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.

“Collateral damage” grows in Mexico’s army-led drug war

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I heard the bursts of gunfire near my house in Monterrey as I was showering this morning. Then the ambulance sirens started wailing, and as I drove my kids to school about 20 minutes later, a convoy of green-clad soldiers, their assault rifles at the ready, sped by us. In northern Mexico, where I cover the drug war, it has become a part of life to read about, hear and even witness shootouts, but today I shuddered at the thought: what if those soldiers accidentally ever shot at me?

MEXICO-DRUGS/DEAD

It was in February 2007 that Amnesty International raised concerns over Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision, two months earlier, to send thousands of troops across the country to control Mexico’s spiraling drug violence. Echoing worries voiced by the United Nations, the rights group warned that sending the army onto Mexican streets to do the job of the police was a bad idea. Even individual soldiers have commented to Reuters, off the record of course, that they feel very uncomfortable about their new role. MEXICO-DRUGS/

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan: Through the eye of a needle

lawyers celebrateFor the first time in many months, the future of Pakistan is being determined not in the fight against Islamist militants, but within its institutions -- its judiciary, its political parties, its government and its military.  Last week's decision by the Supreme Court to strike down a 2007 amnesty given to politicians and bureaucrats has provided Pakistan with a rare opportunity to remodel itself as a civilian democracy based on the rule of law.  But the way forward is so fraught with difficulties that assessments of its chances of success are at best sober, at worst ominous.

The court decision to strike down the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) affects some 8,000 politicians and bureaucrats on a list of those who had been covered by the amnesty, including the defence and interior ministers.  President Asif Ali Zardari had also been covered by the amnesty, but remains protected by presidential immunity. Such was the upheaval created by the ruling that foreign exchange markets were briefly shaken last week by unfounded rumours of a military coup. The real impact is likely to be more slow-burning.

Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, the world’s most violent city?

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By Julian CardonaCiudad Juarez, a Mexican town on the U.S. border where daylight murders and beheaded bodies have become the norm, could be the world’s most violent city.

With 130 murders for every 100,000 residents per year on average last year, the city of 1.6 million people is more violent than the Venezuelan capital Caracas, the U.S. city of New Orleans and Colombia’s Medellin. That is according to a study by the Mexican non-profit Citizen Council for Public Security and Justice, which presented its report to Mexico’s security minister at a conference this week.

The fight between rival drug cartels over Ciudad Juarez’s local drug market and smuggling routes into the United States broke out at the start of last year and continues to intensify.Reliable global crime statistics are hard to pin down and a study last year by Foreign Policy Magazine placed Caracas as the world’s top murder capital, also with 130 murders per 100,000 residents. (The Mexican study disputes that and puts the Caracas figure at 96).But Ciudad Juarez’s rising murder rate, currently at about 250 per month, appears to put it well ahead of other notorious world crime capitals such as South Africa’s Cape Town, Moscow, Baghdad, and Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, according to the Mexican and Foreign Policy studies.In fact, in Ciudad Juarez during the first day of the conference where the Mexican study was presented, eight people were murdered in the city’s streets, including a prosecutor, a lawyer, two policewomen, a clown performer and a gardener.Ciudad Juarez, a manufacturing city across from El Paso, Texas, already has a stained history with the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women in the 1990s.Perhaps most worryingly is not that 10,000 troops and elite police stationed there have failed to stop the drug violence, but that local officials say they have everything under control.Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz says the city’s fight against drug violence is “a successful process that the world can learn from.” Chihuahua state Governor Jose Reyes Baez, who has long bemoaned the media focus on drug violence in Ciudad Juarez, says that troops can gradually leave as newly-trained police take over. The army denies any scaling back in its deployment.

from UK News:

Is Britain paying too high a price in Afghanistan?

The death toll among British troops in Afghanistan is rising fast.  The soldier who died on Tuesday was the seventh to die in the last week and the 176th since the war began.

Last Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe became the highest ranking British soldier to die in the conflict in Afghanistan when he was killed in Helmand. British commanders are quoted as saying things are going to get worse before they get better.

Twittering from the front-lines

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Who remembers the Google Wars website that was doing the viral rounds a few years back – a mildly amusing, non-scientific snapshot of the search-driven, internet world we live in?

It lives on at www.googlebattle.com where you can enter two search terms, say ‘Lennon vs. McCartney’ or ‘Left vs. Right’, and let the internet pick a winner by the number of search hits each word gets.

Is Sri Lanka’s long civil war nearing an end?

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By C. Bryson Hull

Sri Lanka’s army has the Tamil Tigers on the run with a string of convincing military victories. Many people are asking if one of Asia’s longest-running civil wars is near its end after 25 years.

 Sri Lankan tanks patrol near the town of Kilinochchi (REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasingh)

Drugs and guns in Guinea-Bissau

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Members of Guinea-Bissau’s unruly armed forces have blotted the military’s record again with another attack against the country’s political institutions. Early on Sunday, Nov. 23, renegade soldiers, their faces hooded, sprayed the Bissau residence of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The president survived unhurt this latest apparent attempt to topple him.

 

But The attack underlined the fragility of the small, cashew nut-exporting West African nation, one of the poorest in the world and a former Portuguese colony which has suffered a history of bloody coups, mutinies and uprisings since it won independence in 1974 after a bush war led by Amilcar Cabral. The assault followed parliamentary elections on Nov. 16 which donors were hoping would restore stability and put in place a new government capable of resisting the serious threat posed by powerful Latin American cocaine-trafficking cartels who use Guinea-Bissau as a staging post to smuggle drugs to Europe.

Is Turkey reassessing Ataturk’s legacy?

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The following piece is written by Turkey correspondent Ibon Villelabeitia:

A new and intimate documentary on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the
venerated soldier-statesman who founded modern Turkey after
World War One, has sparked controversy in this European Union
candidate country at a time of national self-absorption.

“Mustafa”, which opened on Oct. 29 on the 85th anniversary
of the foundation of the republic, has spawned a lively debate
in newspapers and television shows on the merits of the film.

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