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Afghanistan and Somalia: The Similarities

Following the withdrawal of the Soviet forces in 1992, Afghanistan was thrown into a civil war. Warlords were in charge of various sectors and they enforced their own rules Businesses had to pay them for safe transport and there were competing warlords. So if a Pakistani businessman wanted to send goods via road to Turkmenistan, he would end up lining the pockets of many warlords, which affected the profit margin. Then came the Taliban, from the madrassas in Pakistan and took over the Afghanistan and bought “stability”. They defeated various warlords and established a single point of payment.

Then they imposed Islamic laws on the poor Afghanis. Criminal punishments included amputations, and stoning. Women could go out only with a male relative and Hindus were required to a special marking on their cloth. Finally they forged a relationship with Osama bin Laden and you know the rest.

Now this story is repeating in Somalia. Following the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre in 199, the county has been in chaos. In a scene by scene replay of the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, an alliance of Islamic militias have taken over the country. Now people can walk without fear in the streets of Mogadishu.

Somalis interviewed by Reuters in Mogadishu — and Jowhar and Balad to the north, which the Islamic militia also captured last week — almost unanimously expressed happiness at the new-found stability on their streets since the power shift.

Transport was moving more freely, business was flourishing, roadblocks had come down, and guns were less visible on the streets, they said. [Islamists bring rare peace, new worry to Mogadishu]

The new rulers have started enforcing their code of conduct as well.

Abdifatah Nur, 26, said he was watching a World Cup soccer match at a movie house when Islamic militiamen crashed through the doors and ordered the television turned off. They beat the children with lashes and took the young men to a jail. Before the militiamen let their prisoners free three days later, Nur said, they whipped him and cut off his long, curly hair.

Nur said that a few days later, in a different movie house, he watched as Islamic militiamen beat the owner to death, apparently for ignoring earlier orders to not show soccer matches."I hate what they are doing," Nur said. "We have no choice.">Several leaders of the Islamic militias have said they have issued no orders banning World Cup broadcasts or requiring men to cut their hair.

Now the Taliban were happily thinking of doing business with UNOCAL when the Al-Qaeda folks landed and became party poopers.Here is the composition of the groups that make up the Union of Islamic Courts.

Alas, the truth is that the Union is made up of at least four major jihadi groups: al-Ittihad al-Islami (“Islamic Union”), a group which used to appear on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (the folks at Foggy Bottom apparently bought at face value the group’s previously self-proclaimed dissolution); al-Takfir wal-Hijra (“Excommunication and Exodus”), a group so extreme that it considered Osama bin Laden too moderate and tried to kill him in Sudan in 1996; al-Islah (“Reconciliation”), an Islamist group pushing for the establishment of a Islamic state in Somalia; and al-Tabligh (“Making Known”), an Islamist “missionary” group with links to the same madrassas in Pakistan which gave us the Taliban [WSJ:The New Taliban (subscription required)]

If you have a group which considers Osama bin Laden a moderate, you know which direction Somalia is heading.

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Human Rights for Paparazzi

Recently the Chhattisgarh government decided to give a knockout punch to the Naxalites with the help of K.P.S.Gill and our friend Praful Bidwai came out strongly against it. He was sure that this police action would violate the human rights of Adivasis. For once he has not come out against the human rights violations by the Naxalites.

This model of opposing police action, while remaining silent on brutality and murder by terrorists is not just the trade mark of Naxal supporters like Bidwai, but also of many human rights organizations. While organizations like Amnesty International scream about police and state violence all around the world, not a word comes out of their mouth against terrorists, dictators and warlords.

If an award has to be given to a human rights organization for being ridiculous, then it has to go to the one in Namibia. Angelina Jolie recently gave birth to a baby in Namibia and the paparazzi have been camping there to get photographs of the celebrity parents and the baby. The couple wanted privacy and they got it there.

Bodyguards and undercover Namibian police officers shielded the celebrity parents from journalists, erecting green cloth screens around the beach resort where they stayed. A local human rights group accused the security services of using “heavy-handed tactics” to keep the paparazzi at bay. [Hello! sues over Jolie photo leak]

Now we know Namibia is so peaceful and quiet, except for this brutality against the paparazzi.

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Heinrich Harrer

The first time I came to know about Heinrich Harrer was when I saw the movie Seven Years in Tibet. The movie was kind of boring, but Harrer’s life was fascinating. In the movie he escapes from a POW camp in Darjeeling in 1944 and crosses the mountainson foot to reach Tibet, thus being one of few westerners to reach there. He spends 7 years there, tutoring a young Dalai Lama, who many years later would take the reverse route to India

He was an accomplished mountaineer as well, climbing the Eiger, regarded as a major test of climbing ability.

After the Eiger’s hazardous east ridge was scaled in 1921, only the north face remained unconquered. The first nine climbers who attempted it in the 1930s all died.

In August 1935 two Germans, Max Sedlmayer and Karl Mehringer, made their assault on the wall. The men were abruptly halted 3,000 feet up by a terrible storm, accompanied by freezing temperatures and frequent avalanches.

They survived on the face for five agonising days, bivouacking there for four nights before freezing to death. Four more climbers died the next year while trying to retreat.

Then, in July 1938, an Austro-German team of four, Anderl Heckmair, Ludwig V├Ârg, Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer, made it to the top. It took the men, who had only decided to team up at the base of the wall, more than three days to reach the summit.[The ultimate alpine challenge]

They met Hitler and Goebbels who praised them for their achievement. Harrer died this week. In such an eventful life his only regret must have been that he was portrayed by Brad Pitt on screen.

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Pipeline Politics

2005 seems to be the year of pipelines. India has signed an agreement with Iran, but the transport protocol has not been decided yet. On the Eastern border of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to build a gas pipeline.

Land based gas pipelines are much cheaper than transporting it via tankers or deep sea pipeline and hence all this enthusiasm for building it even though it is through a country like Pakistan. Other than economics, the gas pipelines also give the countries involved an opportunity to indulge in some image improvement exercise as well as build relations.

For Iran, India

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The World in 2020

The National Intelligence Council, a group of senior intelligence analysts who report to the CIA Director have a new report on future global trends.

China and India are likely to be among the leading beneficiaries of globalization, in part because of their low-cost labor and high technology capabilities. Many of their people, however, will remain poor.

“A combination of sustained high economic growth, expanding military capabilities and large populations will be at the root of the expected rapid rise in economic and political power for both countries,” the report said.

By 2020, China’s gross domestic product, the total value of goods and services, will be greater than that of any Western country except the United States, and India’s GDP will have overtaken or will be about to overtake European economies.

Led by China and India, Asia “looks set to displace Western countries as the focus of international economic dynamism – provided Asia’s rapid economic growth continues,” it said.[Report: India, China will be major powers in 2020 (requires bugmenot)]

The full report is available online.

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