- Europe’s Failure: Bad Policies Caused the Lampedusa Tragedy
- Who Treats Their Workers Best?
- How Debt Destroys Democracy
- The girl who was shot for going to school
- After making ‘sensitive’ remarks, UMNO ‘CAVEMAN’ Zahid bans reporters, threatens to close dailies
- Anwar promises to lead nationwide protests if GST implemented in Budget 2014
- Shutting Down Obama in Asia
- Politik wang dalam Umno tidak terhapus
Posted: 07 Oct 2013 02:54 AM PDT
More than 100 refugees died off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa on Thursday after their boat sank. The tragedy shows in yet another horrendous way just how badly Europe’s refugee policies have failed.
The scenes verged on the apocalyptic: 500 people, many of whom couldn’t even swim, were forced from a burning ship into the sea. The events that took place early Thursday morning off the Italian island of Lampedusa have shaken all of Europe.
More than 100 refugees were killed, including children. Hundreds are still missing. It’s the second such disaster to happen within just a few days. On Monday, 13 refugees drowned off the coast of Sicily as they attempted to swim to shore.
Now the bodies have been laid out in Lampedusa, Europe’s southern-most outpost in the Mediterranean Sea. The island’s desperate mayor even called on Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta to visit the site. “Come here and help us count the bodies,” she said.
Residents of the small island, which is situated more closely to Tunisia than to the Italian mainland, feel abandoned — and not for the first time. Since 1999, more than 200,000 people from Africa and Asia have landed on the island fleeing civil wars, hunger and misery. It is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 people have perished making their way to Lampedusa.
This year, more refugees have arrived on the island than in any previous year. They come from Somalia, where criminal gangs spread terror and death each day, from Eritrea, where people have no future, and from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started as a dream but has since become a nightmare for many. Since January, 22,000 refugees have arrived on the coast of Lampedusa. The island has become a powerful symbol of the failure of the European Union’s refugee policies.
The Myth of an ‘Freedom, Security and Justice’
The attempt by European politicians to find the middle ground between populist slogans like “The boat is full” and a half-way ethically sound migration policy has long since proven to be a dead-end. But no one wants to admit this because they have no other answer at hand. So each time another tragedy occurs on Lampedusa, leaders from other European capitals travel to the site, offer condolences and promise there will be a political response.
On Thursday, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ceclia Malmstöm said that authorities must improve procedures for identifying refugee boats in trouble. She also said dialogue must be intensified with the countries the refugees come from as well as the transit nations they travel through as they attempt to reach Europe. At the same time, she appealed to EU member states to do more to help people who are seeking asylum.
That’s all well and good. But Malmstöm, just like all the other politicians involved in the issue, knows that the problems aren’t easily solved. History has shown that. The EU first agreed to a common asylum and refugee policy in 1999 with the Amsterdam Treaty, but it has never worked.
Europe has not become the “area of freedom, security and justice” pledged in the treaty, one in which every refugee, regardless of where in the EU he or she is, is guaranteed the same fair asylum procedure. Nor has the EU come through on the pledge that the disproportionate burdens faced by countries on Europe’s borders would be fairly shared by other member states. And how can it? In practice, the policy had one thing in mind: taking in the smallest number of refugees flowing in from the south and the east as possible. The modus operandi has always been that European countries take care of themselves. Their only common position has been in fighting against those who want to come to Europe.
‘Fortress Europe ‘ Is Real
The countries of Southern Europe — Italy, Spain and Greece — have been hit particularly hard by the transcontinental migration and have been quick to take their own initiative. In almost theatrical gestures, politicians, led by Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi when he was still prime minister in Rome, traveled throughout North Africa to pay homage to presidents and dictators, to coddle Libya’s ruling colonel and enter into treaties by the dozens. The message was always the same: We’ll pay you money, give you speed boats and other weapons, and you keep the refugees from our shores. We don’t really care how you do it.
Those who nevertheless decided to dare the risky trip over the ocean in dilapidated boats were often intercepted at sea and sent back. It was a nifty way of circumventing the legal right to submit an asylum application in Europe. As a result of the policy, the number of asylum requests filed in Europe dropped from 460,000 in 1992 to 220,000 in 2007.
Despite all statements to the contrary, the EU partners built a “Fortress Europe.” When that image at times appeared too tough, politicians issued words of regret or tried to hush up events.
And it didn’t matter if it was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Amnesty International or the Catholic charity Caritas that was doing the criticizing; the EU countries simply didn’t care. Germany itself was able to keep away from the refugee trail through the EU’s Dublin Convention, which stipulates that an asylum seeker can only apply for asylum in the first member state that he or she entered. So anyone who comes to Germany through Italy or Greece — even if they have a legitimate reason for seeking asylum — is sent back to that country by German authorities.
To be sure, Fortress Europe’s walls are becoming less and less porous — with radar and satellite controls in the Mediterranean Sea, for example — but they still haven’t stopped millions of people from fleeing the world’s impoverished and war-ravaged nations. They sacrifice their family savings and risk their lives to get here. And for as long as these people have no future at home and can’t even be certain they will survive the next day, they will continue to flee — either to a place that is better or one that at least offers the prospect of a future.
The majority flee to refugee camps in neighboring countries. Others go further — often in the direction of Europe. With the anti-refugee treaties between Southern European and Northern African countries, the price for passage across the Mediterranean is also rising with the need to bribe officials in those countries. Risks are also increasing for the refugees, with human traffickers often dumping them near rather than on shore — which can be deadly for the large number of non-swimmers making the journey.
This makes disasters like the one that occurred in Italy on Thursday a foregone conclusion. Pope Francis described the tragedy as “a disgrace.” He’s right.
Posted: 06 Oct 2013 11:27 PM PDT
Switzerland is first, Yemen last and Northern Europe the top region in a new evaluation of how nations foster their work forces.
