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Princess Royal Thursday, January 29, 2009 10:07 AM

Safar 02, 1430
January 29, 2009[/B][/RIGHT]

[B][U][CENTER][SIZE="4"][COLOR="DarkRed"]As the terror escalates[/COLOR][/SIZE][/CENTER][/U][/B]

FROM available reports it appears that the war on terror in the border areas of Pakistan is all set to intensify in the coming weeks. Its outcome cannot be predicted at this stage because the government’s strategy and its war aims are still not sharply defined. The only factor that seems to be certain at the moment is that the American policy of carrying out drone strikes against suspected terrorist targets inside Fata is to continue, the change of administration in Washington notwithstanding. Defence Secretary Robert Gates confirmed this before a US Senate panel when he also disclosed that this decision had been conveyed to Islamabad. In other words, whether the Pakistan government wants to go along or not, it has to be prepared for a protracted war that will be stepped up at America’s bidding and will inevitably bring civilian casualties in its wake.

The fact is that the prognosis for the course of terrorism in the region is bleak. Two think tanks have pointed to the rise in bombing incidents and insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent times. According to the Combating Terrorism Centre of the West Point Military Academy in the US, the focus of suicide bomb attacks moved from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan in July 2007-July 2008. In this year the number of suicide bombings in our region went up significantly. The London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies has also confirmed that insurgents now roam freely on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and have expanded the area of their activity. As a result violence has also escalated.

How is Pakistan trying to counter the challenges it faces from all sides? The army soldiers on in Fata and we regularly receive claims of how many militants are killed in the operations undertaken there. But the violence continues. The government claims that three ‘D’s mark its policy, namely, dialogue, development and deterrence. If this is really so, it doesn’t appear to be working. What is missing is coordination with others who are also supposedly our partners in the war on terror. While there is need for changing military tactics in response to the different compulsions on the ground when an operation is undertaken, the broader need for a unified political approach vis-à-vis the militants is absolutely essential. But that is not the case. Those battling India — in Kashmir or on Indian territory — are treated differently from those fighting the Americans in Afghanistan. There is yet another approach towards the militants whose activities are focused on the domestic front as in Swat. What is needed is a coordinated and integrated approach. Needless to say, this must be pinned together with a broad political consensus on what we hope to achieve.


[B][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Cricket, anyone?[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U][/B] [/CENTER]

THE writing on the wall, in upper case and underscored, could have been missed only by the short-sighted. Shoaib Malik’s tenure as captain of the Pakistan cricket team was never secure from day one. He became skipper by default when Younis Khan turned down the job in the wake of the World Cup fiasco in 2007. Many said Malik did not merit automatic selection in the Test team, and as such would find it difficult to command the respect of senior players. To be fair he tried, and this paper wished him well when he took over, but sadly his side couldn’t hold its own against quality opposition. The final nail in the coffin came last Saturday when Pakistan suffered their heaviest one-day defeat ever at the hands of Sri Lanka. The loss in itself was not the problem but the nature of the defeat, the manner in which the team succumbed without putting up a semblance of a fight, was frankly appalling. Malik’s days were numbered the moment the game ended.

No miracle cures can be expected of Younis Khan, the new captain. In one of his first comments since taking over, Khan said he “would try to forge unity in the team”. Perhaps public speaking is not his forte. On face value, however, his words imply that the national side currently lacks unity. Skippering the Pakistan team is one of the toughest jobs in the cricketing world and he must show steely resolve now that he has accepted the responsibility he refused on two earlier occasions.

The road ahead will be uphill. Javed Miandad’s reported resignation as director general of the PCB is anything but timely. With almost every country in the world with the exception of the cricketing minnows and a gracious Sri Lanka refusing to tour Pakistan, our players are short on match practice against quality opposition. Pakistan did not play a single Test match in 2008. It is the rigours of Test cricket that turn talented players into consistent performers as opposed to flash-in-the-pan artists. Pakistan’s batsmen appear to be out of their depth and many of our quick bowlers seem to have lost their mojo in this extended exile from top-flight cricket. We need to explore the option of neutral venues, for some cricket is better than none. Those who ‘defected’ to the ICL should be allowed to play cricket again. The ban isn’t fair and it makes no sense to kowtow to the diktat of the Indian cricket board.


[B][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Much ado about nothing[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U][/B] [/CENTER]

THE Senate on Tuesday did nothing better than waste its time when somebody pointed to a map in a calendar published in India and sent by post to our parliamentarians. The map visualised a Greater India. Angry senators said this was a conspiracy against the “country’s ideology and integrity”. As was bound to happen on an emotive issue like this, the treasury and opposition benches exchanged barbs and cast aspersions on the patriotic credentials of some senators. But on the whole there was unity in the house on the perversity contained in the map, and the issue seemed settled when the government assured the lawmakers that the FIA would investigate the matter. The debate on a non-issue like the made-in-India calendar-map is

typical of the lopsided priorities of our leaders and representatives. There is no dearth of people on the lunatic fringe the world over. There are Zionist maps showing Greater Israel that includes land between the Euphrates and the Nile. The truth is Israel cannot absorb Gaza and the West Bank, much less conquer and annex Iraq and Egypt. There are such lunatics in Pakistan also, and the best response from saner elements would be silence.

Regrettably, what the senators uttered was nonsensical. It is ridiculous to presume that Pakistan’s integrity and ‘ideology’ are so delicate that a sketch by a megalomaniac cartographer can threaten it. We have had a taste of this wisdom during Ziaul Haq’s days when anything that even remotely constituted criticism of the government was considered a threat to Pakistan’s ‘ideology’, with Islam itself being constantly in danger in a Muslim-majority country. The ridiculous part of the debate came when a senator demanded the post office censor mail from abroad. Do we want Pakistan to turn into a police state once again? The real threat to Pakistan comes from things far deadlier than an outlandish map — threats like the Taliban philosophy as seen in the blown-up schools of Swat, the sectarian clashes in Parachinar and the general absence of the rule of law. Let our elected representatives focus on that and not give in to distractions.


[B][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]OTHER VOICES - Middle East Press[/U][/SIZE][/COLOR]

Khaleej Times

Time to hold Israel to account[/B][/CENTER]

INITIAL, solitary voices of protest against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza have transformed themselves into a growing global chorus. With eminent human rights agencies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joining the movement to hold Israel to account for its widespread and well-documented atrocities in Gaza, efforts to build a case against Israeli leaders and generals have gathered pace. While the Middle East media has for long been trying to draw the world’s attention to Israel’s well-orchestrated ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population, their feeble pleas have often fallen on deaf ears…. For three weeks, Israel pounded and pulverised Gaza indiscriminately targeting hospitals, schools, mosques and even UN shelters. It used all kinds of banned chemical weapons and substances on an imprisoned population that had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

This is no idle rhetoric. It’s all been captured and preserved for posterity by television cameras. Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have slammed the Jewish state for using white phosphorus shells over Gaza despite its banned use in civilian areas. The Israeli army also reportedly used a new experimental weapon called Dime — dense inert metal explosive — that severs limbs and ruptures internal organs of everyone in the vicinity…. Dr Richard Falk, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University … argues that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics used during the offensive are serious violations of the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international law and humanitarian law…. — (Jan 26)


[B][CENTER][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Education as it has always been[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U][/CENTER]

By Dr Pervez Tahir [/B][/CENTER]

PAKISTAN has under-invested in education to a notoriously large degree. Worse, the sector has consistently under-utilised whatever money was allocated. This is how the education sector has always been, policy rhetoric and donor-speak notwithstanding.

And this is how it seems it will continue to be if some recent actions and inactions are any guide — a university here, a cadet college there, while girls’ primary schools burn where they are needed most.

Crunch times like the present affect education the most. While the Higher Education Commission (HEC) funding has been slashed, this does not signify that elementary education is now a priority. As ever, the sector lacks direction. In a land obsessed with the power to post and transfer, appointing heads of the HEC and the education division/departments is a matter that can wait. Primary education has no champions, nor any constituency. A.Q. Khan has argued that mass education does not lead to a developed state. He cites the Sri Lankan case of universal literacy and primary school enrolment. But he will be hard pressed to quote any example of a country which has Pakistan’s literacy and enrolment ratios and happens to be developed. Despite its running civil war, Sri Lanka at least has a much higher Human Development Index than Pakistan.

Higher education did get a champion in the person of Atta-ur-Rehman. In a matter of five years the allocation that used to be in millions became billions. To get around bureaucratic resistance and political opposition he got a chancellors committee headed by Musharraf himself. This committee decided that the allocation for higher education should rise by 50 per cent every year. He freed himself from the education ministry and got his own principal accounting officer. Most important, he was able to protect the unspent money also by having it declared non-lapsable.

Chancellors who happened to be governors were used for lobbying. For instance, three governors once wrote to Musharraf that the chief economist of the Planning Commission, which happened to be this writer, was anti-HEC. What was I doing? At the project approval meetings, I used to put the emphasis on teachers and students rather than construction and point out the neglect of social sciences. The result, however, was that the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, himself a former executive director of the HEC, banned the economic appraisal of the HEC projects altogether.

The point is that higher education had a champion, and allocations, but no vision. It was a huge lobbying effort gone astray. The lesson is that the mere allocation of money is not enough. The sad part is that the enhanced allocations were at the expense of primary and college education. As a whole, annual allocation for the education sector remained under two per cent of the GNP from 2001-02 to 2006-07. It rose from 1.49 per cent of the GNP to 1.86 per cent. Out of a total increment of 0.37 percentage point in the entire period, 0.27 went to higher education. Let it be admitted frankly that allocations for education are unlikely to move beyond two per cent of the GNP until the tax/GDP ratio is jolted out of its present stagnation. Policy has to focus on priorities and effective spending.

Priorities were determined by the founder of Pakistan himself who believed that knowledge as a force was more powerful than the sword and that in no country had elementary education become universal without compulsion. Again, the first All Pakistan Educational Conference was told: “Education does not merely mean academic education. There is immediate and urgent need for training our people in the scientific and technical education in order to build up our future economic life, and we should see that our people take to science, commerce, trade and particularly, well-planned industries. But do not forget that we have to compete with the world which is moving very fast in this direction. Also I must emphasise that greater attention should be paid to technical and vocational education.”

No less relevant are his thoughts on cadet colleges: “I know the conservative British mind ... that the only method in this world by which you can get suitable boys for a military career is the public school system. Now let me tell [them] that there is no public school system either in America or in Canada or in France or in Germany or any other country that I know of.” As a matter of fact, the intake of the services from cadet colleges is extremely limited. This did not stop the education division from allocating about Rs1bn to 13 existing and nine new cadet colleges in the current year’s budget which on the whole declined in absolute terms.

In short, visionaries like Jinnah would prefer to give priority to compulsory universal primary education, non-elitist education, professional, commercial and technical education, and just enough to generalist education, with no discrimination between the sexes.

[B]The writer, a former chief economist, is now Mahbub ul Haq Chair at GC University, Lahore.[/B]


[B][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Mitchell’s new challenge[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U]

By Ewen MacAskill[/B][/CENTER]

GEORGE Mitchell has long been one of the few who believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved. “Conflicts are created and conducted by human beings,” he said in a speech last month. “They can be ended by human beings.”

It sounded naive, especially in Washington where the prevailing mood among current and former diplomats is one of extreme scepticism, given Israel’s Gaza assault and the Israeli election next month that could see the hawkish Binyamin Netanyahu take office.

But Mitchell helped resolve the Northern Ireland conflict that seemed equally intractable at the time. He has a doggedness, a willingness to keep going day after day, whatever the setbacks.

Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, who worked closely with Mitchell on the Northern Ireland peace process, said on Tuesday: “He is the most patient man I have ever come across in my life. He will just keep going whatever the insults, whatever the pressures, until he gets an agreement.”

Mitchell is not new to the Middle East. After Northern Ireland, Bill Clinton sent him to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to produce a report on the origins of the 2000 Palestinian uprising and how to resolve the conflict.

He recommended Israel lift restrictions preventing Palestinians expanding their economy, in the hope that job creation might marginalise militants. He combined this with a call for a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a proposal which could see early friction between the US and Israel if Netanyahu, who advocates settlement expansion, is elected.

Mitchell also called for the Palestinians to build up their security forces to crack down on militant groups such as Hamas, in order to offer Israel the prospect of prolonged peace. But that proposal is infinitely more difficult to achieve now than when Mitchell first proposed it. Hamas has since taken over control of Gaza and the Palestinians are divided between Hamas and Fatah, the ruling group on the West Bank.

What gives Mitchell an outside chance is that he is engaged from the start of the Obama administration. Clinton failed to be constant in his search for Middle East peace; George Bush was never truly engaged.

Mitchell made this point in an interview in 2007: “Until now, [the Bush] administration efforts have been periodic, inconsistent and anything but persevering. If there is to be success, that has to change. There has to be a strong and clear determination, a perseverance: not in one day and out the next, not one person one day another person next week, not one proposal now and another proposal next year.”

What Mitchell is offering is someone who will stay with it day after day, as he did in Northern Ireland.

Judith Kipper, of Washington’s Institute of World Affairs, said that Mitchell had the right credentials. What was needed, she said, was for the US to take a lead in introducing or imposing new ideas. About 90 per cent of a peace agreement had been reached at the 2001 Taba talks in 2001. “For the remainder, the US has to introduce ideas for both the Israelis and Palestinians. We are big and they are little. Tough love,” she said.

Mitchell is not afraid of speaking to the militants, as he demonstrated in Northern Ireland. Kipper thinks he will have to do the same in the Middle East. “I think this administration will talk to Hamas directly or covertly ... in the next 18 months.” (Mitchell may have already spoken to Hamas on an earlier mission.)

“The issue, certainly at this stage is not one of US direct engagement with Hamas, but a recognition — even if undeclared — that Hamas will have to be brought into the process, either in the context of internal Palestinian reconciliation or in their own right,” said Daniel Levy, who worked for the Israeli government on various peace initiatives.

[B]— The Guardian, London[/B]

Princess Royal Friday, January 30, 2009 11:34 AM

Safar 03, 1430
January 30, 2009 [/B][/RIGHT]
Economic miasma[/COLOR][/SIZE][/U][/CENTER][/B]

THE IMF’s forecast that the global economy will grow just 0.5 per cent in 2009 — the lowest growth since the Second World War — is a devastatingly bleak assessment. Economic data can sometimes seem aseptic, but the dire numbers emanating from all corners of the world are nothing short of traumatic. What once seemed like the comeuppance of Vegas-style capitalists overindulging in obscure financial instruments like derivatives has now become a systemic crisis that has seen jobs vanish, wealth deplete and production decline in eye-popping numbers. More worrying perhaps is that the world’s best financial and economic experts have no real idea when the world will touch the bottom of this crisis, or indeed of how bad the global economy may get.

Here in Pakistan, the months and years ahead must be eyed with a great deal of apprehension. Last year, a global liquidity crunch and a spike in international commodity prices were the main reasons for key economic indicators blinking red furiously. But the worst may be far from over; indeed, stubbornly high inflation and high interest rates are ricocheting through the real economy and causing cutbacks that will not be aggregated for months, though needless to say their effects on such headline figures as unemployment and GDP growth will be grim. Pakistan’s GDP is expected to grow between two to four per cent in 2008/2009, which would be at or near recessionary levels. And with global demand falling and the domestic energy situation likely to get worse before getting better, whatever competitive advantage Pakistani exports may have enjoyed following the plunge in the value of the rupees is likely to be cancelled.

While the Pakistan government may not be able to do much about the global economy, there are several things it can do to cushion the blow. Consider the situation with rice, wheat and sugar. Government intervention has distorted the market and appears to have benefited middlemen, profiteers and big landlords at the expense of small growers and consumers. Elsewhere, a report in this paper yesterday has suggested that meat prices are increasing across the country as a result of the government’s decision to allow the export of livestock. These are all policy and regulatory issues which if handled better and with greater political will can mitigate the worst effects of the global economy on consumers. In addition, there is much talk of increasing our tax-to-GDP ratio, rationalising development expenditure and cutting back non-development expenditure. Each of these measures is necessary if Pakistan is ever to move into the stratum of middle-income countries; however, the measures have been championed a number of times before, only to slip off the radar when the times are better.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Gestures aren’t enough[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

A DAY after President Barack Obama reached out to the Muslim world a second time, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, his Iranian counterpart, asked the new American leader to apologise for “crimes” against his country. On Tuesday, as a follow-up to his inauguration speech in which President Obama sought “a new way forward” with the Muslim world, the American president had told the Muslim world in an interview to an Arab channel that “Americans are not your enemy”. He had a point when he said America “was not born as a colonial power”, and he wondered why his country and the Muslim world could not have the relationship they had “20 or 30 years ago”.

