Thursday, December 18, 2014

The impetus of shock and sorrow

Children are the Achilles’ heel of nations. Like parents, countries deal with tragedy but if it involves children, the issue becomes a catastrophe. And so it is for Pakistan and the loss of the 134 children killed by the savage Taliban in the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.


The government was busy conferring with the Taliban and detangling the good from the bad  when there was an audacious attack on the cargo terminal of Karachi airport on June 8, 2014. Embarrassed the government began Operation Zarb-e-Azb and to date 1800 terrorists have been killed and many of their hideouts in North Waziristan destroyed. The Taliban had repeatedly vowed revenge; perhaps its brutality and its young, innocent victims were not something regular folk could have anticipated.


 A young mother lost all of her four children that day. One of the victims didn’t want to go to school for he had knee pain; his mother convinced him to go and not skip school for small reasons. My heart aches for her torment. One of the students describes being in the auditorium and seeing children running in the hallway; one of them had been shot in the face.


16-year old Shahrukh Khan recounted: “One of them shouted: ‘There are so many children beneath the desks go and get them’”. Shahrukh said he felt searing pain as he was shot in both his legs. He decided to play dead: “I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream. The man with the big boots kept on looking for students and killing them. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again. I will never forget the black boots approaching me – I felt as though it was death that was approaching me.”


The carnage is beyond comprehension. The school walls look like sieves from the spray of bullets. Broken glass and pools of blood belie that this was once a school. A couple students’ notes are heart-rending. Finished homework has the words “THE END” written in large all caps. Another student wrote: “hum rahein na rahein, yeh gulshan salamat rahey ga” (whether we live or not this world will live on).


Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said: “The smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry it. And we’ve been carrying smaller coffins today, more than a hundred small coffins.”


The outrage in Pakistan and internationally has been deep. During a prayer vigil prominent civil rights lawyer Asma Jahangir said “those who refer to the Taliban as brothers are one of the Taliban”. She has cause to say this. For decades various governments have waffled in their approach to the Taliban lending a blind-eye to numerous attacks solely to shore up their own power bases. 


Pakistan has paid a heavy price for participating on the war on terror: at least 50,000 Pakistanis, civilian and military have been killed since 2001.  Pakistan’s army is one of the most competent in the world but fighting an invisible or chameleonic enemy is very difficult. Terrorist attacks at airports and military institutions require a good deal of inside information, and that was evident in essentially all the high-profile attacks of the Taliban.


There are numerous political and religious hues in Pakistan with a very troubling radicalization of a segment of the population. Economic disenfranchisement, anti-Americanism, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the killing of one million Iraqi civilians in the war on terror, the WMD propaganda and brain-washing all contribute to this turn to extremism. This radicalized segment orchestrates terrorist attacks or carries them out. Their relative anonymity makes their identification difficult if not impossible.


The sit-ins of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri were perfect crucibles for a terrorist attack and I remember the sick feeling that I would get worrying about the destruction that could be wreaked. The fact that this did not occur shows that a vigilant population can be a very effective preventive force. If you have new neighbors that seem to be hoarding weapons, please alert the authorities. If foreigners are willing to rent your house for an outlandish amount of money, be on your guard.


The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought the Kalashnikov and heroin culture to Pakistan. The easy availability of guns and a series of corrupt governments have armed and addicted a population. De-weaponization of the population, proper gun licensing and a money-for-guns exchange program should be an immediate priority of the government. A few minutes must be devoted in each Friday sermon to condemn terrorism and remind people that suicide is a ticket to hell and taking someone with you a confirmed reservation.


Catastrophic events can serve ironic purposes. All the political parties finally see that terrorism is Pakistan’s arch enemy. Imran Khan has decided to terminate the sit-ins. He was rapidly backing into a wall and shutting down Karachi was bad enough for him to lose credibility; closing Pakistan down would have destroyed it.


In 2008 Zardari had introduced a moratorium on the death penalty for terror-related cases. After the Peshawar massacre Nawaz Sharif has lifted this moratorium and also announced that they will not be differentiating between the good and the bad Taliban. I have been personally opposed to the death penalty due to numerous wrong convictions. But in the state that Pakistan is, we need speedy trials and convictions and the institution of the death penalty for enabling, orchestrating and committing terrorist acts. I am certain there will be a sharp decline in terrorism in Pakistan. Death by hanging can send out a chilling reverberant message.


December 16, 1971 was a dramatic point in Pakistan’s history when its army signed the instrument of surrender and East Pakistan ceased to be. December 16, 2014 has shocked and numbed all of Pakistan and if 180 million people unite in the fight against terrorism, we can create unprecedented peace in a nation full of potential and promise. We owe this to the blood of 145 innocents.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A crash course on civil rights

Black lives don’t matter. That seems to be the message that the grand jury verdict in Ferguson, Missouri gives.

Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Legal and police experts concur that Prosecutor Robert McCulloch could have decided on his own authority to prosecute Officer Wilson. But he decided to punt it to a grand jury. Had the races of aggressor and victim been transposed and a black police officer had killed a white teenager, I think he would be awaiting trial. This is borne out by an incident in July 2014 in the same county. The same prosecutor Robert McCulloch pressed felonious assault charges on black police officer Dawon Gore for striking a white light-rail passenger with a baton after an argument. He was jailed on a $3500 cash-only bond.

Sadder yet is the composition of the grand jury. St. Louis County has a population of 21,000 and is 67% African-American and 29% white. The grand jury was made up of nine whites and three blacks of supposedly randomly picked citizens. All they needed to decide was whether there was probable cause to indict Officer Wilson and send the case to trial. Nine votes were needed to indict him.

Like it or not there is a hierarchy of color in our country. Highest on this list is a white child. And going downwards come brown people and lowest are young black males. The country was convulsed with grief with the Connecticut school shootings in which the victims were largely white children. But no one really talks about the daily victims of gun violence in Chicago; the majority is impoverished black children.

Michael Brown had stolen a bunch of cigarellos from a store in Ferguson and when challenged by Officer Wilson was, according to Officer Wilson’s testimony, aggressive and full of expletives. Wilson testified that he tried to move Brown’s arm and felt that he was like “a five-year old holding onto Hulk Hogan”. Wilson shot Michael Brown twice while he was pushing into the police car with his body. Brown then started to run and Wilson gave chase. When Brown turned around Officer Wilson fatally shot him in the head, well aware that he was not armed. Why would a police officer escalate a theft to shooting an unarmed person? Whatever happened to disabling a felon by shooting at an extremity rather than the trunk? Are cigarellos cocaine?

