Pakistan beats most nations in racial tolerance

April 27, 2015


When two Swedish economists set out to examine whether economic freedom made people any more or less racist, they knew how they would gauge economic freedom, but they needed to find a way to measure a country’s level of racial tolerance. So they turned to something called the World Values Survey, which has been measuring global attitudes and opinions for decades.

Among the dozens of questions that World Values asks, the Swedish economists found one that, they believe, could be a pretty good indicator of tolerance for other races. The survey asked respondents in more than 80 different countries to identify kinds of people they would not want as neighbors. Some respondents, picking from a list, chose “people of a different race.” The more frequently that people in a given country say they don’t want neighbors from other races, the economists reasoned, the less racially tolerant you could call that society. (The study concluded that economic freedom had no correlation with racial tolerance, but it does appear to correlate with tolerance toward homosexuals.)

Unfortunately, the Swedish economists did not include all of the World Values Survey data in their final research paper. So I went back to the source, compiled the original data and mapped it out on the infographic above. In the bluer countries, fewer people said they would not want neighbors of a different race; in red countries, more people did.

If we treat this data as indicative of racial tolerance, then we might conclude that people in the bluer countries are the least likely to express racist attitudes, while the people in red countries are the most likely.

Compare the results to this map of the world’s most and least diverse countries.

Before we dive into the data, a couple of caveats. First, it’s entirely likely that some people lied when answering this question; it would be surprising if they hadn’t. But the operative question, unanswerable, is whether people in certain countries were more or less likely to answer the question honestly. For example, while the data suggest that Swedes are more racially tolerant than Finns, it’s possible that the two groups are equally tolerant but that Finns are just more honest. The willingness to state such a preference out loud, though, might be an indicator of racial attitudes in itself. Second, the survey is not conducted every year; some of the results are very recent and some are several years old, so we’re assuming the results are static, which might not be the case.

Here’s what the data show:

• Anglo and Latin countries most tolerant. People in the survey were most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor in the United Kingdom and its Anglo former colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and in Latin America. The only real exceptions were oil-rich Venezuela, where income inequality sometimes breaks along racial lines, and the Dominican Republic, perhaps because of its adjacency to troubled Haiti. Scandinavian countries also scored high.

• India and Jordan by far the least tolerant. In only two of 81 surveyed countries, more than 40 percent of respondents said they would not want a neighbor of a different race. This included 43.5 percent of Indians and 51.4 percent of Jordanian. (Note: World Values’ data for Bangladesh and Hong Kong appear to have been inverted, with in fact only 28.3 and 26.8 percent, respectively, having indicated they would not want a neighbor of a different race. Please see correction at the bottom of this post.)

• Wide, interesting variation across Europe. Immigration and national identity are big, touchy issues in much of Europe, where racial make-ups are changing. Though you might expect the richer, better-educated Western European nations to be more tolerant than those in Eastern Europe, that’s not exactly the case. France appeared to be one of the least racially tolerant countries on the continent, with 22.7 percent saying they didn’t want a neighbor of another race. Former Soviet states such as Belarus and Latvia scored as more tolerant than much of Europe. Many in the Balkans, perhaps after years of ethnicity-tinged wars, expressed lower racial tolerance.

• The Middle East not so tolerant. Immigration is also a big issue in this region, particularly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which often absorb economic migrants from poorer neighbors.

• Racial tolerance low in diverse Asian countries. Nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where many racial groups often jockey for influence and have complicated histories with one another, showed more skepticism of diversity. This was also true, to a lesser extent, in China and Kyrgyzstan. There were similar trends in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

• South Korea, not very tolerant, is an outlier. Although the country is rich, well-educated, peaceful and ethnically homogenous – all trends that appear to coincide with racial tolerance – more than one in three South Koreans said they do not want a neighbor of a different race. This may have to do with Korea’s particular view of its own racial-national identity as unique – studied by scholars such as B.R. Myers – and with the influx of Southeast Asian neighbors and the nation’s long-held tensions with Japan.

• Pakistan, remarkably tolerant, also an outlier. Although the country has a number of factors that coincide with racial intolerance – sectarian violence, its location in the least-tolerant region of the world, low economic and human development indices – only 6.5 percent of Pakistanis objected to a neighbor of a different race. This would appear to suggest Pakistanis are more racially tolerant than even the Germans or the Dutch.

Update: I’ve heard some version of one question from an overwhelming number of readers: “I’ve met lots of Indians and Americans and found the former more racially tolerant than the latter. How can these results possibly be correct?” I’d suggest three possible explanations for this, some combination of which may or may not be true. First, both India and the U.S. are enormous countries; anecdotal interactions are not representative of the whole, particularly given that people who are wealthy enough to travel internationally may be likely to encounter some subsets of these respective populations more than others.

Second, the survey question gets to internal, personal preferences; what the respondents want. One person’s experiences hanging out with Americans or Indians, in addition to being anecdotal, only tell you about their outward behavior. Both of those ways of observing racial attitudes might suggest something about racial tolerance, but they’re different indicators that measure different things, which could help explain how one might contradict the other.

Third, the survey question is a way of judging racial tolerance but, like many social science metrics, is indirect and imperfect. I cited the hypothetical about Swedes and Finns at the top of this post, noting that perhaps some people are just more honest about their racial tolerance than others. It’s entirely possible that we’re seeing some version of this effect in the U.S.-India comparison; maybe, for example, Americans are conditioned by their education and media to keep these sorts of racial preferences private, i.e. to lie about them on surveys, in a way that Indians might not be. That difference would be interesting in itself, but alas there is no survey question for honesty.

