Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dubai or Debtai ? The rise and fall of Dubai ! Will Dubai Allow Vegas Style Gambling ?

All that glitters is not Gold. The country built on loans ! Dubai or as I call it Debtai has its image tarnished after the country defaults on its $87 billion loan. Governments can run commercial operations (as is the case in Dubai). They can bail out commercial operations (as we've seen in the West). But who bails out the governments themselves when they go bankrupt like what has happened in Dubai ?

Rumours are afloat that the Rulers of Dubai are considering allowing gambling in the debt ridden State. Dubai has all the ingredients of becoming a Middle Eastern version of Las Vegas ? Lets watch as the rulers of Dubai are shoved into a corner. Watch for the ads -Atlantis Dubai - Casino and Hotel !

Even though Dubai is on the brink of collapse its still expecting 8 million tourists a year. Dubai has become a tourist heaven because of its bargains and deals. Desperate for business Dubai is advertising 24/7/365 sunny days and Five Star hotels on half the price. Its the number destination for Europeans in the Winter.

From the pinnacle of the world economic boom to the brink of bankruptcy, Christopher Davidson of Durham University explains some of the background to the glittering city in the desert.

The inability of the government of Dubai to refinance the massive debts incurred by its largest state-owned company, Dubai World, has sent shockwaves throughout the world prompting many observers to ask not only how severe the economic crisis is, but also what exactly is Dubai and who is in control of it?

This time last year, Dubai was making headlines for entirely different reasons.
It was the opening party of the non-Casino version of Atlantis hotel, the star attraction of the city's man-made palm-shaped island. Organisers spent millions on the fireworks and even more on the celebrities.

As the sky exploded overhead, broadcast live around the globe, it was Dubai's message to the world that it had arrived. But as Dubai's elite sipped their champagne, the financial crisis was already beginning to take its toll in the West. For Dubai, this was the last night of extravagance before the credit crunch came knocking. And so, 12 months on, the headlines are very different. But who spoiled the party, and how?


Observers looking at the whole Dubai crisis smell a rat. The rulers took loans for everything they were building in Dubai. Offering builders free land or sea as down payment the rulers got $87 billion of loans from banks all over the world.

The banks invested heavily in real estate projects. The rulers kept most of the money and hoarded all the income from these investments.

Some insiders believe that the rulers are setting the stage to allow gambling in Dubai. Staging themselves by defaulting on their debt they are looking for a reason to allow 'limited' gambling in Dubai on in the hotels that are off shore. Most hotels built in Dubai are on artificial islands and are not on mainland Dubai, UAE. The rulers are trying to follow the example of Mississippi in the US. The conservative State of Mississippi in the US also allowed gambling on hotels that were offshore. These hotels were built on reclaimed land in the Gulf of Mexico and were off the mainland US.

The critics are sceptical the way this debt default has folded. All of a sudden the rulers of Dubai do not have $87 billion ? The critics smell a rat and most believe they need a reason to allow gambling in this Islamic nation. Gambling is banned in Islam and the elders in the ruling family are against allowing gambling in Dubai.


Dubai does not have the enormous oil wealth enjoyed by its neighbours such as Abu Dhabi. Its main source of wealth has historically been as a port.

Although frequently described as a city state or even as a country in its own right, Dubai is a constituent member of the federation of United Arab Emirates along with six other emirates.

The main share indexes in the UK, France and Germany had all fallen by more than 3% on Thursday. But after falling further in early trade on Friday, the UK's FTSE 100 closed up 1%, and both Germany's Dax index and France's Cac 40 ended more than 1% higher.

Certain London-based hedge funds who had bet on Dubai World being bailed out could have an uncomfortable few weeks ahead. Those close to the company have suggested that various refinancing options have been on the table for at least a month, although details have not been revealed until now.
A six-month suspension on interest payments is believed to be the most likely option.
David Buik, senior partner at BGC Partners, said: "You can't just say to the world: 'I don't want to pay my debts'. There is no income coming in from any of these properties. I think this is shocking PR."

The news shook markets that are recovering from the collapse of the US housing market and contagion that threatened to rupture the global financial system last year.
It was the timing of the announcement as much as the lack of clear information that heightened nerves. The first news emerged late on Wednesday, as the Muslim world was preparing for its Eid celebrations.
It also coincided with the closedown of the world's most important share market, with US markets winding down for Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday.
Uncertainty of the scale of banks' exposure to Dubai hit banking shares at first. However, bank shares recovered strongly throughout Friday morning.
Threat to confidence. The biggest underlying fear is that Dubai's problems could reignite the international financial turmoil of the credit crisis.

The emirate's flag bearer in global investments
Has a central role in the direction of Dubai's economy
Assets include DP World, which caused a storm when trying to take over six US ports
Property arm Nakheel built The Palm Islands and The World developments

Chris Skinner, chairman of the Financial Services Club, said: "We're very heavily interlinked. Dubai is the key financial centre in the Middle East."
Any knock to economic confidence could lower global demand for a whole range of commodities, including oil.

