Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Army, Allah and America: on Pakistani pitfalls and the future of Egypt

egyptAll countries are unique and comparing two of the world's most populous Muslim countries, Egypt and Pakistan, is as risky as comparing Britain to France at the time of the French Revolution. But many of the challenges likely to confront Egypt as it emerges from the mass protests against the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak are similar to those Pakistan has faced in the past, and provide at least a guide on what questions need to be addressed.  In Pakistan, they are often summarised as the three A's -- Army, Allah and America.

Both have powerful armies which are seen as the backbone of the country; both have to work out how to accommodate political Islam with democracy, both are allies of America, yet with people who resent American power in propping up unpopular elites.

As my Reuters colleague Alastair Lyon writes,  Egypt's sprawling armed forces -- the world's 10th biggest and more than 468,000-strong -- have been at the heart of power since army officers staged the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy. Mubarak's announcement that he was naming his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice-president was seen as a move towards an eventual, military-approved handover of power.  And Egyptian protesters have sometimes tried to see the army as their ally -- an institution that puts country first before personal gain.

Yet armies, as Pakistan has discovered over its many years of on-again off-again military rule, are not designed for democracy. They are designed to be efficient, and with that comes the hierarchy and obedience to authority that would seem alien to many of those out on the streets of Cairo.

Pop star freed but Mexican attitudes still on trial

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Mexican pop star Kalimba, accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in December, walked free on Thursday after a judge ordered his release for lack of evidence. For fans of the dreadlocked singer and dj, it was a justice of sorts, given that 73 percent of Mexicans believe he was innocent, according to a poll in leading newspaper Reforma. MEXICO/

Guilty or not, the case gave Mexico a bit of homegrown celebrity gossip over the past few weeks in a country where relentless news of horrific drug killings is daily fare. Seeing the singer arrested in El Paso, Texas, where he was recording a new album, then dressed in a orange jump suit and imprisoned in a Mexican jail and then crying on his release, made top news and created plenty of  chat both in Mexican homes and on the Internet.

from FaithWorld:

Will Pew Muslim birth rate study finally silence the “Eurabia” claim?

paris prayers

(Photo: Muslims who could not fit into a small Paris mosque pray in the street, a practice the French far-right has compared to the Nazi occupation, December 17, 2010/Charles Platiau)

One of the most wrong-headed arguments in the debate about Muslims in Europe is the shrill "Eurabia" claim that high birth rates and immigration will make Muslims the majority on the continent within a few decades. Based on sleight-of-hand statistics, this scaremongering (as The Economist called it back in 2006) paints a picture of a triumphant Islam dominating a Europe that has lost its Christian roots and is blind to its looming cultural demise.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, blasphemy, and a tale of two women

blasphemyprotestFor all the bad news coming out of Pakistan, you can't help but admire the courage of two very different women who did what their political leaders failed to do -- stood up to the religious right after the killing of Punjab governor Salman Taseer over his call for changes to the country's blasphemy laws.

One is Sherry Rehman, a politician from the ruling Pakistan People's Party, who first proposed amendments to the laws. The other is actress Veena Malik, who challenged the clerical establishment for criticising her for appearing on Indian reality show Big Boss.  I'm slightly uncomfortable about grouping the two together -- the fact that both are Pakistani women does not make them any more similar than say, for example, two Pakistani men living in Rawalpindi or  London. Yet at the same time, the idea that Pakistan can produce such different and outspoken women says a lot about the diversity and energy of a country which can be too easily written off as a failing state or  bastion of the Islamist religious right.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and Mullah Omar: who knows where he is?

shadowsThe New York Times has an intriguing story about the sourcing for a report that did the rounds last week saying that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) rushed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar to Karachi last week after he suffered a heart attack. (h/t Five Rupees)

To recap, the Washington Post said last week that a private intelligence network, the Eclipse Group, had reported that Mullah Omar had a heart attack on Jan. 7 and was treated for several days in a Karachi hospital with the help of the ISI.

from Tales from the Trail:

Panda diplomacy: the remix

USAThe latest chapter in the long story of panda diplomacy was written at Washington's National Zoo, where the Chinese government agreed to lengthen the "loan" of popular panda pair Mei Xiang and Tian Tian for another five years. Actually, the loan is conditioned on whether they produce a new heir or heiress to the cuteness of panda-dom in the next two years;  one or both could be exchanged for more fecund substitutes.

They have a good track record: Washington native Tai Shan, born in 2005, headed back to China last year.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Musharraf’s Kashmir deal, mirage or oasis?

musharraf londonThe foreign secretaries, or top diplomats,  of India and Pakistan are expected to meet on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in Thimpu, Bhutan on Feb 6/7 to try to find a way back into talks which have been stalled since the attack on Mumbai in November 2008. Progress is expected to be limited, perhaps paving the way to a meeting of the foreign ministers, or to deciding how future talks should be structured.

Expectations are running low, all the more so after a meeting between the foreign ministers descended into acrimony last July. And leaders in neither country have the political space to take the kind of risks needed for real peace talks right now. Pakistan is struggling with the fall-out of the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer  among many other things, while Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been weakened by a corruption scandal at home.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington flatfooted by return of Haiti’s “Baby Doc”

He departed Haiti in 1986 aboard a U.S. Air Force plane, winging to stage-managed exile after weeks of pressure from the Reagan administration.

HAITI-DUVALIER/Haiti's infamous "Baby Doc", Jean Claude Duvalier,  made a surprise reappearance in his homeland this weekend, and Washington's planners had less than an hour to prepare.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Anyone here been to Pakistan and speaks English?

cricket  refugeeU.S. Vice President Joe Biden made a rather odd comment during his visit to Pakistan this week.  "We want what you want: a strong, stable, democratic Pakistan," he told a news conference, according to the Washington Post.  "We wish your success because it's in our own interest." 

It was  not that he was wrong to deny accusations that the United States is out to destabilise Pakistan - a conspiracy theory fuelled by confusion over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, which to many Pakistanis seems so irrational that they assume there must be a darker plan behind it. Nor that he was wrong to promote democracy -- although the United States has had a track record of backing military rulers in Pakistan when it suits them.

from Reuters Investigates:

Vietnam’s Capitalist Roaders

A woman dressed in the traditional Vietnamese "ao dai"costume serves tea to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (front R) during the opening ceremony of the 11th Party Congress in Hanoi January 12, 2011

VIETNAM-CONGRESS/

Vietnam's ruling communists  opened an eight-day party congress on Wednesday with a candid  admission the fast-growing economy had become unstable, as  delegates began the process of reshuffling leaders and  charting new policies. 
   As leaders sang the national anthem to begin the  five-yearly event, streets in the chilly capital Hanoi were  festooned with red and yellow banners, some bearing the iconic  hammer and sickle. Propaganda posters bore the smiling  likeness of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh or of proud,  uniformed workers. 
   The economic backdrop is less festive. Inflation surged to  a 22-month high in December, the government is struggling to  bring down a hefty fiscal deficit, the currency has been  depreciating for three years and the trade deficit remains  stubbornly high.  

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