Monday, February 29, 2016

Islamophobia Is Ruining America

Haroon Moghul, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has written a very good article "Islamophobia Is Ruining America—But Not How You Think" in the Time magazine. You can view this by clicking here.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bangladesh Police: time for reform


Many years ago I was listening to the speech of a police officer in Canada who told his audience that he was trained to be Polite, Obedient, Loyal, Intelligent, Courageous, and Efficient – the very acronym for POLICE. That acronym seemed very proper for police whose prime tasks include prevention and detection of crime, preservation of law and order, and protection of life and property of the law-abiding individuals in a civil society.

But these days when I hear about police involvement in crime and corruption, I smell something fishy, something very rotten! Then the other acronym comes to my mind: Persons Of Low Integrity Controlling Everyone. And that is unfortunate for any society!

In recent months, the precarious role of the police in Bangladesh has become a much talked about subject.

On February 13, a constable with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and four others (including a female) were arrested for alleged involvement in demanding extortion of one lakh Taka (0.1 million Taka, equivalent to 1275 USD) from Mohsin, a residence of Sonargaon upazila. A RAB 11 team arrested them from Ashariyachar area of Sonargaon upazila of Narayanganj. RAB personnel also seized a microbus from their possession. An extortion case has been lodged and the accused were handed over to the Sonargaon police station. 

The next day, on Sunday, a case was filed against 13 people including an army person and a member of the RAB for their alleged involvement in torturing two school boys in Poba upazila in Rajshahi. Zahid was admitted to Poba upazila health complex while Emon went missing after the incident.

On January 31, Ratan Kumar Howlader, a sub-inspector of Adabor Police Station, took a female University student into a shop in capital’s Japan Garden City in Shekerteck and opened her jacket and handbag. He then ordered the shop owner to leave following shuttering down his shop and he sexually harassed her in the name of searching Yaba tablets. A judicial inquiry into the allegation has been proved in the judicial probe report regarding the offence. [Previously, I mentioned about the exploits of a police O.C. Mizan (Kasbah) who similarly abused a female student in Chittagong.]

Two years ago, seven individuals were whisked away from Dhaka-Narayanganj link road on Apr 27, 2014. Their bodies were found floating on the Shitalakkhyya River several days later. Thirty-five persons were indicted in that case. Those charged include Tarek Sayeed Mohammad, a former RAB official, who is also the son-in-law of Relief and Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.

The above random samples of crimes of men in uniform (let alone the relative of a minister who fought in the liberation war) are quite disturbing. Instead of protecting human lives and preserving law and order, some rogue members of the police force seem to be abusing the system for personal gratification and are tarnishing the name to Bangladesh Police. They need to be given exemplary punishment for their crimes, thereby restoring the needed public trust in the police force.

What we are witnessing today are symptoms of a serious disease, and until the root causes are found and addressed properly with prudent solutions, Bangladesh Police will fail to meet the expectations of the general public, the very stakeholders.

As noted by Mr. Abdullahel Baki, DIG (currently serving as the Police Sector Commander, Sector North, UNAMID at United Nations Organization), in his M.Sc. Thesis in Criminal Justice and Police Management, University of Leicester, UK (2008), based on his application of the PESTEL analysis, Bangladesh police has been politically biased and favorable to the ruling power (thanks to the colonial era Police Act), economically cryptic and weak, socially imbalanced and alienated (because of the lack of community policing), technologically backward, environmentally indifferent, and legally vulnerable.

So, how did Bangladesh Police arrive at this sickening stage of development given the fact that it had a long and rich history? Although the present form was introduced by the British government in 1861 the existence of a structured system to enforce law (which as we will see below was often discriminatory), aiding the ruling administration can be traced back to the reign of Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE.

During the pre-Islamic period, there were four main elements in the organization of society against crime: communal responsibility, village watchman, espionage and severe penal provisions. Hindu texts, however, prescribed different punishments for the same crime. Fa Hsien, a Chinese visitor to India in the 5th century BC, observed that a Sudra who insulted a Bhramin faced death whereas a Bhramin who killed a Sudra was given a light penalty, such as a fine – the same penalty he might have incurred if he had killed a dog. One text states that a Sudra who teaches a Brahmin their duty ‘shall have boiling water poured into his mouth and ears’. [Ref: Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India, p. 107 (2007), Anchor Books, Knopf Doubleday Publishers]

With the advent of Islam - with its militant sense of equality - in South Asia in the early 8th century since the days of Muhammad bin Qasim many of those discriminatory laws were replaced with a uniform code of law. Muslim rulers were dedicated to offer peace, safety and security to all citizens, including foreigners or visitors, irrespective of creed, color and religion. During the Mughal period judiciary and policing system was well organized in a very balanced way so that injustice could not prevail, and peace and order would be ensured. The entire empire was into many administrative units from provincial (Shuva) to union (Mahal) level.  The Kotwal system was introduced in urban areas to maintain law and order. Kotwal-e-Sadr was in charge of policing for the entire province; similarly, Fouzdar, Thanadar, Jamadar and village Chawkidar were in charges of other units from the division down to the village level. They also performed night patrolling and surveillance activities. The Kotwal was in charge of town administration. His force patrolled the city and guarded important points. He prevented crimes, investigated and reported offences, registered city dwellers and kept informed of their activities. He also inquired about arrivals and departures of strangers. He acted upon cooperation with the citizens and appointed leading men as Wardens in every part of the city, making them responsible for peace and order in their respective areas.  [Ain-i-Akbari]

Maintaining law and order in the vast Mughal Empire was a Herculean task, which was achieved through benevolence, impartial justice, personal supervision of the criminal administration, speedy remedy, emphasis on prevention and punishments, drastic enough to inspire awe and sustain public confidence.