Correction: This post originally indicated that, according to the World Values Survey, 71.7 percent of Bangladeshis and 71.8 percent of Hong Kongers had said that they would not want a neighbor of a different race. In fact, those numbers appear to be substantially lower, 28.3 percent and 26.8 percent, respectively. In both cases, World Values appears to have erroneously posted the incorrect data on its Web site. Ashirul Amin, posting at the Tufts University Fletcher School’s emerging markets blog, looked into the data for Bangladesh and discovered the mistake. My thanks to Amin, who is Bangladeshi and was able to read the original questionnaire, for pointing this out. His analysis is worth reading in full, but here’s his conclusion:

The short answer is, yes, someone did fat finger this big time. “Yes” and “No” got swapped in the second round of the survey, which means that 28.3% of Bangladeshis said they wouldn’t want neighbors of a different race – not 71.7%.

26K Facebook likers and 2.5K Tweeters, take note.

Amin adds, “Bangladeshis are a tolerant bunch — it’s ok to come visit.” The error in the Hong Kong data, first discovered by Chinese-speaking users on Reddit, was flagged by Engadget Chinese editor Richard Lai. Ng Chun Hung, a University of Hong Kong professor who was the principal investigator on World Values’ survey there, confirmed via e-mail that the data had been transposed on the survey company’s Web site. He added that he has written the World Values Survey team to alert it to this and ask it to remove the faulty data. My thanks to him, as well as to Lai and the Reddit users who dug through original Chinese-language survey forms to demonstrate the error.


Area 14/8

Why are Pakistanis happier than Indians?

April 27, 2015

Do Pakistanis envy India’s apparent economic progress or curse their own run-in with terrorism and economic difficulties? Whatever the truth they are the happier people compared with the Indians, according to a UN-sponsored study quoted by Press Trust of India (PTI) on Friday. (Parts of the story were published in Dawn on Friday.)

Generosity is a key indicator in which the Pakistanis are several points ahead of their big neighbour. Pakistan’s cabbies and shopkeepers have proved the point every time a group of Indians comes calling to watch a cricket match or visit a shrine.

“Indians are less happy than their counterparts in Pakistan and Bangladesh,” said PTI quoting the report published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which is a global initiative for the United Nations.

India comes in at the 117th spot out of 158 countries in the 2015 World Happiness Report. Pakistan is ranked 81 and Bangladesh, 109. Places like Ukraine (111), Palestine (108) and Iraq (112) too come up higher than India on the index.

The report takes into account GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices as indicators of happiness. India’s rank dropped six notches from the 2013 report, when it was on the 111th spot.

Switzerland has been named the happiest country in the world.

For Pakistan

The Clueless Drones

April 24, 2015


The White House released a statement today acknowledging the deaths of three U.S. citizens and one Italian citizen in recent U.S. counterterrorism operations. The statement and accompanying remarks by President Barack Obama are consistent with prior administration policy of admitting to the deaths of (most) American citizens by drone strikes, while refusing to provide transparency equal to that provided for almost all others killed. Under pressure from then-Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), then-Attorney General Eric Holder submitted a letter on May 22, 2013, that named four U.S. citizens killed in counterterrorism operations, with the caveat that three “were not specifically targeted by the United States.”

The clueless drones

The White House statement released on Thursday morning and Holder’s admission reveal what should be the most disturbing aspect of these counterterrorism operations: The United States simply does not know who it is killing. In total, eight U.S. citizens are believed to have been killed in U.S. counterterrorism operations, and only one of them was specifically, knowingly targeted: Anwar al-Awlaki. Except for Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, the other six unintended victims were characterized by U.S. officials — either before or after their deaths — as leaders or members of al Qaeda or al Qaeda-affiliated groups.

In fact, the U.S. government has still never officially acknowledged that its killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was unintentional. When the State Department was asked for details soon after his death was reported, it shamefully replied: “We are aware of media reports that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki has been killed; however, we have not received confirmation of his death from the government of Yemen. We have no additional information at this time.” An anonymous U.S. official later stated: “The U.S. government did not know that Mr. [Anwar] Awlaki’s son was there,” and that the intended target was an alleged Egyptian operative, Ibrahim al-Banna. It is disgraceful that President Obama has never issued a statement admitting to Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s mistaken killing, released the results of an investigation into the circumstances that led to his death, or apologized to Awlaki’s family.

I’m not saying that these men are good guys. Except for Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, each of the other unknowingly targeted Americans might have been members of al Qaeda or affiliated groups, or provided material support for external terrorist plots. However, the policy that allegedly guides U.S. counterterrorism operations does not justify the killing of those unknown individuals who by chance are later determined to be terrorists. In fact, the policy claims that when U.S. citizens are knowingly targeted, “the Department of Justice will conduct an additional legal analysis to ensure that such action may be conducted against the individual consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

Of course, if they are only revealed to be U.S. citizens after their death, no such additional legal analysis is possible to ensure the operation was consistent with the Constitution or U.S. law. And since the White House consistently refuses to provide any information about whether or how these individuals posed a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” we are forced to take its word that it was necessary to kill them. The policy also claims that the administration strongly prefers to capture Americans suspected of terrorism, rather than killing them. However, as I pointed out in my last column, the Obama administration simply does not adhere to its own policies.

