Friday, December 31

22nd Safdar Hashmi Memorial Moment

Safdar Hashmi
12 April 1954 – 2 January 1989

Born on April 12, 1954 in Delhi, Safdar did an M.A. in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, in 1975. During his years at University he became a member of the Students Federation of  India and then joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association. He was one of the founder members of the Jana Natya Manch (JANAM) in 1973. In 1976 he became a member of the CPI(M).

After brief stints of teaching at Zakir Husain College, Delhi, and the Universities at Srinagar, Garhwal and Srinagar Kashmir, he worked for a period as Press Information Officer at the West Bengal Information Centre at New Delhi.
In December 1983 he became a full-time theatre activist and party worker.

JANAM had by this time acquired national prominence in the cultural sphere with plays such as Machine, Aurat, Gaon Se Shahar Tak, Raja Ka Baja and Hatyare.
Safdar wrote the songs for these plays and contributed greatly to the scripts which dealt with issues concerning the exploited sections of society. Largely due to Safdar’s efforts, JANAM has played a major role in the creation of an all-India street theatre movement.

Safdar’s creativity was not confined to JANAM. He has written poems and plays and done sketches and masks for children, designed hundreds of posters, written scripts and directed short films for television, and written on culture and theatre for national newspapers and the SFI journal Student Struggle. He was one of the main organisers of the Committee for Communal Harmony and its activities to counter the rise of communal, fundamentalist and divisive forces.

He organised a number of seminars and workshops on theatre and culture. Safdar was developing the idea of nation-wide democratic cultural movement and envisaged the organisation of a ‘Janotsav’ to generate forms appropriate to the experiences and struggles of the Indian people.

In recognition of his contribution to the street theatre movement and to the growth of a democratic culture, the Calcutta University conferred on Safdar Hashmi the degree of D.Litt. posthumously.

Safdar’s political commitment and artistic creativity, coupled with a keen sense of fun and irrepressible friendliness and warmth, made him extremely popular not only among those he had worked with but even those who had met him only briefly. With his death the CPI(M), the Jana Natya Manch, the cultural movement and the democratic and secular forces of the country have lost a beloved friend, a talented artist and a committed political activist.

Safdar Hashmi: Fighting for justice till the end

On the afternoon of January 1, 1989, Safdar Hashmi's troupe Jana Natya Manch (Janam) was performing a play -- Halla Bol -- in Sahibabad, on the outskirts of Delhi.
People poured in to see the thought provoking play, which was about factory workers in Sahibabad who were on strike to protest against their employers and the government.
In the crowd were henchmen of the 'ruling elite', who were targeted in the play.
They dragged Hashmi out and beat him in front of the crowd, repeatedly hitting his head with a stone. He bled profusely and died on his way to the hospital. Hashmi was 34 then.
Fourteen years after the incident, a Delhi court on Tuesday convicted nine people, including Congress member Mukesh Sharma, for killing Hashmi.
The activist was campaigning in favour of one Ramnath Jha, against whom Sharma was contesting the parliamentary election.
Hashmi was an activist, playwright, actor, teacher, member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, and a columnist for a national daily.
He made street play an important tool of mass communication and expression of political ideology.
A day after his funeral, his wife Moloyshree went to Sahibabad with the troupe and completed the play.
The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust is now carrying on his legacy.
Hashmi, son of Haneef and Qamar Azad Hashmi, grew up in Aligarh and Delhi.
After completing his school, Hashmi went to St Stephen's College in Delhi. He joined the Students' Federation of India , youth wing of the CPI-M, and worked with its cultural unit.
He then joined the Indian People's Theatre Association, where he went on to produce several plays.
Hashmi's initiation to street theatre came when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was accused of rigging elections, refused to resign.
Janam came up with a short skit called Kursi, Kursi, Kursi (Chair, Chair, Chair) about a king who is in power when his replacement is elected. He gets up from his chair but the chair rises with him. Despite trying, it is impossible to separate the two. The troupe performed this skit outside on the Boat Club lawns in New Delhi every day for about a week. Each day thousands of people came.
In 1975, Gandhi imposed Emergency and banned all political activities. During these years Hashmi taught English literature in universities in Garhwal and Kashmir.
He returned to Delhi in 1978 and started doing plays for Janam. He was also in the forefront of CPI-M activities.
One of his famous plays, Gaon Se Shahr Tak (From Village To City), focused on the problems of migrant labourers. Other subjects included communal riots, oppression of women, mismanagement and corruption.
He explained the importance of May Day to common people by using the speeches of the four Chicago workers who were jailed in 1886. Most of the plays were performed in slums, working class neighbourhoods, factories and workshops.
Hashmi developed a kind of political theatre that effectively expressed the concerns of the working class and peasantry. He had a melodious voice and used traditional folk songs in his plays.
Hashmi worked for the Press Trust of India and later The Economic Times. He also produced several documentary films. He wrote the theme song, Ek Purdah Nasheen (A Veiled Woman), for the documentary In Secular India, which dealt with the controversial Muslim Women's Bill passed in May 1986.
He also worked for communal harmony during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984.
Hashmi was involved in building ties with progressive groups in Pakistan. In 1987 and 1988, he and Badal Sircar, the prominent playwright and director, held a series of workshops for Pakistani political theatre groups in Karachi and Lahore.

