Saturday, August 04, 2007

'Mujahideen Policy' backfired ??

Pearl Buck once quoted, 'If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday’. These words have been standing relevant for years that have passed by and continue to do so even today. Prioritizing the dangers that the globe is facing contemporarily, terrorism bags the first prize and seemingly would continue to maintain its fear and importance for generations to come.

Terrorist acts have been in existence for millennia, as early as the 1st -14th Century AD when the earliest known terrorist organization was the ‘Zealots of Judea’. It is completely inept to state that, terrorism is a concept arising from the religion of ‘Islam’. This mythical statement also tends to generalize them to the whole community and is the base for creating stereotypes.
Though the headlines created by terrorist acts have been flooding the newspaper and electronic media since 9/11 and has come to stay as another aspect of everyday news medium, the psychological fear created by the same can still be traced in not just specific regions, but the world as whole.

General statements and media interpretations make one believe that, it has sprouted from “Islam”. This to a degree may be considered acceptable but reviewing the chapters of history, one need not read between the lines to understand that the seeds of the terrorism trend of today were borne by the countries that are now crying out as a victim of the same. These countries cannot be just limited to the western powers but would also engulf Pakistan after the Lal Masjid siege. The cry babies of today may be making audacious statements about their ‘War against Terror’, but it is prudent (for them and others) to realize that it is their acts in the yesteryears which have made the planet a fertile ground for ‘Terrorism’.
With the latest Lal Masjid conflict creating a wave of protests and suicide bombings in Pakistan, some blanketed facts have come out in the open as a shameful truth. The country which was once on the verge of being declared a terrorist state is now suffering from its own creatures. Since 9/11, USA has been the most prominent country to wage a ‘War against Terror’ condoning the fact that these same organizations and so-called terrorists of today were financed and supported by it just a few decades before. Tracing back the name of Osama Bin Laden, Fazlur Rahman and organizations like Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-E-Taiba, studies bring us to the era of the US supported Mujahideens and the proxy war against the Red Army of the then Soviets.
The Soviet Afghan War (1979-1989), a clash of the Soviet regulars with the rogue, indefinable and irregulars of the Afghan guerrilla force i.e. The Mujahideen. The covert war or the war by proxy was an effective political device exploited by the superpowers to contain Communism. This was not only cost effective tool but also gave legitimacy to ‘Jihad’, the same concept which haunts millions of heart and sends a shiver down the spine of many political citizens of the world. This episode was a boom period for the use of extremist form of religion which had no State borders, and no laws but its own. U.S.A assessed the importance of guerilla forces and tried to capitalize on them.
For Pakistan, this was only an experimental ground to reckon the strength and importance of irregular armies but was also perceived as a logical alternative for a country with a small armed force. Pakistan trained an estimate of 5000 Mujahideen and channeled aid to the Hazaras located in central Afghanistan. The covert war was funded almost unfathomably by the United States of America and can be considered the largest covert operation ever planned by the superpower. Pakistan’s feast with US funding the rain of arms and ammunitions was not an unreasonable or illogical one. ISI was too the gaining party with the above mentioned with the complete authority of the distribution of weapons and resources. The undying support of the CIA during the time added to the euphoria.
The glorification of Jihad and its unsounded application portrayed the war as ‘Just’ and religiously satisfying for people or potential recruits who has the slightest of doubt on the piousness of the mission. Thus, with the internationalization of the cause, there were umpteen amounts of recruits ranging from Turkey, Sudan, Bangladesh, Palestine, and indeed from all places with Islamists, who could relate themselves to the religious nature of the War and wanted to be a participant for the ‘Call for Jihad’ against the Soviets.
There was also an element to the wars which could not be considered a budding factor for the funding of the war, and this was none other than drugs and narcotics. There was a non-accountable funding of the mission by the use of drugs. Thus, the war was not only limited to the use of Jihad but also the undying use of drugs and money generated by it.
The war escalated with the success with the Afghan’s supported by its then dear friend U.S.A. the camps and madrassas became the recruitment agencies for people hailing from multiple countries. It was during this time, that the organization of Jamaat-e-Islami was thriving. Hit and run tactic was the most unbeaten ploy as the Mujahideen’s were novice when it came to frontal attack.
The ‘Mujahideen policy’ used by the U.S. to contain communism proved triumphant as the walk towards success was eventually complete. Thus, the use of Mujahideen’s through the support and training of Pakistan, U.S had nothing to regret as the war was won with almost no casualties on the U.S’s side.
Then was the era when the seeds of today’s terrorism can be vividly seen. It was reported that a major sum of the arms directed towards the Mujahideen irregular army was siphoned by the Pakistani army which added to their store of arms and artillery.
After experiencing the success of the Mujahideen’s in the war, Pakistan computed the potential of this strategy and deployed the same trained Mujahideens towards the Kashmir valley with another call for Jihad, hoping it to be an accomplishment for the second time in a row. The training took place in high spirits and the infiltration of the Indian land started from the mid-1988. This newly defined cause was not limited to India but its waves could even be felt in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. With the overt utilization of these Mujahideen’s, there was a threat on Pakistan and high probability of it being considered a ‘Terrorist State’.
With this swords hanging over the region, it withdrew its support from the organizations officially but covertly shored up the terrorist groups through retired ISI officers. This in due course led to the ‘Privatization’ of these groups with less backing with names like Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI), Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Markaze-Dawa-al-Ishad mushrooming in the region. These new groups were highly trained and skilled in their actions and had independent funding systems from abroad and home.
Over years, Pakistan has condoned the activities of the groups and maintained globally that Pakistan would never resort to any support to the groups branded as terrorist organizations. The Superpowers seemed to have been repeating the ‘Policy of appeasement’ used during the pre-second world war era. The same policy with alterations and higher degree of diplomacy is being used contemporarily.
All the terrorists groups of today are dominating the Pak-Afghan border and their tactics and strategies are coming becoming more and more heinous with the latest technology pouring up in their favor through their loyal friends in the International arena. The Mujahideens that were fashioned during the Afghan-Soviet war have now produced an undisputed tree that has its roots cleft throughout the ground of globe.
The armies rule in Pakistan is off-late suffering from the same rotten fruits that it has trained and supported in the olden times. Multiple factors that confluence together and stand responsible for the present threat of the imposition of emergency in Pakistan, is not just 'extremist's owned' (as they brand it) but also politically backed by Pakistani government (government here can be synonymous to Pakistani army) which it cannot deny. The conflict of Lal Masjid is a perfect example to cite in order to uncover the underground activities of the extremists within the political premises of Pakistan. Throughout its existence, it has enjoyed patronage from influential members of the government, prime ministers, army chiefs, and presidents. The mosque has for many years been at the centre of radical and fundamentalist teaching and has been openly propagating its pro-Taliban slant. The recovery of numerous guns and arms from the Lal Masjid, President Pervez Musharraf has been ashamed of his lenient approach in fighting against the extremists. His words on the national television, "Unfortunately we have been up against our own people... they had strayed from the right path and become susceptible to terrorism”, are nothing but a diplomatic style of face saving and showing to the world that they are with the in the ‘War against Terrorist’.
Thus, he and his still so friendly superpower should realize that, in the garb of Mujahideen’s, they had created an army of terrorists which have backfired on to themselves. The only difference between the other countries suffering from terrorist activities and Pakistan is that, the former are suffering from elements outside their country and the latter is a victim of their own malcontents.

