Thursday, August 24, 2006

Political Impact in Pakistan of the 10/08 Quake...and Other Thoughts

I found this a couple of days ago. I hadn't seen it before. It's a report from the International Crisis Group (the ICG) on the Impact on the political scene in Pakistan of everything that happened because of or around the earthquake that hit the north of the country in October last year:

As I never tire of saying, people don't pay sustained and close--but most importantly, sustained--attention to this sixth largest nation and second largest of Muslim countries in the world.

Of course, one could go overboard and scream "Terrorist Haven!", "Terrorist Haven!", but then there's the opinion of the likes of Richard Armitage to pay heed to:

But my favorite media discussion this week was an interview of Akbar S. Ahmad on CSPAN. You can watch it from here;

or go directly to the Real stream file at:


I think he overdoes explaining the Abrahamic commonalities between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, but he does do a good job of explaining the relevance of Pakistan--for better and for worse--and it's founding father. Now you might dismiss that as the bias of a self-described "Jinnahist" like me, but do listen to the interview. It might bring up a couple of new things you didn't know or a way of looking at things you hadn't thought of.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Muslims, Myopia and Manji

Irshad Manji's back in the discussion, with her New York Times Op-Ed of a couple of days ago, titled "Muslim Myopia", in which she criticizes the recent statement/letter from prominent Muslim leaders addressed to their government. The point the British leaders make is that British foreign policy fuels extremism amongst Muslims. Ms. Manji's assertion is that Muslims who put any blame on foreign policy should "challenge the educated and angry young Muslims to hold their own accountable, too":

Muslims are often quick to dimiss Ms. Manji as a "sell-out" or worse. But, of course, as some folks have pointed out in the last couple of days, that's not really very helpful in the discussion of the relevant issues, and we can often forget that while we might reflexively know (or think we know) what the trouble, to use her phrase, is with what she says, people outside the community can be left grasping for why there's just a strong and knee-jerk reaction to her. Which is why I thought I would try to make an attempt to address her specific point in the op-ed above. Here goes!

In the morning yesterday, a local journalist had called to discuss reaction and feeling in the Pakistani community with respect to the recent news from Britian about a terrorist plot. I ran into Ms. Manji's op-ed a few hours after that conversation and followed up by sending the correspondent a link to it in an email with the simple subject line: "Groan". She replied to ask what parts I found troubling. Here's what I sent in reply:

"The parts missing.

"I am no supporter of the British Muslim leaders who signed the letter (remember my piece about Reflections on 7/7?), but the point being made by such statements is not, as Ms. Manji posits, that "jihadists" need "foreign policy grievances to justify their hot heads", but that those grievances make it much, much easier for the jihadists to recruit "the most vulnerable" (young people and converts, as has been said by several people) and much, much harder for the moderates within the community to counter their influence.

"By consistently (some say intentionally) missing this point, Irshad Manji consistently proves herself part of the problem rather than part of the solution."

As a follow up, it is a huge relief to now hear voices from outside the community and it's usual sympathisers saying pretty much the same thing. For example, Matt Stoller of MyDD made pretty much the same comment about the statement from British Muslims on Radio Open Source a few days ago. (I just heard the program later in the day yesterday.)

[For further discussion of Ms. Manji and her relationship to the community, what I have taken to doing is sending folks a link to an earlier post on this blog that provides a round up of critique about her from the left within the Muslim community: ]

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Siliconeer, New American Media, 7/11, Seattle, and London

Siliconeer Magazine, Silicon Valley, in its July 2006 edition carried a version of a post on this blog as an op-ed that, given the event in Seattle on July 28th, 2006--the very same day the piece was piced up by New America Media--and the recent "foiled terror plot in London" becomes even more relevant:

Syndicated in: New America Media
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Back from Summer Hiatus

I am back from a period of being tied up with various things. Let's just call it my Summer Break. Let's see what's going on...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Edhi Foundation: A South Asian Charity in Lebanon

Folks will remember that, after the Earthquake in South Asia last year, I and other Pakistanis were quick to recommend the Edhi Foundation as one organization we would recommend as reliable, effective, and not religiously-focused. (See:

Now, in this time of devastation in Lebanon, the Edhi Foundation is one direct South Asian engagement with that crisis on the ground. Edhi Saahab himself is in Lebanon:

I am putting this on the table as a possible resource for people and groups to maybe support and provide as a reference to others. Better than blindly supporting charities that might have ideological or other aspects to them that could be problematic.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Emotional and Rehabilitative Support to Earthquake-Affected Children

Got this a little while back from a friend in Pakistan, who's the CEO of an organization called SPO, or Strengthening Participatory Organisation, and have been meaning to put it up. It seems self-explanatory:

Emotional and Rehabilitative Support to Earthquake-Affected Children

Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) has been actively involved in relief and rehabilitation activities in the earthquake-affected areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). In addition to direct supplies of essential items-food, clothing, shelter and medicines-the organisation provided logistics support to doctors, paramedics, journalists and volunteers in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. It also supported relief work through information dissemination and civil society networking. SPO has also conducted research and organised policy dialogues to influence rehabilitation and reconstruction processes.

Working with Children
SPO was among the first organisations to recognise that children who had survived the earthquake were in need of immediate psychological and emotional support: many of them were rescued from under rubble and had undergone serious trauma in addition to physical pain. They had lost their possessions and their own houses. They had heard, smelt and felt the earthquake and seen its effects on buildings and people.

Naturally, these impressions had a huge psychological impact. Psychologists, psychiatrists and those involved in relief work agreed that professional counseling, an opportunity to talk, play, study and to express themselves creatively could go a long way in helping these children overcome trauma and cope with the loss they had suffered.

Recognising this need and based on a rapid assessment, SPO began a programme to provide emotional and rehabilitative support to children in central Muzafarabad in November 2005. The programme, which initially covered about 100 children at a single site, has now spread to four locations targeting some 250 children up to 15 years of age. The initiative also helped SPO launch a Save the Children-US (SC-US) funded project in Batagram, NWFP involving one hundred safe play areas and temporary learning centres.

In Muzafarabad, volunteers trained by SPO conduct fortnightly sessions at each location. Children are given an opportunity to draw pictures, sing songs, recite poems and do physical activities that help replenish their emotional and physical energies and coping strength. Volunteers talk to children about themes that are relevant to their condition: coping with physical and mental stress, maintaining health and hygiene, continuing studies and so on. Doctors visit the sites periodically, advise children and their mothers and prescribe medicines. Pottery and handicraft workshops are also planned for children as therapeutic and skill development interventions.

The programme’s positive impact can be seen on children’s faces: as they laugh and smile, giggle and chatter, talk things over, take pride in drawing a beautiful picture now, making a clay house then, we know our efforts are bearing fruit. This represents a sea change from what we had observed during rapid assessment. Many children then complained of sleep and eating disorders, had difficulty expressing themselves and saw little hope for the future. Such cases are very rare today in localities where SPO is working.

Our team also keeps a close liaison with parents and local communities, helps them self organise, maintain a clean physical environment and respond positively to children’s emotional and physical needs.

The programme in Muzafarabad is being run solely through public donations and with no donor funding. We need your continued moral support. We also welcome donations in cash and kind that will help us improve and sustain our work.

Contact Details
If you wish to know more about the initiative or are interested in making a donation, please contact Adnan Abdul Sattar, voluntary coordinator with SPO at 0300-3588217 or via email, Or Mr. Shahid Mahmood, Senior Manager Finance, SPO. Telephone: 051 2273527-2820426

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