 Safdar Hashmi (April 12, 1954 – January 2, 1989) was a Communist playwright, actor, director, lyricist, and theorist, chiefly associated with Street theatre in India, and is still considered an important voice in political theatre in India.
He was a founding member of Jana Natya Manch (People's Theatre Front; Janam for short) in 1973, which grew out of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). He was brutally murdered in Delhi while performing a street play, Halla Bol.
Early life and education
Safdar Hasmi was born on April 12, 1954 in Delhi to Haneef and Qamar Azad Hashmi. He spent early part of his life in Aligarh and Delhi, where he grew up in liberal Marxist environment, and went on to complete his schooling in Delhi.
He graduated from St Stephen's College Delhi in English Literature, and did M.A. English from Delhi University, it was here that he became a associated with the cultural unit of 'Student Federation of India', the youth wing of the CPI-M, and eventually with IPTA, with which he went on to work on several plays during and post his graduation years such as Kimlesh, presented at the Kisan Sabha (Peasant’s Union) All India conference, and Dekhte Lena.
Career and Activism
The issue is not where the play is performed (and street theatre is only a mode of ensuring that art is available to the people), but the principle issue is the "definite and unresolvable contradiction between the bourgeois individualist view of art and the people's collectivist view of art.
- Safdar Hashmi, The Enchanted Arch, Or the Individual and Collective Views of Art (April 1983), The Right to Perform, pp. 28-29.
 He co-founded Jana Natya Manch, People's Theatre Front or JANAM (birth), as an acronym, in 1973, which grew out of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) and was associated with Communist Party of India (Marxist), with which he was actively involved in 1970s. When Indian Prime Minister, was blamed with rigging the elections, he produced a street play, 'Kursi, Kursi, Kursi' (Chair, Chair, Chair), wherein, when a king tries to leave his throne for an elected public representaive, the throne lifts along with him. The play was performed everyday for a week, at the Boat Club Lawns in New Delhi, then a hub of political activity, and proved to be a turning point for the group.
Till 1975, Janam performed open-air proscenium and street plays for mass audiences, then during the Emergency years (1975–77), he worked as a lecturer in English literature in universities in Garhwal, Kashmir and Delhi.
Post Emergency he returned to political activism, and in 1978 Janam took to street theatre in a big way, with Machine which was performed for a trade union meeting of over 200,000 workers on 20 November 1978. This was followed by plays on the distress of small peasants (Gaon Se Shahar Tak), on clerical fascism (Hatyare & Apharan Bhaichare Ke), on unemployment (Teen Crore), on violence against women (Aurat) and on inflation (DTC ki Dhandhli). He also produced several documentaries and a TV serial for Doordarshan “Khilti Kaliyan” (Flowers in Bloom) on rural empowerment. He also wrote books for children, and criticism of the Indian stage.
He was the de-facto director of Janam, and till his death, 'Janam' gave about 4,000 performances of 24 street plays, performed mostly working-class neighborhoods, factories and workshops.
He was a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the largest communist party in India. In 1979, he married his comrade and theatre actress, Moloyshree. Later he worked in the Press Trust of India (PTI), Economic Times as a journalist and then joined as the Press Information Officer of the Govt. of West Bengal in Delhi. In 1984, he gave up his job and devoted himself full-time to political activism.
Safdar’s output includes two proscenium plays – an adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s Enemies (1983), and Moteram ka Satyagraha (with Habib Tanvir, 1988) – many songs, a television series script, poems and plays for children, and documentary films. While committed to radical, popular, leftwing art, Safdar refrained from clichéd portrayals and was not afraid of formal experimentation.
On 1 January 1989, while performing a street play, Halla Bol (Attack!), during Ghaziabad municipal elections, at Sahibabad's Jhandapur village, (near Delhi), the Janam troupe was attacked by political hoodlums of Indian National Congress Party. Safdar succumbed to his injuries the following day. On January 4, 1989, two days after his death, his wife Moloyshree Hashmi, went to the same spot again, with the troupe of 'Jan Natya Manch' and defiantly completed the play.
Fourteen years after the incident, a Ghaziabad court convicted ten people, including Congress Party member Mukesh Sharma, for the murder.
He has become a symbol of cultural resistance against authoritarianism for the Indian left. Janam continues its theatre work in Delhi. The writer Bhisham Sahni, along with many other artists, founded the 'Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust' (SAHMAT) in February 1989, as an open platform for politically and socially conscious artistes. Safdar Hashmi's writings were later collected in The Right to Perform: Selected Writings of Safdar Hashmi (New Delhi, 1989).
Today, each year on January 1, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Day, is observed as a 'Day of Resolve' by SAHMAT, and a day-long cultural congregation, 'Jashn-e-Daura', is organized in New Delhi. The day is also commemorated by 'Jan Natya Manch', the theatre group he co-founded in 1973, by organizing street plays at Jhandapur village, in Sahibabad, where he was killed. In 1998, 'Safdar Hashmi Natyasangham' was formed in Kozhikode, Kerala, which provides free training to economically backward students.
The 2008 film, Halla Bol, made by Rajkumar Santoshi, was inspired by his life, and also depicts a scene, where a street theatre activist is shown being beaten by political goons, but turns into a catalyst for public uprising in the film.

