Sunday, December 30, 2012
http://www.smh.com.auThe Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, will not quit before his term ends in 2014 and that it is ''impossible to change his position''. The declaration came as Syrian armed forces recaptured a town in the west of the country after days of heavy fighting, Al Jazeera television reported. Government troops had taken control of Deir Balbah, near Homs, the station reported. An opposition coalition said the troops had executed some 220 residents, who were among at least 392 people killed across the country. The figures are unconfirmed. On December 28 Russia, Syria's principal international backer, called on Mr Assad to make efforts towards a political settlement by holding talks, with the opposition, on all options. ''When the opposition says that only Assad's departure would allow for the start of talks on the fate of the country - we think that's incorrect,'' Mr Lavrov said. Maintaining that position was contributing to the rising death toll, he said. Advertisement In the 21 months of violence that has pitted the mainly Sunni Muslim opposition against the Alawite-dominated security forces loyal to Mr Assad, more than 44,000 people have been killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says. On Sunday, Mr Lavrov and the United Nations' envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the conflict was becoming increasingly sectarian. ''If Russia has a proposal to stop the bleeding in Syria, it should submit it and we will respond,'' the head of the main bloc of Syrian opposition groups, Moaz al-Khatib, told Al Jazeera by telephone. ''We can't meet the Russians without a clear agenda.'' Russia has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of fuelling the conflict by arming the Syrian opposition. Syrian forces in Deir Balbah found tunnels that rebels were using to smuggle weapons, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Mr Brahimi, who met Mr Assad and opposition representatives in Damascus in recent days, is proposing an interim government with full executive powers to prepare for elections in Syria. Russia is prepared to meet the opposition in a ''neutral venue'', Mr Lavrov said on Saturday, adding that it was in the Syrian opposition's interests to hear the Russian position. The talks could be held in Moscow, Geneva or Cairo, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, said last Friday, Russia's international news agency RIA Novosti reported. ''If they feel Russia has a useful role to play in this drama, they should be ready to meet Russian representatives without any preconditions,'' Mr Lavrov said. Sheikh Khatib said that while he would not travel to Moscow, he was open to talks, but he also demanded from Russia a ''clear condemnation of the crimes committed by the Syrian regime'', Al Jazeera reported. A spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, denied media reports that Mr Brahimi had said Mr Assad could stay in power until 2014 under the peace plan. Russia, which has blocked UN sanctions against Syria, has a naval base in the country and arms contracts worth billions of dollars with the state. After the overthrow of Iraq's Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year, Syria is the last big customer in the region for Russian weapons.
BY:Syed Badrul AhsanMy acquaintance with Parveen Shakir's poetry began in late 1995 in Lahore, where I had gone to attend a media conference of journalists from South Asia. At the end of the conference, those of us in the Bangladesh team --- Enayetullah Khan, Badal Rahman, Shakhawat Ali Khan, Matiur Rahman, Syed Kamaluddin and I --- decided to have a tour of a market in Lahore before flying to Karachi on our way back home. At the solitary bookshop in that particular market I was happily surprised to know of Parveen Shakir the poet and immensely sad to be informed that she had died a year previously in a car crash. I asked the salesman to give me a copy each of Parveen Shakir's collections of poetry, Khushboo and Khud Kalami, that I spotted on the shelves. He was happy to oblige. As I was about to pay him, Mintu bhai (our very dear Enayetullah Khan) stepped forward and asked me if I could read Urdu. I said indeed I could. But he would not take my word for it. Asking me to read a few lines from Khud Kalami before the salesman, he told the salesman to confirm if I read correctly. I read, which reading was duly confirmed by the salesman. Mintu bhai was thrilled. I walked off with the books, which after all these years form part of my little library at home. And in all the seasons that have gone by since that December day in Lahore, I have kept in touch with Parveen Shakir through reading, and then re-reading, her poetry. I have