Greg Mortenson – You are still my hero

Greg Mortenson - a saint among usCBS may have taken a few potshots at you to improve their sagging TV ratings. Jon Krakauer: might have gotten his 15 minutes of fame that he has been so desparately seeking to improve his profile (and possibly make his next book a best seller). But in reality none of this changes the fact, that for the better part of last 20 years you have dedicated your life to building hundreds of schools in the most remote and forgotten parts of the war ravaged world.

It also does not change the fact, that your schools were the first education that anyone has received in in generations, especially the girls.

It also does not change the fact, that your books have inspired countless people, to think for others rather than themselves for the better good of humanity.

Your actions, have inspired a whole new generation of philanthropists and social entrepreneurs who are out there trying to play their part in making this world a better place.

While CBS’s tabloid journalism might try to derail your noble mission to educate the poor of the world, it does not change the fact that each day another child comes home better educated than his parents. Each day, a girl learns the meaning of life and her rights as a human being which sadly her mother missed out by being kept illiterate.

While the CBS investigative team (Andy Court, Kevin Livelli and Maria Usman) has never left the comfort of their homes to visit any war torn regions, nor have they gone and lived among the poorest of the poor. They certainly do not know the meaning of poverty, uneducation and powerless lives. They are probably just seeking cheap publicity to further their journalistic careers. Today, they take a pot shot at you, tomorrow, they might go after Nelson Mandela.

Dr Greg, you are our hero and you will remain one no matter what. What you have done for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan is unique and angelic. May God give you reward in this life and hereafter for your good deeds.

Can Pakistan really trust USA? Take a quick Poll to find out.

Can Pakistan really trust America? (Cast your vote)

(polls)

Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton’s three day visit to Pakistan opened up more questions than it answered this week. Ms Clinton once again failed to alley the fears of the general public who still are sceptical of US designs in Pakistan. She also hinted at USA’s mistrust over handling of the War on Terror without once acknowledging Pakistan’s army brave men fighting in the trenches an American (foreign) war. While she was quick to blame Pakistan army for not being able to capture Al Qaeda members, yet she never fully explained why America, with all its might, has failed miserably in Afghanistan and Iraq to do the same. Surely, if they expect an economically and militarily weak Pakistan to curtail Al-Qaeda then US, being the super power of the world, be able to produce better results in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The mistrust, sadly as it seems, is at its highest and is only getting worse. The disillusionment is not just among the general public in Pakistan, but is slowly creeping into the political and military leadership of the country as well.

Despite Pakistan successfully capturing more Al-Qaeda high value targets than any nation (including USA) it is never acknowledged nor really commended upon. Instead a sleuth of allegations are placed by the world leaders. At the same time, Pakistan army has lost more troops than any other army (including the USA) in this war on Terror since September 11, 2001. Yet, no US senior diplomat or military general has acknowledged their sacrifice or even placed a wreath on their memorial.

Worst still, millions of innocent Pakistanis have been uprooted by the War on Terror in many districts of Pakistan, but little or no US humanitarian support has reached them. Pakistan has seen thousands of civilian deaths that are directly attributed to US drone attacks are also acknowledged by American leadership as “acceptable civilian losses”. It seem that Pakistanis lives have no value as compared to the American citizen.

The mistrust between Pakistan and USA is not a recent story. In fact, it dates back to the 1960s and here is why:

1960s:
Pakistan was member of the alliance (SEATO and CENTO) similar to NATO in Europe. That meant that if any member was attacked the alliance would support them. The U2 spy planes would also fly from Pakistan over Russia as part of the agreement between US and Pakistan. This was a major source of anger for Russia with Pakistan and had threatened a war on Pakistan. Yet, Pakistan, stood fast in support of USA throughout the time the U2s flew.

In 1965, a war broke out between India and Pakistan that lasted 17 days. At the end of the War, the Lyndon B Johnson’s US administration, rather than supporting Pakistan, put them on a sanctions list and ended the military and economic support of the country. Pakistan’s economy had been growing tremendously between 1960-1965 period primarily due to the US economic support. With that gone, the economy suffered and went south. At the same time, our military which was reeling from the war with India suffered a major setback when it was left to fend for itself without any support from America.

As a contrast, India’s main supporter Russia, not only increased its support for India but gave it the latest machinery (fighter jets, tanks etc) to better equip them against Pakistan. They, Russia, also played a vital role in end of war treaty between India and Pakistan while US stayed away.