Master painter M F Husain joined the million-dollar club with his painting on Safdar Hashmi going under the hammer for over $1 million. An unidentified art collector went past the keenly fought bidding at an auction organised by Emami Chisel Art Auction House in Kolkata to bag 'Tribute to Hashmi' for $1.038 million (approx Rs 4.4 crore). Incidentally, this was the first painting of an Indian artist to cross the Rs ten lakh mark in 1989.

Nine convicted in Safdar Hashmi murder case

A Ghaziabad court has convicted nine persons for the murder of noted theatre activist Safdar Hashmi 14 years ago.
Additional District Sessions Judge C D Rai found the accused guilty after examining about 24 witnesses and will sentence them on Wednesday.
Those convicted are Mukesh Sharma, Devi Saran Sharma, Jitendra, Ramautar, Vinod, Yunus, Bhagat Bahadur, Tahir and Ramesh.
Hashmi, a CPI-M leader, was beaten to death while performing a street play Halla Bol during municipal elections in Jhandapur Sahibabad area here on January 1, 1989 by the main accused Mukesh Sharma and others.
The theatre activist was campaigning in favour of one Ramanath Jha against whom Mukesh Sharma was contesting.
All the accused were present in the court.
Reacting to the ruling, CPI-M general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet said, "It is a welcome verdict, though belated."

Tuesday, November 2

Endosulfan : Fact Sheet

 Fact Sheet

Persistent organic pollutant
Endosulfan is a ‘persistent organic pollutant’ (POP) as defined under the Stockholm
Convention: it is persistent in the environment, bioaccumulative, demonstrates long
range environmental transport, and causes adverse effects to human health and the
environment. Endosulfan is listed as a POP in the Convention on Long-range
Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), and is recognised as a Persistent Toxic
Substance by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Yesterday’s pesticide
First registered for use in 1954, endosulfan is a broad spectrum organochlorine
insecticide. Following international recognition of their long term negative impacts on
the global environment, organochlorines, including DDT, chlordane and HCH, have
been largely eliminated from use in global agriculture. Endosulfan remains the major
exception and is still widely applied to crops – particularly in the developing world.

 Widespread contamination
Due to its potential to evaporate and travel long distances in the atmosphere,
endosulfan has become one of world’s most widespread pollutants. Endosulfan is
now found extensively in global water resources, soils, air, rainfall, snow and ice
deposits and oceans, including in remote ecosystems such as the Arctic, Antarctic,
 Great Lakes, Canadian Rockies, Costa Rican rainforests, Alps, and Himalayas.

In human breast milk
Endosulfan is a widespread contaminant of human breast milk and has been found in
samples from women in Egypt, Madagascar, South Africa, El Salvador, Kazakhstan,
India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Spain, Colombia, Nicaragua, Sub-Saharan Africa,
Denmark and Finland, and in umbilical cord blood samples in Denmark, Finland,
Spain, USA, Japan. A survey of women in Denmark and Finland found endosulfan in
all samples of breast milk (total = 280) and in all placental samples (total = 130).
Neither country has ever recorded heavy use of endosulfan.

Threats to wildlife
According to the European Union “endosulfan is very toxic to nearly all kinds of
organisms”.1 Levels in the environment are frequently high enough to impact on
wildlife. According to the US EPA, “Monitoring data and incident reports confirm that
endosulfan is moving through aquatic and terrestrial food chains and that its use has
resulted in adverse effects on the environment adjacent to and distant from its
registered use sites”.2 Endosulfan is detected in the tissues of animals worldwide,
including polar bears, antelope, crocodiles, Minke whales, and African vultures.

