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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Marxist manifesto
The party hasn’t done fresh thinking
The CPM may be loathe to changing its worldview, but
its latest election manifesto does show a shift in the
priority list of its “enemies”. In the past, the prime
targets of its ire have been the BJP, the NDA and
communalism. However, this time around, it has also
trained its guns more on its erstwhile allies — natural
or otherwise — the Congress, the UPA and their
supposedly “nakedly pro-rich policies”.

EC acts tough
File election expenses or face disqualification
The Election Commission’s decision to disqualify as many as 3,423 candidates from contesting the ensuing Lok Sabha elections for three years cannot be faulted. For, these candidates, most of whom are Independents, had failed to file the details of the expenses incurred by them during the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections.






EARLIER STORIES

Restoration of Chief Justice
March 17, 2009
Deepening crisis in Pakistan
March 16, 2009
Manifesto of an unborn party
March 15, 2009
Third Front
March 14, 2009
Pakistan on the brink
March 13, 2009
Army’s warning
March 11, 2009
Et tu, Naveen?
March 10, 2009
Limits of protest
March 9, 2009
Underachievers at school
March 8, 2009
Mahajot in Bengal
March 7, 2009
Pawar at play
March 6, 2009


Petty diktats
Who’s afraid of Charlie Chaplin
Surely, these are not Modern Times in India. There may be no one Great Dictator at the helm of the country’s affairs, yet there is no dearth of petty diktats sought to be enforced by lumpen elements that seem to have free reign to intimidate, terrorise and suppress the people and their expressions.

ARTICLE

Power to what purpose?
Pre-poll common programme is missing

by B.G. Verghese
The buzz word these days in the election market is winnability, not programme or purpose. Winning elections is obviously important in order to form a government. But people must know what purpose lies beyond winning. Having won singly, or more likely in combination, what follows? Earlier, the contest was supposedly between secular and communal forces.

MIDDLE

A pilgrimage to humanity
by Anil Malhotra
For nearly 400 years colonial and apartheid rulers in South Africa banished
those they regarded as political troublemakers or social outcasts of society to
Robben Island, a 518-hectare rocky outcrop in Table Bay near Cape Town.
From 17th to 20th centuries, Robben Island served as a place of imprisonment,
isolation and banishment.

OPED

Development and decay
Haryana remains socially backward
by Ranbir Singh
Haryana is a classic example of a paradox of economic development and political decay. One of the small states of the Indian Union, both in terms of area and population, Haryana has made remarkable economic development.

Where are Africa’s Obamas?
by Wangari Maathai
M
y fellow Kenyans celebrated wildly when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. A national holiday was declared the Thursday after the U.S. election, and more than four months later, the excitement has barely abated — and not just in Kenya, where Obama’s father was born, but across Africa.

Inside Pakistan
Justice Chaudhry the real hero
by Syed Nooruzzaman
T
he significance of the restoration (of the judiciary as it existed before the
imposition of the emergency in November 2007 during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s
rule) is not only that democratic forces and politicians who appear to have
supported a principled stand have won. It is also that the principle of defying
dictators has got a great boost.

Charter of Democracy
Zardari’s powers

 


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Marxist manifesto
The party hasn’t done fresh thinking

The CPM may be loathe to changing its worldview, but its latest election manifesto does show a shift in the priority list of its “enemies”. In the past, the prime targets of its ire have been the BJP, the NDA and communalism. However, this time around, it has also trained its guns more on its erstwhile allies — natural or otherwise — the Congress, the UPA and their supposedly “nakedly pro-rich policies”.

It has also found fault with them on everything from price rise, neo-liberal policies, terrorism and compromised foreign policy. The BJP, too, has come in for acidic comments for communalism and attacks on minorities, but it is obvious that the numero uno position among the opponents has been given to the Congress.

The bitterness of the running battle that the Left and the Congress have had all through UPA rule is writ large over the manifesto. It is another matter that the alternative set of economic, foreign and social policies that it has proposed do not reflect domestic and international compulsions.