Unfortunately this situation is a very tangled web. Every 28 hours a black person is killed in the United States either by a police officer or a vigilante. As a doctor, I understand this frequency to qualify for what we define as an epidemic. This is not a new statistic. Young black males have been on our endangered species list for decades. But being on the bottom of that hierarchy, racked with poverty, addiction and crime, society seems to be smug that young black felons are self-selecting out.

Police and legal experts also report a symbiotic relationship between police and prosecutors. Prosecutors protect police witnesses in court and the police influence the prosecutor’s decisions. It is true that situations such as the Wilson-Brown incident happen very fast and hindsight is always 20/20. But we have not enshrined accountability in police culture, and thus granted them impunity. The parents of Michael Brown want the Michael Brown Law passed in which police officers would wear body cameras. There is a move toward this in some police departments already.

It is also an entire mindset that we must change: from individuals and families recognizing that all of us are created equal, to communities and the nation being color-blind in their protection.

Racism is rife in the Greater Toledo area as well. In a previous office location in Perrysburg, one of my middle aged African-American patients decided to bide his waiting time and enjoy the sunny day by sitting in a chair next to his car and working on his phone. Suddenly the police showed up, wondering whose new Chrysler he was sitting next to. “It’s my car” he said. Unable to charge him with anything, the police left. I remember I was more outraged than he was.

Ferguson businesses have been burned to the ground, and protests are picking up all across the nation and internationally.  Prosecutor McCulloch has deeply undermined our justice system and brought segregation in our country into sharp focus. Officer Wilson should have been charged and gone through an open public trial. It would have been wise and visionary to let justice take its course and to have learned from the Rodney King and Trayvon Martin cases. And suddenly the entire nation is being given a crash course on civil rights.  


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The tipping point in Pakistan

Pakistan owes its creation to the vision of Allama Iqbal, the tenacity of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the blood, sweat and tears of the muhajir .

The Sharif coterie is suddenly irrelevant. Khatir Ghaznavi wrote so famously: go zara si baat par barsoan ke yaraaney gaye laykin itna to hua kuch loag pehchaney gaye: years of friendship dissolved over a minor incident but served to expose some people. Dragging on this disrepute for another three and a half years does not seem possible; the nation’s contempt for the Sharifs is almost palpable.  

Interestingly freedom of the press was given to Pakistan by a dictator, Pervez Musharraf. Freedom of the press is an integral part of a democracy. Despite all the indignant claims of safe-guarding of democracy by the Islamabad menagerie, also known as the Parliament, the Sharif government has swooped down on freedom of the press by closure of the ARY television channel. The blame is passed around; the Lahore High Court did not order ARY’s closure, PEMRA ordered it but PEMRA  does not have a legitimate chief etc., but the fact remains that ARY remains closed in Pakistan. Various television anchors tend to pull down their employers. And when the conversation gets very pointed, Hamid Mir is attacked and GEO is shut down. If Mubashir Lucman goes overboard, which he does more often than not, ARY is reduced to television snow.  

And this is what exposes the self-serving Sharifs. If patriotism was paramount, or democracy dear, why would they strangle the press? But how many fires can they put out? If I get vicarious for a few minutes, their paralysis gives me a panic attack. 

Zardari and the Sharifs excel in verbal embellishments of their intentions and accomplishments. While history will record their pillage of Pakistan as their primary “achievements”, their secret pact for political musical chairs, with power alternating between them, lies exposed and tattered. Bilawal Zardari can be credited for improving his Urdu and introducing transparent tele-prompters to Pakistan. His speech seemed extemporaneous but was read right through. Which in and of itself is not a problem; except for its disastrous content.  

Pakistan owes its creation to the vision of Allama Iqbal, the tenacity of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the blood, sweat and tears of the muhajir (immigrants from India). An Aligarh University graduate, my father would speak of Quaid-e-Azam’s speeches and how they followed all he said to a tee. An Indian Civil Service officer, my father migrated to Pakistan by train, his belongings in a wagon that was completely looted en route. Millions of others were not that lucky, entire trains full of muhajir were massacred. Pakistan was largely a rural society with little infrastructure and the looting and burning had left it without even pen and paper in offices.  

My father joined the Civil Service of Pakistan; and it was the education, talent and hard work of muhajir like him that put together a Pakistan that slowly but surely became viable. He loved to recount how Jawaharlal Nehru had claimed that Pakistan would last five years.  

67 years later Kursheed Shah calling the word muhajir a slur is so egregious and overwhelming that it shouldn’t be dignified with comment.  

As though Khursheed Shah’s inflammatory statement were not enough, Bilawal’s un-parliamentary attack on Altaf Hussain caused a fall-out of MQM resignations from parliament and provincial assemblies. Zardari, the king of secret pacts, had one going with the MQM as well, and just like the fake PPP condemnations by the PML-N and vice versa, Altaf Hussain would also engage in frothing-at-the mouth lambasting of the PPP, but within all was well. Bilawal’s thunder seems to have changed all that and Zardari will need to go on overdrive to fix this one.  

The end of seventy days of a sit-in by Dr. Tahirul Qadri appears overtly to have been for naught, but it must be acknowledged that in a very short time, Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan have achieved a dramatic change in the mindset of Pakistanis. And this change is what will carry Pakistan. Not just in the removal of the Sharif government but in resetting Pakistan’s compass. In making corruption, self-aggrandizement and usurping others’ rights criminal. And justice, employment, education and a progressive economy a given.  

The Sharifs seemed to be the only ones that calculated the power of Tahirul Qadri accurately. Their high anxiety caused the Model Town massacre and containers all over Lahore. Like many Pakistanis I was deeply skeptical of the “crazy cleric” but with his tenacious sit-in I too realized the vitality of the PAT. How organized and disciplined it is and how it has educated the underserved for decades. It has now transformed from a religious organization into a political party with a very impressive following. The persona of Allama Tahirul Qadri is a notable one. He is schooled in religion as well as constitutional law. On 2 March 2010, Tahirul Qadri issued a 600-page Fatwa on Terrorism in which he said that "Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it”. This is in stark contrast to the various maulanas and moulvis in the JUI and other religious parties who, overtly and covertly, support terrorism and view the US and the yahood-hunood (Jews and Hindus) as enemies, rather than the Al-Qaeda and Taliban that have destroyed Pakistan in so many ways.  

