Thursday, January 31, 2008

China : NO more turmoil in Pakistan Permissible !

China : No more turmoil in Pakistan permissible

China says Hands off to all the 'foreign forces' in Pakistan adding fuel to fire !
This is a very significant move for China to say it out load through its state owned

The situation and latest developments in Pakistan have drawn increasing attention from the international community in every possible way since the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 and particularly before the arrival of its upcoming parliamentary elections on February 18.The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, also leader of the main position party -- Pakistan People's Party (PPP), has wrought regional social upheavals and challenges of a greater extent to Pakistan. In order to maintain social stability and safeguard the people's lives and properties, however, the Pakistani government led by President Pervez Musharraf has resorted to a host of viable measures. Among these measures, paramilitary police and armed troops were empowered to quell the rioting, so as to avoid or cut the negative costs borne by the nation and society to the maximum.Nevertheless, the terrorist, secessionist and extremist forces both inside and outside Pakistan have never ceased their sabotaging activities while the Pakistani government has been making unremitting efforts in defense of the supreme national interests. A string of riots, violence and even terrorist attacks occurred in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and other places one after another in the past three weeks or so, with an ensuing, immense loss of human lives and property damages. Among the perpetrators involved are the terrorists and extremists who desire to stir up trouble with a readiness to turn the nation into turmoil, whereas most fallen victims in tragedies are no other than innocent civilians and public employees or functionaries.Some opposition forces at home and a few powers overseas impose pressures or punitive measures against Pakistan in the name of "democracy," "freedom" and "opposition to terrorism." So the nation is currently in very complex and stark circumstances, and its government is confronted with unprecedented challenges.As is known to all, Pakistan is a fairly sensitive nation with a swirl of tragic events and its security situation is also relatively fragile. Its government and people, however, have stood rare, unprecedented severe tests since the "September 11" terrorist attacks of 2001 in the United States and the outbreak of the war in Afghanistan. Thanks to the effective leadership of the Musharraf government along with joint efforts of people from all walks of life, Pakistan has on the one hand worked to coordinate with the struggle of the international community against terrorism. On the other hand, the nation has scored remarkable successes in socio-economic development, and also eased off its strained relations with its neighbor India.To be earnest and truthful, Pakistan has undergone an era of a relatively fast economic growth in which its people enjoy relatively ample benefits. What the Pakistani government has attained over recent years in safeguarding national stability and boosting economic growth is there for the whole global community to see.Its unique, specific geopolitical factor, however, proves if its situation is out of control and the entire nation in unrest and turmoil, the scope of negative influences would outreach its adjacent areas and negatively impact the global situation while plunging its own people into an abyss of suffering. Besides, stability in Pakistan's surrounding areas is sure to be menaced, and new variables will add to the war on terror being waged in Afghanistan and, consequently, the hard-won situation in South Asia featured with peace, development and cooperation could possibly get lost.In addition, as a great Islamic nation with a population of 160 million people, which is armed with nuclear devices, medium-range missiles and advanced manufacturing technology, its stability is bound to have a direct, or indirect impact on other Islamic nations as well as the international community. A case in point is that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto gave rise to fluctuations on global financial markets for some time. All sorts of major policy measures taken by the Pakistani government with an aim of safeguarding the internal stability and social order will surely be understood and accepted by the people in the nation and subsequently win their support. Likewise, the international community should also have a sober-minded awareness and understanding of these related useful measures being implemented there as Pakistan will absolutely not be the sole nation to suffer provided its stability is not fully guaranteed.By People's Daily Online

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Entertainment : Tanya Tagaq Gillis - Throat Singer

Tanya Tagaq Gillis an Amazing Throat Singer !

Listen to her live while u read :

(Click on play all tracks)

Tanya Tagaq Gillis (BFA) (sometimes credited as Tagaq) (born 1977[1]) is an Inuit throat singer from Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktuutiak), Nunavut, Canada, on the south coast of Victoria Island. After attending school in Cambridge Bay she went, at age 15, to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to attend high school where she first began to practice throat singing. She later studied visual arts at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University and while there developed her own solo form of Inuit throat singing, which is normally done by two women.
Although she has become a popular performer at Canadian folk festivals, she is best known both in Canada and internationally for her collaborations with Björk, including concert tours and the 2004 album Medúlla. She has also performed with the Kronos Quartet and Shooglenifty and featured on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
In 2005 her CD entitled Sinaa (Inuktitut for "edge") was nominated for five awards at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. At the ceremony on 25 October 2005 the CD won awards for Best Producer/Engineer, Best Album Design and Tagaq herself won the Best Female Artist award.
Her Sinaa CD was nominated for the 2006 Juno Awards as the Best Aboriginal Recording.
According to her official page her music is like that of Björk in that Tagaq makes music that is both decidedly unusual and universally appealing on a basic level. Her innovative, solo style of throat singing seeks to push the boundaries of emotion and to express the primitive instincts she believes still reside deep within our flesh. She describes her evolution over the past six years as a process of going deeper and deeper into her performance to the point where she virtually “leaves her body” and lets the expression take over.
Although primarily known for her throat singing, she is also an accomplished artist and her work was featured on the 2003 Northwestern Telephone Directory, Canada.

More on Tanya :

Monday, January 28, 2008

Issues facing : Muslim Women in Europe

Issues for Muslim Women in Europe Evolve

Follow links to listen to the news stories., January 20, 2008 · When I first started reporting on Muslims in Europe more than a decade ago, I soon learned that women, more than men, want to be a part of European societies.
When given the opportunity, Muslim girls and young women eagerly seek education to widen their horizons. Everywhere I went, I heard that it was the girls who did well in schools, while boys seem more often to have problems adapting.
Eren Unsal, a German-born schoolteacher in Berlin, told me in 1999 that her parents strongly desired that she integrate into German society.
"My mother left her headscarf on the plane" from Turkey to Germany, she said. But today, walking through Berlin's Neu-Koln and Kreuzberg neighborhoods where many Turkish immigrants live, it's immediately clear that many headscarves are no longer being left on the flight from the homeland. Most women, young and old, are covering their heads — and not with the flowery cotton squares typical of rural Anatolia. Today, they tightly wrap their heads in what has become known as the Islamic headscarf.
In Britain, I also observed a significant increase in headscarves among Muslim women, many of whom have even taken to wearing the niqab, the face-veil that leaves only the eyes visible.
The way Muslim women dress and cover their heads is a topic of fierce and emotional debate in Europe: some non-Muslims see it as a sign of rejection of modernity and even of radicalization — and many believe it is a sign of women's submission to male power. The debate is made more strident by the simple fact that Europe was not socially and culturally prepared for the post-World War II influx of immigrants; no country had an integration policy, and the arrival of millions of Muslims re-awakened centuries-old animosities between Islam and Christendom. Tension turned to alarm after the Sept. 11 attacks and the Madrid and London bombings.
As I traveled through Europe this fall to report for this series, I remembered the words of filmmaker Yamina Benguigui, my first guide into the world of what she called "ghost women." French-born to Algerian parents, she broke with her strict patriarchal family and married a non-Muslim Frenchman.
In her documentaries, Benguigui explored the phenomenon of some young French Muslim women who, in the early 1990s, had taken to wearing the headscarf even when their mothers did not. While many of these young women said the headscarf was a mark of their cultural identity in a society where they felt discriminated, Benguigui said it was also something else: a way of getting around the dilemma of living a double life in two different cultures. Instead of breaking with their families, "they decide to take the Koran as a weapon against their families, by submerging themselves completely in religion, brandishing the veil and the Koran, they become the leader in the family … (the Muslim girl) will not be forced to marry and she can come home when she wants. She can drive a car and she's completely free," Benguigui told me in 1995.
Twelve years later, I met many Muslim women who still have not found their places and are still torn by two cultures. But I also met many Muslim women who are asserting themselves much more forcefully — either in identifying with European secular culture and demanding the same rights as their Western sisters, or by appropriating Islam for themselves, through a new female perspective. Or in a combination of the two.
While there is no distinct Europe-wide pattern, in many places a quiet revolution among Muslim women is under way.
In Britain, I encountered some highly educated women with a confrontational attitude toward non-Muslim Western society. I met women, British-born citizens, who do not vote and will not vote unless their ballots were to lead to the introduction of sharia, Islamic law. I met students at the London School of Economics who party — but girls-only, segregated by gender. I met women whose major concern is to avoid too much mingling with Western culture. Some of them are pressuring their mothers and grandmothers to wear headscarves for the first time in their lives to further underline their Muslim identity. And I was able to enter one of the few mosques that are opening their doors to women. I found a high degree of self-confidence as more and more Muslim women use education to appropriate the Koran for themselves — and take part in a debate on the nature of Islam that had always been a male-only domain.
In staunchly secular France, women wearing headscarves can be seen mostly around mosques. The fierce headscarf debate over the 2004 law banning it from schools has faded away. The law was more sharply criticized abroad than at home. I met many secular and observant Muslim women, all of whom identify themselves first as French, then Muslim. This widespread embrace of civic values is unique to France, despite continued, overt discrimination against Muslim minorities. And it is in France where women have made huge inroads in religious studies — many are enrolled in Islamic theological departments. Sociologist Douna Bouzar, herself a Muslim, told me that these women are the first French generation of Muslim faith, a generation of women who do not seek answers in the Islamic homelands of their parents and grandparents, but whose reference point is French, secular society.
The situation is very different in Germany, where the level of education of Muslim women is generally much lower than of those in France and Britain, and where the non-Muslim society is more distant and less welcoming. Turkish and German cultures differ sharply over the roles of women, the notion of arranged and forced marriages and of individual freedom — Turks see the family as the ultimate arbiter of what its members can do, while Germans consider parental involvement in their children's marital choices an infringement of personal freedoms.
In contrast with the first women immigrants who arrived from Turkey in the 1950s and 60s, who went to work directly in factories, the more recent immigrants are all new spouses. Muslim women activists strongly oppose the practice of importing brides from rural areas of Anatolia, which they say perpetuates separation. In fact, I met Turkish women who told me they had met their husbands just before their wedding days. Several said they don't want the same to happen to their daughters.
Turkish-German sociologist Necla Kelek is the author of the best-seller The Foreign Bride. She says that by importing women, sometimes as young as 14, Turkish patriarchs strengthen their families' segregation, relegating these young women to a state of anti-Western isolation. She writes, "they live in Germany, but never arrived here."
Muslim women who have broken with the patriarchal system are also seen as a threat to the Turkish rural family structure. Several books by Turkish-German women who describe their painful struggle for "emancipation" have become best-sellers in Germany, but at a large bookstore I visited in the Neu-Koln neighborhood in Berlin — where those books were prominently displayed — a saleswoman told me that she has never sold any to Turkish-German women — that it's only Germans who read them.
Lawyer and women's rights activist Seyran Ates told me it is very difficult to reach women isolated behind their walls of silence. Contact is usually made only with the few who are brave enough to scale those walls and seek refuge in a woman's shelter.
For Muslims in Europe, the main issues — discrimination by host societies, difficulty in finding jobs, and family conflicts — have remained more or less the same since I first started looking at immigrant communities in Europe. But with regard to Muslim women, I've seen changes — albeit in different directions and at different paces. It is still hard to say where these changes will lead. But at a time when Europeans are beginning to question the notion of multiculturalism that often leads to separate, parallel societies, authorities are now looking to Muslim women in the belief that their empowerment can facilitate their communities' integration into mainstream societies. And Muslim women themselves, better-educated and more experienced than their mothers and grandmothers, are beginning to grapple with the obstacles and abuse facing women in both their communities and in the broader society.

