Archive | November, 2009

It’s the Indians, Stupid!

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It’s the Indians, Stupid!

Posted on 30 November 2009 by PakBee - Total hits: 2,563

It seems a near consensus has been reached by all the major political parties in Pakistan, except the MQM, that India is aiding the Taliban in Swat and Waziristan.

In a press conference today ANP leader and NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Hoti joined the fine group of Pakistani political leaders who have blamed India for the Taliban problem. This came after reports in the Pakistani media that Fazlullah had managed to escape safe and sound and was now residing peacefully in Afghanistan. It is indeed hard to fathom how the NWFP govt. could have possibly prevented Fazlullah from escaping when the Indians are fully behind him.

The list of fine Pakistani political leaders who blame India for the Taliban problem also includes the PPP leader and current Interior Minister Rehman Malik. ‘We have solid evidence that not only in Balochistan but India is involved in almost every terrorist act in Pakistan,’ said the Interior Minister. Yikes! Indians are behind almost every terrorist act? Well, then the minister must know who the culprits are that carried out the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. It would be wonderful if he could share this information with the public so we could, maybe, catch them.

JI chief Munawar Hassan is not only one of those fine politicians blaming India, but he also believes that America are to blame for the security situation in Pakistan. While launching the ‘Go America Go’ drive aimed at ending US intervention in the country’s internal affairs he said that the Taliban had not attacked the GHQ, rather, India and the United States were directly behind the attack. Please note that the JI’s current ‘Go! America Go!’ drive aimed at ending American interference in Pakistan is not to be confused with JI’s ‘Go! America Go!’ drive in the 1980’s aimed at increasing American influence in Pakistan.

It is not yet known what evidence these incredible claims are based on, besides of course, Munawar Hassan’s beard. Yes, its true, Munawar Hassan’s beard is proof of American and Indian interference in Pakistan. How could it possibly get so long and lush without CIA and RAW support?

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Pakistan Sets World Record


Pakistan Sets World Record

Posted on 30 November 2009 by PakBee - Total hits: 2,077

A new world record is set by volunteers in Sindh by planting 541,176 trees in a single day, according to the Guinness World Records. The record-breaking tree-planting marathon was witnessed by representatives of Guinness World Records and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Some 300 volunteers, working in groups, planted mangrove saplings in the 750 acres of the Indus river delta region. Mangroves grow in delta regions where the fresh waters of the river mix with sea water. Pakistanis beat the previous team record for tree planting which was set in India just last month when 447,874 saplings were planted in Assam state. Each volunteer group was issued saplings by a panel of experts which also monitored the planting process to ensure that standards set by Guinness World Records were met. The Guinness representative was there to ensure that no old plants were included in the count.

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Financial Innovation: Pakistan’s ‘Hajj Notes’

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Financial Innovation: Pakistan’s ‘Hajj Notes’

Posted on 30 November 2009 by PakBee - Total hits: 6,215

Did you know that from the 1950 through the mid 1990s the State Bank of Pakistan would publish special Hajj Notes in Rupees for Pakistani Hajis?

The paper makes some interesting reading for history buffs as well as for collectors of banknotes.

Hajj Note - Pakistani

The article was written by P.J. Symes, an Australia based author who has written on paper currency from different parts of the world, including on the Paksitan Haj Notes. Some excerpts (reading the full article is highly recommended for enthusiasts):

From the time that Pakistan gained its independence in 1947… any Pakistani notes exported from Pakistan could be freely converted into foreign exchange. This free conversion was possible due to the Pakistani government promising to convert Pakistani rupees into pounds sterling on presentation of their notes for payment.

The free convertibility of the Pakistani rupee created opportunities for rupees to be smuggled out of Pakistan and later presented by foreign banks to the Pakistani authorities for payment in pounds sterling. These opportunities were exploited by gold smugglers. In India and Pakistan, gold has long been a medium of trade and a sign of wealth. However, it was illegal in both countries to import or export gold. This consequently encouraged criminals and adventurers in Pakistan to take Pakistani rupees to the Gulf states, purchase gold, and smuggle the precious metal back into Pakistan. Whilst many smugglers were caught, many succeeded. The Pakistani rupees that had been used to purchase gold in the Gulf states were returned through the international banking system and presented to the Pakistani authorities for payment in sterling. Pakistan thus found itself sponsoring the illegal importation of gold through the expenditure of its foreign reserves.