Post the Pakistan Awakening forged by Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, especially with the concepts of economic justice and banishment of corruption, the lifestyle simplicity of Tahirul Qadri must be noted. The royalties of the many books that he has authored go to Minhajul Quran. He does not live extravagantly, tinker with billions, and enjoy gourmet foods, palatial homes or four wives.  He does not banish the females of the PAT behind several partitions; in fact the participation of women in his sit-in is beyond impressive. Pakistan is in desperate need of politicians and governance that has individual and institutional integrity. Much to my own surprise I must say that Tahirul Qadri may well be the one that fits that bill.  

The crowds galvanized by PTI and PAT only grow larger. The aerial view of the rallies is awe-inspiring. And they promise more and more. Novel cases of individual courage are seen in Arjumand Husain and his co-passengers preventing Rehman Malik and Ramesh Kumar from boarding the PIA flight and tolerating the repercussions of employment termination. The movement of the Sharif family is severely curtailed by that annoying “go Nawaz go” chant. The moral pressure of the millions in PAT and PTI rallies could steamroll the Sharifs. But before that something trivial may well become the tipping point. Go zara si baat par could make Nawaz history.


Friday, October 24, 2014

The polio and jalsa viruses in Pakistan

Not only have the polio and jalsa viruses paralyzed Pakistan, there are no credible plans to control them.


Pakistan has this curious penchant to get chalked up in the various lists of infamy. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was started in 1988 and was based on vaccination and surveillance. Progress was tracked through surveillance of cases of acute flaccid paralysis with testing of stool samples and sewage for the polio virus in the area of the acute case. The results have been dramatic. In 1988 polio was endemic in 125 countries and paralyzed 350,000 children every year. By 2011 the number of polio cases had been reduced to 650. By 2012 only three countries remained where the polio virus had not been interrupted: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. And Pakistan is the only country showing an increase in the number of detected cases.


The polio virus is transmitted through fecal-hand-oral contamination. It can result in weakness of the leg muscles or quadriplegia, respiratory failure and death. There are no effective treatments for the paralysis caused by polio, so the mainstay is immunization. The protection from immunization with the injectable and the oral polio vaccines is around 90%.


Pakistan had almost eradicated the polio virus in 2012 but the fake CIA hepatitis immunization program to gain information about Osama bin Laden brought efforts to a screeching halt. The Taliban banned all immunizations as they felt that immunization programs were being used for spying. Some radicals also believe that immunization programs will be used as a cover for sterilization of Muslim children. Since 2012 at least 40 health workers have been killed because of their participation in immunization programs.


The highest incidence of polio was in Taliban controlled areas in North and South Waziristan. With Operation Zarb-e-Azb there have been fears that polio would spread across Pakistan with the exodus of IDPs. But we can use this as an opportunity to immunize; about 100,000 IDP children had been immunized  by June 2014; the aim is to vaccinate 200,000 children.


But the bad news has not stopped. In September 2014 the polio virus was detected in the sewage of some major cities: Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta and Jacobabad. Very surprisingly Islamabad and Peshawar sewage samples tested negative for the polio virus.


Instead of spending from the public treasury to protect, actually over-protect, the prime minister, the president, the cabinet, parliamentarians as well as children of former prime ministers, we need to provide fool-proof security to immunization health workers. Bullet proof vests, traveling with a cordon of soldiers and security of their homes are a compelling need. And if nothing else matters, perhaps we should be ashamed that India has eradicated polio; and most certainly, if India can, so can we.


A massive health education program needs to be initiated as well as infomercials repeated over all television stations, highlighting the importance of hygiene, immunization and population control. Unlike India and Bangladesh, Pakistan has no population control programs in place and a good amount of its misery is the population rapidly outstripping its already meager resources.


Dharnas (sit-ins) are more difficult to continue and make a success of, compared to jalsas (large public gatherings). Tired of the stalemate with his D-Chowk dharna, Imran Khan figured he’d branch out into the jalsa business. Karachi was treated to a mammoth jalsa as were Lahore and Mianwali. Noticing his dharna had gotten a bit old, Tahirul Qadri has planned a jalsa. And like the polio virus the jalsa virus is spreading. Bilawal Bhutto has taken some intensive Urdu lessons so he can scream at the Karachi PPP jalsa soon. Bilawal still needs to work on his genders, something his mother also struggled with. And the MQM need never worry; they have the corner on the market on jalsas. It never fails to amaze me that people from all walks of life sit for hours listening to alternately roaring and hissing Altaf Hussain, manic or somnolent, singing, reprimanding, praising or blackmailing a sea of his supporters.


As though high unemployment, hunger and disease were not enough to paralyze Pakistan, Eid brings five days of leave from work. Political leaders call for Day of Sorrow or Day of Fury type strikes for a minimum of two days and Pakistan seems to be a nation on a perpetual vacation.


I was in Karachi when Benazir Bhutto was killed. The city’s paralysis defied the mind. Many citizens get groceries on a daily basis and they suddenly faced hunger for days. The Islamabad dharnas have paralyzed governmental functioning and Pakistan is losing billions of rupees in numerous ways. The jalsas in various cities compromise the functioning of an already oppressed population even more. Opposition parties always do what they do best: oppose. The responsibility for government lies with the party in power. And the onus of resolution for the sake of the nation also lies with the ruling party.


Prime ministers and presidents sometimes begin to live in a severe and serious state of disconnect with the people. It appears that the Sharifs are deaf and blind, evidenced by the statements of the brothers as well as the tweets of Maryam Nawaz. For her to tweet that security has been ordered to beat citizens who shout “go Nawaz go” is as ridiculous as Queen Marie Antoinette allegedly saying “let them eat cake” when she was told that the French people did not even have bread to eat.