The Human Capital Report, released Tuesday by the World Economic Forum, measured 122 countries in four areas — education, health, employment and "enabling environment" — to establish the rankings. The fourth area encompasses subjects such as a country's legal framework as well as transportation and communications infrastructure, which affect an individual's ability to work.
This is the first such study from the World Economic Forum, said Saadia Zahidi, head of the Human Capital project at the Switzerland-based organization. The exercise, which was conducted with Mercer Consulting and the Harvard School of Public Health, is designed to help nations see where they fall on the global spectrum, and to highlight strengths in fostering their work forces as well as areas to be addressed, Ms. Zahidi said.
The project stemmed from conversations about the global jobs problem — particularly youth unemployment and regional skills gaps — and how countries can better invest in current and future workers. The researchers focused on life-long investment in an individual, from birth through death, including areas such as early-childhood education, access to health care and training throughout a worker's career. They tapped public data, such as labor force participation rates, school enrollment rates, infant mortality and life expectancies, as well as findings from World Economic Forum surveys of business executives.
The authors created a Human Capital Index, based on 51 variables, and found the strongest countries were concentrated in Northern Europe and North America. (Canada placed 10th; the U.S. was 16th.) The countries with the most work to do were largely in the Middle East and Africa.
After Switzerland, the top ten countries were Finland, Singapore, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Canada. Southern European countries were among the top half of the results, but not the highest ranks: Spain took 29th place, Italy 37th and Greece 55th.
Behind the U.S.'s 16th-place ranking was strength in "workforce and employment" but weakness in "health and wellness." An ability to attract and retain outstanding workers catapulted America to 4th place overall in work force rankings; however, high levels of stress and depression sank the country's health ranking to 43rd. The U.S. placed 11th on education and 16th on its environment for workers.
Although rich countries tended to fare better, because they have more money to spend on workers, the correlation with income wasn't absolute. "Countries that invest in human capital are able to prosper," Ms. Zahidi said, and "a virtuous cycle gets created." But not all well-off nations are focusing resources on their workers at the same pace. "Countries like Russia and Kuwait have high income, but haven't made the same types of investment in human capital," that other similarly positioned nations have, she said.
Posted: 06 Oct 2013 10:34 PM PDT
Lost in discussion of the European debt crisis is the threat it poses to the health of liberal democracy. Not liberal in the American context, but "liberal" as used to describe a government organized around the rule of law and individual liberties. The debt loads of the European South are not only causing a fiscal crisis across the region—they are causing a democratic one.
Greece is not ruled by popular vote and legislative rulemaking, but by an unelected troika and a government with little ability to govern in the people's interest. Granted, this is the result of years of overspending, overpromising, and insufficient governance, but the larger, more disturbing issue is the condition, functionality, and even the legitimacy of democracy in Greece. The legitimacy of democracy and liberal individual rights are critical to repayment of debts, but they are also essential to avoiding states with elected strong men. An unfortunate new class of democracy is in its infancy. The debt democracy is here.
Democracy, specifically the brand based on a durable constitution, divides power among many constituencies. This creates a system in which it is difficult to consolidate power in the hands of a single executive. One consequence of the debt crisis has been the complete disenfranchisement of individual choice in government affairs in favor of outside interests and "austerity." Until very recently, creditors have bypassed the natural dynamics of democracy in favor of imposing budgetary discipline on irresponsible sovereigns, while paying little, if any, attention to the long-term effects of austerity on the liberal-democratic process.
The concentration of power in a debt democracy lies not in elected leader, but in an extranational or nongovernmental entity with the de facto power to impose its will on the debtor. The unelected are in control of the domestic decision mechanism, i.e. the money, and sovereignty of the mass citizenry is lost to the power of the outside few. Policies adopted under the aegis of fiscal consolidation result in the inability to govern, and demands of creditors to reduce government deficits and employment drastically reduce the populations' feeling of political enfranchisement. Is it so difficult to comprehend the election of a strong man, when one is already in place?
Courts cannot be taken seriously when there is no apparatus to enforce their rulings, and the contractual obligation to pay pensions becomes unenforceable when there is no money. Greece must not overlook the broader consequences of delayed elections, the imposition of a technocratic government, and mandatory job and wage cuts. A basic tenet of a liberal society is the rule of law. The breakdown and renegotiation of these contracts between the people and their government begins to disturb this premise. The debt democracy struggles not only to keep it domestic policy apparatus from crumbling, but also to maintain the integrity of its legal framework, and thus its legitimacy.
Crises, and the dramatic, forceful changes that accompany them, are a recipe for political turmoil. Preserving democracy and freedom through such time is pivotal. Safeguards against tyranny in a subverted democracy cannot be sacrificed to the goal of repaying debt at all costs. The most common way to measure the outcomes of austerity and restructuring programs is the interest rate on debt issued to the public. This is much too narrow a view, when the price of placating investors is the end of liberal governance itself.
A budding debt democracy is likely to search for a new way to rule, to overthrow its occupiers so to speak. The temptation is to elect a powerful, nationalistic executive. This is perfectly understandable, since there is already an immensely influential entity dictating the course of the country—a country that has already been shaken from its historical method of governance. Electing a leader with a will to implement internal change and provide strong leadership is not a concern in and of itself. The problem is the potential for this leader to subsume power in the name of reform, and construct a centralized, dominant position in the executive branch. It is this shift towards an elected, illiberal government that must be defended against in the periods of reform. In addition to the economic transformation, we must watch for the shifts in political power.
Debt democracy is in some ways the symptom of a much large and deep-seated phenomenon. Fiscal deficits and debt financing have allowed much of the developed world to spend on social programs and policies. Declining interest rates over the past thirty or so years have allowed governments to borrow and sustain this borrowing. Used to finance popular programs and thwart economic crises across the past couple of decades, the debt had remained, until the recent financial crisis, mostly an afterthought. The ability to maintain low rates of borrowing can be sustained for a prolonged period of time—Japan is an example—but it will not last forever. The West must be wary of the debt democracy, and the possible outcomes, when conducting policy.