Moreover, other policy fixes intended to protect against unintentional deaths of U.S. citizens would have been similarly pointless in most of these cases. Two years ago, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) co-sponsored the “Targeted Strike Oversight Reform Act of 2013.” This legislation purportedly adds an additional level of review to drone strikes against U.S. citizens who are “knowingly engaged in acts of international terrorism against the United States.” The act requires the director of national intelligence, within 15 days of receiving notification of a citizen’s having been specifically targeted, to “complete an independent alternative analysis (commonly referred to as ‘red-team analysis’) of the information.”

Sen. King claimed this legislation would “ensure that an independent group … reviews the facts and that the details of that review are shared with the Congressional Intelligence Committees.” The provision was placed into the classified annex of the Intelligence Authorization Act and signed into law in July 2014. But again, this only pertains to persons knowingly targeted by the administration. That means that in the cases of the eight American men killed by U.S. drone strikes, only for Anwar al-Awlaki would such a review have been possible.

The more important question for President Obama, who expressed his “profound regret” for the unintentional deaths of Dr. Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, is why this sentiment is reserved only for innocent noncombatants who happen to be Americans. Based upon the averages within the ranges provided by the New America Foundation, the Long War Journal, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been an estimated 522 U.S. targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia since 9/11, which have killed 3,852 people, 476 (or 12 percent) of whom were civilians.

However, whenever human rights groups produce credible reports about non-American civilians who are unintentionally killed, U.S. officials and spokespersons refuse to provide any information at all, and instead refer back to official policy statements — which themselves appear to contradict how the conduct of U.S. counterterrorism operations is supposed to be practiced. Moreover, even within traditional battlefields like Afghanistan or Iraq, the U.S. government refuses to provide information about harm caused to civilians. Last year in Afghanistan alone, the United Nations documented104 civilian deaths “from aerial operations by international military forces.” There were no statements from the relevant military commanders or White House about any of these victims.

Earlier this month, during a question-and-answer session at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, CIA director John Brennan pledged:

“We, the U.S. government, the U.S. military, are very, very careful about taking action that’s going to have collateral civilian impact. A lot of these stories that you hear about — in terms of ‘Oh my god, there are hundreds of civilians killed,’ whatever — a lot of that is propaganda that is put out by those elements that are very much opposed to the U.S. coming in and helping.”

“Propaganda.” That’s how U.S. officials deride research that challenges their assertions.

Unfortunately, there have been hundreds of civilians killed by U.S. counterterrorism operations, despite the very real precautions that the CIA and military undertake to prevent them. This is why, as I have writtenoftenpreviously, the United States has an obligation to those American and non-American civilians killed by drones to commission a study into U.S. targeted killing policies similar to the extensive one conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Without a full and complete accounting of this lethal tactic that has come to define U.S. foreign policy throughout the world, we will always be forced to rely upon the selective pledges provided by U.S. officials.

In light of this morning’s announcement, senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) andDianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have said that U.S. targeted killings policies should be reviewed. This obviously should have happened many years ago, and certainly after the CIA admitted on December 9, 2014, that it lacked the ability to “evaluate the effectiveness of the various tools, techniques, and operations used in our covert actions.” It is admirable that these congressional overseers recognize the need to do their oversight jobs today.

But if they cared so deeply about the treatment of the 119 suspected terrorists who entered the detention and interrogation program, 26 of whom were detained wrongfully, should they not be even more adamant about investigating the 3,800 civilians and suspected terrorists who have been killed from on high, and for whom there has been no recourse?

April 24, 2015

India’s cabinet has approved a bill that would allow some minors accused of “heinous” crimes to be tried as adults, the first step towards resolving a long-running debate highlighted by the fatal 2012 Delhi gang rape.

Many in India have demanded stricter punishment for minors aged 16-18 accused of crimes such as rape, murder, or acid attacks.

The issue came to the fore after the brutal attack on a student on a Delhi bus nearly three years ago in an incident that unleashed weeks of angry protests over India’s treatment of women.

One of the six men arrested for the student’s rape and murder was a 17-year-old juvenile. He was sentenced to the maximum three years detention.

The new bill, which would replace the existing Juvenile Justice Act, proposes a two-stage process that would first categorise crimes committed by juveniles as petty, serious or heinous.

A minor accused of committing a “heinous” crime would then be examined by a board of psychologists and social behaviour experts who would assess whether the defendant should be treated as a child or an adult.

“(The proposed legislation) brings about a balance that is sensitive to the rights of the child, protective of his legitimate interests and yet conscious of the need to deter crimes, especially brutal crimes against women,” a government statement said.

The bill considers “the increasing number of serious offences being committed by the persons in the age group of 16-18 years” and recognises “the rights of the victims as being equally important as the rights of the juveniles”, it said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the cabinet meeting that approved the introduction of the bill, the statement added.

The proposed legislation will have to pass through both houses of Indian parliament before it replaces the existing law.

Area 14/8

Indian drug boat mystery remains

April 24, 2015

Pakistan today said India has so far not shared any information with it about a Pakistani boat seized by it for carrying narcotics.

“We are aware of the Indian media reports. Our Mission in New Delhi has approached the Indian authorities to seek details of the boat (ownership, registration) and arrested crew. So far no information has been shared with us,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said responding to a question at the weekly briefing.

She said that drug trafficking was a very serious matter and curbing it requires cooperation among countries.

Aslam said India in principle should have informed Pakistan if a boat from it was carrying drugs was seized.

She said the DG Pakistan Maritime Security Agency has been asked to ascertain the facts.

“You may recall that a couple of months ago, Indian authorities and media alleged that a ‘terror boat’ from Pakistan, with explosives had been destroyed. For weeks, Indian authorities created media hype. It turned out to be a hoax and an embarrassment to India,” she said.

