April 21, 2006

the road to Kathmandu

Today was happy Spring in Kathmandu. The ultimate message by one ultimate messenger was heeded, and the right thing was done. What next, the Nepalese Republic? Only fitting for the nation with the ultimate summit.


Friday April 21, 2006

The Nepalese ruler, King Gyanendra, today promised that "executive power would be returned to the people" following more than two weeks of violence in which at least 14 people have died.

The king - who, backed by the military, seized power last year - said in an address to the nation that he had "unflinching commitment toward constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy".

"Executive power of the kingdom of Nepal, which was in our safekeeping, shall from this day be returned to the people," he said.

"We ask the seven-party alliance to recommend the name for the post of prime minister at the earliest."

"We have won the battle, but we still must win the war," Grihendra Shrestha, one of hundreds of marchers, said.

"This announcement has not cleared up everything," he told BBC World. "The ball is now partly in the court of the politicians and partly in the court of the protesters on the streets.

Mass demonstrations against King Gyanendra's absolute rule and the monarchy itself have been continuing for more than two weeks.

More than 100,000 pro-democracy protesters defied a government curfew to fill streets on the outskirts of Kathmandu today.

As the tension grew, so did the international pressure on the monarch. The US ambassador, James Moriarty, warned he could be forced from power within days unless he made major concessions to those who want him to relinquish absolute control.

"His time is running out," Mr Moriarty said in an interview with several reporters hours before the king's speech. "Ultimately, the king will have to leave if he doesn't compromise. And by ultimately, I mean sooner rather than later."

April 11, 2006

Al-Mutanabbi is loyal to Iran

One American observer said the degree of ignorance and prejudice of Mubarak latest sortie was mind boggling. If you were an Iranian, you would find it heart throbbing. The Egyptian president, once a co-defender of the “Eastern Gate”, has just moved it way west -to the Mediterranean coast, and enlarged the borders of the Islamic republic to include the oil rich areas from Basra to Qatif, not to mention once lost Bahrain.

The ignorance part is excusable. As a career air officer, he was not into matters of religion (he wouldn’t be in the ranks otherwise), and politics (he wouldn’t become a VP otherwise), so he can’t recall the word Shia ever crossing his mind before becoming a president one fateful October day. It doesn’t help that fellow Egyptians, by and large, are as well informed on Shia intricacies as I on Jehovah’s witnesses. And if your entrusted advisor on foreign affairs (areas not covered by Camp David accord) is Dr. Usama Al-Baz, you can bet that the Shia and Iranians, for all –low- religious intents and –high- political purposes, are one and the same.

And how would a busy president double check his facts? He now knows a great deal about the difficulties and risks facing neighborly Hebrew citizens thanks to hundreds of meetings and interviews with their officials and media outlets, many of whom are on a first name basis. But Shia Arabs? He honestly can’t recall meeting a single recognizable face of them. No significant minister, no journalist, not even a son’s business partner. He remembers shaking hand with what’s his name in the recent Iraqi reconciliation conference in Cairo, but all eyes and ears were then on the Sunni contingent. And it was too late then.

There are of course his brothers, kings and presidents of countries with large and restive Shia populations. He can swear hearing their incessant complaints that the Shia are not saying their “tamam ya fendem” to their respective authorities, nor to the Americans, nor the British, nor the Israelis for that matter. So, they must be saying it to the Iranians. A call he made on Sunday night, the night of the uproar, to his good amiable friend the king of a small Kingdom, was just to verify.

But to be fair, the ignorance is not exclusively one-sided. A former Iranian vice president -and a current blogger- who accompanied his former president in a recent visit to the small kingdom, was singing the praise of the good fortune of its Shia. The country has a good democracy he said. Its Shia leaders are recognized as official opposition with official standing in meetings and negotiations with the government, which happens to even invite them to official luncheons where they can freely air their grievances.

تجيبها منين ولا منين يا صابر

April 10, 2006

an exile no more

Before he went into exile in 1975, he last was a worker in the smelting furnaces of Alba in 1972-1974. By then, the dream of “a free homeland and a happy people” had taken hold of him. And no 965 C of Aluminum “bathroom” would deter the Hammam/Hatab son from that. Abroad, he was a salient voice for the cause of the workers at home. The “Voice of Workers” andpublications and interventions before forums like ILO bore testimony to that. He had to wait for almost a quarter of a century to pass for his circle of exile to complete.

Last Saturday, his long, labourious journey came to its destination. He was laid to rest in the last soulful part of his city, Al-Hoora cemetery.

Hameed Awachi (1946-2006) is now free, and one day –if metaphysics proves right- he will be happy. And if meta-history proves right, his people will be free and happy too.

April 02, 2006

when ships fail

Another ferry, another natural disaster. Man-made but natural. This being part of the great non-developing lands, where the safety of one or the few is all that matters, it is inevitably natural for incidents like these to keep befalling incidentals like us, time after time.

There may or may not be safety procedures. The ship may or may not be licensed to sail. The captain may or may not be qualified, or pressured, or guilty. One thing is clear, the state, like your favourite software provider, lets you use any avilable service at your own risk. If it works for you, then fine. If not, then hardluck. The state does not assume any joint or several liability. No employee of the state shall resign therefore, as there is no dereliction of duty. The duty of the employees of the state, high and low, lies evidently elsewhere.

Ominously enough, the same factors cited as probable causes: overloading, structural failure, tilt and bad captaining, are the very ones giving rise to this sinking feeling that the country has no better cruising chance than that of the capsized ship. (Speaking of tilt, have you noticed that all those representing the sovereign reach of the state at the press conference were exclusively from one end of the sectarian divide?).

Our thoughts are with the grieving families. May their loved ones rest in peace, and may they find some solace.