Super Tuesday

Today is Super Tuesday with lots of primaries and caucuses. We urge everyone to vote for Barack Obama.

Today is Super Tuesday with lots of primaries and caucuses happening. If you live in any of the following states,

Primaries:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. California
  5. Connecticut
  6. Delaware
  7. Georgia
  8. Illinois
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Minnesota
  11. Missouri
  12. New Jersey
  13. New Mexico (Democrats only)
  14. New York
  15. North Dakota
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Tennessee
  18. Utah

Caucuses:

  1. Alaska
  2. Colorado
  3. Idaho (Democrats only)
  4. Kansas (Democrats only)
  5. Montana (Republican only)
  6. West Virginia (Republican only)

go out and vote for Obama.

Georgia is also voting today and we are supporting Senator Obama.

Since the opinion polls on the Democratic side show a close race and the delegates are awarded to candidates proportionately, I expect Senators Clinton and Obama to divide the delegates almost equally. Hence the Democratic nomination battle will go on.

On the Republican side, Huckabee should be able to do well here in the South. McCain is expected to do better overall since he has a huge poll advantage over Romney. Also a number of the Republican contests are winner-take-all which is expected to help Senator McCain.

Let’s go over the candidates still in the field.

Barack Obama is a great orator. I admit sometimes his poetic flourishes leave me high and dry but at other times he’s really good, for example, his speech at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. As for Obama being all talk and no substance, that’s not true at all. Read Hilzoy and Katherine as they write better about their support for Obama than I can and I agree completely with them. I also admit that I like wowing my Pakistani friends with Obama’s full name: Barack Hussein Obama.

Hillary Clinton is an okay candidate and she’s definitely much better than the Republicans. However, her concept of executive power is closer to Bush than I am comfortable with. Plus she has never really explained her Iraq war vote and I am all for punishing politicians for wrong votes. She has also surrounded herself with the hawkish elements of the Democratic foreign policy experts, all of whom were dead wrong about Iraq. As for her argument about experience, that’s just wrong. Let’s face it, if we wanted to vote for an experienced candidate, we would have voted for Biden or Dodd. The three Democratic frontrunners all don’t have much experience.

John McCain wants to stay in Iraq till hell freezes over and I ask is he senile? McCain also thinks that generals decide policy. May be as President, McCain will be working under General Petraeus. McCain is for war and for surges. All of that repels me a lot. On the other hand, McCain is the only Republican against torture and for immigration.

Mitt Romney was a moderate governor of Massachusetts. Then he saw an opportunity to be a real conservative for the Republican Presidential nomination. Now nobody knows what Romney stands for. My guess is if Romney becomes President (very unlikely), he’ll rule like the technocrat that he was in Massachusetts, but I might be wrong.

Mike Huckabee sounds like an average, decent guy. You can at least see some humanity in him. And his populist talk, though not backed up with any policy plans, is good too. But then he wants to bring the constitution in accord with the laws of God. And Huckabee is really ignorant too, with no policy shop in his campaign and no knowledge of international affairs at all.

Ron Paul is batshit crazy. He might be right about Iraq, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but he sees conspiracy theories (Trilateral commission, NAFTA superhighway, etc, etc) everywhere. And then there are the racist remarks in his newsletters in the 1990s. According to Reason, Paul didn’t write those newsletters. But his associates that did are still with him even now and Paul raised a lot of funds on the basis of these newsletters which went under his name. While in the debates Ron Paul has talked about the Iraq war and the constitution, he has campaigned a lot more like a conservative, focused on immigration, abortion, etc. See his anti-immigrant ad for example.

Go vote for Barack Obama!

New Hampshire Primary

Today is the New Hampshire primary. Here are some predictions and thoughts about the election. Go Obama!

Today is the first primary. Most polls in New Hampshire show Barack Obama and John McCain ahead among the Democrats and the Republicans respectively. Here are my predictions.