The boat carrying 232 kgs of narcotics, whose market value is pegged at Rs 600 crore, was seized and eight Pakistani crew onboard were arrested in a joint intelligence-based operation by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard from international waters off Gujarat coast on Tuesday.

Area 14/8

Stop blaming Iran!

April 24, 2015

Claims Iran is supplying the Houthis with weapons ignore the fact the group was already flush with American arms from ex-president Saleh.

As the Saudi bombing campaign against Houthi targets in Yemen continues, notwithstanding a temporary pause, the corporate media narrative about the conflict in Yemen is organised decisively around the idea that it is a proxy war between Iran on one side and the Saudis and United States on the other.

USA Today responded like Pavlov’s dog this week to a leak by Pentagon officials that it was sending the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the waters off Yemen, supposedly to intercept Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthis.  It turned out that the warship was being sent primarily to symbolise US support for the Saudis, and the Pentagon made no mention of Iranian arms when it announced the move.  But the story of the US navy intercepting Iranian arms was irresistible, because it fit so neatly into the larger theme of Iran arming and training the Houthis as its proxy military force in Yemen.

News stories on Yemen in recent months have increasingly incorporated a sentence or even a paragraph invoking the accusation that Iran has been arming the Houthis and using them to gain power in the Gulf. The State Department’s principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Gerald Feierstein nourished that narrative in Congressional testimony last week depicting Iran as having provided “financial support, weapons, training and intelligence” to the Houthis. Feierstein acknowledged that the Houthi movement is “not controlled directly by Iran”, but claimed a “significant growth in Iranian engagement” with the Houthis in the past year.

Like most popular myths the dominant narrative of the Houthi movement as Iranian proxy in Yemen is based on a kernel of truth: the Houthis share the Iranians’ dim views of American intentions in the Middle East and have sought to take advantage of the Hezbollah model to enhance their political-military effectiveness.

Houthis rise – myth and reality

But the assumption that the Houthis have been looking to Iran to train their troops or supply their need for weapons ignores the most basic facts of their ascendance. The Houthis built up their military forces from virtually nothing to as many 100,000 troops today through a series of six wars with Yemeni government troops. In the process they have not only become much better trained, but have acquired a vast pool of arms from Yemen’s black market. A United Nations Experts’ report earlier this year cites estimates that Yemen is awash with 40 to 60 million weapons. The Houthis were also getting a continuing stream of modern arms directly from corrupt Yemeni military commanders from 2004 through 2010.

And in their eagerness to conform to the general theme of an Iran vs US-Saudi proxy war in Yemen, the media’s treatment of alleged Iranian arms to the Houthis has ignored the fact that the Houthis had forged an alliance by early 2014 with a far larger source of arms: former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It was that alliance that propelled the Houthis into power last September, not their ties with Iran.

After Saleh was forced to step down as president in 2012, the government supposedly reorganised the military and Saleh’s son Ahmed Ali Saleh was ousted as commander of the Republican Guard. But in fact Saleh continued to control the military through his allies in most of the command positions. When the Houthi advanced on Sanaa last September, it was all carefully choreographed by Saleh. The Houthis were able to take one Yemeni military facility after another without a fight and enter the capital easily.

Houthi weapon bonanza – a gift from America

In the process, the Houthis acquired a new bonanza of weapons that had been provided by the United States over the previous eight years.   According to Pentagon documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act by Joseph Trevithick, the Defence Department had delivered about $500 million in military hardware to the Yemeni military from 2006 on.  The gusher of new US arms included Russian-made helicopters, more than 100 Humvees with the latest armor packages, 100s of pickup trucks, rocket propelled grenades, advanced radios, night vision goggles and millions of rounds of ammunition.

A significant part of that weaponry and equipment was scooped up by Houthi fighters on their way into Sanaa and has been visible in the months since then. When the Houthis advanced into Aden 1 April, residents reported seeing four tanks and three armored vehicles as well as Rocket propelled grenades.  On 29 March, after the Saudi bombing campaign had begun, the Houthis were reported to have had control of the Yemeni Air Force’s 16 fighter planes, of which eleven had been destroyed by the bombing.

In light of the reality that the Houthis are already flush with American arms that may be worth as much as hundreds of millions of dollars, the flurry of media excitement over the US Navy sending another warship to intercept an Iranian flotilla of arms is an odd bit of burlesque that ought to be in an embarrassment.

The one concrete allegation that has been invoked by media stories in recent months is the case of a ship called Jihan 1, said to have been laden with Iranian arms, that was intercepted in early 2013.  A Reuters story last December cited a list a list of all the items on board provided by a “senior Yemeni security official,” which included Katyusha rifles, RPGs-7s, tons of RDX explosives and surface-to-air missiles.

Jihan 1 – murky claims

But the Hadi government never provided any evidence that the ship was sent by Iran or was intended for the Houthis.  And most of the items mentioned were not even Iranian-manufactured weapons. The one odd exception was a reference to “Iranian-made night vision goggles”. That fact suggests that the ship was intended to provide arms to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which carries out large numbers of terrorist bombings and would have needed the large supplies of RDX. The Houthis, on the other hand, are not known to have used that explosive. The UN expert panel formed to support the UN Security Council sanctions against Houthi commanders and Saleh reported that it had been “unable to independently confirm the allegation” about the Jihan 1.

The Reuters story, published months after the Houthis had acquired a large portion of the Yemeni army’s American arms, quoted a second Yemeni security official as still claiming that Iranian weapons “are still coming in by sea and there’s money coming in through transfers”.

