Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Belgian Committee Discriminates and Threatens Personal Freedoms

Belgian parliamentary committee supported a nationwide ban on wearing full face veils in public. The ban will become Belgium law if the Belgian parliament supports the ban. Fines would be imposed for anyone wearing full face cover.

Belgium is a democratic country. Within that democracy, citizens have freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief.

The proposed ban is counter to the basic tenant of a people's democracy, freedom of expression (including freedom of religious belief). Is it the Belgium government's place to tell people what to wear and what to believe? Is it the Belgium government's place to judge religious customs and beliefs? Is it the Belgium government's place to discriminate against a particular minority, when the actions of the minority, wearing veils for example, does not harm others?

The proposed veil ban, if brought into Belgium law, would represent a movement away from a people's democracy.

Belgian Committee Backs Veil Ban

Obama Sacrifices Environment for Marginal Economic Gain

Obama announced a plan to allow U.S. offshore drilling for oil and gas, and at the expense of potential environmental harm to U.S. coastal areas.

Do the American people want to sacrifice their environment for marginal economic gain?

Does Obama represent the American people, or is he acting reckless and narrow-minded?

Does the U.S. President have too much power, especially with Democratic control of the US Congress and Senate?

Obama's decision is consistent with the recent CITIES Forum on endangered marine life, whereby commerical interests took precedence over wildlife/environmental interests. (See below) As on other matters such as Afghanistan, Obama remarks that he has not taken the decision lightly--is that his way of justifying the decision? Was he influenced by the oil and gas interest lobbies?

Obama Plan to Allow US Offshore Drilling

Monday, March 29, 2010

Democracy or Politicians at Fault for Not Protecting Wildlife?

Last week, the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES met to deal with some pressing marine issues: severe declines in bluefin tuna and shark populations, threats to polar bears, threats to coral reefs etc.,

CITIES failed to protect the bluefin tuna, seven shark species, polar bears, and coral reefs. The only notable gains were protection for one shark species, the porbeagle, which means exporters of the shark will now be required to obtain special permits to prove that the fish were caught in a legal and sustainably managed fishery. Also, protections for several reptile and amphibian species were also approved.

Is democracy at fault for the failure of CITIES to protect endangered marine species?

Why did Canada, a democratic nation, reject a proposal to protect the polar bear through banning trade in polar bear skins and thereby help offset the affects of global warming on polar bears? Do these Canadian politicians represent will of the people of Canada--viz., the Canadian people are willing to risk the survival of the polar bears in order to continue polar bear commercial activity (e.g. sport hunting), and even though Canadian people in the Artic areas are not dependent on polar bears for survival (i.e. they have other food and clothing sources)?

Why did Japan, a democratic nation, take lead in rejecting protection for the plummeting bluefin tuna? Do commercial interests trump common sense and what the people want? Why would Japan politicians cling to the ICCAT organization which simply manages bluefin tuna, while the CITIES organization can protect bluefin tuna? Why did Europe waver on protecting the bluefin tuna? Europe commercial fishing interests?

Why was only one shark species added to the protection list, when there are seven other shark species endangered as well, and many other shark species are being heavily fished?

It appears based on the CITIES forum that politicians are making decisions contrary to the wills of their people, and in favor of self-interest groups such as the commercial fisheries. Politicians are voted for to represent the people, but do they really represent the will of the people? How can politicians be more accountable for their decisions? Should they be making decisions about wildlife when they are conflicted by commercial interests? If not them, how about non-partisan, objective citizen bodies from each country, or referendums on critical wildlife issues?

Bluefin tuna in critical 97% decline

2010 UN wildlife body poor results

2010 Cities UN wildlife body results

ICCAT statement on Bluefin Tuna

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ballots Need Advancement

India's idea of including "None of the Above" in political ballots is an advancement for a people's democracy, because it gives the voter more choice.

But can we give the voter even more choice?