Arctic contamination
Arctic concentrations of other organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT, chlordane,
and HCH, are now falling. Yet levels of endosulfan remain high. A 2005 study
showed a 3-fold increase in the concentration of endosulfan in the blubber of Beluga
whales. Arctic fish species show a similar trend. According to the US EPA: “Based on
the detection of endosulfan in areas distant from use sites, such as the Arctic, and its
potential to persist and bioaccumulate, the [US EPA] Agency has concerns for
dietary exposure of indigenous peoples to endosulfan.”3

Unsafe to users
According to the US EPA, endosulfan presents “short- and intermediate-term risks for
mixers, loaders, and applicators for the majority of uses, even with maximum
Personal Protective Equipment and engineering controls”.4 Mandatory safety
equipment in the US includes chemical resistant footwear, chemical resistant gloves,
chemical resistant head gear and a respirator. A survey of endosulfan sprayers
working in Spain found 100% (total = 220) had traces of the insecticide in their blood.

Widespread poisonings
Endosulfan is one of the most frequently reported causes of unintentional poisoning,5
particularly in Asia, Latin America, and West Africa. Most cases occur as a result of
occupational exposure. Poisoning incidents, including fatalities, are documented in
Benin, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines,
Mali, New Zealand, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Togo, Turkey and USA.

Impacts on health
Acute endosulfan poisoning can cause convulsions, psychiatric disturbances,
epilepsy, paralysis, brain oedema, impaired memory and death. Long term exposure
is linked to immunosuppression, neurological disorders, congenital birth defects, 
chromosomal abnormalities, mental retardation, impaired learning and memory loss.

Food contamination
Endosulfan is an abundant food contaminant globally and is present in a wide range
of fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products (milk, butter, cheese) and meat
(beef, lamb, pork). In Africa, Asia and South America, endosulfan is present in
drinking water resources, while in USA, China, Australia and West Africa, endosulfan
has been detected in fish and seafood.

Towards a global ban
Endosulfan is banned or withdrawn in 55 countries worldwide; mostly in Europe,
West Asia and the Far East. In February 2008, Benin became the first major West
African country to announce a ban, following recommendations from local pest 
management experts.

Safer alternatives are available
Successful replacement of endosulfan has been achieved in all countries where
endosulfan is now banned including France, Spain, Greece and Portugal – all major
users prior to the EU ban in 2006. Farmers in some non-EU countries have also
converted away from endosulfan, including in cotton, soy and coffee production. A
2008 study in Sri Lanka showed that yields of all crops, including rice and tea, have
been maintained since a national ban in 1998.

The information above is drawn from ‘Information for the consideration of Endosulfan, Provision of information to the
Stockholm Convention Secretariat for use by the POPs Review Committee (POPRC), Pesticide Action Network
(PAN) International, 30 June 2008’.
Key references are indicated below:

1 GFEA-U. 2007. Endosulfan. Draft Dossier prepared in support of a proposal of endosulfan to be considered as a
candidate for inclusion in the CLRTAP protocol on persistent organic pollutants. German Federal Environment
Agency – Umweltbundesamt Berlin, February

2 US EPA. 2007. Addendum to the Ecological Risk Assessment for Endosulfan. Memorandum to Special Review and
Reregistration Branch. October 31. EPA-HQ-OPP-2002-0262-0063
3 US EPA. 2007. Note to reader. Endosulfan Readers Guide. November 16. EPA-HQ-OPP-2002-0262-0057

4 US EPA. 2007. Note to reader. Endosulfan Readers Guide. November 16. EPA-HQ-OPP-2002-0262-0057

5 GFEA-U. 2007. Endosulfan. Draft Dossier prepared in support of a proposal of endosulfan to be considered as a
candidate for inclusion in the CLRTAP protocol on persistent organic pollutants. German Federal Environment
Agency – Umweltbundesamt Berlin, February