French Muslim Women Forge New Islam, Activism
by Sylvia Poggioli

British Warn of Growing Female Islamic Radicalism
by Sylvia Poggioli

Many British Muslim Women Embrace Political Islam
by Sylvia Poggioli

Muslim Activist Critical of 'Multicultural Mistake'
by Sylvia Poggioli

French Activists Fight Female Genital Mutilation
by Sylvia Poggioli

Islam In Europe - 5 countries 5 stories

Islam an Europe

- Listen or read the 5 part series on NPR - Follow the links.

All Things Considered, December 13, 2004 · Recent violent attacks in Europe by suspected home-grown Islamic extremists have extinguished illusions about European multiculturalism. Europeans are now realizing they've allowed the emergence of separate, disadvantaged Islamic communities.
Throughout the continent, a debate rages on how to integrate rapidly growing Muslim minorities -- many of whom feel contempt and hatred for their host societies. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli concludes a five-part series on Muslims in Europe

The Series Concludes
December 13, 2004 · The debate on whether Muslims can adapt to living as a minority in secular societies is surrounded by tension and confusion. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli concludes a five-part series on Muslims in Europe.Web Extra: Complete Series, Photo Gallery

Listen or read :

December 6, 2004 · A controversial new law banning Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols in France's public schools has triggered an anguishing national debate: Can France integrate Europe's largest Muslim population and achieve its much-vaunted liberty, fraternity and equality? In the fourth part of a series on Muslims in Europe, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

November 29, 2004 · Among Britain's 1.8 million Muslims, anxiety is growing over a sharp rise in what the British call Islamophobia. Post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorist legislation and proposals for even tougher measures have led to widespread disaffection, anger and isolation among Muslim youth. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

November 22, 2004 · The death of a Dutch filmmaker, at the hands of a suspected Muslim extremist, has Germans anxious that religious unrest will spread to their own country. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli continues a five-part series on Europe as the emerging battlefield in the struggle to define Muslim identity.

The Netherlands
November 15, 2004 · In the Netherlands, the recent murder of controversial filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim extremist has revealed a climate of mistrust and fear between Muslims and traditional Dutch society. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli begins a five-part series on Europe as the emerging new battlefield in the struggle to define Muslim identity.

Islam In Europe - 5 countries 5 stories

Islam an Europe

- Listen or read the 5 part series on NPR - Follow the links.

All Things Considered, December 13, 2004 · Recent violent attacks in Europe by suspected home-grown Islamic extremists have extinguished illusions about European multiculturalism. Europeans are now realizing they've allowed the emergence of separate, disadvantaged Islamic communities.
Throughout the continent, a debate rages on how to integrate rapidly growing Muslim minorities -- many of whom feel contempt and hatred for their host societies. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli concludes a five-part series on Muslims in Europe

The Series Concludes
December 13, 2004 · The debate on whether Muslims can adapt to living as a minority in secular societies is surrounded by tension and confusion. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli concludes a five-part series on Muslims in Europe.Web Extra: Complete Series, Photo Gallery

Listen or read :

December 6, 2004 · A controversial new law banning Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols in France's public schools has triggered an anguishing national debate: Can France integrate Europe's largest Muslim population and achieve its much-vaunted liberty, fraternity and equality? In the fourth part of a series on Muslims in Europe, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

November 29, 2004 · Among Britain's 1.8 million Muslims, anxiety is growing over a sharp rise in what the British call Islamophobia. Post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorist legislation and proposals for even tougher measures have led to widespread disaffection, anger and isolation among Muslim youth. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

November 22, 2004 · The death of a Dutch filmmaker, at the hands of a suspected Muslim extremist, has Germans anxious that religious unrest will spread to their own country. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli continues a five-part series on Europe as the emerging battlefield in the struggle to define Muslim identity.

The Netherlands
November 15, 2004 · In the Netherlands, the recent murder of controversial filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim extremist has revealed a climate of mistrust and fear between Muslims and traditional Dutch society. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli begins a five-part series on Europe as the emerging new battlefield in the struggle to define Muslim identity.

Everyone is amazed at Pakistan's Resilience !