How about, "Political System Needs Reform" and "Political System Needs to Change" for those voters who are dissatisfied not only with the political candidates and parties, but also with the political system. Viz., a voter may believe that his or her dissatisfaction with candidates stems from the political system itself. If enough of these votes are received, then there would be cause to either reform or change the political system.

Another advancement idea is to have a section of the ballot, where a voter could nominate a non-candidate for election. (The nominated non-candidate would not be elected, but at least there would be record of the non-candidate's popularity, and again more opportunity for a voter to express him or herself.)

The idea of adding weightings for second and third choices, again gives the voter more opportunity to have his or her voice heard, because second and third choices will be factored into the election outcome. However, the addition of second and third choices is problematic, in terms of determining the weights for second and third choices as compared to first choices. Also, some voters may not have a second and third choice, so they would be penalized.Consequently, the FDA does not think the second and third choices is an advancement for a people's democracy.

 India's "None of the Above"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Imposed Secularism on Afghanistan

The western democratic system being imposed on Afghans is rooted in secularism, and therefore it is in conflict with the Islamic culture of Afghans.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is fighting for the "independence of Afghanistan, establishment of a Islamic government, and reconstruction and development of Afghanistan by all Afghans."

When the United States first invaded Afghanistan in 2001, it was on grounds of combating terrorism. But how is that cause being advanced over 8 years later through occupation and imposition of a secular government?

How is democracy being advanced in Afghanistan by imposing secularism on the people of Afghanistan? A people's democracy is not about foreign imposition of a political system. Could there be other reasons as to why the United States is in Afghanistan, such as establishing a strategic foothold in the region?

Hamid Gul interview

Karzia a Puppet?

Can Religion Advance Democracy?

Is there a place for religion in a people's democratic government?

Should religious leaders run for political representation? Surely, they would fair better than a politician.

Did the separation of the state from religion leave western society without a moral rudder, so that the valueless and untrustworthy are at the reigns of western society?

If a religion is integral to the culture of a society, why should that religion be separated from the state?

A people's democracy and religion can be compatible if a religion can be shown to be an essential part of the cultural fabric of the society. If there are more than one significant religion, then they could form a political union in guiding the country. There would be no need to vote them in. Ironically, this is how the Iranian political system works.

History of the separation of the Church and State

Iranian Democracy

Monday, March 22, 2010

India's Ballot--"None of the Above" option

India's political ballots will likely include the voter choice, "None of the Above," which means none of the candidates on the ballot are satisfactory.

This additional choice option gives Indian voters greater opportunity to voice their views. I.e. want better candidates. (Interestingly, along with Greece, India was the origin of democracy.)

The FDA considers the "None of the Above" option an advancement for democracy, because it means more voter choice, and thereby more voter voice.

In western countries, such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, voters' choice is limited to the candidates on the ballot or not voting. Voters expected to vote for candidates which they may not want to support.

In Australia, voters are fined if they don't vote, which explains the high voter turnout in Australia. Yet such an approach, shields possible problems in the political system (via. high voter turnout), and unduly influences voters against not voting, which is their right if they choose.

India--"None of the Above" choice

Basic rationale for "None of the Above" rationale

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Netherlands' Looming Democracy Crisis

The Netherlands looming democracy crisis centers on an anti-Islam movement. (The source of the pending crisis may have stemmed from an open, tolerant Netherlands' society interacting with a non-tolerant minority (e.g. murder of film-maker Theo Van Gogh), and resulting in a non-tolerant society (e.g. rise of right wing extremism.)

Geert Wilders, leader of the PPV (Freedom party) and producer of the anti-Muslim film, "Fitna", advocates anti-Islam and halting immigration.

In the March 4th, 2010, municipal elections in Almere and The Hague, the PPV received a first and second place. These elections may foreshadow PPV success in the upcoming Netherlands General elections in June, 2010.

Is a racist, discriminatory policy against a minority consistent with democracy? (As of 2007 according to a Netherlands consensus, Muslims account for 5% of the Netherlands' population.)