At its extremes, debt is the great limiter of political capability. We must take seriously the inability of these governments to act as an arbiter for their people. The risks if we don't include not only sovereign-debt crises, but also a rising disenchantment with liberal democracy itself.
Posted: 06 Oct 2013 09:37 PM PDT
One year ago schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen – her “crime”, to have spoken up for the right of girls to be educated. The world reacted in horror, but after weeks in intensive care Malala survived. Her full story can now be told.
She is the teenager who marked her 16th birthday with a live address from UN headquarters, is known around the world by her first name alone, and has been lauded by a former British prime minister as “an icon of courage and hope”.
She is also a Birmingham schoolgirl trying to settle into a new class, worrying about homework and reading lists, missing friends from her old school, and squabbling with her two younger brothers.
She is Malala Yousafzai, whose life was forever changed at age 15 by a Taliban bullet on 9 October 2012.
I have travelled to her home town in Pakistan, seen the school that moulded her, met the doctors who treated her and spent time with her and her family, for one reason – to answer the same question barked by the gunman who flagged down her school bus last October: “Who is Malala?”
The Swat Valley once took pride in being called “the Switzerland of Pakistan”. It’s a mountainous place, cool in summer and snowy in winter, within easy reach of the capital, Islamabad. And when Malala was born in 1997 it was still peaceful.
Just a few hours’ driving from Islamabad brings you to the foot of the Malakand pass, the gateway to the valley. The winding road up to the pass leaves the plains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province, far below.
I remember it well from childhood holidays in Pakistan. But my latest trip felt very different – the BBC crew made the journey with a military escort. Although the Pakistan army retook control of Swat from the Taliban in 2009 and it is arguably now safer for foreigners than some other areas, the military clearly didn’t want to take any chances.
Historically, the north-west has been one of Pakistan’s least developed regions. But Swat, interestingly, has long been a bright spot in terms of education.
Until 1969, it was a semi-autonomous principality – its ruler known as the Wali. The first of these was Miangul Gulshahzada Sir Abdul Wadud, appointed by a local council in 1915 and known to Swatis as “Badshah Sahib” – the King. Although himself uneducated, he laid the foundation for a network of schools in the valley – the first boys’ primary school came in 1922, followed within a few years by the first girls’ school.
The trend was continued by his son, Wali Miangul Abdul Haq Jahanzeb, who came to power in 1949. Within a few months, he had presented the schoolgirls of Swat to the visiting prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, and his wife Raana. As his grandson Miangul Adnan Aurangzeb says: “It would have been unusual anywhere else in the [North-West] Frontier at that time, but in Swat girls were going to school.”
The new Wali’s focus soon turned to high schools and colleges, including Jahanzeb College, founded in 1952, where Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, would study many years later. Soon, Swat became known across Pakistan for the number of professionals it was producing – especially doctors and teachers. As Adnan Aurangzeb says, “Swat was proud of its record on education… one way to identify a Swati outside of Swat was that he always had a pen in his chest pocket, and that meant he was literate.”
Against this backdrop, the fate that befell the schools of Swat in the first years of the 21st Century is particularly tragic.
By the time Malala was born, her father had realised his dream of founding his own school, which began with just a few pupils and mushroomed into an establishment educating more than 1,000 girls and boys. It is clear that her absence is keenly felt. Outside the door of her old classroom is a framed newspaper cutting about her. Inside, her best friend Moniba has written the name “Malala” on a chair placed in the front row.
This was Malala’s world – not one of wealth or privilege but an atmosphere dominated by learning. And she flourished. “She was precocious, confident, assertive,” says Adnan Aurangzeb. “A young person with the drive to achieve something in life.”
In that, she wasn’t alone. “Malala’s whole class is special,” headmistress Mariam Khalique tells me. And from the moment I walk in, I understand what she means. Their focus and attention is absolute, their aspirations sky-high. The lesson under way is biology, and as it ends I have a few moments to ask the girls about their future plans – many want to be doctors. One girl’s answer stops me in my tracks: “I’d like to be Pakistan’s army chief one day.”
Part of the reason for this drive to succeed is that only white-collar, professional jobs will allow these girls a life outside their homes. While poorly educated boys can hope to find low-skilled work, their female counterparts will find their earning power restricted to what they can do within the four walls of their home – sewing perhaps.
“For my brothers it was easy to think about the future,” Malala tells me when we meet in Birmingham. “They can be anything they want. But for me it was hard and for that reason I wanted to become educated and empower myself with knowledge.”
It was this future that was threatened when the first signs of Taliban influence emerged, borne on a tide of anti-Western sentiment that swept across Pakistan in the years after 9/11 and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Like other parts of north-west Pakistan, Swat had always been a devout and conservative region, but what was happening by 2007 was very different – radio broadcasts threatening Sharia-style punishments for those who departed from local Muslim traditions, and most ominously, edicts against education.
The worst period came at the end of 2008, when the local Taliban leader, Mullah Fazlullah, issued a dire warning – all female education had to cease within a month, or schools would suffer consequences. Malala remembers the moment well: “‘How can they stop us going to school?’ I was thinking. ‘It’s impossible, how can they do it?’”
But Ziauddin Yousafzai and his friend Ahmad Shah, who ran another school nearby, had to recognise it as a real possibility. The Taliban had always followed through on their threats. The two men discussed the situation with local army commanders. “I asked them how much security would be provided to us,” Shah recalls. “They said, ‘We will provide security, don’t close your schools.’”
It was easier said than done.
By this time, Malala was still only 11, but well aware of how things were changing.
“People don’t need to be aware of these things at the age of nine or 10 or 11 but we were seeing terrorism and extremism, so I had to be aware,” she says.
She knew that her way of life was under threat. When a journalist from BBC Urdu asked her father about young people who might be willing to give their perspective on life under the Taliban, he suggested Malala.
The result was the Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl, a blog for BBC Urdu, in which Malala chronicled her hope to keep going to school and her fears for the future of Swat.
