Let them have F-16s II

Pakistan has been battling a growing problem of drug addiction in the country. Most users rely on local NGOs for treatment and rehabilitation, but these are often weighed down by a lack of funds. Now, a leading charity has shut down after a dispute with the government cut off vital support for thousands of people. Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra reports.

In related news, President Zardari told reporters the newly acquired F-16s from the US will not upset the regional balance of power.

Dangerous game

Editor’s note: The campaign against Moazzam Beg and Amnesty International is led by the McCarthyite Harry’s Place, an Israel lobby operation that specializes in defaming critics of Israel and what it broadly labels as ‘Islamists’ (which according to its definition is any Muslim who is not Ayaan Hirsi Ali). It is also assisted by The Spittoon which is jointly run by members of the neoconservative Centre for Social Cohesion and the Quilliam Foundation. Like Harry’s Place, the Spittoon also uses the cover of anonymity to smear opponents. Both frequently crosspost each others material and coordinate their attacks.

by Victoria Brittain

Guantanamo jumpsuit detainees.

Two weeks ago in Leeds, I gave a peace lecture honouring Olof Palme, which ranged over wars old and new, the bombing of Dresden, Daniel Ellsberg, Wikileaks, Bloody Sunday, and the Turkish flotilla to Gaza. Afterwards I was approached by two young Muslim women. They wanted to discuss the issues raised in the lecture, but also to talk about how isolated they felt and how hard it is for them these days to talk about politics without fearing hostility and feeling that they are being seen as “terrorists”. In the following two days I talked with another young Muslim woman whose husband is on a Control Order, and who in desperation had broken its conditions and faced possible dire consequences.  I also went to see a Muslim woman whose husband is in prison accused of terror-related activities, and one of whose sons is in trouble. Three days…  four Muslim women…  The Leeds women came to my lecture because Moazzam Begg told them about it; the two London women I know because Moazzam Begg asked me to visit them some years back, to break their isolation; and he and I have visited the Control Order family together, with Home Office clearance.

Since he was released from Guantanamo, this has been his work – campaigning on behalf of those still held without trial or hope of justice, and doing what he can to help distraught wives and families.

At the centre of the bitter, feminist-led recent controversy over him and Amnesty International, is a completely false perception of his attitudes to women, based on the fact that he once worked in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Long-standing, complex and important debates on gender politics and religion have been shoe-horned into a simple demonisation of him.

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Beware of Small States

The chaos of Lebanon has thrown up an Arab horror paralleled only in post-invasion Iraq. It has also produced the Arab world’s most urgent intellectual life, and its first victory against Israel. Lebanon is the most contradictory of countries, “a more open, liberal and democratic society than any of its Arab neighbours” precisely because of “its vulnerability to domestic dissension.” So, with its seventeen sects and constantly shifting allegiances, who would dare to explain Lebanon?

No better candidate than David Hirst, whose 1977 book “The Gun and the Olive Branch” was one of the very first to sympathetically present the Palestinian plight in English. Hirst’s latest work “Beware of Small States” is a panoramic study of Lebanon’s difficult history which strikes exactly the right balance between close detail and broad interpretative sweep. The writing is precise, penetrative and elegant. For sober, logical analysis, “Beware of Small States” outstrips even Robert Fisk’s magisterial “Pity the Nation.”

Hirst explains Lebanon, and especially the fifteen-year maelstrom of the civil war, its pogroms, set battles, kidnappings and car bombs, by delineating patterns of cause and effect. The civil war is interpreted as “the intertwining of the socio-economic, the sectarian and the Palestinian, those three characteristics of the whole, ever more noxious brew.”

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Without Shepherds

A new documentary by Cary McClelland and Ben Smith.

In the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination as violent attacks ripple throughout Pakistan and tensions escalate with the West, WITHOUT SHEPHERDS offers a rare glimpse into real life in the shadow of the war on terror. From the streets of Karachi to the Afghan border, the film crosscuts between six people wrestling with a country in turmoil and defiantly standing for change: a cricket star building a new political party, a trucker crossing dangerous territory to feed his family, a supermodel pushing feminism through fashion, a subversive Sufi rocker using music to heal, a female journalist working behind Taliban lines, and an ex-mujahid seeking redemption. Together their stories give context to a crisis that has dangerous consequences for the region and the world and unveil the progressive face of this misunderstood country.