Dubai, which has less oil money than many of its neighbours, became a trading and tourism hub with global ambitions. Dubai World, the conglomerate that led the emirate's expansion, had $59bn (£36bn) of liabilities as of August, a large proportion of Dubai's total debt of $80bn. Its subsidiary Nakheel was the builder of the landmark palm tree-shaped island developments off Dubai.

Atlantis Hotel Dubai:

Will the Atlantis in Dubai remain the non-casino kosher version of the Atlantis Hotel ? Critics do not believe that ! Look what Atlantis Dubai has to offer !

Atlantis's the latest word in Gulf excess - a sprawling $US1.5 billion ($A1.8 billion) resort boasting a $US25,000 ($A30,044.50)-a-night suite and dolphins flown in from the South Pacific, all atop a palm tree-shaped island.

Inspired by the legend of the lost continent, the resort offers "experiences that are new to the Middle East," said its president and managing director Alan Leibman, in line with the emirate's penchant for superlatives and drive to become a top tourist destination.

At Atlantis, this includes water thrills, a marine habitat and more than a dozen restaurants run by world-class chefs including Japanese sushi mogul Nobu Matsuhisa and Michel Rostang of France.

The first guests were welcomed this past week at the site on Palm Jumeirah, one of three palm tree-shaped man-made islands emerging off the coast of Dubai.

The opening even as construction work continues on Palm Jumeirah underscores Dubai's race to more than double the number of visitors to 15 million by 2015.

One of seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai already hosts one of the world's most exclusive hotels, the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab, dozens of other luxurious seafront hotels, and the "Burj Dubai," Arabic for Dubai Tower, the world's tallest skyscraper.

With a distinct desire to offer the tallest and biggest, Dubai will also have the world's largest shopping mall.

And the Atlantis fits right into the picture, as "an entertainment destination that is truly different to anything that exists in the resort category in the region," aid Leibman.

But that might not be for long. Scores of other ambitious ventures are underway or in the pipeline, including Dubailand, a series of billion-dollars entertainment and leisure projects touted as the Middle East's very own Orlando, which will include a Universal Studios theme park.

The "Palm" islands face competition on their own turf from "The World", a cluster of some 300 artificial islands looking like a blurred vision of the planet's nations.

Developed by Kerzner International as only the second such resort after the Atlantis-Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Atlantis-The Palm cost 1.5 billion dollars and has 1539 rooms at rates ranging from US$700 dollars to a staggering US$25,000 for some suites.

The hotel opened on schedule despite a recent fire which ravaged its lobby, though the pomp and ceremony have been put off until the formal inauguration in November.

According to the management, the hotel is nearly fully booked. But although Dubai has become a regional business and tourist hub, promoters said they are targeting the US, European and Asian markets and do not expect clients from the Middle East to fill up more than a quarter of the establishment.

"Aquaventure", a water playground of over 18 million litres of water, is accessible to visitors for prices ranging from A$64 for children to A$75 for adults. The waterscape features water slides with names such as "Leap of Faith", including two which catapult riders through shark-filled lagoons.

Atlantis' marine habitat will be stocked with thousands of marine animals and include a "Dolphin Bay".

But one of the main attractions which promoters are counting on to draw crowds faced with a wide choice of entertainment in Dubai are the resort's top-end restaurants run by world-class chefs.

"What I'm offering here is authentic French cuisine, not a bit of everything. I am a champion of tradition" in French cuisine, said the two-star Michelin chef Rostang of his French Brasserie.

Environmentalists have long criticized both Palm Jumeirah island and some of the features of the Atlantis hotel. And analysts wonder if global financial turmoil will crimp Dubai's big hopes for tourists.

Dubai is not blinking. The 113-acre resort on the artificial island off the coast is among the city-state's biggest bets that tourism can help sustain its economy once regional oil profits stop flowing.

"You don't build a billion-and-a-half dollar project just anywhere in the world," said Leibman.

With its own oil reserves running dry, Dubai hopes to woo those eager to make money and those who know how to spend it - even as much of the global economy sours.

For years, the emirate - one of seven semi-independent states that make up the United Arab Emirates - has been feverishly building skyscrapers and luxury hotels.

A key piece of the strategy has been to cultivate an image in the West as a sun-kissed tourist destination despite its intense summer heat, conservative Muslim society and dearth of historic sites.

Among the daring projects are an indoor ski slope, the as-yet-incomplete world's tallest skyscraper and a growing archipelago of man-made islands such as Palm Jumeirah - the smallest of three such projects planned.

Much of the focus at the Atlantis, modeled on a sister resort in the Bahamas, is on ocean-themed family entertainment. The resort has a giant, open-air tank with 65,000 fish, stingrays and other sea creatures and a dolphinarium with more than two dozen bottlenose dolphins flown in from the Solomon Islands.

The hotel's top floor aims squarely at the ultra-wealthy. A three-bedroom, three-bathroom suite complete with gold-leaf, 18-seat dining table is on offer for $25,000 (A$30,000) a night.

