Kamran Asdar Ali: Pakistan’s Troubled “Paradise on Earth”

Kamran Asdar Ali
29 April 2009

(Kamran Asdar Ali is acting director of the South Asia Institute and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas-Austin.)

For more on the Taliban in Pakistan, see Graham Usher, “The Pakistan Taliban,” Middle East Report Online, February 13, 2007.

For more on the displacement in Balochistan, see Stephen Dedalus, “The Forgotten Refugees of Balochistan,” Middle East Report 244 (Fall 2007). Order the issue online

For background on Islamist-military dealings, see Kamran Asdar Ali, “Pakistani Islamists Gamble on the General,” Middle East Report 231 (Summer 2004). Order the issue online.

For background on the 2002 elections, see Shahnaz Rouse, “Elections in Pakistan: Turning Tragedy into Farce,” Middle East Report Online, October 18, 2002.

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as the army has launched ground operations and air raids to “eliminate and expel” the Islamist militant groups commonly known as the Tehreek-e Taliban or the Taliban in Pakistan (TIP). The targeted districts border Swat, a well-watered mountain vale described as “paradise on earth” in Pakistani tourist brochures, where the provincial government tried to placate the Taliban by agreeing to implement Islamic law (sharia). The February agreement, the Nizam-e Adal regulation, was approved by the lower house of the Pakistani parliament on April 12 and signed into law soon afterward by the president, Asif Zardari. But since then, fighting has continued, with both sides accusing the other of breaching the peace. As of April 27, according to a cleric close to the TIP, talks with the provincial government about Swat are suspended.

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Justin Podur: For Free Expression on Palestine

Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 211
28 April 2009

For Free Expression on Palestine
Justin Podur

On April 15, 2009, a number of organizations launched a campaign in Toronto to demand the right to free expression on the Israel/Palestine conflict with an event on the University of Toronto (U of T) campus. Some 100-150 people attended. Speakers addressed several recent cases of suppression of free expression on the issue of Israel/Palestine. They argued that there is a concerted attack on free expression on this question underway, and that to protect this right requires all individuals and organizations with an interest in free expression, regardless of their stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict, to speak out now. This article is a report on the April 15 event and a dossier of key incidents and articles on the issue.

A 2002 precedent: Sherene Razack’s case

The moderator of the evening was Sherene Razack, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and author of several books, including Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism and Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics. She presented the story of her own experience with free expression on Israel/Palestine. In May 2002, Razack helped launch the Canadian Critical Race Studies Conference as part of the group Canadian Academics of Colour. The conference took place just after Israel’s invasion of Jenin. (Then as now, people speaking out were scrutinized for their choice of words. Just as today referring to Israeli policy as ‘apartheid’ is viewed as outside the bounds of acceptable criticism, in 2002 referring to Israel’s invasion of Jenin as a ‘massacre’ provoked similar reactions. (See my “What Happened in Jenin?” for a review of some of this now largely forgotten debate.)

Given the importance of Israel’s re-invasion of the West Bank in 2002 and the particular importance of the invasion of Jenin, conference organizers were criticized for not scheduling any event on the issue at the Critical Race Studies conference. In response organizers, including Razack, organized a meeting at the conference, where a resolution was drafted condemning Israel’s actions in Jenin. Razack distributed the resolution over email (to do so on this issue continues to be risky business for academics, as the recent case of William Robinson at the University of California Santa Barbara shows).

The reaction to Razack’s email distribution of the resolution was not immediate. Four months later, in August 2002, the campaign began, and Razack started to receive the hate emails. Razack was not the only one targeted. Several others, including a staff member at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (TWB), received emails. The TWB staffer’s crime was allowing the store to sell pro-Palestine buttons. The CanWest-owned National Post published a series of articles about Razack, always claiming that she “refused to respond,” when in fact they refused to acknowledge or publish her letters of reply. Razack and her Dean received obscene phone messages and threats, with emails from all over containing similar formulations and lines of text, suggesting an organized campaign. The emails were consistent in their sexist and racist tone. A frequent message was “go back where you came from.” Assuming she was an Arab or Muslim, hate-mailers would remind her that she was from a barbaric and patriarchal culture and had no right to criticize a democratic state: to criticize Israel, they said, was to abandon feminism.

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Support Voice of Palestine, Interview with Dr. Haidar Eid from Gaza

Co-op Radio (CFRO) 102.7 FM

Voice of Palestine, Canada has been on the air for over twenty-one years; since it started it always counted on the generous support of our listeners to keep it on the air. This week will be part of Coop Radio’s spring marathon where listeners are asked to pledge their support by becoming members or making a donation. Please go to www.coopradio.org and click on donate, and be sure to mention Voice of Palestine, or phone in your pledge at 604-684-8494 during this week’s show.

This week’s interview (April 28, 2009) will be with Dr. Haidar Eid from Gaza, who will update us on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the Bil’in conference, the situation in the West Bank and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. Dr. Eid is a founding member of the One Democratic State Group http://odsg.org/co/ and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869 .

*Voice of Palestine www.voiceofpalestine.ca broadcasts weekly on Vancouver Cooperative Radio (CFRO) 102.7 FM, Vancouver, Canada. The show broadcasts for one hour every Tuesday night from 8 to 9 pm PDT (Wed. morning from 6:00-7:00am Palestine time). People outside of Vancouver can listen to the
show live on the Internet http://www.coopradio.org/listen/.

Tom Philpott: Swine-flu outbreak could be linked to Smithfield factory farms

Tom Philpott, GRIST, 25 April 2009

One flu east, one flu west
One flu east, one flu west

The outbreak of a new flu strain—a nasty mash-up of swine, avian, and human viruses—has infected 1,000 people in Mexico and the U.S., killing 68. The World Health Organization warned Saturday that the outbreak could reach global pandemic levels.

Is Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak? Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll, raise 950,000 hogs per year, according to the company Web site.

On Friday, the U.S. disease-tracking blog Biosurveillance published a timeline of the outbreak containing this nugget, dated April 6 (major tip of the hat to Paula Hay, who alerted me to the Smithfield link on the Comfood listserv and has written about it on her blog, Peak Oil Entrepreneur):

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Mike Davis: The swine flu crisis lays bare the meat industry’s monstrous power