watched her recite on youtube and I have wondered why death often comes to the young and the promising at just the point where they are ready to give more of themselves to the world. Shakir, a highly educated Pakistani civil servant and a respected poet in her country, was only forty two when she died in December 1994. Hers was a tragedy that has been hard to ignore by those who have delighted in her poetry. For me, it has been the images and the influences that mark Shakir's poetry which remain an endless source of literary ecstasy. There were all the love poems she composed, together with the ghazals which have given her a prominent berth in Urdu poetry not just in Pakistan but in neighbouring India as well. And knowing as we do of the contributions made by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmad Faraz to Urdu poetry in South Asia, it is not hard to fathom the niche Parveen Shakir created for herself in a world traditionally dominated by men. Observe the following: Wo to khushboo hai hawa mein bikhar jayega / masla phool ka hai phool kidhar jayega (He is the fragrance that will give himself to the breeze / the problem is the flower's, where will the flower go?) All good poetry is heart-wrenching poetry. And in that simple line, Shakir speaks of the torment a woman in love goes through when her lover turns his back on her and walks away. Shakir gives you a new perspective, that of a woman mourning the departure of the one she loves, which again is in sheer contrast to the poetry of rejection which we are wont to get from men. That the heart breaks in women too, with a crack that is as loud as can be, is what you experience in Parveen Shakir. And yet the poetry of heartbreak does not come raw or prosaic. There is the subtle yet pronounced imagery Shakir employs in her poetry. One keeps coming up against such presences as fragrance, air, flower --- khushboo, hawa, phool --- as also badal (clouds), baarish (rain) and titli (bird) in her verses. And the verses, of course, ranged across a wide expanse, often extending themselves into ghazals exploring the innermost recesses of feeling. Read, again: Chand meri tarah pighalta raha / neend mein saari raat chalta raha / jaane kis dukh se dil girifta tha / muun pe badal ki raakh malta raha / main to paaon ke kaante chunti rahi / aur wo raasta badalta raha . . . (Like me the moon went on melting / all night long it travelled in slumber / who knows in what sadness the heart was imprisoned? / it went on rubbing the ashes of the clouds on its face / I went on choosing thorns for my feet / and he went on changing his path . . .) There was a spirit of the fiercely religious in Shakir's ghazals, as these invocations to the Creator make clear: My heart is fiery, and to reach thee / it shall render my body a canoe and my blood a river . . . And it is then back to romance, in a defiant statement of self-assertion: I will live my life away from you / like an exile . . . Parveen Shakir's poetry rests on a plenitude of similes and metaphors, as her emphasis on fragrance, clouds, birds, et al, demonstrates so clearly. There is too, in her free verse, a free-wheeling, unapologetic use of English terms, a style which often left her verses open to criticism from the purist quarters of Urdu poetry. But for Shakir, the use of English in certain instances was motivated by two factors. In the first place, it was necessary for her to bring to her readers the contemporary trends, however unpalatable, which marked the use of Urdu as a language of the masses. In the second, through employing English words and terms in certain instances, Shakir hits home with the point she tries to make in the poetry. That said, there were in Parveen Shakir certain shades of influence --- of T.S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats --- that came from her reading and assessment of these two predominant poets of the twentieth century. Modernism is what punctuates Parveen Shakir's poetry. Her diction is direct, her attitude is unembarrassed and her approach is one of the no-nonsense kind. Observe, yet once more: Ab kya jo tere paas aaoon / kis maan pe tujh ko aazmaoon / zakhm ab to saamne se khaoon / dushman se na dosti barhaoon / titli ki tarah jo urh chuka hai / wo lamha kahan se khoj laoon . . . (What remains for me now to come to you? / By what standard should I test you? / My wounds strike me from the front / I make no friendship with the enemy / that which has flown like the bird / from where shall I retrieve that moment?). (Parveen Shakir --- Pakistani poet, columnist and civil servant --- was born on 24 November 1952 and died in a road accident on 26 December 1994). Syed Badrul Ahsan, Executive Editor, The Daily Star, edits Star Literature and Star Books Review.