She saw it as an opportunity.
“I wanted to speak up for my rights,” she says. “And also I didn’t want my future to be just sitting in a room and be imprisoned in my four walls and just cooking and giving birth to children. I didn’t want to see my life in that way.”
The blog was anonymous, but Malala was also unafraid to speak out in public about the right to education, as she did in February 2009 to the Pakistani television presenter Hamid Mir, who brought his show to Swat.
“I was surprised that there is a little girl in Swat who can speak with a lot of confidence, who’s very brave, who’s very articulate,” Mir says. “But at the same time I was a bit concerned about her security, about the security of her family.”
At that time it was Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, who was perceived to be at the greatest risk. Already known as a social and educational activist, he had sensed that the Taliban would move from the tribal areas of Pakistan into Swat, and had often warned people to be on their guard.
Malala herself was concerned for him. “I was worried about my father,” she says. “I used to think, ‘What will I do if a Talib comes to the house? We’ll hide my father in a cupboard and call the police.’”
No-one thought the Taliban would target a child. There were however notorious incidents where they had chosen to make an example of women. In early 2009, a dancer was accused of immorality and executed, her dead body put on public display in the centre of Mingora. Soon afterwards, there was outrage across Pakistan after a video emerged from Swat showing the Taliban flogging a 17-year-old girl for alleged “illicit relations” with a man.
Ziauddin Yousafzai must have known that Malala’s high profile in the valley put her at some risk, even though he could not have foreseen the outcome.
“Malala’s voice was the most powerful voice in Swat because the biggest victim of the Taliban was girls’ schools and girls’ education and few people talked about it,” he says. “When she used to speak about education, everybody gave it importance.”
By the time Malala was shot in 2012, the worst days of Taliban power in Swat had receded. A high-profile military operation had cleared out most militants but others had stayed behind, keeping a low profile.
“Life was normal for normal people, but for those people who had raised their voice, it was now a risky time,” says Malala.
She was one of those people.
On the afternoon of 9 October, she walked out of school as normal and boarded a small bus waiting outside the gates. These vehicles are seen everywhere in Mingora – a little like covered pickup trucks, open at the back, with three lines of benches running the length of the flatbed. Each could carry about 20 people and would be waiting to take the girls and their teachers home at the end of the school day.
In Malala’s case, it was only a short journey, past a small clearing where children played cricket, and along the canal bank to her house. Once she had walked, but then her mother, Tor Pekai, intervened. “My mother told me, ‘Now you are growing up and people know you, so you must not go on foot, you must go in a car or a bus so then you will be safe,’” Malala says.
That day, she was in the middle of her exams, and had a lot on her mind. But there was still the usual after-school chat and gossip to share with Moniba, who was sitting next to her. But as the bus progressed along its route Malala says she did notice something unusual – the road seemed deserted. “I asked Moniba, ‘Why is there no-one here? Can you see it’s not like it usually is?’”
Moments later, the bus was flagged down by two young men as it passed a clearing, only 100 yards from the school gates. Malala doesn’t recall seeing them but Moniba does. To her they looked like college students.
Then she heard one ask: “Who is Malala?” In the seconds between that question and the firing beginning, Moniba at first wondered if the men were more journalists in search of her well-known friend. But she quickly grasped that Malala had sensed danger. “She was very scared at that time,’ she remembers. The girls looked at Malala, thereby innocently identifying her.
The two girls sitting on Malala’s other side, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, were also injured that day. “I heard the firing, then I saw lots of blood on Malala’s head,” says Kainat. “When I saw that blood on Malala, I fell unconscious.”
Malala as she was stretchered to hospital
Moniba says the bus remained there for 10 minutes, before anyone came to the aid of the panic-stricken women and children. When they reached hospital, it was assumed all four girls were wounded, because Moniba’s clothing was drenched in her friend’s blood.
News of the shooting spread quickly. Malala’s father was at the Press Club when a phone call came to tell him one of his school buses had been attacked. He feared at once that it was Malala who had been targeted. He found her on a stretcher in the hospital.
“When I looked towards her face I just bowed down, I kissed her on the forehead, her nose, and cheeks,” he says. “And then I said, ‘You’re my proud daughter. I am proud of you.’”
Malala had been shot in the head and it was clear to everyone, including the Pakistan army, that her life was in danger. A helicopter was scrambled to airlift her to the military hospital in Peshawar – a journey that would eventually take her not just away from Swat but away from Pakistan.
The Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar is the best medical facility in the region, treating not just military personnel but their families too. As he flew in with Malala, Ziauddin Yousafzai was braced for the worst, telling relatives at his family home in rural Swat to make preparations for a funeral. “It really was the most difficult time in my life,” he says.
From the helipad, Malala was brought in by ambulance and placed in the care of neurosurgeon Col Junaid Khan.
“She was initially conscious, but restless and agitated, moving all her limbs,” he says. The entry wound of the bullet was above her left brow. From there it had travelled down through her neck and lodged in her back.
Malala was treated as a severe head injury case and placed under observation. After four hours, she deteriorated visibly, slipping towards unconsciousness. A scan revealed a life-threatening situation – her brain was swelling dangerously and she would need immediate surgery.
“The part of the brain involved was concerned not only with speech but also giving power to the right arm and leg,” Khan says. “So contemplating surgery in this very sensitive area can have risks. The person can be paralysed afterwards.”
Nevertheless, he told Malala’s father that surgery was vital to save her life – a portion of her skull had to be removed to relieve pressure on the brain.
The procedure began with shaving part of Malala’s hair, and then cutting away the bone, before placing the portion of removed skull inside her abdomen in case it could be later replaced. Blood clots and damaged tissue were extracted from inside the brain.
Before that day, Khan says, he had never heard the name Malala Yousafzai, but he was soon left in no doubt that he was treating a high-profile patient. Camera crews besieged the hospital compound as a tide of shock and revulsion spread through Pakistan.