Environmental groups and some people in the Solomons protested the sale of the dolphins to the resort as well as the 30-hour plane flight to get them to Dubai.

Dubai's development has long been criticized by environmental activists, who say the construction of artificial islands hurts coral reefs and even shifts water currents. They also point to growing water and electricity consumption.

Developers seem undaunted. For the moment, the Atlantis shares the island only with rows of high-end houses and construction sites. But other international names are set to move in.

Donald Trump plans a hotel straddling the center of the tree-shaped island's "palm," and the storied QE2 ocean liner will become a hotel and a tourist attraction docked alongside its "trunk." An 1,800-seat theater nearby will house a permanent Cirque du Soleil show beginning in summer 2011.

"Palm Jumeirah in and of itself will become one of Dubai's major tourist attractions," said Joe Cita, chief executive of Nakheel's hotel division.

Boosting the number of attractions on the island will not only entice more visitors, but also persuade them to spend more time and money in the city, he said.

By 2010, Dubai aims to attract 10 million hotel visitors annually, up from about seven million in 2007. Atlantis alone will increase the city's hotel capacity by three per cent.

So far, demand appears strong. The Middle East had the highest hotel occupancy rates in the world during the first half of the year, with Dubai leading the region at 85.3 per cent, according to professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Dubai also had the highest room rates in the region, although revenue growth is slowing, Deloitte noted.

Atlantis' backers are optimistic they can fill its 1539 rooms despite the economic uncertainty wracking some of the world's richest economies. Their focus is on well-heeled travelers from Europe, Russia, Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East.

"People will still take family holidays," Leibman said. "Dubai is still good value when you're paying in pounds, (or) you're paying in euros."

Nakheel, the developer, and Kerzner, the hotel operator, are both privately held companies and do not release sales data. Leibman said demand from tour groups looks strong well into the first part of next year.

Yet Marios Maratheftis, head of regional research for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan at Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai, said there is "good reason" to be concerned that global financial problems could hit Dubai's tourism industry. Nevertheless, he said, the city's long-term outlook remains positive.

Kerzner has grown increasingly close to Dubai in recent years. In 2006, the company took itself private in a $3.8 billion deal partially bankrolled by a division of Nakheel's state-owned parent, Dubai World. Nakheel retains a large stake in the company.

Nakheel's hotel division has expanded rapidly. The company's holdings include New York's Mandarin Oriental, the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, and the W Hotel in Washington.

Its parent also owns a minority stake in MGM Mirage Inc. and is teaming with that casino operator and Kerzner to build a multibillion-dollar casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

But don't expect to find roulette wheels at Dubai's Atlantis. Islamic prohibitions against gambling ensure casinos remain off limits.

Millions of dollars have been invested in Sheikh Mohammed's passion: thoroughbred racehorses. In Newmarket, he owns Dalham Hall stud farm and Godolphin stables. The sheikh's 4,000 acres in Ireland make him the largest farmer in the country. He also owns 7,000 acres of paddocks in Britain and 5,000 acres of farmland. Other assets owned by Dubai investors include:

* The QE2, currently moored in Cape Town

* The Adelphi on the Strand and the Grand Buildings in Trafalgar Square

* A 20 per cent stake in Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian circus troupe

* Budget hotel chain Travelodge

* A stake in Merlin Entertainments, which runs Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds and the London Eye

* Scottish golf course Turnberry

* Chris Evert tennis clubs in the US

* A ski resort in Aspen, Colorado

* A 21 per cent stake in the London Stock Exchange

* Ports and ferries group P&O

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan ! Pakistanis look the other way !

Conservative Newspaper blows the whistle on Blackwater's presence in Pakistan ! The whistle got louder and louder but Pakistanis look the other way sending a clear message 'go get then all'. Without a doubt Blackwater has raised eyebrows in Pakistan but the silent majority in Pakistan are happy and wish that Blackwater gets the job done !

There is funny side to Blackwater's presence in Pakistan. Home owners in Pakistan are running after the real estate agents who are the authorized by Blackwater to rent their homes. Its a stampede to rent their houses. There have been instances where owners have moved out to rent the houses they are living in !

Blackwater's presence in Islamabad shows Pakistan's resolve on destroying the Taliban. Pakistan is persuing a much supported policy of - Do whatever it takes to destroy the Taliban. 120 million Pakistani voters demonstrated this desire by voting for secular parties in the last election. Left Leaning PPP and secular MQM and ANP won hands down. Religious parties won in less then 15 seats. The message was clear - 200,000 gun trotting Taliban cannot hold the 7th largest Nation in the world on ransom.

Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist, Democracy Now correspondent, and author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” His latest piece for the Nation magazine is “Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan.”

"Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan" (The Nation)
AMY GOODMAN: Writing in The Nation Magazine, journalist Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent has revealed Blackwater is secretly operating in Pakistan under a covert program that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. Blackwater operatives have been working under a covert program run by the Joint Special Operations Command, the military’s top covert operations force. The previously undisclosed JSOC operations would mark the first known confirmation of U.S. military activity inside Pakistan.