Democrat My prediction Actual vote
Barack Obama 43% 37%
Hillary Clinton 30% 39%
John Edwards 20% 17%
Bill Richardson 6% 5%
Dennis Kucinich 1% 1%
Republicans My prediction Actual vote
John McCain 35% 37%
Mitt Romney 31% 32%
Mike Huckabee 12% 11%
Ron Paul 10% 8%
Rudy Giuliani 9% 9%
Fred Thompson 3% 1%

Winning both Iowa and New Hampshire is going to do wonders for Senator Obama’s campaign. He already got a big boost from Iowa. This is going to make things tough for Hillary Clinton. Looking back at elections since 1972, there are only two instances when the eventual Democratic or Republican nominee lost in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Once in 1972 when Senator Muskie won both and George McGovern won the Democratic nomination. Then in 1992, local Senator Tom Harkin won in Iowa while the eventual Democratic nominee Bill Clinton didn’t take part. In New Hampshire, Bill Clinton came a strong second but Paul Tsongas won the primary. Can Senator Clinton repeat her husband’s feat? It definitely is possible, but I would say it’s going to be difficult. The betting markets seem to agree as Obama is now a 2:1 favorite for the nomination there.

There is also the matter of the African American vote for Obama. Consider South Carolina where half the Democratic voters are African American. In mid-December, Obama was winning barely half of this vote. This should definitely change with Obama’s wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. Let’s recall Jesse Jackson, a very different candidate but still instructive. In 1984 Democratic primaries, he came in third and won 77% of the African American vote. Then in 1988, he did very well, coming in 2nd and winning 11 primaries. He also got 92% of the African American vote.

UPDATE I: John “Thousand Years in Iraq” McCain has been projected the Republican winner by CNN.
UPDATE II: Hillary Clinton wins!

Primary Campaign

The primary season has been on for eternity, but the elections start tomorrow. I support Obama while Amber supports Richardson. On the other hand, I plan to vote against Giuliani.

The Presidential campaign this time around has been strange. It started really early, immediately after the 2006 Congressional elections. By Spring, I had received my first call from a campaign asking for a donation. I told them that I will not consider donating until the actual election year (2008). Then Barack Obama was on campus in April.

Now election season is finally starting with the Iowa Caucus tomorrow and the New Hampshire Primary on January 8. This is earlier than previous elections and a stupid idea to boot. I think the primaries should take place over 3-4 months in spring and summer, after which the candidates would still have 3-4 months of campaigning for the general election which is held on the first Tuesday of November.

Looking at the opinion polls for Iowa Democrats and Republicans, it looks like a close contest between the top three Democrats (Clinton, Obama and Edwards) and the top two Republicans (Huckabee and Romney). My guess is that it is anyone’s game among the Democrats but Obama will squeeze out a win followed closed by Edwards and Clinton in that order. On the Republican side, Huckabee should win easily. I am also very happy to report that the small man in search of a balcony (Giuliani) is going to end up last.

I already blogged about my impressions of the Presidential candidates, so you know that like Photodude I am an Obama supporter. Amber, on the other hand, supports Bill Richardson.

As for who to vote for, I am a fan of the idea of strategic voting. Since Job One in my opinion is making sure Giuliani does not win, so I might consider voting for whoever from among Romney, McCain or Huckabee seems the most likely to defeat Giuliani for the nomination. But our open primary isn’t until Super Tuesday, February 5. If Giuliani is gone by that date, then I can vote for the Democratic candidature of Senator Obama.

UPDATE: Go Obama! More than Obama’s win I am happy to report that Giuliani got only 3%.

Some Thoughts on Pakistan

This martial law is basically a coup against the higher judiciary. While lawyers are protesting, the politicians are still inactive. This might empower the militants. The US must reject dictatorship in Pakistan.

Further to my previous post on Pakistan’s martial law, here are some thoughts about the past and the future.

Here is General Musharraf’s speech after he imposed emergency/martial law.

Chapati Mystery has done an English translation of the whole speech so I don’t have to.

You’ll notice the “I” in Musharraf’s speech, i.e. “I did this, I did that” and his conflation of him and Pakistan and how everything he has done and is doing is for Pakistan. That is of course the staple of such speeches, I still remember Zia’s speeches.

Also, consider his reasons for his actions as given in his speech and the emergency proclamation.

Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

Whereas there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;

Whereas constant interference in executive functions, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralised and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and intelligence agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;

Whereas some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released. The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property. Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies subdued;

Whereas some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions;

Whereas the government is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and holds the superior judiciary in high esteem, it is nonetheless of paramount importance that the honourable judges confine the scope of their activity to the judicial function and not assume charge of administration;

Whereas an important constitutional institution, the Supreme Judicial Council, has been made entirely irrelevant and non est by a recent order and judges have, thus, made themselves immune from inquiry into their conduct and put themselves beyond accountability;

Whereas the humiliating treatment meted out to government officials by some members of the judiciary on a routine basis during court proceedings has demoralised the civil bureaucracy and senior government functionaries, to avoid being harassed, prefer inaction;

The terrorists and extremists were mentioned only a couple of times while most of Musharraf’s ire is towards the judiciary. A large number of the high court and supreme court judges have been thrown out now due to the requirement of a new oath under Musharraf’s latest Provisional Constitutional Order. Do remember that most of the judges serving now are those who took an oath under Musharraf’s earlier PCO in 1999-2000. So something has happened in the meantime to create this change in attitude.

It started with the Supreme Court taking independent positions and taking the government to task as a result of which Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007 and sent a reference against him to the Supreme Judicial Council. This triggered a protest by the lawyers in Pakistan which snowballed into a major headache for the government. Finally, in July the Supreme Court reinstated the Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court then declared former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s exile null and void. Sharif returned to Pakistan in September and was promptly packed off to Saudi Arabia. A petition of contempt of court against the government is pending in the Supreme Court and it was widely believed that it would result in conviction for the Prime Minister and other government officials.

The Supreme Court also recently punished the law enforcement officials who manhandled the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry when he was suspended in March. Similarly, the Supreme Court was hearing petitions or taking suo moto notice of several government actions including the disappearance by intelligence agencies (or law enforcement) of terrorist suspects.

And then there was the issue of Musharraf’s reelection as President. The court allowed him to contest the election but still had to rule on Musharraf’s eligibility. It was widely expected that they would rule him ineligible soon.

All these matters resulted in a situation where the Musharraf government was pitted against the Supreme Court and the law community. Though Musharraf was wrong on most of these issues, the situation was unhealthy as a lot of political and policy issues were being decided not in the political arena but in the courts. And lacking an army the supreme court was bound to lose eventually.

Immediately after emergency/martial law was imposed, a 7-member bench of the Supreme Court declared it null and void and called upon everyone not to obey the government orders. And today the protests against martial law are coming from the lawyers and not the political parties, which just goes to show the bankruptcy of the political class in Pakistan.

It is also the talk of the town that Benazir Bhutto left Pakistan for Dubai on the eve of the imposition of emergency because she knew about it and has made a deal with Musharraf. While Bhutto has condemned the imposition of emergency and called it martial law, it remains to be seen whether her party PPP will actually oppose it on the streets. The government seems to be sanguine about the PPP though as none of the major leaders of PPP have been arrested despite more than 1,500 arrests of lawyers, politicians and human rights activists over the weekend. The only major PPP leader arrested is Aitzaz Ahsan who is the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who I might add has less cojones than Junejo, had earlier suggested that national elections might be delayed for up to a year but has now said that elections will be on schedule.

Pakistan’s prime minister says national elections will be held as scheduled, despite President Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of emergency rule.

Elections are planned for mid-January, but there were fears they might be abandoned because of the crisis.

The government had suggested parliamentary polls could be delayed by up to a year.

But Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday that: “The next general elections will be held according to the schedule.”

Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum was more specific.

“It has been decided there will be no delay in the election and by 15 November these assemblies will be dissolved and the election will be held within the next 60 days,” he told Reuters news agency.

But with restrictions on the Press and the constitution suspended what use could these elections be?

With the political parties not being active in their political and democratic duties and Musharraf being extremely unpopular, it is likely that the longer the martial law continues, the more the extremists and the Islamists will be strengthened.

While Musharraf is not at all justified in imposing martial law and these measures are not likely to help Pakistan, it is true that Pakistan is in dire straits right now as is evident by the title of my previous post.

The war in Waziristan has been going on for a while now. The terrain there is difficult and the locals are not at all in favor of interference by the Pakistani government. However, the militants haven’t been good to the locals either. If you look at the kill ratios in Waziristan, it is clear that the Pakistan army, which has 80 to 90 thousand troops along with an equal number of paramilitaries, is not doing too well. Plus soldiers were being captured easily by the militants, the most famous being the 300 soldiers led by a Colonel who surrendered in August and were released yesterday in exchange for 28 militants.