Does a minority have a right to follow its religious beliefs as long as it does not reasonably harm anyone else?

Do the traditional values of a country take precedence over democracy or the majority voice of the people?

Is it reasonable for a country to expect immigrants to give up their religious beliefs if they are inconsistent with traditional beliefs and values? To what extent should immigrants be expected to integrate into a people's democratic society?

Should free speech in a people's democracy include free speech which promotes hate, as is the case with Wilders' film, Fitna?

Based on the strong opposition to the idea of Sharia Law becoming Netherland's Law and even with the support of the majority of the people, there are limits to democracy. Yet democracy itself does not have limits. (See Sharia Law article below.)

Netherlands' Immigration Laws More Strict

Support for Wilders

Sharia Law Could Become Netherlands' Law

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Should Democracy be Founded on Equal and Unequal Say in Governance?

In Western Democracy, individuals and organizations with greater financial and communication means have a greater potential for influence of public policy and expenditure.

Yet, all individuals eligible to vote have an equal say in terms of vote. (I.e.One person, one vote.)

Would democracy be advanced if all individuals and organizations in a society had a more equal say? Viz., the potential for political influence and manipulation was more equal for all individuals and organizations of society—all individuals and organizations had the same means for influence and manipulation.

If society cannot attain this equality of say, then the phrase, “government of, by, and for the people” is not reality. Rather, it is government of, by, and for a scale of people. The scale based on degree of say. The less say a person has the less government is of, by and for that person.

Friday, March 12, 2010

State of Pakistan Democracy

2 Years Compatibility Mode: State of Politics in Pakistan

By Babar Ayaz
Director of The Researchers and
FDA Associate

Two years have passed since the collective efforts of the political parties, civil society and media managed to restore democracy in the country which was in the high-seas storm. While stock-taking performance of the democratic dispensation it should be kept in mind that it is not the government alone whose performance has to be scrutinized. What we have to analyze is that is the democracy working or it has failed. This is all the more necessary when the drawing room elite renounce democracy because it is noisy and deals with all the contradictions in the society in full glare of an excited media.

Everybody knew in the spring of 2008 that what lays ahead for the forthcoming government is a rough ride. They will have to face political, economic, internal security and foreign policy challenges of no ordinary nature. In my column for this newspaper I had expressed my apprehension that the government would not be able to come up to the expectations of the wretched nation and steer them out of crises. But after two years, contrary to the sweeping statements made by the opposition and Media Pundits, I would says yes the performance has not been to the high expectations pinned by the people, but there have been some positive developments also. So if the overall performance of the democratic dispensation has to be rated keeping in view the challenges they inherited one gives them just a passing grade. So let’s first see where they scored the passing marks and then where they failed. That as a democrat I think should be the order of any analysis, instead of cynical otherwise.

First success of the parties which won the election was to build a coalition government. The alliances built by the PPP, which is the majority party, have survived so far. Yes the PML (N) did fall out but this was good for democracy as a strong opposition keeps the governments under check within the parliament. A positive sign of political parties’ maturity is that so far PML (N) has not tried to flirt with the Khakis to dislodge the PPP-led government. In the past there has always been a demand for the removal of the government by the opposition parties, which created an opportunity for the ever ready military boots to march into Islamabad. Uneasy relations between the MQM and PPP in Sindh over controlling the urban turf have so far not reached a breaking point. It will be put to serious test in the forthcoming local governments elections. One can only wish that the alliance survives through testing times because this alliance is very crucial for the smooth running of the province and the commercial-financial hub of the country – Karachi. In Balochistan and NWFP the alliances have worked for the last two years without much threat, although both the provinces are facing terrorist threats. Coalition governments around the world suffer pulls and pushes from the parties in the alliances, so in Pakistan where democracy is in infancy we should not be consumed by these tussles.