Sunday Forum: Going home to Pakistan
My country is reeling after the Bhutto assassination, but life goes on and hope endures, says novelist MOHSIN HAMID
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Anita Dufalla / Post-Gazette
LAHORE, Pakistan - During the winter holidays, much of the Pakistani diaspora made its way back to the homeland. It was wedding season and -- for those with the means and of a secular persuasion -- party season as well. Flights were fully booked, airfares were astronomically high, and even circuitous itineraries via places such as Istanbul and Muscat were in great demand.
Of my parents and their siblings, 13 people in total, 11 live in Pakistan. But of their 26 children -- my generation -- 15 of us reside abroad. Pakistan has become an increasingly unsettled place, and many of my peers have voted with their feet. But not always with their hearts.
As my wife and I boarded our flight from London to Lahore, evident all around us was a longing for home -- for the friends and family who are central to Pakistani culture in a way that many foreigners find so remarkable. (As an admiring American roommate of mine once said, "All you guys do is hang out.")
Mohsin Hamid's most recent novel is "The Reluctant Fundamentalist." He wrote this for The Washington Post.
This duality of Pakistan as a place both troubled and normal, a place capable of producing a large diaspora while also affectionately tugging at those who have left, is often lost on the world's media. International news outlets tend to cast Pakistan as the one-dimensional villain of a horror film, a kind of Jason or Freddie whose only role is to frighten. Scant attention is paid to the hospitality, the love for music and dance, or the simple ordinariness of 164 million people going about their daily lives.
As we took our seats on a Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777, my fellow passengers did not look to me like embodiments of the hearts and minds of an important frontline state in the "war on terror." They looked like people excited to be headed home.
Seeking democracy
We touched down early on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 23. One of my brothers-in-law was getting engaged and a cousin was getting married, so I was soon busy running from one family event to another, often followed by late-night hangout sessions with old friends.
Naturally, we talked politics. It was immediately evident how unpopular President Pervez Musharraf has become. A year ago, many people said that he was at least partially good for the country. But Mr. Musharraf's conflict with the judiciary, suppression of independent television channels and crackdown on pro-democracy and human rights activists have embittered most of those who previously gave him credit for economic growth and stability.
My brother-in-law is much younger than I am, in his early 20s. He and his friends are poster boys for the "enlightened moderation" that Mr. Musharraf claims to want to promote. One is a computer programmer who works for a small company in Lahore that designs particle effects (smoke from explosions, blood splattering from gunshot wounds) for international video game studios. Another is a film student working on a pilot for a television show for his college thesis.
But even liberal young Pakistanis like them are keen to see an end to Mr. Musharraf's rule. I heard again and again that Pakistan needs to give democracy a chance, and that for that to happen, Mr. Musharraf must go.
Bhutto dies; riots ensue
I accompanied my wife's family to my brother-in-law's engagement. It is customary for the prospective groom's family to go to the home of the prospective bride and make a formal proposal for her hand. The lights went out in the middle of our visit -- due to power shortages, Pakistan suffers from rolling 30-minute blackouts -- and we had to wait in darkness before the bride-to-be could make her appearance and rings could be exchanged.
The following day I was chatting with my parents when a friend called and told me to turn on the television. At first, it seemed that there had been an explosion at a political rally attended by Benazir Bhutto, but that Ms. Bhutto herself was unharmed. Later, the news channels said that she has been injured and taken to the hospital. Finally, we heard the announcement that she had died.
I was surprised by the strength of my reaction. It was the most upsetting event in the history of Pakistan that I could personally recall.
Riots soon erupted across the country, most violently in Karachi, where my cousin's wife, a microbiologist, had just completed a medical ethics exam. Her taxi was attacked by a gang of teenage boys who smashed its windows with sticks. The driver managed to turn around and escape, and she spent the night at the nearby home of a friend, unable to make it to her destination until the following day because of the violence in the streets.
In Lahore, things were calmer, but there were reports of shootings and arson, and most people stayed indoors. I ventured out to my cousin's house, passing some of what would normally be the busiest boulevards in that city of eight million. I did not see more than a handful of cars. Lights were out, the streets were empty.
An olive branch extended
Ms. Bhutto was assassinated on a Thursday. By Saturday, stocks of food and petrol were running low. Shops were shuttered in protest at her killing, petrol stations were closed for fear of arsonists, and trucks and trains that carry supplies up and down Pakistan stopped running after coming under attack. Sunday brought a measure of reprieve, as the riots seemed to be coming under control.
For me, there were two unexpected sources of hope during this period. The first was from Nawaz Sharif, Ms. Bhutto's longtime political opponent and leader of the anti-establishment Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. He arrived at the hospital upon hearing of her death and was so visibly upset that he cried out again and again that this was Pakistan's "darkest day." The spontaneous humanity of his reaction, the depth of compassion and grief, seemed to resonate with and unite a vast swath of Pakistanis across the political spectrum.
Even more surprising was the first press conference of Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party after her death. Her widower, the newly designated party co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari, has an extremely unsavory reputation. Yet instead of exploiting resentments in Sindh (Bhutto's home province) against the Punjab (the province where she was killed), he delivered an eloquent and -- dare I say it? -- inspiring defense of the federation, of democracy and of Sindhi-Punjabi brotherhood.
Mr. Zardari offered an olive branch to the army, saying that the party's quarrel is with Pakistan's ruling party, not with the country's soldiers. He admonished the rioters, telling Pakistanis to express their anger by voting in the elections, and expressed his gratitude to Mr. Sharif while asking Mr. Sharif's party not to boycott the polls (a request Mr. Sharif quickly accepted).
By Monday, a sense of relief seemed to be spreading through the country: On television, in newspapers, in conversations at the market, people were expressing cautious optimism about a future that only four days earlier seemed so bleak. There was enormous sympathy for Ms. Bhutto and her party. She was perhaps never so popular in life as she is now in death.
Meanwhile, Mr. Musharraf and the party of his establishment, the Pakistan Muslim League, have perhaps never been so unpopular. Television images of firefighters being directed to hose away evidence from the assassination scene, and government statements that Ms. Bhutto died not from bullets nor from a bomb but from falling on the sun-roof lever of her SUV, added fuel to the many conspiracy theories circulating about who really ordered her killing.
Two friends came to see us. In October, when Ms. Bhutto first returned to Karachi from self-imposed exile abroad, they had ridden in her convoy. Their car was immediately behind Ms. Bhutto's vehicle, and they saw the blasts of that initial unsuccessful suicide bomb attack on her. But they kept speaking of what preceded the carnage: the rapturous reception she received from her supporters. They told me it was beautiful, with all the singing and dancing and cheering of a carnival. It was a Pakistan they had never seen before, full of diversity and hope, with people from all four provinces and even the religious minorities out in a show of joy.
Pakistanis move on
Little more than a month has passed since Ms. Bhutto's death, but life in Pakistan is almost normal again. I am amazed by Pakistan's resilience, by this nation's power to pick itself up and carry on. But change is in the air. Opposition parties are uniting against the Musharraf-led establishment. Elections, even though they have been postponed until Feb. 18, seem poised to deliver a powerful rebuke to the current regime, unless of course they are rigged.
In the United States, there are newspaper columns and television talk shows dedicated to "loose nukes" and the "war on terror." Here in Pakistan, one can see signs of people coming together. Scare stories notwithstanding, it is possible (although by no means certain) that out of this tragedy the world's sixth-largest nation may succeed in finding its voice -- and with that the chance for a better future.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kite to pull ship across Atlantic

Kite to pull ship across Atlantic

The technology is aimed at cutting CO2 emissionsThe world's first commercial cargo ship partially powered by a giant kite is setting sail from Germany to Venezuela.
The designers of the MS Beluga Skysails say the computer-controlled kite, measuring 160sq m (1,722sq ft), could cut fuel consumption by as much as 20%.
They also hope the state-of-the-art kite will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as it tugs the ship.
Fuel burnt by ships accounts for 4% of global CO2 emissions - twice as much as the aviation industry produces.

The MS Beluga SkySails' maiden transatlantic voyage is from the northern port of Bremerhaven to Guanta in Venezuela. The ship is expected to leave the German port at 1700 local time (1600 GMT).
It's kind of back to the future
Verena Frank, Beluga Shipping
The BBC's Steve Rosenberg, on board the vessel, says the computer will enable the kite to harness the full power of the wind.
"The maiden voyage marks the beginning of the practical testing during regular shipping operations of the SkySails System," says Stephan Wrage, managing director of SkySails GmbH.
"During the next few months we will finally be able to prove that our technology works in practice and significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions," he said on the company's website.

"We're absolutely excited," said Verena Frank, project manager at Beluga Shipping GmbH, SkySails GmbH's partner.
She told the BBC's World Today programme that the project's core concept was "using wind energy as auxiliary propulsion power and using wind as a free of charge energy".
"Nevertheless, it differs very much from traditional sailing, as we do not have any bothersome mast on deck which might be a hindrance to cargo-loading operations."
Ms Frank said the efficiency of the kite depended on wind and weather conditions.
But the advantage of the SkySails system "is that you do not need only backward winds - there can also be side winds and you can still set sail," she said.
She said the kite could be used on medium-size cargo ships, cruise liners and trawlers.

Abu Dhabi plots hydrogen future

Abu Dhabi plots hydrogen future
By Richard Black Environment correspondent

Green city planned for the desert

Enlarge ImageThe government of Abu Dhabi has announced a $15bn (£7.5bn) initiative to develop clean energy technologies.

The Gulf state describes the five-year initiative as "the most ambitious sustainability project ever launched by a government".

Components will include the world's largest hydrogen power plant.
The government has also announced plans for a "sustainable city", housing about 50,000 people, that will produce no greenhouse gases and contain no cars.
The $15bn fund, which the state hopes will lead to international joint ventures involving much more money, is being channelled through the Masdar Initiative, a company established to develop and commercialise clean energy technologies.

It shows that you can generate hydrogen without carbon release from fossil fuels
Professor Keith Guy
Powering up for hydrogen"As global demand for energy continues to expand, and as climate change becomes a real and growing concern, the time has come to look to the future," said Masdar CEO Dr Sultan Al Jaber.
"Our ability to adapt and respond to these realities will ensure that Abu Dhabi's global energy leadership as well as our own growth and development continues."

Technology bridge The portfolio of technologies eligible for funding under the Masdar Initiative is extensive, but solar energy is likely to be a major beneficiary.
The hydrogen plant, meanwhile, will link the world's currently dominant technology, fossil fuel burning, with two technologies likely to be important in a low-carbon future - carbon sequestration and hydrogen manufacture.
Hydrogen will be manufactured from natural gas by reactions involving steam, producing a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

President Bush's administration is also pumping money into hydrogenThe CO2 can be pumped underground, either simply to store it away permanently or as a way of extracting more oil from existing wells, using the high-pressure gas to force more of the black gold to the surface.
When hydrogen is burned, it produces no CO2. Eventually hydrogen made this way could be used in vehicles, though in Abu Dhabi it will generate electricity.
"It's important because it shows that you can generate hydrogen without carbon release from fossil fuels," commented Keith Guy, an engineering consultant and professor at the UK's Bath University.