The tribal areas have always been on the periphery of Pakistan and the writ of the central government hasn’t mattered much there. However, the problems are spreading to settled areas such as Swat. The government looked on for a couple of years as TNSM leader Fazlullah ranted against polio vaccination, girls’ education, music and other such matters on an illegal radio station in Swat. Now the situation there is out of control and paramilitary troops of Frontier Corps, who are generally conservative Pashtuns, are surrendering.

In addition, there have been numerous suicide attacks against military and law enforcement targets this year. The latest was the attack on a Pakistan Air Force bus in Sargodha which killed 11. Even more surprising was the suicide attack against a commando unit at an army mess hall near Tarbela in September. The situation has gotten so bad that the army has been ordered not to move around in uniform.

All of these things must have affected morale of the army. While the killings must be laid at the door of the militants, Musharraf must share some blame for his ham-handed handling of the matter.

Finally, as a US resident, the question arises as to what the US should do. I agree with Chapati Mystery that:

Pakistan needed our help a year ago. It needed a genuine push for democratic processes back in March. We left unchecked, and unhindered, a megalomaniac
“enlightened moderator”. We keep insisting on our own interests ahead of the interests of the people of Pakistan. We remain steadfast in our belief that those people are not as developed nor as functional as we would like them to be. Pakistan needs a strong dictator.

And all the things that Obsidian Wings points out we could have done.

As for what the US should do now? It should make it clear that martial law is not acceptable and democracy must return. In addition, the US should not favor any specific politician or party. There is an impression in Pakistan that the Bhutto-Musharraf deal had the blessings of the US. We should not take sides for or against Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif. Instead we must insist on Pakistan lifting martial law and holding free and fair elections immediately. The more the elections are delayed and the US is identified with Musharraf, the worse it is for the future of Pakistan and Pakistanis and by implication for the US. And hence I second Chapati Mystery’s call to ask US Presidential candidates to take a stand against dictatorship in Pakistan.

The End of Pakistan

General Musharraf has declared martial law in all but name and Pakistan is headed for the dustbin of history.

This morning, I was sleeping as Amber told me that a state of emergency had been imposed in Pakistan. I wasn’t surprised since something was expected after the situation had deteriorated in Swat in addition to Waziristan. However, when I woke up and switched on Geo TV, I realized that what had happened was more like a martial law than a state of emergency. According to All Things Pakistan, the government-owned PTV announced:

The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order.

According to the emergency proclamation,

And whereas the situation has been reviewed in meetings with the Prime Minister, governors of all Provinces, and with chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, chiefs of the armed forces, vice-chief of army Staff and corps commanders of the Pakistan army;Now, therefore, in pursuance of the deliberations and decisions of the said meetings, I, General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff, proclaim emergency throughout Pakistan.

I hereby order and proclaim that the constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance.

So the constitution is no more and the so-called emergency has been imposed by the Chief of Army Staff and not the President as defined by the constitution’s emergency provisions. The text of the provisional constitutional order is available here. Whatever might be said, this is Martial Law, not an emergency.

Musharraf has given extremism as the main reason for his second coup, but the reality is that the Supreme Court was likely to rule against Musharraf’s election in the next few days.

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has defended his decision to declare emergency rule, saying he could not allow the country to commit suicide.

In a televised address he said Pakistan had reached a crisis brought about by militant violence and a judiciary which had paralysed the government.

The chief justice has been replaced and the Supreme Court surrounded by troops.

The moves came as the Supreme Court was due to rule on the legality of Gen Musharraf’s October election victory.

The court was to decide whether Gen Musharraf was eligible to run for re-election last month while remaining army chief.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett reports from Islamabad that fears had been growing in the government that the Supreme Court ruling could go against Gen Musharraf.

The year 2007 has been very bad for Pakistan. In March, Musharraf tried to dismiss the Chief Justice and the lawyers came out against the highhandedness of the government, finally forcing Musharraf to let the Supreme Court reinstate the Chief Justice.

In July, there was the action against Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad after the extremist clerics there were given a free hand for months and as a result hundreds were killed. At the time, Amber called it the beginning of the end for Pakistan and to keep an eye on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan, we decided to subscribe to Geo TV. As it turned out, events spiraled out of control faster than we had thought possible. As Eteraz writes:

Musharraf’s act comes at a time when Pakistan has almost 100,000 troops in the Waziristan region, battling the Taliban. Meanwhile, the country is being hit by almost daily suicide bombings (since July, more than 450 people have been killed by terrorists). Islamist militants recently ambushed and held 250 solders hostage, and another 48 soldiers were paraded as a trophy by a Taliban commander.