Enough is really enough. The Sharifs should try to resolve this, not just for the sake of Pakistan or the PMLN but primarily for themselves. An interim government, a thorough and rapid election investigation as well as mid-term elections are compelling needs. The backlash against VIP culture and the steadily rising frustration and fury of the people might be a trailer for bloody civil disorder. We must avoid that at all costs. Even the cost of the crown.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Energy, political terrorism and Twitter power

Bilawal Bhutto can yank himself from the uncles and aunties crowd and tweet #EnoughIsEnough and get his party to sponsor a no-confidence motion in parliament based on the Election Commission Report

A major event can hold public attention for a maximum of two weeks. After this point people get bored and irritated and tend to move on. Pakistanis have been held hostage to a staring contest that shows no signs of anyone blinking. For six torturous weeks now. 
In even small personal projects or efforts, people tend to have a plan B. Pros and cons, plan A and plan B get written down. It appears that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri went gung-ho with freedom and revolution with little other than their characteristic bluster and rhetoric. The age of technology gave them an audience of millions and their complaints against the Sharif clan resonate with a large segment of the population and a wave of furious discontent currently sweeps Pakistan.   

Within a week of the sit-ins the government was willing to set up a judicial commission for investigation of electoral rigging but Imran Khan had set out for the prize of Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and he ignored the offer. He probably thought that he had gotten to this point with such difficulty he might as well stay for the kill. But this, like so much of life, is a gamble which Kenny Rogers sang about so well: You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run”.  

Interestingly the same premise applies to the Sharifs. One expose’ after another, embarrassment after embarrassment, but the king and all his men just strut around in blissful ignorance. The electricity bill scandal is shocking in its stupidity. No meter readings were done, bills were simply written up with an over 500% markup, and the due date was written as the date that the bill was sent. Burning electricity bills is conduct unbecoming Imran Khan and sets up a bad example for his fans and other Pakistanis. But opening the envelope of the electricity bill and reading an amount that could be higher than 2 months of one’s salary is nothing short of terrifying. The electric supply corporations now say that people should pay their bills and their refund, after meter reading and correction, would show up after two billing cycles. Seriously? Have they heard of that saying: getting blood from a turnip?  

Nawaz Sharif’s private-jet journey, Islamabad-London-New York and his stay at the presidential suite of New York’s Waldorf Astoria at over $1000 per night financed by the Pakistani taxpayer and a nation of shelter-less millions may well be his last hurrah. I often wonder about how many sleeping pills it must take to quiet that wretched thing called a conscience.  

Kenny Rogers’ song is very instructive here. How long can Nawaz be the cloistered prime minister? That tiresome “go Nawaz go” is ubiquitous: chanted, written, painted, posted. His own party chanted it, instead of “go Imran go”! It followed him to London and New Yorkers will join in too.  

The sit-ins have changed the Pakistani mindset and awakened it to massive Sharif corruption and misrule. MPAs and senators removed from flights by angry passengers could be prefaces for a great deal worse. The careless display of power and wealth as well as uncompromising arrogance by the Sharif clan is actually asking for the public to unleash violence. Though this is the course of events in civil disorder, it is unwise for Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan to scream about the potential of a bloody revolution. Hunger, unemployment, disease, floods, crushing poverty, rampant drug use and religious and sectarian intolerance is a ticking time-bomb. Responsibility and not rhetoric is what Pakistan needs.   

Video tapes of provincial law minister Rana Mashood and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif demanding money and allegiance from Asim Malik and his wife MPA Zubia Rubab Malik, leave you open-mouthed. Pretty terrifying to have to fork over Rs. 20 lakh, arrange for your children to quickly leave the country, completely lose your business and have your home with all its possessions occupied by Mashood’s lackeys.  

All that aside what we were arguing about arrived quite unannounced. The Election Commission of Pakistan released its report of the 2013 elections. According to the report the integrity and character of the candidates were not properly or completely verified and loan and bill defaulters slipped in. Trained staff at election booths was replaced with non-trained individuals. Ballots were stamped en bloc. Elections were conducted in a substandard manner and now UNDP, the Commonwealth and the European Union have also expressed their dissatisfaction.  

Even more interestingly election records stored in the basement of a school have been burned beyond recognition. Former law minister Babar Awan facetiously called this not the beauty of coincidence but the beauty of organization. And the report has also been burned off your computer screens, for it has been removed from the Election Commission website.  

Joint sessions of parliament witness much chest thumping in favor of democracy and self-righteous claims to strengthen it. Now’s the chance for every parliamentarian to do just that. The PPP, MQM and even members of the PML-N should latch onto the Election Commission report and demand a re-election under a caretaker government after a consensus on electoral reforms. We must drop this personality rather than processes culture. The Election Commission Report makes the current parliament unelected. The army will most likely stay out of this fiasco. Relying on the Supreme Court to intervene will be circuitous and protracted and serve to further bankrupt Pakistan; the economic cost of the sit-ins is massive.  

Bilawal Bhutto can yank himself from the uncles and aunties crowd and tweet #EnoughIsEnough and get his party to sponsor a no-confidence motion in parliament based on the Election Commission Report. You’ve worked on your Urdu and I was so proud to see you wade through knee deep water even though it was for a photo opp with the flood victims. This would give you a place in history. You will redeem the Bhuttos: Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s breaking of Pakistan, your mother’s mis-governance and your father’s massive corruption. A 24-year old and a simple tweet. How very awesome!


Corruption: comparison and consequences

Pakistanis love to ape America. What with the recent Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Mother’s Day celebrations. Would be so nice if America’s work ethic, punctuality, integrity, processes, legal recourse and fidelity to the state were also adopted. And most importantly what America does with corrupt members of government.


Recently former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife were found guilty of accepting gifts, totaling $160,000, from the owner of a nutritional supplement company in return for promoting his products while they were in office. The U.S. Justice Department said the "convictions should send a message that corruption in any form, at any level of government, will not be tolerated." The charges carry a potential 30-year jail sentence.


Compare the corruption in the richest nation on earth with that of one of the poorest. Say the word “Zardari” and the mind’s synonym is corruption. The return of the PPP to power in 2008 resulted in the government withdrawing his corruption cases, which were at the threshold of being successfully filed. Zardari had spent eight years in jail. He was saved by ascension to power which opened the doors to further acquisition. It is alleged that Zardari has £740 million in Swiss bank accounts as well as an over £4 million mansion in Surrey and a $2.5 million manor in Normandy. No objections can be raised if this incredible accumulation was legal. Prior to marriage to Benazir, Zardari was a man of modest means, with the cleverness to calculate the power of 10%.