A military intelligence source said Blackwater operatives are effectively running the drone bombings for both JSOC and the CIA. The CIA drone program is already public knowledge. But the military source says some of the deadliest drone attacks in attributed to the CIA were actually carried out by JSOC. The article also reveals Blackwater operatives have taken part in ground operations with Pakistani forces under a subcontract with a local security firm. The operations have included house raids and border interdictions in northwest Pakistan and other areas.

Blackwater has also been given responsibility for planning JSOC operations in Uzbekistan. The Nation reports the program has become so secretive the top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. Independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill broke the story for The Nation Magazine. He joins us in our New York studio for its first television interview since the article’s publication last night. Jeremy, welcome to “Democracy Now!” Lay out what you have learned so far.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well Amy, just by way of background, we do know that beginning in 2006, the Bush administration struck a deal with the Pakistani government that would allow U.S. Special Operations forces from the Joint Special Operations Command to enter Pakistan with the understanding that there were, "Following the target, " the target being Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. As part of that agreement, the Pakistani government insisted they have the right to A, deny that the United States had permission to enter the country and B, be able to condemn U.S. actions in their country as a sort of a violation of their sovereignty. But the understanding was struck in 2006. What I understand now from the military intelligence source and another U.S. military source that confirmed what I was initially told by the military intelligence source, is that in fact there are active covert operations on an ongoing basis that are not just about targeting Osama bin laden. What we understand now is the Joint Special Operations Command, which from 2003-2008 was headed by General Stanley McChrystal, who has now been promoted and is the head of all US forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and is pushing for a very large troop increase, he ran that program from 2003-2008. Now its being headed by Admiral William Craven, who is the head of all JSOC operations. So, you have on the one hand the allegation from these military sources that JSOC has coverts bases throughout Pakistan, that they are running a drone bombing campaign runs parallel to that of the CIA, and that Blackwater forces have been at the center of this operation, according to my sources, since at least 2007. And as part of the work they’re doing for JSOC and Pakistan, I am told they are essentially an intelligence cell, if you will, that is planning strikes, gathering intelligence, as well as planning operations inside of Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

My sources said when they are working, when Blackwater guys are working for an elite division of the company that is been known as Blackwater Select, that they’re not doing the actual killing in these operations, but rather they are doing the planning of these operations. And Amy, what this really is, is an outgrowth of a trend that we saw very early on in the Bush administration following September 11th, where the Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the military chain of command, went directly into JSOC, and essentially separated JSOC from the military and started using JSOC to commit what my source said were some of the “darkest acts.” They also set up a parallel agency to the CIA was called the Strategic Support Branch, the SSB. The SSB called information resources from the CIA and the DIA, but for the first time, took the realm of covert operations out of the exclusive hands of the CIA, and essentially created a parallel, clandestine force that would report directly to Rumsfeld, and directly to Dick Cheney. And this Blackwater program is an outgrowth of that separating of JSOC from the broader military chain of command, and that is why my sources say there are senior figures within the military and the a administration right now that may be unaware of it because as he said, “They are not in the circle of love.”

AMY GOODMAN: “Not in the circle of love?”

JEREMY SCAHILL: That is the phrase that was used twice by the military intelligence source that I spoke to. What we are seeing now, and I also talked to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was the Chief of Staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell. And he described, he first of all, when I talked about this, said the program would not surprise him, and that he was very disturbed when he sees execute orders the coming out ,saying that JSOC is essentially above the Special Operations Command and the Special Operations Command is essentially in a support role for these JSOC teams. So, what I am told is that this program is so compartmentalized, that there are probably very top-level people that are unaware of it, and in fact, what my military intelligence source says, is that Blackwater personnel that are working as part of this program, and have worked as part of this program, have been given rolling security clearances above their actual security clearance. Let me break that down a minute. You have guys that can work on these operations that maybe have a low-level of security clearance in terms of the amount of intelligence that they are able to see. What this program allows for is that these individuals are given temporary security clearance to of access to very sensitive intelligence, intelligence and even members of Congress that oversee intelligence matters don’t have access to. That was one of the things that concerned the individuals that spoke with me for this story.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill what has been the response of Blackwater? What has been the response of U.S. military, the White House, to your investigation?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Blackwater said to me in a statement, and I had several back and forths with Blackwater, spokesperson Mark Corallo. And what Blackwater told me is that Xe Services, which is one of the new iterations of Blackwater has only one quote “employee" in Pakistan. And as I kept writing them back and said, “What about contractors, subcontractors, affiliates, other names that I wouldn’t be aware of,” they said we have no operations whatsoever inside of Pakistan. My sources say that is not true. I also received a call yesterday, as I was going to press, from individuals I had not called. I received a call from Admiral Mike Mullen’s office, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a bit surprising to me, because I had not called Admiral Mullen’s office, so when a U.S. citizen gets a call from the military, especially from the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, its a bit jolting. And they would not tell me how they got wind of the fact I was doing the story, or how they got my number. But I spoke to the spokesperson for Admiral Mullen, who told me they do not comment on current operations one way or the other. I was also told by a defense official that on background, not for attribution of the name of the individual, that this is not true, that there is no current arrangement with Blackwater for these types of services, and that there never has been. The White House did not return e-mails or phone calls in the process of doing the story.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, you point out in your article that the U.S. corporate media has largely ignored the fear and mistrust that Blackwater has generated in Pakistan. Earlier this month, the Taliban played on those fears when it denied responsibility for several bombings and in fact accused Blackwater of carrying them out. This is Azam Tariq, a spokesman of the Tehreek e-Taliban.