While these sentiments are no doubt pious, the president should note that America’s behaviour, especially during the Bush presidency, has been little better than that of a colonial power. After all, it is the Muslim countries that have borne the brunt of American firepower, which has mostly killed Muslim civilians. More shockingly, America attacked Iraq even though the Hans Blix commission had found no ‘smoking gun’. In that process America was responsible for the death of at least 300,000 Muslim civilians. What has also antagonised Muslims the world over is America’s rigidly pro-Israel policy controlled in large measure by a strong Jewish lobby in the US. Since his inauguration Mr Obama has done little to suggest that the Democratic administration will do away with old attitudes and adopt a non-partisan approach. This latter is important if the goal of a Palestinian homeland is to be achieved. In the 2006 war the Bush administration maintained a criminal silence when Israel killed 1,000 Lebanese civilians and destroyed Lebanon’s infrastructure. In much the same way, as president-elect, Mr Obama chose to keep quiet during the 22-day Israeli blitz that killed 1,300 Palestinian civilians. The new president will have to be forthcoming in his condemnation of such acts by Israel if he is to demonstrate an even-handed policy.

Where South Asia is concerned, Mr Obama now plans a surge in American troop levels in Afghanistan, and going by the frequency of drone attacks, he seems to have embraced Bush’s Fata policy whole hog. We hope that his desire for a new chapter in relations with the Muslim world will be translated into action, and that he possesses the common sense to realise that it is unresolved issues like Palestine and Kashmir that breed terrorists.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Parallel courts in Swat[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

IT is important to keep morale high and not succumb to defeatism. It must also be noted that the army says it is stepping up efforts to root out militancy in the once idyllic valley of Swat. That said, the talk coming from officialdom must match the reality on the ground if it is to be taken seriously. Talking to a veteran Pakhtun leader who is valiantly defying the Taliban in Swat, President Asif Zardari said on Wednesday that “We will not allow [the militants] to set up their parallel judiciary system and threaten the local people.” This statement may have enjoyed currency had it been made several years ago. Not allow the Taliban to set up a parallel judiciary? They had already done so, without asking for anybody’s permission, long before the recent ‘summons’ was issued to area politicians and elders. It has been reported that more than 70 Taliban ‘courts’ are functioning across the Swat valley. The Taliban don’t just threaten but torture and murder local people with impunity on an almost daily basis. It is the welfare of ordinary residents that should head the government’s list of priorities.

Instead of insisting that the situation is under control, Islamabad would do well to admit that things are out of hand. Only then can the executive branch and the military devise a strategy that stands a realistic chance of success. Conceding that you have hit rock bottom is the essential first step in the journey towards a healthier state of affairs. Finding something undesirable is one thing, being in a position to disallow it quite another. A parallel may be drawn here with the government’s claims that violations of the country’s sovereignty will not be tolerated. The Americans continue to bomb us nonetheless. How, in any way, are we going to ‘not allow’ drone strikes from happening again? Jirgas, which also represent a parallel judiciary system, are held regularly in Sindh, a province where they are banned. Sindh is free of militancy, yet the government is powerless to stamp out this barbaric practice. We are waiting to see how it will disallow Taliban courts.

[COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]OTHER VOICES - Pushto Press[/U] [/SIZE][/COLOR]

Larawbar, Kabul

Kabul’s differences with Nato[/CENTER][/B]

THE government officials in Kabul say that if Nato does not support the participation of the Afghan National Army in fighting against the Taliban, they will turn to the people of Afghanistan and ask for their verdict in this regard. According to government sources, the Afghan government has sent a new plan to the general secretary of Nato and this contains credible recommendations that should stop the Nato forces from acting on their own. The government … is of the opinion that Nato’s unilateral assaults against the Taliban have created problems because of the lack of understanding of the local culture.

The Afghan platoons will guide the Nato forces because the Afghan army understands and is sensitive to the local culture and traditions. The Afghan government is of the view that insensitivity towards local culture and traditions on the part of Nato forces has done more harm than good in the war on terror. The Afghan government which has of late come under attack from the international community due to a number of reasons has developed differences with Nato and the United States in this regard.

The officials say that they would turn to the people of Afghanistan if Nato does not respond to the new strategic plan by the Afghan government within a month. Although the ‘verdict of the people’ has not been explained, it seems that the Afghan government is aware that Nato regards it with mistrust. If this is the case, the Taliban insurgency will become stronger in the near future because of the differences between the Afghan government and Nato. — (Jan 29)

[B]Selected and translated by Khadim Hussain[/B]

[CENTER][B][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]Women, ulema and fatwas[/U] [/SIZE][/COLOR]

By Asghar Ali Engineer[/B][/CENTER]

MANY of our ulema and theologians usually claim that Islam has given the highest position to women, but having said so they still treat women just as man’s property.

By doing so they go against all Quranic positions on women and apply all their medieval values and juristic formulations to degrade women and make Islam a laughing stock. A recent case in point is the treatment being meted out to women by the Taliban in Swat. There is concrete evidence for what I am saying.

I have long been fighting for women’s rights as given to them by the Quran, and have succeeded in convincing many Muslim women who thought that Islam was a source of oppression for them and hence their salvation lay only in secular laws. By quoting extensively from the Quran I convinced them that Islam gives them an equal status with men. But some ulema keep negating all this by issuing fatwas to the contrary.

Recently I came across two fatwas from the Darul Ulum Deoband, which is among the most respectable Islamic institutions and can even rival Al Azhar. One of their fatwas says that if a man takes a second wife and his first wife resents her husband’s decision and is not happy with the new wife, the second marriage stays valid. Thus, a man can take a second wife. Period.

Another fatwa is about divorce. It says if a man types an SMS to his wife with the intention of divorcing her but does not send the SMS for some reason even then divorce will take place simply because he typed the SMS with the intention of divorcing her. I really find this shocking beyond belief. Does it not amount to treating a woman as man’s property? I read one article by a respected scholar that when man unjustly divorces his wife Allah’s wrath descends on him and heavens above him begin to shake, Even then these ulema do not hesitate from issuing such fatwas. Which position is right? Why such glaring contradictions in the approach of our ulema? Can the two positions ever be reconciled? Our jurists and religious leaders need to answer these questions.

The Quran never treats polygamy as a licence for men to marry up to four wives, as many of the ulema will have you believe. There are strictest possible conditions and two verses on polygamy, 4:3 and 4:129, when read together, clearly imply that one should not take a second wife as and when one likes. It should be only in the rarest of rare cases and that too under strict conditions. Justice is a must. And, then, how can a marriage without the consent of the first spouse be valid if justice is to be done? Pakistan’s law requiring the wife’s permission for a second marriage is fully justified.

The traditional ulema only inquire about the number of wives one has before performing another nikah, and never ask as to why a man wants to take another wife. The Quran on the other hand requires a thorough inquiry as to why one may be taking another wife to avoid injustice being done to the existing wife. It should never be permitted if no need to take a second wife is established. According to a proper reading of both the verses of the Quran on polygamy, it is as good as banned.

For divorce, too, the Quran first of all requires an attempt at reconciliation between husband and wife. Along with the husband, the wife has also been given the right to appoint her own arbitrator and the two arbitrators together can decide after hearing both the parties whether divorce should take place or not. In most cases reconciliation can be effected. I think it is the most modern concept which all secular courts also resort to. Quranic formulations are quite compatible with the modern-day approach to marital disputes.

But many of our ulema give more importance to a medieval interpretation by jurists over such formulations. It is important to note that the Quran, except in two verses, does not even use the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. Instead, it uses words like zawjain (couple), indicating a complete equality between the two. The words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ imply that the husband has an authority over the wife and hence the Quran desists from using such terms.

What is the way out? I think it is very important that those who are leading women’s movements should thoroughly acquaint themselves with the Quranic formulations and also obtain knowledge of factors like culture, feudal values, patriarchal social structure, etc., which contributed to the early formulations of the Sharia positions. The Quran is the word of Allah and binding on all. In the Sharia, on the other hand, there are many differences among scholars, and that is why so many schools of law exist among Muslims.

I hope Muslim women will take the initiative and learn the Quran thoroughly well along with hadith literature, adopting an analytical approach towards the genuineness of the traditions and bringing about a change in Muslim women’s position. There seems to be no other way out.

[B]The writer is an Islamic scholar and heads the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.[/B]

[CENTER][B][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]A brand called Pakistan[/U] [/SIZE][/COLOR]

By Syed Moazzam Hai[/B][/CENTER]

“WHICH is the best cooking oil?” I asked a group of housewives in a focus group discussion (FGD) that was brimming over with random cooking oil users in an exercise to ascertain general brand preferences in the category. Most of them hastened to recall one particular brand so I had to ask why they preferred this particular one. “It’s good for health,” was the reply. Why? I asked. To which the ladies said, “Because it’s light.” The response pushed many parts of the picture together — it was a brand with a top-of-the-mind (TOM) recall, an established brand equity supported by a clear reason-to-believe (RTB) proposition. I felt relieved. Little can be as soothing as this when it comes to the brand one works for.

But never in all my years of marketing and advertising have I ever thought of the day when TOM recall for a personally dear brand would spell gloom rather than pride; a brand that is indispensable for most of us — Pakistan. Here’s a look at the competitive picture of Pakistan in the world — TOM: Pakistan; brand equity: terrorism; RTB: incidents and elements of terror.

With the world after us for being a breeding ground for terrorism and itching to lynch us at any given opportunity, we really do not need FGD findings on the subject as data support. Pakistanis die everyday subjected to various forms of terrorism franchised by our foes and friends in the East and the West. We continue to be everyone’s favourite punching bag; torn out of shape yet forced into prolonged service for the bullies around us.

The Mumbai incident saw our top-of-the-mind recall reaching new, fearsome heights when the Indian media raised the banner of Pakistan-bashing from the first few moments of the siege. Frenzied details of the involvement of Pakistani players flooded the all-too receptive ears of the West. That was followed by ritual oppressive arm-twisting by our American friends and abusive browbeating by our Indian neighbours. Very soon we found ourselves on our toes, and yet again, we demonstrated our level of subservience by swooping down on clinics, schools etc run by certain organisations in the country without much proof in our possession, it is believed. Our immediate compensation was the violation of our airspace to the east and the violent landing of missiles to the west.

So the question is: what does one do about our top-of-the-mind recall that makes rogues out of us and a soft target for all and sundry? The least we can do is to be sensibly aggressive about our stance in our own media. We should assert, sans ambiguity, that Pakistan is a victim and not a perpetrator of terrorism and the presence of extremist elements in the country is the offspring of the West’s past fancy for Afghan jihad and the subsequent patronage of the dictator regime in Pakistan.

The media should also create an uproar over the terror treatment of Pakistani citizens in various corners of the world. In the absence of their government’s assistance and protection, Pakistanis have become scapegoats for countries eager to either show their performance in the war on terror — e.g. the case of seven innocent Pakistanis killed in March 2002 by Macedonian police presumably to please the US — or to appease their friends. The latter stance is demonstrated in reported cases of missing Pakistanis in Nepal. Some believe these involve alleged abductions by Indian agencies who would want to use their victims as the main cast in acts of terrorism in India.

How they are able to show the identity cards and other documents of alleged Pakistani terrorists that many ordinary citizens don’t always carry remains a wonder. If the Indian media can perpetually employ substandard, anti-Pakistan tirade in absolute unison, why should the Pakistani media not follow a determined course to defend the country’s image? We need hasty measures on the subject, before our top-of-the-mind brand recall eventually turns us into a generic name for terrorism.

[B]The writer worked as a senior executive in advertising and marketing companies.[/B]

Princess Royal Wednesday, February 04, 2009 03:37 PM

Safar 08, 1430
February 04, 2009[/B][/RIGHT]

[B][U][CENTER][SIZE="4"][COLOR="DarkRed"]Abduction of UN official[/COLOR][/SIZE][/CENTER][/U][/B]

MILITANCY and violent crime have risen dramatically in recent years. Life and property are at risk across the country and the state has failed its citizens. But when security personnel feel insecure and high-profile politicians fear for their lives, it comes as no surprise that ordinary people are at the mercy of those toting guns and bombs. This is an appalling state of affairs, and much thought and all available resources must be channelled towards finding a solution that is even halfway satisfactory. The huge problems involved in fighting insurgencies in Swat and the tribal areas are understandable. But there are fewer excuses for letting gun-toting terrorists in major cities escape the security net.

Those who come to this country to help people in distress cannot be assured safety either. Monday’s ambush in Quetta that left an employee of the UNHCR dead and led to the abduction of the refugee agency’s Quetta office chief is more than a personal tragedy for the families of those who were attacked. It could have wider repercussions as well. It is an ominous development that sends all the wrong signals to foreign and local agencies providing aid to those who desperately need assistance. As it is many NGOs engaged in vocational, educational and healthcare services in the NWFP and the tribal belt have been forced to leave in the face of threats and attacks by the Taliban. An assault on an international NGO in Mansehra in February 2008 left four staff members dead and many others wounded. In November last year, the UN’s World Food Programme reported that nearly 900 tons of essential supplies “destined for the undernourished” in Pakistan and Afghanistan had been looted in the NWFP the previous month. If such relief programmes come to a halt, tens of thousands of people with no other means of support will lose their only hope for survival. This cannot be allowed to happen in a country where the number of internally displaced persons is on the rise and where poverty is endemic. NGOs and relief agencies must be provided adequate protection.

No trace had been found until Tuesday afternoon of John Solecki, the UNHCR Quetta chief. The identity of his captors remains unknown and there is considerable room for speculation as to who they might be. Given that the incident took place in Balochistan, it is being said they could be associated with the Taliban, with Baloch nationalists or a criminal gang. Mr Solecki apparently did not ask for a police escort but it is time that heightened security measures were put in place for all high-profile relief agency officials in Pakistan. At the same time, no effort should be spared to ensure his recovery and bring the culprits to book.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Need for transparency[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

THE National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee has done well to scrutinise closely the audit reports of the defence ministry. By investing more time and effort in this exercise it has unearthed many sections in the 2005-06 report that it has described as indicating “financial irregularities” involving Rs100m. Meanwhile, costs totalling Rs23bn are being reviewed as they have not been explained satisfactorily. All this raises several pertinent issues in terms of financial transparency in government spending, especially when massive amounts are involved as is the case with the defence ministry. True, the defence budget for 2008-09 gave more details, although there was no vote on it. Since 1965, the army’s dominant role in politics saw defence spending under wraps with a one-line entry in the federal budget that did not reveal any details of the allocations for essential and non-essential expenditure. While the thrust towards greater transparency is to be commended, it is not enough. The auditors can play a more effective role in exposing corruption and thus help identify the guilty and bring them to book. The irregularities reported on this occasion may or may not run into billions of rupees. One doesn’t know whether or not the auditors have probed deep enough in areas where the scope for embezzlement is greater, for instance in arms procurement where ‘commissions’ can be a lucrative source of income.

With better budgeting and auditing practices greater transparency can be introduced in defence planning. These would also facilitate a more meaningful debate on the subject. Needless to say, defence spending has been the subject of much controversy given the country’s limited resources and the fact that a disproportionately large chunk of the budget goes to the armed forces. In fact, it is not just the accounts that need auditing. At stake is the performance of the armed forces, and it is this that also calls for stringent auditing if the cost-benefit ratio is to be determined. Once these issues are addressed in earnest, it should become possible to look into the laws and rules that have been framed to give the armed forces enough leeway to earmark financial privileges for themselves — privileges that have enabled them to build huge business empires. On the pretext of secrecy in the interest of national security and strategy, military rulers have used their clout to shield defence spending from public scrutiny, thus escaping accountability. This should not be allowed to happen any longer.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Oil shortages[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

PETROL pumps in most parts of the country are filling consumers with pain. These are days of acute oil shortages which are blamed on the price adjustment mechanism used by the government to determine domestic oil rates in accordance with fluctuations in the global market. Thus the monthly oil price adjustment mechanism has become part of the problem rather than the solution to the ongoing crisis. Just as global oil prices began sliding last year, pump owners stopped receiving fresh supplies of fuel at a time of domestic price adjustment, so that losses could be avoided in case rates were revised downwards. The oil marketing companies (OMCs) that face a severe liquidity crunch because of the non-payment of their dues by the government are hesitant to supply oil to pumps at the beginning of each month for the same reason. The pump owners — who pay the OMCs for fresh supplies 15 days in advance — want their suppliers to adjust the increase/decrease in domestic prices on the first of every month.