"When you look at how hydrogen could be made economically, the route that many people have been looking at, through electrolysis of water, is incredibly expensive."
The Masdar Sustainable City, another component of the Abu Dhabi government's plans which is being designed with input from the environmental group WWF, is envisaged as a self-contained car-free zone where all energy will come from renewable resources, principally solar panels to generate electricity.

Buildings will be constructed to allow air in but keep the Sun's heat out. Wind towers will ventilate homes and offices using natural convection.
The fund and the Masdar City plans were formally unveiled at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Naive comments by US Presidential Canditates on Pakistan

Naive comments by US Presidential Canditates on Pakistan

These comments did not help the war on terrorism or its allies. These Presidential hopefuls made a fool of themselves and removed all doubts about their knowledge of Pakistan or the war on terror. "Hearts and Minds" anyone ?

Saira Yamin January 16, 2008
Editor: Erik Leaver

As the race for the White House heats up, presidential candidates are using the turmoil in Pakistan to show off their foreign policy credentials. Unfortunately few of the candidates have demonstrated a clear understanding of the complexities Pakistan presents, including the political situation, nuclear safeguards, al-Qaeda, and terrorism.
Given Pakistan's significance as the only Islamic country with a robust nuclear program; contiguous borders with war plagued Afghanistan, and its historically volatile relations with nuclear armed India, the existing level of disorder in Pakistan is clearly a reason for the candidates to weigh in. Benazir Bhutto's assassination on December 27, 2007 deepened the instability, unleashing a new wave of panic both in Pakistan and abroad.
But the candidates, and in particular the Democrats, are offering the wrong solutions.
In Pakistan, once a cab driver remarked to me that there existed not one, but five Osama bin Ladens. The cab driver went on to suggest that even if one or two were killed, al-Qaeda would not become dysfunctional. The candidates should consider this wisdom, instead of offering a guns blazing strategy in Pakistan.
At the New Hampshire debate on January 5, Senators Obama and Clinton, and former Senator John Edwards were all unanimous in their eagerness to launch unilateral strikes on Pakistan if they knew the location of Osama bin Laden. Given the reliance on the kind of intelligence that President George Bush launched the Iraq War, Democratic candidates might like to think twice. The presidential candidates should also be reminded that Pakistan is a sovereign nation and unilateral strikes on Pakistan would be in violation of international law. Such a move by the United States would not bode well for its already deteriorated image as a responsible world leader.
Seeking a more nuanced position, Senator Clinton proposed at the debate to "try to get (Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf) to share the security responsibility of nuclear weapons with a delegation from the United States and, perhaps, Great Britain, so that there is some fail-safe." Before taking responsibility for Pakistani nuclear warheads, the could-be president might like to comment on the incident last year in which six U.S. nuclear warheads on cruise missiles were accidentally flown to Louisiana from North Dakota. The bombs were left unguarded on a landing strip for ten hours before anyone noticed they were missing. It might be worthwhile for the potential Commander in Chief of the armed forces to ensure that U.S. nuclear warheads do not remain vulnerable to such gaffes in future before recommending safeguards for other nations.
Republican candidates' strategies for dealing with the mayhem in Pakistan have generally been more astute, with some exceptions. Mike Huckabee's recommendation to prevent more illegal Pakistanis coming in, by building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, shows his lack of understanding of the issues at play. Maverick outsider Ron Paul, on the other hand, must be lauded for pointing out that extremist militancy exists because U.S. forces have invaded, occupied, and maintained military bases in Muslim countries for a long time prior to 9/11.
Among all the candidates, Senator John McCain offers the most insightful solutions, in part due to his long standing relationship with President Musharraf. He rejects the option for making unilateral strikes in Pakistan, recognizing the enormous military challenge the strategy poses, as well as the risk of alienating the people and government of Pakistan. Realizing also that confronting terrorism requires long term solutions, McCain calls for a comprehensive Pakistan policy. While McCain has not ruled out military options in dealing with terrorists, his vision outlined in Foreign Affairs, supports dealing with some of the root causes by getting children out of madrassas and into schools.
All of the candidates should know that eliminating terrorist havens in Pakistan must go hand in hand with stabilizing neighboring Afghanistan, a country which has not been accorded the priority it deserves. The Taliban and al-Qaeda were able to master the art of military maneuvers in the treacherous and cave-laden mountainous border regions of Pakistan along Afghanistan in the days of the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets. Successive U.S. administrations armed these groups, then known as the Mujahideen, to fight the Soviets. U.S. and Saudi governments provided the Pakistan government with monetary and military incentives to allow the Mujahideen theuse of Pakistani territory for refuge and training. Now, no one is possibly more at home in the territory along the long and porous borders, than al-Qaeda led militants.
Pakistan continues to be thronged by millions of refugees, who despite living in abject poverty and statelessness, refuse to go back to their country for fear of their lives. The associated costs for Pakistan have considerably undermined its fledgling economy. With relatively open borders providing a safe haven to refugees, Pakistan has suffered from narcotics and arms traffic through all the years of turbulence in Afghanistan.
As Pakistan suffers from the contagion of conflict ridden Afghanistan, its current political crisis presents a favorable playing field for terrorist groups. This is evident in the rising incidence of terrorism and suicide bombings across the country. It is imperative therefore that U.S. presidential candidates support Pakistan's return to political stability by encouraging a transition to democracy. Charting the way to Pakistan's democratic future in the short-term would include: a return to the constitution and judiciary that existed prior the imposition of emergency last year; restoration of the freedom of press and free association; release of all political prisoners jailed during recent crackdowns; and, accommodation of independent international monitors during parliamentary elections promised next month.
A critical step for any government that comes to power in Pakistan, must be to take responsibility for developing its tribal regions where militants have sought refuge. U.S. presidential candidates should seek conditions such as the growth and development of Pakistan's tribal frontiers for the flow of future aid to the country. Gradual and sustained abolition of tribal laws and feudal structures, in tandem with socio-economic growth, is key to progress in the vulnerable tribal lands.
Having said that, Pakistan should not be made a scapegoat for the lack of vision in dealing with the region as a whole. The role of great powers in the region has been detrimental to Pakistan's national security. The next U.S. president offers a chance for change. America's choice should be a President who goes beyond showboating and demonstrating who can "be the toughest" by standing behind real democracy, while seeking innovative solutions both inside Pakistan and its neighbor, Afghanistan.
Saira Yamin teaches at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and is an analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus.

Benazir Bhutto : World lost a great leader and a Caring Human Being

Benaizr Bhutto : World lost a great leader and a caring human being

Benazir Bhutto, the bravest of all, more steadfast than all the men of Pakistan put together, the voice of sanity, secularism and democracy, was so shamefully silenced in Pakistan, devastating not only me and my country but the whole world.
My family's journey with the great Bhutto family started in the late 1960s. My father was a friend and dentist to Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir's father. Bhutto was a regular visitor at our dental clinic and house.

In 1977, our lives changed when Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, the ruthless military dictator, took power in a coup d'etat, toppling the only democratically elected prime minister we had had in our country's history. With everyone deserting him, my brave father was one of the few who stood by Bhutto's side untill the bitter end.
I remember the last time I met Bhutto was in early 1979. I was a little boy, and he kissed me on my left cheek and gave me a hug, asking me to be brave. Bhutto was sent to the gallows on concocted charges in 1979, devastating my country and us.
Forced into exile to Britain in order the escape the constant torture and imprisonment, we, along with Benazir and her mother, found new homes in central London. During the exile years in the early 1980s in Britain, I recall Benazir as a young, brilliant and charismatic individual. She had an answer for everything. I could never win an argument with her. As you know, she was the president of the prestigious Oxford University debating society. I guess I had no chance winning an argument with her, but I tried.
In 1986, Benazir made a triumphant return to Pakistan. My mother went to greet her and was on the truck with her during her historic arrival in the city of Lahore.
A sea of humanity greeted her. Like Hercules, she was carrying the nation on her shoulders, a beacon of light after years of darkness, the lightning rod we were waiting for. My countrymen thronged to see her, hear her and be a part of history.
The historic speech she gave in Lahore, where more than 2 million people turned out to greet her and hear her speech, dawned the era of democracy in Pakistan after years of dictatorship. Even today, my countrymen thronged to hear her — a woman in a man's world.
From 1986 onward, Benazir used our house for her residence and political activities. She made men look weak and her enemies feeble, and she thrived when she was among her people. She was made of steel, her resolve unfaltering, unwavering.
We saw her father's charisma in her, her dedication to the poor, her love for her people, all so obvious for us to see. In a male-dominated Muslim country, we saw her as our savior and our leader. The five years of torture and solitary confinement could not break her resolve or belief in democracy and secularism in Pakistan.
When she spoke, we stood still, listening intently, as if under a spell, mesmerized. We wept when she wept, laughed when she laughed, smiled when she smiled, frowned when she frowned.
In 1988, elections were held, and despite the rigging, neither she nor the people of Pakistan were to be denied their destiny. It was a sight to see, because in my country women are not in the driving seat usually, and to see a reversal of roles was so enjoyable. While forming a coalition, she treated everyone with dignity and respect. Everyone and anyone, no matter how rich or poor, had access to her because she was for the people, lived for the people and eventually died for the people.
She was fulfilling her destiny and carrying the mantle of our hopes and aspirations. We were overjoyed, and our tears were unstoppable.
Dawned the day we had all fought so hard for. Restoring democracy and ending the era of tyranny and dictatorship was here at last. Benazir won the elections in 1988 and became the first female prime minister of a Muslim country.
As she exited our house for the prime minister's residence, she went to each servant in our house who had served her with undying love and affection for so many years, and thanked and hugged each one of them. She turned toward us, and we hugged, laughed, then cried as we bid her farewell.
I remember standing with my family, feeling it was the end of an era for us. We had lost so many years as a family, all the torture and emotional heartbreak we endured. But it was worth it: worth it for democracy, worth it for human rights, and worth it for the destiny of our country. And we as a family will do it again if we have to.
I console myself knowing that Benazir's spirit and message will live with us forever. We, the ordinary people, will carry on her message of love, democracy and humanity. As she said, "Democracy is the best revenge."
The sad events of 9/11 and Dec. 27, 2007, are a reminder of the dark and evil enemy we face. With resolve and conviction, we the people, all over the world, will overcome the forces of evil and tyranny.
Rest in peace, our lovely daughter of the East, rest in peace.
Dr. Sultan Niazi is an Evansville physician.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Analysis: Pakistan's new Army Chief -Kayani is his own man

