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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Get back black money
Centre must follow the SC directive
T
he Supreme Court has rightly directed the Centre to explore the possibility of filing cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, against persons suspected of parking black money abroad. Clearly, this has become an important issue because an estimated Rs 70 lakh crore has been stashed abroad by various individuals.

Beyond expectations
Sensex surges too fast, too soon
After hitting a low at 8,160 on March 9, 2009, the BSE Sensex touched 12,000 on Monday. It has gained 4,000 points in less than two months. The sharp rally has taken small investors by surprise. Many of them had taken the exit route early as experts on TV channels dubbed it a bear-market bounce. They feel left out now.


EARLIER STORIES

Crisis in Nepal
May 5, 2009
On a fast track
May 4, 2009
Intellectual and society
May 3, 2009
Low voter turnout in Mumbai
May 2, 2009
Combating the Taliban
May 1, 2009
Mr Q. again
April
30, 2009
Modi remains in the dock
April
29, 2009
Guns fall silent in Lanka
April
28, 2009
Advance of the Taliban
April
27, 2009
Qualification for MPs
April
26, 2009
Pakistan worries US
April
25, 2009


Women ahead
They can break the glass ceiling
Women’s slow and steady upward march has culminated in their winning all the top positions in the 2008 civil services examination. This is a unique first, and a clear-cut proof that women have finally arrived. While Shubhra Saxena from Indirapuram (Ghaziabad), Sharandeep Kaur Brar (Chandigarh) and Kiran Kaushal (Raipur) have occupied the first three positions -- leaving only the fourth and other positions for men -- women have done equally well overall as well.

ARTICLE

Prabhakaran has nowhere to go
Humanitarian crisis worries the world
by Maj-Gen Ashok K Mehta (retd)
E
elam war IV was started and won under the watch of President Mahinda Rajapakse. A brilliant, at times bitterly fought war in Northern Sri Lanka has turned into an unmitigated humanitarian disaster, which was not foreseen by the victors. Part of the problem has been in creative semantics: euphemisms of war which have blurred its ground reality and extended the threshold of tolerance.

MIDDLE

Tiger catcher
by Parbina Rashid
W
HAT do you say about a man who runs after a man-eater with nothing but a blanket in hand and captures it too? Courage incarnate, a hero or simply crazy?

OPED

The daughter and the tree
Both need tender care to bloom
by Harish Dhillon
P
erhaps the most innovative, universal, creative initiative to be thrown up in recent times is the programmer of “Nanhi Chhaan”, which was launched on August 27, 2009 at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Obama targets firms operating abroad
by Lori Montgomery
P
resident Obama has announced a major offensive against businesses and wealthy individuals who avoid U.S. taxes by parking cash overseas, a battle he said would be fought with new tax laws, new reporting requirements and an army of 800 new IRS agents.

Inside Pakistan
Karachi on the boil again
by Syed Nooruzzaman
The crisis caused by the activities of the Taliban is believed to have reopened the ethnic wound of Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan. The killing of 33 persons in sporadic violence in the commercial capital of Pakistan last week was caused by the gunning down of three Urdu-speaking Muhajirs a few days back. The killers of the Muhajirs were believed to be Taliban sympathisers.


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EDITORIALS

Get back black money
Centre must follow the SC directive

The Supreme Court has rightly directed the Centre to explore the possibility of filing cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, against persons suspected of parking black money abroad. Clearly, this has become an important issue because an estimated Rs 70 lakh crore has been stashed abroad by various individuals. While the BJP and the Congress have been blaming each other for their failure to bring back the black money, successive governments at the Centre have done little to tackle the problem, let alone recovering it. The apex court’s directive is in response to a PIL filed by six prominent persons led by Mr Ram Jethmalani, jurist and Rajya Sabha MP. The Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice M.K. Sharma has justifiably rejected the Centre’s appeal to dismiss the PIL. Instead, it has questioned why the government has failed to prosecute Pune businessman Hasan Ali Khan under the anti-money laundering law.