Nowhere is the CPM anger more visible than on the issue of the nuclear deal with the US, which it has called the “biggest betrayal” on foreign policy. But the manifesto has promised to scrap strategic alliance with the US and ensure “defence secularism”. It should know that a change in government must not lead to going back on foreign policy agreements, because that will amount to reneging on international agreements and undermine India’s standing.

Similarly, de-nuclearisation of South Asia that it has propounded is not only wishful thinking but also a dangerous proposition unless China is brought into its ambit. It might please the non-proliferation nuclear Ayatullahs in the West.

In any case, the manifesto will be a matter of importance only if the CPM by some magic manages to increase its tally in the forthcoming elections, which, judging by the reports from West Bengal and Kerala, seems rather unlikely under the circumstances. On the contrary, the way things are going, it will be no surprise if its count shrinks considerably.

The coming together of the Trinamool Congress and the Congress may lead to a consolidation of anti-CPM votes in West Bengal. There is trouble in the Left Front itself, with the smaller partners bristling against big brother CPM. With the party facing internal convulsions in Kerala, the bigger challenge lies within. The CPM seems to be oblivious of that because of the time warp it is caught in.

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EC acts tough
File election expenses or face disqualification

The Election Commission’s decision to disqualify as many as 3,423 candidates from contesting the ensuing Lok Sabha elections for three years cannot be faulted. For, these candidates, most of whom are Independents, had failed to file the details of the expenses incurred by them during the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections.

Interestingly, 1,075 of them are from Uttar Pradesh and 616 from Bihar. After elections, every candidate will have to file an account of expenses. If not, show- cause notice is served on him/her and action taken in accordance with the law.

Section 10A of the Representation of People’s Act states that if the Election Commission is satisfied that a candidate has failed to submit an account of expenses within a specific timeframe and has “no good reason or justification”, it can disqualify that person for three years from the date of the order.

This bold action by the commission should act as a warning to all those contesting the ensuing elections. Surely, there is no use of the law if it merely remains in the statute book. Essentially, it is aimed at keeping the candidates’ election expenses within the prescribed ceiling — Rs 25 lakh for a Lok Sabha seat and Rs 5-10 lakh for an Assembly seat — and reducing the role of money power in the elections.

However, this is followed more in its breach than in practice. Glitzy campaigns
and star-studded shows have considerably increased the role of money power
in the elections. Though cash give-away is a serious offence, politicians do this
with impunity.

One may recall how huge bags of cash meant for distribution among voters were recovered from ambulances in Bellary during the last Assembly elections in Karnataka. Last week, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Congress MP Govinda and DMK leader M.K. Stalin were caught distributing cash to people on camera. Of course, they have given flimsy excuses to evade action.

Poll observers, expenditure observers, Income-Tax sleuths and others will have to step up vigil to curb this disturbing trend. The commission’s latest decision to monitor huge cash withdrawals at regular intervals from current bank accounts by political parties and individuals as also through the Banking Cash Transaction Tax may help authorities tackle electoral corruption. Elections will cease to be a level-playing field for all if the rich have their way.

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Petty diktats
Who’s afraid of Charlie Chaplin

Surely, these are not Modern Times in India. There may be no one Great Dictator at the helm of the country’s affairs, yet there is no dearth of petty diktats sought to be enforced by lumpen elements that seem to have free reign to intimidate, terrorise and suppress the people and their expressions.

The latest threat of these Hindutva activists is so absurd as to be laughable. Except that these jokers, who define and describe Charlie Chaplin as a “Christian”, are not clowning. They are dead serious that no statue of this legendary actor and director, who starred in many short, silent comedies, shall be allowed to come up in Karnataka. Why? Because if his statue is put up — even temporarily, by Kannada film actor-director Hemant Hegde for the sole purpose of shooting his film House Full — it will offend Hindu sentiments. And, pray, why will it offend Hindu sentiments? Because Chaplin was a Christian.