Friday, October 29

The Truth about the Unemployment Rate in America

Changes in the unemployment rate are driven by interaction of job destruction, which consists of job losses through voluntary and involuntary job termination and job creation resulting in the hiring of employees. This interplay of job destruction and job creation drives the changes and direction of the unemployment rate. James Sherk at the Heritage Institute points out in his latest article that job losses in the current recession are not as severe as they were during the recession in 2001. The reason the unemployment rate is so much higher in the current recession is due to the lack of job creation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLT (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) data, not only are private sector job losses now at a level lower than in the 2001, but job creation is 20% lower since the recession trough of 2001. Job creation is reflected in the JOLT statistics as hires. Job destruction is shown as job losses due to job separations, both voluntary and involuntary. For example, if a person voluntarily quits a job to take a new job, this shows in the statistics as one job destroyed and one job created. Figure 1 below shows the jobs created versus jobs destroyed from 2001 until April 2010. The thick horizontal line in the table shows the level of jobs created at the low point of the 2001 recession. As of the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the level of jobs created stands about 20% below the level in 2002. Furthermore, the jobs being destroyed are at the same level

 as has existed over the average of the last ten years, with the exception of the period beginning at the latest recession in December 2007. Figure 2 shows that the stimulus bill has a positive effect on the jobs at the government level; it also shows the level of government job creation and destruction for all levels of

government, including federal, state, and local from 2001 to April 2010. During the current recession, job creation and destruction are correlated as one would expect from government, where reductions in force do not generally occur. Government jobs do not disappear except in the case of temporary workers, such as the 411,000 census workers hired as outlined in the May jobs report. Job destruction in the private sector is now at a level consistent with the level from 2002 to 2008.

President Obama claimed in February 2009 when the $787B stimulus bill was passed that three and a half million jobs would be created or saved. Aside from the obvious obfuscation and inability to measure "jobs saved," he has accomplished this objective -- in the government sector, but the cost to private-sector job creation can be readily seen from the charts above.

None of the initiatives that this current administration has pursued has improved job creation.

  • $1.4B in deficits
  • Passage of ObamaCare
  • Takeover of GM and Chrysler
  • Bailout of financial institutions that are too big to fail
  • And now, a moratorium on off-shore oil drilling off the Gulf coast.
  • And lets not forget that an energy tax is still possible, which could enable a further reduction in the manufacturing base in the U.S.

Of course, since neither the president nor his key advisors have any private-sector experience, they cannot be expected to know how jobs are created in the private sector. President Obama is now pushing Congress to pass an additional $50B spending bill to extend unemployment benefits and bail out state governments. Americans want jobs and the ability to participate in an economy whereby through an individual's efforts, a brighter future can become reality. Unemployment benefits are no substitute for a job.

 Courtesy: Alan Aronoff

Wednesday, October 27

History of the Taliban: Who They Are, What They Want

The Taliban: An Introduction

The Taliban are back

The Taliban—from the Arabic word for student, “taleb”—are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, mostly from Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribes. The Taliban dominates large swaths of Afghanistan and a large part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The Taliban seek to establish a puritanical caliphate that neither recognizes nor tolerates forms of Islam divergent from their own. They scorn democracy or any secular or pluralistic political process as an offense against Islam. The Taliban’s Islam, however, a close kin of Saudi Arabian Wahhabism, is far more perversion than interpretation. The Taliban’s version of Islamic law, or Sharia, is historically inaccurate, contradictory, self-serving and fundamentally deviant from prevailing interpretations of Islamic law and practice.

The Taliban's Origins

A young boy carries a heavy bag in a refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan in June 2008. The upsurge of fighting in southern Afghanistan during 2006 has compelled tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

There was no such thing as a Taliban until the Afghanistan’s civil war in the wake of Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, after a decade-long occupation. But by the time their last troops withdrew in February 1989, they’d left a nation in social and economic shards, 1.5 million dead, millions of refugees and orphans in Iran and Pakistan, and gaping political vacuum that warlords attempted to fill. Afghan mujahideen warlords replaced their war with the Soviets with a civil war.
Thousands of Afghan orphans grew up never knowing Afghanistan or their parents, especially their mothers. They were schooled in Pakistan’s madrassas, religious schools which, in this case, were encouraged and financed by Pakistani and Saudi authorities to develop militantly inclined Islamists. Pakistan nurtured that corps of militants as proxy fighters in Pakistan’s ongoing conflict with over Muslim-dominated (and disputed) Kashmir. But Pakistan consciously intended to use the madrassas’ militants as leverage in its attempt to control Afghanistan as well.
As Jeri Laber of Human Rights Watch wrote in the New York Review of Books of the origins of the Taliban in refugee camps (recalling an article he’d written in 1986),
Hundreds of thousands of youths, who knew nothing of life but the bombings that destroyed their homes and drove them to seek refuge over the border, were being raised to hate and to fight, “in the spirit of Jihad,” a “holy war” that would restore Afghanistan to its people. “New kinds of Afghans are being born in the struggle,” I reported. “Caught in the midst of a grownups’ war, the young Afghans are under intense political pressure from one side or another, almost from birth." [...] The children that I interviewed and wrote about in 1986 are now young adults. Many are now with the Taliban.