That Zardari got away with this massive corruption actually changed the psyche of the Pakistani nation. He took the sting out of the concept of corruption, made it romantic almost, and horror of horrors Pakistanis became immune to its illegitimacy and started to justify their own at all levels-consciously and unconsciously.


Rod Blagojevich was Illinois governor from 2003-2009. In March 2012, Blagojevich began serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison following conviction for corruption including the soliciting of bribes for political appointments. He was charged with several “pay to play” schemes in which he sold gubernatorial and legislative appointments to the highest bidder. He was impeached in 2009. Blagojevich’s “pay to play” schemes sound so Pakistani! Though, one must say, that Pakistani leaders give out business contracts and massive commissions to family members and cronies and the nation pays while they play!


It’s that magical kursi of Pakistan that turns saints to satan. Military rule in Pakistan has seen the personal aggrandizement of the army. Promotions are sweetened by gifts of plots of land. In her book “Military Inc.” Ayesha Siddiqa writes that the army's private business assets are worth around £10bn and it owns a handsome share of the country's business and land.


Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor of Detroit from 2000-2008. In 2013 he was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for extorting bribes from contractors who wanted Detroit city contracts. He steered $127 million in contracts to his friend and business partner, Bobby Ferguson. The city of Detroit is the first in the nation to file bankruptcy. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds granted the 28-year term sought by prosecutors, who claimed Kilpatrick's racketeering, bribery and extortion worsened the city's financial crisis as part of a conspiracy that spent millions of taxpayer dollars. The sentence was intended to send a message that corruption would not be tolerated and "that way of business is over," Edmunds said.


The brothers Sharif and cronies’ corruption is as massive as Kilpatrick’s if not more. And for all intents and purposes Pakistan is bankrupt.


In a previous Sharif term, Salman Shahbaz imported a Siberian leopard and nurtured it in an air-conditioned cage. All while the students of Punjab studied in candlelight and numerous others died of gastroenteritis and dehydration, unable to even get potable water or basic medical care in hospitals.


True the Sharifs are businessmen. But doing business with taxpayer money is a bit egregious. Zardari at least kept the 10% commission premise to himself; the Sharifs have spread the goodness to members of the PML-N. And, keeping up with inflation, the commission on mega-government projects has risen to 30%. My fellow columnist Dr. Mansoor Hussain speaks of the Sharif “lifafa largesse”; envelopes stuffed with large bills are spread around to buy support and silence.


Pakistanis are treated, or tortured depending on your inclination, by the information or allegations in Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s speeches. PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan states that their words have irretrievably entered the hearts and minds of Pakistanis.  He acknowledges electoral rigging as well as the charges of massive corruption. If only he would drop the Pakistani staple of covering over illegality for some devious future personal purpose, Pakistan would be delivered of this climate of deceit, collusion and subterfuge.


Religion and state should be separated. But Nawaz Sharif is of the inshallah, mashaallah and subhanallah genre, so I must appeal to his religiosity. You have the nerve to go to the flood stricken areas and promise government help. What of their money that you and your cronies stole to finance your luxurious lifestyles and more-expensive-than-Rolex watches?


Infrastructure to combat flooding takes years to build. But tax-payer money was used to finance your mini-city Raiwind residence and satisfy your gluttony for numerous varieties of nihari and mithai. Perhaps a serious study of the early period of Islam and the scrupulous integrity of the four khalifas and their selfless service to their people would be instructive.


The PTI and PAT sit-ins have cramped your lifestyle and your 30-strong delegations’ world trips to garner more lucrative contracts. You and your coterie pay miniscule if any tax and pillage our treasury to go for Umra, again with plane-loads of friends and family.


The foundation of democracy is integrity and transparency. Khalifa Umar ibn Al-Khattab had to justify his use of two sheets when questioned by a woman. He also said “do your own accounting before it is done for you”. If there is a question of electoral rigging, if there is evidence of corruption that has broken Pakistan, take the moral high road, resign and submit to impartial investigation. According to the Islam that you love to tout, we must be forgiven by those we have wronged before we can be forgiven by God. Help yourself and your extended family; submit yourselves to investigation. It will be infinitely easier to remediate in this world. And way too late and unimaginable in the next.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

A sudden definite change in Pakistan

Long marches and sit-ins are the last thing an already chaotic and impoverished Pakistan needs. So I was indignant when the marches of Tahirul-Qadri and Imran Khan began. More than two weeks in, their demands remain unmet, but they have been dramatic catalysts in changing the mindset, opinions and expectations of Pakistanis.


We learned the importance of the FIR, First Information Report and how it is a charge with serious consequences. Two and a half months after the Model Town tragedy and much crying hoarse by Dr. Tahirul Qadri the FIR was finally lodged, naming the brothers Sharif in the murder, mayhem and terrorism of that sad day.


A person is only as good as his advisers are. Nawaz Sharif wouldn’t score well on an IQ test; but his political demise will be from the counter-intuitive advice he gets from his cabinet. Petrified of Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s arrival and agenda, they legitimized a man who was viewed pretty much as a crazy cleric. And they introduced the syndrome of “containeritis” in Punjab to prevent PAT and PTI fans from reaching Islamabad.  


The remarkable discipline of PAT workers and their heart-warming simplicity and dedication make it difficult to believe that they are Pakistani. The widespread support of Imran Khan was seen in the PTI protests and sit-ins across the nation.


And undoubtedly Dr. Tahirul Qadri is an orator. With complete control over history, theology, politics and the Constitution, he is adept in building an argument and bringing it to a skillful climax.


Anxious to see a resolution to the political crisis, millions of Pakistanis at home and abroad have been captive audiences to Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s and Imran Khan’s speeches. Pakistanis had become accustomed to the corruption of its recent democratically elected rulers. But learning of the alleged magnitude of the Sharif clan corruption makes one angry. Former president Zardari was infamous for being Mr. 10%; the corruption within just one year of the Nawaz government has raised the commission in mega government projects, allegedly, to 30%.