TV presenter Hamid Mir looks back on the attack and the country’s realisation that the Taliban were capable of shooting a young girl as a defining moment. “It gave me a lot of courage and strength [a sense] that enough is enough, now is the time to speak against the enemies of education,” he says. “If they can target a little girl like Malala, they can target anyone.”
From Adnan Aurangzeb, so closely connected to Swat and its people, there was anger – not just at the Taliban but at the government of Pakistan, which he held accountable for failing to protect Malala.
“She should have been under the protection of Pakistan,” he says. “Not left to go unescorted like any normal student in an area infested with militants and Taliban.”
Inside the intensive care unit in Peshawar, Malala appeared to respond well to the surgery. Her progress was by now being followed not just in Pakistan but around the world. In Islamabad, the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani was taking a keen interest, but wanted a definitive and independent opinion on Malala’s chances.
A vigil for Malala in Karachi as she recovered in hospital
As it happened, his officers were looking after a team of British doctors at the time – a group from Birmingham who had come to Pakistan to advise the army on setting up a liver transplant programme. The multi-disciplinary team was led by emergency care consultant Javid Kayani, a British Pakistani who maintains close links with the land of his birth.
When the request for help came through, Kayani knew which one of the team he wanted to take with him to Peshawar on the helicopter that was standing by. Given Malala’s age, paediatric intensive care specialist Fiona Reynolds was the obvious choice. Although she had her doubts about security in Peshawar, she had heard enough about Malala from news reports to feel the risk was worth taking. “She’d been shot because she wanted an education, and I was in Pakistan because I’m a woman with an education, so I couldn’t say ‘no,’” she says.
What the doctors discovered in Peshawar, though, was not encouraging. Although Malala had had what Reynolds calls “the right surgery at the right time”, she was being let down by the post-operative care. A similar patient in the UK would have been having her blood pressure checked continuously via an arterial line – according to Malala’s charts, hers had last been checked two hours ago.
Reynolds’ instinct told her that Malala could be saved, but everything depended on how she would be cared for.
“The quality of the intensive care was potentially compromising her final outcome, both in terms of survival and in terms of her ability to recover as much brain function as possible,” she says.
That clinical opinion would be vital to Malala’s future. An army intensive care specialist was sent to bolster the team in Peshawar, but when Malala deteriorated further, she was airlifted again, this time to a bigger military hospital in Islamabad.
In the first hours after her arrival there, Fiona Reynolds remained very worried. Malala’s kidneys appeared to have shut down, her heart and circulation were failing, and she needed drugs to support her unstable blood pressure. “I thought she was probably going to survive, but I wasn’t sure of her neurological outcome, because she’d been so sick. Any brain damage would have been made worse.”
As Malala gradually stabilise, over the next couple of days, Reynolds was asked for her opinion again – this time on her rehabilitation. She asked what facilities were available, knowing that acute medicine is often far ahead of rehab. That was indeed the case in Pakistan. “I said that if the Pakistan military and the Pakistan government were serious about optimising her outcome… I said that everything that she would need would be available in Birmingham.”
Graphics from the hospital showing the bullet’s path, titanium plate and implant
On 15 October 2012, Malala arrived at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, where she would remain for the next three months. She had been kept in a medically induced coma, but a day later the doctors decided to bring her out of it. Her last memory was of being on a school bus in Swat – now she was waking up surrounded by strangers, in a foreign country.
“I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was that I was in a hospital and I could see nurses and doctors,” she says. “I thanked God – ‘O Allah, I thank you because you have given me a new life and I am alive.’”
Malala’s parents and brothers were still in Pakistan but Javid Kayani was standing at her bedside.
“When she woke up she had this very frightened look and her eyes were darting back and forth,” he says.
“We knew she couldn’t speak because she had a tube down her throat to assist her breathing. But I knew that she could hear so I told her who I was and I told her where she was, and she indicated by her eye movements that she understood.”
Malala then gestured that she wanted to write, so a pad of paper and a pencil were brought. She attempted to write, but she had poor control of the pencil – unsurprising for someone with a head injury. Instead, an alphabet board was found and Javid Kayani watched her point to the letters one by one.
“The first word that she tapped out was ‘country’. So I assumed she wanted to know where she was and I told her she was in England. And then the next word was ‘father’ and I told her that he was in Pakistan and he’d be coming in the next few days. That was the limit of the conversation.”
More “conversations” would take place with one of the few visitors allowed in – Fiona Reynolds, who brought Malala a pink notebook in which to write down her questions.
Malala showed it to me, It is a poignant reminder of her search for answers in that period, especially the page where she simply asks, “Who did this to me?”
For Reynolds, the fact that Malala was able to articulate her questions was a huge relief. “I was hoping that her cognitive abilities would still be there. I was also hoping that she hadn’t lost the power of speech. So the fact that she was mouthing words and writing – I thought she’s not lost the ability to speak. And remember she was talking in her third language [Pashto is Malala's mother tongue, Urdu her second language], so her speech centre was pretty intact.”
Malala would go on to make an outstanding recovery, a tribute not just to the quality of the care she received – but also, her doctors told me, to her own resilience and determination. Once she was out of intensive care, doctors began to consider what could be done about the paralysis of the left side of her face, which had caused great distress to her parents when they were reunited with her in Birmingham. Malala’s father felt she had lost her smile.
“When she used to try to smile I would look at my wife and a shadow would fall on her face, because she thought, ‘This is not the same Malala I gave birth to, this is not the girl who made our lives colourful.’”
Malala with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai in Birmingham
Malala’s ear specialist Richard Irving thinks that in those early weeks, she was troubled by her new appearance.
“She was very reluctant initially to speak, she preferred to be photographed from the good side,” he says. “I think it probably did have an emotional impact on her, which she didn’t really voice to anyone, but it’s very easy to understand in a 15-year-old.”