Now, if someone said that Chaplin was a bowler-hatted tramp, there would be
takers for it. If he is called a Communist, as he was labelled in the Senator
McCarthy years, there might be rednecks and right-wing elements willing to
believe the canard. If he was demonised as an anti-fascist by the BJP — and
for that reason his portrayal opposed by Hindutva hordes — it might still make
some sense in a bizarre sort of way.

Since Karnataka is dedicated to following the Gujarat model, to have the statue of an anti-fascist could be a reminder of the BJP’s genocidal policies and of vanishing democratic values. Yet Chaplin is not being pilloried for being an anti-fascist.

Curiously, he is being berated for being a “Christian”. Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin was accused of many things in his lifetime, including by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in the US. But “Christian” was a tag his worst enemies did not pin on him.

Now, probably his worst enemy was not as powerful in the US and elsewhere in
his lifetime. His enemy is just coming of age in 21st century India. The enemy is
known as prejudice. And prejudice feeds on ignorance, foments intolerance and is
fascism’s firm ally.

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Thought for the Day

The high-water mark, so to speak, of Socialist literature is W. H. Auden, a sort of gutless Kipling. — George Orwell

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Power to what purpose?
Pre-poll common programme is missing
by B.G. Verghese

The buzz word these days in the election market is winnability, not programme or purpose. Winning elections is obviously important in order to form a government. But people must know what purpose lies beyond winning. Having won singly, or more likely in combination, what follows? Earlier, the contest was supposedly between secular and communal forces.

A variant was that it would be between strong and weak governments - strong on terror, and able to defend the national interest. Now ideology appears to have taken a back seat. Personal agendas have come to the fore. Like Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, everybody wants to play the Lion.

The BJP has for some time campaigned in the name of its prime ministerial flag- bearer L.K. Advani. For a while it seemed he might find a challenger in Mr Shekhawat, but the former Vice-President has now retired on grounds of indifferent health. But many are still lining up to take and run (away) with the baton.

The Congress has wisely announced that it has no vacancy and that the incumbent Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, will continue. Some had tried to project Mr Rahul Gandhi in the hope of creating space for themselves, but this game has been foiled. Yet Mr Sharad Pawar has now informed the country that people in Maharashtra would like a Maharashtrian to be Prime Minister. The Thackerays, Uncle and Nephew, would surely root for a “Maharashtra manoos”.

Third Front champions, all of prime ministerial timbre, have been heroically manning a revolving door. Arrivals and departures are being anxiously monitored but uncertainty prevails as to just who is hosting the party and what the final guest list might be. Ms Mayawati, however, is clear.

She is for any combination provided she is projected as the prime ministerial front runner, a proposition from which some of her erstwhile champions have resiled. Her argument is that a “Dalit ke beti” has a superior entitlement to the throne. To which, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan has retorted that if a Dalit claim is to be entertained, his credentials are better though he has no intention of throwing his hat in the ring.

None of the prospective coalitional formations is proposing a pre-poll common minimum programme. This is being left to be worked out after the polls on the basis of the fallout - the number of seats won and the relevant bargaining power of the main constituent units.

The BJP, which was determined to make Hindutva its USP, is having second thoughts. The JD(U) in Bihar is keen to avoid too close an embrace while the BJP broke loose in Orissa after the embarrassment of the Kandhamal riots that targeted Christians. It is also facing internal problems with Mr Arun Jaitley sulking over factional poaching on his turf.

The Congress has come together with Ms Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamool
Congress, which may be expected to give the Left a good fight in West Bengal.
The Left is divided in Kerala and is altogether likely to lose ground nationally in
the forthcoming polls.

The Congress, however, is having problems with the Samajwadi Party which has taken on board Mr Kalyan Singh, one of the prime architects of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.

But parties like the SP and Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD have limited wiggle room and may not be able to hold out beyond a point in the matter of seat-sharing. The view held by some that the rise of regional parties and the weakening of the Congress and the BJP as core political formations at the Centre spells doom for cohesive and strong governance is mistaken.

This represents the typical political infantilism of the middle classes who seem to be out of touch with the evolving social dynamism of the country and grassroots social realities. The under-mass of India is astir and this upthrust from below is reshaping Indian politics.