The final question that now springs up needles me to think...

...Has the ‘Mujahideen policy’, created by America and sustained by Pakistan backfired??
- AM

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Covering Islam, Book Review

Published by Vintage 1997, this book ‘Covering Islam’ by Edward W. Said is the third in the series of the book that had first hit the shelf a decade and a half ago. In this updated version, Edward W. Said spotlights the role of American Media in penetrating a hostile and orthodox image of Islamic people in the minds of American general public.

The book comprises of Introduction to the Vintage Edition followed by an updated introduction by the author. The book further on in its three chapters engulfs various aspects of misinterpretation and misinformation about the Islamic world in the western minds and media.

The introduction to the Vintage Edition explains the serious deterioration in the practice of fair portrayal of the Islamic world and illustrating the same by a highly inflated stereotyping and aggressive hostility. He grieves over the deformation of Islam in the west equating it to ‘fundamentalism’ and reinforcing every negative fact with Islam. This introduction also highlights the contributions from pro- Israeli books and journals which endeavor to portray Israel as the victim of Islamic violence.

In the first chapter of the book, namely ‘Islam as news’, Edward Said traces the history that mirrors how Islamic armies and navies threatened Europe and still persists as a ‘threat’ to the west (p. 5-6). Edward claims that America has lacked interaction with the Islamic world which makes it tough for Americans to understand the depth of this religion and customs, unlike France and UK which have sheltered a major Muslim populace in their country (p. 13-14). The writer seems to have failed to notice the rising Muslim population in America which contradicts his claim in the book.