Azam Tariq: I want to tell the people of Pakistan and the Muslim nations, that the Tehreek e-Taliban are not responsible for the bombings. But Blackwater and Pakistan’s spy agency are behind them. Those who fight with the Americans are against the Tehreek e-Taliban and have blood on their hands, and we will fight them to the end.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, your response?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean you always have to take these kinds of declarations with a grain of salt, thereis incredible propaganda, and I do not have any evidence to suggest what that man is saying is true. I will say this, the Pakistan Intelligence Services have long had a reputation for using proxy forces to carry out actions that are ultimately are sanctioned by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. So, there certainly is a history in Pakistan of false flag operations. But, I don’t have any actual information or intelligence on the claims of the Taliban. But, certainly people that have closely monitored and followed Pakistani politics, particularly the history of the ISI and other organizations, they are regularly involved with unsavory organizations, that they are classified by many individuals as a terrorist organization. So, what we are in Pakistan right now certainly is a situation where the Pakistani intelligence services are playing multiple sides of the equation. I think would be very difficult to rule out Pakistani intelligence from much of anything in Pakistan these days.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, talk about who Blackwater is working for, or working with in Pakistan. Of course, Pakistan a country the United States has not declared war on.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. One interesting thing that happened in the course of this story, I talked to a former Blackwater executive that is familiar with Blackwater’s operations in the region. And when I asked them to confirm for me what the military intelligence sources said, namely that the Blackwater guys are not doing the actual killing in Pakistan, he told “That is not entirely accurate,” then proceeded to tell me about an arrangement that Blackwater had made with a Pakistani company called Kestral, that is headed by a man named Ali Bagg. The Blackwater executive told me, that Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, is close with the owner of this Pakistan firm that is sort of like a Blackwater and logistical firm wrapped up into one. This is a company the works for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Pakistan the government and does a very robust business in war contracting and servicing the war in Afghanistan as well.

And my understanding is that Blackwater is working for this company on a subcontract in a configuration that has Blackwater operatives going out technically as advisers with these paramilitary style forces from this company, and that they are doing as you said in the intro, border interdictions in the Northwest frontier province and elsewhere and the former Blackwater executive told me the line often gets blurred and that you do have Blackwater guys and other westerners that act the participate in operations that are the portrayed in the international media as Pakistan forces carrying them out.

And the agency that Blackwater forces are supporting is a federal paramilitary force in Pakistan that’s under the Ministry of the Interior there, called the Frontier Corp. The military intelligence official confirmed the Blackwater executives account ,or at least the specific allegation that Blackwater is working with the Frontier Corps. The benefit of this is it allows the Pakistani government to say, “We’re not using any Western forces to do these things,” because the technicality is that there subcontracted by a Pakistani firm that is working with the official Pakistan forces.

AMY GOODMAN: The lobbyist for Kestrel you report?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I’m sorry Amy, I didn’t hear you.

AMY GOODMAN: The lobbyist for Kestrel you report?

JEREMY SCAHILL: You’ve actually done shows on this individual, he’s sort of a famed neocon and former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, who is well known to Democracy Now! listeners. In October, Roger Noriega was hired as a lobbyist by this Pakistani company. They paid his firm Vision Americas $15,000, they paid another from that appears to be little more than an affiliate of Roger Noriega’s firm, called Fire Creek Limited, an equal amount of money to lobby the State Department, US-AID, the Congress, on defense and foreign-policy issues and on services that Kestrel could provide that are of interest to the U.S. government.

Another player at Roger Noriega’s firm Vision Americas is Christina Rocca, who for years during the Bush administration was one of the top people shaping Pakistan and Afghanistan policies. She is a former CIA operations official. So, this company has hired some pretty powerhouse figures that have a long history, in the case of Christina Rocca’s affiliation with Vision Americas, with Pakistan directly. So it all sort of leads towards this continued neoconservative view of US foreign policy and they picked some of the top people in that world to become their K-Street lobbyists.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, explain who is behind the drone attacks in Pakistan, who has been killed, and talk about legality here.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. The CIA of course has been running a drone campaign in Pakistan going back years into the Bush administration. When President Obama took office on January 23, he ordered his first drone strike inside of Pakistan. There were two strikes in North and South Waziristan, and has bombed Pakistan regularly ever since. In fact, Vice-President Joe Biden, part of his strategy reportedly is calling for escalation of these drone strikes. This has caused some controversy because there of a large numbers of civilian deaths as a result of these bombings.

