Neighbourhood Watch - Pakistan

Well to be frank those who were shocked by Benazair Bhutto brutal death, this was waiting to happen & I guess she had a hint of it coming, maybe she was a fatalist. For some people it is the reputation that they have to live up to, even if that means courting death. I guess she was that kind of a daredevil. But to say that all was lost for Pakistan & sanity in the neighbourhood's that day in Liaquat Park would be far from truth. I agree she was the best bet in such a violent crucible that Pakistan has become, but the country is not falling apart. Outside of the frontier areas of NWFP-FATA & Baluchistan there is a semblance of sanity & normalcy in Punjabi & Sindhi heartland. True there have been violence in settled areas of Swat & Rawalpindi's but these areas are the fringes of the Taliban territory & hence bound to suffer some collateral damage. The reason I believe that things can not go down further from here for Pakistan is based on 3 reasons

#1 Inability of Taliban to move beyond tribal areas - Insurgency is okay, but to run a parallel government requires you physically control huge swathe of settled areas of NWFP & Punjab. They have been unable to do so & their move into Swat valley failed miserably. They do not have so many foot soldiers to make their writ run outside of tribal areas. Taliban strategy has always been to thrive on confusion (Afghanistan) & master the tribal juggernaut (Waziristan).

# 2 Army,America & Bomb - Pakistan Army & America have huge stakes that things don't unravel further. Balkanization is one thing that America can not afford.The Bomb is one reason, Iran & Afghanistan is another, Bin Laden is third, 165 million angry people is fourth, & American standing in Islamic world & its pipe dream of making this country a beacon of democracy. One big unknown out here is the integrity of the Pakistani army.

# 3 Pakistani people - Nobody in the glitzy towns of Punjab & Sind want to be under a Taliban regime. I guess most of the middle & urban class would no like to live under veil & a beard. There are fringe sections to society that are more tuned to radical ideas but I doubt if they have the numbers to control the destiny of 165 million people.

So what the future holds, It is quite likely that things could worsen before they get any better, but I don't foresee state of Pakistan falling apart. Also U.S. would try to now to go behind covers as its masterly approach is being used by jihadis to fuel anger. The move to democracy will falter, instead a spring offensive next year when snow melts is very likely. Pakistan would then march into tribal areas, but the win would be pyrrhic indeed.

The Values Debate

We had this little water cooler debate yesterday as to what amounts to values & ethics & culture. What exactly do these words mean in today's consumerist society. I guess it's all ugly & muddy out there. I am adding this as a place holder to initiate a nice & sane debate as to what you feel about them.

Do add in your comments :)

Swiss Army Knife Syndrome

What does one want? The versatility of the Swiss army knife or the utility of the mundane kitchen knife. The Swiss army knife with its plethora of tools is helpful in cutting across most tight corners that one may find oneself in, but when at ease, when in the luxury of you home, you really don't want to be using it to do all your cutting with it. This is a quintessential choice I am facing, whether to stick to one set of technologies or be what I had been till day, jack of all trades, ace of none !. I used to like being a multi-headed hydra, but I guess its easier being a simple knife then the fancy-ism of the Swiss army knife.

My Take On American Politics

An open letter from Iranian intelligence. Note the subtle satire of the editorial & the latest release of the NIE report on Iran has reinforced that the intelligence (and ground reality) is hopelessly out of sync with the perceptions of the administration. This is a silent political earthquake that has been delivered to the neo-con lobby led by Dick Cheney that has fully disturbed the pawns on the Great chessboard. This is not new, not now not after that Iraqi disaster. There is a certain air of cynicism that has gripped the American mainstream media since the Bush's second term. Everybody on TV talks of the nation that has lost its way, even though you don't feel it that way when you talk to people or interact with them. Maybe I was never with people that really mattered. After spending a decent time in American liberal heartland, I have realized that Bush has neither the support of liberals nor conservatives. He is like a whipping post that everybody likes to whip religiously. But there is the catch, I don't he is the main problem, he may be a polarizing figure in the centre at best, but he is not dictating the American politics.

Instead it is that the conservatives & liberals are tied around there extremes so tightly that there is no middle ground, & neither any hope of it. Nobody talks of sub-prime or health care or immigration, instead the whole energy is being spend on creation, evolution, abortion & debating who is the biggest tax liberal. I used to think earlier who are these people who have such utter faith in creationism or anti-choice or anti-stem cell research, but having lived there I have come to know that an average white American living in rural America is church going, does not seem to like gays, republican, creationist, pro-life & fiscally conservative & is against immigrants or American jobs being outsourced. And with such a large population feeling marginalized by successive liberal regimes & the democratic penchant for big business & outsourcing, its payback time. Therefore even with so much knee jerk reaction to Bush's presidency, it won't be easy for democrats to take the Oval office back. But in all this confusion & stalemate one thing is clear, that conservatism is in & on TV it is big business. Every evening on CNN there is a conservative show - Lou Dobbs Show, even though I don't like the fear-mongering tone of the show or the anchor, but the show whole raison d'etre is to provoke fear about everything & anything, about oil money buying US ports/NASDAQ/highways, about outsourcing, about immigration, about Chinese imports, about Iran. He seems to have lot of audience though. I guess conservatism is a safe bet, always, at least the onus of change is no longer there.