The incidents that saw the Afghan National Army troops first torturing Pakistani labourers and then truck drivers at Torkham border in the last 10 days or so was neither warranted not called for. And this becomes all the more gratuitous when the people of a brotherly country are involved in the ugly incidence. This obviously invited the retaliation of the government of Pakistan to a degree that it summoned Afghanistan ambassador to Pakistan Mohammad Omar Daudzai to the foreign office seeking his explanation. The envoy, however, assured Islamabad that Kabul would investigate the matter and punish those responsible for the mess at the Durand Line’s Pule Charkhi check post. The grotesque incidents was taken so gravely by Pakistani security forces as they closed down the Pak-Afghan border and it was only on Saturday that it was reopened for normal traffic of the people and trucks laden with goods. What poses a threat in the wake of these occurrences is that the people of Afghanistan seem fostering hatred towards Pakistan and Pakistanis for the reasons that can neither be explained nor understood. Given the situation that Afghanistan needs Pakistan direly in the situation that NATO and US forces are planning to leave the Afghan soil towards the end of 2014 and that Pakistan is still hosting about 1.6 million Afghan refugees, such a conduct becomes all the more unexplainable. This is a hard fact that Pakistani industrial workers had gone to Afghanistan to earn their livelihood and possessed all the legitimate traveling documents including passports which were reportedly torn and thrown in River Kabul by Afghan troops. This is also a fact that Pakistani security guards posted at check points on the porous border, treat Afghani nationals nicely and with respect. Pakistan and Afghanistan share much more commonalities than conflicts and their political future is also bound in a common twine. For example, both are members of SAARC and have the same plan for South Asia; both are eying the Shanghai Cooperation Organization membership for regional prosperity; and both have a widespread interest in the gas pipeline coming from Turkmenistan. And above all, they share a common frontier that makes them immediate neighbours. Why then such hostilities that may create a gulf rather than coming closer to each other in the realization of an identical global agenda? President Hamid Karzai has time and again said he longed everlasting friendship with Pakistan and that there could be no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan. He must also demonstrate that he is sincere in his claim. Now is the time that Kabul take steps to foster fraternity and not enmity with Pakistan.
The Frontier PostGovernor Barrister Masood Kausar strongly condemned the killing of Levi jawans who were kidnapped from FR Peshawar the other day and said that the elements involved in the heinous crime will be brought to justice. "This is the inhuman act and a serious threat to the writ of the state and the elements involved do not deserve any sympathy or soft corner. The law of the land has to be invoked with full force to nab them at the earliest," he said. Paying rich tribute to the martyrs, the governor said that the sacrifices of the jawans were the greatest asset of the nation and will always be remembered with deepest respect and regards. At the same time, he added, un-warranted killing of the jawans will never go in vain rather the culprits involved will have to pay the cost. He asked the concerned authorities to gear up the arrangements to ensure maintenance of law and order in the area at every cost. The governor expressed his deepest sympathies with the members of the bereaved families and said that the near and dear ones of the martyrs had sacrificed their lives for the security of the country and in this hour of trial they should not feel alone rather proud that the entire nation stood with them. The governor also prayed for the eternal peace of the departed souls and courage to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss with patience.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon urges Indian government to act urgently following death of 23-year-old Delhi studentThe UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has urged the Indian government to take action to protect women after a 23-year-old student died of injuries sustained during a gang rape in Delhi. "Every girl and woman has the right to be respected, valued and protected," Ban said in a statement in which he welcomed efforts by the government but called for "further steps and reforms to deter such crimes and bring perpetrators to justice". The intervention of the UN takes the fallout from the incident two weeks ago to a new level and underlines the damage it has done to India's international image, already battered by