Outlining the strategic importance of Iran, the author has impressively used news articles to accentuate criticism of American media machinery. He centers the subject of representation of Islam as a formidable competitor of the west and seemingly a latecoming challenge to Christianity. Effectively stating the use of Islam by the geopolitical strategists and liberal intellectuals, Edward supports his claims by highlighting relevant information and extracts from relevant articles that periodically appeared in newspapers over years. The last part of the first chapter provides particulars about the controversial film, Death of a Princess and the diplomatic incidences involved.

In the second segment of the book, he illustrates news reports and newspaper articles on Iranian revolution further clarifying the way generality and experts on Islam resulted in misinterpretation of Khomeini and ignored the positive aspects of the revolution. Said has criticized the American media on the aspect that it functions like the mouthorgan of the government. This analysis is justified to a degree but Said should comprehend that fact that during a time of instability and crisis, the media attempts to adjust its tone in order to maintain the sanctity of nation’s sovereignty and image.

Edward in his third section of the book overtly states that the knowledge and coverage of the Islamic world in the USA are defined by geopolitics and economic interest (p. 153-154). Said suggests the interpreters and writers to know thoroughly about the alien culture before they pen down a statement which exudes vibes of bias.

Some statements and arguments in the book tend to create walls of controversy which if battered could turn out to be irrational discussions against the west. Said has endeavored to portray the other side of the mirror with substantial statements and facts but when the accounts boil down to reality, the cartoon controversy and reaction of the Muslims concerning Pope’s statement make it difficult for the western world to swallow every word or argument in the book. In the nutshell, this book is a excellent piece of work to know about the unexplored side of Islam but somewhere the waves of bias make it a bit difficult to absorb every aspect of the book.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Men Who Make Dreams Come True...

The skies of dubai can never seen easily without at least one crane in your view. Industry experts cautiously estimate that 15% to 25% of the world's cranes are in Dubai. Presently. Dubai is experiencing a construction boon in Dubai and the UAE, in general is a much faster process than in any Western country.
Dubai, one of the leading business hub that has been facing criticism from the international community regarding the abusive labor practices. More than half of Dubai's one million people are poor immigrants from South Asia and the Philippines. The land of golden dreams has turned out to be a land of nightmare of thousands of workers.
Human Rights Watch on the November 12th, 2006 released a 71-page report on the appalling conditions faced by the UAE's migrant construction workers. Entitled 'Building Towers, Cheating Workers' the report is highly critical of the UAE Government and calls on them to hold employers accountable for breaking the law

Facts and Figure:
Number of expatriate workers in the UAE
2.738,000 million In 2005the number is a 17 per cent increase over 2004, when there were 2.342,000 expatriate workers recorded in the UAE.
Estimates: According to estimations from 10 consulates and embassies representing the bulk of UAE workforce, there are between 2.8 million to 3.4 million expatriates living in the UAE.
Where they come from: Estimates include residents and workers for some countries:

India: 1.1 million

Pakistan: 750,000

Bangladesh: 400,000? 500,000

Iran: 300,000? 400,000 (residents and workers)

Jordan: 200,000 (residents and workers)

Philippines: 200,000

Sri Lanka: 150,000 (officials suspect much higher figure in reality)

UK: 120, 000 (residents and workers)

Nepal: 70,000? 80,000

Lebanon: 60,000 (residents and workers)

Egypt: No figures available

Syria: No figures available

Number of workers in construction: 500, 000 workers directly in construction
Salary range of laborers: Unskilled workers: Dh400 to Dh650 skilled workers: Dh750 to Dh1, 500Other laborers: Between Dh2.5 to Dh6.5 an hour. (Source: Gulf News)

It is anticipated for the population of the UAE to reach 5 million in census reports that have yet to see the light of day. No official figures exist but it is generally accepted that the breakdown of the population is roughly as follows. There could, therefore, be as many as 2.5 million unskilled migrant workers in the UAE.

World Bank Facts
In the report of April 2003 on Global Development Finance, World Bank reckoned that the remittances sent home by migrant workers shot to $80 billion in 2002, up from $60 billion in 1998.
These payments are significant and stable sources of finance for the developing countries in comparison to the private lending and development assistance by authorities.
The major countries receiving large remittances include Bangladesh ($2.1 billion in 2001), Egypt ($2.9 billion), India ($10 billion), Indonesia ($1 billion), Jordan ($2 billion), Lebanon ($2.3 billion), Morocco ($3.3 billion), Pakistan ($1.5 billion), the Philippines ($6.4 billion), Sri Lanka ($1.1 billion) and Yemen ($1.5 billion).
(Source: World Bank Site)