Also, something like a war started recently in Swat.

Taleban fighters in Pakistan’s northern district of Swat have paraded 48 paramilitary troops they captured in fighting this week.

The soldiers said they surrendered when their positions on a hilltop were surrounded by armed militants.

More than 2,500 paramilitary troops were sent to Swat last week as fighting in the area worsened.

Nearly 300 soldiers are still being held prisoner further south in the Waziristan tribal region.

The militants in Swat want the imposition of Sharia law.

With suicide bombings occurring everywhere and FATA and Swat in open rebellion by extremists, Pakistan was in a precarious situation. Since Musharraf has been the dictator for 8 years, he must share some of the blame for the situation getting this bad. However, if he wanted to tackle it, he could have proclaimed a constitutional state of emergency which does contain provisions to suspend fundamental rights. But it did not allow him to get rid of the Supreme Court and the High Courts as Musharraf has done. The only reason of doing so is to save his own power.

And that brings us to “I told you so.” On October 12, 1999, I told everyone who would listen that Musharraf was not taking over for the sake of Pakistan or for saving the country from the corrupt politicians like Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto. He did not act when the country was in peril, but when his own position as Army Chief was threatened. I have always considered him a power-hungry army general in the mold of General Ziaul Haq.

Ziaul Haq sowed the seeds of Pakistan’s current troubles with his Islamization and jihadi policies and today Musharraf is reaping its rewards and acting like Zia II. Having grown up in Zia’s Pakistan and now watching Musharraf’s Pakistan from afar, both these generals look to be the worst nightmare for Pakistan.

I agree with Chapati Mystery here.

Next up? Martial Law. More bombings. And the eventual drain of all that capital that had accumulated in the country in the past 8 years. Zimbabwe, here we come. Unless, US and China can come to their senses and do some actual diplomacy. The status is bleak. Let us say that Musharraf resigns and leaves. The Supreme Court declares an election date, the new government solves the Baluchistan issue, th US redeploys significant troops to Afghanistan (and keeps them there), the Pakistani military combats within cities and mountains of Pakistan. War. Chaos. Uncertainty. And this, my gentle readers, would be the best case scenario. A more likely option is a military state somewhere between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe circa 2005 and Gandhi’s India circa 1976.

However, if I have to give my prediction, my guess is that the army will stay in power for a long time now, but Musharraf’s days are numbered.

Pakistan Political Poll

A discussion about a series of polls about political opinions in Pakistan. In short, Musharraf and the ruling PML-Q are very unpopular, Bhutto and PPP are losing their popularity too while Sharif is gaining. The religio-political leaders are losing too.

Whenever talk turns to Pakistani politics, the biggest problem I have faced is a lack of data. How do we know which politicians, parties and policies are popular? Most of the time, we have to make do with hand-waving and some guesstimates of political rallies and marches. So I was really happy to find the opinion surveys of International Republican Institute done over 2006-2007.

Their latest poll was conducted from August 29 to September 13, 2007 and has a margin of error of 1.58%. For some context, Nawaz Sharif arrived in Pakistan on September 10 and was promptly sent to Saudi Arabian exile while Benazir Bhutto arrived in Karachi on October 18.

The detailed results are here but I like the charts.

When Pakistanis were asked to name their top issues for voting decisions, they named mainly economic concerns: Inflation (37%), unemployment (20%), and poverty (11%). This was followed by law and order at 10%. Islamization was cited by only 2% of the respondents.

A majority (62%) does not want the army to have any role in government. More (76%, of which 70% have strong opinions on the matter) would like Musharraf to resign as army chief. Both of these numbers have increased over the course of this year.

Reports of a deal between Musharraf and Bhutto were around throughout this year. The poll shows that support for such a deal is down.

deal.png

However, a majority of PPP (58%) and PML-Q (53%) supporters still favor the deal. When given an option between a deal with Musharraf and an alliance with the opposition APDM, almost half of all respondents prefer the PPP joining APDM. This is even true for PPP supporters, which is strange since they support the Musharraf-Bhutto deal too.

47% of Pakistanis think that this deal is for improving Bhutto’s personal situation while 27% believe it is for bringing democracy. These numbers are reversed among PPP supporters.