The OMCs do not agree. They want to be paid according to the price effective on the day that advance payment is made. The government is well aware of the problem. It took the decision to adjust domestic prices on a monthly basis instead of basing these on the fortnightly assessment system in place earlier. But it appears helpless in dealing with the dispute between the OMCs and the pumps. This apparent lack of initiative on the part of the government is being blamed for the routine oil shortages. Even official announcements — and they are just that — to revise domestic rates downwards, in spite of falling global prices, have failed to calm the market, and supplies to the consumers continue to be disrupted. The government must find a way out of this. If it does not want its image tarnished, it will have to be seen as taking proactive action by an increasingly sceptical public. Further delay will not help anyone as action is desperately needed to stave off the inconvenience that the public routinely faces when pumps stop operating.

[CENTER][B][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]OTHER VOICES - European Press[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U]

Malta Today

Blasphemy of censorship[/B][/CENTER]

THERE is something deeply hypocritical behind the Censorship Board’s recent decision to ban a play outright, apparently on the grounds that some scenes may be upsetting.

The play in question is Stitched, by Scottish author Anthony Neilson, and to be fair this is not the first time it has elicited controversy. UK newspaper The Guardian reported that some members of the audience walked out during a performance at the Edinburgh festival in 2002....

However, this particular example of state censorship stands out from the others, if nothing else because there has to date been no official explanation whatsoever.

Considering that the censorship board has taken upon itself to shield us all from indecency, one would assume that the decent thing to do would be to also tell us why. After all, this has always been the case with previous decisions. For instance, when former chairman Tony Mifsud announced an immediate ban on the RSC’s Bible, he explained that the play would have been doubly offensive to Catholic sentiments, because it was intended to be staged during Lent.

...On this occasion, however, we are expected to simply take the Censorship Board’s word for it that the play is “unsuitable” to be staged at all... and this assumes sinister implications, when one considers that the play also discusses abortion: a contentious social issue, which has in the past given rise to all sorts of legal misconceptions.

When the government proposed entrenching the abortion ban in the constitution in 2005, there were some who argued that even expressing a pro-life point of view should be made illegal. This in turn prompted a retired judge to write to a newspaper in order to explain ... that breaking the law is one thing; but campaigning to change a law is something else....

Now, a play dwelling on the same subject has been banned outright with no explanation.... This is clearly not conducive to healthy debate, neither to democracy....

But there is another anomaly staring us all in the face. Unlike past censorship acts, this one appears to have less to do with religious sentiments, and more with public decency. Two objections immediately spring to mind: the first is that, in these days of Internet access, when lewd and/or violent images are available at the click of a mouse, it makes little sense to train all the big guns only on theatre — which ... attracts only a few thousand viewers in Malta — while nothing at all is done about a medium that gains access into all our homes. — (Feb 1)

[CENTER][B][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]The ‘conquest’ of Swat[/U][/SIZE][/COLOR]

By Dr Tariq Rahman[/B][/CENTER]

SWAT has been conquered by the Taliban. Between the guns of the army and the long knives of the Taliban the common people eke out a miserable existence. About 400 private schools announced they would not teach girls from Jan 15 onwards.

This means that approximately 40,000 girls will be deprived of schooling. Only girls up to the fourth grade will be able to get basic schooling if more schools are not burnt down. So far almost 200 have been burnt down and about 20 are occupied by the military.

But this is nothing compared to the blood-curdling beheadings which are going on. To escape this horrible fate a dancer Shabana from this blighted valley is said to have begged her tormentors to shoot her dead. Indeed, all professions connected with the performing arts are dead.

Artistes have fled to other cities. Swat lies under the grim, puritanical control of hate-spewing FM radios and vigilantes out to crush dissent and bring the lifelessness of the graveyard to the ‘Switzerland’ of Pakistan.But why has all this happened? The answer is that the governments of Pakistan have allowed it to happen under their noses.

To begin with, the movement against the government, though it used the idiom of Islam, was nothing more than the demand for speedy justice. The Swatis had fast-track justice under their rulers (the walis of Swat) and this is what they wanted.

Meanwhile, militancy, again using the idiom of Islam, grew in the whole country. This time, again, the state and its agencies were at fault. The basic idea was that if fighters were sneaked across the Line of Control in Kashmir India would bleed so much that it would come to the negotiating table. On the side these fighters also indulged in sectarian vendettas so that neither mosques frequented by Sunnis nor Shia imambargahs remained safe. What did Pakistan gain as a result? Not an inch of Kashmir but the possibility of being declared a ‘terrorist state’ and the perpetual fear of a war with India.

As if we did not have enough troubles of our own making, we got new ones after 9/11. These were the Taliban fighters — including Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks etc — fleeing the American occupation of Afghanistan.

Earlier American and Pakistani policies in the region had fostered an environment of religious extremism that led to the creation of the Taliban. Now this monster was coming to take sanctuary inside Pakistan. Pakistani intelligence agencies did not want to fight all these Taliban groups as they still believed they would need them as friends in Afghanistan once the Americans abandoned the country. This disastrous idea strengthened the Taliban.

However, as the Americans forced Pakistan to abandon its erstwhile guests, a number of people — purportedly from the Al Qaeda group — were ‘sold off’ to the Americans without the due process of law.

In short, two contradictory policies were in place: to look the other way while some Taliban kept crossing back and forth from Afghanistan to Pakistan; to fight the others if they struck in Pakistan. This policy also failed as the Taliban gathered strength in Fata. The armed forces and the Americans fought them through artillery and air bombardment but both methods killed ordinary people causing widespread misery which has strengthened the Taliban even more.

These disparate fighting groups, all using the idiom of Islam, have actually created a state within a state. The common people are confused because they operate in the name of the sacred. The media does not condemn them because America is so unpopular that its enemies (the Taliban) are seen as heroes. The government has lost its credibility.

It is seen as a stooge of America and, further, it has hardly confessed to its past blunders. Moreover, the government is polarised when it comes to the centres of power (the army, intelligence agencies, the president and prime minister) and does not speak with one voice. The state is weak, the people confused, and the militants further strengthened.

What, then, is to be done? There are two options. First, to withdraw from Swat and Fata and create a buffer state ruled by the Taliban or the several factions which go by that name. This would stop the daily deaths of our soldiers and policemen. However, it would be a terrible blow to the state and would also mean abandoning Pakistani citizens to a cruel minority all set to create a hell on earth. Even worse, the Taliban would spread from this new state to other areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In short, the war would go on.

The second option is to fight the Taliban after getting everybody on board. For this there should be a plan to look after displaced people and a strategy to win hearts and minds. Also, it is infantry and intelligence which is needed, not warplanes dropping bombs on villages while the Taliban scamper to safety. This option is costly in terms of the lives of our soldiers and also unpopular. But it can succeed, especially if the Americans get out of Afghanistan or at least stop using drones to drop bombs on our areas.

But let us remember that fighting means consistently fighting and not just sporadically sacrificing young soldiers and officers while the top brass makes compromises. The real heroes of this unacknowledged war are these young soldiers and officers.

Here let me narrate the story of Lieutenant Omar, a boy officer now lying with a wounded leg in one of our army hospitals. Fighting the Taliban this young man found himself all alone as the regiment had withdrawn. Stunned, with a bleeding leg just hit by a bullet, and with the whistle of bullets in his ears, he was convinced he would die. But just then came the familiar voice of a soldier from his platoon. “Sir he is here!” And two soldiers lifted him and dashed across — notwithstanding the whistling bullets — to safety.

These three young men need to be recognised as among those who are the saviours of our freedoms. If there are privileges and plots of land to give out then these heroes deserve them more than peace-time officers. Will they be recognised and their mission completed? Or will they have risked their lives in vain?

[CENTER][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][B]Rural jobless in China[/B][/SIZE][/COLOR][/U]

[B]By Tania Branigan[/B] [/CENTER]

AROUND 20 million migrant workers have returned to the Chinese countryside after failing to find work in the cities because of the economic downturn. The figure — greater than the population of Australia — is double a previous official estimate and will heighten the concerns of the Chinese authorities about maintaining stability.

It came a day after the government warned that 2009 would be “possibly the toughest year” for economic development in China since the turn of the century. Chen Xiwen, director at the Office of the Central Leading Group on Rural Work says that a government survey showed that 15.3 per cent of an estimated 130 million rural migrants to the cities had returned home jobless. Adding in new entrants to the rural labour market gave a total of around 26 million unemployed and potentially restive people in the countryside. Some economists believe this is an underestimate and say the real figure could ultimately reach 40 million.

The figures do not include the urban unemployed or students. Last month the government said that almost nine million urban residents registered as jobless in December and the first increase in the urban unemployment rate (to 4.2 per cent) after five years of successive falls.

Many believe the true rate is far higher. Academics have also estimated that 1.5 million of this year’s graduates could fail to find work.

There is a considerable number of rural migrants who are unemployed. After they return to villages, what about their incomes? How will they live? That’s a new factor concerning social stability this year. Local officials have been told to handle unrest with care and go to the frontline to explain to and persuade the public.

China sees tens of thousands of “mass incidents” each year and the authorities have issued a string of warnings to officials about the risks of the economic downturn exacerbating problems.

Mao Shoulong, a professor at Renmin University, said unrest often developed because there were not clear channels for expressing grievances and disadvantaged groups had no way to protect their rights and interests. But he added that the authorities had learned from experience. “They even try to hold direct dialogue with people and they are more cautious about using armed police,” he said.

China has around 750 million rural residents; more than the combined populations of the United States and European Union.

But growth in the countryside has lagged far behind the cities, with the rural-urban income gap expanding rapidly over the last two decades.

[B]— The Guardian, London[/B]

Princess Royal Thursday, February 05, 2009 02:46 PM

[RIGHT][B]February 05, 2009
Safar 09, 1430 [/B][/RIGHT]

[B][U][CENTER][SIZE="4"][COLOR="DarkRed"]Mumbai and dialogue[/COLOR][/SIZE][/CENTER][/U][/B]

AS much as we criticise Pakistani officials for their offhand remarks that have a tendency to ratchet up diplomatic pressure against the country, it seems top officials in New Delhi have an equally disturbing tendency to jump the gun. The latest is Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who on Tuesday threw in his tuppence about what the Mumbai attacks have done to Pak-India relations: “The positive gains of the past years have been destroyed by the dastardly attack.” And without specifying what he meant, the minister called on the “international community” to “act decisively and in concert” to get rid of the Frankenstein monster i.e. terrorism. All of this while Pakistan is in the final stages of preparing its report on the Indian dossier on the Mumbai attacks and, according to at least one Indian official, has already sought India’s clarification on some issues. Certainly, Pakistan must prove its bona fide intention to bring to justice whoever may have contributed to the Mumbai attacks from Pakistani soil. Yet, remarks such as those made by the Indian defence minister do nothing but harm the environment of cooperation between India and Pakistan that is necessary if those who helped plan and execute the Mumbai attacks are ever to be prosecuted.

Curiously, Mr Antony was not able to connect the dots contained in his own statements. “All-out wars are no longer the norm for settling political disputes among states,” said the defence minister, and he also noted that terrorism threatened regional stability. So, if there is a threat and war is not the solution to it, aren’t talks the only way ahead? Moreover, the composite dialogue, five years old and now suspended and whose fruits Mr Antony dismissed so blithely, is in fact the only framework for peace talks that has been acceptable to both countries. Therefore, what the Indian government’s position as formulated by the defence minister amounts to is this: there is a grave threat to India and Pakistan and the wider region from terrorism, but the solution is neither war nor international mediation — to which the Indian government is rabidly opposed — nor direct, bilateral peace talks.

The Mumbai attacks were clearly a watershed terrorist attack. A new, brazen, sophisticated breed of terrorists now clearly exists in this region and has found a way to match its murderous ideology with the capacity to execute it. Mr Antony and numerous Pakistani officials are right in identifying this new breed of terrorists as a mortal threat to the state of Pakistan. It is in our interest to defeat it and the state must take the lead in the fight. Equally, however, India must be willing to hold out a helping hand. A victim-enemy dichotomy helps nobody.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Stabilising sugar prices[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

THE government’s decision to import 0.2 million tonnes of white refined sugar in order to stave off shortages — not least because of the expected shortfall in the sweetener’s domestic production and its unchecked smuggling to neighbouring countries — is expected to help stabilise consumer prices in the weeks to come. The decision was delayed by the Economic Coordination Committee by one month under the pressure of the powerful lobby of growers in the federal cabinet, who wanted to make extra money by selling their crop at much higher rates than those announced by the government. Still, all is not lost.

It is difficult to imagine domestic sugar prices coming down in view of the sweetener’s rising demand in the global market because of the worldwide gap in its production and demand. Global sugar prices have already gone up by 15 per cent in the last one month to reach $360 per tonne and are projected to spike further to $450 in the months to come, once Pakistan and India begin shopping to meet domestic requirements. Pakistan could have saved some precious foreign exchange had the government made the decision well in time.

As the crushing season is still underway, it is hard to estimate the exact gap between the commodity’s domestic production and the consumption requirements of around four million tonnes. But the import of refined sugar will prevent prices from shooting up from the current level of Rs45 per kg. The decision has also been hailed by the domestic industry as a step in the right direction to maintain price stability and avert sugar shortages, by intervening in the market if and when necessary. But the manufacturers want the government to intervene only through the Trading Corporation of Pakistan which already has a buffer stock of 0.4 million tonnes from last year. The involvement of traders in import could jeopardise the effort to stabilise prices. Everything said and done, the import of sugar alone is not going to solve the problem. The government needs to take effective steps to control the commodity’s smuggling to neighbouring countries. Also, it should put in place stringent administrative controls to prevent its hoarding and artificial shortages. These measures are essential to the success of efforts to maintain price stability in the sugar market. If the government fails to stop or check smuggling and hoarding, a severe crisis of the kind seen a couple of years ago is likely to erupt.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]A danger to public health[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

THE inadequacies of the healthcare system have manifested themselves in one form or another time and again. While pathology labs have sprung up in every part of Karachi, the problem is that many of them issue inaccurate reports. This problem creates a dilemma for medical practitioners and agonises patients. Erroneous test reports lead to treatment which is wide off the mark. In other cases, it may result in no treatment at all for a potentially dangerous condition because the report may not indicate any alarming findings. So, who are these laboratories accountable to? Apparently, no one. The thrust of the issue is the absence of a central regulatory authority which experts are repeatedly calling for.

The onus is on the government to step in and do what it is supposed to do — provide an accountability mechanism. It has to bring to justice those who are playing with people’s lives and pushing the country’s much-criticised healthcare system into further disrepute. Strict monitoring and accountability are the need of the hour. The authorities must take effective measures to ensure that adequately qualified professionals are in charge at the laboratories. Those laboratories which have been careless in handling patients should be warned to rectify matters or else face closure as a warning to others of their ilk who endanger public health. It is a great pity that such pathology labs have added to the financial burden of patients who must undergo further tests if results are identified as faulty in their case.

A regulatory body will go a long way in coordinating efforts to ensure that labs are run in accordance with healthcare guidelines. There is no reason why the health department can’t muster the effort and funds required for this purpose. After all, action was taken to clamp down on blood banks, many of them storing infected or expired blood products, by setting up the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority to oversee these medical units. The task at hand is by no means simple but not impossible if stringent steps are taken to ensure that labs do not get away with issuing faulty reports and adding to the patients’ worries.

[B][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]OTHER VOICES - Middle East Press[/U][/SIZE][/COLOR]

Oman Tribune

Continental shift[/CENTER][/B]

UNITED States of Africa — it sounds nice. It brings to mind a powerful nation, rich in natural resources. But how practical would it be to bring 53 states in the Dark Continent under a single umbrella? Tough call. But the idea is not bad, irrespective of the fact that it is Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi who has been canvassing support to usher in this style of governance. Perhaps Qadhafi is also nursing the dream of leading such a federal government if it were to materialise. So when African leaders came together in Addis Ababa for the regular African Union meeting, the old topic of United States of Africa did crop up, and as usual it could not be consummated for want of a strong political will all around.

It was former leader of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah who had sown the seeds of such a union of African states during his fight for independence of Ghana. However, the Europeans quietly had stolen the idea and got it implemented, it is said. How far that is true, nobody knows. What about the African Union (AU) that is already in existence whose major aim is to promote political and economic integration among its 53 member nations? ...Unfortunately AU — like its predecessor — has been turned into a talking shop.