Khan’s case is particularly significant because he was served with an Income-Tax notice for a whopping Rs 71 crore. He did not file IT returns from 2000-01 to 2006-07. During a raid of his premises at Pune in January 2007, the IT sleuths had seized documents on his account with Swiss Bank UBS AG. He is alleged to have transacted $8 billion from his wife’s Swiss bank account. Yet, he was not booked under the PMLA. Consequently, the Bench’s directive to the Centre on Khan is timely.

While Khan’s case may be only the tip of the iceberg, many more individuals have stashed huge sums in such tax havens as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg and Channel Islands. The Centre’s contention that the foreign banks refuse to share information on the ground of confidentiality is somewhat unconvincing. Surely, if a criminal case is filed against the individuals, there can be no bar on getting information. Moreover, the international community would do well to step up pressure on foreign banks for greater transparency in their operations through proper changes in their internal laws. Unlike earlier governments, the new Government that comes to power after the elections — irrespective of its political dispensation — should launch a drive for getting the individuals’ names, retrieving the black money and take action against the guilty. It is not going to be an easy task. Those who keep money abroad are generally the powerful and the influential. The new government will have to take a resolute action to show results.

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Beyond expectations
Sensex surges too fast, too soon

After hitting a low at 8,160 on March 9, 2009, the BSE Sensex touched 12,000 on Monday. It has gained 4,000 points in less than two months. The sharp rally has taken small investors by surprise. Many of them had taken the exit route early as experts on TV channels dubbed it a bear-market bounce. They feel left out now. Experts expect a pullback ahead of or soon after the general election. Stock markets seldom move the way analysts want them to. While experts base their analysis on economic data, markets often move on sentiment and future earnings. The present may appear cloudy, but the future has started looking bright. The general belief is the worst is over.

It is the foreign institutional investors that have driven up the market rally in the last two months. In April alone FIIs bought shares worth $1.3 billion. Foreign investors are returning to India as they see this country along with China as growing despite recession. Dark clouds have started dispersing, it seems, beyond India and China too. Other Asian, European and US markets too have soared. Investors now see signs of a global recovery and ignore bad news. Manufacturing has expanded in China for the first time in nine months. A better-than-expected report on the US housing market, which started the global meltdown, has lifted the mood.

Investment guru Warren Buffet says the recession will end soon and that no big US bank will fail. That has contributed to the positive sentiment. Global markets, however, nervously wait for the US report on “stress tests”, which will show the extent of bank losses and capital they need to resume normal business. Only a major shocker can reverse the present strong uptrend. Political uncertainty in India is a deterrent, but it all depends on how FIIs see it and whether they bring in more capital. But they don’t have much choice either.

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Women ahead
They can break the glass ceiling

Women’s slow and steady upward march has culminated in their winning all the top positions in the 2008 civil services examination. This is a unique first, and a clear-cut proof that women have finally arrived. While Shubhra Saxena from Indirapuram (Ghaziabad), Sharandeep Kaur Brar (Chandigarh) and Kiran Kaushal (Raipur) have occupied the first three positions -- leaving only the fourth and other positions for men -- women have done equally well overall as well. In all, there are as many as 10 women in the top 25. Out of a total of 791 candidates that have been selected, 166 are women and 625 men. That should be more than enough to silence all those who think or say that women are the weaker sex, whose place is only in the house – or in the kitchen. What is encouraging is that they have been making their mark not only in the civil services, but in all walks of life.

Remarkable stories have been scripted by men also during the 2008 IAS exam, which is considered the most coveted position to hold. Varinder Kumar Sharma, who is an all-India fourth and first among men candidates, is differently abled because of polio affliction and comes from a small Punjab village to boot. He has beaten all odds to rise to such a height. His achievement should act as a motivating factor to all those who are disheartened by what others consider as handicaps.