To anyone watching Pakistan, it is clear how things have taken a turn for the worse recently, what Amber called “beginning of the end” some months ago. Still the question about which direction Pakistan is heading was an eye opener with such a dramatic change over the last 6 months.

direction.png

Government performance numbers have shown a similar trend, with the government being quite popular (61%) in February 2007.

performance.png

Musharraf’s job approval rating has fallen faster and lower than Bush’s, with 70% now calling for his resignation.

musharraf.png

A very interesting question is about which leader can best handle the problems facing Pakistan. No one gets a majority, showing both Pakistanis’ cynicism about their leaders and the divisions in society. But I found it very intriguing that Nawaz Sharif comes out of nowhere to suddenly lead the pack in the latest survey. Since that survey was conducted right in the middle of Sharif’s effort to return and his being packed off to Saudia again, it is premature to say whether he’ll hold on to his lead. My guess is that Musharraf is very unpopular right now and some of that has rubbed on to Bhutto due to her deal with Musharraf.

leader.png

A province-wise breakdown of leaders is even more interesting, with the religio-political leaders trailing even in the province they rule, NWFP.

leader-province.png

Looking at the favorability ratings of Pakistani political leaders, we see Musharraf crashing which was obvious but we also see Altaf Hussain of MQM going from 18% to 6%. Whether this will mean that MQM’s hold on Karachi will be broken is anybody’s guess. The religio-political leaders Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Fazalur Rehman peaked a year ago but have lost popularity since. And this was before the drama of Fazalur Rehman trying to hold on to power in NWFP at all costs during the Musharraf election in October. My prediction is for Fazalur Rahman to be even more unpopular in the next survey.

favorability.png

Coming to elections, 74% of Pakistanis opposed the reelection of Musharraf as President. The voting intentions for parliamentary elections by party track the leaders reasonably, with Musharraf being considered the leader for the ruling PML-Q. I was surprised at the PML-N performance though. I guess most of the anti-Musharraf, non-PPP vote is accumulated there.

polls.png

In Punjab, PML-N (54%) does best followed by PML-Q (21%). In Sindh, PPP is at 64% followed by PML-Q at 8%. In NWFP, PML-N is at 27% while PML-Q and PPP are tied at 17% each (note that NWFP is currently ruled by MMA which polls even behind Imran Khan’s PTI). In Balochistan, it’s PPP at 29% followed by MMA at 15%.

Overall, it looks like Musharraf and the ruling alliance are very unpopular. So unpopular in fact that Bhutto’s PPP is getting tainted due to their willingness to make a deal. The religious alliance MMA is also not as popular as it was in the last elections in 2002. And in urban Sindh, MQM seems to be finally losing its stranglehold.

Presidential Candidate Quiz

Now that the Presidential election is just more than a year away, let’s take a quick first look at the Democratic and Republican candidates.

I decided to take a quiz about the Presidential candidates and here is the result:

  1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
  2. Barack Obama (71%)
  3. Al Gore (not announced) (70%)
  4. Wesley Clark (not announced) (68%)
  5. Dennis Kucinich (67%)
  6. Christopher Dodd (65%)
  7. Hillary Clinton (63%)
  8. John Edwards (63%)
  9. Joseph Biden (61%)
  10. Bill Richardson (61%)
  11. Michael Bloomberg (not announced) (57%)
  12. Alan Augustson (campaign suspended) (54%)
  13. Ron Paul (48%)
  14. Mike Gravel (45%)
  15. Kent McManigal (campaign suspended) (35%)
  16. Elaine Brown (31%)
  17. John McCain (30%)
  18. Mike Huckabee (29%)
  19. Mitt Romney (29%)
  20. Chuck Hagel (not announced) (28%)
  21. Rudolph Giuliani (28%)
  22. Tommy Thompson (withdrawn) (26%)
  23. Newt Gingrich (not announced) (21%)
  24. Sam Brownback (18%)
  25. Tom Tancredo (18%)
  26. Fred Thompson (not announced) (16%)
  27. Jim Gilmore (withdrawn) (10%)
  28. Duncan Hunter (10%)

Not completely accurate, though I am a mild supporter of Senator Obama.

And here are my thoughts about some of these candidates.

Barack Obama says he is an agent of change, but he hasn’t come up with any policy that could be described as a major departure from the mainstream. He is a very good orator and seems to have decent positions on most issues but where are the winds of change?