Why is such a grand idea not taking off? ...Many of [the leaders] have been running their countries in a dictatorial style…. ... [H]ow would they coalesce into a single cohesive team is a moot point. Who will be the leader among the leaders is another ticklish issue…. Who will finance it...[?]

Despite the prevalence of dictatorship-style rule in several African states, [a] democratic style of governance is slowly creeping in…. South Africa, however, is not all that keen on the ‘USA’ formula and it prefers a slow march towards this unification…. Everyone understands the benefits of a union government ... [b]ut the political will is lacking. It’s time they rise above such partisan sentiments to build a better and strong Africa. It’s within their grasp if they work … slowly. Qadhafi, who had taken charge as chairman of the newly formed AU Authority, has the next 12 months to channelise his energy to realise his own long-cherished dream of a unified Africa. The Dark Continent needs it. Otherwise, it would continue to remain vulnerable.... — (Feb 4)

[B][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]Using fear as a political tool[/U][/SIZE][/COLOR]

By Mubarak Ali[/CENTER][/B]

FEAR is an inherent part of the human psyche. If there is a natural calamity, man fears death and disaster; if there is a political or economic crisis he fears insecurity, hunger and starvation; if he experiences religious anxiety, he is confronted with the fear of the Day of Judgment and hell fire.

Living in a state of fear weakens him physically and mentally, and shakes his confidence. He becomes pliable in the hands of authorities who want to cast him in a certain ideological mould to be used and exploited politically

Realising the worth of this weapon, conquerors, occupiers and rulers have used fear as a political means to make people submissive and obedient. It was the practice of conquerors to unleash terror in the occupied land and to order massacres to terrorise the people into not putting up resistance and recognising their authority without any challenge. The Romans and the Mongols mercilessly butchered whole populations in occupied towns as a warning to others to surrender. They were successful because seeing this bloodshed, the cities and towns laid down their arms and opened the gates to the invaders to save themselves from destruction.

We see that throughout history rulers have adopted sophisticated methods to create fear among the people by using state institutions. For example, the splendour and glory of the royal court were a manifestation of the power of rulers and were intended to overawe the people. In the history of India, Balban, who ruled from 1266-1286, was famous for organising his court on the pattern of the ancient Persian monarchs in order to assert his legitimacy and deter people from rebelling. Ziauddin Barani wrote in Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi: “Fear and awe of him took possession of all men’s hearts.”

The display of armed soldiers, decoration of the hall of audience, etiquettes and rituals were so overwhelming that ambassadors and visitors received a shock by the show of wealth and power and sometimes fainted. Balban also used royal processions to impress as well as to create fear in his subjects. According to Barani, “Musalmans and Hindus would come from distances of one or two hundered kos to see the splendour of his entourage, which filled them with amazement.”

Espionage was the second instrument to keep people fearful. Nearly all rulers employed spies to report all kinds of activities of the people. When he became a target of conspiracies, Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316) used spies to report the movements of his nobles. Such was the network of espionage that nobles ceased to talk to each other suspecting that anyone of them could be a spy. Sometimes they conveyed their message in sign language.

The third instrument was punishment. Rebels and criminals were punished publicly. People were asked to come and witness floggings, hangings or beheadings. In some cases, as a warning, the dead body of a rebel would be displayed for many days and was not allowed to be buried. Michel Foucault in his book Discipline & Punish describes the methods of punishment in the case of regicide in detail: “The flesh will be torn … with red-hot pincers, his right hand holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide … and on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead … then his body drawn and quartered … his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds.”

In the modern period, dictators fully utilised the methods of the past to keep people in a state of fear. Hitler organised his Nazi party to use all such instruments which could silence the people. Once he said that people needed “a good scare. They want to be afraid of something”. Thus the stormtroopers created terror among Hitler’s opponents. Gestapo was the secret agency whose task was to trace any critic of the Nazi government, to arrest and summarily execute him.

Such was the terror and horror of these organisations that Hitler’s opponents either left the country or maintained complete silence. The judiciary came completely under the control of the Nazi government and sentenced dissidents. Special courts were established and staffed by the loyal judges of the party. Torture and execution without trial were common.

Modern-day dictators followed Hitler’s pattern and continued the same brutal methods to silence their opponents. The Shah of Iran and his secret agency Savak were notorious for persecuting dissidents. Israel since 1948 has followed a policy of persecution to create fear among the Palestinians. It is expelling them from their homes in order to occupy their land and launching systematic massacres to eliminate resistance, like past colonial occupiers.

Political fear is the product of brutality and absolute power. That’s why it has been used by kings and dictators without popular support. However, in a democratic system, the tools of political fear are diluted and the will of the people dominates coercion. In such a system people are constantly asked not to be afraid to express their views and to act according to their conscience. Of course, a fear-free society would be ideal for society to develop its inner strength and play a creative role.

[B][CENTER][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Tide of regulation[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U]

By Jenni Russell[/CENTER][/B]

REGULATION is fashionable. Applied to bankers and markets, we are freshly aware of its virtues. Yet while Britons in the UK have been under-regulating financiers, they have been over-regulating the social sphere.

It is having an insidious, destructive effect on the way they engage with one another. In schools, public services and in our dealings with strangers, our rule-bound, box-ticking, risk-averse culture is designed to protect us from one another. Instead it is making us steadily more fearful and passive. Rather than building a safer or more cohesive society, this tide of regulation is steadily snapping social bonds.

This week I was talking to a teacher — let’s call him Simon — about the barriers he is instructed to put up between him and his teenage pupils. He and his colleagues are warned by the school never to engage with pupils emotionally, ask a lone child to stay behind for a talk after class, or respond to any confidences about their lives.

A fear of paedophilia has morphed into a general panic about adult-child relations. The priority isn’t pupils’ wellbeing but to protect teachers from any accusations, either of sexual misconduct or of responsibility for pupils’ subsequent behaviour. Last year the school had an urgent call from a psychiatric unit. A pupil had made a suicide attempt because he was so unhappy at home; the only person he wanted to talk to was his teacher.

Simon was only allowed to call on condition that a senior member of staff was also in the room, writing down his end of the conversation. He was forbidden to show any emotional concern; he was not allowed to ask how the child was, only the facts. With a distraught boy on the end of the phone, all Simon’s instincts were to offer human sympathy. Instead, he tried to convey warmth in his voice. When the call was over the head instructed him to forget the whole thing and not even to think of writing to or visiting the distressed child. Since he was neither a therapist nor a counsellor, he was told he had no role in his life outside class.

This emphasis on physical safety and professional boundaries creates invisible barriers between people that are psychologically damaging but which can’t be measured, and so are ignored. Simon’s pupil had no idea why he was being held at a distance and rebuffed. All he has learned is that in a crisis he turns to the one person he wants to trust, and gets apparent indifference in return.

Simon was very distressed. “Lots of kids in our school are desperate to find an adult to relate to. I see why so many of my colleagues have cut off. You aren’t allowed to use your judgment, and the sense that you shouldn’t care breeds a sense of hopelessness.” The boy has yet to return to school.

This cold professionalism is neither the way we imagine teachers to be, nor the way they had to be in the past. Thousands of people have had lives transformed by teachers who gave them a sense of their worth by being interested in the whole child, not just their classroom performance. Two friends of mine would never have left the confines of their council estates without teachers who listened to them, and introduced them to a world of thought and conversation. The social and human contact gave them confidence and hope.

Yet an insistence on systems rather than humanity is becoming the norm all over the public sector. Everywhere there are examples of people retreating from engaging with others because official restrictions discourage it. Local street parties, informal children’s football clubs and church camping groups are all closing, casualties of criminal record bureau checks, risk assessments, indemnity insurance and other rules that tell us we cannot trust others and cannot be trusted ourselves.

[B]— The Guardian, London[/B]

Princess Royal Friday, February 06, 2009 01:26 PM

[RIGHT][B]February 06, 2009
Safar 10, 1430 [/B][/RIGHT]

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="DarkRed"][SIZE="4"]UN chief in Pakistan[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit shed light on two important issues. First, the announcement by Mr Ban that the UN will set up an “independent commission of inquiry” to “uncover the facts about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto” means the government has achieved its long-stated goal of having the international body investigate the death of the former PPP chairperson. We welcome any credible investigation into Ms Bhutto’s death; however, 13 months since her death, there are question marks over what such an inquiry can actually achieve. From a forensic point of view, there appears little the UN commission can investigate: the crime scene has been scrubbed, the physical evidence gathered may not have been properly stored and secured, and Ms Bhutto’s body has been interred with little chance for exhumation to conduct an independent autopsy.

Nevertheless, while thanking Mr Ban for agreeing to set up the inquiry commission, President Zardari gave a clear indication of what the government hopes to achieve: it wants the commission to expose “the financiers, perpetrators, organisers, sponsors and conspirators of this terrorist act and bring them to justice”. The president’s formulation is remarkably similar to the language contained in UNSC Resolution 1595 which called for an independent investigation commission to identify “the perpetrators, sponsors, organisers and accomplices” of the act of terrorism that killed Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri in 2005. If the Hariri commission is indeed the template for the Bhutto commission, then it must be hoped that the latter will not carry on interminably like the former has. While there is speculation that the Bhutto commission may wrap up its task in six months, the real need is for an adequate time frame that does not compromise the thoroughness of the mission.

The other crucial issue that Mr Ban touched upon was the road ahead for Pakistan-India relations. Following the Mumbai attacks and a new US administration that has flirted with the idea of nudging along a Kashmir settlement, Mr Ban was quite expectedly asked about terrorism and South Asia’s flashpoint. In response, the secretary general plainly asked India and Pakistan to resume the composite dialogue and emphasised that the resolution of outstanding issues lay in bilateral discussions. This will have disappointed both countries: India because it is hoping for more pressure from the UN to make Pakistan act on the Mumbai dossier; Pakistan because it is hoping to rope in the international community to convince India to work on a Kashmir settlement.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]New health policy[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

IT is encouraging to learn that the government is working on a new health policy as was confirmed by the federal health minister as well as the director general of health. But little is known about the government’s strategy and one can only hope that all stakeholders are consulted and taken on board. That alone will ensure the successful implementation of the new policy. So far the draft under consideration has not been put up on the health ministry’s website nor has it been sent to the Pakistan Medical Association. Thus the ministry may not benefit from the valuable advice of medical professionals and informed users. So far the tendency has been for governments to hoodwink the people into believing that the healthcare system in the country is being reformed, by announcing a new health policy every few years. None has been implemented and the crisis in the health sector has intensified. Although official surveys claim that there has been an improvement in health-related statistics, Pakistan continues to present a dismal picture when compared to other countries in South Asia, except Afghanistan. For instance, infant and child mortality rates in Pakistan are the highest in the region. The number of health facilities has actually declined over the years while the ratio of population per doctor, dentist and nurse has risen indicating the growing pressure on the limited health delivery system.

The last health policy that was framed in December 2001 is on paper only. However, it identified the major weaknesses in the health sector very well and could provide a starting point for policymakers. New health problems have now emerged but the basic flaws that need to be addressed have not changed. The health system is too urban oriented and neglects the bulk of the population that lives in the countryside. Financial allocations have been measly and do not provide much scope for expansion and upgrading. There is greater emphasis on tertiary medical facilities with primary health not receiving enough attention. There is no effective monitoring of the system while the private sector has been given a free rein with no regulatory controls in place, although its role has been growing. Above all, the preventive approach is limited to immunisation strategies with no concept of health being perceived as a sense of well-being rather than the absence of disease. This calls for linking health with a lifestyle that makes the government responsible for providing people with potable water, sanitation and a clean environment.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Obama’s concerns[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

WHILE he has approved the sending of three more brigades to Afghanistan — with an even larger ‘surge’ being talked about —President Barack Obama made it clear in a TV interview that nothing should be done that could destabilise Pakistan, “which has nuclear weapons”. The sources and forces that have destabilised this country and have the potential to do greater harm to Pakistan’s security are the rejuvenated remnants of the Mujahideen armed and funded by America for the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Today, the Taliban are perhaps better armed and better funded than they were when Ziaul Haq’s Pakistan acted as a conduit for the CIA’s overt and covert aid to what then were perceived as freedom fighters. Since the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban have been the biggest source of instability for this country. At least 100,000 Pakistani troops are battling the Taliban, who have killed more civilians than soldiers and bombed civilian targets as much as they have attacked military installations. For tackling this major — though not the only — source of instability, Pakistan needs help from the international community, especially America.

Part of the American aid flowing into Pakistan since 9/11 has come in the form of military hardware, including electronic gadgetry to monitor the militants’ movements. There has also been a belated realisation that reliance on force alone cannot end the insurgency, and there must be greater efforts to improve the quality of life for the tribesmen. The Biden-Lugar bill, whose revival is being sought, seeks to give Pakistan $1.5bn over a decade and puts emphasis on the socio-economic side of America’s aid policy.

There are other sources of instability which are of our own making — like the mess in Balochistan, the absence of economic development commensurate with Pakistan’s potential, and the neglect of the social sector. However, what the Obama administration should note is the concern which its drone attacks in Fata are causing. The change in the White House has made no difference to Washington’s Fata policy, and drones often miss the target and cause collateral damage. While Obama’s concerns about Pakistan’s stability need to be welcomed, his administration — like the previous one — has yet to realise the negative consequences of American attacks in Fata. These violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty create sympathy for the militants, strengthen the pro-Taliban lobby in the country and serve to destabilise Pakistan by undermining the democratic government.

[CENTER][B][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]OTHER VOICES - Pushto Press[/U][/SIZE][/COLOR]

Wahdat, Peshawar

Sovereignty and civilian military resolve[/B][/CENTER]

A MEETING of the three armed forces was held in Rawalpindi on Saturday. The meeting was presided over by the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman Gen Tariq Majeed and attended by all the three chiefs including Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nauman Bashir, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, DG ISI and others.

According to military sources peace and security matters were discussed and it was unanimously decided to combat every internal and external threat with an iron fist. The same day the defence minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, while talking to journalists ... made it abundantly clear that Pakistan would not tolerate drone attacks in its tribal belt. The minister added that the issue had been discussed with Nato and they agreed on working in their respective spheres without compromising Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Such pledges from the civilian and military leadership are tantamount to acknowledging the demands of the masses. Pakistan has been doing more in the ‘war against terror’ than any other country but how is it being repaid? In the form of drone attacks and accusations of involvement in the Indian terror attacks. If Pakistan had adopted the right strategy from the start, America would not have dared to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty so blatantly. The bright side of the picture is that now we are seeing in our military establishment and elected government a realisation of [the need to] defend our sovereignty. The nation supports this stance and is determined to remain united no matter what crisis it has to undergo.

At the same time, it is significant to care for both internal and external sovereignty. The writ lost to the extremist forces must immediately be restored without damage to the civilian population. In order to retain the integrity of this country, it is crucial to win back the writ of the state lost to non-state actors. — (Feb 1)

[B]— Selected and translated by Khadim Hussain and M. Arif[/B]

[CENTER][B][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]Arrogance and a diseased mind[/U][/SIZE][/COLOR]

By Sirajuddin Aziz[/B][/CENTER]

IF we look around ourselves today, we will find many individuals afflicted with the disease of arrogance. The difference is only that there are varying degrees of the disorder; some suffer from it to a large extent, others betray only traces of it.

The wise have long diagnosed arrogance as a disease. People who are afflicted are usually the types who are insecure or those suffering from some sort of inferiority complex. It is the display of pride which costs them dearly in this world and the next. Such people, Allah says, are most disliked among His beings, even if they harbour an atom of pride in their hearts.

Islam sees arrogance as among the most despised of attributes because the essence of its teachings delves into utmost humility in mankind. The Prophet (PBUH) is quoted on pride: “One who possesses half a mustard seed of arrogance in his heart shall not be granted admission to paradise; and one who possesses half a mustard seed of faith shall not enter eternal Fire.” History is replete with examples of personalities infested with the ills of arrogance. History also provides us valuable lessons as evident in the stories of Satan, Nimrod, Pharaoh and the likes of Abu Jahl. They all came to a devastating end simply because they considered themselves worthy of all praise, and took pride in their power, pelf and position.

On another occasion, the Prophet is reported to have said, “Whoever has an atom of pride in his heart will not enter paradise.” The extent to which Allah despises pride is evident from the fact that He did not consider the long prayers of Iblis when the latter refused to bow in front of Adam. Iblis’s pride was based on his assertion that he was created from fire while Adam was created from clay, and that fire was superior to clay. He was punished and denied Allah’s mercy for all times to come.

