes of the faculty of Columbia University, among others, too often act as influential apologists for Muslim terrorists to the detriment of western society.

This is, of course, another strike against them from the perspective of the common person.  We recognize immediately that high priests should not dictate legalities to citizens, that women should be able to educate themselves, dress as they will, and participate in and lead governments, that victims of rape should not be castigated or bull-whipped, and that a proper response to an offensive book, beauty pageant, or teddy bear’s name is not rioting and murder.  That the self-appointed best and brightest among us are willing to split intellectual hairs over the relative value of radical Muslims’ contribution to the global family of man and the moral code that drives them to mass murder is both offensive and an abuse of the position of influence these men and women occupy in our society.

Judging from his excellent article, it seems that Andrew McCarthy understands this quite well.  I wish the Americans and other westerners who lend comfort to our enemies – and the killers of Benazir Bhutto – actually saw matters as clearly as they think they do. 

But it seems to me that our elite are utterly occupied with their opposition to all things conservative and Christian and so choose to make common cause, as David Horowitz describes eloquently, with people who can only be described as the intelligentsia’s worst nightmare.

As the extermination of Benazir Bhutto reminds us, the ultimate form of anti-intellectualism is being practiced as law in many places in the world even now.  Its name is Sharia and it should not be confused with either liberal or conservative politics as practiced in western democracies.

Freedom Dead in Pakistan?

27.12.2007 (11:52 am) – Filed under: Islam,Pakistan ::

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When Benazir Bhutto first decided to return to Pakistan to attempt to reclaim power I commented on a post by Kevin Sullivan to the effect that her return was more likely to lead to blood in the streets than democracy.

Sadly, that rather obvious guess has proven true:  Benazir Bhutto is dead, killed by an suicide assassin at a political rally in Islamabad.

Has hope for democracy and freedom in Pakistan died with her? 

Personally I don’t think so.  Ms. Bhutto, the daughter of former premier Zulfikar Bhutto, was a popular public figure and the nearest thing to royalty that the Pakistani nation could look toward.  Twice elected to be the country’s prime minister, Bhutto was also allegedly corrupt – she was removed from office on both occasions, smeared by a damning paper trail of circumstantial evidence.

Ms. Bhutto was, in other words, the inspiring but flawed leader at the head of a sizable contingent of people, idealists who surely still want more for their country than for it to merely be the home of radical killers whose ideas consistently lead only to the death and destruction of their bettors.

I do not believe that her supporters will allow her dream for a democratic, secular Pakistan to die with her.

Mark Steyn says that “Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan had a mad recklessness about it which give today’s events a horrible inevitability.”

Her death was, I think, the only way that her bid for power in Pakistan could possibly have ended.  The radical Muslims who would see Pakistan turned into a nuclear theocracy and who will not rest until this vile goal has been achieved would not and could not accept Benazir Bhutto as their superior.

Steyn also says this:

From an Islamist point of view, when we try to export our influence to Islamabad, it’s a bust. When they try to export their influence to the west – via the perpetrators of the London Tube bombing, the Daniel Pearl killing, etc – they seem to have rather more luck.

That is because we seek to create while our enemies need only destroy.  Like the mad acts of a petulant child, their rage is at once incomprehensible and uncontrollable.

Surely Ms. Bhutto knew this, particularly after being welcomed home with a bomb attempt on her life that killed more than 150 people.

Why then did she persist?  Perhaps because she recognized that the radicals who demanded her death must be opposed at every turn in order to keep the light of freedom from going out. 

Whether in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, or Europe, democracy is under attack from an enemy that has no respect whatever for the principles of individual rights, legal protections, or representative government.  These proponents of literal Islam actively seek to destroy what generations have labored so tirelessly to build.  Ms. Bhutto’s murder – among with so many others – clearly demonstrates the fact that they will stop at nothing.  In turn we must respond in kind.

Ultimately this knowledge, if we can integrate it into our individual understanding of the world and our nations’ policies, may be Benazir Bhutto’s greatest gift to the world.