corruption scandals, a huge power failure earlier this year, and slowing economic growth. The body of the still unnamed victim was cremated according to Hindu rites in Delhi shortly after dawn on Sunday. More details have emerged about her: the eldest of three children, she was reportedly a bright and funny, independent woman from a humble background who impressed her tutors at medical college and taught schoolchildren in the family home, a one-bedroom flat, to help with finances. Her father is reported to be a loader at Delhi's airport. Friends quoted by local media said she had been planning to marry the 28-year-old male friend she was with when the attack took place. The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party, met the plane carrying her body from Singapore, where doctors had tried to save her life after 10 days of treatment in India. Singh and Gandhi, with other senior Indian politicians, have been heavily criticised for their slow and high-handed response to the incident, which has generated outrage, grief and anger across the country. "It's been a huge challenge to all of them. They have seen the whole affair as basically a law and order problem. There has been no conversation," said Swapan Dasgupta, a Delhi-based analyst. "But that style of top-down politics is not going to work any more, particularly with young, aspirational urban people." Figures published on Sunday revealed that despite 635 reported cases of rape and 745 arrests in Delhi this year, there had been only one conviction. A total of 572 rapes were reported to Delhi police in 2011, up from 507 in 2010, 469 in 2009 and 466 in 2008. The government has said it will bring in fast-track courts to accelerate the legal process. The funeral was conducted in secrecy and under heavy police guard, with the media abiding by a collective decision to stay away. Demonstrations calling for reforms and the execution of the six men detained for the attack continued in Delhi and other major cities, as they have done every day for nearly two weeks. Despite a major security operation that kept mourners and protesters away from the centre of the capital, there were some clashes on Sunday afternoon. Local newspapers said more than 18,000 police had been deployed, nearly a quarter of the Delhi force's total strength. India has been plunged into an extraordinary bout of self-analysis following the woman's death. The media have provided blanket coverage of the attack, which took place on a moving bus in south Delhi on 16 December. All of Sunday's front pages and news bulletins were devoted to the incident and its aftermath. High profile new year parties in the capital and elsewhere have been cancelled. Bollywood stars have expressed their shame and anger. One of the biggest, Shahrukh Khan, posted on Twitter: "Rape embodies sexuality as our culture and society has defined it. I am so sorry that I am a part of this society and culture." Bollywood itself has been under fire. One columnist spoke of how plots of often classic films "sanctify pestering and stalking of women". The new interest in sexual crimes has led to reports that would have struggled to make it on air or into newspapers in the normal frenzied Indian news cycle, where often sensationalist TV channels compete ruthlessly. One major newspaper ran a list of sexual crimes against women that have taken place during the ongoing battle between security forces and Maoist guerillas in the centre of the country. Headlined "Women suffer big in India's state vs rebels war", it held both sides responsible. Over the past 24 hours, other reported incidents have included women attempting to take their own lives after being gang raped, the attempted murder of a rape victim in Rajasthan and an infant dying after a rape in Gujarat. In West Bengal, a woman was reportedly raped by three hospital workers after seeking treatment for her baby. A woman was also allegedly assaulted on a bus in Delhi. One man was arrested. India's courts have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases, which would take decades to clear if all were heard. Facilities for forensic analysis are few and poorly equipped. Healthcare in many of the rural areas where assaults are endemic is often rudimentary. The UN has offered to help India "strengthen critical services for rape victims" with "technical expertise and other support as required," Ban said. The problem is, however, enormously complex. For example, women in rural India are rendered more vulnerable because a lack of sanitation facilities forces them to defecate in woods or fields after dark. Dasgupta said the affair had laid bare the gulf between India's political elite and younger voters. "There's a big demographic factor that we are beginning to see. How parties react to it will determine their political future," he said.