The present legal and judicial system of Bangladesh owes its origin mainly to nearly two hundred years of British rule in the Indian Sub-Continent although some elements of it are remnants of Pre-British period. The police were used more for aiding the revenue collector for the East India Company (and thereafter for the British Raj) than crime control. Torture of the peasants and raiyyats who failed to pay the revenue on time became an official practice of the police. Thus, they came to be viewed as the oppressive arm of the colonial administration. As a result of these oppressive measures with the focus on maximizing profit for the EIC (and the Raj), soon Bengal was plunged into anarchy, disturbance and famine. [Baki]

After the failed Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the British government effectively took control of India and enacted some new laws and regulations to solidify its control. These included: the Penal Code (1860), the Police Act (1861), Chowkidar Act (1870), Evidence Act (1872), Criminal Procedure Code (1898) and Police Regulation of Bengal (1943). The Indian Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860) and the Criminal Procedure Code (Act XXV of 1898) laid the foundation of criminal law in British India.  

The philosophy of police of the British regime had never been complementary to democratic values and political development. The British had a twisted idea of using police as an instrument of coercion for their own interest rather than providing service to the people. The Police Act, 1861 enabled to form a well-organized and well-structured police force only to serve the interest of the colonial masters.

After 1947 (the independence of Pakistan from Great Britain), the title of the Indian Penal Code was changed to that of the Pakistan Penal Code. Police were compelled to carry out unpopular orders. The act of shooting on the participants of language movement demonstration in 1952 was a glaring example of colonial rule and suppression. 

Similarly, after 1971 (the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan), the Pakistan Penal Code came to be known simply as the ‘Penal Code’ in independent Bangladesh. Except for the changes in title the Penal Code more or less remained an immutable document with only minor modifications. The same can be said of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898 and the Police Act of 1861.

Bangladesh Police is the primary state agency responsible for investigating criminal activities.  Its mission is to enforce law, maintain social order, reduce fear of crime, enhance public safety and ensure internal security with the active support of the community. It is administered by the central Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of Bangladesh.

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Part 2:
Bangladesh Police has a glorious past. During the War of Liberation (1971), many members of the then East Pakistan Police actively revolted against the central government and sacrificed their lives. As a teenager back then, I still remember many such police constables and Ansars taking shelter in late March and early April in our home ‘Prantik’ on Zakir Hossain Road (located not too far from the Police Station) in Chittagong. They were put to retreat from their positions by a much superior and better equipped Pakistani military, and yet their morale was not subdued. They wanted to fight back and headed out for the Indian borders to join the liberation war. To escape unnoticed from the city, by then well surrounded by the Pakistan forces, some of them buried their rifles in our backyard. Some 1262 members gave their lives during the war.

In recent decades, since 1989, Bangladesh Police has been playing a major role in peace-keeping missions around the globe. Some 15,729 personnel have served in 21 UN missions in places like Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ivory Coast, Darfur (Sudan), South Sudan, Liberia, Haiti, Mali and Somalia.

In spite of such a remarkable past, since 1971, Bangladesh Police suffers from a widely held perception that it is corrupt requiring reform. It has also been accused of crime and brutality, esp. during police remand.

As noted earlier, brutality and corruption are not new phenomena of the police force of Bangladesh (and the entire Indian subcontinent), rather the available history witnesses the reality from the British period. After the creation of the new police force in 1861, the British rulers understood that they had created a Frankenstein. In 1869 they took some initiative to reform the police, but it failed to bring any good result. In 1902 the Fraser Commission was appointed and it found the police high-handed, incompetent and corrupt.

The 1861 law does not define the parameters of the magistrate’s authority nor does it prescribe any checks or balances. Not only do these dual controls over the force at this level mar police functioning in each of the districts, but in effect, they also limit the capacity of the IGP and his deputies from effective supervision of the police.

Between 1976 and 2009 six laws came into force regulating the police administration in Bangladesh’s six metropolitan areas of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal. These laws, known as the Metropolitan Police Acts, stripped executive magistrates of their authority over the police and vested regulatory and licensing powers with the IGP and metropolitan police commissioners. However, on 7 April 2009, the Awami League-dominated parliament passed the Code of Criminal Procedure Act 2009, effectively reinstating bureaucratic control – the hallmark of the 1861 system – over the various metropolitan police forces. Other legislation governing police functioning also enables police abuse.

How to reform this institution so that it can be functionally neutral, organizationally autonomous, functionally specialized, institutionally accountable, and socially service- or people-oriented, and not locked into the colonial era modus operandi?

As pointed out by Mr. Abdullahel Baki in his M.Sc. Thesis (2008), Bangladesh Police needs reform in three major areas: administrative, legal and policing style for making the organization a pro-people, accountable, efficient, effective and benevolent public service organization.

Crime statistics, recorded by Bangladesh Police, shows that there were reported cases of 491 dacoity, 933 robbery, 4035 murder, 2494 burglary, 6821 theft, 806 kidnapping, and 629 police assaults in 2015. A comparative study of the data, compiled by the Nation Master, a global resource on crime statistics, would show that such numbers pale in comparison to most western countries (per capita basis). However, they do show appalling trends in a country like Bangladesh that had almost no culture of owning weapons or gun violence until quite recently.

The total police force in Bangladesh is approximately 150,000 showing that it has less than 1 police for every thousand people. It has the lowest police to public ratio in South Asia and nearly three times lower than the UN’s recommended ratio of 1:450. Almost 80% of the force is made up of constables that don’t have investigation power further limiting the capability to fight crime. Many of them, esp. in the metropolitan areas, are devoted to protecting government servants and diplomats.