Reuters further claimed that a “senior Iranian official,” contradicting official Iranian denials, had told the news agency that “the pace of money and arms getting to the Houthis had increased since their seizure of Sanaa.” The official allegedly said there were hundreds of IRGC personnel training the Houthis and six Iranian military advisers in Yemen. That part of the story appears suspicious to say the least.

The politically convenient story line that the Houthis are proxies of Iran is hardly new. As a US diplomatic cable from Sanaa in 2009 reveals, the Yemeni government had waged a continuing campaign for years during its wars with the Houthis to persuade the United States that Iran and Hezbollah were arming and training the Houthis, but had never produced any real evidence to support the claim.

Ties between the Houthis and Iran undoubtedly exist, driven by a common distrust of American and Saudi roles in Yemen and the Houthis’ need for an ideology that would enhance their power.  But the slack-jawed media approach to the story – starting with its refusal to put the allegations of continuing Iran arms smuggling to the Houthis in the context of the Houthis bonanza of US arms – has produced the usual fog of misinformation and confusion.


Pakistan Railways continues to decay

April 22, 2015

Audit has pointed out massive corruption of Rs 42 billion in the accounts of ministry of Railways, during the first year of Nawaz Sharif regime.

As per audit report, minister for railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq and secretary railways have not registered a case against the corrupt officers of railways, even after they were identified in audit report.
As per documents available, railways had to suffer a loss of Rs 11 billion due to lack of timely repair of railway engines in workshops. Corruption amounting to Rs 30 million was committed in the name of journalists.

Railways operational expenses have gone up by Rs 20 billion, while income has declined by Rs 30 billion. Massive loss of Rs 6 billion was inflicted owing to slackness shown in replacement of material. Financial malpractices amounting to Rs 10 billion took place in irregular purchases made by railway authorities.

Overall loss of Rs 15 billion occurred for not retrieving the railway lands from the illegal occupants. Stolen material worth Rs 6 billion was not recovered. Corrupt practices perpetrated in purchase of 202 railway coaches, took heavy toll on the budget of railways which led to pocketing of Rs 1.5 billion by corrupt officers. When contacted secretary railways Parveen Agha to seek her comments on the audit report, she kept mum over it.

Railway sources have confirmed such colossal corruption is in the knowledge of Khawaja Saad Rafiq, but he is using this report as tool of victimization of officers opposed to him in terms of political affiliations.

The Indian mindset – not so incredible

April 21, 2015

For Pakistan

Attempts are being made to mainstream the preposterous claim that the communal problem in India was imagined. Surely, there is no smoke without fire. To believe that an entire country was founded on a farce is consensual idiocy to say the very least.  Perhaps, those who aim to find faults with the thought process of Pakistan’s ideological fathers should widen the scope of criticism to Lala Lajpat Rai and Savarkar. The invocation of Hindutva and the creation of an exclusive definition of Indian citizenship were attributed to the latter while the former was a strong proponent of partitioning Punjab, Bengal and Assam based on religion.  The post-colonial reality was that if the British left India and Indians to grapple with issues emerging out of the communal challenges faced, the majority (Hindus) would prevail over the Muslims and push them into a corner. Given the uncompromising and stubborn attitude of the Congress when it came to addressing the Hindu-Muslim problem, such a situation could have easily arisen where the Muslim elite would struggle to find its place in the power structure to in any way represent their community effectively in a united India. Pinning the entire blame on one community—a minority that warranted the use of a ‘microscope’ for the division of the subcontinent is a bit of exaggeration.  It was the inability of India’s two popular political forces to inspire trust and forge a consensus on working for the betterment of their people.

Even today the problem is the same and the hostility in the relationship between the two neighbors despite sharing a common history is understandable. The responsibility for the lack of bilateral cooperation on various issues of mutual interest cannot solely be shouldered by the Pakistani side. Fingers cannot solely be pointed towards Pakistan’s ideological roots and the ‘moth eaten’ country’s struggle with stability. Pakistan is a reality. In real life, it isn’t about the cards you’re dealt, it’s about how you play the hand. Or let’s go closer to home. In Nehru’s words, “the hand you’re dealt is determinism, the way you play it is free will”. A sensible way to make use of free will in this case is to try to cooperate with the neighbor-next-door for regional integration and cooperation to safeguard the security objectives of both countries which are intertwined.

There have been many attempts to stabilize relations between India and Pakistan but there have been no significant breakthroughs. When scholarship on Indo-Pak relations attempts to push for ‘normalization of relations between India and Pakistan’, it must ideally communicate shortcomings of the other side too. The understanding that what is expected of Pakistan to do almost immediately is something that would take even the most robust of countries decades to accomplish needs to guide such analyses in chalking out suggestions for both parties to strengthen ties. It can surely not be expected that in the meantime, both should just twiddle their thumbs and not benefit instead from globalization and changing geopolitical realities and globalization.

When allegations are hurled at Pakistan for always being at the wrong side of the battle, the silence on Indian involvement in violence- ridden Balochistan and the separation of East Pakistan is chilling. For any debate to be effective, it must be non-partisan. For any bilateral relationship to leverage trust and durability, it must be based on equality. There is little to gain from pointing out that India’s current NSA is a strong supporter of 4th generation warfare and is a hardliner on Pakistan—a country that in the current geopolitical context really does matter.