Barack Obama has made an urgent final appeal to a bitterly divided Congress to steer America away from the “fiscal cliff” as Democrats and Republicans remained locked in tense eleventh-hour negotiations.At midnight on December 31 the world’s largest economy will topple over the so-called “cliff” - $607 billion (£390 billion) in tax rises and government spending cuts that economists fear could trigger a new recession - unless politicians can agree to a deal. As the Senate and the House of Representatives convened for emergency sessions, hopes of a deal in the upper house appeared to be fading as Harry Reid, the Democrat leader, said the parties remained “apart on some pretty big issues”. His Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, said that he was speaking directly to vice president Joe Biden in an effort to “jump start” the stalled talks. The Senate's session ended last night without a vote but Mr Reid said negotiations would continue throughout the night. Earlier, Mr Obama made a rare appearance on Sunday television to call for immediate action.“What congress needs to do, first and foremost, is to prevent taxes from going up for the vast majority of Americans,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. Failure to strike a deal would “obviously have an adverse reaction on the markets”, he said. “I think business and investors are going to feel more negative about the economy.” Though he claimed to be “optimistic” that Washington would act in time to stop the politically-created economic crisis, Mr Obama said “certain factions” on the Right of the Republican party were to blame for the gridlock. The president said that Republicans’ “overriding, unifying theme” was preventing tax rises on the wealthy, even at the expense of a compromise that would help the middle class. “The fact that [a deal] is not happening is an indication of how far certain factions inside the Republican Party have gone that they can’t even accept what used to be centrist, mainstream positions on these issues,” he said. John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house, retorted: “Americans elected President Obama to lead, not cast blame.” If a compromise is agreed by Senate leaders, it would have to be voted on on Monday and approved by the end of the day by the House, where the vote could go either way. The deepest divide between the two sides is over how many Americans should face higher tax rates when cuts originally introduced by George W Bush in 2003 expire at 11.59 tomorrow night. Republicans insist that only households earning more than $1 million (£645 million) a year should see their rate go up. Democrats are instead seeking a threshold of somewhere between $250,000 and $400,000. The last-minute meetings come more than a year after Democrats and Republicans agreed to design the “fiscal cliff” as a way of forcing both sides to compromise on a plan to reduce the $16.4 trillion debt. As well as raising taxes on nearly nine in 10 Americans, the cliff would trigger unemployment benefits stopped for two million people and swingeing cuts to the military budget and domestic spending programmes. Mr Obama said that if no agreement is reached, then the Democrat-controlled Senate would pass emergency legislation to protect unemployment benefits and prevent tax rises on families making less than $250,000 (£160,000) a year. Passing the emergency bill would throw down a political gauntlet to the Republican leaders in the House: they could reject it and face blame for allowing taxes to rise or else accept it and risk a backlash from the Right. "Republicans have to decide if they're going to block it, which would mean middle class taxes do go up," Mr Obama said. "I don't they would want to do that politically but they might end up doing it." Mr Obama added that if “all else fails”, then the new Congress that meets from January 4 would have to act to undo the economic damage caused. However, Mr Obama quoted Winston Churchill as he explained why he still believed that Congress would lurch to a last-moment deal: "Winston Churchill used to say that we Americans, we try every other option before we finally do the right thing." As night fell and no breakthrough had been reached, senior figures began to express their pessimism. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, tweeted. “I'm incredibly disappointed we cannot seem to find common ground. I think we're going over the cliff." Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said the two main parties "are much farther apart than I hoped they'd be." During the wide-ranging NBC interview, Mr Obama admitted that “sloppiness” at the state department was to blame for the lack of security at the US consulate in Benghazi that was overrun by Islamist militants in September. The attack killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The president also defended Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator being considered by the White House as the next secretary of defence. Mr Hagel had come under fire for comments about the power of the “Jewish lobby” in US politics, and for appearing to question in 1998 whether gay people should serve as American ambassadors.