Hillary Clinton is a deeply divisive figure so I am not sure how she would do in the general election, though she’s expected to do very well in the primaries. I think there are two major faults with her. One, she hasn’t really changed her opinion on the Iraq war. And two, she is probably the one Democrat with the most expansive ideas about executive authority. Hence she cannot be relied on to roll back the excesses of the Bush administration.

John Edwards is a generally likable politician who has offered a mea culpa on Iraq and is one of the few candidates to focus on poverty.

Can Joseph Biden please stop shouting during the debates? Thank you!

Bill Richardson has a lot of experience as a cabinet member, ambassador and governor. He is also one of the few candidates to commit to complete withdrawal from Iraq without leaving any residual forces. However, he is prone to gaffes every now and then and hasn’t really broken through to the first tier.

Let’s talk about the Republicans now, even though no Republican should be voted in even as a dogcatcher next year.

Ron Paul’s opposition to the Iraq war and some of his libertarian ideas interest me but then he does sound like the crazy uncle at times, sort of like Mike Gravel does in the Democratic debates.

John McCain has only one place to go: Down! What happened to McCain? A darling of the independents in 2000, he’s now stuck with not one but two unpopular policies: Immigration reform and the Iraq war. How did the Iraq war become his?

Mitt Romney sounds like such a fake. Was he always like that or is it a new thing? Did the Massachusetts voters elect him despite his fakery? Does his disowning of Massachusetts even convince anyone?

Tom Tancredo is after the bigot vote and thus won’t get anywhere because who wants to be identified as hater.

Fred Thompson sounds like the farcical version of Reagan or something. His acting doesn’t impress me and neither does his political persona or his positions.

Mike Huckabee is the religious politician and you know how that combo irritates me. So it speaks to the qualities of the Republican field that Huckabee is the one Republican who has impressed me a little. He seems to be a down to earth fellow who believes in Biblical literalism but does care about the poor and the ordinary.

And finally we come to Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. If you think we are screwed now due to Bush, wait till Giuliani becomes President. The guy is absolutely nuts. Every single New Yorker I know, even those who voted for him as mayor, thinks Giuliani should not be within a million miles of the White House. Listen, for example, to Rudy Giuliani going crazy over ferret ownership.

بش کے دیس میں خدا

امریکہ مذہبی ملک ہے۔ یہاں ایتھیئسٹ کو اچھا نہیں سمجھا جاتا۔ خدا پر یقین کو اچھے انسان ہونے کے لئے لازمی قرار دیا جاتا ہے۔ ذاتی اور عوامی دائرہ‌کار میں ایتھیئسٹ کے بارے میں ایک عام امریکی کیا خیالات رکھتا ہے اس بارے میں کچھ سروے کے نتائج حاضر ہیں۔

بدتمیز نے اپنے بلاگ پر ایک سلسلہ شروع کیا تھا بش کے دیس میں جس میں وہ امریکہ کے بارے میں لکھتا ہے۔ پھر حال ہی میں بدتمیز نے پوچھا کہ خدا کیا ہے؟ ۔ اس سے مجھے اس پوسٹ کا خیال آیا۔

جیسا کہ میں پہلے لکھ چکا ہوں کہ مجھے امریکہ آنے سے پہلے اندازہ نہیں تھا کہ امریکی اتنے مذہبی ہوں گے۔ مگر یہاں آ کر احساس ہوا کہ یہاں atheist کافی کم ہیں اور عام لوگ انہیں اچھا بھی نہیں سمجھتے۔ صرف یہی نہیں بلکہ اردو وکی‌پیڈیا کے افراز کی طرح بہت سے امریکی agnostic اور atheist میں فرق نہیں سمجھتے۔ ایسا نہیں ہے کہ atheists کے خلاف active hostility ہو مگر مذہبی لوگوں کا خیال ہے کہ خدا کو مانے بغیر انسان ایک اچھا انسان ہو ہی نہیں سکتا۔ شاید اسی قسم کی کوئی رائے پہلے صدر بش نے بھی دی تھی۔