And technically, the operations of the CIA need to be reported to Senator Dianne Feinstein and others on the intelligence committee. and there was a controversy this summer because Leon Panetta ran up the hill and said he had cancelled the CIA assassination program and that sort of put the drones in an intense focus on the hill. What I am told now though, is that there is actually and has been for some time, a parallel drone strike program that is being run by the Joint Special Operations Command and that these JSOC drone strikes are sometimes done with very little regard for how many civilians may die in the pursuit of one quote unquote "Bad guy,”

In fact, my military intelligence source said to me if there’s one guy we’re trying to hit and there are 34 other people in the building, 35 people are going to die that day. And he said part of the reason why these strikes are happening is because JSOC works on a classified mandate and they really don’t care because they are not going to go to the Hill and talk to Congress about it and they are not going to face consequences, and its an open secret no one wants to talk about.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, you say Blackwater employees maybe posing as USAID workers?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I said they may be posting as aid workers, I didn’t specify any organization. I think that we have a situation right now in Pakistan where it is very dangerous for people that actually are there to aid in humanitarian projects, and this has long been a history. When you have non-civilian forces that pose in any way as aid workers of any kind, I think you create a dangerous situation for the well-meaning individuals that go to very difficult and dangerous countries in an effort to help local populations that are suffering tremendously as a result of war and poverty. My understanding from the military intelligence source is Blackwater personnel have at times posed as aid workers.

AMY GOODMAN: Word is President Obama is now going to be announcing the expansion of war in Afghanistan. Over 30,000 U.S. troops. Can you put this all, your expose, in a broader context?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well of course, right now you have the top two figures running, prosecuting the Afghan war from the military side are both from the Joint Special Operations Command and I think what we are seeing is essentially an incredible rise of the power of JSOC within the official military command structure. You--I think what we are seeing is, the beginning, of what is one of the much more dramatic escalation of forces in Afghanistan, because my understanding is that part of the president’s plan he’s authorizing, there’s essentially going to be an equal number of contractors that are deployed along those thirty thousand or so troops that we now understand the president is going to be announcing.

Of great concern to everyone in that region is that Pakistan is increasingly, the war in Afghanistan is increasingly bleeding over into Pakistan. And, now with the revelation that the U.S. has actual covert operations there, these operations could be viewed in the words of my military intelligence source, as a, “Lilly pad,” a jump-off point. He called it the Jamestown of the new millennium, in Pakistan and predicted there’s going to be more intense involvement of U.S. military within the borders of a country that we have not declared war against.

AMY GOODMAN:Jeremy Scahill, I want to thank you for being with us, for breaking this in the national broadcast on “Democracy Now!” Your piece came out in The Nation Magazine last night online, and of course we will link to it. Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, Democracy Now! correspondent, and is a Puffin Fellow at the Nation Magazine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pakistan's First Fashion Week Changes Headlines on Pakistan !

Western reporters try to stereo type Pakistan on Pakistan's First Fashion Show !

Click here to Watch on Youtube !

Pictures on Youtube on the Fashion Show !

Dawn Morning Show on The fashion Week !

Conan O'Brien Comments on Pakistan Fashion Week enrages Pakistani Designers :
Response to Conan O'Brien comments about Pakistan Fashion Week by Fifi Haroon.

Pakistan Fashion Week :
Dear Mr O'Brien, I have watched your show for several years in Pakistan and now tune in to see the Tonight Show on CNBC in London . I think you're an extremely funny man; there is always something to be said for an unexpected mix of wry humour and a cockatoo haircut. A few days ago, while watching your monologue on the Tonight Show I caught a reference to the first ever Pakistan Fashion Week, followed by much laughter from the audience (A Fashion Week in Pakistan?). You wondered aloud what we could possibly show at this surprising event, and speculated that this was probably a catwalk of the latest "Burqas." While I hate to disillusion you - and those of a more Taliban disposition - it was quite the opposite. Short sassy skirts using traditional embroidery inventively, revealing evening gowns with bare midriffs and a fashion faux pas here and there - yes. But sorry, no burqas! For a change, most of the western Press seems to have realised what was going on. "Pakistan fashion week defies Taliban with non-Islamic dress," claimed The Telegraph, "Organizers soldiered on to show the world that, despite the violence all around them, they can and will have fashion beyond burqas and go about life as usual," said NY Mag and CNN reported that the "heavy cloak of security" in a country where bombings and Taliban rants are de rigeur helped make Pakistan fashion week a success. Pakistan's fashion industry may be small compared to its huge garment and textiles industry (guess where your Calvin Klein underwear really comes from?) but it is influential, often iconoclastic and thriving. And it manages to do that in a country where showing bare arms and your navel can often be as much of a political stance as a fashion statement. It is also an industy I have worked in as a stylist and Fashion show organizer for over two decades, so trust me when I say that while you can accuse us of being elitist (not everyone can afford high fashion or indeed have the inclination/daring to wear it), and ocassionaly self absorbed like Fashion people anywhere, please never throw allegations of Burqa wear our way. We wouldn't wear them without our Manolos in any case. So while we would readily laugh at your burqa punch line, and understand that humour must be given licence, it is important for us to object to yet another stereotypical image of Pakistan being thrown out an an unsuspecting American public. Perhaps this email may at least help you get the slant right in time for next year's Pakistan Fashion Week. Regards, Fahimeh Fifi Haroon
By:Fifi Haroon