The economic downturn that followed the sanctions turned into a political turmoil and eventually culminated in the breakup of the country and creation of Bangladesh 1971. Pakistan military was weakened considerably during the past six years and crumbled easily against a well equipped Indian army during the short 1971 war with India. Once again, US played lip service and did nothing to assist its ally, Pakistan throughout this conflict.

Dejected and left to its own, Pakistan unilaterally walked out of CENTO and SEATO treaties as the allies failed to help them.

1970s
Pakistan played a pivotal role in bringing China and America together. If it were not for the efforts and role played by Pakistan, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon would not have had the opportunity to build a long term relationship with China. Yet, Pakistan’s role is never discussed or acknowledged by the US. It seems they did all the work while no one helped them.

1980s
To fight the Soviet Communist threat, Americans gave rebel Afghan forces not only sophisticated weapons, but trained them in the guerrilla warfare under direct supervision of trained CIA operatives. When the rebel Afghans were running short in number and did not have enough manpower to continue to take on the Soviet Union, CIA devised a clever plan to make it into a religious war, a jehad, and invited/recruited many young people from various parts of the Arab world as part of the mercenary army. Each one of them received complete weapons training and a healthy stipend among other perks. Money was no object. It was literally distributed in sacks to the recruits and their leaders by CIA.

Osama Bin Laden and his cronies were among the recruits during the mid 1980s who flew in from the Middle East to fight the war. The fighting force was renamed as Mujahideens (Army of God) and given full support from all Western powers. Today, these same fighters, some still have the same leadership, are all jumbled up by the US administration as Talibans and AlQaeda. Yesterday’s Mujahedeens and today’s Talibans have little difference and sometimes have the same leaders guiding them in their war with America.

The administration also fails to acknowledge that it created its own Frankenstein and continues to blame Pakistan for it. This strategy may work in USA, where an average Joe is not familiar with Afghan war, but in Pakistan in particular and in Middle East in general, where such recruitment and trainings were openly carried out, such American amnesia is not only baffling but considered an outright lie.

1990s
Pakistan was threatened in the 1980s by Soviets with a nuclear annihilation for its support of rebel Afghans. It was also told not to fight an american agenda in Afghanistan. Soviet jets would bombard various parts of Pakistan throughout that conflict yet, Pakistan stood steadfast with its ally, the US. By the time, 1990s began, US had won the war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union had collapsed and Berlin War had come down. Once again, US had no use for Pakistan and instead of rewarding its old ally, it instead placed it on new economic and military sanctions under Pressler Amendment. This was not a just reward for a nation that stood by the US throughout the 1990s.

Once again the nation spiraled into economic depression. The military was left to fend for itself. And worse of all, Afghanistan was left to its own peril with no support from the US. Leaving it to Pakistan to sort out the matter.

In this chaos and gloom of 1990s, Mujahideens of the previous decade transformed themselves into autonomous bodies in the form of Al-Qaeda and Talibans. Trained and well equipped by the CIA, these operatives had not only working knowledge of how to take the fight to the enemy but had already played their role in bringing a super power down (Soviet Union).

In this chaos and vacuum, these organizations rose to take the fight back to the US culminating in the tragedy of 9/11.

This week, Hilary Clinton, was in Pakistan. Rather than acknowledging the mistakes of the past, she preferred that the Pakistan forgot the past and embraced the future. She also failed to thank the nation for its sacrifices and skirted the issue of the drone attacks that has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Pakistan. She never delved deep into the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) crisis, and also failed to explain the draconian clauses in Kerry-Lugar Bill similar to Pressler Amendment whereby America can pull its support at any instant if it deems necessary.

The question remains. Can Pakistan really trust America? I have created a simple poll asking this very question and see if our readers can answer this question in the light of the facts just mentioned.

So click on the link below to vote:

Can Pakistan really trust America?

(polls)

San Francisco Street Trains

San Francisco Street Train

San Francisco Street Train

The roads in San Francisco are not only shared by cars and bicycles, but it is not uncommon to find trams and short trains crawl through the streets throughout the city. They ferry people all across San Francisco with ease. And most amazing is the fact that, they also obey the traffic signals by stopping at the red lights and giving pedestrians the right of way as they move at a leisurely pace on the tracks laid right on the paved roads.

