The Eerie NGO Phenomenon in Kashmir

“Conflicts have always allowed very suitable ecosystems for Non Governmental Organisations or NGOs to flourish in. Embroiled with armed insurgency for about two decades now, Kashmir has attracted a plethora of organizations. But going by the numbers, the region seems to have become a heaven for NGO activity.”

By Parvaiz Bukhari

(This article was first published by The Honour Magazine, April 2010, (pg. 16-20).)

Kashmir as an Integral Part of India.  Cartoon by Mir Suhail Qadiri
Kashmir as an Integral Part of India. Cartoon by Mir Suhail Qadiri

Conflicts have always allowed very suitable ecosystems for Non Governmental Organisations or NGOs to flourish in. Embroiled with armed insurgency for about two decades now, Kashmir has attracted a plethora of organizations. But going by the numbers, the region seems to have become a heaven for NGO activity.

There is no central register for the NGOs operating here, no guidelines or any overt accountability. Various estimates put the figure of existing NGOs up to 16,000. Apart from the office of the Registrar of Societies, NGOs are registered for various non-profit activities as trusts and voluntary groups in the district courts. Besides, many NGOs from across the country operating in Kashmir are not registered here.

All you need is five persons and a draft of bylaws along with a declaration of supposed objectives that is then registered in any district court where no count is maintained.

Just what is this huge mass of NGOs doing and who are the people who run them? What is the real intent and incentive for this NGO boom in a region that is still considered business ‘unfriendly’? Where is the funding coming from? A superficial enquiry reveals a dizzying range of unclear activity bordering on subterfuge.

Government employees, close relatives of bureaucrats, politicians, well-off families and people who have been a part of counter insurgency think tanks, run a number of NGOs in the Valley. Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Developmental Studies (KFPDS) run by a former militant commander, Firdous Sayeed Baba alias Babar Badr, has been on the scene for many years now. Babar and four other former militant commanders were the first to enter into dialogue with New Delhi in 1995. He is also known to be very close to the former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief A S Dullat, who for many years earlier and during NDA regime served as New Delhi’s point man on Kashmir affairs. Continue reading “The Eerie NGO Phenomenon in Kashmir”

Kargas

The following is cross-posted from Lobelog.com. 

Iran’s Zahedan airport is located on a road named for Allama Iqbal, the great Indian philosopher whom Pakistan after partition adopted as its national poet. The shaheen, or eagle, features prominently in Iqbal’s poetry, as a symbol of vigour, dignity and daring. It is contrasted against the figure of the kargas, or vulture, which represents cunning, cowardice and ignobility. It is the latter appellation that the region frequently applies to the CIA drones which today menace the skies from Waziristan, Kandahar to Zahedan. But shaheen or kargas, they are both ferocious; and it is a feat to capture either. Small wonder then, that some in Iran see cause for celebration in the capture of CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinel drone, a stealth surveillance craft manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

This is not the first time the CIA has delivered one of its most advanced aircraft for inevitable reverse engineering to its putative enemy. On April 9, 1960, people at the Zahedan airport watched anxiously as an aircraft with unusually wide wings approached from the north-east. The Lockheed U-2C was on a top-secret spying mission for the CIA, but its target was not Iran. Indeed, it was coming in to land after being chased by several fighter planes. Over the previous 8 hours, the plane had photographed four strategic Soviet military sites from an altitude of 70,000 feet, well out of the reach of the Russian MiGs and Sukhois. It embarked on its mission from the Badaber air force base 10 miles to the south of Peshawar.

Continue reading “Kargas”

“Diplomatic Immunity” or Murder with Impunity? And Who’s a Diplomat Anyway?

triple murders, a suicide, and the unraveling of a spy and a covert war…

by Huma Dar

On Thursday, 27th of January, 2011, while the world was busy watching — or ignoring, as the case might be — the inspiring Egyptian Revolution, in broad daylight, in a very busy part of Lahore (Pakistan), in front of hundreds of eye-witnesses, American contractor, Raymond Davis, murders two or by some accounts even three people: Muhammad Faheem (aka Faheem Shamshad?) (age 26), Faizan Haider (age 22), and Ibad-ur-Rehman.  Davis shoots the former two, who had allegedly threatened to rob him, from within his locked car, with seven bullets — each bullet expertly and fatally finding its mark.  The windshield shows the piercing trajectory of the fatal bullets, but otherwise remains miraculously unshattered.  Davis, then, emerges calmly from his well-equipped car (see descriptions below), shoots Faizan from the back while Faizan was running away (how “dangerous” is that?! does the excuse of “self-defence” hold when one of the victims was running away?), takes photographs and videos of both his victims with his cellphone, gets back into his car, and drives off unruffled, to flee the scene.  Faizan Haider was still alive — he expired later in the hospital.  What an act of “responsibility” from a “diplomat” of the self-ascribed global policeman!