The rebellion of the Islamabad police was also stunning. First SSP Mohammad Ali Nekokara refused to use force on PAT and PTI workers. So they called in SSP Ilyas who also declined. Finally Asmatullah Junejo agreed to clean out the Red Zone. Over 780 police officers refused to use force on the protestors and over 2000 police officers went to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science and Polyclinic hospital urging doctors to grant them medical leave.


Who would want to tear-gas unarmed civilians and shoot at them with supposed rubber bullets, killing two and injuring 500? The horrific police brutality on personnel of seven television channels was nauseating. Minister Saad Rafeeq said police brutality was unjustifiable and he didn’t know why it was happening. How about it happened because the order went out by the government and was caught on wireless? More jaw-dropping was Nawaz Sharif reminding Chaudhry Nisar during a parliament session to specifically mention Geo in the government’s apology. Nisar had the good sense not to. Geo personnel were the only ones that were not attacked. Nawaz Sharif exposed his Geo affiliation and his IQ, or the lack of it, further.


Yazidi tactics were seen as well. The supply of water and food to the protestors was stopped, cars bringing them in were damaged and the food and water were consumed by the police!


Nawaz Sharif asking Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to mediate the crisis and then lying about it, story-book style, on the Parliament floor is egregious. ISPR issued a statement that Nawaz Sharif had asked for the mediation.


The word democracy is bandied about by the government to hold onto power. The charge of murder and terrorism in the Model Town tragedy and violating the sanctity of the Parliament by blatantly lying are more than sufficient to be cause for an automatic resignation under the most basic premise of democracy.


That the Parliament passes resolution after resolution supporting Nawaz Sharif means nothing when one member can vie with another in the magnitude of their respective looting of taxpayer money and self-enrichment, and providing cover to each other. The Urdu aphorism really sticks: iss hammam mein sab nangey hain-in this public bath they are all naked.  


The day the crisis reached a head and the protestors moved toward the Prime Minister’s House almost everyone was convinced of an army intervention.  And this is the most important change in Pakistan’s politics. What was reflexive previously did not happen, and is unlikely to in the future.


Imran Khan is correct in demanding institutional rather than cult-oriented perversions of democracy. He gives the example of Switzerland where the prime minister’s name is not well known; Swiss institutions and processes run the country democratically.


Demanding the resignation of Nawaz Sharif does not destroy democracy; it strengthens it. For the longest time Pakistan has been hostage to personalities rather than creating processes and building institutions. Pakistan’s kursi is magical; it can turn a Sufi into Satan.


The brothers Sharif and sycophantic parliamentarians painted PTI and PAT as terrorists violating the sanctity of the parliament. Video evidence, beamed across the world, of Chaudhry Nisar and PML-N workers scaling the walls of the Supreme Court exposes their hypocrisy and is irretrievably incriminating.


Quite the parliamentary metamorphosis was members vehemently condemning Nawaz Sharif. The 2013 elections were rigged and the government is involved in massive corruption was the chorus by PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and MQM’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. Had the dharna and their demands not happened, Parliament would not have recorded this.


The brothers Sharif are desperate now. The old British maxim of divide and rule is being employed. PTI members are being enticed to jump ship and Imran Khan’s situation is also getting difficult. Dr. Tahirul Qadri has asked for school and entertainment supplies for the children in the sit-in, suggesting a long haul, but his negotiations with the government are said to be promising.


Whether PTI’s and PAT’s demands are met or not Pakistanis must applaud Dr. Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan for suddenly transforming Pakistan’s socio-politics. We have been empowered in demanding pristine elections, removal of corrupt legislators, absolute personal integrity in the government and the smooth carriage of justice. And the brothers Sharif should go. Better to leave with grace than unceremoniously. Your political careers are over.

Friday, September 12, 2014

One call for opiate help is what addicts need

Chasing an opiate high, hundreds of Americans die of overdoses every day. The despair I feel that we are not doing enough — urgently — to treat the opiate epidemic has become overwhelming.
The first dose of an opiate in a genetically predisposed individual can cause euphoria. Addicts generally progress from Vicodin to Percocet to heroin. The first snorting or injection of heroin can leave an indelible feeling of intense exhilaration.
As heroin use continues, the brain develops tolerance and more is needed to produce the same rush. Often, the patient miscalculates and the result is death.
Almost every day, I walk into an examination room and find a patient either sobbing or stunned at the overdose death of a family member or friend. It has never been this bad in the 20 years that I have practiced addiction medicine.
Our attention is riveted when a celebrity becomes an overdose victim, and we focus for a bit on the ravages of addiction. But the thousands of nameless, faceless victims whose obituaries euphemistically say that they “died suddenly” become mere statistics that are growing at an alarming rate.
Research shows that heroin overdose deaths decline among patients in methadone maintenance. The same effect is available through the use of Suboxone, which is a combination of an opiate (buprenorphine) and an opiate-antagonist (naloxone).
Suboxone doesn’t just take away the craving for opiates; it also prevents the rush from opiate use. A patient who injects heroin while on Suboxone is less likely to die.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s approach to the opiate epidemic — education, enforcement, and treatment — is good. But while we see efforts in the first two areas, the most urgent response to the epidemic is getting the least attention.
Social bias blames the addict for poor choices. Instead, we need to understand that addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes and hypertension. It has the same treatability, response, and relapse rates.
It’s a familiar maxim of addiction that a patient must hit bottom before he or she achieves sobriety. In my experience, the downhill slide of opiate addiction has many ledges from which a patient cries out for help. The abyss below is either an overdose death or a catapult to recovery.
It is estimated that only one out of six addicts nationwide gets treatment. Imagine what a patient who is ready for sobriety must go through, anywhere in the country:
A patient who is in a drug-induced fugue state or in withdrawal — with the attendant anxiety, sleeplessness, sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting — fumbles through the Internet and starts to call Suboxone providers. Many providers do not have openings, do not accept the patient’s insurance, or offer an appointment many weeks away. The patient hangs up and reaches for his or her drug of choice.
We urgently need a government hot line that would provide opiate help with one call. It would operate 24/​7. Trained staff would determine which treatment program is right for each patient.
One treatment option would be detoxification, followed by abstinence, counseling, and 12-step programs. Another is Naltrexone, which is not an opiate but prevents craving for opiates; it is available in pill form for daily use or via a monthly injection. A third option is Suboxone. A fourth is methadone maintenance.
A minority of patients will require residential treatment. The goal should be to reintegrate most patients into the routine of life as soon as possible.
Office-based opioid treatment provides myriad life-changing stories. The knowledgeable prescription of Suboxone is one of the most gratifying experiences in medicine.
All patients who need opiate treatment, regardless of insurance coverage, should be eligible for the appropriate program. Ohio can be a pioneer in developing a program of one call for opiate help, with workable templates and their mandatory enforcement in all towns, cities, and suburbs.
As we controlled AIDS and eradicated smallpox, we can control the opiate epidemic and limit the havoc it wreaks every day. Education highlights the dangers of addiction; charging drug dealers with murder in overdose deaths can also be a deterrent.
But more than anything else, heroin and painkiller addicts need treatment — urgently and free of roadblocks. The desire for treatment among opiate addicts lasts only as long as the phone call they make for help. We must make that call count.

