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Why India, Pakistan treat their Nobel laureates shamefully

There is a common thread – of undervaluing our achievers; and looking at ideas, values and contributions from the jaundiced lens of partisan politics.

Amartya sen

In the early 1990s, as students of development economics we were told that Amartya Sen, an Indian, had contributed path-breaking insights into welfare economics. We learnt how he had shown the world that relative poverty mattered and that famines were not caused by a scarcity of food. Sen has added a new set of theories to philosophy and economics. By placing human concerns as central, his work on famines, poverty, gender inequality and political liberalism has altered the way development is viewed across the globe. In my practice of international development for the next two decades, Sen’s continuing contributions deeply informed my work.

Much of this South Asian pride melts away as I follow news and views in Indian media especially the unregulated space in social media. Sen is a villain. And his villainy is related to his unsparing comments about Narendara Modi prior to the 2014 Indian elections. Sen created a little disruption in post-Congress-fatigued India that was hankering for change. He referred to the “organised violence” against a minority community in 2002 and considered Modi’s record in office, as chief minister of Gujarat “terrible”.


Prioritising polio eradication

Nothing exemplifies the state of Pakistani society and its governance better the resurgence of the polio virus. Here is a country boasting of world’s fifth largest army, a nuclear arsenal, and utterly defeated by a contagious virus. In fact, we may have beaten our own record with more than 200 cases having been reported this year already. The world wants us to present a vaccination certificate when we travel outside the country. And the killing spree of health workers aiding the vaccination campaign continues unabated. Still, many Pakistanis ask, why is the world targeting Pakistan? Is it not enough for the world to be alarmed that more than 80 per cent of polio cases in the world are located in Pakistan?

In less than a year, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Balochistan, Sindh and Fata have seen dramatic increases in the total number of reported cases. In 2013, K-P had nine cases; now the number has crossed 40. It is, however, the conflict-ridden Fata where children are most vulnerable. Last year, there were 37 reported cases and as of September 2014, 135 polio cases have been confirmed in the region.

Ask a common Pakistani and there will be a reference to Dr Shakil Afridi, a ‘spy’ who has undermined the credibility of immunisation campaigns by running a fake campaign in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Dr Afridi, the international NGO and the CIA were irresponsible to say the least. But this is not the full story. Pakistani authorities and thousands of parents are far more irresponsible in failing to administer polio drops to vulnerable children. […]

On the Controversial US Drones’ Program in Pakistan

Raza Rumi

tft-42-p-8-a Mustafa Qadri with a copy of the new Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s recent publication, “Will I be Next? US Drone Strikes in Pakistan” has spurred a global debate on the use of drone strikes in Pakistan. The report invited some critical responses on issues of accuracy and objectivity but overall it has informed the ongoing debates. In Pakistan, it has been used by different lobbies to advocate their stance through selective interpretation. Raza Rumi spoke to Amnesty’s Pakistan Researcher Mustafa Qadri on some of these issues and concerns.

What are the most critical findings of Amnesty’s recent report?

In some of the cases we have documented extensively, the US appears to have committed unlawful killings in breach of international law. Some of these killings, particularly the targeting of so-called ‘rescuers’, may even constitute war crimes or extra-judicial executions. This includes the killing of 18 laborers in the impoverished village of Zowi Sidgi around Magreb time on 6 July 2012. In another case, a drone strike killed 67 year old grandmother Manana Bibi in front of her grandchildren. Those responsible for these killings must be brought to justice. The US must come clean and acknowledge this secretive program, fully disclose the number of documented deaths, how many they view as non-combatants, how they arrived at these figures, how they assess that a person is a combatant and therefore will be targeted, and fully disclose the legal basis for the program, including the US Department of Justice Legal Memo that is purportedly the cornerstone of its legality. I believe this is only possible if the program and the cases we and others have documented are investigated by a genuinely independent and impartial body. It should not be left to the Obama Administration and the US Congress and Senate committees, which are supposed to provide oversight of the targeted killing programs, because they have failed to adequately do this.

What were the difficulties in gathering data? How did you secure access to the victims and the area? Did Pakistan state cooperate or hinder the efforts?

Securing data is extremely difficult in FATA because of the secretive US program, the lawless and remote nature of the area, and the active control and suppression of accurate testimony by local actors including the Taliban, Al Qaeda linked groups and Pakistani security authorities. This issue is so politicised that it is difficult to take claims on face value. That’s why our research is based on extensive, discreet research from multiple eyewitnesses interviewed on three separate occasions by separate investigators who have worked with us in the past – not just on drones, but abuses by the Taliban and others, abuses against women and so on. We corroborated eyewitness testimony against satellite imagery, photographs, video, and analysis of missile fragments by experts. […]

December 7th, 2013|Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|2 Comments

Revelations of war crimes and moralizing idealism

By Charles Bogle (found here)

The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, by Ron Suskind. New York: Harper, 2008, 398 pp.

Several months before invading Iraq, President Bush dismissed irrefutable evidence that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

By the close of 2003, with no weapons of mass destruction found and the American public beginning to question the rationale for the war, the White House fabricated a letter that “proved” the purported links between Iraq and al Qaeda as well as Colin Powell’s claim before the United Nations that Niger had shipped uranium to Iraq.

So reports the Wall Street Journal’s former senior national affairs writer Ron Suskind in The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism.

Suskind argues that these impeachable offenses are manifestations of America’s loss of its core values and hope for a better future; and that extremism, both in the US and the Mideast had undermined the inability “to walk in the shoes of the ‘other.’” […]

September 15th, 2008|Personal|2 Comments