Equally heartening is the success achieved by those taking the examination in languages other than English. Mr Varinder Kumar Sharma, who is a regular reader of Punjabi Tribune, took the examination in his mother tongue. Similarly, Kiran Kaushal, who has stood third overall, wrote her examination in Hindi. She is the first to use Hindi and reach this high rank. Of the top 25, two took the examination in Hindi and one in Punjabi. If what is a healthy trend continues, more and more sons of the soil will be able to join the civil services in the days to come. If the phenomenon continues, the basket from which the bureaucracy comes will become bigger and more representative of the people.

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Thought for the Day

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality. — Oscar Wilde

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ARTICLE

Prabhakaran has nowhere to go
Humanitarian crisis worries the world
by Maj-Gen Ashok K Mehta (retd)

Eelam war IV was started and won under the watch of President Mahinda Rajapakse. A brilliant, at times bitterly fought war in Northern Sri Lanka has turned into an unmitigated humanitarian disaster, which was not foreseen by the victors. Part of the problem has been in creative semantics: euphemisms of war which have blurred its ground reality and extended the threshold of tolerance.

First, the focus of war was shifted from fighting an ethnic conflict to combating terrorism which was akin to spreading a camouflage net over operations. A distinction was drawn between LTTE terrorists and “our own people, civilian Tamils” who had to be liberated from the clutches of the Tigers. Further, the military offensive was described as a humanitarian operation. These cosmetic descriptions secured wide international support for the anti-terrorist campaign.

As the war draws to a close, the Sri Lankan government has declared that combat operations have reached conclusion but there is no ceasefire or cessation of hostilities. The reason: the world’s largest hostage rescue mission, a humanitarian operation again, will continue with the use of small arms in the incongruously called “No Fire Zone”. “Freeing the hostages is my duty. And the choice before the LTTE is surrender or face the Army”, Mr Rajapakse said.

In waging this last battle against terrorism, the government has imposed an embargo on the use of heavy weapons like those employed by the Air Force and artillery to minimise civilian casualties, though some reports suggest that the ban was violated. A large number of LTTE cadres along with Prabhakaran and other top leaders embedded with thousands of civilians are trapped between the devil and the deep sea.

Operation Final Countdown has twin objectives - capturing Prabhakaran and forcing the release of civilian hostages. At the centre of this final battle are twin tragedies - a possible civilian massacre in the NFZ; and a humanitarian tragedy involving 2,00,000 displaced persons relocated to internment and refugee camps outside the conflict zone, till recently quarantined from humanitarian agencies. This year alone, the UN has reported 6500 civilians killed and 14,000 wounded besides thousands more malnourished. Mr Rajapakse says there is no humanitarian crisis as such - “we will manage it”.

The contradictions between the government’s stated policy of restraint and actions on the battlefield are echoed in the concerns of the international community over the inevitable risks of mass civilian casualties resulting from the rescue operation. For the Sri Lankans it will be Mission Accomplished only when Prabhakaran is captured. Security forces have liberated all territory barring 5 sq km which was under LTTE control, destroyed its navy and air force, eliminated its war-waging infrastructure, killed 18,000 and taken surrender of 3000 Tigers. They have rendered impossible the resurrection of the LTTE as a conventional force.

The more immediate of the two crises is the one in the NFZ where, according to John Holmes, UN Chief of Humanitarian Affairs, “the civilians are in mortal danger”. The government says it is determined not to allow the LTTE a breather to fortify itself with more earth bunds and mines. A firefight appears inevitable as Rajapakse has refused to order a ceasefire for securing the release of civilian hostages by neutral observers, a contingency the LTTE has been banking on. For the government, any pause is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The LTTE is cornered and Prabhakaran, unless he has already escaped, has nowhere to go. An agreement short of surrender will be unacceptable to Sri Lanka, but capitulation is not in Prabhakaran’s book. To avoid the bloodbath, immense pressure will have to be brought on Mr Rajapakse to consider the LTTE laying down arms to a neutral country and safe passage for the release of civilians.

Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse, the President’s brother and mentor of the war, has ruled out surrender to anyone other than Sri Lanka. He says troops have been preparing for the rescue mission, and to bolster their morale he has glorified Israel’s 1976 Operation Entebbe in Uganda and the more recent Russian hostage rescue operation at Beslan in North Ossetia in 2004 where 300 hostages were killed. He is preparing the international community for another humanitarian disaster.

The idea of a hostage rescue mission was first mooted by the Americans when they offered to evacuate the trapped civilians in the conflict zone, later renamed NFZ, employing their Marine Expeditionary Force based at Hawaii. The French endorsed this plan, but India and Sri Lanka had reservations about the operation. The ICRC was not in favour either, saying that any evacuation must have the consent of the victims. Colombo felt it was Sri Lanka’s legitimate right and duty to conduct the rescue operation on its soil.

More than the rescue of civilians it is the LTTE and Prabhakaran whom the government is after. It believes that to eliminate terrorism and eradicate the LTTE menace, the cancer of Prabhakaran has to be removed. It argues that the Shining Path in Peru and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia were made ineffective only after their top leaders had been captured. Karuna, once the No 2 in the LTTE who defected to the government in 2004 and is now a minister in the government and a key player in the defeat of the LTTE, has said that Prabhakaran will fight to death. Some say he has already escaped.

No one is sure about Prabhakaran’s whereabouts. A few months ago, the Sri Lankan authorities were saying he had decamped to a country in South-East Asia, or India or South Africa. Lately they have been saying that he is in the NFZ along with his son Charles Antony and top aides, intelligence chief Pottu Amman, Sea Tigers Commander Soosai and Field Commander Bhanu. Repeatedly confirming Prabhakaran’s presence among the civilian hostages and his capture as vital for ending terrorism are part of the government strategy to take the war to its logical conclusion. So, it is very unlikely that Mr Rajapakse will be swayed on humanitarian grounds to agree to a ceasefire or a pause in fighting.

Britain, France, Japan and the European Union have called for a humanitarian pause and are seriously considering the use of aid and trade as bargaining chips. The US has asked the IMF to withhold a $1.9 billion bailout package for Sri Lanka. The US is deeply concerned about the developing humanitarian crisis which it says is “utterly unacceptable”. A British minister has said that the shadow of war crimes is over Sri Lanka. Mr Rajapakse has said: “Stop lecturing me. There will be no ceasefire.” His brother has ruled that war will go on till Prabhakaran is captured.

LTTE political commissar Balasingham Nadesan said: “We will not surrender and continue fighting for Eelam.” Former Foreign Minister of Denmark HE Jensen has said that Colombo should be held accountable if there is a bloodbath. Prabhakaran’s death and a banned CD already circulating in Tamil Nadu, showing the tragedy of Sri Lankan Tamils, could trigger riots and violence in the state.

After the big guns fell silent India, too, has gone quiet except for seeking better access for aid agencies to civilian camps. For two decades, New Delhi had been committed to ensuring the sovereignty and integrity of Sri Lanka which included the sacrifice of 1200 IPKF men, but without securing any devolution for the Tamils. Unfortunately, India has made itself peripheral to the political outcome and the new strategic dynamic evolving in Sri Lanka.

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MIDDLE

Tiger catcher
by Parbina Rashid

WHAT do you say about a man who runs after a man-eater with nothing but a blanket in hand and captures it too? Courage incarnate, a hero or simply crazy?

I have no word to describe him, despite the fact that I have shared a bond with this man who hails from Udalguri district of Assam since my childhood. In fact, I grew up listening to the stories about his valour and the growls of the tigers he had captured.   

Living in the proximity of the Assam State Zoo had its plus and minus points. One had no choice but to wake up at the dawn listening to the spine-chilling sounds the tigers made.