Friday, August 22, 2014

State-enabled terrorism

Pots have a habit of calling kettles black. The Punjab police killing of unarmed PAT workers in Model Town is just as egregious and criminal as American police killing a minimum of two unarmed black men every week. America has no room to anoint itself as the champion of human rights when a significant portion of its population suffers under the “driving while black” and “flying while Muslim” syndromes.  

For more than a decade, Pakistanis have taken to murdering physicians or citizens if they are Ahmadi, Shia or Christian. Entire families have been gunned down or victims have been killed in front of their children. The murderers invariably ride away on their motorbikes, and no one has been apprehended or charged with these murders. This is classic enabling behavior. The state is to have tenderness and affection for each citizen; what of the one that does absolutely nothing about these episodes? It might as well have been holding the gun.  

The PML (N) government has been on the path of self-aggrandizement and minimal achievement in this round of governance and now it is badly besieged. The previous PPP government similarly did nothing; in fact one of its own members Governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by a fanatical bodyguard. And the shameful elation of members of the lawyer community, the pro bono defense of the killer and showering him with rose petals is evidence of a society gone mad.  

And even more unspeakably heartbreaking is the murder of Ahmadi children a few weeks ago with no condemnation or action by the government.  

Pakistan is young yet at 65 and democracy in Pakistan younger still. America is 238 years old and has been blessed with democracy for its entire life. Democracy is a noisy, evolutionary process. The slave trade, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment by the US Public Health Service on African-American men, and the continued harassment and murder of blacks in the United States are a smear on its democracy and its vaunted claims of pluralism, diversity and tolerance.  

It is well established statistically that a young black male is a lot more likely to be pulled over by police than any other race. It’s a shame that black families in the United States train their children on how to behave if they are stopped by police: keep hands on the steering wheel, move only when instructed and address the police officer with “sir”. These families know that the deeply entrenched racial hatred in America boils over within its police force, and instead of dealing with their sons the way the sons of white families are treated, they are liable to be recipients of that terrible knock on their door that bears the news of death.  

According to the FBI’s most recent accounts of “justifiable homicide,” in the seven years between 2005 and 2012, a white officer used deadly force against a black person almost two times every week. Of those black persons killed, nearly one in every five was under 21 years of age. These are probably severe underestimates as they are based on self-report by police departments and only 750 of the 17,000 law enforcement agencies participated. In 2007, a joint effort by ColorLines and the Chicago Reporter examined police shootings in the 10 largest cities in the U.S., and in every city, African Americans comprised a disproportionately large percentage of those killed. Nationally, African Americans are arrested three times more frequently than their white counterparts, although African Americans make up only 12 percent of the population.

19-year old African-American Renisha McBride was killed by Theodore Wafer, a white middle aged man, for simply knocking on his door at 4:30 a.m. He thought a home invasion was about to occur and instead of calling the police he chose to shoot her in the face. Wafer was found guilty of second-degree murder but Renisha is gone, as is the fate of so many Trayvon Martins and Renishas all over the country on an ongoing basis.  

Whether a police officer pulls the trigger or the state simply looks away when citizens murder on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion, comes essentially to the same thing. Citizens are targeted in Pakistan because of their belief system and Americans are killed in their own country because they are not white.  

The other commonality in the murder of innocents in the two countries is the easy availability of guns. The NRA, National Rifle Association, is the most powerful lobby in the US. The right to be armed is enshrined in the US constitution. Despite wholescale massacres like the Connecticut school shootings Americans want to hold onto their assault rifles for dear life. Presidential candidates and even elected presidents try to stay away from the gun control issue for fear of their popularity plummeting.  

The influx of weapons into Pakistan after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, particularly the Kalashnikov, seems to have permanently changed society. Citizens have no protection from the police and there is an absence of due process. Armed bodyguards are as common as cars. No law exists though, that affirms a citizen’s right to carry a weapon. Yet why would governments in recent memory care about the death wreaked by guns in Pakistan when political and governmental leaders travel with bullet-proof vests, bullet proof cars and armed cars front, back and sideways.  

APPNA, Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, in its annual convention last week did an awesome job of focusing attention on the killing of minorities in Pakistan. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia was the keynote speaker addressing a crowd of 3000. Just the day before, Ferguson Missouri had been placed under curfew to control protestors after the police shooting of unarmed 18-year old Michael Brown. Addressing the issue of sectarian killing in Pakistan, Sen. Kaine advised Pakistani-American physicians to take American pluralism, diversity and tolerance to Pakistan to help deal with the sectarian violence there. Really Senator? Care to look at your trigger-happy police force and the fires of racism in your own backyard? But individual and governmental American hubris only makes those blinders bigger.  

Discussions of the killing of Michael Brown reveal how deeply embedded racial hatred is in American society. “He was 6 foot 4 inches”, “he had just robbed a store” are some inane statements. The fact that he was unarmed and had his hands raised saying “my hands are up” make no difference. Religious and sectarian hatred has putrefied Pakistan. People are friendly until they find out that the other person is Ahmadi, Shia or Christian; and then just because of that they deserve to die.  