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sofitel Hotels to Build 27 Storey 5 start hotel and Mall in Karachi !

New five-star hotel to be established in Karachi

KARACHI: Karachi city is soon to have another five star hotel named Sofitel which is upgrading its status in the destination lists of business and leisure travelers, the under construction hotel has already started attracting new foreign investments.

Sofitel Towers and Shopping Mall, a hotel chain managed by Accor the European leader in hotel and tourism industry, is expected to complete by 2011.

“Pakistan is potential hub of foreign direct investment and there is dire need to cater future demands of prestigious and luxurious five star hotels,” said Abdul Rehman Naqi, managing partner, Sofitel.

He said it was after a long time that a new international hotel chain was being introduced in Karachi.

Sofitel Tower and Shopping Mall Karachi, a 110m (361 ft) high building with 27 floors will have a food court, a five-story shopping mall and a four-story basement car parking with a capacity of over 500 cars.

For the first time in Pakistan, very high quality construction material is being used and every aspect of the construction is being undertaken according to international standards, even details like location of Karachi with reference to Seismic Zone has been taken into consideration and the hotel will be earthquake proof as concrete pillar and steel reinforcements have been used even in bricks construction for the first time in Pakistan on such a high scale. staff report

Monday, November 9, 2009

Election : Gilgit-Baltistan - 8 Languages, 10 Ethnic Groups, 6 Districts, 4 Religious sects - 24 National Assembly Seats !

With almost 2 million inhabitants Gilgit-Baltistan is a very diverse region of Pakistan. The population of this new autonomous region is divided in 4 of the Islamic faith - Shia's constitute 35%, Sunnis 35%, Ismailis 25% and Noorbukshies are 5%. Gilgit Baltistan will have 24 constituents seats in the National Assembly plus 6 Women seats and 3 Technocrat seats.

Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into six districts called Hunza-Nager, Gilgit, Koh-e-Ghizer, Ghanche, Diamir and Skardu.

Gilgit-Baltistan :

On September 7, 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan signed what was called the Gilgit- Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009 granted self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed "Gilgit-Baltistan," by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly

Gilgit :
Gilgit which is known as Dardistan and it includes 4 Districts Astore, Diamer,Gilgit and Ghizar. Major cities are Gilgit, Chilas, Hunza and Gahkuch

Baltistan :
Baltistan includes the districts of Skardu and Ghanche. Major cities are Skardu and Kaplu.

People in Gilgit :

The people belong to the Dardic race and are closely connected with Chitralis in race, culture and language. They are mostly followers of Ismaili sect headed by the Agha Khan (Muslims).

History :
This region was conquered by Maharaja Gulab Singh’s son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh between 1846 and 1860. Thousands of Dogra soldiers lost their lives in the campaigns that led to the conquest of this inhospitable but strategically very important region. The whole Dardistan including Gilgit has been merged with Pakistan and is governed by the Pakistani Central Government. This area has not been included even in the so called “Azad-Kashmir” (literally means Free/Liberated Kashmir)

Neighbours :
Gilgit-Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.

Population :
Gilgit-Baltistan population is very diverse. 35 per cent Shias, 35 per cent are Sunnis, 25 per cent Ismailis, and 5% Noorbukshies .

Elections :

The Legislative Assembly will have 24 members, who will be elected directly and in addition, there will be six women and three technocrat seats. In order to empower the Council and the Assembly on financial matters there would be a consolidated fund.The budget of the area would be presented and approved by the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

Voting Pattern :
The voting pattern is yet to be determined but Sunnis, Shias and Ismailis have divergent voting trends. None of them are in allied to each other in any way.
Shias generally support the PPP and Ismailis in Karachi support the MQM. 35% Sunnis with this diverse of a group might vote in all directions including the PML-N, MQM, PPP and maybe PML-Q. Its yet to be seen where Noorbukshies would swing towards. 25% of Baltistan constitutes of Noorbukshies.

Judges :

The Chief Judge of the Appellate Court will be appointed by the Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council on the advice of the Governor, and other judges will be appointed by the Chairman on the advice of the Governor after seeking the views of the Chief Judge. The number of judges will be increased from three to five. A Gilgit-Baltistan Public Service Commission, a separate Auditor-General and an Election Commissioner will be appointed.