After tests and scans, Irving’s view was that the facial nerve was unlikely to repair itself, but without surgery, he couldn’t be sure exactly what state it was in. The procedure would be a lengthy one, and this time Malala was herself able to weigh up the risks.
“She was in control,” Irving says. “She would take advice from her father but she was making the decisions. She took a great interest in her medical care and didn’t leave it to someone else.”
During a 10-hour operation last November, he discovered that Malala’s facial nerve had been entirely severed by the bullet and that a 2cm section of it was missing. For any movement to return to her face, the two ends of the nerve would have to be re-attached, but the missing section made it impossible to do this along the original route. Instead, Irving decided to expose the nerve and re-route it so it travelled a shorter distance.
In February this year, a further operation replaced the skull section removed by the surgeons in Pakistan, with a titanium plate. A cochlear implant was also inserted into Malala’s left ear to correct damage to her hearing caused by the bullet. No further surgery is said to be required – her face should continue to improve over time, with the help of physiotherapy.
On 12 July, nine months after the shooting, came a major milestone – Malala stood up at the UN headquarters in New York and addressed a specially convened youth assembly. It was her 16th birthday and her speech was broadcast around the world.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world,” she said.
How did it feel to speak in public once again – this time on a bigger stage than she could ever have imagined?
“When I looked at 400 youth and people from more than 100 countries… I said that I am not only talking to the people of America and the other countries, I am talking to every person in the world,” she says.
Ziauddin Yousafzai remembers it as the biggest day of his life. For him, Malala’s speech was an assault on negative perceptions of Pashtuns, of Pakistanis and of Muslims.
“She was holding the lamp of hope and telling the world – we are not terrorists, we are peaceful, we love education.”
Malala was introduced to the audience in New York that day by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the UN’s special envoy on global education.
He has no doubt about her power to focus attention on the bigger picture of nearly 60 million out-of-school children around the world. “Because of Malala,” he says, “there is a public understanding that something is wrong and has got to be done.”
There is even speculation she could be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The girl from Swat has gone global, but she still believes she can and will return home to Pakistan. Few would advise her to do that anytime soon. There are still fears for her security and also criticism that she attracts too much attention, especially in the West.
But she seems sanguine about any criticism. “It’s their right to express their feelings, and it’s my right to say what I want,” she says. “I want to do something for education, that’s my only desire.”
The danger for Malala is that the more time she spends away from Pakistan, the less she will be seen at home as a true Pakistani, and the more she will be identified with the West. But she has little time for distinctions between East and West.
“Education is education,” she says. “If I am learning to be a doctor would there be an eastern stethoscope or a western stethoscope, would there be an eastern thermometer or a western thermometer?”
Still only 16, she has to balance being the world’s most high-profile educational campaigner, in demand around the world, with the completion of her own schooling.
“I am still the old Malala. I still try to live normally but yes, my life has changed a lot,” she tells me.
There are moments when she misses her old anonymity, but says it’s “human nature” to want what you don’t have.
She is an extraordinary young woman, wise beyond her years, sensible, sensitive and focused. She has experienced the worst of humanity, and the best of humanity – both from the medics who cared for her and the messages from many thousands of well-wishers.
I find one of those well-wishers in her own street in Swat, just outside the home that she never made it back to, on the afternoon she was shot. He is a young man called Farhanullah and he says the Taliban have blighted his life, destroying Swat’s economic, social and educational fabric. Malala was “Pakistan’s daughter”, he says. “We should be proud that she has made such a big sacrifice for Pakistan.”
I ask if he would like to send a message to Malala. Yes, he says. “She should continue her struggle. We are all with her.”
The voice of the girl whom the Taliban tried to silence a year ago has been amplified beyond what anyone could have thought possible.
When I ask her what she thinks the militants achieved that day, she smiles.
“I think they may be regretting that they shot Malala,” she says. “Now she is heard in every corner of the world.”
Posted: 06 Oct 2013 09:25 PM PDT
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has reportedly barred the media from reporting a closed event at which he allegedly made “sensitive remarks” yesterday, threatening to close down all news dailies.
According to an Oriental Daily report today, this transpired after Zahid discovered several journalists amongst the audience at a security seminar with community leaders held in Malacca.
The minister then “invited” the journalists to leave the scene, reported the Chinese paper.
According to the report, Zahid earlier introduced several Umno candidates to the audience of the forum and then allegedly proceeded to make “sensitive remarks” in his speech.
However, the report did not elaborate on what these remarks were and did not identify the media involved.
As the speech progressed, a Malacca Umno leader discovered the journalists and ordered his men to ask them to leave.
The minister’s secretary, who sat at the same table with media personnel tried to assist the journalists, and it was at this point that Zahid took notice.
The minister then warned that it was a closed door event and prohibited the media in every language from publishing the contents of the forum, failing which he warned he would have the dailies all closed down.
After Zahid’s warning the audience booed at the journalists, forcing them to make an exit, reported Oriental Daily.
Outside, the organiser tried to explain to the disgruntled journalists that it was all a “misunderstanding”.
This appears to be Zahid’s second assault on the media in a week, after he harassed Malaysiakini’s journalist on Friday (above) for asking questions about the Home Ministry’s loss of weapons detailed in the Auditor-General’s Report 2012.
Posted: 06 Oct 2013 09:23 PM PDT
As national unease rises over an expected slew of price hikes, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim promised to lead nationwide protests if Prime Minister Najib Razak implements a Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the upcoming Budget 2014, due to be presented on October 25.
Anwar’s Pakatan Rakyat colaition has fought the sales tax for years, arguing that it will further burden the people although it might make the tax collection process more efficient for the government.
“We will not only oppose the GST tabling in Parliament, but also organise protests in the entire country,” The Sundaily reported Anwar as saying at a press conference held in Seberang Jaya on Sunday.
Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin was also at the press conference.
Anwar, who is the Permatang Pauh MP, said all the parties in the Pakatan coalition had already reached a consensus against the tabling of the GST.