In September 1949 the pound sterling was devalued, but Pakistan chose not to devalue its currency in line with the British standard. Aware that smuggling might increase, because of speculators taking advantage of the devaluation of the pound sterling, complete restrictions were placed on the export and import of Pakistani currency. The only exception to these restrictions was for currency taken to Saudi Arabia by Haj pilgrims. Pakistani pilgrims were permitted to take Pakistani currency, up to certain limits, to Saudi Arabia where it was exchanged for Saudi riyals and later returned to the Pakistani authorities by the Saudi Arabian banks. However, in the year following the pound’s devaluation, it was noticed that far more currency than could possibly have been taken by the pilgrims was repatriated from Saudi Arabia – even assuming each pilgrim took the maximum permissible amount. It was apparent that the restrictions put in place by the Pakistani government were being circumvented by smugglers taking Pakistani rupees to the Gulf states and having them returned via the legitimate channel of the Saudi Arabian banks.

Realizing that they had to provide a solution to the problem of smuggling, as well as providing simple exchange facilities for Haj pilgrims, the government decided to issue special notes for the express use of the pilgrims. Although other means of exchange were considered, such as traveller’s cheques and bank drafts, the high level of illiteracy amongst the pilgrims and the additional costs that would be incurred through the need to purchase the items, swayed the government from these methods of exchange.

The ordinance amending the State Bank Order to allow the issue of special notes, or ‘Haj notes’ as they became known, was made in May 1950. The first Haj note issued by the government was a 100-rupee note. The Haj note was prepared with the same design as the existing 100-rupee note, but the colour was changed from green to red and an over-print was applied to the front of the note, indicating the specific use of the notes. The overprint read (in English): ‘For Pilgrims From Pakistan For Use In Saudi Arabia and Iraq.’ The Haj notes were not legal tender in Pakistan, but they could be used in Saudi Arabia to purchase Saudi riyals and be remitted to Pakistan via the usual channel of the Saudi Arabian banks.

The introduction of the 100-rupee Haj note was an outstanding success for the government. In 1949, the year before the introduction of the Haj note, Pakistani notes to the value of Rs. 28,045,308 were repatriated from Saudi Arabia. In 1950, following the introduction of the Haj notes, only Rs. 11,186,100 were repatriated. This indicated a great saving for the government and the notes also proved popular with the pilgrims… While Mecca is the destination for all Muslim pilgrims, there are a number of sites in Iraq that are considered holy by Shia’ah Muslims. Therefore, it has been the practice of Shia’ah Muslims to visit Iraq as part of their pilgrimage. Although the precise details of remitting Pakistani rupees from Iraq is unknown, it can be speculated that Pakistani rupees once enjoyed the same status in Iraq as they did in Saudi Arabia; as the first 100-rupee Haj note had indicated that their use was valid in ‘Saudi Arabia and Iraq’. It appears that by the time the 10-rupee note was introduced, the Government of Pakistan (or the State Bank of Pakistan) had decided to exclude Iraq as a destination to receive and remit Haj notes; as the new overprint indicates the notes were ‘for use in Saudi Arabia only’. Due to the limited number of surviving examples of this note, speculation can only be made as to whether later production runs of the 100-rupee notes always included the overprint that referred to Iraq, or whether it was replaced with an overprint similar to that which appeared on the 10-rupee notes.

Haj notes continued to be issued throughout the 1950s, with the number issued each year being subject to great fluctuations, due to the number of pilgrims undertaking the Haj in any given year. In fact the government sometimes limited the number of pilgrims who could undertake the pilgrimage, in order to control the drain on foreign exchange. In 1958 the number of pilgrims from Pakistan was 17,000 and cost Pakistan US$6 million in foreign exchange. In 1959 the government announced that a limit of 9,200 pilgrims would be allowed to undertake the Haj, saving the country an estimated US$3 million.