Continue reading ““Diplomatic Immunity” or Murder with Impunity? And Who’s a Diplomat Anyway?”

Robert Meeropol, son of the executed Rosenbergs, on WikiLeaks

by Dennis Bernstein

U.S. citizens Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed under the 1917 Espionage Act in 1953.

The U.S. Justice Department is now considering charging WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange with espionage under the 1917 Espionage Act. In a recent interview, syndicated on PacificaRadio’s Flashpoints show, I spoke to  Robert Meeropol, founder of the Rosenberg Fund For Children. Meeropol is the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the only U.S. citizens to be executed under the 1917 Espionage Act. In a strong defense of Wikileaks, Assange and Bradley Manning, Meeropol released a statement stating:

My parents were executed under the unconstitutional Espionage Act, here’s why we must fight to protect Julian Assange.

In the following interview he talks about the history of the 1917 espionage Act, the execution of his parents and some of the political “Echoes” from the 1950’s red scare days that are reverberating today. Meeropol also talks movingly about how his parents’ unwillingness to cave  in the face of government intimidation, even at the cost of their lives.

I think that resistance is inspirational.  When people resist, they inspire others and if you combined the resistance with the inspiration you end up building a movement of support.

DB: Let’s begin this way, Robert Meeropol.  The U.S. Congress is back in session, the Republicans are in charge of the House, and today they read the Constitution. Would that be relevant in your defense of Julian Assange?

Continue reading “Robert Meeropol, son of the executed Rosenbergs, on WikiLeaks”

Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal – Espionage, Opacity and Future

What do newly declassified documents about weapons grade uranium and dual-use technology diversions from the US reveal about the role of espionage in building Israel’s secret arsenal? Did Israel’s proposed nuclear weapons sales to apartheid South Africa signal they are still for sale if the partner and price are right? Do FBI and CIA cover-ups of investigations into Israeli nuclear espionage signal official US government approval or political acquiescence? Are Israel’s nuclear weapons of strategic benefit to the US?

In an event organized by Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP); ‘Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal – Espionage, Opacity and Future’, these questions were tackled by John J. Mearsheimer, Grant F. Smith and Sasha Polakow-Suransky, and moderated by Jeffrey Blankfort. PULSE has previously posted John Mearsheimer’s address; here is the full video of the event as well as individual speaker presentation audios over the fold.

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Continue reading “Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal – Espionage, Opacity and Future”

Israel’s Lobby and Nuclear Diversions

Lyndon Johnson and Abraham Feinberg

Scott Horton interviews Grant F. Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, D.C., about the newly declassified 1978 GAO report released by IRmep on May 10, 2010. They cover the diversion of US nuclear material to Israel, marginal investigations and possible cover-ups by the FBI and CIA, prosecutorial immunity for high-profile Americans who commit crimes for Israel’s benefit, and billionaire Haim Saban’s considerable influence on the Democratic Party.  They review new information about why LBJ’s political debt to fundraiser Abraham Feinberg (designated by David Ben Gurion as the US funding coordinator for Israel’s nuclear weapons program in 1958) probably explains his disdain for the NUMEC investigation and applying nuclear nonproliferation to Israel.

Continue reading “Israel’s Lobby and Nuclear Diversions”

(Neo)Orientalism with an Attitude: In the Footsteps (and Beyond) of Richard Burton

Getting one’s picture taken with the Dalai Lama or the Pope will guarantee neither Buddhist enlightenment nor beatification: my apologies for shattering the hopes of some New Agers. Similarly, entering the Ka’aba in Burtonesque disguise — specially minus his arguably relevant though shifty linguistic skills and textual knowledge — will not and cannot necessarily guarantee much “learning” about Islam.

by Huma Dar

The March 10, 2010, page A27 of the New York edition of New York Times carries an Op-Ed piece by Maureen Dowd titled, “Pilgrim Non Grata in Mecca.” Dowd writes about her desire to “learn about the religion that smashed into the American consciousness on 9/11” via “sneaking” into Mecca in “a black masquerade cloak.”  Her self-proclaimed inspiration is Richard Burton’s “illicit pilgrim[age] to the sacred black granite cube…in Arab garb” thereby “infiltrat[ing] the holiest place in Islam, the Kaaba [sic].”

