Arresting Freedom

Pakistani President Asif Zardari has given his orders, and compliant law enforcement officers in Pakistan are arresting rival politicians and activists.  Team Zardari is taking pre-emptive measures to block Pakistan’s Lawyers Movemnt and allies from pursuing their Long March.

The March 12th Long March is a call for a restoration of an independent judicary in Pakistan — something that Zardari is opposed to.  He just might get prosecuted on corruption charges if an independent supreme court is restored.

Twittering Freedom

As Pakistani President Asif Zardari cracks down on pro-democracy activists, a handful of Pakistanis are posting short bursts of information on Twitter.  You can follow their “freedom tweets” online.  The best tag is probably #Pakistan:

But you can also go with either of the following…

Continue reading “Twittering Freedom”

McCain’s Simple Narrative

Last Wednesday, U.S. Senator John McCain gave a tough talk at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank.

His topic was Afghanistan.   His message was that the U.S. is losing the war.

The situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq just two years ago …  But the same truth that was apparent three years ago in Iraq is apparent today in Afghanistan: when you aren’t winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Let us not shy from the truth, but let us not be paralyzed by it either.

Fine.  Let’s not be paralyzed.  But there is a way in which Sen. McCain managed to avoid discussing the same realities on the ground that everyone else seems to be avoiding.

Let’s just take one issue in particular:  there is no such thing as “the” Taliban.  It might make for easy reporting, but the notion of a single opposition force serves to obscure more than it reveals.

Continue reading “McCain’s Simple Narrative”

Pakistan’s Long March is an Important Step to Democracy

(Post co-written with Samad Khurram,  a Pakistani citizen who participated in the 2008 Long March.  Samad is currently a student at Harvard University.)

There is something about marching for democracy that captures the imagination.  Perhaps it is because walking is the simplest of human activities.  One foot goes in front of the other, and a movement takes shape.

On March 12, democracy activists in Pakistan will breath new life into this old tradition.  In what is being called the Long March, potentially hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens will walk hundreds of miles to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city.

Their rallying cry?  The restoration of Pakistan’s independent judiciary.

Continue reading “Pakistan’s Long March is an Important Step to Democracy”

Opinion: U.S. policies have weakened Pakistani civilian rule

…it is fairly clear that the idea of the Taliban somehow controlling Pakistan’s 172 million people is absurd.

Opinion:  U.S. policies have weakened Pakistani civilian rule

By Sanjeev Bery and Manan Ahmed

San Jose Mercury News  /  Posted: 02/17/2009

Depending on whether you like watching your news or reading it, there were two very different reports on Pakistan this Sunday.

On CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Pakistani President Asif Zardari proclaimed that his nation is in a fight for its survival, with the Taliban “trying to take over the state of Pakistan.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Zardari’s government reached a 10-day cease fire with a Taliban-affiliated militia in the northern Swat Valley. The militia agreed to stop fighting, and in return, the government agreed to implement Islamic Sharia law in the area.

How does one reconcile the two accounts?

First, let’s dispense with the hyperbole. Pakistan is not on the verge of being taken over by Taliban militias.

Continue reading “Opinion: U.S. policies have weakened Pakistani civilian rule”

Full text: Obama’s interview with Al-Arabiya

Hisham Melhem’s interview with President Obama on Al Arabiya TV:

Tuesday, 27 January 2009
President gives first interview since taking office to Arab TV


Q: Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity, we really appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much….



Video: Obama’s interview with Al-Arabiya

Hisham Melhem’s interview with President Obama on Al Arabiya TV:

Tuesday, 27 January 2009
President gives first interview since taking office to Arab TV

Video part 1: 

Video part 2:

The Tel Aviv Tango

Tehelka Magazine (India)
April 15, 2008
By Sanjeev Bery

The Israeli Defence Forces have a gift for the world. SANJEEV BERY takes a closer look at the spread of Krav Maga martial arts in India

ISRAEL’S ARMS sales may capture the headlines, but they aren’t the nation’s only export to India. In south Delhi’s upscale Saket neighbourhood, a small but growing number of residents are learning krav maga, the hand-to-hand combat system of the Israeli Defence Forces. Continue reading “The Tel Aviv Tango”

It’s time to ask Ashcroft questions about civil rights: Even 9/11 panel is criticizing some legislation



San Jose Mercury News
October 13, 2004

By Sanjeev Bery

Despite Republican and Democrat concerns about the USA Patriot Act, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is supporting efforts to expand this controversial law. At a time when Congress should slow down and take a look at the fine print, Ashcroft continues to recklessly charge ahead.

Today at noon, a select group of Silicon Valley professionals will have the chance to ask Ashcroft directly about these new proposals. Ashcroft will be speaking at the Software & Information Industry Association at San Jose’s Fairmont Hotel. If he uses his podium to laud the Patriot Act, he should be asked how these new proposals would affect our freedom.

Specifically, Congress is rushing to pass legislation that it claims will implement the 9/11 commission’s recommendations. But as always, election year fog obscures reality. Some of the legislation that supposedly will make us safer is even being criticized by a majority of the bipartisan 9/11 commission.

One such bill is HR 10, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives. This bill contains provisions that go well beyond the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Consider the following provisions:

• Law enforcement would be able to get secret court approval to spy on individual non-citizens. Currently, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives the government expanded access to these powers — but only when targeting representatives of “foreign powers” or international terrorist groups.

• Immigrants could be denied basic judicial review over unfair, arbitrary or otherwise abusive deportations.

• Asylum seekers would have to “corroborate” their claim of persecution. Not surprisingly, asylum-seekers have difficulty obtaining corroborating documents from the very governments that persecute them. Imagine a hypothetical Christian refugee fleeing Sudan’s genocide, for example.

These provisions are just a few examples of how HR 10 bows to the demands of those who seek to expand anti-immigrant laws and the already-controversial Patriot Act. They are taking advantage of this bill to advance their own agenda.

The bad news is that the House has already passed these provisions. The good news is that the Senate’s version of the bill does not include them.

But in an election year, rhetoric sometimes trumps reality. That is why it is important to remind our government officials that now is the time to take a closer look at the original Patriot Act and anti-immigrant laws — before they decide to add more.

Today, a number of Silicon Valley residents may have the opportunity to put these concerns directly to the attorney general. It is high time that the U.S. Department of Justice listens.

SANJEEV BERY is field organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. He wrote this column for the Mercury News.