Pakistan, no doubt, has a mélange of challenges to deal with at home in areas of economy and energy as well as law and order and stability. A little support from our neighbors who perhaps understand where we are coming from because they face the same challenges at home in these trying times is desirable. Religious extremism is on both sides of the border as an impediment to growth and progress, the electorate in both countries is still waiting on the political leadership to deliver on promises of offering more avenues of employment, better education and health facilities, improved security and physical infrastructures. The improvement of relations with India might not be the solution to every problem, but the realization that it a partnership based on equality and trust provides an economic opportunity is there. Pakistan has had to pay the highest cost in the war on terror, yet it is still blamed for not doing enough and for being paranoid of Indian aggression conveniently ignoring the reality that the basis of Pakistan’s paranoia is not entirely unfounded. For a country that has for long asserted that Pakistan’s security policy is still mainly India-centric, it is ironic that India has had little to offer in the form of confidence building measures.

That is the strange thing about paranoia: not only is it infectious, it is also self-sustaining and should it hang so heavily in the air, whenever in the recent past, both parties have tried to talk things out, the effect has been paralyzing. That India is allegedly viewed as a threat to the existence of Pakistan attains greater legitimacy when the former takes on an accusatory and hostile tone when talking to or about Pakistan.  The latter in such an event cannot be accused of anticipating any undesirable development and taking that into account while shaping a multi-dimensional security strategy.  It is expected, irrationally, that both sides close their eyes to issues like hostility in Kashmir and LoC violations. In all countries over the world, the military has an important part to play in helping chalk out foreign policy objectives: a country where different pillars stick merely to textbook definitions realistically speaking may only exist in textbooks. Those who are disappointed by the way that a country is using all available resources to navigate out of crises of gargantuan proportions—that too under the glare of the international media as scores criticize and scrutinize every move sometimes even without real knowledge regarding the country’s problems, need to step out of their utopia. Sure, the ideal type is something to strive towards but one must never lose sight of where one is at the moment. To those crusaders that have taken it upon themselves to scoff and criticize Pakistan without the slightest bit of empathy and expect it to bend to whims and perform tricks for applause by the global audience, the circus is NOT in town.

How USA managed to bring chaos to Middle East

April 21, 2015

Exclusive: After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, America’s neocons thought no country could stand up to the high-tech U.S. military, and they realized the Soviet Union was no longer around to limit U.S. actions. So, the “regime change” strategy was born – and many have died, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

Former Washington insider and four-star General Wesley Clark spilled the beans several years ago on how Paul Wolfowitz and his neoconservative co-conspirators implemented their sweeping plan to destabilize key Middle Eastern countries once it became clear that post-Soviet Russia “won’t stop us.”

As I recently reviewed a YouTube eight-minute clip of General Clark’s October 2007 speech, what leaped out at me was that the neocons had been enabled by their assessment that – after the collapse of the Soviet Union – Russia had become neutralized and posed no deterrent to U.S. military action in the Middle East.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a leading neocon and proponent of the Iraq War. (Defense Department photo)

While Clark’s public exposé largely escaped attention in the neocon-friendly “mainstream media” (surprise, surprise!), he recounted being told by a senior general at the Pentagon shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 about the Donald Rumsfeld/Paul Wolfowitz-led plan for “regime change” in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

This was startling enough, I grant you, since officially the United States presents itself as a nation that respects international law, frowns upon other powerful nations overthrowing the governments of weaker states, and – in the aftermath of World War II – condemned past aggressions by Nazi Germany and decried Soviet “subversion” of pro-U.S. nations.

But what caught my eye this time was the significance of Clark’s depiction of Wolfowitz in 1992 gloating over what he judged to be a major lesson learned from the Desert Storm attack on Iraq in 1991; namely, “the Soviets won’t stop us.”

That remark directly addresses a question that has troubled me since March 2003 when George W. Bush attacked Iraq. Would the neocons – widely known as “the crazies” at least among the remaining sane people of Washington – have been crazy enough to opt for war to re-arrange the Middle East if the Soviet Union had not fallen apart in 1991?

The question is not an idle one. Despite the debacle in Iraq and elsewhere, the neocon “crazies” still exercise huge influence in Establishment Washington. Thus, the question now becomes whether, with Russia far more stable and much stronger, the “crazies” are prepared to risk military escalation with Russia over Ukraine, what retired U.S. diplomat William R. Polk deemed a potentially dangerous nuclear confrontation, a “Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse.”

Putin’s Comment

The geopolitical vacuum that enabled the neocons to try out their “regime change” scheme in the Middle East may have been what Russian President Vladimir Putin was referring to in his state-of-the-nation address on April 25, 2005, when he called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [past] century.” Putin’s comment has been a favorite meme of those who seek to demonize Putin by portraying him as lusting to re-establish a powerful USSR through aggression in Europe.

But, commenting two years after the Iraq invasion, Putin seemed correct at least in how the neocons exploited the absence of the Russian counterweight to over-extend American power in ways that were harmful to the world, devastating to the people at the receiving end of the neocon interventions, and even detrimental to the United States.

If one takes a step back and attempts an unbiased look at the spread of violence in the Middle East over the past quarter-century, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Putin’s comment was on the mark. With Russia a much-weakened military power in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was nothing to deter U.S. policymakers from the kind of adventurism at Russia’s soft underbelly that, in earlier years, would have carried considerable risk of armed U.S.-USSR confrontation.