Second challenge before the political forces was how to get rid of General Musharraf, who had conceded to the return of Ms. Bhutto thinking he would continue to be in the commanding position. Political alliance forced him to take off his ‘second skin’ and leave presidency. Getting a military ruler out without an internal coup is no small feat as in the past all of them have left when there were coups within. Remember, the one before Musharraf was assassinated.

Third challenge was how to handle the issue of restoring the judiciary to its rightful place. Independent judiciary is one of the three pillars of state. Though President Zardari dilly-dallied on this issue much to his own loss of credibility, eventually he had to bow to the public pressure and agree to the restoration of judges who were ousted by his predecessor. Here the political government faltered. They had released the Chief Justice from house arrest on the very first day of the parliament session. They could have announced the date of restoration in the same go without making a silly effort to retain Dogar. That unfortunately, started their relations with the judiciary on a hostile note. Even the recent retreat from the judge’s appointment issue has damaged the ruling party’s image. But the fact that it did show flexibility and backed out unlike a military president is the success of democracy, which has a self-correcting mechanism sans rigidity of a dictatorial system.

Fourth major challenge which it inherited was the dwindling economy. The domestic economy was under pressure because many difficult measures to correct the imbalances were postponed by Musharraf government with the hope of winning the elections. Assassination of Ms. Bhutto and rising terrorism had also created the instability in the country which slowed down the economic growth. Difficulties such as high food items inflation and energy crisis were left in the lap of the new government. Much of these problems were imported as the prices of oil and food items have risen drastically internationally. Then the global recession which started in 2008 also affected Pakistan’s economic growth.

However, the government has managed to stabilize the economy to a certain extent but with the help of an IMF bailout package. The tough conditions imposed by IMF to abolish all subsidies on oil, gas and electricity, pressure to reduce budget deficit and to increase domestic savings are unpopular measures. The government had to swallow this bitter pill at the cost of losing its popularity. No doubt the government could have done better by cutting down its non-development expenditure but here it has indeed failed and the criticism against it is justified. But while criticizing we should keep the international perspective in mind. Right now even the developed economies are under pressure and their governments are being severely criticized by their own people. Greece, Spain and Portugal are the recent examples. EU is dictating to them the same terms, which are imposed on us by IMF.

Fifth challenge for the government was the energy shortage. It was mainly
mismanagement by the previous government, which failed to remove the bureaucratic red-tapism and decision for new power plants were delayed. The present government could not fathom the problem quickly and has managed it inefficiently. Once the people came out on the street protesting against the electricity load-shedding, the government tried to find quick-fix solutions that are expensive. In this process allegations of corruption were made by the media and the opposition. Again public pressure is keeping the government on its toes and has forced it to get ADB scrutiny of the rental power projects.

Sixth challenge to the new democratic dispensation was regarding the most serious issue of internal security. It is also directly related with our foreign policy. Here the consensus evolved by all major political parties has helped the military to take on the terrorists seriously. The Malakand and South Wazirstan operations have been successful only with the support of the democratic forces. Millions of internally displaced people from Malakand were taken care of and sent back once the writ of the government was established. The credit goes to the democratic dispensation also and not to the army alone. Both the ruling coalition and major opposition parties who have presence in the parliament have stood against the Islamic militants at the cost of risking their leadership’s lives.

Seventh challenge to the democratic dispensation was improving relations with the neighboring countries. Here both the government and opposition seem to be quite close to each other on policy related to India and Afghanistan. But they have little say, as policy regarding relations with India, Afghanistan, China, Iran and US is made in Rawalpindi and not in Islamabad. Mr. Zardari’s attempt to take over National Security Policy making has been snubbed by the establishment. He has been pushed back by unleashing propaganda about his past and present misdeeds. The democratic forces can get the decision making on National Security Policy back to them only if they stand together. Otherwise no political party is strong enough to claim its rightful position alone.