It is clearly mentioned in the Holy Quran, “Allah will put the proud to disgrace and ill-repute (dishonour) in the hereafter.” We have examples in front of us where Allah and his messengers have despised even an atom of conceit. Then why as Muslims are we plagued with this menace is the question that begs an answer. Why can’t we follow in the footsteps of revered personalities, such as the Prophet and his companions, who despite having power and position never let an iota of vanity cross their hearts?

Unfortunately, we have distanced ourselves from the lofty attributes of humility enjoined by Islam. We are unaware of the joy of completing our tasks ourselves; we consider it demeaning to run our own errands. The Prophet used to wash his own clothes, cook his own food and even clean his own house, and had no qualms about it; nor did he ever complain of hardship in life.

The cause of vainglory is embedded in assuming superior knowledge, wealth, physical attractiveness, piety, family lineage, status, position and power on one’s part. All these attributes are meaningless to Allah, for He will judge a man or a woman on their character and conduct. One’s wealth, health, colour, caste and creed will be utterly irrelevant on the day of resurrection; only our deeds shall speak for us.

Allah has said, “Perish man! How thankless he is! Of what did He create him? Of a sperm-drop. He created him and determined him, and then made the way easy for him. Then He makes him die, buries him, and then, when He wills, raises him.” The verse distinctly states the weakness of man, as he is brought into this world from nothingness by the glory of the Almighty, and subsequent to his transition from non-existence into existence.

Allah grants mankind all the blessings in this world and then eventually man returns to a state of nothingness by the will of Allah, to be raised again on the Day of Judgment. The entire cycle depicts the sheer helplessness of mankind. No power except divine resolve can alter this inevitability. It makes one wonder as to what then a sense of vanity is all about.


[U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Database of art[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U]

By Michael Rank[/B][/CENTER]

TENS of thousands of Buddhist manuscripts, paintings and other treasures scattered around the world have been brought together in probably the world’s largest computer database of its kind.

The International Dunhuang Project, based at the British Library in London, is an ever-growing digital assemblage that makes it possible to study online around 160,000 images of 80,000 objects dug up in the deserts of Chinese central Asia and now in institutions across Europe, Asia and North America.

More than a third of the artefacts are in British collections, having been taken — some would say plundered — by the Hungarian-born British explorer and archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein who travelled the Silk Road in the first decade of the 20th century.

The IDP has centres in China, Russia, Japan and Germany as well as its London base, and early next year the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris will become a partner when its collection of 10,000 treasures goes online. This will make available the vast hoard of manuscripts discovered by Stein’s French contemporary Paul Pelliot in the Dunhuang Library Cave — this includes many secular texts, forming a basis for the development of economic, social and legal history of medieval China. There are also plans for the Institute of Korean Culture in Seoul to become a partner later in 2009.

Each centre maintains images from their collections on their own servers. “Keeping their own images on their servers while having everything in one place on the web makes people less anxious about their own data. There are no issues with copyright, with digitisation centres in each institution having read-write access to other data on the database,” said the IDP’s director, Susan Whitfield, who has been with the project since it was founded in 1994 and oversaw its launch online in 1998.

The Dunhuang cave complex on the edge of the Gobi desert is the most famous archaeological site in the region, from which Stein took a vast array of treasures including manuscripts in Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetan and even Judaeo-Persian, as well as in obscure central Asian languages such as Sogdian and Tocharian.

But the IDP does not focus only on Dunhuang, and it includes artefacts from around 200 sites in the far west of China, where more treasures are being discovered all the time.

Among the most remarkable items in IDP’s database is a coloured star-map in the British Library dating back to about AD 700, which the project’s website notes is “almost certainly the oldest extant manuscript star-chart from any civilisation”. The scroll can be viewed in great detail on the website, together with Stein’s original map of the Dunhuang caves.

Whitfield said the project, which has about 10 staff in London and around 20 in the other centres, does not rely on outside technical consultants. All staff were expected to have a reasonable level of technical skills as well expertise in their own specialist subjects, ranging from early Chinese Buddhism to the history of paper making.

“Technical skills are part of our remit,” said Whitfield, who has a doctorate in Tang dynasty historiography. “Outsourcing technical aspects leads to people not understanding what is going on ... It doesn’t work for projects like ours with a large technical element.”

The IDP believes in making its technical standards transparent and uniform and local staff are trained so that quality and consistency of data and images are maintained.

A Chinese version of the database was developed in 2001-02, and the database was redeveloped in 2005 involving the use of XML based on the TEI standard for the cataloguing and bibliographical data. These are stored in 4D and accessed using a 4D XML plug-in. Active 4D is used to serve the website and database.

The website, which is in English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and German, has also been continually redesigned to include more functionality and data. It is now displayed in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and current projects include plans to implement map layers for Google Earth.

Photographing delicate manuscripts and textiles is a slow and painstaking process, but by 2015 the project aims to have catalogued, digitised and made freely available online 90 per cent of the Dunhuang collections. The IDP has a budget of around £350,000 a year, which Whitfield said is “fairly modest” given the size of the project.

Whitfield said one of her chief aims was to get the National Museum of India on board. The museum in Delhi has around 11,000 items, mainly Buddhist paintings obtained by Stein, few of which have been published.

The IDP has been in talks with the Indian authorities for the past 10 years, but has met with countless bureaucratic obstacles. “I am sure we will reach an agreement eventually,” she added.

[B]— The Guardian, London[/B]

Princess Royal Sunday, February 08, 2009 09:56 AM

[RIGHT][B]February 08, 2009
Safar 12, 1430[/B] [/RIGHT]

[B][U][CENTER][SIZE="4"][COLOR="DarkRed"]Nuclear proliferation[/COLOR][/SIZE][/CENTER][/U][/B]

THE Islamabad High Court has declared Dr A.Q. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, a “free citizen”. His release is subject to a “secret agreement” the terms of which cannot be made public, under a court order. This move has evoked a strong reaction from some western powers who have expressed serious concern at the release of the man who is seen as responsible for leaking nuclear secrets and technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea. The order has also prompted western governments to revive their earlier demand that Pakistan should allow the International Atomic Energy Agency access to Dr Khan. With Dr Khan’s supporters euphoric at his release, notwithstanding the conditions imposed on him, and the West exerting pressure on Islamabad in view of the controversy that has surrounded Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the government will no doubt find another troublesome item on its already overloaded agenda.

More than Dr Khan’s past role in launching a growing nuclear network, the issue that should cause concern to all now — including champions of the atom bomb — is the danger nuclear proliferation poses to the world today. Nuclear technology has always been a double-edged sword. On the one hand it has been touted as a great scientific invention of the 20th century — America’s “atom for peace” programme was upheld as a model — which would benefit mankind. On the other hand, the US had no qualms about secretly developing lethal nuclear weapons that were tested on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. As could have been expected, this brought with it the risk of proliferation.In the present context, proliferation has another dangerous dimension. The possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non-state actors cannot be ruled out. If seized by terrorists — this fear has been expressed repeatedly by governments as well as advocates of disarmament — nuclear arms could pave the way for devastation of the worst kind. One assumes that governments in possession of nuclear arsenals behave with a measure of responsibility and set up control and command mechanisms to pre-empt any brash use of weapons of mass destruction. Can terrorists who are capable of blowing themselves up along with their hapless victims in an outburst of religious frenzy be expected to resort to some calm deliberation before pushing the nuclear button?

The problem is too complex to lend itself to simple solutions. The NPT that was flawed from the start given its unequal treatment of the nuclear haves and have-nots provides no answers. Now that proliferation has come to be so closely linked to the phenomenon of terrorism, it is time for all nuclear powers big and small to adopt a global and regional approach towards nuclear disarmament in the interest of the survival of the human race.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Gaza aid: wrong UN move[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

ONE can understand the anger of those who say that the UN’s relief agency for Palestinians has found a pretext to stop the supply of relief goods to Gaza’s traumatised population. Or that Israel, which seized a Lebanese relief ship on Thursday in a deliberate act of aggravating Palestinian misery, has found an ally in the world body. On Friday, the UN Relief and Works Agency announced that it would not resume the supplies until Hamas gave an assurance that it would not “steal” food meant for the Gazans. The charge is unsubstantiated and open to question. If there is an administrative structure resembling a government in the war-ravaged Mediterranean strip it is the one run by Hamas. The party was voted to power in both Gaza and the West Bank and is therefore responsible to its constituents. During the 22-day blitz by Israel, it was Hamas around which the people of Gaza gathered to stand up to Israel and help the wounded, the sick and homeless. Why would Hamas steal any relief goods meant for Gaza’s 1.5 million people, a majority of whom are its voters? A Hamas spokesman said no Hamas or UNRWA representative was present when drivers loaded up the aid supplies, assuming that they belonged to the Hamas government. He said the goods would be returned if it was found that they belonged to the UN agency.However, instead of investigating the “theft”, by stopping aid the UN relief agency is punishing the people of Gaza, more than half of whose population is dependent on UNRWA for food. Does the UN fear that the distribution of relief supplies to war victims through Hamas could add to the latter’s popularity? Such an assumption cannot be used to deny food to those who need it desperately. No wonder, Hamas’s social affairs minister has said that the UN aid agency should not become “a political player in Gaza”.

Most unfortunately, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has set no higher example for the UN bureaucracy. On Friday, while he asked Hamas to “refrain from interference with aid distribution”, he did not bother to ask Israel to end its 19-month old blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli navy towed away the Lebanese ship, and its crew and passengers were kicked and later expelled after they were accused of being in Israel illegally. Mr Ban has kept quiet on this act of piracy.

[B][U][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]Polio hiccups[/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/U][/B]

THAT our campaign to eradicate polio continues to be an uphill task is evident by the recent confirmation of our third polio case last month. This follows a setback to our anti-polio campaign in 2008 which saw polio cases soaring nearly four times to 118 from 32 in 2007, according to WHO statistics. This record contrasts with that in 2005 when Pakistan, one of the four countries in the world where polio is still endemic, came closest to eradicating polio with only 28 reported cases, down 25 cases from 53 in 2004. This represented a commendable achievement from the year 2000 when 199 cases were reported. Intensification of vaccination activities with measures like house-to-house vaccination, extra rounds of National Immunisation Days and the addition of Sub-National Immunisation Days appear to be responsible for the earlier downward trend. Such achievements give us reason to believe that similar success in bringing down polio cases can be duplicated and still better efforts can achieve total eradication, provided these efforts are concerted and consistent.

But polio resurgence from 2006 onwards is a worrying scenario that has raised concerns about the effectiveness of our anti-polio strategy. Last November, the ministry of health set up a new inter-ministerial oversight body for polio eradication. This week a cross-border coordination meeting with Afghanistan, another polio-endemic country, is also scheduled in Islamabad. However, effectively stemming the resurgence of polio cases would require accurate analyses of the reasons responsible for the upsurge. Some experts have blamed new unvaccinated refugees from Afghanistan for the rise in polio cases. Others have blamed ineffective vaccination drives in the camps established for the internally displaced in the NWFP from where two of the three cases in 2009 have been reported. The fact that the first polio case in 2009 was reported from a district in Punjab earlier declared polio-free and that cases from provinces other than the NWFP were reported last year may also point to possible administrative flaws in the vaccination drives. Our ability to pinpoint the exact causes of the polio resurgence and implement corrective measures will determine the outcome of our anti-polio campaign in 2009 and after.

[CENTER][B][U][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"]OTHER VOICES - Indian Press[/SIZE][/COLOR][/U]

The Asian Age

Caste shadows in Maya’s UP[/B][/CENTER]

THE coming together of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and renegade backward caste UP BJP leader Kalyan Singh is an effort at a grand consolidation of the state’s intermediate caste vote not attempted since the days of the pre-eminent Jat leader (and then future prime minister) Chaudhry Charan Singh. Ironically, the component missing from the coalition being forged is that of the Jats of western UP, who constitute an influential electoral presence. Mr Yadav had earlier sought to rope in Chaudhry Charan Singh’s son, Ajit Singh, but the RLD leader eventually appeared to sail with the BJP. However, in the light of recent developments, it is not unthinkable that the pragmatic Jat leader would dissociate with the BJP before the forthcoming Lok Sabha election to join the wider backward or intermediate caste phalanx. Two noteworthy differences with the past should be noted in assessing the present effort. ...Under the leadership of Charan Singh, the changes then manifest in UP were part of a nationwide dynamics aimed at ending the hegemony of the Congress. That’s not quite the case today. The second ... is the emergence in UP, virtually as an independent pole of politics, of Dalit leader Mayawati. Dalits in UP have rallied under the chief minister’s BSP banner, broadly speaking, although Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has invested personal energies in wooing them. In the scenario most likely to present itself, a direct clash between the backward castes under the Mulayam Singh-Kalyan Singh canopy, and the Dalits swayed by Ms Mayawati, seems to be in the offing.

Such an electoral battle is unprecedented for any state in India, and that imbues the current UP political scene with historical significance. It will be keenly watched if UP’s substantial Muslim electorate will continue to show friendship to Mulayam Singh even after he has courted an alliance with a politician whose role in demolishing the Babri mosque was pivotal. If the Muslims are able to overlook this, the backward caste consolidation may be expected to be a truly formidable force in the electoral arena. If not, it is Mulayam Singh’s bête noire Mayawati towards whom the Muslim voter in UP is most likely to gravitate. Whether the Congress will continue to work for a UP-centric electoral adjustment with the SP is likely to depend on the party’s perception of the Muslim reaction to the Mulayam-Kalyan association. Mulayam Singh making common cause with Kalyan Singh may have been a product of the SP leader’s belief that the Congress was less enthusiastic than previously about reaching accommodation with the SP. A good deal of what happens in UP next is likely to be linked to the positioning of the main players in relation to the Muslim vote. Those who prove lucky are likely to emerge with a strong hand in dealing with the politics of the centre after the general election. n — (Feb 7)

[CENTER][B][COLOR="darkred"][SIZE="4"][U]The curious case of Minou Drouet[/U][/SIZE][/COLOR]

By Zafar Masud[/B][/CENTER]

LATIN Quarter intellectuals had qualified it as the Dreyfus Affair of the literary world. To get a real load of this you have to bring to your imagination a still un-Americanised Paris of half a century ago. No obscenities on the walls, no junk food joints, no monkey-dance on 24-hour TV networks.

Writers and poets spent entire days in cafés, working on their novels, plays, short stories and poems; drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and dying young, hoping to leave something ponderous for posterity.

In such an ambiance a little blond girl was introduced to the literary circles of Paris by her foster mother. A youthful prodigy was not something unheard of in 1956 when a collection of poems entitled Arbre Mon Ami (‘Tree, My Friend’), was published. Only a year earlier Françoise Sagan had rocked France, and the world, by her first novel Bonjour Tristesse. But Françoise Sagan was 18 while the poetess in question, Minou Drouet, was only eight.

While everyone agreed that Minou’s poems, and the letters that she avidly wrote to anyone who got in contact with her, had great literary quality, not everyone was convinced that it was actually Minou who wrote them. France was split in two. It’s Madame (Mme) Drouet who does all the writing, said the ladies’ weekly Elle. “Is Minou Drouet a fraud or a genius?” asked Time magazine. The storm broke out with such intensity that there was no French newspaper or magazine — Le Monde, Le Figaro, L’Express and Paris Match included — that did not take a pro- or anti-Minou stand.

A few lines from Arbre Mon Ami:

‘Tree/ drawn by a clumsy child/ a child too poor to buy colour crayons. /Tree, I come to thee./ Console me/ for being only me.’

The biggest literary scam of the century! The rumpus rose to such a level that the French authors, composers and music publishers’ association felt compelled to propose a public test to put the controversy to rest, once and for all. Minou was left alone in a room with no telephone but only pen and paper for company and with the subject ‘Paris sky’ to try her by now much in doubt poetic gift. Her poem was ready in 25 minutes. Literally moved to tears the chairman of the association offered Minou honorary membership. Her poem, translated into English by Life magazine, is as follows:

‘Paris sky, secret weight/ flesh which in hiccups spits into our faces./ Through open jaws, the rows of houses/ a stream of blood between its luminous teeth./ Paris sky, a cocktail of night and of fear that one savours with licks of the tongue/ with little catches of the heart/ from the tip of a neon straw....’

Newspapers were to discover later that Minou was almost blind by birth and that her vision was only recovered following a series of operations. She took piano lessons and, though she was no Mozart, she played well. Later, she would learn to play guitar just as expertly.

Soon after the publication of her book of poetry that immediately sold 40,000 copies, Minou was hobnobbing with the high and the mighty of the cultural world. Celebrity magazines carried her photographs in the company of actor-singer Maurice Chevalier, movie director Vittorio de Sica and the legendary cello player Pablo Casals. Her most ardent fan, however, proved to be the greatest multi-disciplined living French genius at the time, the poet-writer-painter-actor-movie director Jean Cocteau. He paid her the ultimate compliment, though in his own incomparable, inverse diction: “All the children are geniuses, all except Minou Drouet!”