Mullah Omar and the Taliban's Rise in Afghanistan

An undated photograph believed to be of the Taliban's Mullah Muhammad Omar, who is said never to allow himself to be photographed.
As civil war was ravaging Afghanistan, Afghans were desperate for a stabilizing counter-force that would put an end to the violence.
The Taliban’s most original aims were, as Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani journalist and author of Taliban (2000), wrote, to “restore peace, disarm the population, enforce Sharia law and defend the integrity and Islamic character of Afghanistan.
As most of them were part-time or full-time students at madrassas, the name they chose for themselves was natural. A talib is an Islamic student, one who seeks knowledge compared to the mullah who is one who gives knowledge. By choosing such a name the Taliban (plural of Talib) distanced themselves from the party politics of the mujahideen and signaled that they were a movement for cleansing society rather than a party trying to grab power.”
For their leader in Afghanistan, the Taliban turned to Mohammed Omar, an itinerant preacher likely born in 1959 in Nodeh village near Kandahar, in southeastern Afghanistan. He had neither tribe nor religious pedigree. He had fought the Soviets and been wounded four times, including once in the eye. His reputation was that of a pious ascetic.
Omar's reputation grew when he ordered a group of Taliban militants to arrest a warlord who had captured two teenage girls and raped them. The 30 Talibs, with just 16 rifles between them—or so goes the story, one of many near-mythical accounts that have grown around Omar’s history—attacked the commander’s based, freed the girls, and hanged the commander by their favorite means: from the barrel of a tank, in full view, as an example of Taliban justice.
The Taliban’s reputation grew through similar feats.

Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan's Intelligence Services and the Taliban

Religious indoctrination in Pakistan’s madrassas and Omar’s campaigns against rapists alone were not the light that lit the Taliban fuse. The Pakistani intelligence services known as the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, the Pakistani military and Benazir Bhutto, who was prime minister of Pakistan during the Taliban’s most politically and militarily formative years (1993-96), all saw in the Taliban a proxy army they could manipulate to Pakistan’s ends.
In 1994, Bhutto’s government appointed the Taliban as protector of Pakistani convoys through Afghanistan. Controlling trade routs and the lucrative windfalls those routes provide in Afghanistan is a major source of lucre and power. The Taliban proved uniquely effective, swiftly defeating other warlords and conquering major Afghan cities.
Beginning in 1994, The Taliban rose to power and established their brutal, totalitarian rule over 90 percent of the country, in part by leading a genocidal campaign against Afghanistan’s Shiite, or Hazara.

The Taliban and the Clinton Administration

Following Pakistan’s lead, the Clinton administration initially supported the Taliban’s rise. Clinton’s judgment was clouded by the question that has often led American policy astray in the region: Who can best check Iran’s influence? In the 1980s, the Reagan administration armed and financed Saddam Hussein under the assumption that a totalitarian Iraq was more acceptable than an unbridled, Islamic Iran. The policy backfired in the form of two wars, one of which has yet to end. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration also funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan as well as their Islamist supporters in Pakistan. That blowback took the form of al-Qaeda. As the Soviets withdrew and the cold war ended, American support for Afghan mujahideen stopped abruptly, but military and diplomatic support for Afghanistan did not. Under the influence of Benazir Bhutto, the Clinton administration voiced itself willing to open a dialogue with the Taliban in the mid-1990s, especially as the Taliban was the only force in Afghanistan capable of guaranteeing another American interest in the region — potential oil pipelines.
On Sept. 27, 1996, Glyn Davies, a State Department spokesman, expressed hope that the Taliban “will move quickly to restore order and security and to form a representative interim government that can begin the process of reconciliation nationwide.” Davies called the Taliban’s execution of former Afghan President Najibullah merely “regrettable,” and said the United States would send diplomats to Afghanistan to meet with the Taliban, potentially to re-establishing full diplomatic ties. The Clinton’s administration’s flirtation with the Taliban did not last, however, as Madeleine Albright, incensed by the Taliban’s treatment of women, among other regressive measures, halted it when she became secretary of state in January 1997.

The Taliban's Repressions and Regressions: A War on Women

Where the Buddhist colossus once stood, withstanding the barbarism of Genegis Khan and that of invaders before and since--until the Taliban demolished it in February-March 2001.