پچھلے سال یونیورسٹی آف منیسوٹا نے ایک سٹڈی شائع کی جس کے مطابق ایتھیئسٹ امریکہ کی سب سے کم قابلِ بھروسہ اقلیت ہیں۔ اس سٹڈی کی تفصیلات کے مطابق امریکی نہ ایتھیئسٹ کو ووٹ دینا چاہتے ہیں، نہ اپنے بچے کی اس سے شادی کرنا چاہتے ہیں اور نہ یہ سمجھتے ہیں کہ ایتھیئسٹ اور ان کا امریکہ کے لئے ایک ہی وژن ہے۔ مزے کی بات یہ ہے کہ ان ساری باتوں میں ایتھیئسٹ مسلمانوں سے بھی بدتر سمجھے جاتے ہیں۔

گیلپ کے ایک سروے کے مطابق 2008 کے صدارتی انتخابات میں زیادہ‌تر لوگ کیتھولک، افریقی امریکی، یہودی، عورت،ہسپانک یا مورمن کو ووٹ دینے کو تیار ہیں مگر ایک ایتھیئسٹ کو صرف 45 ووٹ دینے کے بارے میں غور کریں گے۔ یہ ایک ہم‌جنس‌پرست سے بھی بری پرفارمنس ہے جسے 55 فیصد لوگ ووٹ دے سکتے ہیں۔ 1958 میں جب ایٹھیئسٹ صدارتی امیدوار کے بارے میں سروے کیا گیا تو صرف 18 فیصد اسے ووٹ دینے پر تیار تھے۔ یہ تناسب 1978 میں بڑھ کر 40 فیصد ہو گیا مگر اس کے بعد سے زیادہ نہیں بڑھا۔

اسی سال ایک اور سروے کے مطابق 32 فیصد ووٹر مورمن امیدوار کو ووٹ دینے سے کترائیں گے، 45 فیصد مسلمان صدارتی امیدوار کو ووٹ دینے سے کترائیں گے جبکہ 50 فیصد ایتھیئسٹ امیدوار کو ووٹ نہیں دیں گے۔ یہاں بھی ایتھیئسٹ مسلمان سے بھ بدتر ثابت ہوا۔

پیٹ ٹلمین ایک امریکی فٹبال کا کھلاڑی تھا جو فوج میں شامل ہوا اور افغانستان میں فرینڈلی فائر سے مارا گیا۔ پینٹاگون نے پہلے اس کو ہیرو قرار دیا اور کہا کہ وہ دشمن سے مقابلے میں مارا گیا۔ ٹلمین کی فیملی حقائق جاننے کی کوشش میں رہی اور اب بھی مزید کوشش جاری ہے جب اس کی موت سے متعلق کافی حقیقت سامنے آ چکی ہے۔ اس بارے میں یہ آرٹیکل کافی تفصیل بتاتا ہے۔ مگر ہم ایتھیئسٹس پر بات کر رہے تھے۔ اس آرٹیکل میں فوج کے ایک لیفٹیننٹ کرنل صاحب فرماتے ہیں کہ ٹلمین کی فیملی اس کی موت کی تفصیل اور ذمہ‌داری کے تعین پر اس لئے مصر ہے کہ وہ خدا پر یقین نہیں رکھتے اور اس لئے انہیں چین نہیں آ رہا۔ اس بیان سے کرنل کا ایتھیئسٹس کے خلاف تعصب صاف ظاہر ہے۔

Vote Early, Vote Often

Today are the midterm elections. Do vote and vote against the Republicans as they have become arrogant. Also it is good to throw out the governing party once every few elections.

Today is election day here. So do vote. I won’t be voting out of respect for the law, and my non-fellow citizens (as Harry put it), but you should.

I think it is time to vote against the Republicans this time. Vote against any Republican standing for any office (even dogcatcher). There are several reasons for this. You will probably have heard the more important ones, like the US torture policy, the Iraq war, incompetence in the war on terror as well as in economics, and so on. But there is another important reason: arrogance of power. The Republicans have drunk from the fountain of power and it has gone to their head. This happens from time to time in a democracy and whenever it does, there is only one thing to do: Throw them out. I am a strong believer in voting against incumbents every few election cycles just for the heck of it. It keeps the politicians on their toes and does not let one party stay in power for too long which are both good things in my opinion.

As for predictions, mine is that the Democrats will take over the House by gaining about 24 seats but will fail in the Senate. Since Lieberman and Sanders are most likely going to caucus with the Democrats, this will result in a 50—50 Senate with Cheney casting the tiebreaker vote.

I have been following the polls, predictions and other election news at the following sites:

I hope to congratulate Captain Arrrgh tonight for getting rid of both his Senator and his Representative (both Republicans).