Not yet a teenager, Minou Drouet was now leading the life of a celebrity. Her visit to London resulted in the following verse:

‘Mischievous country/ where early every morning/ pink and golden on the plate/ two eggs sing a duet/ lying in the wait.’

And then, one day in Rome, Minou Drouet was bewildered to hear Pius XII saying to her, during a private audience at the Vatican, that he loved her poems. She had enough presence of mind to return the compliment to the holy father on his papal robe. “It is very well cut” she informed a surprised pope. Much moved by this he said: “I’ll pray to God you always stay the way you are.”

But that was not to be. As a published author of poetry and fiction books and as an accomplished pianist and guitarist by the time she was in her early twenties, Minou, now married, could be seen flaunting leather jacket and high boots, riding a motorcycle and leading a bohemian Left Bank life with all its possible blessings and pitfalls, and forever ready to plunge headlong into picaresque adventures that were very much the fever of the day.

In the mid-1960s, Minou’s life took a dramatic turn. Her grandmother fell ill and she took care of her until she breathed her last. Then she decided to study nursing, professionally. She used her newly acquired skills caring for the elderly, terminally ill children and pregnant women for two years working in a hospital as a nurse.

She made another attempt to get back to her bohemian life, giving guitar performances in Left Bank cafés, writing novels and children’s books.

When Mme Drouet was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Minou was in her early thirties. She was divorced and her heart was no longer in the arts. She returned with her foster mother to her native Brittany, taking care of her, marrying a local businessman and refusing to write or to see any journalists.

Upon insistence of her publishers, Minou started working on a somewhat indifferent account of her life, Ma Vérité (My Truth). When the memoir came up on bookstands in 1993, nobody paid attention. It was a different generation of junk-food eaters and rap lovers. Besides, those few who knew about Minou and cared, agreed that the muse had abandoned her, this time definitively.

The inhabitants of the small Brittany town Guerche-de-Bretagne are used to seeing a handsome blond woman in her early sixties going to the market and doing her chores unobtrusively. Neighbours know her by the name of Mme Le Canu. But few know about her past.

And the former Minou Drouet, bohemian, singer, guitar and piano player and author of eight books, would rather have it that way.

[B]The writer is a journalist based in Paris.[/B]

[B][CENTER][COLOR="darkred"][COLOR="darkred"][COLOR="darkred"][COLOR="Black"][U][SIZE="4"][COLOR="DarkRed"]The culture of greed[/COLOR][/SIZE][/U]

By Polly Toynbee[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR] [/CENTER][/B]

CULTURE change may be coming, but it’s not in Britain yet. The UK financial sector will pay itself £3.6bn in bonuses this month: banks are rumoured to be rushing to beat any proposed cap.

But there is not much the UK can do beyond what has been done to stop bailed-out boards’ noses going to the trough. RBS’s catastrophic purchase of ABN Amro included contracts with traders to pay fixed bonuses regardless. A one-line bill in parliament denying them the cash can’t be done: they would sue, and anyway, governments can’t simply set aside contracts.

Barack Obama’s thundering words resounded around the world this week. He castigated “disgusting payoffs” and “lavish bonuses”, fixing a $500,000 pay cap on bailed-out banks and firms. Is it heartening or depressing that the UK’s ruling Labour party only dares echo such words when Obama has said them? It raised top tax two weeks after Obama won an election promising the same. After 12 years of celebrating the filthy rich, the UK’s current business secretary Peter Mandelson finally tells RBS to reconsider “exorbitant bonuses” and “how it looks and what public opinion will be”.

So is this nearly the end of the bonus culture? Not yet. Mandelson added the crucial rider: “Obviously you have to work in a market, you’ve got to recruit the best people and keep the best people in place and motivate them.”

No change, then. The rationale for runaway pay was market competition; but the crisis revealed they were not brilliant, just deluded group-thinkers harvesting bonuses in a rising market. Often, when meeting them, they seemed lacking in intellectual curiosity, ignorant about ordinary life and breathtakingly selfish.

Responses to Obama’s modest pay cap of $500,000 have been revealing. The chief executive of Deutsche Bank warned that US talent would flee the bailed-out banks: “Talent will be happy to work for us.” But astute observers dismiss that as bravado — the mobility of these masters of the universe was always exaggerated.

In Britain as elsewhere, few top CEOs are foreign and few foreigners want our “talent”, as Work Foundation research proved. Even more revealing is the warning to Obama that if bailed-out bank chiefs get no bonuses until they pay back state cash, they will stop lending in order to store capital for that payback.

In other words, everything about bonuses creates perverse incentives. It motivated them to take insane risks with bonuses pegged to share price. It encouraged auditors to turn a blind eye. Now withholding bonuses will apparently make banks do wrong again.

What could be done? Abolish bonuses altogether. The evidence is that they don’t work or have perverse effects. Performance-related pay demotivates losers without motivating winners.

[B]— The Guardian, London[/B]

Predator Friday, February 27, 2009 01:52 PM

[B][CENTER][FONT="Georgia"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Youth seek to enter politics[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/CENTER][/B]

[B][I][CENTER]The coming polls may throw up questions about employment and poverty.[/CENTER][/I][/B]

[B]By Kuldip Nayar
27/02/2009 [/B]

EVEN before parliamentary elections are held towards the end of April or in early May, we can take it for granted that the poll verdict will be fractured. None of the political parties will get a majority in the 545-member Lok Sabha, the lower house. This will naturally necessitate a coalition government which has been the order at the centre for the last 15 years or so.
Unlike the last election when Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP’s Atal Behari Vajpayee emerged as the main candidates for the office of prime minister, this time there are many hats in the ring. Since both the leading parties, Congress and the BJP, although vociferous in their claim, have lost their sheen, regional parties, some transcending the states in which they operate, pose a serious challenge to the two. A television network survey shows that Congress may get 45 per cent of the votes if elections are held today. Rather an optimistic picture for the party.

My hunch is that both Congress and the BJP will have to try hard to retain their present strength. Congress has 153 seats while the BJP has 130 in the present Lok Sabha. It appears that even the Left which has 59 members will lose 10 to 15 seats. Sensing disarray after the polls, the Left has begun approaching regional parties to rope them in for a third front, an arrangement which had been tried earlier but found wanting.

A motley crowd that is assembled disperses at the very first onslaught by prowlers who tempt members with money or ministries in a new government. On the other hand, the main party which sustains the front pulls the rug from beneath its feet when it is found settling down. It is possible that the Left may not have any option other than backing Congress after the polls to stop the BJP from coming to power. However, the Communist Party’s secretary general Prakash Karat has said that under no circumstances would the Left support Congress. He is peeved by the Manmohan Singh government’s nuclear treaty with the US.

The Left began the exer cise on the third front by projecting Mayawati, the Dalit chief minister of UP as prime minister. (UP is the biggest state in India, with 80 Lok Sabha seats). Her waywardness made the Left change its mind. But if she were to return with even 60 seats she would definitely be a kingmaker if not the king.

Congress is joining hands with its old rival Mulayam Singh heading the Samajwadi Party (SP). It is a left-of-centre outfit which has a large following among the Muslims who constitute some 15 per cent of the electorate in UP as against 12 per cent in the country. Mulayam Singh has, however, run into a problem with the Muslims because of his alliance with Kalyan Singh who was the BJP chief minister when the Babri mosque was demolished.

The latter has owned moral responsibility. This has lessened the Muslims’ anger against the SP but not their alienation. Yet UP Muslims are Mulayam Singh’s need. He cannot expect to win many seats without them. He is trying to bring them around through the ulemas. Some Muslims leaders have left him, cutting his support base.

Kalyan Singh’s defence that he wants revenge from the BJP, which has been its alma mater for decades, convinces only a few. One, he left the party earli er with the same determination but has returned to its fold. Two, the demolition of the Babri mosque is too big a crime to be condoned merely by expressing moral responsibility. After all, in his affidavit to the Justice Liberhan Commission, still preparing a report on the Babri mosque demolition, Kalyan Singh said that he was neither sorry nor repentant for the demolition.

The BJP faces the biggest challenge. Practically all its allies which helped the party form the government under Atal Behari Vajpayee are having second thoughts. They miss the fatherly figure of Vajpayee who would pacify them to stay with him. Also, the new vigour for Hindutva has shaken them because they want to retain their secular credentials in line with India’s ethos. They do not want Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as number two as the BJP is projecting.

Another worry that consumes the BJP is that the candidate it is selling for the prime minister’s post is L.K. Advani. He is old and outdated in contrast to the 38year-old Rahul Gandhi from Congress who wants to induct youth in his party. It is true that Rahul Gandhi has said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is his candidate.

But the debate on the old and the young has begun throughout the country, rather fiercely. A nation with two-thirds of its population below 40 is beginning to feel the burden of the old men riding it.

Whether the small parties of young people that have mushroomed in India make any impact is yet to be seen. But a process has begun — as in the coming together of NGOs on a platform called Lok Rajniti Manch. All such groups want to strengthen their democratic and secular base, apart from working for a welfare state.

The voters may be impressed by caste or anti-terrorist sentiments. But their attention is getting to be more and more focused on economic problems. They are horrified to learn from a government-sponsored study that even after 60 years of independence 77 per cent of the population earns less than $1 per day and some 40 million go to bed without food. The financial meltdown has aggravated the situation, particularly when a large number of highly trained Indians from abroad are joining a big force of unemployed people in the country. The interim budget was criticised by all sections because it did not have even a single proposal to provide jobs.

The coming polls may only throw up questions relating to employment and poverty. The political parties may still garner support in the name of caste or creed. But the awakening of the voters to the real problems has begun. Money still matters and a Lok Sabha seat on average demands an expenditure of Rs40m. But that is because the people in South Asia are extremely poor and wallow in irrational beliefs, sanctified by religion and cultural attitudes.

The battle will be won not through force but through peacefully projected ideas. The pace of such a change depends on the sacrifices civil society is willing to make. The positive thing is that it has begun to assert itself. ¦ The writer is a leading journalist based in New Delhi.


[B][CENTER][FONT="Georgia"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]The price of justice[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/CENTER][/B]

[B][I][CENTER]What is most amazing at this stage is how critical segments of society, in order to sell an illusory peace, are willing to forget about hundreds of wasted innocent lives.[/CENTER][/I][/B]

[B]By Ayesha Siddiqa
27/02/2009 [/B]

EVERYONE wants justice in Pakistan including the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the lawyers, Mukhtaran Mai and ordinary people.

However, the only group that eventually got the government to agree to implement a system of justice they wanted — and popularly called the nizam-i-adl — is the Swati Taliban. So, the moral of our story is that justice will be granted to the most brutal bidder.

The rule of thumb now is that political space will only be created with the help of guns. We might also see Islamabad concede to the demands of the Baloch nationalists, especially the Baloch Liberation Army. The timing of the peace agreement is interesting as it came right before Islamabad’s crackdown on its political rivals in Punjab. It was almost as if one front had to be silenced so that the other could be activated.

The Swat peace deal is being rationalised on the basis that this is what the people in Swat want. No doubt, the people of Swat want peace. It is not easy to survive the onslaught of the Taliban or the bombardment by military forces.

However, it is interesting that the government seems to lump the innocent Swati people’s demand for peace with a desire for the new legal system that was once demanded by Sufi Mohammad and now by Fazlullah. The people of Swat would be equally happy and satisfied with an arrangement where the government tried to implement its writ without making deals with murderers. This is not a popularity contest in Swat as some sections of the media would have us believe. People are bound to accept a legal system negotiated by those who use violence as a tool when the government is absent and unable to impose its writ on everyone.

Forget about the political government, even the military is not willing to challenge this violent group. Reportedly, instead of jamming Fazlullah’s radio the army now has plans to start a counter programme. This means that they will allow Maulana Radio the space to air his views and just try to challenge his ideas, which, in turn, means legitimising his propaganda.

Again, it is not odd for people to want a system of justice that can be delivered in the minimum time and at the minimum cost. But then, the demand for the Sharia and timely and cost-effective justice are two separate things. It is no secret that people all over the country want improvement in the judicial system that has completely collapsed due to official intervention and rampant corruption in the judiciary. The problem of affordable justice not being found across the length and breadth of Pakistan exists not because of the specific type of law but due to the fact that the more powerful and affluent do not allow institutions to function.

Why should one expect that it would begin to work in Swat just because of an agreement between the Swati jihadis and the provincial government? If the same judges become qazis, as the provincial chief minister would have us believe, then what would stop them from extorting money from ordinary people? There will possibly be greater extortion because now people would pay to avoid their hands or heads being chopped off.

And what about Fazlullah and his men who have spilt a lot of innocent blood? Will the system of justice apply to them as well? Maybe not because Fazlullah did not get into an agreement to be tried and hanged by a court of law. And we can’t forget that the one force that would ensure that the qazis work and deliver justice is Fazlullah who would see to it that any qazi who deviating from his duty was killed the same way as journalist Musa Khankhel. Interestingly, the NWFP chief minister tells us that de-weaponisation by the Fazlullah gang is a minor procedural issue which will be resolved after peace is restored and life returns to normalcy in Swat. No details are offered about the agreement not even on the issue of who will define the Sharia and make sure that it is implemented in letter and spirit.

What credibility do we attach to the guarantors who would have to ensure that the agreement works and does not collapse? Is Sufi Mohammad, a man who led thousands of innocent young men to their death in Afghanistan during the 1990s, credible in this regard? Some have suggested that the answer lies in limiting the jihadis to enclaves and slowly implementing the writ of the state, firstly through the system of qazi courts and then by bringing in police stations and other law and order agencies to carry out the sentences of these courts. But then we are assuming that Fazlullah and his gang will have nothing to do with defining the system of governance. Sufi Mohammad has already stated that he considers democracy to be anti-Islam and Fazlullah has said that peace will only depend on the army withdrawing from Swat.

Those who support the above strategy might have been inspired by the results in Sri Lanka where the once powerful LTTE has finally been cornered and almost eliminated. But the success of the Sri Lankan government and the military’s strategy have depended on a combination of factors such as the flaws in LTTE’s planning, a consensus within all segments of government that the LTTE has to be suppressed and the building of a sound strategy that has ensured inter-services coordination amongst the three services of the armed forces.

The primary flaw in the LTTE’s plans was the desire to mould political credibility through taking recourse in negotiations with the involvement of the international community rather than just depending on the use of force. So, there were many occasions when it had to scale down its attacks on Colombo. Unfortunately, Fazlullah has no such plans. He is certainly not amenable to international players and does not desire to transform his force into a political one unless his handlers want him to do so. Obviously, the other option is to let the proclaimed agreement drag on until the snows thaw and Fazlullah and his forces regroup for another long battle.

What is most amazing at this stage, however, is how critical segments of society are willing to forget about hundreds of wasted innocent lives to sell an illusory peace. ¦ The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.

EMAIL [email]ayesha.ibd@gmail.com[/email]


[B][CENTER][COLOR="DarkGreen"][SIZE="5"][FONT="Georgia"]A dangerous path[/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/CENTER][/B]

[B]By Cyril Almeida

IN politics, ultimately the law matters little. It should, but it doesn’t. Qualified yesterday, disqualified today; high official today, criminal yesterday — and tomorrow always another day, another possibility. That’s the ebb and flow of the life of a politician in Pakistan, and it’s as old as the stars and isn’t going to change.
Or is it? Zardari’s bid to overrun Fortress Sharif in Punjab has many similarities to the past. You don’t become as dysfunctional a polity as ours having left many possibilities untried. Use the courts to disqualify an opponent? Check. Use a governor to impose Islamabad’s rule by proxy? Check. Use a temporary alliance with turncoats and freelance politicians to deny the largest party a seat at the table of power? Check. All done before, and all likely to be tried again.

But the Zardari-Sharif version of the oldest game in town has added something new to the mix: political feuding on steroids. Having commandeered what was once a slow-motion train wreck, the two have sent it hurtling towards the end of the tracks with staggering speed.

In the days to come, comparisons to the lost decade, the decade of democracy, will be rife. The old cycle of alternating PPP and PML governments is back, the pundits will say. But back then there was an incubation period for every crisis. Wheeling and dealing would lead to the formation of a government and it would stagger on for a bit, undone by its own ineptness and inability to govern, before being besieged by an opportunistic opposition. The minutiae of each iteration varied, but the basic unit of time against which such things were measured was the year.