Bangladesh Police suffer from serious budgetary constraints. In its review of 2009 [BANGLADESH: GETTING POLICE REFORM ON TRACK, Asia Report No. 182 (11 December 2009)] the International Crisis Group (ICG) stated that “the $420-million annual police budget is simply insufficient to meet the policing needs of the country and undermines the force’s ability to perform effectively.” Numerous officers complain of a lack of funds for basic materials such as radios, fuel for vehicles, bicycles and even stationery to write reports. Many officers are often forced to pay out of pocket to complete even the most routine police functions. Expense claims are sent from the districts to Dhaka and reimbursements often follow months later – and not always in full, which further drives corruption.

Many of its training facilities are ill-equipped with antiquated curricula, procedures, policies, tools and techniques to investigate and fight modern-day crimes of the 21st century. Quality training cannot be expected of police officers when funding is inadequate. [Baki]

Increasing the police force and budget would alleviate many of the human resource problems facing the force.

The police recruitment process also suffers from the fact that although most officers take the legal route into the force, it is not uncommon for prospective officers to buy their way in. The ICG observers noted that “admission bribes” for constables and SIs (sub-inspectors) ranged between Tk 60,000 and Tk 100,000 ($870-$1450). At the ASP level, entry into the force can cost anywhere between Tk 150,000 and Tk 400,000 ($2170-$5800) or higher but officers say political connections at this level are more important than money. Some legislators “are involved so often in illegal recruiting that some SPs reserve a quota of constable vacancies for the MPs to sell.”

For most officers, life in the police force is difficult and unrewarding. Conditions of service and facilities, particularly for the subordinate ranks, esp. constables, are abysmal and drive police morale downwards. As heard by the ICG observers, “A rickshaw puller can make more in a day than some officers. It’s foolish to expect a police officer to adequately perform his duties – or distance himself from corruption for that matter – when his primary concern is making financial ends meet.”

Because of the low police-to-public ratio on average, most officers work long hours: anywhere from 12 to 16 hour shifts. But they are rarely compensated for more than an eight-hour day. Pay raises and promotions are few and far between and do almost nothing to improve the lives of officers or promote competency in the force. In spite of such flaws with pays and perks, it is to the credit of the force that many of its officers remain unmolested by bribe and corruption.

Political and bureaucratic interference are the most significant impediments to police efficiency and have resulted in the worst forms of abuse including illegal detention, death in custody, torture and pervasive corruption. Often times, the police have been used by corrupt politicians to abuse and victimize ordinary citizens.

As a fellow victim I could testify to the immense pains that my family suffered in 2005 when the BNP leader Salauddin Qader Chowdhury (now hanged for war crimes) and his son Fazlul Qader Chowdhury (Fayyaz) tried to grab our Khulshi properties in Chittagong with a known criminal land-grabbing syndicate of Jaker Hossain Chowdhury, Shahjahan Chowdhury, Abdul Mabud, Mahtabuddin Ahmed and gang. The local police station would not accept our GDs (General Diary), nor would the police investigate the crime simply because ‘their hands were tied’ and advised ‘not to poke their nose’ into the criminal affairs of the BNP leader (who was an adviser to PM Khaleda Zia), thus allowing eviction of 16 tenant families from our properties and later demolition of ten homes built by my father in the late 1950s.

The Police continue to serve the interest of the ruling party based on the invasive 1861 code, and are, as such, viewed by public rather negatively. At all levels, however, they resent the power politicians hold over them. They suffer from vulnerability in the hands of politicians, which create susceptibility of loyalty and politicization to executive power. Unless they are insulated from political interference no meaningful changes will occur in the way the force functions.

The 1861 Police Act must be repealed as the starting point in reform since its very spirit is hostile to the public and alien to an independent democratic Bangladesh.

Corruption in the police is rampant and systemic. Often officers will refuse to file a GD or a First Information Report (FIR) without payment. Police and criminals sometimes have a relationship; bribes are exchanged to forgo investigations or even abet criminals in some cases. If a case is investigated, the process is often purposefully drawn out to exact more bribes from both the victim and the alleged perpetrator. The ICG noted that “a similar process occurs in the judicial system if the case goes to trial. There is little expectation that the police will deliver justice.”

The ICG also noted that many police posts are bought and sold, costing lakhs or millions of Taka for upward mobility or job postings in lucrative places, metros, etc. “High prices are paid to politicians, government bureaucrats or commanding officers for lucrative postings where officers can make side incomes larger than their salaries.”

A patrol cop in a major metro on a lucrative patrol – a busy intersection, e.g., – can earn more money by extorting money from truck drivers, rickshaw pullers, and street vendors.

It will be impossible to eliminate corruption until poor salaries and working conditions are improved, particularly for officers at and below the rank of sub-inspector. In recent years since 2009 the pay scale has been significantly improved, which may constrain the toxic impact of bribery and corruption plaguing the society.

Not the least of the problems is the faulty prosecution system, which often lets criminals go free, thus creating a bad impression of the police performance. The problem needs remedy through close collaboration between the police and the prosecuting office.
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Part 3:
In his M.Sc. Thesis, Mr. Baki has suggested many recommendations based on McKinsey’s 7S model (structure, system, style, staff, skills, strategy and shared values) to find the reform need and direction required for Bangladesh Police. He also used the SWOT analysis to identify strength, weakness, opportunities and threats to the organization. Interested readers may like to read his work.