http://www.thehindu.comThe cremation of the young physiotherapy gang-rape victim was a low-key affair, with the government taking control and ensuring little public participation. Security in the area was beefed up as the woman’s mortal remains were consigned to the flames at Dwarka crematorium within hours of the arrival of the body from Singapore early this morning. Though the body reached the crematorium around 5-45 a.m. and was put on the pyre by 6 a.m., the victim’s father lit it at around 7-30 a.m. as the family members protested against the police rushing them to get the cremation done before sunrise. The area was fortified with a large number of policemen and members of the Rapid Action Force in anti-riot gear guarding the area and keeping a close vigil. Deployment of security personnel had started on Saturday night. The 23-year-old victim had breathed her last at a Singapore hospital on Saturday, after a 13-day battle for life following the brutal assault on her by six persons in a moving bus on December 16. In a recognition of public outrage over the rape and death of the victim, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were present at the Palam Technical Area of the Indira Gandhi International Airport when the body arrived by a special Air India aircraft around 3-30 a.m. The two leaders interacted with the victim's parents who had accompanied the body. A large number of policemen escorted the body to the victim’s residence and later to the crematorium. Several barricades were put by the police near the victim’s residence to prevent ordinary citizens from joining the mourning. The policemen asked the victim’s neighbours to stay away from her house where rituals were being performed. The restrictions continued after the body was taken to the crematorium. The anger that has gripped the country following the incident resonated in the locality with neighbours joining the chorus demanding “strictest possible punishment” to the accused. “When she left home the last time, little did her father know that she would return here as a corpse. It is not about a girl from our locality who has fallen prey to this barbaric act, it’s about the safety of women in general,” an emotional neighbour said. The neighbour said his younger brother had tutored her while she was in school. “Because she was focussed, her father decided to sell his land and mortgage their house to arrange for her educational expenses.’’ Those present at the crematorium included mostly family members and relatives of the deceased. The electronic media was not present as the Broadcast Editors Association had asked news channels to refrain from covering the funeral. Union Minister R.P.N. Singh, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Mahabal Mishra, MP, and Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta were among those present. Keywords: Delhi gang-rape, Rajpath protests, violence against women, death penalty, Indian criminal justice system, rape punishment, political mobilisation, Delhi protests, peace protests, gang-rape victim cremation
Sayed Yousif believes that he was unnecessarily taken [by the police] while performing his job of observing a march in Bahrain […] For such charge he should not be kidnapped by police in civil clothes during the protest and be surrounded by at least 30 riot police. He says that they could have sent him an official request to show in front of a public prosecutor and spare him the jail. Sayed Yousif believes that his detention is a pure revenge for his job of exposing human rights violations during peaceful protests and he feels that it is a message to him to stop reporting the violations in Bahrain.On December 25, Sayed Yousif appeared before the prosecutor-general in Manama who decided to extend his detention for 15 additional days. A decision condemned by freedom of speech advocates like media watchdog Reporters Without Borders who posted the following statement:
This isn't the first time Sayed Yousif is arrested for his reporting of human rights abuses in Bahrain. On November 2, 2012, he was detained for 12 days after covering a violent police crackdown on a demonstration in Diraz, west of Manama. Sayed Yousif was last visited on December 25 in the Hoora police station, in the northeastern suburb of Manama. According to his family, he is being isolated from other political prisoners, put in a cell along with non-Arabic speaking common-law prisoners. In a message sent to Global Voices Advocacy, his brother Sayed Osama Almuhafda (@OsamaJaleel) writes:Muhafda is yet again paying for his commitment to the circulation of information about human rights violations in Bahrain […] The authorities must stop their repeated violations of freedom of information and allow news providers to operate freely. The information provided by Bahrain’s human rights activists is all the more important as the authorities limit visits by foreign journalists and often obstruct the reporting of those who are allowed in.
This is another form of punishment to him. He has no one to communicate with. All other freedom of speech and political prisoners are kept together in the “Dry Dock” prison [the Ministry of Interior’s Short-Term Detention Unit in Manama], except for Sayed Yousif. We believe that his case is totally cruel and unjustified!Sayed Yousif's family calls upon all human rights' advocates to put pressure on the Bahrain government in order to make sure he gets a fair trial and a treatment equal to that of all other freedom of speech prisoners. Ways you can help You can follow Sayed Yousif's Twitter account, @saidyousif, or tweet under the hashtag #FreeSaidYousif and show your support. You can also reach out to the media and human rights organizations and tell Sayed Yousif's story to the world.