The muddled middle class mindset confronts us all too often as evident in the kind
of sentiments expressed over the possibility of rescheduling the IPL cricket fixtures
on account of the announcement of general elections in five phases over much of
the same period.

The idea that the IPL should go on and that elections should somehow be managed around the cricket schedule absurdly equated IPL entertainment with a complex general election — the largest in the world — being held at a difficult time when it presents a target for terrorist strikes aimed at throwing India off balance.

Indignant Channel panelists and anchors felt that if schools, cinemas and offices could function through the elections, why should not the IPL be played as well? There appeared to be little understanding or sympathy for the Home Minister who said that the dates and venues of the IPL would have to be considered in the context of first ensuring electoral security.

Followed the brouhaha over the auction of Gandhi memorabilia in which the
government got embroiled, clearly for reasons of electoral correctness. And
then why did we need to have Gen Pervez Musharraf clowning here on a news
magazine’s invitation.

Giving a platform to a discredited military dictator who stabbed India in the back when Pakistan is struggling to restore the democracy he destroyed did little service either to India or to the democratic forces in Pakistan.

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A pilgrimage to humanity
by Anil Malhotra

For nearly 400 years colonial and apartheid rulers in South Africa banished
those they regarded as political troublemakers or social outcasts of society to
Robben Island, a 518-hectare rocky outcrop in Table Bay near Cape Town.
From 17th to 20th centuries, Robben Island served as a place of imprisonment,
isolation and banishment.

Today, from a maximum security prison, it has been made a world heritage site, a poignant reminder of the price paid for freedom by the present democratic South Africa. On my recent visit to Cape Town, a trip to Robben Island was strongly recommended. The experience was humbling, striking and captivating. It was a reminder of a grim reality practised and perpetuated as a crime against humanity.

At various times, the island’s unwilling inhabitants included slaves, political and religious leaders who opposed Dutch colonialism in East Asia, indigenous leaders who resisted British expansion in South Africa, leprosy sufferers, mentally ill patients, prisoners of war and most recently, political opponents of the apartheid regime in South Africa and Namibia.

A visit to the cell in which Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and South Africa’s first democratic President, was imprisoned for 28 years at Robben Island prison was a lifetime experience. To visualise that despite being chained, tormented, humiliated and subjected to inhuman conditions, he sustained his spirit of tolerance and humanity, is a feat no normal human can endure.

Bringing an end to apartheid was dependant on many things. Internal popular uprising, diplomatic international isolation of apartheid South Africa, underground organisation, armed resistance and the people’s spirit all contributed to it.

It is admirable to see that some of these freedom fighters and ex-political prisoners who spent 15 to 25 years in prison are now guides who accompany you on tours to Robben Island prison. Their first-hand encounters narrated to groups of tourists in guided tours, sitting in their prisons cells, on their mattresses or bunker beds are touching and tearful.

The prisoners crushed limestone, rocks and sea shells with bare hands in scorching sun with no protection. Forced to live in inhuman conditions, they endured and endeared with fellow prisoners bound as one. Unbelievable, but these accounts are true. Despite the brutality and harsh conditions, those imprisoned on the island succeeded in turning the prison into a symbol of freedom and personal liberation.

Its most famous inmate Nelson Mandela emerged from prison in 1990 to lead
South Africa to democracy with a message of reconciliation, tolerance, love
and hope that moved the entire universe. There were no massacres, reprisals,
retaliations or mass migrations.

Today on Mandela’s words, all people in South Africa co-habit in peace and unison. On 1 December 1999, In recognition of Robben Island’s historic role in overcoming injustice and the universal importance of its heritage, Robben Island was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Therefore, a visit to Robben Island is now a pilgrimage to humanity which evokes the triumph of the human spirit.

What is the message that this temple of human race and civilisation leaves with you? What is it that touches your heart, body and soul? Why is it so grim and painful? The answers are difficult to find.