I shall share below some salient points of his recommendations along with those proposed by the International Crisis Group (unless otherwise stated):
  1. Replace the Police Act of 1861 with a law similar to the draft Police Ordinance (2007) or better so that it is compatible with the spirit of the Constitution of Bangladesh and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [I am not sure if the Bangladesh Parliament or its standing committee on home affairs has already examined provisions in greater detail and provided recommendations after seeking the feedback of serving and retired police officials and the public.]
  2. Reduce police corruption and protect officers from political manipulation by: a) removing corrupt, inefficient or politically biased officers from senior positions and positions of authority over the police; b) preventing premature transfers of officers by requiring them to remain at their duty stations for two years except in special cases; c) increasing the period between rotations to three or four years to enhance stability and allow better relations with local communities; d) making the Police Internal Oversight (PIO) department a permanent aspect of the national police; e) criminalizing political interference in police affairs; e) taking measures to avoid any politicizing of the police force; and f) initiating broader reforms of the civil service, a first step being the implementation of the recommendations of the pay commission to boost salaries of government employees.
  3. Rebuild police morale and increase their efficiency by: a) allocating more funds for improving facilities and securing the welfare of police rank and file and their families, and ensuring this money is spent on better salaries, housing, transport facilities and health care for the rank and file; b) creating a fund, administered jointly by the police and parliamentarians, for public service awards for exceptional policing; c) modernizing training methods and procedures and the recruitment system; and d) increasing police numbers so that they are not overworked.
  4. Improve police performance and redress public grievances by establishing a Police Complaints Commission similar to the one envisioned by the draft Police Ordinance (2007).
  5. Ensure a greater presence of women in the police by: a) increasing the number of female police officers and facilities for women officers and detainees in police stations; b) increasing the visibility of female police officers and improving their standards of training; and c) filling current vacancies in the force with women officers wherever possible, particularly senior positions with those who are qualified.
  6. Reduce public’s negative perception of the police by: a) amending the emergency provisions and preventive detention provisions in order to strike a balance between the needs of state security and those of protecting human rights; b) exerting closer scrutiny by the judiciary on conditions of detention and interrogation by the police during the remand procedure; and c) ensuring that police investigations are streamlined and strengthened through material and forensic information collection, thus minimize the needs and practice of torture on suspects of terrorist activities. [Syed Sarfaraj Hamid, Police System of Bangladesh: A Study (published in the South Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2)]
  7. Ensure community policing to close its gap with the public by making the Police to work closely with the community for the benefit of the community, which can be accomplished by CAMP methods of a) Consultation with local people; b) Adaptation of policing methods to local conditions; c) Mobilization of local people and agencies against crime and disorder; and d) Problem solving in the locality.

In closing, let me share a personal story. In early April of 2005 when my family property was grabbed by the criminal land-grabbing syndicate that colluded with former BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (hanged for war crimes last year) and his notorious older son (Fayyaz), we were simply shocked. I could not believe that such a terrible crime could happen to my family who had been living in our Khulshi properties for nearly half a century with all the legal rights and possessions. Because of the presumed power of SaQa my class mates Mahmudur Rahman and Sayeed Iskandar (now dead), sadly, betrayed my trust and failed to bring the matter to the notice of the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Even my letter to the Madam Zia, sent through Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA – Mr. Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, remained unanswered. The latter nonetheless succeeded in arranging a meeting at the PMO with SaQa after he had returned from his treatment overseas. Unfortunately, it was a zero-sum meeting. Puffed up by crude power and sheer arrogance, and lack of fear of accountability before Allah, SaQa was unwilling to let go of the illegal land-grab of our properties.

Our situation looked simply bleak and hopeless. Even our press conference at Dhaka Press Club failed to draw the necessary attention and awareness from the government to intervene. The only thing I could do was pray, complain and submit petitions at the ministry and the US Embassy to rescue us from the sad situation.

I left Bangladesh in utter frustration in early May of 2005. Soon Fayyaz’s (SaQa’s son) goons demolished ten homes in our property.

Ultimately, our prayer to Allah was answered. One of my petitions reached an honest deputy police commissioner – Mr. Abdullahel Baki. He came to investigate the matter and found out that we were victims of a powerful land-grabbing syndicate in Chittagong that had also eyed the nearby Ispahani Properties. He was threatened by SaQa’s APS Abu Bakr Siddiq and other criminal thugs. But he remained steadfast. Based on his recommendation, and approved by the CMP Commissioner Abdul Majed, the police raided, arresting some goons and restoring back full ownership of our properties. Not a single dime was paid as a bribe by my family to the police for their civic duty. We remain indebted to these noble souls within the police force. However, Mr. Baki faced trouble from the government and was soon transferred away from Chittagong. He was even sued by the criminal land-grabbing syndicate. 

Some readers may find my story an exceptional case. But over the years, as we endured repeated harassment from the criminal land-grabbing syndicate, which, by the way, still exists (with new political patrons), we have come across quite a few honest police officers who give me the hope that not everything is lost in our ill-fated motherland that has seen so much of bloodshed, crime and corruption and abuse of the power by the greedy snobs.

The people of Bangladesh expect fairness in everything. They deserve security of their lives and properties from criminals that have, sadly, corrupted the system.

If Bangladesh Government is sincere about bringing irreversible change for the better, I am sure much can be accomplished soon. It can start that process by implementing the recommendations above and not overlooking the crimes of its rogue elements within the ruling party and the administration that are tarnishing the very image of the party. It also needs to strengthen the Anti-Corruption Commission so that it can do its needed tasks without any constraint.

As we expect reform of the police force, however, we ought to know that the responsibility for preventing and detecting crime and anti-social behavior, and combating the fear of crime is not the preserve of the police alone. Nor is it a task left to the politicians and bureaucrats. We all – residents and NRBs (expatriates) – matter. Local authorities, schools, health services, the private security industry, business, voluntary organizations, NGOs, faith communities and individual citizens and the police all have a role to play in establishing a civil society of law and order, checks and balances. Let’s also remind ourselves of what Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (the late president of India) famously said, “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Guantánamo Prison: will it be ever closed for the right reason?

President Obama wants to shut down the Guantánamo Bay prison. No one takes him seriously any more. I don't. I found him untrustworthy - he promised the closure during his first term, and it is now more than seven years, and still the prison is open and holding up many prisoners who have not been charged yet. It is a disgrace! It is a shameful act tarnishing US image globally, and has been a recruiting tool for radicals around the globe.