We have all heard of the famous cable car of San Francisco, but the trains that prowl the streets ferrying regular traffic from one part to the other are also a treat. They are clean, quiet and quite a few dating back from the turn of the century (20th) and restored to their original. Usually, tourists can be found hanging on to them as they move across the city.

The public transportation system (underground, trains, buses) make having a car in the city moot. There is virtually no need for one with such wonderful traffic management.

Most of these trains/buses are either electric or powered by bio-diesel fuel, keeping the carbon footprint low and the city clean and beautiful.

A great way to keep the heritage alive and also encourage the use of public transportation.

What happens when Google goes bust!

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With the US economy tanking and its ill effects being felt right across the globe, many silicon valley startups and stars of today may not see the light at the end of the gloomy dark tunnel. And one of the biggest shining stars coming out of the rubble of the bubble bust has been Google. What if it tanked? Already its stock options crashed over 60% in recent days, what if it cannot see through the tough times ahead. Techcrunch, the foremost authority on the technology based enterprises, is predicting the death of web 2.0 and the related startups.
Today, we rely upon Google for almost about everything. Google Search, Youtube, Picasa Blogger, and Gmail are some common ones, but corporate world is increasingly switching to Google Apps which provides us with in integrated space for email, docs, collaborative calendar, company specific chat, collaborative wiki and even web hosting (for static sites). Ah heck, how would we feel without Google Analytics, or Adsense?

Now consider this, what if Google goes out of business and closes its doors during the current downturn. What happens to many blogs hosted on blogger (including this one) or the photos that we upload and share using picasaweb or our gmail that we use to store and send thousands of messages since whenever. What happens to search and other cool things that we take for granted from Google?

Well, maybe I am exaggerating a little by foretelling their downfall, even though Microsoft has been predicting and planning it for years. Having said that, still many startups would be shaken up by the current bust in the US economy and Wall Street excesses. No matter how great the idea, or how successful the company, many are likely to breath their last in the coming months. And hence the need for the alarm. We need to be careful of where we store our critical and personal data and use those snazzy online services. Many Software As a Service (SaaS) companies may not survive nor would web 2.0 social networking portals.

So how would we feel when the likes of Google, Facebook, Flickr, or Youtube disappear from the horizon?

Marriott Blast & Failing War on Terror

Bomb Blast at Marriott

Bomb Blast at Marriott


Make no mistake, the war on terror is a humongous failure. Those who continue to deny it are living in a fools paradise. Those who still believe that they can “smoke the enemy out” and “bomb them to stone ages” are nothing but disconnected from ground reality. This Saturday, the 1000 tonne bomb blast at Marriott Hotel Islamabad has once again proven that we are no safer today than we were in 2001. In fact, today, we are in a much worse condition than we were eight years ago.

The enemy is still out there and is far more stronger than it was at the beginning of the millennium. The irony of the situation is that it is the direct result of our failed policies on “war on terror” that has led to the strengthening of Al-Qaeda and the spread of Talibanism the world over. No place in the world is safe today from their reach.

Atrocities committed in Bagram and Guantanamo base have further worsened the situation. We call Alqaeda the bad guys. But if we begin to act like the enemy and commit atrocities at our own makeshift jails, we are no different from them. This unfortunate message has reached the wider audience diminishing our credibility to police the world.

On September 11, 2001, over three thousand innocent lives were lost. Today, the war on terror has caused disruption in the innocent lives of millions spread over various countries. Over 1.5 million Iraqis have emigrated out of the country since 2003. Over 200,000 Pakistanis have been forced out of their homes and made refugees in their own country by incessant Allied bombing on civilians. These people never supported AlQaeda, yet they are bearing the brunt of the war with little or no support from the rest of the world. These forgotten victims of war on terror are beginning to see the Allies as yet another untrustworthy tyrannical partner.

If we want to win the war on terror, we need to build bridges and not blow them away with so called “smart bombs”. We need to take steps to engage them into meaningful dialog and not beat the crap out of them in secret prisons spread all over the world. We need to make extra effort to understand the root cause of the problems and not just try to carpet bomb the whole Middle East.

Remember, everyone out there wants peace. No one wants war. But if we thrust it upon them, then we must be ready to face the consequences. The retaliations will be swift and brutal. And with each passing day when we fail to win the hearts and minds of the impoverished people of the region, we create new enemies and recruits for our enemies. Each day, our failed policies are breeding new Al-Qaeda members. And each day, the world is becoming more unsafe for us to live in.