Analysis: Pakistan's new Army Chief -Kayani is his own man

Musharraf, left, handed over control of the army to Kayani in November 2007

In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, the debate over who will form the next Pakistani government after February's elections appears to have dissolved into semantics without dilating on the role of the army, the real arbiter of power.
Perhaps it is due to the general perception that Pervez Musharraf, the country's president and former army chief, has strengthened his position by appointing General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani as his successor-in-uniform.
However, recent events — some quite symbolic — appear to suggest otherwise.
Despite publicly wanting to continue the "war on terror", Kayani is not straining to keep up appearances with Musharraf following the president's patronising suggestion last week that they "are two of a kind".
As Imran Khan, the opposition leader and cricket legend, recently said, "nobody is anyone's man once he becomes commander-in-chief with 700,000 soldiers under his command".
Trust deficit?
That change in attitude may have started on the very day Musharraf reluctantly passed the baton to Kayani, forced by circumstances different from October 6, 2001 when Musharraf extended his own term indefinitely.
Special report
The tenure of army chief is generally three years, but many in that post stayed on beyond that period in the "nation's larger interest". Musharraf stretched that interest for nearly a decade.
Musharraf's grudging words of praise for his successor with repeated mention of how he trusted the man who had "served under me for 20 years" did not go unnoticed at the handing-over ceremony last November. The tone and tenor bordered on condescension.
A few days later, it was tellingly reinforced at the 18th annual dinner of the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAK-PAC), where Musharraf went on to say that "Kayani is my student and has worked as my subordinate. He is a man of good head and heart. I feel stronger today." However, Musharraf's action did not reflect that strength.
Even before shedding the uniform, he returned to the presidency the powers he used as army chief to impose a state of emergency.
Many pundits are betting Musharraf may come to rue his decision to continue residing in Army House, citing security issues, despite retiring from the army after 46 years of service.Not everyone is buying Musharraf's reasoning. Many belive it is a symbolic move to show he still holds sway over the only constituency he could once legitimately call his own - the military.
Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant-general and prominent defence analyst, suggests that it could be due to administrative convenience but also a refusal to part with his military legacy.
"It may be down to nostalgia with the military that prevents him from leaving that house."
Kayani declared 2008 as "Year of the Soldier" [EPA]
Kayani may not share that thought after assuming charge of the world's sixth largest army.The new army chief has taken three steps that are more than just subtle hints of his independence from the president. They speak of a person who is his own man and not "two of a kind" as Musharraf insists.
Upon taking charge last November, Kayani declared 2008 as "Year of the Soldier".
The immediate public response was one bordering on cynicism questioning the need for such a dedication against the backdrop of the army's deep involvement in politics and businesses.
However, by publicly supporting his lower cadres, the new army chief is implying that Musharraf is someone who does not.
Certainly, the families of soldiers who laid down their lives by the hundreds in a forced and complicated "war on terror" are inclined to agree.
Public image
Masood says Kayani is trying to repair the military's standing. "Kayani feels the army has suffered as a result of its political involvement and therefore, he is trying to pull it back."
Javed Ashraf Qazi, former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and once Musharraf's senior in the army, concurs.
"There is a feeling within the army that it is too involved in politics. It wants to get out."
Kayani's second step was to instruct army commanders that they should restrict themselves to the constitutionally-ordained role (defending the country's borders) and not meet politicians or engage in politics.
It followed guarded and as yet unpublished reports that an army officer who went to meet Musharraf behind the back of his new chief was sacked.
Masood thinks the message has wider implications.
"I think he wanted to give a message to both the army and the international community that the army today is distancing itself from politics and will not be involved as it has been in the past and (that) Musharraf will be conducting himself (only) as a retired military officer … in a civilian capacity."
Last week, Kayani also replaced Major-General Waheed Arshad, Musharraf's appointed director general of the army's public relations wing only a little more than a year after he assumed that role.
The new appointee for the post, Major-General Athar Abbas, is seen as a smart choice given that apart from his track record in the forces he is also the sibling of Pakistan's best-placed trio of respected media persons.
It is not just a routine appointment, but rather a follow-up on Kayani's endeavour to create his own equation with the media.
The third step is Kayani's reported move to soon recall all officers and soldiers working in civil departments to their units.
Hamid Gul, another outspoken former intelligence chief, blames the inherent sweeping powers vested in the army chief.
"Unfortunately, the army chief has too many powers. The leadership structure is such that the corps commanders do not really speak their minds and simply go along with what their chief says."
Paradigm shift
This probably explains why Kayani is confident of engineering a paradigm shift with the same handful of corps commanders who were until two months ago lining up behind Musharraf.
Masood concludes that it is an institutional imperative.
"In the military, institutional loyalty is more important. This impression that (there is any such thing as) dual loyalty is not true. (Ultimately), it's the institutional discipline, which stays."
How much further can Musharraf hold on to power? By his own admission, in his rather aptly titled memoirs In The Line of Fire, he has used up his quota of a cat's nine lives.

Oil boom makes Middle East the biggest Construction site in the World !

Oil Boom makes Middle East the biggest Construction site in the World

A $500 billion construction site called Saudi Arabia ! Businessmen from The Gulf and Saudi Arabia have bought large chunks of companies like Sony, Citigroup, GE , Dow Chemicals etc.

RABIGH, Saudi Arabia — The King Abdullah Economic City is being championed by the Saudi monarch as a way to handle an expected population boom. An alarm bell sounded the end of the lunch break here one November afternoon, and suddenly thousands of workers — on foot, on bicycles and in buses — streamed in, seemingly from out of nowhere, and jolted this huge construction site to life.

Amid a forest of cranes, towers and beams rising from the desert, more than 38,000 workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Turkey and beyond have been toiling for two years in unforgiving conditions — often in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees — to complete one of the world’s largest petrochemical plants in record time.