"Guantánamo has been a pockmark on our society ever since it opened. The detention facility itself is a human rights abomination, but it’s not just the physical center that is a problem – it is the spirit it embodies," writes Trevor Timm. "The policy of indefinite detention in Gitmo makes a mockery of the US constitution. That’s why, as Barack Obama makes his latest impassioned and forceful plea to close it once and for all, it is shameful that he is leaving in place the practices that enabled it to flourish in the first place."
Indefinite detention – holding detainees for what is now decades with no trial or even charges of any kind on the horizon – is about as antithetical to American values and the constitution as it gets. There are dozens of detainees that are cleared for release now – and have been cleared for release for years – that still remain behind bars on the US military base in Cuba. But there are dozens more that the US considers “unfit for trial” but “too dangerous to release”. (Many of them can’t be tried because the US tortured them.) 
He writes, "President Obama wants to close Guantánamo. But unless he ends the policy of indefinite detention, it’s shameful spirit will live on."
You can read Timm's article by clicking here

Hayden's motivation for selling drones is ignoble

Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA, 
has been great advocate for drone attacks, which have killed more civilians than suspected radicals. He has been making the media rounds over the last few days, discussing and defending some of the most emblematic policies of the post-9/11 era in an effort to promote his new book. 
Last weekend, Hayden spent some 2,000 words defending one example of a policy taken to the edge: the Obama administration’s embrace of drone warfare and so-called targeted killing (what many describe as a euphemism for assassination). In an article for the New York Times op-ed page, Hayden strived to present the role drones play in U.S. counter-terrorism missions as inherently fallible, but on the whole, effective, careful, and necessary.
“The program is not perfect. No military program is. But here is the bottom line: It works,” Hayden wrote. “I think it fair to say that the targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict.”
The op-ed was met with pointed criticism. Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a noted expert on the role of drones in U.S. counterterrorism operations, published a thorough point-by-point analysis of Hayden’s specific claims the following day.
Citing averages from three NGOs that track U.S. drone strikes, Zenko noted that “as director of the CIA Hayden personally authorized an estimated 48 drone strikes, which killed 532 people, 144 of whom were civilians.” 
Jim Naureckas is the editor of Fair.org unmasks Hayden's motivation for denying the truth. You can read his piece by click here.
The fact is: Hayden has served from 2010 until 2015 on the board of Alion, a company that in 2012 “was awarded a $24 million contract to develop the US Navy’s unmanned and automatic weapons systems.” Alion is not required to disclose compensation for its board members.

Monday, February 22, 2016

China's women mosques

Here is a story that you may like to read about Hui Muslims of China, esp. its women. 
The Islamic world is wide and various, its points of view almost as numerous as its people. And Islam in China, with its long tradition of women-only mosques, provides a good illustration, says Michael Wood.

TV anchors played judge and jury in the JNU case

The debates on TV often set the tone of the national discourse not just here in the West but also in places like India. As noted before, some innocent students at prestigious JNU in Delhi, India have been charged with sedition. It was all based on false TV footage fed by right-wing Hindutvadi - Zee News - where its anchors played the devil's role. They played judge and jury on JNU students and ‘anti-nationalism’.
It could be called The Judge and the Jury, now playing on the small screen in drawing rooms and running houseful for over a week ever since the JNU row broke out. In this hyper-nationalist blockbuster, the overworked and overwrought anchor doubles as both prosecution and judge — scolding, smirking, shouting, pronouncing verdicts.
You can read the full story by clicking here.

Latest Hindutvadi crime in Maharashtra reminds me of Ehsan Jafri's lynching

Hindutvadis are showing their ugly intolerance against minority Muslims and Christians since BJP's coming to power with Narendra Modi as the prime minister. Maharashtra has been a key state for these bigots. 

Yunus Sheikh, the Assistant Sub-Inspector, who has served Maharashtra Police for 38 years, was assaulted, forced to carry a “saffron flag” and paraded through a town in Maharashtra’s Latur by members of a fringe right-wing group. They forced him to chant ‘Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji’.

He has said that he was let down by his own colleagues who failed to save him. The 50-year-old’s family has demanded a departmental probe into why reinforcements from Renapur police station failed to arrive in time to tackle the mob at Pangaon, around 15 km away, on Saturday. Sheikh, who is posted at the Renapur station, was on duty at Pangaon chowky.

On Monday, speaking to The Indian Express from his bed at the Latur Civil Hospital, Sheikh said, “I phoned the control room and appraised them about the situation. Using my mobile, I called the in-charge of the Renapur station on his cellphone. But still, they failed to send reinforcements in time. The policemen reached Pangaon by 10.10 am. By then, the mob had assaulted me brutally and humiliated me by parading me.” 

Sheikh said the attack began at 8.30 am on February 20, when over 100 youth assembled outside the police chowky, after he and Awaskar had stopped a group of 25 from hoisting the saffron flag the previous night. Police said the group belonged to the little-known Shivaji Jayanti Mandal. “I begged them to let me go but I was mercilessly beaten until I collapsed. The mob took me to the same spot where I had stopped them from hoisting the flag. They made me hoist the same flag there and forced me to chant ‘Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji’,” said Sheikh. “I was just doing my duty. Ambedkar Chowk is marked as a communally sensitive area. We even assured the group the previous night that we would find a better place for them to hoist the flag,” said Sheikh. 

Sheikh’s 28-year-old son, Farooq Yunus Sheikh, alleged that his father was “singled out” by the mob. “The other constable who had also restrained the crowd from hoisting the flag the previous night was not paraded or attacked the way my father was. They spared him but not my father. What are we to make out of this?” asked Farooq, who works for an IT firm in Pune. “If reinforcements had be sent on time, my father would not have been attacked. In every case, a departmental enquiry is ordered, we hope that this case is no different,” he said. 