Zardari and Sharif changed that. Time is now measured in months. Trouble came in the very first month of the new setup. With the clock winding down on Zardari’s 30-day Bhurban promise to restore the court of CJ Iftikhar, détente was already in question. Two weeks after the deadline, it was over as Sharif withdrew from the cabinet and began the transition to the opposition. Ever since the trenches have been dug and change in Islamabad or Punjab has been the focus of political chatter.

Until now the only thing that wasn’t clear was who would make the first move. Now we know. Zardari has swooped in on Punjab to save his government in Islamabad. The flabbergasted jiyalas and the Sherry Rehmans and Farhatullah Babars and Raza Rabbanis may publicly feign innocence and sputter at the suggestion that the Sharifs’ disqualification has Zardari’s fingerprints all over it, but you don’t have to be a jaded cynic to see through their fibs.

In private the PPP will probably strike a more defiant tone. If we didn’t slay the Punjab government first, the Sharifs would have laid siege to our government in Islamabad, they will argue. That old canard: do unto others before they do unto you. Me or him — never an us.

Having made the first move, the PPP has braced itself for the response. For now the Punjab tiger, the PML-N, will snarl and flash its teeth in Lahore and the province’s cities and towns. Eventually though it will strike in Islamabad.

Valuable as Punjab is, it is ultimately only a means to an end, national power. Zardari’s and Sharif’s egos are too big to be contained in a mere province. The upending of the Punjab government is the opening salvo of a national fight; Punjab is where the fight has begun for the simple reason that the road to Islamabad leads through it.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Bad as the ’90s were, there is another, forgotten, patch in Pakistani history that was worse: the early- and mid-1950s. We had seven prime ministers in the seven years between 1951 and 1958. In that crucible of turmoil were forged the issues that still haunt us today: a pliant judiciary, an overreaching executive, the security state trumping the development ideal and vicious political feuds. All topped off with our first military dictator, of course.

So, more than the fear of a return to the instability of the ’90s and the void of another lost decade, the real worry should be that an era of politics on steroids will catapult us into dark places that we never knew existed.

The rapid turnover in the ’50s produced the definitive problems of not just that generation but every generation since. And 50 years on, we’re not any closer to solving any of them. But a system, if it can be called that, had evolved and there were safety valves, army intervention being the most obvious.

When the politicians had mucked around enough and lost popular support, the army would step in — and keep the system going long enough until the shoe was on the other foot and it was the army that was the subject of the public’s ire. Soon, however, that luxury of alternating popular support may no longer be available.

The army has copped the standard blows in the wake of yet another ill-advised takeover but faces an additional problem: in waging a deeply unpopular war against militants, it has bombed its own territory and killed its own people. There is genuine and deep anger against it.

The politicians are never any one’s favourite but the public’s rancour will escalate as the Zardari-Sharif fight unfolds in the weeks and months ahead. For now Zardari is the bad guy, seeing that he is the one who has broken his promises repeatedly, used questionable legal tactics and generally held the bag for governance missteps.

But Sharif, the wounded interlocutor, will eventually be forced to step out from behind his principled façade. He is a veteran of old fashioned knock-down-dragout fights for power and isn’t in the game to come second. His meteoric ratings will collapse when he crawls into the mud and makes his bid for power. Given the trajectory that Zardari and Sharif are on, that will happen sooner than later.

The frightening question is, what then? A discredited army, discredited politicians, all in quick order, at the same time, with the barbarians at the gate. This isn’t the ’50s or the ’90s. Pakistan is fighting for its survival against militancy. The sweep through the north is a reality. The sweep through southern Punjab may already have started. Even if we stay blind to the threat, on our western border are amassed American troops who have identified us as ground zero in the fight against militancy.

Domestic upheaval even at the best of times is deeply damaging to Pakistan. But the unique combination of all major players simultaneously discredited while an exogenous threat to the state gathers, that is a scenario that can have catastrophic consequences for the state as we know it.

If they must, let the politicians feud. But they should think about the speed at which they are doing so. Otherwise, compared to what may lie ahead, the troubles of the ’90s, and even the ’50s, may appear like a breezy walk in the park. ¦

EMAIL [email]cyril.a@gmail.com[/email]

hanna Saturday, February 28, 2009 12:12 PM

[RIGHT][B]Saturday, 28 Feb, 2009[/B][/RIGHT]

[CENTER][B][U][SIZE=4]Democracy derailed [/SIZE][/U][/B]
By Dr Tariq Rahman [/CENTER]

PUNJAB is up in flames in the wake of the court decision that the Sharif brothers were not eligible to contest elections or hold public office. This is not surprising.

The PML-N had won a popular mandate in the province and there was a general view that Shahbaz Sharif had provided good governance in his year-long rule. What is incomprehensible is why the PPP decision-makers failed to realise that a strong public reaction is to be expected if an elected, popular government is removed and governor’s rule is imposed in its place. This is a major development that threatens to derail democracy in this country.

The other decision which threatens democracy is the peace the ANP has made with Sufi Mohammad in Swat. In principle, of course, negotiation and peace are always better than the use of military force. Unfortunately, whenever attempts at making peace were initiated earlier, they made the Taliban stronger and the common people suffered from their domination and barbaric practices. Even this time, according to newspaper reports, military vehicles will move in Swat with the prior permission of the Taliban.

If this is true — and I hope it is not — the common people would be left to the mercy of the Taliban. This is not peace; it is the death of democracy in Swat. It is, indeed, the extinction of the hope of democracy and human rights in that unfortunate piece of land. But going back to the derailment of democracy in the whole country, let us consider the fallout of the imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab and the ouster of the Sharif brothers.

Three scenarios come to the mind. First, the people will be cowed after a few days of anger and an uneasy peace will prevail. The PML-Q and the PPP will form a government in Punjab and the PPP will complete its tenure. However, when elections are held and these are fair it will be voted out and will no longer remain a strong national party.

This will be very unfortunate since the PPP is still seen as the best choice for liberals and religious minorities in this country. Other parties, including the PML-N, tend to encourage jingoistic nationalism and also pander to religious prejudices. Both attitudes, if taken to extremes, are inimical to peace, human rights and the spirit of democracy.

The second scenario is that the agitation will continue. The lawyers’ movement will also strengthen it and, after much police brutality and bloodshed, the PPP government will have to agree to hold mid-term elections. In this case even if the PPP loses votes the process of democracy will be strengthened and the PPP will gain some credit for having allowed elections.

However, the longer the period of agitation the fewer the PPP’s chances of winning elections in Punjab. Moreover, the economy will suffer and the enemies of democracy will get a chance to point out that democracy does not work in the country.

The third scenario is that the agitation will be so strong or so lengthy that the army will step in. If this happens the process of democracy will be disrupted once again. That would be the worst possible thing to happen and will weaken liberal and democratic forces in the country more than anything else. In short, we will be back to square one as we have been several times in the past.

Besides, there are other possibilities also. For instance, there may be a revolt within the PPP resulting in pro- and anti-Zardari factions, new combinations of political actors may emerge, and so on.

However, the chances of all this happening are few, But they could also lead to the weakening of the PPP, mid-term elections or even a new dictatorship.

In short, what we are witnessing is a shattering of our dreams of only one year ago. What we had expected was that the judges would be restored with Iftikhar Chaudhry as the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the PML-N and PPP would rule the country jointly for five years and people would truly start believing that democracy can function in the country.

The sceptics assure us that if Iftikhar Chaudhry had been restored he would have abolished the NRO and that would have meant the end of Mr Zardari’s career. First, this is by no means certain. It is possible that he would not have touched Mr Zardari in any way. Secondly, if he had been restored after Mr Zardari became the president there would be no problem as Mr Zardari would have enjoyed presidential immunity. And, above all, if Mr Zardari had done all the right things he would have been so popular that he would have had an assured future in any future political set-up even if he had to leave this one.

As it is, Mr Zardari seems to have taken steps which will prob

ably harm him in the long run. Moreover, he is seen as the architect of a script which has caused widespread disappointment in the new dispensation. The judges illegally removed by Musharraf still remain where they have been for so many months. The functionaries appointed by Musharraf are still functioning. The off-and-on relationship with the Taliban still remains. People still tell us that the armed forces either cannot or will not destroy the Taliban. Investment is still down and young people have little hope of finding good jobs. Bombs still explode in our midst. The system remains the same; only the faces have changed. Democracy has been derailed — but was it even on the rails?


[CENTER][B][U][SIZE=3][SIZE=4]Kashmir dispute today[/SIZE] [/SIZE][/U][/B]
By A. G. Noorani[/CENTER]

SOME Indians and Pakistanis behave like stragglers running around in the forests as if the Second World War had not ended.

Indians foam at the mouth if “the UN resolutions” are mentioned or if any one uses the D-word for the Kashmir dispute. Pakistanis harp on those resolutions, clamour for settlement of the dispute, and seek foreign mediation. Both are pitiably outdated.

It can be said with slight exaggeration that Kashmir is all but settled. Were it not for the blasts in Mumbai’s trains in 2006, the prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, might have arrived in Islamabad to give a fillip to the process, if not, indeed, tie up the loose ends with President Pervez Musharraf. He might have come to Pakistan in mid-2007 were it not for the crisis in Pakistan’s judiciary that erupted in March that year.

President Musharraf uttered a crie de coeur in an interview to Aaj on May 18, 2007. “First, let us resolve the situation here, the internal issue, so that we can focus on Kashmir properly.” He revealed that it was a “fairly fair” assumption that the broad outlines of a solution to the Kashmir issue had been worked out between the two countries. “We have made progress on the Kashmir dispute, but we have yet to reach a conclusion.” His foreign minister Mr Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri confirmed this in New Delhi.

A settlement requires concessions on both sides the president said: “And when both give up, then in both countries there is opposition and a hue and cry. Every body says develop a consensus. Arrey bhai, how to develop a consensus?” He further revealed that the solution was “moving forward on the same lines that I’ve proposed — along the lines of demilitarisation, self-governance and joint mechanism”. That is the status of the Kashmir dispute today.

The formulations and slogans of old have become irrelevant. The president and the prime minister’s public pronouncements converged. The back-channel, comprising Messrs Tariq Aziz and Satindra Lambah, filled in the details. We should be proud of this achievement. We owe nothing at all to the reports produced in the United States; though some of their authors, endowed more with vanity than competence would detect the stamp of their genius on any accord.

On Dec 25, 2003, President Musharraf “left that [UN Resolutions] aside”. In New Delhi on April 18, 2005, he said “the LoC cannot be permanent. Borders must be made irrelevant and boundaries cannot be altered. Take the three together and now discuss the solution”. On May 20, 2005: “Self-government must be allowed to the people of Kashmir” and “we do understand India’s sensitivity over their secular credentials”. So, “it cannot be, may be, on a religious basis”. On June 14, 2005: “Autonomous Kashmir is my earnest desire, but its complete independence will not be acceptable to both India and Pakistan.”

Thus, both, plebiscite and independence are ruled out. What of the LoC? On Oct 21, 2005, he suggested: “Let’s make the LoC irrelevant. Let’s open it out.” On Jan 8, 2006 he amplified that the quantum of self-governance will be defined by both sides. He stipulated demilitarisation of Kashmir. Lastly, he said: “Joint management would be a solution which we need to go into. There have to be subjects which are devolved, there have to be some subjects retained for the joint management.”

On Dec 4, 2006, he indicated clearly that it was not territory that Pakistan was after; Pakistan was “prepared to give up its claim” to Kashmir provided the four-point formula he set out precisely in his memoir Line of Fire was accepted — define the regions; demilitarise them; introduce “self-governance or self-rule”, and “a joint management mechanism” comprising Indians, Pakistanis and Kashmiris.

On March 24, 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said “borders cannot be redrawn but we can work towards making them irrelevant — towards making them just lines on a map”. He was prepared for “institutional arrangements” between both parts of Kashmir. It would be foolish and wantonly destructive to throw out the baby of this achievement with the bath-water of partisanship. Fifty years ago, on Feb 10, 1958, Prime Minister Firoz Khan Noon met the US envoy to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, in Karachi. Ambassador James M. Langley recorded: “Noon made no mention of a plebiscite and it seemed to me that he was clearly thinking of a compromise which would provide for a territorial division between India and Pakistan.”

By then plebiscite was dead. Nehru offered an accord on the basis of the ceasefire line to Liaquat Ali Khan in London on Oct 27, 1948; to Ghulam Mohammed on Feb 27, 1955; to Mohammed Ali Bogra at the Delhi summit on May 14, 1955; at a public meeting in New Delhi on April 13, 1956; and to Ayub Khan at Murree on Sept 21, 1960. In 1963, Z.A. Bhutto and Swaran Singh parleyed on various partition lines.

President Ayub Khan was prepared to drop plebiscite if India offered a good alternative. In a speech at Lahore on March 23, 1962, he said that if plebiscite “was not the best solution” for Kashmir “then let us have another solution satisfactory to all”. This is what the four-point formula accomplishes. It assures Kashmir’s de facto reunification and self-rule to both its parts. It gives Pakistan a say in the state through the joint mechanism while ruling out a plebiscite. Both countries will make significant concessions. Never before had the Kashmir dispute reached so closely the outskirts of an accord as it has now.

What is required of all is a constructive critique of the details to improve the scheme. This is an accord which India’s leader can sell to the people from the Red Fort in Delhi; Pakistan’s leader from the Mochi Gate in Lahore; and Kashmir’s leader from the Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

Predator Monday, March 02, 2009 10:58 AM

Swat’s uneasy truce
[B][CENTER][FONT="Georgia"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="darkgreen"]Swat’s uneasy truce[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/CENTER][/B]

[B]By Mushfiq Murshed
March 02 , 2009 [/B]

THE uneasy calm that prevails in Swat as a consequence of the controversial agreement between the NWFP government and the militants through the leader of the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM), Maulana Sufi Muhammad, is accident prone and could prove to be short-lived.

This was demonstrated by the cold-blooded murder of journalist Musa Khankhel and the abduction of the Swat DCO. The latter was released shortly afterwards reportedly in exchange for some militants in government custody. The accord envisages the restoration of the qazi courts and the imposition of Sharia.

This precarious truce is based on logic bordering on absurdity. A democratically elected government has entered into an agreement whereby the writ of the state is being virtually handed over to a group of clerics who believe that democracy itself is un-Islamic. Sufi Muhammad is reported to have said, “From the very beginning, I have viewed democracy as a system imposed on us by the infidels. Islam does not allow democracy or elections.”

Further, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under the leadership of Maulana Fazlullah has to be brought on board if this accord has any chance of survival. The Sharia would, therefore, be imposed by the TNSM and TTP whose skewed interpretation of Islamic laws is well known. They have already relegated women to a pariah status, disallowed girls from attending school and consider dissent an intolerable crime punishable by death. The acceptance by Swat residents to live under totalitarian rule and their willingness to sacrifice fundamental human rights should not be considered as the triumph of extremist ideology but a lack of faith in the state to protect them against this menace.

Apparently, the truce, for whatever it is worth, has been negotiated through the wrong person. Maulana Sufi is a mere figurehead and actual power vests in his firebrand son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. It is unlikely that Fazlullah will agree to

surrender his weapons without which any agreement is meaningless. Furthermore, it has been reported that he is demanding amnesty for the death and devastation that he and his followers have inflicted on Swat.

Once again, whatever the logic behind this deal, the NWFP government has negotiated it from a position of weakness and is, therefore, being perceived as having capitulated to militant forces. To all appearances, the former has abandoned its responsibilities and has become a passive bystander as the militants decide on how they will enforce their warped interpretation of Islamic law.

The experience of Pakistan in recent times has been that the appeasement of extremists does not pay. A case in point is the Lal Masjid episode of July 2007 where the government turned a blind eye to the accumulation of a huge arsenal by the clerics of the mosque. Had preventive measures been taken earlier, the ensuing bloodbath could have been avoided. Furthermore, such appeasement only gives confidence to the militants that they can perpetrate acts of terrorist violence with impunity in any part of the country.

The ANP-led government in the NWFP seems to believe that the accord it has negotiated with Sufi Muhammad will result in sustainable peace and stability. The latter’s statement that a Taliban-style dispensation will be replicated in other Muslim countries belies the assumption of the Pakistan government that the cleric and his cohorts will be content with the imposition of Sharia in Swat alone. The cancer of terrorism in the guise of religion is likely to spread as is evident from the recent blasts in Dera Ismail Khan and other similar incidents.