Dowd, however, decides to “learn about Islam” in a way “less sneaky,” “disrespectful,” or “dangerous” and yet more entitled and privileged than Richard Burton could ever have dreamed of.   She herself describes Burton as “the 19th-century British adventurer, translator of “The Arabian Nights” and the “Kama Sutra” and self-described ‘amateur barbarian.'”  The words “illicit,” “Kama Sutra,” and “infiltration” and Dowd’s voyeuristic desires resonate with the Orientalism of yore.  Moreover Dowd’s valuable US passport and USA’s special relationship with Saudi Arabia (read: enabling of the oppressive monarchy) entitle her to meet Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister — of the “sometimes sly demeanor” — on her “odyssey” to that country.  “Infiltration” in disguise is no longer required, and yet this ease of access also disguises and makes more difficult the complexity of any real learning.

Dowd “presses” al-Faisal for the privilege to watch in Mecca, the “deeply private rituals” and “gawk at the parade of religious costumes fashioned from loose white sheets” although she knows in advance that “Saudis understandably have zero interest in outraging the rest of the Muslim world.”  While talking to this high-ranking minister, Dowd bristles at al-Faisal’s reassuring suggestion that if she desired to see any mosque in a place other than in Mecca or Medina, and was prevented from doing so, all she had to do was to contact the “emir of the region” who would comply and enable the fulfillment of her desires.  (Anyone else reminded of Aladdin’s djinn/genie?)  Without conceding the irony of the situation that she, after all, is speaking to Prince al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, Dowd quips, “Sure. Just call the emir. I bet he’s listed.”   Imagine what Richard Burton would have done with the special privileges of this particular magic lamp provided by the New World Order!

Finally Dowd does indeed witness the Hajj — in an IMAX theatre watching Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta. Dowd, much to her surprise, makes the belated discovery that “the Kaaba [sic] was built by “Abraham, the father of the Jews” [why Jews only?]— a reminder that the faiths have a lot to learn from each other.”  It is also a reminder that journalists like Ms. Maureen Dowd have a lot of homework to do before they set out on their surely expensive travels — and I am not even including the much recommended language lessons.  Any commonly available text on Islam, for example by Karen Armstrong, Jamal Elias, Michael Sells, or Ziauddin Sardar, might have served the purpose.  Dowd could thus have avoided relying solely on the “amateur barbarian” Richard Burton or Newsweek’s own Fareed Zakaria.  The former’s scholarly credentials are hardly beyond doubt — see his problematic remarks on “Jewish human sacrifice” in The Jew, the Gipsy and el Islam (1898).  The latter’s forte is not his knowledge of Islam — or at least no more than Zakaria’s mentor, Samuel Huntington’s forte is Christianity.  Dowd might thus have disabused herself of the notion of “the sacred black granite cube.”  The “sacred black” stone is not a “cube” and neither is the “sacred cube” — the Ka’aba — all granite!

Getting one’s picture taken with the Dalai Lama or the Pope will guarantee neither Buddhist enlightenment nor beatification: my apologies for shattering the hopes of some New Agers.  Similarly, entering the Ka’aba in Burtonesque disguise — specially minus his arguably relevant though shifty linguistic skills and textual knowledge (See Parama Roy’s excellent essay for more on Burton) — will not and cannot necessarily guarantee much “learning” about Islam.  On the other hand, a trip to any local library with a willingness to read and learn, and engagement with an open mind in meaningful conversations with the (gasp!) American Muslims, might be better starting points for undertaking this particular journey.

Did the Editor of The New York Times not know the price difference between the ticket to the IMAX theatre plus membership to a local library and the cost of Dowd’s lavish travels to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?  The Neo-Orientalist fantasy to tread in the footsteps of Sir Richard Burton is accelerated with privilege and precisely because of this privilege skips and misses its target even more widely.

It is in the spirit of a gift that I offer Ms. Dowd this image:

Labeled elements are as follows: 1 – The Black Stone; 2 – Door of the Kaaba; 3. Gutter to remove rainwater; 4 – Base of the Kaaba; 5 – Al-Hatim; 6 – Al-Multazam (the wall between the door of the Kaaba and black stone); 7 – The Station of Ibrahim; 8 – Angle of the Black Stone; 9 – Angle of Yemen; 10 – Angle of Syria; 11 – Angle of Iraq; 12 – Kiswa (veil covering the Kaaba); 13 – Band of marble marking the beginning and end of rounds; 14 – The Station of Gabriel.