In the early 1950s, pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia on their Haj invariably did so by ship. In order to provide Haj notes to the pilgrims prior to their departure, the State Bank of Pakistan established booths at the ports of Karachi (West Pakistan) and Chittagong (East Pakistan). As times changed, air travel became an option for increasing numbers of pilgrims. The change in travel, and the need to keep track of the number of pilgrims and their expenditure, led to tighter controls on the costs incurred by pilgrims on their Haj. For many years it has been the custom for pilgrims to deposit all disbursements for their Haj with one of the commercial banks. The disbursements included the air-fare, the Haj fee charged by the Saudi Arabian government, and the pilgrim’s expenses in Saudi Arabia. The bank then supplied the pilgrims with their air tickets and their Haj notes to be used for daily expenses.

During the period leading to these changes, and as international currency exchange throughout the world became more competitive, various options for Haj pilgrims were introduced, such as Saudi Arabian pilgrim receipts and travellers cheques… While the use of Saudi Arabian pilgrim receipts was short-lived for Pakistani pilgrims, within a few years the use of traveller’s cheques began to increase as their use became more common and their acceptance in Saudi Arabia grew.

The article goes son to detail the design features of the various Hajj Notes issues by Pakistan over the years. However, I found this account fascinating as a piece of the largely forgotten economic history of Pakistan, and also of a rather interesting financial innovation from Pakistan.

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Is Pakistan Army Anti-America? Not really

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Is Pakistan Army Anti-America? Not really

Posted on 28 November 2009 by PakBee - Total hits: 2,156

When I advocate reform in Pakistan’s power structure or express hope that democracy will soon hold sway in Pakistan, my critics often label me an ‘American agent.’ Many young Pakistanis also opine that questioning ISI’s role is tantamount to compromising the country’s sovereignty.

Taking a look back at Pakistan’s history, however, exposes the hypocrisy of such assertions. It was, in fact, during Gen.Zia ul Haq’s rule that the US was allowed to construct five ‘intelligence and recon basses’ in Pakistan. It was under Gen. Musharaf’s rule that Pakistan compromised the security of it’s nuclear assets, allowed drone attacks, handed over Pakistani civilians to the CIA and allowed Blackwater to launch covert operations.

By now we all know about Seymour Hersh article in New Yorker. I have been wary of Mr. Hersch’s unnamed sources and questioned timing of his stories.

But Jeremy Scahill who writes for The Nation Magazine is a straight shooter. In his latest article in The Nation journalist Jeremy Scahill has revealed that Blackwater is secretly operating in Pakistan under a covert program that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. Blackwater operatives have been working under a covert program run by the Joint Special Operations Command, the military’s top covert operations force. The previously undisclosed JSOC operations would mark the first known confirmation of U.S. military activity inside Pakistan.

This was possible because in 2006 Gen. Pervez Musharaf struck a deal with the Bush administration that allows U.S. Special Operations forces from the Joint Special Operations Command to enter Pakistan with the understanding that they were, “following the target.”

Indeed, if you read Pakistan’s short history you will find that our Army has always served America’s interest and its foreign policy has been congruent with US policy in the region. Although our nation’s key decision to stand in America’s camp pre-dates the Ayub regime, it was during our first martial law that Pakistan’s anti-imperialist forces were completely crushed.

America was the clear winner when, on April 17th 1953, Pakistan’s third Governor General Malik Ghulam Mohammad dismissed Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin who had then enjoyed the confidence of the parliament. Mohammad Ali Bogra was appointed to form a government the same day. Looking through declassified documents at the US National Archives you will understand that the main benefactors of the change were always two elements, Pakistan’s army and the US.

Please see blow the US ambassador’s telegram from the embassy in Karachi sent on April 18th, 1953.

Sec Tel from Khi Emb Emmerson 18 April 1953

Two more significant telegrams sent from the US embassy in Karachi clearly indicate that: America was fearful of Pakistan’s left inclined politicians and Ayub Khan was being encouraged to take control ie. “a coup by a military dictatorship”.