Tracing back the Conditions of the workers :
The demonstrations and aggression by some laborers in the recent past are distressing and alarming. The construction companies have been facing the ire on numerous issues ranging from poor living conditions to less or sometimes ‘no salaries’. The unreasonable standards of food and accommodation to the workers have also been highlighted upon.
As reported by AFP and Reuters new agencies, a demonstration of immigrant workers was organized on September, 2005. The procession engulfed the discontent of thousands of workers who expressed their ire against the terrible living conditions and non-payment of salaries.
Another incident came to pass on the December 23rd 2005, when Dozens of unpaid workers protested against the authorities at their labor camp for 10 days. The workers had a cut off from the outside world and survived on dates from a nearby farm.
(Source: Prol-position newsletter)
These unorganized forms of protests are just the tip of the ice-berg and gradually, time has made us realized the true facts of the maltreatment of the expatriate workers. In the present context, ‘good treatment’ of workers just stays a mere paper promise with bare differences in the condition of the workers.
The HRW report highlights the fact that the workers toil hard to sum up the money for the arrangement of a work visa and pay the recruitment agency around US $2,000 to $3000. The workers are pressurized to repay the debts and receive an insignificant amount ranging from $106 to $250 per month, contrast starkly with the national average wage of $2,106 per month. It is not viable to change the employer visa once inside the country. It is unlawful to form association of union which the fundamental reason of an unorganized resistance or one voice against the ills committed on the expatriate workers.
The practice of confiscation of the passports of the workers for the duration of the stay in the UAE. They are kept as "security" to stop workers from leaving which is not news but a usual affair which id accepted as a part of the game.
There are scores of Human Right Watch reports and local media articles that raises copious abuses inflicted upon the workers and diverting the attention of the officials towards this imperative issue of human rights abuse.
A report of HRW featured the facts that included extremly low wages, several years of arrearage for the money spent for the process, withholding employees’ passports and hazardous working conditions to the point of being deadly, resulting in high death rates and injury.
Independent research by a construction trade publication, Construction Week, found that a total of 880 migrant construction workers died in the UAE in 2004: 460 from India, 375 from Pakistan and approximately forty-five from Bangladesh. As informed by the Indian consulate in Dubai, 971 death cases have been registered in 2005.”
(Source: From the Human Rights Watch Report - “Building Towers, Cheating Workers”)
With the passage of time, Dubai authorities have been working towards the betterment and the welfare of the workers. The Labor ministry is shouldering the responsibility of undertaking multiple steps in accordance with the international organization and international labor law. There have been many promises and inspections but one can never be certain without having a glimpse of the changes and improving conditions.

Steps proposed by government:
On the November 9, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai regulated the authorities to take fundamental measures to ensure the safety of the rights of the expatriate workers and significantly improving the living conditions.
There is an order to mushroom a mechanism that empowers workers to receive what is rightfully theirs. It is proposed to initiate a plan which enables the workers to switch jobs without any obstacles in accordance with the rules set by the UAE and the Ministry of Labor. The procedure concerning the change of job is an imperative scheme that will avoid inhibiting mobility.
There are negotiations regarding laws regarding a labor court, setting fixed working hours for domestic help and regulating the contracts of guest workers. A need of a watchdog to monitor the conditions of the workforce is a highlighting concern of the present. There are negotiations concerning this supervisory body. Provisions of health insurance schemes and a machinery to prevent delays in age payment of the workers are being initiated by the authorities.

Other measures projected to help laborers
- Creation of a specialized court for dealing with labor complaints and mistreatment cases.

- Setting up of a special inspection unit, comprising of 2,000 inspectors to monitor labor accommodations and workplaces.

- An urgent study to be conducted to investigate the roles and capabilities of labor supply companies, and to make sure that they comply with the laws and prevent them from abusing workers' rights.
(Source: Gulf News Report)

UAE’s agreement with 4 Asian countries:
A gulf news report accounted that a labor agreement is to be signed between the UAE and four Asian countries namely, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The agreement would leave no scope for the middlemen to take advantage of the laborers.
There would be a high degree of transparency among the parties regarding the structure, obligations and responsibilities. The countries will be receiving a draft of the Memorandum of understanding which is scheduled to be signed by the end of this year which is directed towards regulation of the entry of foreign workforce. We welcome this ‘swift response and inherent acknowledgement of the problem of abuse', but its vital to highlight the continuation of the ban on trade union, despite earlier promises to legalize the same.
We therefore hope that the new proposals don’t share the previous fate of broken promises and mushroom into a concrete solution for the workers, who are the base of the heights that Dubai has achieved in the past few years.

- AM