The judiciary of the Northern Areas consists of district courts and a chief court, whose decisions are final.

Gilgit-Baltistan Districts and Division :

The Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into six districts called Hunza-Nager, Gilgit, Koh-e-Ghizer, Ghanche, Diamir and Skardu. These districts are grouped into three agencies or Divisions called Diamir with headquarters at Chilas, Gilgit with headquarters in Gilgit Town and Baltistan with headquarters in Skardu Town.

Population (2008) 1,800,000 (Estimate) Density 20.7/km² Area 72496 km²

Ethnic Groups :
There are eight ethnic groups : Baltis, Yashkuns, Moghal, Kashmiris, Pathans, Laddakis and Turks.

Languages :
The Shina language (with several dialects) is the language of 40% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer.
Balti dialect, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of Tibetan language group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan.
Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer.
Khowar is the major language of Ghizer.
Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal.
Domaaki is spoken by the musician clans in the region.
Pashto is also spoken by a small minority.

People who live in Gilgit Baltistan, despite that region's being referred to as part of Kashmir, do not speak Kashmiri or any of its dialects.

Sects and Religious diversity :
The four major religious sects are Sunnies, Shias, Ismailies and Noorbukshies. Sunnies are mostly in Daimer, Astore and Gilgit districts. The majority of Shias are in Skardu. Ganche Division has majority Nurbakhshi (80%), Sunnis and Shias are evenly divided with 10%. The Ismalies are mostly in Ghizer district and in Hunza sub-division of Gilgit district.

The sect-wise breakdown of population :

Population Demographics :

Gilgit District :
Gilgit Capital :

Gilgit city and division – 60% Shia, 40% Sunni;,
Nagar II : 100% Ismaili
Nagar I : 100% Shia
Gojal : Sunni, Shia and Ismailis
Aliabad : Sunni, Shia and Ismailis

Ghizar :
Capital : Gahkuch

Hunza –100% Ismaili; ,
Punial – 100% Ismaili;
Yasin – 100% Ismaili;
Ishkoman –100% Ismaili;
Gupis – 100% Ismaili;

District Daimer :
Capital Chilas :

Chilas – 100% Sunni;
Darel/Tangir – 100% Sunni;

District Astore :

Astor – 90%Sunni, 10% Shia;

Baltistan – 55% Shia,20% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshies
Divisions :

Shigar (Captial Skardu)
Gultari : 45% Shias, 30% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshie
Kharmang : 45% Shias, 30% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshie

District Ganche :
Kaplu : 80 % Noorbukshies, 10% Sunnis, 10% Shias
Mashabrum : 80 % Noorbukshies, 10% Sunnis, 10% Shias

Ethnic Run Down of the Gilgit-Baltistan area :
There are eight ethnic groups:
Laddakis and

Interesting Facts :
Demographics of Baltis as an ethnic group: Shia' denomination (13%), Nurbakhshi (80%) and Sunnis (7%).

Noorbakshi : An order of Islamic Sufism. The core message of Nurbakhshism are complete elimination of all evil desires and immoralities of human nature from one’s self; total submission of one’s wills before God (by following the Qur'an Sunnah and Ahlibeit) and finally love and peace for the whole mankind. Nurbakhshis inhabit Baltistan and Ladakh regions of J&K, as well as a large number of Noorbakshis are native to Iran, Kurdistan and Central Asia.

Terrain :
Each district can boast of at least one lofty peak. Out of 14 over 8,000 meters high peaks on earth, 4 occupy an amphitheater at the head of Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram range in Northern Pakistan. These are; K-2 or Mount Godowin Austin (8,611 m, world's second highest), Gasherbrum-I (8,068 m), Broad Peak (8,047 m) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 m). There is yet another which is equally great, Nanga Parbat (8,126 m), located at the western most end of the Himalayas. In addition to these mountains, there are 68 peaks over 7,000 m and hundreds others of over 6,000 meters.

The Northern Pakistan has some of the longest glaciers outside Polar region; Siachen (72 km), Hispar (61 km), Biafo (60 km), Baltoro (60 km) and Batura (64 km)

Geography :
Division- Baltistan :
District, Ghanche, Area (km²) 9,400 ,Headquarters Khaplu.
District, Skardu ,Area (km²) 18,000 ,Headquarters Skardu

Division - Gilgit :
District, Astore, Area (km²) 8,657, Headquarters Gorikot. Gorikot lies on the historic junction where roads link to Rattu axis and Tarisheng Base camp-Nanga Perbat and other axis leads to Gudai - Chilum & Deosai Plains linking Astore to Skardu.
District , Diamir, Area (km²) 10,936, Headquarters Chilas
District , Ghizar, Area (km²) 9,635 ,Headquarters Gahkuch
District, Gilgit ,Area (km²) 39,300 ,Headquarters Gilgit.

Books and Resources :
Sectarian War: Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia Violence and its links to the Middle East.
Demographics of Pakistan.
Languages of Pakistan.