And if there had been a new arrival, all hell would break loose – dawn or dusk. However, it was also an incentive to walk down to the zoo to have a look at the new addition—a splendid looking animal pacing up and down in its cage, grimacing at the visitors and making the sound which would put chill even in the bravest of hearts.

The introductory note outside the cage would inevitably have one line – “Captured by Ziaur Rehman”. Soon, the initial admiration for the beast would shift towards the captor and remain stupefied there — how a man can achieve such an impossible task, not once or twice but over and over again?

Rahman was often hailed as the Jim Corbett of Assam but I did not like the comparison. Unlike the British hunter and enviromentalist, Rahman preferred to capture tigers, rather than kill or maim them. In fact, he never considered an animal a man-eater. It was circumstances that forced a tiger or a leopard to relish human flesh.

Statistics have it that he caught about 65 man-eaters, both leopards and Royal Bengal Tigers, with minimum paraphernalia. The last time he caught such an animal was in 2002 with just a blanket.

Of course, in his 50-year career as a hunter he is believed to have gunned down 40 man-eaters. The killings happened under extreme provocation, only when nature left him with no other option.

After all, for somebody who caught his first tiger at the age of 14 by offering himself as a bait just to save his village folk and cattle from being devoured by a Royal Bengal tiger, he was in sync with his surroundings, the nature he grew up in.

Rahman’s hunting instinct developed with age and he became a name to reckon with, not just in the Assam wildlife circuit but in MP, Jharkhand and Orissa. He was a conservationist of one of his kind who could teach this world a thing or two about ecological balance.

Alas, unlike Jim Corbett, he could not wield his pen as mightily as he did with his proverbial “sword” . Now that the hero is no more with us (he passed away on April 27 at the age of 67), his amazing hunting stories will remain with us like folk tales.

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OPED

The daughter and the tree
Both need tender care to bloom
by Harish Dhillon

Perhaps the most innovative, universal, creative initiative to be thrown up in recent times is the programmer of “Nanhi Chhaan”, which was launched on August 27, 2009 at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The initiative works on the premise that to protect the future of the globe it is first essential to protect our children and this process can only be successful if we ensure that it first protects the two mothers that create, nourish, cherish and preserve our children.

The two mothers are the girl child, without whom there would be no human race and the tree, without which the world would be a desolate desert.

The totally detestible and reprehensible way in which we treat the first of these mothers, the girl child, is too well known to require any amplification.

Yet, to bring home the point in definite and dramatic terms it would be worthwhile to provide some truly alarming and tragic statistics.

At the start of the century we had 972 girls for every 1,000 boys, currently it is down to 900 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Distressingly, in progressive and well-to-do cities, with high rates of literacy like Delhi and Chandigarh the rate is down to 800 girls per 1,000 boys.

In many districts of Haryana, Punjab and a few in Himachal Pradesh too, the ratio is down to 725 girls for every 1,000 boys. In many districts in the country as many as 1 out of 4 girls is killed either as a foetus or as an infant.

These shocking statistics have already begun to create an effect on the social fabric of the country. The contempt for the girl child that these statistics show translates itself to a contempt for women in general.

Women have a higher incidence of malnutrition than men, the dropout rate of girls from schools is higher than that of boys and girls are often forced to carry the burden of motherhood at ages well below the legal requirement of 18 years.

They suffer from all forms of abuse, including physical violence, sexual abuse and economic deprivation. The crimes against women are multiplying at a truly alarming rate. This disturbing social status of women has led not only to a disturbance of the harmony and balance of family life but also to a neglect of the well-being of children in general, specially in countries like India.

To bring home this point, some more statistics, depressing and alarming as they are, are inevitable. One out of every 11 children born dies before the age of five, 40 per cent of child malnutrition in the developing world is in India.

Out of every 100 children who enroll in schools 70 drop out by the time they reach the secondary stage.

India is home not only to the highest number of child labourers in the world but also the largest number of sexually abused children.