I lived in the USSR during the 1970s and would not wish that kind of restrictive regime on anyone. Until it fell apart, though, it was militarily strong enough to deter Wolfowitz-style adventurism. And I will say that – for the millions of people now dead, injured or displaced by U.S. military action in the Middle East over the past dozen years – the collapse of the Soviet Union as a deterrent to U.S. war-making was not only a “geopolitical catastrophe” but an unmitigated disaster.

Visiting Wolfowitz

In his 2007 speech, General Clark related how in early 1991 he dropped in on Paul Wolfowitz, then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (and later, from 2001 to 2005, Deputy Secretary of Defense). It was just after a major Shia uprising in Iraq in March 1991. President George H.W. Bush’s administration had provoked it, but then did nothing to rescue the Shia from brutal retaliation by Saddam Hussein, who had just survived his Persian Gulf defeat.

According to Clark, Wolfowitz said: “We should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein. The truth is, one thing we did learn is that we can use our military in the Middle East and the Soviets won’t stop us. We’ve got about five or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes – Syria, Iran (sic), Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.”

It’s now been more than 10 years, of course. But do not be deceived into thinking Wolfowitz and his neocon colleagues believe they have failed in any major way. The unrest they initiated keeps mounting – in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Lebanon – not to mention fresh violence now in full swing in Yemen and the crisis in Ukraine. Yet, the Teflon coating painted on the neocons continues to cover and protect them in the “mainstream media.”

True, one neocon disappointment is Iran. It is more stable and less isolated than before; it is playing a sophisticated role in Iraq; and it is on the verge of concluding a major nuclear agreement with the West – barring the throwing of a neocon/Israeli monkey wrench into the works to thwart it, as has been done in the past.

An earlier setback for the neocons came at the end of August 2013 when President Barack Obama decided not to let himself be mouse-trapped by the neocons into ordering U.S. forces to attack Syria. Wolfowitz et al. were on the threshold of having the U.S. formally join the war against Bashar al-Assad’s government of Syria when there was the proverbial slip between cup and lip. With the aid of the neocons’ new devil-incarnate Vladimir Putin, Obama faced them down and avoided war.

A week after it became clear that the neocons were not going to get their war in Syria, I found myself at the main CNN studio in Washington together with Paul Wolfowitz and former Sen. Joe Lieberman, another important neocon. As I reported in “How War on Syria Lost Its Way,” the scene was surreal – funereal, even, with both Wolfowitz and Lieberman very much down-in-the-mouth, behaving as though they had just watched their favorite team lose the Super Bowl.

Israeli/Neocon Preferences

But the neocons are nothing if not resilient. Despite their grotesque disasters, like the Iraq War, and their disappointments, like not getting their war on Syria, they neither learn lessons nor change goals. They just readjust their aim, shooting now at Putin over Ukraine as a way to clear the path again for “regime change” in Syria and Iran. [See’s “Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia.”]

The neocons also can take some solace from their “success” at enflaming the Middle East with Shia and Sunni now at each other’s throats — a bad thing for many people of the world and certainly for the many innocent victims in the region, but not so bad for the neocons. After all, it is the view of Israeli leaders and their neocon bedfellows (and women) that the internecine wars among Muslims provide at least some short-term advantages for Israel as it consolidates control over the Palestinian West Bank.

In a Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity memorandum for President Obama on Sept. 6, 2013, we called attention to an uncommonly candid report about Israeli/neocon motivation, written by none other than the Israel-friendly New York Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem Jodi Rudoren on Sept. 2, 2013, just two days after Obama took advantage of Putin’s success in persuading the Syrians to allow their chemical weapons to be destroyed and called off the planned attack on Syria, causing consternation among neocons in Washington.

Rudoren can perhaps be excused for her naïve lack of “political correctness.” She had been barely a year on the job, had very little prior experience with reporting on the Middle East, and – in the excitement about the almost-attack on Syria – she apparently forgot the strictures normally imposed on the Times’ reporting from Jerusalem. In any case, Israel’s priorities became crystal clear in what Rudoren wrote.

In her article, entitled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” Rudoren noted that the Israelis were arguing, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s (then) 2 ½-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, was no outcome:

“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”

Clear enough? If this is the way Israel’s leaders continue to regard the situation in Syria, then they look on deeper U.S. involvement – overt or covert – as likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict there. The longer Sunni and Shia are killing each other, not only in Syria but also across the region as a whole, the safer Tel Aviv’s leaders calculate Israel is.

Favoring Jihadis

But Israeli leaders have also made clear that if one side must win, they would prefer the Sunni side, despite its bloody extremists from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In September 2013, shortly after Rudoren’s article, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

In June 2014, Oren – then speaking as a former ambassador – said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

Netanyahu sounded a similar theme in his March 3, 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress in which he trivialized the threat from the Islamic State with its “butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube” when compared to Iran, which he accused of “gobbling up the nations” of the Middle East.

That Syria’s main ally is Iran with which it has a mutual defense treaty plays a role in Israeli calculations. Accordingly, while some Western leaders would like to achieve a realistic if imperfect settlement of the Syrian civil war, others who enjoy considerable influence in Washington would just as soon see the Assad government and the entire region bleed out.

As cynical and cruel as this strategy is, it isn’t all that hard to understand. Yet, it seems to be one of those complicated, politically charged situations well above the pay-grade of the sophomores advising President Obama – who, sad to say, are no match for the neocons in the Washington Establishment. Not to mention the Netanyahu-mesmerized Congress.

Corker Uncorked

Speaking of Congress, a year after Rudoren’s report, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, divulged some details about the military attack that had been planned against Syria, while lamenting that it was canceled.