The Taliban's long lists of edicts and decrees took an especially misogynistic view of women. Schools for girls were closed. Women were forbidden to work or leave their homes without verifiable permission. Wearing non-Islamic dress was forbidden. Wearing make-up, sporting western products like purses or shoes, was forbidden. Music, dancing, cinemas, any form of non-religious broadcasting and entertainment were banned. Lawbreakers were beaten, flogged, shot or beheaded.
In 1994, Osama bin Laden moved to Kandahar as a guest of Mullah Omar. On Aug. 23, 1996, bin Laden declared war on the United States and exerted increasing influence on Omar, helping to fund the Taliban’s offensives against other warlords in the north of the country. That lavish financial support made it impossible for Mullah Omar not to protect bin Laden when Saudi Arabia, then the United States, pressured the Taliban to extradite bin Laden. The fates and ideology of al-Qaeda and the Taliban became intertwined.
At the height of their power, in March 2001, the Taliban demolished the two enormous, centuries-old Buddha statues of Bamiyan, an act that showed to the world in ways that the Taliban’s wanton massacres and oppression should have much earlier the ruthless, distorted Puritanism of the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.

The Taliban's 2001 Downfall

A Taliban militant sporting the beard required by Taliban edict contributes money at a table for 'mujahideen' in the village of Koza Bandi in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, a tribal area controlled by the Taliban.

The Taliban were overthrown in the 2001 American-backed invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban were never defeated, however. They retreated, regrouped, especially in Pakistan, and by 2006 were again controlling vast swaths of southern and western Afghanistan while inflicting heavy casualties on NATO and American forces. The Pakistani Taliban is just as powerful. It now controls Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, virtually immune from Pakistani law and authority. Mullah Omar and bin laden are believed to be hiding in those tribal areas—and planning strategy against the NATO-American presence in Afghanistan, against Pakistan’s secular rulers, as well as tactically directing al-Qaeda attacks elsewhere in the world. In 2007, al-Qaeda was responsible for close to 30 attacks, the most, for a single year, in its history.

Sunday, October 24

The 10 Poorest Countries Of The World

The level of economy in countries around the globe is not even. It is somewhere very high and somewhere very low. GDP, literacy rate and employment rate are several parameters of a country to determine the level of its economy. According to a report of the United Nations, hunger causes the death of about 25,000 people everyday. Unfortunately, the number of children is greater than that of adults. Consider several facts of income disparity between rich and poor nations to measure the cleavage between the haves and the haves not. The combined income of the world’s richest individuals leaves far behind that of the poorest 416 million. 982 million out of 4.8 billion people in the developing world live on $1 a day. Another 2.5 billion live on below $2 a day. 40% of the poorest population made up 5% of world income while 20% of the richest population made up 75% of global income in 2005.
A country with a GDP per capita of $765 dollars or less is defined as a low-income or poor country. You may wonder why poor countries remain poor. Some interrelated factors like geography, industrialization, colonialism, education, resources, infrastructure, overpopulation, investment, government and debt make poor countries remain the heavy foot of poverty.
Look into the fragile features of the ten poorest countries of the world.

10. Ethiopia (GDP – per capita: $700)

Seen Better Days - Ethiopia
“The Sadomo region of the Ethiopia is known for producing the best coffee second to Harar….Make Trade Fair!” mcandrea

Ethiopia ranks 170 out of 177 the poorest countries on the Human Development Index (UNDP HDI 2006). Half of its GDP depends on agricultural activity. The agricultural sector suffers lowdown because of poor cultivation techniques and frequent drought. 50% of its population 74.7 million bears the burden of poverty and 80% lives on bread line. 47% of males and 31% of females are literate. Some parts of Ethiopia run a high risk of hepatitis A, hepatitis E, typhoid fever, malaria, rabies, meningococcal meningitis and schistosomiasis.
Child Poverty

09. Niger (GDP – per capita: $700)

Niger with a population of 12.5 million is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Drought is a common natural calamity in Niger. It often undergoes a phase of severe food crisis. 63% of its total population lives on below $1 a day. Adult literacy rate is as low as 15%. Life expectancy spans up to 46 years. A number of people die of hepatitis A, diarrhea, malaria, meningococcal meningitis and typhoid fever.
“Escaping from poverty”

08. Central African Republic (GDP – per capita: $700)

Rebel in northern Central African Republic
“Rebel in northern Central African Republic” 

The Central African Republic ranks 171 as a poor country. Agriculture is the backbone of its unstable economy. Life expectancy of its meager population 4.3 ranges from 43.46 to 43.62 years. 13.5% of its population is at risk of AIDS.
Destruction in the north-west
“Boy in front of destroyed homes in Ngaoundaye, Central African Republic. Since early 2007, the troubled region has been caught up in fighting between APRD rebels and government troops.” hdptcar

07. Guinea-Bissau (GDP – per capita: $600)

“Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Bijene, January 2005. Mbemba Djaló, 13 years young, earns some extra cash after school, running his little shop at the veranda of an abandoned colonial house. Photography by Ernst Schade” ernst schade

The rank of Guinea Bissau as a poor country is 172. Farming and fishing are the only pillars of its economy. The level of income is not even in all parts of the country. About 10% of its adult population is at risk of HIV.