And the eighth challenge was deciding the issue of provincial autonomy for good. In spite of having dictatorial powers President Musharraf’s government has not been able to solve this issue. As a matter of fact Balochistan’s displeasure with the federation became worse, National Finance Commission Award and Water Distribution Accord could not be finalized by his government and these burning issues were postponed. The success of democratic dispensation in bringing a consensus needed for the National Finance Commission award is once again a feat that should not be forgotten by the detractors of democracy. There is also a glimmering hope that the 18th constitutional amendment which is worked out by all the major parties will expand provincial autonomy. If that happens, on 23rd March, as claimed by PPP leaders one can say that democracy has performed fairly well in the last two years, in spite of immaturity, clumsy handling of many issues and intrigues to keep the system shaky.

Though not to our expectation, democracy has worked in the last two years. Don’t be frustrated by all the noise and stories of corruption. A beginning has been made and we have to be patient. If we can give dictators a decade, we surely should give democracy a chance and let all the governments complete their term.


Pakistan Public Empowerment Project

Monday, March 8, 2010

TCI Belongers Protest British Rule

Today several thousand of TCI Belongers protested the UK governance control of the Islands, demanding among other things for the restoration of TCI democracy and for the British to go home.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TCI Democracy Protest in the Turks and Caicos Islands

On March 8th the "Belongers" of the Turks and Caicos Islands will be holding a rally to protest the UK removal of democracy from the Islands in August, 2009.

The FDA endorses, formally, the right of the Turks and Caicos people to protest against the current TCI political situation. Freedom of expression, freedom of political association, and freedom of assembly are fundamental democratic rights.

Expanding world support for plight of people of Turks and Caicos

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Can Sharia Law be Modified so that It is Consistent with Democracy?

As it stands, Sharia Law is limited by gender inequality. This inequality is inconsistent with democracy, in which all people have equal say and rights.

To illustrate the gender inequality, women must where Hijab's in public, whereas men do not have to; men can have up to four wives, while women can only have one husband; if men do not divorce their first wife, but only adandon them, the women must carry on as married and not seek another spouse etc.,

For Sharia Law to advance and be consistent with democracy, it must overcome its gender inequalities and biases against minorities such as homosexuals.

Can Sharia Law become equitable to all Muslim people, and still be consistent with the Koran?

At its core, the idea of Sharia Law is on the right track, because it establishes a personal and moral guide to society. However, time will tell, if Sharia Law can overcome its inequalities without compromising its moral fabric.

A Legal Definition of Sharia Law

Friday, March 5, 2010

Will Secularism Advance Democracy in Iraq?

According to the Iraq Consensus in 1997, 97% of Iraq's 22 million population is Muslim. Of the 22 million, approximately 60 to 65% are Shi'a Muslim, and 32 to 37% are Sunni Muslim.

A secular Iraq government would mean a clear division between religion and state.

However, religion provides society its moral and personal rudder. This rudder is lacking in the West, where money and politics are the rulers, and resulting self-interest and corruption are the norm. A secular Iraq would move down the same relativist, directionless, decadent path as the West.

Rather than secularism, perhaps Iraq should consider a religious government (union of religion and state) comprised of a coalition of Sunni and Shi'a interests. The coalition would be based on common elements between both religions, and compromise in areas of difference. The ultimate goal of the coalition would be to advance the well-being of Iraq as a whole.

A Biased Article Promoting Iraq Secularism

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Taliban Article Raises Questions about US Democracy Promotion in Afghanistan

America’s Face-saving Propaganda About Marjah

Monday, 01 March 2010 17:59  Taliban administrator.

The invading American and NATO forces have announced that they are clearing the last pockets of resistance in Marjah but this is no more than an eye-wash. The fact is that the invading troops are now entangled in a long war in Marjah. The battles are going on in Marjah according to the tactical plan of Mujahideen. With the passage of every day, the enemy suffers life and material losses.

From the first day of operation February 13, 2010, the enemy troops have not been able to extend their writ to other areas of Marjah except areas, which were evacuated by Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate at the beginning of the operations as per a tactical plan to encircle the enemy forces.