BY: Ziad AklFinally, the Muslim Brotherhood’s newborn is here. The Shura Council is back, alive and kicking. The Council that hung by a thread for months waiting for a court ruling to be dissolved is now the legitimate legislative authority. Once again, the Brotherhood succeeds. With complete disregard to laws, norms, opposition and national interest, the Muslim Brotherhood manages one more time to force its self-consumed political will on Egypt. And according to that will, the president stood one more time to take one more oath (maybe a fourth or a fifth, I lost count) before the new celebrated child of the guidance bureau. Ironically, it now seems that the ones who benefited the most from the court ruling that dissolved the parliament last summer are the Muslim Brotherhood. The attitude and performance of all Islamic political actors in Egypt over the past six months since Morsy took office shows important signs. Islamists, Brotherhood or Salafis or others, seem to have among their many obsessions, an obsession with numerical majority. It’s as if this majority is their own version of a modern day Jihad. Just like any obsessive behaviour, the obsessed can’t stop thinking or talking about their obsession. Islamists in Egypt today are just like that; they somehow bring up the issue of numerical majority in whichever occasion possible. Their obsessive condition became much worse as soon as they started to interpret numbers with their very own logic, which always defied the pure reason behind statistics. For the Islamists, number could mean anything. So a 64 per cent could mean yes to Islamic Shari’a, or it could mean support for the president’s policies, or it could mean down with the revolution; who cares? Numerical majority to the Islamists is an abstract number that could mean whatever they want it to mean. This obsessive relationship with majority is exactly how the laws of Egypt will be drafted under the new constitution. But recently I keep asking myself every time I observe Islamists, do they really believe themselves? I mean, when they are away from television cameras and portable recorders, do they believe that this Council is actually a reflection of the people’s will and an agent of democratic change? It is common for the obsessed to be in denial. The Islamists figure that the Shura Council is assuming responsibilities designated by the new constitution, which the people gave a 64 per cent “Yes” vote. The majority here, according to the Islamists, means that people agree to the new legislative functions that the Council is supposed to fulfill in the absence of a parliament. Indeed the political meaning of the 64 per cent has nothing to do with the Shura Council. However, the real problem is not in the percentage. Even if the constitution was passed with a 90 per cent “Yes” vote, does that change the fact that when people elected the 180 elected members of the Council, they did not elect them to legislate or to replace the parliament? If the function of the institution changes, that means that the citizen will perceive that institution differently and the difference in perception will most likely mean a difference in choice of representation. The person I choose to represent me in consultation is not necessarily the same person I will choose to represent me in legislation. What’s even more striking is the president’s decision to appoint 90 members of the Council, which is one third of the members. If the president is so eager to act according to the new constitution, and the Brotherhood is so keen to have the Shura Council assume its new authorities according to the new constitution, why is it then that the number of the appointed members was not chosen according to the new constitution as well? According to the new constitution, the president is allowed to appoint 10 per cent of the elected members. The obsessive behaviour of the Muslim Brotherhood over the Shura Council proves that what they expect from this Council is a lot. It is indeed a golden opportunity for the Islamists because no election (even rigged or manipulative ones) could have secured that percentage for the Islamists in any legislative Council. This vulgar and non-representative numerical majority will most likely be used to pass an election law that guarantees the presence of Islamists in any parliament with a majority. While debates over election law take place, Islamists are likely to pass other laws like a demonstration and protest law or censorship related laws. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists can celebrate the Shura Council as much as they want. It is likely that a propaganda campaign is coming very soon to show everyone the Brotherhood’s version of democracy. But what Islamists must know is that legitimacy is not gained through parliamentary seats, political offices and tainted elections. Legitimacy is built on principles and national consensus. Having the ability to act does not legitimise authority it simply reinforces it. The struggle against the Islamic power-hungry domination continues, as it is, a struggle of principles vs. political obsession.
