Karachi Photo Blog

Friday, January 16, 2009

Musharraf spoke at Stanford

General Pervez Musharraf who ruled Pakistan for almost nine years was
a 'Big Speaker' at Stanford University today.

Musharraf spoke for over 50 minutes mainly describing Pakistan's role
in helping the West defeat the Soviet Union, and now in the ongoing
War on Terror. He said the war against the Taliban was Pakistan's
war, and the West should not doubt Pakistan's intentions. He said
there were powerful lobbies trying to malign the Pakistan Army and the
ISI; he said that Pakistani soldiers were being killed while fighting
the militants, and asked how can anyone believe there was
'double-dealing' going on. Musharraf's holistic approach to fight
terrorism involved keeping a strong military "because that's the language these elements understand", but also alleviate poverty and educate people, and solve long simmering political conflicts.

Musharraf's speech was followed by a short one-to-one question-answer
session with Professor Scott Sagan. Besides other questions Sagan
asked why Pervez Musharraf pardoned AQ Khan. Musharraf said that AQ
Khan was a very popular person in Pakistan and the 'sensibilities' of
his country demanded that AQ Khan not be put through any interrogation
involving non-Pakistanis.

The QA session was then opened to the larger audience. In most of the
questions asked by the Desi students Musharraf was criticized for
removing Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, for selling his countrymen
to the US, and for suppressing media. Musharraf said whatever he did
against the Chief Justice, he did according to the rights provided to
him in the constitution. He blamed 'certain elements' for taking
political advantage of the situation; he said that ultimately the
situation got so bad that he was forced to declare emergency.
Musharraf said that the 600 people he wrote about in his book whom he
handed over to the US were all foreign members of Al-Qaeda. He
claimed no Pakistani was given to the US, and said that he even sent a
team to Guantanamo Bay to get a few Pakistanis who were arrested in
Afghanistan released from the US custody.

Talking about the Mumbai attacks Musharraf said Pakistan must punish
those who were involved in planning the attacks, but should not
extradite anyone. He claimed that whereas 61 Pakistanis were killed
in Samjhota Express explosions which were later proved to be the work
of Hindu extremists and ex-Indian Army personnel, Pakistan never
demanded extradition of the people responsible for that act of terror.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Shun Racism in Travel; Visit Beautiful Haiti
[Defy US Department of State's bogus travel warning.]

Amazing how media can insidiously influence you! Though for a long time I doubted the veracity of news reports about an "overpopulated, deforested, crime-ridden" Haiti, before leaving for Hispaniola I called up an insurance broker in Texas to inquire about a kidnapping and ransom insurance policy. He was not available and I ended up leaving a message. Looking back I am glad he never returned my call. I certainly did not need a kidnapping and ransom insurance for traveling in Haiti.

Before traveling to Haiti I spent a lot of time on the Internet reviewing information, advice regarding travel in that country. I found out that most of the people advising travelers not to go to Haiti were the ones who themselves never visited Haiti.

I trusted Haiti with my family and I found the people of Haiti to be as trustworthy as people of any other country. Yes, Haiti has seen a lot of political upheaval, but no, those storms have not transformed Haitians into blood-sucking monsters ready to rob, kidnap, or kill all visitors.

It is known that with shrinking writ of a government, petty criminals gain strength and start claiming larger and larger turf, and that very well may be the case in some parts of Haiti. But I did not see it. And I did not see it because I avoided going to slums and shady neighborhoods—just as I avoid bad neighborhoods in California. While traveling in Haiti I took some other precautions too--the same precautions I take when visiting a developing country: of keeping a low profile, restricting movement after dark, and walking with a local in unfamiliar surroundings.

So, there it is for you, the intrepid traveler. Shun racism in travel, go to Haiti, especially if you are already there in the Dominican Republic. I won't advise you to go to Haiti, or to any other 'poor' state, if this is the first time you are leaving your home country. But people who have been around, who have honed their traveling skills, should not shy away from visiting Haiti. It is a beautiful country full of very nice people. Go visit Haiti and have fun.

I have uploaded a few videos on YouTube.