But it undoubtedly permeates into you how mankind inflicts injuries upon itself. It also teaches you that love, patience and time heal these wounds. However, the most laudable feature is the forgiveness of the sufferers.

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Development and decay
Haryana remains socially backward
by Ranbir Singh

Haryana is a classic example of a paradox of economic development and political decay. One of the small states of the Indian Union, both in terms of area and population, Haryana has made remarkable economic development.

It was a backward region of the composite state of Punjab. So much so that the Akali Dal had demanded in its memorandum on Punjabi Suba, submitted to the States Reorganisation Commission,(1953), that the deficit region of Haryana, which was a burden on Punjab should be separated from it and joined with the western UP as it had social and culture affinity with the latter.

But now Haryana is one of the most developed states of the Indian Union. It is next only to Goa in per capita income. It has surpassed Punjab in agriculture, dairy farming and the service sector.

The state has also made phenomenal strides in industrial development. It has
also been able to acquire a very high position in the field of information
technology. The state has also attracted large-scale investment from
domestic and foreign corporate houses.

In other words, it can be legitimately proud of its impressive record in the field of economic development. Although, this unparalleled success has been made possible to a great extent owing to its strategic location in the National Capital Region.

Credit must also be given to its dynamic political leadership and efficient bureaucracy who created the needed conditions by developing infrastructure, providing stability and ensuring law and order in the state.

But if the economic side of Haryana is bright, the political side is bleak. Soon after its creation, the state witnessed the activation of the dormant forces of caste on account of the struggle for power between various political actors.

This was followed by the politics of defections and counter-defections after the 1967 elections to the Haryana Assembly.

The post-1968 mid-term election period was marked with personalisation and centralisation of power, the rise of authoritarian trends and a decline of the institutions of Public Service Commission, Subordinate Service Selection Board and Legislative Assembly.

Besides, it also witnessed the emergence of an executive-centric political system in which political power got concentrated in the hands of the Chief Minister, members of his family and the Chief Minister’s secretariat.

The post-1977 period witnessed the commanding heights of factional acrobatics, political opportunism, magnification of casteism and enhancement of political corruption. It also witnessed mass defections. So much so that the Janata government was overnight converted into a Congress (I) government after the 1980 parliamentary elections.

Later on, after the 1982 Haryana Assembly elections the strength of the Congress (I) was raised to 63 from 36 through defections. The post-1987 era may be described as the period of politics of populism and the emergence of family-based parties. This era also saw the rise of criminalisation and commercialisation of politics.

The first half of the first decade of the 21st century was a witness to the conversion of the state government into a political machine run in a crude manner by the then ruling family of Haryana.

Afterwards too, family rule has persisted in the state in a sophisticated manner but to a limited extent. And, the bureaucracy never had it that good as at present.

This leads us to the question: How should one explain the paradox between economic development and political decay.

This has to be, in the first instance, ascribed to the continuation of social
backwardness inherited by Haryana owing to historical reasons such as the
relative weakness of the national movement, absence of cities, absence of a
language and script of its own, absence of the princely states for promoting
literature, music and theater, absence of a press of its own and virtual non-
existence of the social reform movement.

Social backwardness has persisted after the formation of Haryana in 1966 on account of the failure of the successive political dispensations to give due attention to academic and cultural advancement.

In fact, it has been magnified due to social regression and the emergence of a
value-free and norm-less society due to the impact of consumer culture. The
opportunist character of its educated middle class has also been partially
responsible for it.

Secondly, the paradox has to be understood by keeping in view the neglect of the social sector by the ruling class of the state which remained engrossed in economic development of the state, of themselves and their families.

Moreover, the absence of a capital of its own and its operation from the Union Territory of Chandigarh also impeded its social development.

Besides, the rural school education system has been gradually destroyed over the years. Either there are no teachers or most of them do not teach and there is large-scale copying in examinations. Even the urban schools, with a few exemptions, are providing substandard education.

The decline in the standard of higher education has been in proportion to the mushrooming of institutions of higher learning — colleges, universities, institutes of management, technology and teachers’ training.