By the end of the year, this massive city of steel at the edge of the Red Sea will take its place as a cog of globalization: plastics produced here will be used to make televisions in Japan, cellphones in China and thousands of other products to be sold in the United States and Europe. Construction costs at the plant, which spreads over eight square miles, have doubled to $10 billion because of shortages in materials and labor. The amount of steel being used is 10 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower.
“I’ve worked on many big things in my life, but I’ve never worked on anything this big,” an American project manager mused during a bus tour of the project, called Petro Rabigh, a joint venture of the state-run oil company Saudi Aramco and Sumitomo Chemical of Japan.
Size isn’t the only consideration. The project is Saudi Arabia’s boldest bet yet that this oil-rich kingdom can transform itself into an industrial powerhouse. The plant is part of a $500 billion investment program to build new cities, create millions of jobs and diversify the economy away from petroleum exports over the next two decades.
“The Saudi economy was in idle mode for 20 years,” said John Sfakianakis, the chief economist at SABB, formerly known as the Saudi British Bank, who is based in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. “Today, the feeling here is, ‘We’ve won the lottery; let’s not waste it.’ ”
The kingdom’s lofty economic goals would have been unthinkable without the surge in energy prices that has filled the coffers of oil producers. Oil prices have quadrupled since 2002 and reached $100 a barrel in New York this month.
Persian Gulf countries earned $1.5 trillion in oil revenue from 2002 to 2006, twice as much as in the previous five-year period, according to the Institute of International Finance, a global association of banks that is based in Washington. As the top exporter, Saudi Arabia has been the main beneficiary.
Despite all the recent headlines about Middle East investors bailing out troubled American banks like Citigroup, a growing share of today’s petrodollars are staying at home to finance megaprojects like Petro Rabigh, analysts say. That money is financing the biggest economic boom in a generation, helping to build not only the high-rises of Dubai, where the world’s tallest tower is going up, but also telecommunications networks, roads and universities throughout the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi is planning to spend close to $1 billion for a new museum with the help of the Louvre, in Paris. Dubai’s latest grandiose idea is to build a small-scale replica of the French city of Lyon, complete with residential housing, a museum, a culinary school and a soccer club.
In Saudi Arabia, Riyadh looks like a boom town: sprawling over 40 miles, it is teeming with shopping malls, electronics stores and luxury boutiques. But while times are good today, many Saudis realize that their country is locked in a race against time to create industries that produce more than just oil in order to keep a young and growing population employed. The kingdom, which has a population of 24.5 million, including nearly 7 million foreigners, has what one analyst called a “human time bomb.” About 40 percent of Saudis are under 15, and because the country has one of the world’s highest birth rates, the population is expected to reach nearly 40 million by 2025.
“It has been a social, and therefore a political, imperative of the Saudi government to develop the economy and to create employment opportunities,” said Timothy S. Gray, the chief executive of HSBC Saudi Arabia.
That could well mean that higher oil prices are here to stay. One paradox of modern-day Saudi Arabia is that while it seeks to reduce the importance of petroleum to its economy, it needs those exports more than ever.
TO be sure, the region’s economies are too small to absorb all the oil riches on their own. Too much money is chasing too few assets, analysts say, forcing oil producers to invest some of their revenue abroad and diversify their holdings, either through opaque state-owned investment funds or through direct private investments.

Last year, for example, a fund controlled by the government of Abu Dhabi bought a stake in Citigroup for $7.5 billion, while another run by Dubai’s ruler bought a large share in Sony, the Japanese consumer electronics giant. Sabic, a major Saudi petrochemical company, bought the plastics division of General Electric for $11.6 billion, and the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation bought half of Dow Chemical’s commodity-plastics unit for $9.5 billion.
In recent weeks, other big banks plagued by losses from the mortgage crisis, like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, have raised tens of billions of dollars from a variety of Middle Eastern and Asian funds, including ones from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg News, overseas investments by Persian Gulf countries reached a record $75 billion in 2007. Arms deals, a time-worn way of recycling petrodollars, remain popular in the region; the United States is pushing for a $20 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, for example. But while oil-rich states are still buying American Treasury bonds or military hardware from the West, analysts say the more significant trend is for a growing share of their investments to be pumped into local projects.
“The vision is to turn the kingdom into a major industrial power by 2020,” said Jean-François Seznec, a professor at Georgetown University who is a specialist in industrial policies in the Persian Gulf. “A billion dollars here and a billion there, and soon you’re talking about real money.”
Projects like Petro Rabigh, Mr. Seznec said, will allow Saudi Arabia to become one of the top three chemical producers in the world within a few years. Unlike Kuwait or Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia does not have a sovereign fund responsible for investing the country’s petroleum riches.
Ali Al-Naimi, the kingdom’s energy minister and one of the grand architects of Saudi industrial policy, summed up the country’s goals at the dedication ceremony for Petro Rabigh in 2006.
“I would like to highlight the fact that the Petro Rabigh project is part of a bigger picture,” Mr. Naimi said at the time. “This strategy includes expanding the base of the Saudi economy, diversifying national income sources, attracting international investments and reaping the direct and indirect benefits that these types of projects will accrue to the Saudi citizen.”
The trend to modernize and develop the economy is not entirely new, of course. Saudi Arabia has been trying to diversify itself for over two decades. It famously tried to make the desert bloom in the 1970s and ’80s by investing heavily in water desalinization plants and growing crops.
But a long period of low oil prices, from the mid-1980s through the 1990s, stalled much of its effort. The government still relies on petroleum exports for 90 percent of its revenue; oil sales account for half of the country’s gross domestic product.
The current level of oil prices has given the country’s industrialization strategy a new spring, allowing the government to improve its finances while investing in large infrastructure projects. The Saudi G.D.P. has doubled in the last five years. Not counting oil, economic growth has been 4 percent to 6 percent a year since 2002.
Oil has not been the only engine of growth. The country’s private sector has also thrived and now accounts for 45 percent of the economy, compared with just 20 percent about 20 years ago. Since the 1990s, the share of private Saudi money invested at home has doubled, and now represents about 20 percent of total holdings, according to SABB.
“There is a lot of money looking for investment opportunities,” said Mr. Gray at HSBC.
The financial turnaround has been spectacular. In 1999, the Saudi government’s debt amounted to 120 percent of G.D.P. That number has dropped to less than 20 percent as the government paid back its obligations and put its finances in order.
Last year, the government recorded a budget surplus of $48 billion, five times the surplus of 2003. This year, it has built its biggest budget to date around a conservative estimate of oil prices of $45 a barrel; that will almost certainly yield a substantial surplus at the end of the year.
All of that is a far cry from the 1990s, when oil averaged $20 a barrel, thanks mostly to Saudi concerns at the time to keep oil prices low.
One of the most noticeable illustrations of the industrialization push is a plan championed by King Abdullah, the 83-year-old Saudi monarch, to build six new cities throughout the country — including the King Abdullah Economic City on the western coast, near the city of Rabigh; the Knowledge Economic City, near Medina; and the Prince Abdulaziz bin Mousaed Economic City, in the north.

The intent is to create industrial centers that double as housing and commercial hubs for the country’s young and growing population. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, a government agency, expects these cities to add $150 billion to the country’s G.D.P. by 2020, create one million new jobs and be home to as many as five million people.
Drawings of these new towns depict a cross of the futuristic “Blade Runner” and traditional Arabic design. But the new cities are also expected to become new industrial centers that focus on four main sectors: petrochemicals, aluminum, steel and fertilizers.
According to SABB, these cities together will have four times the geographical area of Hong Kong, three times the population of Dubai, and an economic output equal to Singapore’s. Other plans include building four refineries, two petrochemical plants and a modern graduate-level university with an endowment of $10 billion.
THE frenzied growth of the economy has had some serious downsides. Inflation has been rampant in the last year; food prices and rents have risen sharply. Traffic jams in Riyadh and other Saudi cities have become a constant affliction, while real estate values have soared and the construction sector is strained by a lack of workers.
The stock market, meanwhile, has yet to recover from its collapse two years ago. From 2000 to early 2006, the local Tadawul stock index surged from 2,000 points to a peak of 19,870, a return of almost 900 percent. But the overvalued market went into a panicky free fall that caused it to lose two-thirds of its value in a matter of months.
After being flat for most of 2007, the market has recovered in the last quarter, gaining more than 40 percent. Still, its value is only about half that of its peak two years ago.
One reason for the partial rebound was anticipation of the sale of shares in Petro Rabigh earlier this month. For the first time, Saudi investors had a chance to buy a major asset linked to Aramco. The initial public offering, for 25 percent of Petro Rabigh, raised $1.23 billion and was the largest stock sale in Saudi history. The stock is expected to begin trading at the end of the month.
The project itself is still about a year away from completion. Once in operation, it will produce 2.4 million tons of plastics a year. This venture, along with dozens of other megaprojects, will firmly anchor Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s top suppliers of chemical products as well as oil.
“Saudi Aramco has a vision of itself as Exxon Mobil,” Mr. Seznec of Georgetown said, “except much bigger.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Makkah 2010 : Transforming Islam's Holiest Site ! A Modern New Look of Makkah

Makkah in 2010 : Transforming Islam's Holiest Site ! As Modern new crisp look of Makkah
Massive infrastructure development includes a rail road between Makkah and
Madina :

MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia — Five times a day across the globe devout Muslims face this city in prayer, focused on a site where they believe Abraham built a mosque of God. This beautiful mosque is also the place Muslims cherish to visit alteast once their lives – a place they regard as the home of God.

A huge project is under way near the Kaa’ba, in the Grand Mosque, altering the skyline at Islam's holiest site. The Abraj al Bait Mall will bring an amusement park ride, fast food and convenient clothing stores to the neighborhood.

Now as they make the pilgrimage clothed in simple white cotton wraps, they will see something other than the startling Kaa’ba, which gravitates the Muslim world to a single spot unifying their differences. They will see something other than the stark black cube known as the Kaa’ba, which is literally the center of the Muslim world. They will also see lots of clothing stores. “Makkah will have all my favourite clothing stores and I wont have to haul them all the way from Jordan”. Pilgrims will have easy access to fast foods, coffee shops, soft drink shops that will bring more convenience to the pilgrims where the temperature rises to 110 F during the summer.