Reports about Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari visiting India to witness a cricket match between the two countries are "all rumors", the presidential spokesman said on Sunday. "These are all rumors. There is no invitation and I am not aware of any plans to visit without an invitation," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said this evening. Earlier in the day, media reports had said Zardari would visit India to watch an India-Pakistan match in Kolkata with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
By Leeza MangaldasMisogyny is so deeply rooted in India's collective psychology that even the president's son -- in this case, Congress Parliament member Abhijit Mukherjee -- could entangle himself with a remark against women protesting gang rape. He called them "dented and painted women" who go to discos, have little connection with ground realities and are making candlelight vigils fashionable. After an enormous backlash, he apologized and retracted his comments, but many are not satisfied and want his resignation Misogyny has long permeated our textbooks, our pedagogy and our parenting. In fact, it runs so deep that it reflects itself even in our linguistics. The Hindi phrase most commonly used to describe sexual violence or rape against women is "izzat lootna," which means "to steal the honor of." Another Hindi word used for rape, "balatkar" (or "bad act"), is considered so erudite and technical that it's barely ever used. (Its English equivalent would be "coitus" instead of "sex.") So, for the most part, we're stuck with "izzat lootna" -- and the necessary question: Why should a rapist be given so much credit? Rape is a criminal act of force and perverse subjugation. When a woman is raped, her most fundamental rights as a human being are violated. Yet, she is just as honorable as she ever was. Honor cannot be stolen. It can only be surrendered. Surely in the act of rape, it is the perpetrator, not the victim, who surrenders honor. The brave girl from Delhi died with her honor intact. Her rapists will live in ignominy.Unfortunately, in India rape is inextricably linked by men -- and women -- to shame: the ultimate desecration. Many victims are murdered by their rapists or choose to commit suicide. It is also not uncommon for the parents of rape victims to kill themselves. Thus, most victims don't speak up about what happened to them, lest their families be ostracized, lest they never find a husband or be shunned by their friends. About 10 months ago, I was offered a role of a young, urban woman who gets gang raped. The film explores how she chooses to deal with what happens to her. It is a very powerful script, and most of me wanted to accept the role immediately. But a gnawing part of me worried about how I'd be perceived by the general public were I to perform this role.Female sexuality in Hindi cinema is extremely fraught, especially because audiences seem unable to comprehend the distinction between what a role demands from an actor and that person's conduct offscreen. In the script the woman is attractive, confident and self aware; she'd had several consensual relationships with men and enjoyed her sexuality. Truth be told, her character is not far from me in real life. Still, in patriarchal, judgmental, misogynistic Indian society, these are labels most women are afraid to carry publicly. On top of this, the character gets raped. I was afraid to accept the role. Afraid of whether audiences and the media would think I was promiscuous, desecrated. Embarrassed at the prospect of saying I'm doing a film in which I get raped, lest aspersions be cast on my character. There lay, in my own mind, the seeds of the same misogyny that makes Mr. Mukherjee's remarks in the wake of the student's gang rape so deplorable. Seeds I had to uproot at once. I accepted the role.At the time I was offered the film, rape wasn't getting the sort of national attention it is getting right now. It was still a topic that made most people uncomfortable, a topic that women and men alike were not able to freely express their opinions on. That India's young public is today demanding so vocally the need to address the way we view sexuality and gender equality is empowering. People are sharing their own experiences of sexual violence on blogs and social media. Men and women are collaborating to seek legal reform, to challenge the societal perceptions they have been force-fed. We now understand that to remain silent bystanders of a crime is to collude with the criminal. It is clear to me that as actors, filmmakers, artists, journalists, activists -- people who use a medium that has the potential to reach so many minds -- it is our responsibility to educate and mobilize, while we entertain. For the last 10 months, as we have been rehearsing and shooting, the subject of rape has been my foremost preoccupation. Two points have struck me in particular: First, the director, who is also the scriptwriter, is male. His co-writer, the music composer, is also male. These two artists, Tarun Chopra and Daboo Malik, chose to champion a cause that almost always gets packaged as a women's issue. In India, sexual violence is perpetrated almost entirely by men. Rapists are male. Should men not feel responsible then to prevent the occurrence of this crime? Shouldn't men be disturbed that their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters constantly feel unsafe or feel they have to dress and behave in a particular way to avoid getting raped? Isn't it time men educated other men about consent? Secondly, and this point took me longer to acknowledge, women are as guilty as men for the mindset that breeds the crime. We kill our own infant daughters, we immolate our sons' wives if they bear female children, we disapprove of women who make an effort to be attractive -- and doubt their character. We still look at marriage as if it's the purpose for which we were born. But misogyny is no longer misogyny when expressed by a woman. It's self-loathing. And while it is easy -- and justified -- for women to point fingers at men for the chauvinism in our society, don't we owe it to ourselves to look within?