Previous deals with the militants in the tribal areas were also acclaimed with similar optimism but had disastrous consequences. In each instance, the hiatus in military operations provided an opportunity to the terrorists to regroup, reorganise and replenish their supplies. The peace accords thus proved fragile and were violated by the Taliban. This seems to have been brushed under the rug by the NWFP government whose “indecent haste” to conclude the agreement with Sufi Muhammad was motivated by fear as well as its inability to stop the carnage in Swat.

World opinion on this agreement is also divided. Some subscribe to the point of view held by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that the peace accord can lead to eventual stabilisation and, therefore, could be worthy of emulation by the Afghan government. Others believe, as does the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, that the agreement is tantamount to the capitulation of the state and can only further embolden the militants.

Howsoever this truce is analysed is inconsequential; what matters is that the people of Swat have virtually been coerced into accepting the Taliban interpretation of Islamic doctrine. To date the Swat insurgency has displaced approximately 50 per cent of its 1.8 million residents. They are now being asked to return to their homes on the questionable assumption of the NWFP government that lasting peace has been restored in the valley. The actual beneficiaries of the accord are the militants who have consolidated themselves in yet another area of Pakistan.

The writer is editor-in-chief of Criterion Quarterly.


[B][CENTER][FONT="Georgia"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Currency chaos[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/CENTER][/B]

[B]By Hamish McRae
Monday, 02 Mar, 2009[/B]

WHEN western Europe sneezes, eastern Europe catches a cold, to borrow from Prince Metternich’s observation about the importance of Paris in the middle of the 19th century. Well, it certainly has now.

The situation varies from country to country but just about everywhere is in recession. Currencies have collapsed and as a rule-of-thumb, the further east, the more serious the pressure. The Russian rouble has suffered the most — yes, it is not in the EU but its economy still has a big impact on the Baltic states and to a lesser extent, Romania and Bulgaria. Latvia and Lithuania (which peg to the euro) are thought to be in danger of devaluing their currencies, while the economies of Romania and Bulgaria seem set to decline by up to five per cent this year. And let’s not talk about Ukraine.

In central Europe, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic should be better placed — their economies are more closely integrated with western Europe and they still have a cost advantage. But all three are dependent on car assembly, the hardest-hit industry.

As a result the Polish zloty has fallen by 10 per cent and there is talk of putting up interest rates — something the government is loath to do — to support the currency. In the Czech Republic, industrial production is down by more than 15 per cent and unemployment is set to reach 10 per cent, the highest for a decade. In Hungary the numbers are just as bad but there is also the problem that many loans are denominated in euros — their real burden has risen as the currency has collapsed, falling by 30 per cent over the past eight months.

Slovakia, which has adopted the euro, might seem insulated a bit but it has faced a similar slowdown as industrial production falls and unemployment nudges towards 10 per cent. Tax revenues are down 40 per cent, year on year.

So it is a mega-mess.

The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank have announced a rescue package worth £21.7bn for the banking sector in central and eastern Europe. More country-by-country assistance for the economies as a whole may not be far behind.

The IMF will be in the driving seat for countries that have not adopted the euro and the EU will probably assume responsibility for Slovenia and Slovakia.

The IMF has a model to follow; this is what the organisation is for — to support countries in financial trouble. For the EU, this is a new experience. It already makes considerable transfers of funds to these countries but these are part of its normal procedures. There is no ready rescue plan. Should other EU taxpayers stump up and if so, in which countries?

But the EU cannot cut loose its new member states for a powerful practical reason: many continental banks have made large loans to them, either directly or through local banks. Any threat to the stability of those banks is a threat to western Europe’s banks too.

At a cost, and with great pain in eastern Europe, the finances can be patched up. What is not clear is what this does to the EU as an entity. Obviously it makes further enlargement an even more distant prospect but it will also not lead to countries leaving the EU. The impact on the euro is unpredictable: should those countries that are not yet members of the eurozone speed up plans to join, or does the chaos put this back another decade?

One thing is sure. The EU club had not envisaged a crisis on anything like this scale when the new members lined up to join it.

— © The Independent

[B][CENTER][FONT="Georgia"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="darkgreen"]Environmental responsibility[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/CENTER][/B]

[B]By Dr Tariq Hassan
Monday, 02 Mar, 2009[/B]

CLIMATE change is an inconvenient truth that we can no longer afford to ignore. It is causing widespread damage globally with an extensive impact on the environment.

Environmental damage is being inflicted through greenhouse gases and the consequent depletion of the ozone layer. The resultant increase in ultraviolet radiation has added to the risk of global warming and contributed to the adverse socio-economic effects of climate change.

Increase in the average global temperature of the earth and constant climatic variations are affecting human settlements and economies in Asia. Areas in South Asia, where large populations live in low-lying coastal areas or adjacent to river deltas, are vulnerable to a rise in the sea level and associated backwater flooding. Even in other areas, rising global temperatures are causing significant changes in crop yields affecting low-income rural populations that depend on traditional agricultural systems.

Pakistan is among the top 20 countries in the world that will be affected by climate change. Its status as a developing country, dependent mainly on agriculture, makes it particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Agricultural productivity in Pakistan is being affected by the changes in both land and water resources. Dry land areas in arid and semi-arid regions are most vulnerable and are putting the country’s food security at risk.

Climate change does not only affect agriculture and water regimes. It also affects urban centres, industry and human health. Urban centres and industry in Pakistan depend on hydropower for cheap electricity due to the non-availability of sufficient quantities of indigenous oil, gas or fossil fuels in the country. Therefore, depleting water resources are also putting the country’s energy security at risk with all its attendant consequences.

These obvious threats notwithstanding, the issue of climate change, even though considered to be important, has not generated an urgent reaction in Pakistan. The reason is lack of awareness among the public and low priority given to environmental issues by the government. However, it appears that the government has started to communicate internationally on the subject and is keen to adhere to international legal instruments regarding climate change. Pakistan is a party to both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol.

It is therefore required to enact effective environmental legislation. As a result, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act was promulgated in 1997. This enactment empowers the government to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the act and for implementing the provisions of various international environmental agreements specified therein, including the climate convention. As part of its environmental commitments, the government has also laid down various environmental regulations and standards.

Furthermore, the government has taken major policy initiatives in the environment sector such as the enactment of a National Conservation Strategy in 1992 and the finalisation of a National Environmental Action Plan in 2001. Both the NCS and NEAP have indirect relevance to climate change issues. The NCS advocates conservation-based development. It envisages various training policies and measures. Government training policies and measures provide an opportunity for academic and training institutions to fulfil their social responsibility to enhance public awareness and provide education to the concerned policymakers.

In addition to the government and academia, the largest share of responsibility for climate change mitigation falls on the corporate sector. It has, therefore, been recommended that the corporate and business sector should be mobilised to finance the transition to a low-carbon economy. The concept of corporate social responsibility can be used to promote the transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy.

Businesses need to have a common vision centred on ‘enlightened self-interest’, a policy where companies would serve community-specific needs and safeguard the environment knowing that such actions generate greater well-being among existing as well as potential customers, and as a direct consequence generate greater business opportunities.

It has been indicated that the energy sector is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Pakistan but that it is also the sector which is believed to have the greatest potential for devising solutions. Pakistan has vast potential for renewable energy development; three provinces of Pakistan — Balochistan, Sindh and the NWFP — provide vast untapped resources for hydropower, wind and solar energy. These sectors represent an added opportunity for the corporate sector to undertake viable investments that will also assist Pakistan in utilising its cleaner forms of energy.

Management of climate change-related risks mostly involves measures to save energy. To the extent that these measures provide substantial energy cost savings, companies may find these to be good business practices and hence be drawn willingly into action against climate change.The climate convention has laid down the theory of “differentiated responsibilities” for the purpose of observing the principles and fulfilling the commitments thereunder. Article 3(1) thereof provides: “The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the de

veloped country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”

The theory is based on the recognition of differences in capabilities and socio-economic conditions between developed and developing countries. It has been noted that: (i) the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries; (ii) per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low; and (iii) the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.

These differences prevail in the context of different state actors in developing countries as well. Corporate bodies are by far the most capable and developed entities in developing countries. Furthermore, being the biggest energy consumers, they have the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Consequently, they should bear the larger share of the commitment to preserve the climate within national boundaries. Within the corporate set-up, foreign companies in developing countries form the higher echelon of the corporate sector and should voluntarily aim to apply higher environmental standards prevalent in their home countries in order to set an example for others to follow.

The writer, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, is a lawyer based in Islamabad.


[B][CENTER][FONT="Georgia"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Balochistan: a broken promise?[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/CENTER][/B]

[B]By Malik Siraj Akbar
Monday, 02 Mar, 2009[/B]

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar’s article in these pages, in response to one by former senator Sanaullah Baloch, cleverly skirted the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and missing persons in the country’s largest province of Balochistan.

It is, in fact, these two unresolved issues that have plagued the PPP-led process of reconciliation in the conflict-ridden province.

The PPP came to power for the first time in the history of Balochistan after the Feb 2008 polls. The ruling party’s pledge to end the insurgency, restore trust amongst the Baloch and ensure a permanent settlement of the Baloch dispute was heavily hinged on drastic constitutional and institutional changes. The party, despite all its promises, never opted for generous constitutional amendments that could restore the confidence of the Baloch people in Islamabad’s commitment to their cause.

A handful of measures taken to demonstrate that the so-called process of reconciliation was being initiated were, in fact, individual-specific. Besides Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Shahzain Bugti, a grandson of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, no commoner among the hundreds of ‘missing persons’ has been released to date. The government has not even acknowledged the case of the missing persons and this compelled a relatively new organisation, the Baloch Liberation United Front, to abduct John Solecki, head of the UN refugee agency in Quetta on Feb 2.

The question is, was the PPP government waiting for such an ugly development — the kidnapping of a foreign aid worker — to raise the issue of Balochistan’s missing people? If it is not resolved immediately, can we actually afford another disgraceful incident in the future? Are such incidents what it would take to highlight the plight of the ‘disappeared’? Worse still, Rehman Malik, the advisor on interior affairs, brazenly ridiculed the Baloch list of missing persons by billing it ‘unrealistic’ and ‘exaggerated’.

Similarly, Baloch nationalist demands include de-militarisation of the province; they have called upon the government to withdraw troops from Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts that stand ravaged by the military operation carried out during the Musharraf regime. A year after the general elections, neither has the army been pulled out from the conflict zones as a confidence-building measure (CBM) nor has the media been allowed access to witness and record the extent of excruciating damage caused to human life, property and livelihoods

Jamil and Talal Akbar Bugti, sons of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, are not permitted to enter their native soil of Dera Bugti to offer fateha at the grave of their slain father — an undoubtedly inhuman and undemocratic act. How can Bugti’s sons and tribesmen believe that democracy has truly returned to Balochistan when they live under such cruel restrictions? The members of the opponent Bugti clans have been pitted against Akbar Bugti’s heirs who have no access to their land and other property. The personal library of the slain nawab, once believed to be one of the best collections in the region, is reported to have been looted by none other than big guns in the security forces.

Similarly, the PPP government, which clearly lacks the spunk to bypass the security and intelligence agencies, has failed to intervene in the existing humanitarian crisis in Dera Bugti and Kohlu. The five-year long armed conflict in the area has created over 100,000 internal displaced persons; hailing mainly from the Marri and Bugti tribes, IDPs have been forced to take refuge in neighbouring Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts of Balochistan and are in desperate need of medical assistance, rehabilitation and economic incentives.

On the other hand, for over two years, security forces — the actual rulers of the area — have kept governmental and non-governmental organisations from not only conducting surveys in the area, but also from dispatching any form of aid to IDPs. How can the Baloch have faith in the PPP-led process of reconciliation when policies initiated by Pervez Musharraf persist? The process of reconciliation can only begin when IDPs receive medical care, food and a promise of a gradual return to their homes.

Furthermore, instead of ending the cycle of enforced disappearances, the state secret services have, under the PPP administration, allegedly begun whisking away political opponents all over again. Currently, no one knows the whereabouts of Dr Bashir Azeem, the central secretary general of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Jalil Rekhi, the party’s information secretary and another central leader of the opposition, Chakar Qambarani. Even a university student, Qambar Malik Baloch, was recently said to have been abducted by government functionaries.

Islamabad can no longer afford to oversimplify or underestimate the Baloch issue. It is time the centre treated the province in a dignified manner — empowered it politically, administratively and, most importantly, economically. It is crystal clear that the unrest and sense of deprivation in the province cannot be eliminated until Islamabad concedes to its demand of complete constitutional ownership of indigenous natural resources.

Therefore, the PPP government should seriously induct drastic constitutional reforms before the Balochistan conundrum spirals out of control. A powerless and deprived province poses a greater risk to the integrity of the federation of Pakistan. Democratic governments are expected to confront daunting challenges. If the PPP can defend its recent truce with Islamic extremists in Swat, then, as was rightly argued by Sanaullah Baloch, why can it not come up with a similar bold initiative that guarantees economic and political sovereignty for Balochistan?

The writer is a journalist based in Quetta.

[B][CENTER][SIZE="5"][COLOR="DarkGreen"][FONT="Georgia"]OTHER VOICES - North American Press Skipping Africa in aid[/FONT][/COLOR][/SIZE][/CENTER][/B]

[B]Monday, 02 Mar, 2009[/B]

CANADA doesn’t spend that much on foreign aid: $4.8bn this year. That’s roughly 0.3 per cent of our economic output, well below the 0.45 per cent target the Conservatives themselves set in 2006. Within the G7, we were last in 2007 in absolute donor dollars and just middling in relative terms.

Given this modest spending, Prime Minister Stephen Harper can’t be faulted for focusing on fewer countries, to have more impact.

Canada’s new tilt is toward the Americas, and away from Africa. Colombia will get more aid, as will Peru, Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras and the Caribbean.

In Asia, we will focus on Afghanistan, but also on Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, key Muslim states, plus Vietnam. They were all in the top 20 five years ago. Still, we will pump more help into a region where the US and its allies are struggling to curb Islamic extremism.

Finally, we’ll channel more aid to the Palestinians, also in the old top 20. US policy explicitly aims to give them more of a stake in peace.

This shift, while significant, is not seismic. Of the top 20, 13 were on the old list. Still, the Conservatives risk being criticised for adopting a Made-Toronto Star

in-the-USA approach to aid that reflects Bush-era thinking, especially with respect to Africa, where poverty is far greater, by dropping places like Cameroon, Zambia and Congo from the top 20.

As well, the Conservatives should look for ways to boost funding to multilateral agencies and projects that help Africa.

Tending to Canada’s backyard is important. But we should not ignore Africa, where the poorest of the poor still need our help. — (Feb 27)

hanna Monday, March 02, 2009 12:23 PM

Rights and foreign policy
[B][U]Rights and foreign policy [/U][/B]

Monday, 02 Mar, 2009

Demonstrators protest outside the U.S. Embassy for the release from the U.S. Prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.— Reuters/File Photo In an annual exercise since 1977, the US State Department issues its international human rights report at the beginning of the year. Describing the “promotion of human rights” as being essential to American foreign policy, Hillary Clinton promised last week to seek to live up to ‘our ideals on American soil’.

Had the secretary of state focused more attention on America’s own record, the report may not have provoked Russia, China and others to react strongly. For one cannot but agree with the Russians that the US State Department adopts double standards in evaluating the human rights records of it allies and its foes.

Besides, America is known to have itself resorted to human rights abuses in many instances — Guantanamo comes readily to mind — and it has not been very mindful of upholding the rights of citizens of other countries. At times, other governments violate human rights at America’s prodding or under its approving eye. Had this not been the case, few would be questioning America’s espousal of timeless values which ‘empower people to speak, think, worship and assemble freely’.

While America’s motives in this annual exercise may cause eyebrows to be raised, one cannot deny that many human rights violations have been correctly identified. Our own rights activists have been at great pains to highlight cases of abuse and to pursue them relentlessly. Many human rights violations stem from the failure of democracy to take root in a country.

Thus an authoritarian ruler tramples on the rights of citizens whenever he feels threatened. That would explain why the US report gives Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal a good mark on this score as democracy made a comeback in these countries last year. But we in Pakistan have learnt from our own experience that often democracy does not ensure respect for human rights until the tradition of political tolerance, observance of democratic conventions and the rule of law take root in society.

What we have seen thus far is economic and social rights being blatantly abused in underdeveloped and poverty-stricken societies where no political or legal redress is available to average citizens and where privileged classes are in a position to grab power to suppress the weak. Worse still, cultural and social norms very often militate against the weaker sections of society. Nevertheless governments and citizens must continue to work for human rights since they are an integral part of human development.

05:31 PM (GMT +5)

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