Sheikh's sad saga reminds me of Ehsan Jafri, the Muslim MP, who was lynched to death by Hindutvadis in Chamanpura in the state of Gujarat nearly 14 years ago. Mr. Jafri phone called a few times Mr. Modi, then Governor of Gujarat, to come to his aid against the Hindu mob. But Mr. Modi refused to send anyone to protect him.
Gory details of how former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was hacked limb by limb at Gulbarg Society, then burnt, have been reported in Indian media exposes, in the words of those who did it."
Chamanpura is in central Ahmedabad and barely a kilometre from the police station, and less than 2 km from the Police Commissioner's office. Believing the area to be safe given Jafri's presence, many Muslims in the area had gathered in his compound. Around 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 28, 2002, the Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police, P.C. Pandey, personally visited Jafri and apparently assured him that police reinforcement would be coming. In the next five hours, Jafri and top Congress officials of the state repeatedly kept calling the police and other government officials requesting safe transport for the residents, but no help arrived. The FIR by Erda further stated that the police station had 130 policemen on duty that day, and were well armed with teargas shells. However, no one was deployed to disperse the crowd, despite Ehsan Jafri and top Congress politicians repeatedly contacting the Director General of Police, Police Commissioner, the Mayor, Leader of Opposition in the State parliament, and other top government officials.
So, here again, the Muslim police ASI was left to the mercy of the criminal Hindu gang with no rescue or security team coming to protect him. He was simply abandoned for being a Muslim police ASI in Hindu India. 

What is India coming to?
ASI Yunus Sheikh being paraded with the saffron flag; admitted to a hospital in Latur, Maharashtra.

Kudos to Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung of Delhi

Kudos to Delhi's Lt. Governor, Najeeb Jung for approving the prosecution sanction request against BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and four others in a case of promoting enmity among religious groups. Delhi government’s home department had sent the file seeking approval for prosecution sanction to the Lt. Governor (L-G) in January. The government communication to the L-G had stated, “A news article titled ‘How to wipe out Islamic Terror’ was published in an English daily, DNA, on July 16, 2011 under the name of Dr Subramaniam Swamy.
In this regard a complaint dated August 5, 2011 was received from Ms Esther Kar, Joint Secretary, National Commission of Minorities… After perusal of this complaint, commission was of the view that said article amounted to commission of criminal offence, since it promoted disharmony, ill will and enmity between religious groups.” 
Mr Swamy is a known bigot with expansionist ideas for India. As a powerful member of the BJP, his agenda is Hindtuva, a fascist ideology in which minorities have no rights other than converting either to Hinduism or to leave the country. He has previously called for annexation of Bangladesh against which I wrote an article condemning his attitude. 
It takes lots of guts to go after a rogue politician like Swamy. I am glad to see that Mr. Jung has the guts to go after Swamy.

SIPRI Report on Arms Trade

The peace research institute SIPRI has provided new data relating to the international arms trade. The biggest exporter is the US, well ahead of Russia. The main customers are in Asia and the Middle East.
Fourteen percent more arms were exported worldwide in the last five years than the five years that preceded them. 
Infografik Die zehn größten Waffenimporteure und ihre wichtigsten Zulieferer ENGLISCH
Between 2011 and 2015, India was the only country to import more weapons that Saudi Arabia. Compared with 2006–2010, the oil sheikhdom's arms purchases have almost trebled. Number four in the list of the biggest importers of arms is the United Arab Emirates, with a population of barely five million. More than half the arms imported into Africa are brought in by just two countries: the neighboring states of Morocco and Algeria. 
On the side of the arms exporters, the USA and Russia have developed their positions as the most important suppliers of military equipment. The USA alone accounts for one-third of arms exports worldwide: Its exports increased by 27 percent. The USA has been constantly replenishing supplies in the Middle Eastern crisis region in particular. Its most important customer was Saudi Arabia; the UAE was in second place, followed by Turkey.
A quarter of global arms exports come from Russia. Its most important customers were in India, China and Vietnam. China itself almost doubled its arms exports, up 88 percent compared to 2006–2010. It now has an almost 6 percent share of the international arms trade, putting it at number three, ahead of France, and has established itself on the international arms market as an important producer. Wezeman attributes this to the improved quality of Chinese weapons. Chinese military equipment goes primarily to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, but China is also trying to gain a toehold as an arms supplier in Africa.
Between 2011 and 2015 the Western European countries France, Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy together controlled one-fifth of the worldwide transfer of weapons. France's exports, however, dropped by almost 10 percent in this period, and German arms exports actually halved.
The reason for this was the economic crisis in many European countries. Some European states simply don't have the money for expensive equipment, Wezeman explained. That in turn increased the pressure on the European arms industry to open up new markets. The SIPRI arms trade expert observed that Germany in particular was aggressively trying to sell its weapons systems in places like the Middle East and Asia.
To read the full article, please, click here.

Israel ramps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in West Bank

Amira Hass writes from Israel, "Since the beginning of this year, especially in early February, Israel’s Civil Administration has significantly increased the pace of Palestinian home demolitions in the West Bank’s Area C under full Israeli control (about 60 percent of the West Bank).
It has demolished 293 homes in just six weeks, compared with 447 for all of 2015. The average has surged to 49 from nine per week. The demolitions have left more than 480 Palestinians, including 220 children, homeless."
You can read Amira's article by clicking here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Zee News producer quits for falsifying slogans

We live in a world of intolerance, hatred and bigotry, or so it seems. In Bangladesh and India, any slogan in favor of Pakistan can land the person behind the prison on charges of sedition and treason. And so may be the case inside Pakistan for chanting Joy Hind, which I simply don't know but can only guess given the poisonous environment of suspicion that is so pervasive in South Asia. 

Recently, some students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi have been charged with sedition. They are accused of organizing an event at JNU against Afzal Guru’s hanging (who was  convicted of being behind the attack on the Indian Parliament) and chanting 'Pakistan Zindabad (Long Live Pakistan). (To learn about the hanging of Afzal Guru, please, click here.)