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Pakistan’s Star Role On HBO Documentary

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Pakistan’s Star Role On HBO Documentary

Posted on 28 November 2009 by PakBee - Total hits: 5,171

Today we mark the one year anniversary of the darkest day in South Asia’s history. On November 26, 2008, ten misguided young men who were being controlled by a command center in Pakistan reached Mumbai in a small fishing boat. Before entering the shores of Mumbai these terrorists had already killed the captain and crew of the boat.

Mumbai Attack SuspectsHBO today televised a documentary narrated by Fareed Zakaria, a Mumbai born American journalist. ‘Terror in Mumbai.’ an extremely informative documentary compresses three days of mayhem – three days when ten Pakistani young men who had mobile phones and machine guns killed 170 people and wounded 300 more, sending shockwaves of fear around the world. I was horrified watching this 360-degree view of the terrorist act, recounted in harrowing detail – especially because these young men came from a country, I call my own.

Phone calls intercepted and recorded between these men sent on ‘jihad’ and their commander in Pakistan were heart wrenching. And, so was statement of Kasab, the only gunman who survived. As this documentary depicted, these young Pakistan men received instructions over the telephone, leaving a trail of evidence that led Indian investigators to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a group fighting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir. Pakistan’s military and ISI were also accused of backing the militants, a charge Islamabad has denied. New Delhi named 38 people in an 11,000-page charge sheet filed in a Mumbai court in February.

Ajmal Kasab IndiaAt some level I feel sorry for these lost souls- poverty stricken, uneducated young men who were fooled by conniving leaders of LeT and other fundamentalist organizations, However, I have no sympathies for their leaders- whomsoever they maybe. These characters have eroded the Pakistani society and have pushed us in a state of profound crisis.

I can’t forgive them because these morally corrupt LeT leaders have pushed us in a crisis that is complex, and multi-dimensional with facets that touch every aspect of our lives: our health and livelihood, the quality of our environment and our social relationships, our ideology, economy, and politics. It is a crisis of intellectual, moral, and spiritual dimensions; a crisis of a scale and urgency unprecedented in Pakistan’s 63 year history..

As a Pakistani, I stand today with my head down – embarrassed that my country has been hijacked by illiterate and irrational people – from self styled clergy to the army. These men will do anything they can to pursue their fantasy. Even if that means hoodwinking simple, young Pakistani men and murdering of innocent civilians on both sides of Indo-Pak border.

Undoubtedly, India is a belligerent regional hegemony and we must protect Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and dignity. But these wayward leaders who exploit religion and patriotism have managed to drown the voices of reason and rationality. With Petro dollars supported tribal and Wahabi influence Pakistan’s social structures and behavior patterns have become so rigid that this country can no longer adapt to changing situations, it is unable to carry on the creative process of cultural evolution.

Read response to my earlier blogs and you will find an eerie uniformity of opinion. Even those who are tolerant, progressive, democratic are willing to condone terrorists in the name of Islam and nation. This uniformity and lack of self-reflection are clear signs that our society is in the process of disintegration.

As I watched this documentary I was reminded of acts of terrorism Pakistanis witness everyday- every Pakistani is a victim. Unless Pakistan’s progressive and democratic forces are willing to take on the retrogressive elements we will concede our right to opinion, education and way of life. Fundamentalists will prohibit freedom of expression and use all coercive apparatus to crush opposition. Education will be discouraged and whatever little is allowed, will be subverted by distortion of curricula. You can argue what is new- it has always been the case? It is the intensity that will change. We are not talking about FATA or NWFP or the tribal areas. This monster is already in cosmopolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore.

I was horrified to hear the Punjabi accent of those controlling these 10 terrorists. I was horrified when these young men were ordered to shoot hostages- I can’t express my anger and fear.

We, the Pakistani people should seek forgiveness from the families of those who lost loved ones in Mumbai. We should let the people of Mumbai know that we are just as much a victim. We should let them know that we don’t condone these acts of violence.

We, the Pakistani people should let our rulers know that they can’t indulge in adventurism like LeT anymore. We should let ISI and MI know that we will not pay their salary if they do not immediately cease all relations with all terrorist outfits

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