The Abraj al Bait Mall — one of the largest in Saudi Arabia, outfitted with flat-panel monitors with advertisements and announcements, neon lights, an amusement park ride, fast-food restaurants— has been built conveniently close from Islam's holiest site making the pilgrimage easier to the older devotees which make up atleast 45% of the visitors. A new hospital will be able to accommodate pilgrims who fall sick or who need medicines. This will change the way pilgrims with high blood pressure and diabetic pilgrims go for Hajj or Umrah.

Pilgrims are happy at the progress buts some of would like to keep the traditional old ancient part of the Makkah alive.

"Mecca is becoming like a modern city, it will benefit Muslims and create more jobs and will have a ripple effect all over the Muslim world," said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, a Saudi Charity research organization. "It will have a great effect on Muslims as going to Makkah will give them a great feeling of progress and modernization. This will be a added charm. It will give Makkah a clean crisp look and validate the Sunnah about Cleanliness."

The mall, which opened a week before the annual pilgrimage, called the hajj, in December, is the first phase in a $13 billion construction boom in Mecca that promises to change how this city. Muslims are the only ones allowed into Makkah because of group of Western hooligans who showed disrespect to the holy sites.

The Abraj al Bait housing and hotel complex, a 1.5-million-square-yard development that will include a towering hotel, will change parts of this ancient city but add a beautiful clean new look.

When the project is completed in 2009, it will include the seventh tallest building in the world, its developers say, with a hospital, hotels and prayer halls. A public-announcement system pipes in prayers from the Grand Mosque across the way, and worshipers can join the masses simply by opening their draperies benefiting the old, sick and the handicapped.

In nearby Jabal Omar, they are making way to accommodate the next generation of Muslims. Muslims who are modern, progressive, educated and would want to feel proud of their holiest city. To make them proud and bring them back to the holy city there are cranes which dot the skyline with up to 130 new high-rise towers planned for the area. They is for - the next generation of Pilgrims !

"This is the end of Mecca and this will represent the new city – Makkah and not twisted spelling with pun - Mecca
," said Dr. Irfan Ahmed in London. He has formed the Islamic Heritage Foundation to try to preserve the Islamic history of Makkah, Medina, the second holiest city, and other important religious sites in Saudi Arabia. "Before, even in the days of the Ottomans, none of the buildings in Makkah were built to accommodate millions of new pilgrims. Its was about time.

Modernization of this neglected ancient city is certainly one of the motivators in the building boom. Every year, up to four million people descend on this city during the pilgrimage, while a stream continues to flow through here during the year, spending an average $2,000 to $3,000 to stay, eat and shop.

Vistors to Makkah remind investors of buying and living in a nest close to their beloved holy site.
Arab satellite television channels remind viewers that " finally you too, can have the opportunity to enjoy this blessed view” – which only a few could afford.

Muhammad al-Abboud, a real estate agent, recounts tales of Pakistani businessmen investing $15 million to buy several apartments at a time for his parents, renting and for Asaal –o- sawab.

A three-bedroom apartment here runs about $3 million, Mr. Abboud said. One directly overlooking the Grand Mosque can reach $5 million a view every Muslim would cherish.

After the development of these new communities the old, sick and the handicapped worshipers can separate themselves from the crowds, without violating the spirit of the hajj, where all stand equal before God.

"All of Makkah is a sanctuary," Mr. Abboud said. " this was needed because hundreds of pilgrims die because of the heat and it is difficult for the old to keep pace with the young and enthusiastic pilgrims. But some groups say the building boom also has religious motives. They praise the planners from the Royal family which holds great sway in Saudi Arabia, of seeking to beautify the historic spots, fearing that these sites would disappear with time if nothing is done to preserve them.

Dr. Ahmed of London has cataloged more than 300 separate antiquity sites, including cemeteries and mosques. He says with all the development and attention the house where the Prophet Muhammad lived should be converted into a museum.

"With the new clean crisp look this will be like respecting the Kaaba, respecting the house of God or the environment of the sanctuary," Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect who wants to preserve Makkah's heritage, said of the development. "This city should have been model for all of Islamic world. Its about time the Saudis did something. Muslims should be proud of this city and when they try to replicate this city it will change the entire Muslim world especially Africa.

Progress will bring thousands of jobs for Muslims – a sanctuary for devout Muslims. Muslims can live here for those who would love to emulate the life the their beloved Prophet..

More pilgrims than ever can come here, thanks to billions spent on tunnels and infrastructure to accommodate them. The city’s new markets will bring them better products and which suits their budget and style.
Once again Makkan homes and buildings that filled the area near the mosque were demolished in the 1970s to enlarge the mosque. The neighborhoods and families who lived near the mosque and welcomed pilgrims have long since moved away or into larger better homes with the compensation they have received.

Makkah has long been a commercial as well as a religious center, but increasingly Pilgrims bring their Islamic and global brands with them making them the dominant force here.

Some are critical of the project. Mr. Angawi, the Saudi architect, has led a lonely campaign within the kingdom to bring attention to the destruction of some historic sites. Dr. Ahmed has worked to lobby Asian and Arab governments to press the Saudis to stop such demolitions. And Mr. Ahmed, in Washington, has built a database of the historic spots now destroyed. But Saudi officials say they have been painstakingly preserving the Islamic artifacts they find, and operate two small museums in Mecca. In all, they say, more than $19 billion has been spent on preserving the country's Muslim heritage. Soon the largest Islamic Museum will not be in London – but In Makkah.

Developers and real estate agents, meanwhile, say the construction makes room for even more Muslims to take part in the hajj, and therefore serves the greater good.

A new rail link between Makkah and Madina via Jeddah is also under works. The Saudi Railway Organisation (SRO) has invited bids from specialised national and international companies for the 500-km Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL) project.'The project aims at providing a safe, fast, reliable and comfortable mode of transport for Umrah and Haj pilgrims travelling between the two cities and Jeddah,' said the SRO in a statement. Economists expect participation from major European, American and Japanese companies in the project, which will be implemented on a design, build, operate and transfer (DBOT) basis, said a report in Arab News.'A typical consortium bidding for the project will include a high-speed technology provider, rail operator, and a construction company as well as financial, legal and technical advisers,' the SRO said.

That suggests that the changes are far from over.

"Makkah has never been changed like it has now," Mr. Angawi said. "What you see now is only 10 percent of what's to come. What is coming will make Makkah a model city for all Muslims to cherish."

Bhutto Assassination : Not what she seemed to be !



Ralph Peters (b. 1952) is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel, novelist and essayist. He has sometimes written under the nom-de-plume Owen Parry.

December 28, 2007 -- FOR the next several days, you're going to read and hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after her death than she did in life . We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country. She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and 'hardheaded' journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat. In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or social decency. Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious schools. During her years as prime minister, Pakistan went backward, not forward. Her husband looted shamelessly and ended up fleeing the country, pursued by the courts. The Islamist threat - which she artfully played both ways - spread like cancer. But she always knew how to work Westerners - unlike the hapless Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how to package himself. Military regimes are never appealing to Western sensibilities. Yet, there are desperate hours when they provide the only, slim hope for a country nearing collapse. Democracy is certainly preferable - but, unfortunately, it's not always immediately possible. Like spoiled children, we have to have it now - and damn the consequences. In Pakistan, the military has its own forms of graft; nonetheless, it remains the least corrupt institution in the country and the only force holding an unnatural state together. In Pakistan back in the '90s, the only people I met who cared a whit about the common man were military officers. Americans don't like to hear that. But it's the truth. Bhutto embodied the flaws in Pakistan's political system, not its potential salvation. Both she and her principal rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, failed to offer a practical vision for the future - their political feuds were simply about who would divvy up the spoils. From its founding, Pakistan has been plagued by cults of personality, by personal, feudal loyalties that stymied the development of healthy government institutions (provoking coups by a disgusted military). When she held the reins of government, Bhutto did nothing to steer in a new direction - she merely sought to enhance her personal power. Now she's dead. And she may finally render her country a genuine service (if cynical party hacks don't try to blame Musharraf for their own benefit). After the inevitable rioting subsides and the spectacular conspiracy theories cool a bit, her murder may galvanize Pakistanis against the Islamist extremists who've never gained great support among voters, but who nonetheless threaten the state's ability to govern. As a victim of fanaticism, Bhutto may shine as a rallying symbol with a far purer light than she cast while alive. The bitter joke is that, while she was never serious about freedom, women's rights and fighting terrorism, the terrorists took her rhetoric seriously - and killed her for her words, not her actions. Nothing's going to make Pakistan's political crisis disappear - this crisis may be permanent, subject only to intermittent amelioration. (Our State Department's policy toward Islamabad amounts to a pocket full of platitudes, nostalgia for the 20th century and a liberal version of the white man's burden mindset.) The one slim hope is that this savage murder will - in the long term - clarify their lot for Pakistan's citizens. The old ways, the old personalities and old parties have failed them catastrophically. The country needs new leaders - who don't think an election victory entitles them to grab what little remains of the national patrimony. In killing Bhutto, the Islamists over-reached (possibly aided by rogue elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, one of the murkiest outfits on this earth). Just as al Qaeda in Iraq overplayed its hand and alienated that country's Sunni Arabs, this assassination may disillusion Pakistanis who lent half an ear to Islamist rhetoric. A creature of insatiable ambition, Bhutto will now become a martyr. In death, she may pay back some of the enormous debt she owes her country.