In both the US and Pakistan, generations have been bathed in racial or religious hatred. It seems the only controllable thing in this equation is the availability of guns. And funnily, if the government puts its mind to it, de-weaponization is possible in Pakistan. Not so in the US, courtesy the NRA. And with the fact that American police guns down black youth on a regular basis, the prognosis in the US is a lot grimmer than it is in Pakistan. And makes the Missouri protestors’ placard “stop killing us” even more poignant.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Israel's international trial

Pictures of dead children don’t lie. News and photos of the massive destruction and massacre in Gaza are reaching all corners of the world and the tide of public opinion is changing.  
Jewish fortunes have changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Jews were marginalized before the Second World War, and flouting the letter and spirit of the United Nations resolution and with the collusion of Britain, Israel was created in 1948 on Palestinian land, converting Palestinians suddenly to refugees in their own homes.  

Peter Beinert in his book "The Crisis of Zionism" details how Jews control the British Labor and Conservative Parties, the Times of London and have headed Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Their hold on American government, treasury and media is much greater than their influence in Britain.  

AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee has a complete hold on US Congress. It funds Democrats and Republicans, the winner dare not whisper a word against Israel and the loser doesn’t want to taint future chances or challenge the status quo. Australian writer Evan Jones says it well: “Israel owns the U.S., lock stock and barrel. On 17 July, all 100 Senators voted for a resolution supporting Israel ‘as it defends itself against unprovoked (sic) rocket attacks’. Beyond abject servility, it is a treasonous and criminal act. Beyond the armaments flowing from the U.S. for the continuation of the slaughter, mendicant Israel continues to enjoy billions of dollars each year courtesy of the hapless U.S. taxpayer. Vocal Congressional critics of Israel (Cynthia McKinney, Paul Findley, etc.) lose office with the Lobby funding their opponents.” 

In the current Palestinian genocide when US citizens write to their legislators for mercy and balm, they get a parroted boiler-plate letter: “I support the right of Israel to self-defense from Hamas rocket attacks”. Amazingly the tenor of the letters does not change, whether it is Sen. Sherrod Brown and Congressman Bob Latta in my district or any others in the US. Sen. Sherrod Brown writes: “While most of these rockets either landed in unpopulated areas or were intercepted by the “Iron Dome” defensive system, civilian casualties did occur.” He completely leaves out the fact the “civilian casualties” were all of two in number and the civilian Palestinian deaths in the Israeli offensive are over 1800!
From the inception of Israel, the systematic extermination of the Palestinians is important to understand and is well detailed by Evan Jones in his article The Pariah State: ‘The conquest [of Deir Yassin by Irgun and Stern Gang forces, supported by Haganah operatives, in April 1948] was carried out with great cruelty. Whole families – women, old people, children – were killed … Some of the prisoners moved to places of detention, including women and children, were murdered viciously by their captors.’

David Hirst in The Gun and Olive Branch, 1977 wrote ‘“We take the land first and the law comes after” [claimed Yehoshafat Palmon, Arab affairs adviser to the Mayor of Jerusalem to the author]. ‘The law comes after …’. In fact, for most Arabs it did not come at all.’
Horror of horrors the method of the Holocaust is discussed and accepted as a modus operandi among Zionists. Renowned Israeli academic Yeshaayahu Leibowitz said in 1982 “we are Judeo-Nazis, and why not? Even today I am willing to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them … Hang me if you want as a war criminal … What you lot don’t understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it”. Israel Shahak echoes Liebowitz: ‘If we must rule over another people, then it is impossible to avoid the existence of Nazi methods.’
The airwaves and print media in the West are discussing Israel’s shelling of UN shelters and schools in Palestine as war crimes and the Goldstone report is being brought up as well. In the 2008 Israeli invasion of Gaza South African judge Goldstone’s report found “that the following grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention were committed by Israeli forces in Gaza: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.” The report was so incriminating that the Israeli machine went on overdrive and pressured Goldstone to retract it.
In the current massacre we have another South African, UNHCR’s Navi Pillay who repeatedly speaks of attacks on civilians by Hamas and Israel as war crimes and that Israel is more gravely implicated due to its gargantuan military machine.
Soon after its creation, Israel formed the Hasbara, a propaganda machine that would put Goebbels, Hitler’s information minister, to shame. The 2002 Hasbara Handbook conflates the criticism of Israel with the de-legitimization of ‘Jews everywhere’ and of Judaism. It denies the Occupation; rather Gaza and the West Bank are ‘disputed territories’. The Golan Heights and East Jerusalem have already been silently appropriated. The Handbook provides two Communication Styles – point scoring and genuine debate.
For 30 years or so the Hasbara method has reaped Israel major rewards and combined with the buying out of the US Congress by AIPAC, genocide has become self-defense, and economic blockade and starvation have been clothed as survival necessities for Israel.
This streak of brainwashing minds may be coming to a stop. The older generation of American Jews latched onto and propagated the victimhood myth to permeate and control the halls of power. But young American Jews are not buying this victimhood premise. The world is not beholden to the mainstream press and even Americans are not getting all their news from Jewish controlled media. This is illustrated by a young Jewish-American girl holding the placard “Not in my name, another Jew saying, end the occupation, end the bombing of Gaza” during a protest in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Cities in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia have erupted in protest. “End Israeli War Crimes” says a large placard in Edinburgh Scotland. “Stop the massacre in Gaza” says a placard in a Vienna protest. “We don’t buy it. The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel” says one in New York. The protest in Chicago is so large that though filmed aerially, it cannot encompass its beginning or end. Washington D.C. saw 60,000 protestors converge from all over the nation last week. “Stop the genocide” and “Free Gaza” were seen in many of the protests. Auckland, New Zealand wrote “Israel=Terrorist”. The Washington DC protest had placards of the Israeli flag with the Star of David replaced by the swastika. “End Israeli Apartheid” screamed Seattle Washington. Frankfurt Germany was funny: “Free Palestine and f… Israel”
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi resigned from David Cameron’s cabinet in protest of Britain’s Gaza policy and stands as a beacon for justice and courage. Her brave action serves to shake consciences of legislators worldwide. South American countries are paring down relations with Israel.
Israel is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court which is tasked with the prosecution of war crimes. The UN Security Council would have to ask the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes and that is not happening, courtesy the solid support of the US, Britain and France.
But Israel is being tried in the international court of public opinion by billions of people who are now screaming in protest but will soon vote with their feet and boycott all things Israeli. And Israel’s reign of terror on the world will come to a screeching halt.