The only way to reverse this apocalyptic trend is to strike at the root of it — to ensure that the mother, the girl child, the nourisher and the preserver of the human race, receives the protection and social importance that is her due.

The first and foremost step we must take is to reverse the declining gender ratio by safeguarding and protecting the female foetus and the female infant.

In addition to our first mother, the girl child, we are also doing incalculable harm to our second mother — the tree cover of the world. The tree, like the human mother, is a nurturer and preserver of human life.

Like the human mother the tree also gives and gives without any expectation of return — both display one of the greatest qualities and the true spirit of nature — “Seva” and yet we treat our second mother as cruelly as our first.

The initiative seeks to ensure the protection of both mothers — the girl child and the tree. It is appropriately called “Nanhi Chhaan” — Nanhi, the term that we all use so endearingly for our little girls and “Chhaan” for the life preserving shade that trees provide.

Literally translated, the term means “tender shade” and the initiative seeks to protect the tender, compassionate protecting shades of both the mother and the tree.

The initiative was the brainchild of Mr Harpal Singh, CEO, Fortis, and under his guidance and direction the “Nanhi Chhaan” Foundation was set up to provide professional implementation of the initiative. The Foundation is registered under the Societies Act and has as its patrons many eminent personalities.

Since the launch of the initiative 4,00,000 saplings have been distributed in Punjab in honour of the girl child.

When a girl joins the family either as a newborn or as a “bahu”, families, when they come to seek blessings at their places of worship, are given a sapling to plant in their homes and love and nourish in the same way in which they must love and cherish the new member of the family, so that the mother and the tree are given the protection that will ensure that they grow happy and strong and can fulfil the role of the mothers of humanity.

The response that the initiative has received is truly electrifying. Because the issues cut across divisions of caste, class and religion, the response has received has been equally enthusiastic from all political, religious, social and economic segments of society.

The initiative is perhaps the only initiative in the country that is truly secular and apolitical and by its very nature ensures that no matter from which quarter it receives support it will retain its essentially non-partisan character.

It is no surprise that the whole-hearted support that the initiative has received has come from as varied personalities and quarters as Tejindra Khanna, Lt-Governor of Delhi, Sheila Dixit, CM, Delhi, Harsimrat Badal, and Madeleine Albright, a Former Secretary of State, USA.

It has won the support of the leaders of all faiths. Saplings are being given to families from places of worship. A large number of national and international organisations have also come forward to pledge their active participation in the initiative. These include banks, state governments, public schools, the CII, Save the Children, the World Wide Fund and Ferozesha Godrej Foundation.

Obviously, the initiative has made a strong emotive connect with the common man, a connect that has been strong enough to make him come forward and be an active part of the initiative.

The awareness and passion that other social initiatives take years of intense effort and the expense of crores of rupees to create have been created in a few brief months with a minimum of monetary expense.

“Nanhi Chhaan” has become a household word and snowballed with such telling effect that it is on the threshold of becoming a truly national movement.

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Obama targets firms operating abroad
by Lori Montgomery

President Obama has announced a major offensive against businesses and wealthy individuals who avoid U.S. taxes by parking cash overseas, a battle he said would be fought with new tax laws, new reporting requirements and an army of 800 new IRS agents.

Obama says his proposal will raise $210 billion over the next decade and make good on his campaign pledge to eliminate tax advantages for companies that ship jobs abroad.

“I want to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world. But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores or transferring profits to overseas tax havens,” Obama said.

The nation’s largest business groups immediately assailed the proposal, arguing that it would subject them to far higher taxes than their foreign competitors must pay and ultimately endanger U.S. jobs. Key Democrats were cool to the plan, and said Obama’s ideas should be considered as part of a broader effort to streamline the nation’s complex corporate tax code.

“Further study is needed to assess the impact of this plan on U.S. businesses,” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. tax law, said in a written statement. “I want to make certain that our tax policies are fair and support the global competitiveness of U.S. businesses.”