Pakistan's flawed and feudal Princess

Pakistan's flawed and feudal princess

It's wrong for the West simply to mourn Benazir Bhutto as a martyred democrat, says this acclaimed south Asia expert. Her legacy is far murkier and more complex William DalrympleSunday December 30, 2007 The Observer

One of Benazir Bhutto's more dubious legacies to Pakistan is the Prime Minister's house in the middle of Islamabad. The building is a giddy, pseudo-Mexican ranch house with white walls and a red tile roof. There is nothing remotely Islamic about the building which, as my minder said when I went there to interview the then Prime Minister Bhutto, was 'PM's own design'. Inside, it was the same story. Crystal chandeliers dangled sometimes two or three to a room; oils of sunflowers and tumbling kittens that would have looked at home on the Hyde Park railings hung below garishly gilt cornices.
The place felt as though it might be the weekend retreat of a particularly flamboyant Latin-American industrialist, but, in fact, it could have been anywhere. Had you been shown pictures of the place on one of those TV game-shows where you are taken around a house and then have to guess who lives there, you may have awarded this hacienda to virtually anyone except, perhaps, to the Prime Minister of an impoverished Islamic republic situated next door to Iran.
Which is, of course, exactly why the West always had a soft spot for Benazir Bhutto. Her neighbouring heads of state may have been figures as unpredictable and potentially alarming as President Ahmadinejad of Iran and a clutch of opium-trading Afghan warlords, but Bhutto has always seemed reassuringly familiar to Western governments - one of us. She spoke English fluently because it was her first language. She had an English governess, went to a convent run by Irish nuns and rounded off her education with degrees from Harvard and Oxford.
'London is like a second home for me,' she once told me. 'I know London well. I know where the theatres are, I know where the shops are, I know where the hairdressers are. I love to browse through Harrods and WH Smith in Sloane Square. I know all my favourite ice cream parlours. I used to particularly love going to the one at Marble Arch: Baskin Robbins. Sometimes, I used to drive all the way up from Oxford just for an ice cream and then drive back again. That was my idea of sin.'
It was difficult to imagine any of her neighbouring heads of state, even India's earnest Sikh economist, Manmohan Singh, talking like this.
For the Americans, what Benazir Bhutto wasn't was possibly more attractive even than what she was. She wasn't a religious fundamentalist, she didn't have a beard, she didn't organise rallies where everyone shouts: 'Death to America' and she didn't issue fatwas against Booker-winning authors, even though Salman Rushdie ridiculed her as the Virgin Ironpants in his novel Shame.
However, the very reasons that made the West love Benazir Bhutto are the same that gave many Pakistanis second thoughts. Her English might have been fluent, but you couldn't say the same about her Urdu which she spoke like a well-groomed foreigner: fluently, but ungrammatically. Her Sindhi was even worse; apart from a few imperatives, she was completely at sea.
English friends who knew Benazir at Oxford remember a bubbly babe who drove to lectures in a yellow MG, wintered in Gstaad and who to used to talk of the thrill of walking through Cannes with her hunky younger brother and being 'the centre of envy; wherever Shahnawaz went, women would be bowled over'.
This Benazir, known to her friends as Bibi or Pinky, adored royal biographies and slushy romances: in her old Karachi bedroom, I found stacks of well-thumbed Mills and Boons including An Affair to Forget, Sweet Imposter and two copies of The Butterfly and the Baron. This same Benazir also had a weakness for dodgy Seventies easy listening - 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree' was apparently at the top of her playlist. This is also the Benazir who had an enviable line in red-rimmed fashion specs and who went weak at the sight of marrons glace.
But there was something much more majestic, even imperial, about the Benazir I met when she was Prime Minister. She walked and talked in a deliberately measured and regal manner and frequently used the royal 'we'. At my interview, she took a full three minutes to float down the 100 yards of lawns separating the Prime Minister's house from the chairs where I had been told to wait for her. There followed an interlude when Benazir found the sun was not shining in quite the way she wanted it to. 'The sun is in the wrong direction,' she announced. Her hair was arranged in a sort of baroque beehive topped by a white gauze dupatta. The whole painted vision reminded me of one of those aristocratic Roman princesses in Caligula
This Benazir was a very different figure from that remembered by her Oxford contemporaries. This one was renowned throughout Islamabad for chairing 12-hour cabinet meetings and for surviving on four hours' sleep. This was the Benazir who continued campaigning after the suicide bomber attacked her convoy the very day of her return to Pakistan in October, and who blithely disregarded the mortal threat to her life in order to continue fighting. This other Benazir Bhutto, in other words, was fearless, sometimes heroically so, and as hard as nails.
More than anything, perhaps, Benazir was a feudal princess with the aristocratic sense of entitlement that came with owning great tracts of the country and the Western-leaning tastes that such a background tends to give. It was this that gave her the sophisticated gloss and the feudal grit that distinguished her political style. In this, she was typical of many Pakistani politicians. Real democracy has never thrived in Pakistan, in part because landowning remains the principle social base from which politicians emerge.
The educated middle class is in Pakistan still largely excluded from the political process. As a result, in many of the more backward parts of Pakistan, the feudal landowner expects his people to vote for his chosen candidate. As writer Ahmed Rashid put it: 'In some constituencies, if the feudals put up their dog as a candidate, that dog would get elected with 99 per cent of the vote.'
Today, Benazir is being hailed as a martyr for freedom and democracy, but far from being a natural democrat, in many ways, Benazir was the person who brought Pakistan's strange variety of democracy, really a form of 'elective feudalism', into disrepute and who helped fuel the current, apparently unstoppable, growth of the Islamists. For Bhutto was no Aung San Suu Kyi. During her first 20-month premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, killings and torture.
Within her party, she declared herself the lifetime president of the PPP and refused to let her brother Murtaza challenge her. When he persisted in doing so, he ended up shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances outside the family home. Murtaza's wife Ghinwa and his daughter Fatima, as well as Benazir's mother, all firmly believed that Benazir gave the order to have him killed.
As recently as the autumn, Benazir did and said nothing to stop President Musharraf ordering the US and UK-brokered 'rendition' of her rival, Nawaz Sharif, to Saudi Arabia and so remove from the election her most formidable rival. Many of her supporters regarded her deal with Musharraf as a betrayal of all her party stood for.
Behind Pakistan's endless swings between military government and democracy lies a surprising continuity of elitist interests: to some extent, Pakistan's industrial, military and landowning classes are all interrelated and they look after each other. They do not, however, do much to look after the poor. The government education system barely functions in Pakistan and for the poor, justice is almost impossible to come by. According to political scientist Ayesha Siddiqa: 'Both the military and the political parties have all failed to create an environment where the poor can get what they need from the state. So the poor have begun to look to alternatives for justice. In the long term, flaws in the system will create more room for the fundamentalists.'
In the West, many right-wing commentators on the Islamic world tend to see the march of political Islam as the triumph of an anti-liberal and irrational 'Islamo-fascism'. Yet much of the success of the Islamists in countries such as Pakistan comes from the Islamists' ability to portray themselves as champions of social justice, fighting people such as Benazir Bhutto from the Islamic elite that rules most of the Muslim world from Karachi to Beirut, Ramallah and Cairo.
This elite the Islamists successfully depict as rich, corrupt, decadent and Westernised. Benazir had a reputation for massive corruption. During her government, the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International named Pakistan one of the three most corrupt countries in the world.
Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari, widely known as 'Mr 10 Per Cent', faced allegations of plundering the country. Charges were filed in Pakistan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States to investigate their various bank accounts.
When I interviewed Abdul Rashid Ghazi in the Islamabad Red Mosque shortly before his death in the storming of the complex in July, he kept returning to the issue of social justice: 'We want our rulers to be honest people,' he said. 'But now the rulers are living a life of luxury while thousands of innocent children have empty stomachs and can't even get basic necessities.' This is the reason for the rise of the Islamists in Pakistan and why so many people support them: they are the only force capable of taking on the country's landowners and their military cousins.
This is why in all recent elections, the Islamist parties have hugely increased their share of the vote, why they now already control both the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and why it is they who are most likely to gain from the current crisis.
Benazir Bhutto was a courageous, secular and liberal woman. But sadness at the demise of this courageous fighter should not mask the fact that as a pro-Western feudal leader who did little for the poor, she was as much a central part of Pakistan's problems as the solution to them.