It was a doctored news clip.  The footage telecast on Zee News formed the basis of the Delhi police’s suo motu FIR on the incident following which JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested. He was mercilessly beaten by two lawyers, Vikram Singh Chauhan and Yashpal Singh, for three hours when he was in police custody. “We thrashed him for three hours and we also forced him to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. He later raised the slogan with us and we allowed him go,” said Chauhan. Singh also said they would beat him up again. 

“I will get a petrol bomb no matter what case is filed against me. I will not leave him even if I am charged with murder… I want to go to the same jail and will thrash him in his cell… I will not give my bail bond. I will go to prison for one or two days,” Singh claimed. 

Singh added, “We thrashed all journalists and JNU professors. If you live in the country, you will have to talk about the country. Police was also supporting us fully and they told us they were in uniform, that’s why they (too) were not thrashing him.” 

Now Vishwa Deepak, an output producer for Zee News, says, The video which had no “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans in it, we played repeatedly to spread madness. How did we establish that Kanhaiya and his associates were chanting slogans when all we heard were voices coming from the darkness. Our biases made us hear Bhartiya Court Zindabad as Pakistan Zindabad.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Deepak said Zee News aired footage of students chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ repeatedly, but it did not have any such slogans in it. “We heard inaudible slogans from the grainy video. Editors at Zee News felt this sounded like ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and that’s the caption we went with,” he said. 

Deepak said he scripted shows and edited footage at Zee News. He added that he had worked on the footage of the Afzal Guru event recorded on February 9 in JNU where reporter Pawan Nara was present, recording the event. Deepak said he received the footage on February 10 and was told to work on it for a show that day. “On February 10, I was on the morning shift, which comprised a shift head, two second shift heads, three or four producers of which I was one, two or three package producers, and two or three video editors,” said Deepak. “At the editorial meet that afternoon, a producer was given the video footage and told to work on it because it was a ‘big story’. The producer brought the video to me and I watched it and heard it. The video was grainy and there was a lot of sloganeering but most of which was not clearly audible. I heard ‘Bhartiya Court Zindabad’,” he said. 

According to Deepak, the producer showed the video to other “responsible” colleagues but none were able to clearly make out the words being chanted. “Then our editors came down to our section and told us it was a big story, it had to go on air and that ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ could be heard. So we all agreed because the editors and other colleagues felt it was ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ that was being chanted. We began to produce the show and because the audio was not clear, we added a bubble or blurb with ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ written in it to guide our viewers on what we felt was being chanted,” said Deepak. 

A graduate of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, Deepak said he worked first as a freelancer contributing to Jansatta and Sanskar. He also worked with news channels News 24, AajTak, News Nation and joined Zee News as a producer in 2014. Deepak has also contributed to BBC Hindi. 

When contacted, Zee News Editor Sudhir Chowdhary said Deepak’s resignation was an internal matter of the organisation. “Zee media is one of the largest media houses in the country. People leaving and recruitments being done is a normal affair. In any case, the person concerned was not involved in any stories related to the JNU row. He never discussed any issues with anybody in the organisation if he had any. His resignation is an internal matter of the organisation,” said Chowdhary in a text message. Chowdhary did not respond to questions about Deepak’s claims of how the caption ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ was added to the footage. 

The Indian Express had reported on Saturday that police had asked Zee News for the original camera and memory chip of its telecast of the February 9 event. The request had come just days after questions were raised over the authenticity of another video that was broadcast on other TV news channels and went viral on social media. 

The Zee News footage also found mention in an Aam Aadmi Party complaint to Special Commissioner of Police (law and order) Deepak Mishra. The AAP had alleged that students raising slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ were from the ABVP. 

JNU ABVP president Alok Singh had earlier said that some ABVP members were present at JNU on February 9, but were shouting slogans like ‘Bharatiya Court Zindabad’ and ‘Indian Army Zindabad’. The ABVP also filed a counter complaint with police saying that the footage had been tampered with. 

Last week, Chowdhary had said that he stood by the footage aired on Zee News. “The slogans are very clear for anybody to hear. We stand by the footage that was aired on Zee News. We have handed over all the raw footage to the Delhi police,” he had said. 

As noted above, because of Zee News footage, several students charged with sedition, were in the hiding, afraid of their lives. Now with the new revelation, six of them returned to the campus after ten days of hiding. Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Ashutosh Kumar, Anant Prakash Narayan, Riyazul Haq and Rama Naga addressed a small gathering of students outside the administration block. The students said they had not appeared in public earlier, fearing “mob violence”. “We saw what was happening in the media and social media, and feared attacks,” said Naga.

While Khalid and Bhattacharya are former members of the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), Naga is the general secretary of JNUSU, Kumar a former president and Narayan a former vice-president. 

You can read the original news by clicking here.

Minority jobs in the Indian Central Government - clear case of disparity

MINORITIES in India constituted 8.71 per cent of central government recruitment in 2014-15 with 13,571 of them obtaining jobs from a total of 1.56 lakh, according to information obtained by The Indian Express under the RTI Act. It should be noted that according to the Census, the total percentage of minorities in the country is over 20 per cent, including Muslims (14.2 per cent), Christians (2.78 per cent), Sikhs (2.08), Buddhists (0.84) and Jains (0.45). 

The government has disclosed that it was unable to compile data for recruitment of minorities for 2013-14 because its ministries either did not provide information or delayed the process. In 2012-13, records show, the recruitment of minorities constituted 7.37 per cent of the total. 

Although the actual percentage of Muslims in this new recruits has not been shared, earlier reports have shown that their share in government jobs is below 2 percent, way below their national share. So, India has a long way to bring in some parity in the job sector for the minorities, which would give them a sense of belonging.

Quran passages or Bible verses?