The health system, particularly its rural segment, remains sick despite the vertical and horizontal expansion of primary health centres, community health centres, hospitals and medical colleges in the private and public sectors.

The status of women, in terms of female literacy, sex ratio and incidence of anemia caused by malnutrition too remains low. Therefore, the ruling elite will have to work for social development if it is genuinely eager to check political decay and keen to put the state on the path of social development.

The present government of Haryana has taken some initiatives in this direction and established a women’s university, given the status of PGI and medical university to Medical College, Rohtak, and is going to establish a Central university at Mahendergarh and Rajiv Gandhi Education City in Sonepat. It has also initiated schemes women welfare, for the Scheduled Castes and the backward classes.

But the dominance of the bureaucracy over the academia and the weakness of civil society are likely to hamper these efforts. Another inhabiting factor is the reluctance of the state government to act against the khap panchayats in a tough manner due to their political usefulness.

Lastly, it is hesitant to really empower the panchayati raj institutions through the necessary devolution of power. And it seems to be content with an increase in the honorarium of the presidents and vice- presidents of the zila parishads, chairpersons of the panchayat samitis.

It has not even issued a gazette notification to implement the truncated document on activity mapping, which it had released with fanfire on February, 2006. And the district planning committees, constituted on December 4 2007, too have not been activated so far.

Let us hope that it will do the needful for realising the vision of the late Rajiv Gandhi to strengthen the panchayati raj institutions so that they are able to play the needed role in social development.

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Where are Africa’s Obamas?
by Wangari Maathai

My fellow Kenyans celebrated wildly when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. A national holiday was declared the Thursday after the U.S. election, and more than four months later, the excitement has barely abated — and not just in Kenya, where Obama’s father was born, but across Africa.

People are elated by the fact that someone with African roots has been able to rise to such heights. But the U.S. election also should cause Africans to ask themselves this question: Why don’t more African nations have the kind of leadership President Obama is demonstrating ?

African leaders have much to learn from the new president’s example. His campaign was disciplined, inclusive and grass-roots-led. He has built his Cabinet methodically, reaching out to political opponents.

And when he has made mistakes, notably in vetting some candidates for Cabinet positions, his apology and acceptance of responsibility stood in sharp contrast with the arrogance and lack of transparency that too often have marked 50 years of post-independence African leadership.

It’s no coincidence that legions of young people in Africa have drawn inspiration from Obama’s call for change and hope. In Kenya, youth speak of the need for an “Obama revolution” that would lead to a peaceful transfer of power from the old guard that has ruled the country since independence in 1963 to a new generation of idealistic yet practical leaders in the Obama mould.

Indeed, across the continent, younger Africans have embraced Obama as not only a hero but as a model for Africa’s future. The continent desperately needs principled and skilled leaders committed to public service and to working for the good of society as a whole. By contrast, time and again, post-independence African governments have been unprincipled or blatantly corrupt, beholden to only a small set of cronies or elites.

Too many in leadership positions have plundered national resources, persecuted political rivals and citizens who dared to question their actions, and even stoked violence within and across national borders, all the while crushing the hopes of ordinary citizens to make an honest living. Few have consented to share power freely or supported development of a vibrant civil society.

Of course, Africa has had a number of giants —Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, for example — who embodied selfless service, justice and fairness, and who left their countries the better for their leadership. But many others have cynically and tragically played politics with ethnic identification, a devastating legacy that continues to roil many nations.

In the last six months of 2008 alone, coups beset Mauritania and Guinea, and politicized violence continues in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Chad, the Darfur region of Sudan and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo — all caused, in large measure, by a failure or absence of genuine leadership.

In Kenya, the two parties in a coalition government formed after the disputed 2007 election — and the terrible violence that ensued — are still competing for the perquisites of power instead of working together effectively for the common good.

In this context, Obama, simply by modeling a leadership style that’s open, fair and honest, offers a powerful example of what African leadership could become. My hope is that African leaders will take the opportunity of Obama’s presidency to challenge themselves to raise the bar of leadership, and to help bring about the revolution in leadership Africa desperately needs.