06. Union of the Comoros (GDP – per capita: $600)

Itsandra at sunset
Population growth and unemployment at a high rate are responsible for the poor economy of Union of the Comoros. Population density at a rate of 1000 per square km in agriculture zones may result in an environmental crisis. Agricultural contribution to its GDP is 40%. The low level of education has raised the level of labor force. Economy mainly depends on foreign grants.

05. Republic of Somalia (GDP – per capita: $600)

“Sixteen million people in eastern Africa are in need of emergency food aid and the threat of starvation is severe, according to FAO’s latest report on the Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in sub-Saharan Africa.” ☠ ● qυєєη σƒ яσ¢к ● ☠

Agriculture is the base of the economy of Republic of Somalia in the Horn of Africa. Nomads and semi-nomads comprise a major part of the population. Rearing livestock is the primary source of livelihood for them. The small agricultural industry contributes 10% to its GDP.
“Mogadishu. October 2004. View of Mogadishu north. Mogadishu is the place where effects of the conflict are more striking. There are arround 400.000 internally displaced persons. Access to health structures is quite impossible for the danger to circulate in the streets where combats are on-going and all type infrastructures have disapeared: water, sanitation, schools… The absence of state during more than 13 years has made impossible any investment in public structures. It is estimated that around 72% of Somalia’s population lacks access to basic healthcare services and the healthcare system is in ruins.” abdisalla

04. The Solomon Islands (GDP – per capita: $600)

Solomon Islands Tsunami -- Minister whose church was washed away
“Solomon Islands Tsunami — Minister whose church was washed away” 

The Solomon Islands is a country in Melanesia. Fishing holds its domestic economy. Above 75% of the labor class, is involved in fishing. Timber was the main product for export until 1998. Palm oil and copra are important cash crops for export. The Solomon Islands are rich in mineral resources like zinc, lead, gold and nickel.

03. Republic of Zimbabwe (GDP – per capita: $500)

“The expression on these guys faces says a million things, weak from hunger and too poor to own shoes or have a shirt to wear. This is all because of the tyrant they call a president.
A beautiful country ruined because of one mans greed. ”
Mr Sean
Republic of Zimbabwe is located between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers in the south of Africa. Its economy suffers a slowdown due to supply shortage, soaring inflation and foreign exchange shortage. Zimbabwe’s involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo left its economy fragile. The worst consequence of the knelt-down economy is unemployment that is as high as 80%.
“March, 5, 2008. The Zimbabwean currency tumbled to a record 25 million dollars for a single US dollar”

02. Republic of Liberia (GDP – per capita: $500)

Young boy looks through hole in garbage dump
“MONROVIA, LIBERIA – NOVEMBER 12, 2006 : Young Liberian boy standing on Randal street in Monrovia looks through a hole in a garbage filled car that has been turned on its side and salvaged fro spare parts. ( Photo by: Christopher Herwig )”

Republic of Liberia on the west coast of Africa is one of the ten poorest economies across the globe. A decline in the export of commodities, the flight of many investors from the country, the unjust exploitation of the country’s diamond resource, looting and war profiteering during the civil war in 1990 brought the economy of the country to its knees. External debt of the country is more than its GDP.
Government child soldiers
“Liberia: Government child soldiers,Ganta; on the back of their truck is an anti-aircraft gun. © Teun Voeten, 2003.
Liberia’s decade-long civil war was fuelled by weapons imported in to the country in violation of a UN arms embargo. Shipments over three months in 2002 from a Serbian security company, for example, brought in enough bullets to kill the entire population of Liberia.”

01. Republic of the Congo (GDP – per capita: $300)

Street of Kinshasa
“This picture shows what Kinshasa is: full of contradictions. The beauty of the sunlight, nature, happy people contrasts with the filth on the streets, disorganisation, poverty… These two persons seem to stand there, in the middle of all that. Can they push the country forward… Are they part of a generation that will one day live in a modern Democratic Republic of Congo, freed of all suffering and pain?” fredogaza

Republic of the Congo in Central Africa is the last at the bottom of the economic heaps. Depreciation of Franc Zone currencies, incredibly high levels of inflation in 1994, eruption of the civil war, and continuation of armed conflict and slumping oil price in 1998 broke down the economy of the country.
Former child soldiers
“A group of ‘kotelengana’, or former child soldiers, in DRC” War Child UK

GDP – per capita (PPP) 2008 Country Ranks
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2008