You've probably noticed that anti-Muslim sentiments have become more common and more blatant recently.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris by ISIS (Daesh) extremists and the mass shooting in San Bernardino by two people who claimed to be Muslim, a lot of Americans are allowing their thinking to be replaced by fear. Some people are even reacting violently.

Others are working hard to find justification for their beliefs — even if they're not acting out. Laura Willard has written a very eyeopening article that must be read by everyone to understand the issue of double standard in our society. Please, click here to read this

Don't forget to see the video on prejudice in the bottom of the article.

Trump - is he following Hitler's trail?

Donald Trump is selling Islamophobia. And since bigotry and racism always sell in a country where minorities live in the midst of an ocean of majority - here in the USA, by that I mean, Christians - Trump has been able to use bigotry against Muslims and racism against the Latinos to polarize Americans who are helping him to become the front runner within the GOP presidential hopefuls. Remember, years ago, he also raised President Obama's birther issue. I am sure if the current president was not the son of a Kenyan Muslim such charges against the president would never have aired.

You may know that conservative Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia had died last week. While Obama did not go to Scalia's funeral, he attended Friday's public viewing at the Supreme Court building as the late justice's casket laid in repose. Vice President Joe Biden attended Saturday's funeral. But see below how Trump used Scalia's funeral service to sell bigotry.
Donald Trump on Saturday suggested President Barack Obama would have attended the funeral of Antonin Scalia had the late Supreme Court justice's service been held in a mosque.
"I wonder if President Obama would have attended the funeral of Justice Scalia if it were held in a Mosque? Very sad that he did not go," he tweeted Saturday.
Trump has long been one of the most vocal skeptics about Obama's birthplace and Christian faith. When Obama visited a Baltimore mosque earlier this month, Trump suggested he did so because "maybe he feels comfortable there."
The Republican front-runner also accused Obama of apologizing to Muslims -- without offering any proof -- during the mosque visit.
On Friday cited an apocryphal story about a U.S. general who purportedly dipped bullets in pigs' blood to execute Muslim prisoners a century ago in an effort to deter Islamic terrorism.
Speaking at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, Trump reiterated his claim that the U.S. should "go much further" than waterboarding suspected terrorists, telling the story of Gen. John Pershing in the Philippines, who Trump said captured 50 Muslim prisoners a century ago and dipped 50 bullets in blood.
    "And he lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those 50 people, and he said to the 50th, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened -- and in 25 years there wasn't a problem," Trump said to the audience, which grew quiet as he told the story.
    Coming in contact with swine is forbidden under Islamic law. Muslims, like Jews, consider pig to be a filthy animal, and anything from it to be haram or forbidden. 
    Later Saturday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading Muslim civil rights group, said Trump's "rhetoric has crossed the line from spreading hatred to inciting violence." "By directly stating that the only way to stop terrorism is to murder Muslims in graphic and religiously-offensive ways, he places the millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens in the American Muslim community at risk from rogue vigilantes," the group said in a statement. "He further implies that our nation should adopt a strategy of systematized violence in its engagement with the global Muslim community, a chilling message from a potential leader. We pray that no one who hears this message follows his gospel of hate."
    Muslim Advocates, another Muslim civil rights group, said Trump's comments "are abhorrent and simply have no place in the American public forum. We urge all Americans of good conscience to come together and rise above hate and extremist rhetoric that only serves to divide us at a time when we must stand together."
    As can be seen, recently in his election campaigns, Trump has been using his bigotry-ridden anti-Muslim card to sell his credential as The person to vote for to make 'America great again.' 

    Trump reminds me of Adolf Hitler who, some eight decades ago after Germany's defeat in the First World War and signing of the humiliating Versailles Pact, was able to use anti-Jewish bigotry and racism to sell his Nazi fascism to regain 'Germany's greatness.' Germans 

    Kalamazoo killings

    While checking news around the USA, I came across a little publicized news from Kalamazoo, MI where Jason Brian Dalton has been arrested in connection with three shooting incidents that killed six people and injured two more . Prosecutor Jeff Getting expects Dalton to be formally charged Monday.
      There is "no reason to believe" that the Saturday evening shooting rampage is related to terrorism, Getting said. Dalton, the lone suspect, apparently picked his victims at random, the prosecutor said. No motive has been determined yet, he said. Dalton is a white American. 
      I am sure if a similar shooting incident was caused by a Muslim, insane or sane, the media will be abuzz now with smells of terrorism, and Mr. Getting would have 'reason to believe' that the shootings may be terrorist related. 

      That is what's happening in the USA, which is, sadly, very disconcerting! This again also demonstrates how the media create the opinion that is feeding Islamophobia. 

      Saturday, February 20, 2016

      Hillary, the Bible and Israel - by Robert Fantina

      Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press). 
      In his latest article, he writes, "The various campaigns for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations are in full swing, with caucuses and primaries raining down upon us like plagues of locusts, sending all and sundry scurrying for the shelter of their homes, where they can watch the unfolding, dual tragedies on their television screens.
      And what a spectacle we are subjected to! The Republicans (this writer refers to them as the Tweedle Dums) and the Democrats (the Tweedle Dees), don’t agree on much other than their shared adoration of Israel, but another rather odd similarity can be unearthed. That is their summoning of God to justify, in one form or another, their racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic, xenophopic and/or generally deadly tendencies. Those who believe in a supreme being, as this writer does, must feel sorry for him, feeling that having his name invoked by the most unholy of the unholy can only be distressing.
      One may think that religion, and its usefulness in getting votes, is the sole purview of the Republican right (a redundancy of terms, since there is nothing left of the Republican Party, it seems, but the far right). But no, a quick look on the other side of the aisle disproves that idea.
      In June of last year, Democratic presidential candidate hopeful Hillary Clinton made this remarkable statement: “At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement”.
      You can read his piece by clicking here.