When the enemy new strategy faced fiasco, they ludicrously announced to have cleared the areas. However, the ground realities are contrary to what they are claiming.

The enemy launched operations in Kunduz province to lessen pressure on their troops in Marjah. They thought Mujahideen will send some groups of their forces from Marjah to Chardaara district of Kunduz province. This will give them a breath of relief. Even they now speak of massive operations in Kandahar province. All these efforts by the enemy are aimed at distracting the attention of the public of the world from Marjah and reducing Mujahideen’s stiff resistance in Marjah. This moribund endeavor will also fail because Mujahideen are not short of manpower and armed men. The public are with them. Whenever, Mujahideen need more groups of armed men, they draw them from among the people. The Afghans share common goals with the Mujahideen and they know that the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are protectors of their Islamic and national values. The Afghan Mujahideen lay down their lives to secure our cultural values, dignity, human rights, freedom and noble traditions from the aggression of the invaders. Therefore, the people stand by Mujahideen and support their cause.

The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan believes American invaders and their allies will always find pretexts to continue their occupation of Afghanistan. Terrorism, democracy, human rights, women rights are just mere slogans used by American colonialism to reach their imperialist goals in this part of the world and in Afghanistan. Many cases of tortures of detainees in Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Gharib jail, NAMA camp in Iraq and the secret PRTs jails in military bases in Afghanistan, show flagrant and brutal violations of human rights by American interrogators and their troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. If they are really protectors of human rights, why they have been perpetrating these violations for the past eight years. In Bagram, Guantanamo and other secret jails in Afghanistan, miserable detainees are deprived of their humane rights and do not have access to legal advisors. They are deprived of their rights to defend themselves at the courts. Is this not a shame that the violators of human rights. i.e. American, claim being advocate of human rights in the world? They want to become the only policeman, magistrate and judge of the world.

If the people of Afghanistan want freedom and a system of government based on their wants, Islamic culture, why America does not give this legitimate right to the Afghans and why they suffocate their voices under the notorious name of terrorism?

The demand of the Afghans is in line with all laws of human rights but the current American domination and subjugation of Afghanistan is against all norms and principles of human rights. The bottom line is that America is a new form of colonialist power which want to maintain its dominance over the world under lustrous slogans of democracy and human rights while in reality, they are enemy of human values and dignity more than any one else.

We ask the invading Americans why do you kill innocent youth, men and old men before the very eyes of their family members during night raids? Whey did you kill an infant of four days in Gorbez, Khust province last year? Was he a terrorist or a just your cutthroat soldiers want to strike terrors in the heart of common Afghans by resorting to such bestial acts, not sparing even an infant of four days?

The operations that you are conducting in Marjah under the name of fight against terrorism is a tyrannical and colonialist war being waged against freedom-fighters because the Mujahideen in Marjah are fighting for their freedom, human dignity, country and Islamic values. We are sure that no invader will ever suffocate the voice of truth in the throat of the freedom-loving people of Afghanistan by dent of military power. In the long run, the oppressed Afghans will carry the day in this battle between truth and evil, if God willing.

Article by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Islamic State based on Sharia Law versus Imposed Western Democratic System

Democracy is not advanced by imposing it on a people.

Democracy is advanced in a country whose people support democracy.

Sharia or Islamic law is consistent with the democracy as long as the people support Sharia law.

However, non-equitable gender rights may prevent Sharia law from being supported by the people.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Turks and Caicos Democracy Crisis not the Norm

Normally western democracy promotion is about artificially implanting democracy into a country, in order to take control of it. Present day Iran appears to be an example of this. Or a democratic government could be replaced via a coup, and then resume democracy under the coup leaders.

However, in the case of the Turks and Caicos Islands, on August 2009, democracy was taken away from the TCI Belongers by the UK in order to control the Islands.

Former TCI Premier on the TCI Democracy Crisis