Coming after the recent 20-sen hike in RON95 petrol price, Anwar said the implementation of GST would seriously deplete the already lean disposable income of the people, who were already struggling with soaring food and transportation prices.
The GST, if implemented, will be imposed on goods and services at every production and distribution stage in the supply chain, including importation of goods and services.
Posted: 06 Oct 2013 05:38 AM PDT
In the days leading up to this week's government shutdown, speculation mounted about whether the president would cancel his scheduled trip to Asia. In an unsurprising bit of Solomonic decision-making, President Obama cut his trip in half, indefinitely postponing visits to Malaysia and the Philippines. The president will still make stops as planned in Indonesia and Brunei and will participate in the APEC summit meeting.
While many in Asia will be glad to see him in the region, his abbreviated trip and sure-to-be divided attentions may not assuage their fears that the administration's "pivot" to Asia is as dead as a doornail.
From across the Pacific, the pivot has appeared imperiled for some time. With the departures from government of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, leaders from Singapore to Seoul wondered who in the new administration would champion U.S. policy in Asia (answer: nobody thus far). John Kerry's obvious and overriding interest in the Middle East did little to put those fears to rest.
The ongoing crisis in Syria, meanwhile, had Asians wondering if America's renewed focus on Asia was a thing of the past. U.S. allies well understood the need for a vigorous response to Assad's use of chemical weapons, but they feared that a reverse-pivot was in the offing.
Washington's government shutdown, then, is only the latest in a string of developments this year calling into question America's will and ability to carry out stated policy in the Asia-Pacific.
Between the president's repeated calls for "nation-building at home" and Congress's inability to even keep the federal government open for business, foreign partners are right to wonder whether the United States can effect any policy goals beyond its borders.
But even worse is that the president has allowed the shutdown to derail American strategic efforts in Asia. Yes, he will still attend the APEC summit, and that's a positive. Asian leaders have been fairly unanimous in describing U.S. participation in regional multilateral institutions as important—both for symbolic reasons and to ensure that China does not dominate these high-level dialogues.
Still, it was President Obama's planned visit to Manila that was, arguably, the most important segment of his trip. Thanks in large part to China's increasing assertiveness, tensions across Asia are worryingly high. Recent China-Philippines relations have been particularly contentious and have inserted an element of instability into a regional equilibrium that, though not exactly peaceful, has been relatively free of violence.
Manila's weak air and naval forces have made the country vulnerable, and that vulnerability has invited Chinese aggression in disputed waters near the Philippines. Recently, China has taken control of a disputed shoal, has acted menacingly towards Philippine forces stationed on another, and may have sent fighter jets to intrude into claimed Philippine airspace.
The United States has, at times, been proactive in its dealings with the Philippines. Washington is helping Manila upgrade its maritime forces and the two are engaged in negotiations to enhance American access to Philippine military facilities. President Obama's visit might have served to further these efforts and would have served a symbolic purpose as well. A demonstration of the president's personal interest could have imparted momentum to the bilateral relationship, enhanced deterrence, and contributed to stability in the region.
Instead, the narrative in Manila will be that the Philippines, U.S. ally though it is, is not a priority for the American president. Philippine leaders will recall Washington's hemming and hawing over the mutual defense treaty's applicability during 2012's Scarborough Shoal set-to with the Chinese. Perhaps more importantly, China's leaders will recall it as well.
The U.S. government shutdown and President Obama's decision to truncate his trip to Asia will not change facts on the ground overnight. They will, however, reinforce two related narratives that have gained purchase in the region: that the pivot is a slogan more than a policy and that the United States is becoming the "paper tiger" that Mao Zedong once described.
Those narratives may not be accurate, but in the realm of geopolitics, perceptions matter. And perceptions can be exceedingly difficult to alter.
Posted: 06 Oct 2013 02:41 AM PDT
Seramai kira-kira 150,000 ahli Umno akan melaksanakan tugas dan tanggungjawab mereka pada 19 dan 22 Oktober ini untuk memilih barisan kepimpinan baik di peringkat bahagian dan juga kebangsaan. Pemilihan kali ini seperti biasa berlangsung dalam suasana hangat dan sejuk. Pemilihan peringkat bahagian tidak menjadi perhatian umum sangat, sebaliknya pemilihan untuk jawatan Naib Presiden dan ahli MKT serta ketua pemuda dan wanita menjadi tumpuan.
Mulai kelmarin semua calon sudah dibenarkan berkempen. Umno menyediakan mekanisme tersendiri untuk calon-calon berkempen. Bagaimana pun ada juga yang merasakan kaedah atau mekanisme itu tidak begitu memuaskan dan adil. Ada beberapa calon menyuarakan rasa kurang puas hati dengan peraturan yang dibenarkan. Misalnya Mukhriz Mahathir merunggut meminta semua calon dibenarkan berkempen secara bersendirian bukan, beramai-ramai seperti kini.
Matlamat Umno dengan mengubah kaedah pemilihan antara bertujuan untuk mengurangkan politik wang (rasuah) di dalam parti berkenaan. Itulah antara tujuannya di samping untuk menunjukkan Umno sebuah parti yang demokratik dan bersih. Tindakan itu diambil sebab rasuah di dalam Umno sudah menjadi ‘air minum nasi makan’ ia sudah membudaya dan menyerap sampai ke akar umbi. Rasuah bukan sahaja di peringkat tertinggi merebut jawatan presiden, timbalan, naib atau ahli MKT tetapi peringkat ketua bahagian hatta ketua cawangan juga.
Menyedari situasi itu kalau ia tidak dibendung akhirnya Umno akan musnah bukan kerana kekuatan lawannya tetapi sistem korup yang diamalkan.
Mungkin anda tidak percaya kalau dikatakan untuk jadi ketua cawangan Umno, anda memerlukan wang sekian banyak sekian banyak. Anda perlu merasuah ahli-ahli yang juga terdiri dari rakan-rakan anda sendiri yang setiap hari menghabiskan masa di kedai-kedai kopi. Atau anda kena memberi wang untuk mereka hadir ke mesyuarat, jika tidak anda akan kerugian undi. Memberi wang untuk jawatan sudah lumrah di dalam Umno. Pendidikan rasuah yang diajarkan di peringkat tertinggi berjaya diterap ke peringkat akar umbi.