Inspired by Obama’s example, perhaps they will be motivated to practice good governance, expand democratic space, promote and protect human rights, end or discourage conflicts and ensure the sustainable, equitable and responsible use of national resources.

That Obama is of African heritage sends a signal, one I hope all Africans heed: The time for excuses for poor leadership is over. Africans must not sit back and expect that Obama will lavish aid and attention on the continent simply because he has a Kenyan father. They should demand the leadership they want rather than accept the leadership they get.

The writer is the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Inside Pakistan
Justice Chaudhry the real hero
by Syed Nooruzzaman

The significance of the restoration (of the judiciary as it existed before the
imposition of the emergency in November 2007 during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s
rule) is not only that democratic forces and politicians who appear to have
supported a principled stand have won. It is also that the principle of defying
dictators has got a great boost.

“In our judicial history, Justice Munir did not stand up to the establishment, creating a tradition that judges bow to the coercive powers of the state. But in 2007, unexpectedly, a judge (Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry) did defy a General and was thrown out and treated most shabbily. He was restored, not once but twice. In countries like Pakistan, where cynicism abounds and principles are ridiculed, this is just the kind of antidote required to give the people confidence in their own power,” says Dr Tariq Rehman in an article in Dawn.

Justice Chaudhry has emerged as the real hero after the end of the agitation by Pakistan’s lawyers, supported by members of civil society and politicians. He will be remembered for having given a clarion call for protecting the independence of the judiciary. If this institution gets strengthened, it may lead to a process of institution building in Pakistan.

People are, however, sceptical about the implementation of the decisions announced by the government. The gullible among the public refuse to believe the political class, which has brought them only misery and hopelessness.

The News reflected this feeling when it commented, “But amidst the rejoicing, there is also need for caution. In the first place, we must hope that the promise to restore the deposed Chief Justice next week, on March 21, when Justice Dogar steps down, will be fully honoured. We have been witness to so many broken promises that all trust and faith has vanished. The Prime Minister must ensure it is restored.”

Charter of Democracy

The focus of the Government of Pakistan and the Opposition, particularly Mr Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N), has now shifted to the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by Mr Sharif and the late PPP leader Benazir Bhutto in May 2006 in London. As reported by Daily Times, Mr Sharif told a TV channel on Monday that he and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had agreed to solve all the issues involving the PML (N) and the PPP in accordance with the CoD.

A mechanism is in the process of being finalised for the implementation of the CoD. Mr Sharif described the reinstatement of the sacked judges as the first step towards a “soft revolution”.

According to Business Recorder, “Prime Minister Gilani’s promise to seek guidance from the Charter of Democracy shall definitely help the government, particularly in making appointments of justices. As of now, there are four categories of judges of the superior courts: One, who did not take oath under the PCO (General Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order) and are being restored; two, who did not take oath but later resumed their positions; three, who took oath under the PCO; and four, the fresh appointees. “The Charter of Democracy envisages establishment of a commission that shall recommend three-name panels against each post to the Prime Minister who, in turn, will forward one name to a joint parliamentary committee for confirmation ‘through a transparent public hearing process’. And under the condition ‘no judge shall take oath under any Provisional Constitutional Order that is contradictory to the exact language of the original oath prescribed in the Constitution of 1973’.”

Zardari’s powers

If everything goes as agreed to between the PPP and PML (N) leaderships, President Asif Zardari will now have to shed his enormous powers like those of sacking an elected government and the National and Provincial Assemblies. “The chorus against him will not stop; it will not stop at least until he repeals the 17th Amendment”, as Asha’ar Rehman says in an article in Dawn.

The Nation also highlighted this point editorially when it said, “there is a need to do away with the ticklish issues on a priority basis for that would guarantee against the rebirth of hostilities. Foremost among them relates to the powers held by President Asif Zardari to dismiss a sitting government, which must be curtailed if true spirit of parliamentary democracy is to be revived. The proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over parliament in the form of Article 58(2b), that in the past had led to the ouster of various popularly elected governments, should be removed.”

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