In doing so, Corker called Obama’s abrupt change on Aug. 31, 2013, in opting for negotiations over open war on Syria, “the worst moment in U.S. foreign policy since I’ve been here.” Following the neocon script, Corker blasted the deal (since fully implemented) with Putin and the Syrians to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

Corker complained, “In essence – I’m sorry to be slightly rhetorical – we jumped into Putin’s lap.” A big No-No, of course – especially in Congress – to “jump into Putin’s lap” even though Obama was able to achieve the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons without the United States jumping into another Middle East war.

It would have been nice, of course, if General Clark had thought to share his inside-Pentagon information earlier with the rest of us. In no way should he be seen as a whistleblower.

At the time of his September 2007 speech, he was deep into his quixotic attempt to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. In other words, Clark broke the omerta code of silence observed by virtually all U.S. generals, even post-retirement, merely to put some distance between himself and the debacle in Iraq – and win some favor among anti-war Democrats. It didn’t work, so he endorsed Hillary Clinton; that didn’t work, so he endorsed Barack Obama.

Wolfowitz, typically, has landed on his feet. He is now presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s foreign policy/defense adviser, no doubt outlining his preferred approach to the Middle East chessboard to his new boss. Does anyone know the plural of “bedlam?”

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served for a total of 30 years as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst and is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Pakistan is KSA’s historic ally

April 21, 2015

Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, which began with waves of airstrikes overnight on Thursday, has laid down a new marker in the dangerously unstable Middle East.

As WorldViews discussed earlier, the Saudis coordinated their action with a coalition of Sunni majority countries, sharpening the perception that the offensive was part of a wider regional conflict with Iran, a Shiite power that has backed the Houthis and is locked in a larger game of geopolitical chess with the Saudis in various corners of the Middle East.

One conspicuous nation among the list of countries official Saudi media claimed had “declared their willingness to participate” in the anti-Houthi action is Pakistan. A non-Arab state with a sizeable Shiite minority, Pakistan also has an overstretched military, which is wrestling with its own extremist insurgency in the rugged borderlands near Afghanistan.

Yet on Thursday, a statement from the office of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif indicated that a delegation of top Pakistani officials would possibly travel to Riyadh to coordinate assistance, though it’s not clear whether that means Islamabad is actually willing to commit strategic resources to the fight in Yemen.

“The Prime Minister said Pakistan enjoys close and brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia and other [Gulf] countries and attaches great importance to their security,” the statement read.

“The meeting concluded that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan.” (Nevermind that in this instance, it appears Saudi Arabia is leading an intervention into the territory of another state.)

On one level, this is partly down to Sharif’s personal politics. Saudi Arabia gave the Pakistani prime minister sanctuary in 2000 following his earlier ouster in a military coup. Last year, a rare visit by the then Saudi defense minister – now, the current King Salman – to Pakistan led to Sharif’s government joining the Saudi call for the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But Islamabad and Riyadh’s ties run far deeper than that. Both countries in their own way are deeply ideological states, and they’ve forged vital partnerships over the years — deemed by one former Saudi intelligence chief as “probably one of the closest relationships in the world between any two countries.”

Most famously, the Saudis funneled aid and money through Pakistan to build up the Afghan mujahideen fighting Soviet occupation in the 1980s. That eventually spawned the Taliban and led to the emergence of al-Qaeda.

Pakistani critics frequently lament the corrosive effect Saudi funds – and the kingdom’s orthodox, Wahhabist ideology – had on the evolution of political Islam in Pakistan and the blossoming of hundreds of madrassas, or religious schools, throughout a country that’s steeped in a diverse array of Islamic traditions. Sectarian violence has claimed thousands of Pakistani lives in recent years.

But Pakistan left an important imprint on the Saudis as well. Dating back to the 1960s, Pakistan’s experienced military helped train the undermanned and underprepared militaries of a number of fledgling Arab states. The former Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq once even commanded a unit of troops in Jordan tasked with combating Palestinian fighters.

A 2008 report in Brookings spells out the close military relationship with the Saudis, which shows there’s a precedent for Pakistani action in Yemen:

Pakistan has provided military aid and expertise to the kingdom for decades. It began with help to the Royal Saudi Air Force to build and pilot its first jet fighters in the 1960s. Pakistani Air Force pilots flew RSAF Lightnings that repulsed a South Yemeni incursion into the kingdom’s southern border in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, up to 15,000 Pakistani troops were stationed in the kingdom, some in a brigade combat force near the Israeli-Jordanian-Saudi border.

Pakistani engineers also helped build fortifications along the southern Saudi border, in part to help counter Houthi rebels, according to the Diplomat. Up until the First Gulf War, there was a detachment of thousands of Pakistani soldiers posted in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi military has markedly improved its capabilities since those days; the kingdom recently became the world’s biggest arms importer. But Pakistani manpower still comes in handy in the petro-rich countries of the Gulf, where foreign nationals often staff a whole range of state institutions.

The Sunni monarchy that rules over Bahrain has employed thousands of Pakistanis in its security services, who, during the 2011 pro-democracy protests in the Shiite-majority country, delivered orders to protesters in English and Urdu.

“Our own [Shiites] cannot join the security forces, but the government recruits from abroad,” one Bahraini activist told Al Jazeera in 2011.

Opposition politicians in Pakistan are understandably concerned. “Given…our own internal sectarian terrorism, Pakistan cannot afford to get embroiled in any Shia-Sunni conflict in the Gulf and Middle East,” said Shireen Mazari, a leader of the Movement for Justice party, in a statement. “Pakistan must stay strictly neutral.”


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