Politik wang dalam Umno hari ini kian parah sebenarnya. Makin Umno berusaha membenteraskanya, ia makin menjadi. Nilai rasuah juga bertambah. Kalau dahulu perwakilan ke mesyuarat bahagian dibayar RM50 tetapi hari ini jumlah itu sudah mencecah RM100 hingga RM300. Saya terkejut apabila diberitahu seorang calon Puteri sehingga hari ini sudah membelanjakan wang untuk merebut jawatan itu sebanyak RM160,000. Masa untuk pemilihan masih ada seminggu lagi, anda boleh bayang sendiri berapa yang beliau kena belanjakan.
Akibat berlaku dan galaknya rausah maka mereka yang terang-terang tidak layak baik dari segi akademik maupun politik tetapi boleh bertanding sehingga ke jawatan MT, sebab kerana mereka memiliki wang. Mereka mempunyai modal mencukupi untuk dihulurkan kepada agen-agen perwakilan atau broker kempen. Seorang calon MT dia tidak dikenali bukan saja di negeri luar negerinya sendiri tidak rata, tetapi kerana kuasa wang dia berani untuk ikut dama bertanding. Inilah menunjukkan wang mengatasi segala keistimewaan yang dimiliki calon lain.
Justeru kerana demikian meluas dan parahnya rasuah di dalam Umno menyebabkan timbul persoalan apakah kriteria atau pun rukun-rukun yang dikenakan ahli Umno untuk membuat pilihan pemimpin mereka yang sebenarnya. Apakah mereka memilih wibawa seseorang itu, latar belakang atau berdasarkan kepada track rekod atau nilai wang rasuah yang sanggup dihulurkan?
Sebagai orang beriman dan ada agama, mereka akan meletakan kriteria yang ditetapkan agama sebagai syarat dan rukunnya. Itu sepatutnya. Seorang yang hendak dipilih itu haruslah seorang beriman dan bertakwa. Tetapi satu hakikat yang kena terima di dalam Umno atau di dalam politik susah untuk mencari orang yang bertaqwa. Sebab orang yang beriman dan bertakqwa tidak akan memilih politik sebagai wadah perjuangan sejak awal-awal lagi.
Jadi mereka akan melihat kepada asas-asas lain seperti berketrampilan, latar belakang pendidikan dan juga pencapaian dalam bidang dan tugas yang dipikul sebelum ini. Inilah asas yang perlu diutamakan. Tetapi apabila berlaku pembelian dan pembayaran menyebabkan asas-asas ini tidak akan dipandang lagi. Ertinya perwakilan akan memilih siapa yang banyak merasuahkan mereka.
Menyimpulkan fenomena dan hakikat itu dapat diterjemahkan mana-mana calon yang banyak memberi wang akan berjaya meraih jawatan yang dipertandingkan. Hari ini pemberian secara sulit dan penuh tektikal. Tegasnya yang jelas ia tidak boleh dinafikan, ianya berlaku. Makanya untuk melihat siapa yang banyak melakukan rasuah, membayar perwakilan lihatlah siapa yang akan menang di dalam pemilihan nanti?
Gejala dan budaya itu juga menyebabkan sesiapa yang miskin dan papa jangan bermimpi untuk menjadi pemimpin di dalam Umno walaupun mereka secerdik Hang Nadin ataupun sebijaksana seperti Tun Perak. Mereka selamanya akan menjadi pengikut. Kerana keadaan itu juga kalau mereka diterap oleh naluri untuk menjadi pemimpin mereka perlu mencari wang, mengumpul wang sebanyak mungkin untuk dijadikan modal dalam pemilihan.
Dalam barisan calon disemua peringkat hari ini anda boleh perhatikan siapa yang mewah dan loaded dengan wang dan siapa yang terkial-kial dan bertanding dengan air liur? Anda boleh perhatikan. Selepas ini tunggulah siapa menenangnya. Sudah pasti mereka yang menang yang mencurah wang yang banyak, berkedudukan dan ada kuasa seperti menteri, pengerusi GLC dan sebagainya. Nah… mereka itulah yang banyak mencurahkan wang. Jumlah undi yang diperolehi adalah nisbah kepada nilai ringgit yang mereka laburkan.
Masakan mereka tidak sayangkan wang? Itu tanggapan kita. Bagi mereka lain pula, wang itu bisa membeli jawatan dan kedudukan, kedudukan dan kuasa itu pula akan menjanakan wang buat mereka. Kalau mereka habis RM5 juta atau RM10 juta, mereka akan memperolehi wang modal itu berkali ganda dari itu.
Politik wang dan rasuah tidak akan berakhir dan tamat di dalam Umno sebab ia hidup bersama sel-sel darah dan mengecap dalam pembuluh darah. Orang Umno jangan menafikan ini sebab mereka menerimanya setiap hari dan sepanjang masa. Kerana kelaziman itu menyebabkan mereka tidak merasa berdosa, malahan ia adalah satu kebiasaan, seperti meminum air selepas makan.
Disebabkan amalan dan budaya ini jugalah ahli Umno sangat suka pada saat berlaku pemilihan parti. Pemilihan parti bagi mereka umpama musim banjir bagi anak-anak ikan disungai. Bila hujan dan banjir mereka akan keluar dari sungai, tasik, lopak dan kubang untuk bergerak ke mana sahaja mencari dedak, lumut, ulat dan bangkai. Mereka memakan semuanya hingga kekenyangan. Bagi perwakilan sebegini kelas mereka samalah dengan ikan buntal ataupun limbat yang membaham bangkai yang terdampar di tanah kering yang mereka berjampa tatkala musim hujan dan banjir.
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