Monday’s announcement offered the first details of a tax plan that was sketched out in the $3.4 trillion budget request that Obama sent to lawmakers earlier this year and that Congress approved last week. If the measures do not survive congressional scrutiny, the lost revenue would increase already-elevated deficit projections, unless lawmakers find money elsewhere.

Obama said his plan could serve as “a down payment on the larger tax reform we need to make our tax system simpler and fairer.”

The proposal takes aim at what corporate executives considered to be one of the most critical features of the U.S. tax code: permission to indefinitely defer paying U.S. taxes on income earned overseas.

Currently, U.S. companies can avoid paying taxes on foreign profits until they bring the money back home. So a U.S. company doing business in Ireland, for example, must pay the Irish tax of 12.5 percent, like every other company doing business in Ireland. But the U.S. firm would owe an additional 22.5 percent to the U.S. Treasury (the difference between Ireland’s tax rate and the 35 percent U.S. tax rate) unless it reinvests the money overseas.

The United States is the last major economy to tax the profits of locally headquartered companies, even if that income is earned abroad. Other nations, including most recently Japan and Britain, are moving to a territorial system that taxes only corporate profits earned within their borders.

Instead of following that trend, Obama proposes to move in the opposite direction. He argues that the current system gives tax breaks to U.S. multinationals at the expense of companies that operate solely on American soil. In 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available, U.S. multinationals paid an effective U.S. tax rate of just 2.3 percent on $700 billion in foreign profits, according to the administration.

“It’s a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York,” the president said Monday.

To level the playing field, Obama would bar firms from taking deductions for expenses that support their overseas investments until they pay U.S. taxes on the profits. He would also crack down on firms that overstate their foreign tax bills. And he would reverse a Clinton-era rule known as “check the box,” which permits firms to more easily transfer cash between countries. In practice, Obama officials said “check the box” has been used to shift income away from higher-tax countries and into tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, allowing firms to reduce their tax bills both at home and abroad.

Those provisions would take effect in 2011, and would raise about $190 billion by the end of the next decade. In return, Obama proposes to make permanent an existing tax credit for companies that spend money on domestic research and development programs, worth about $75 billion over the next decade.

Obama also proposes to crack down on wealthy individuals who evade taxes through offshore bank accounts, primarily by targeting financial institutions in tax haven jurisdictions. That plan, which would net another $9 billion over the next decade, appears to have few opponents.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Inside Pakistan
Karachi on the boil again
by Syed Nooruzzaman

The crisis caused by the activities of the Taliban is believed to have reopened the ethnic wound of Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan. The killing of 33 persons in sporadic violence in the commercial capital of Pakistan last week was caused by the gunning down of three Urdu-speaking Muhajirs a few days back. The killers of the Muhajirs were believed to be Taliban sympathisers.

The seriousness of the situation can be imagined from the fact that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had to rush to Karachi to chair a crucial meeting at the Sindh Chief Minister’s house on May 1 soon after three-day-long “targeted killings”.

After Mr Zardari’s discussions with state-level leaders of his own party, the PPP, and those of the MQM and the ANP —- the three ruling coalition partners —- “the key point” that emerged was how “to remove all illegal arms from Karachi”, according to The News. Possession of illegal arms and ammunition by a large number of Karachiites has complicated the situation. Having little faith in the government’s ability to provide them security, they keep it for self-defence.

But that is not the only surprising thing. In fact, Pakistan itself “has among the highest number of small arms anywhere in the world”, as The News (May 5) points out. “The influx of arms that began during the 1980s, as a direct consequence of the war in Afghanistan, has continued unchecked since then. Pakistan also has a huge indigenous arms manufacturing industry, based in Darra Adam Khel in the NWFP. In the bazaar of that small, dusty town, it is possible to buy almost any weapon known to man.”

“Karachi needs to be saved to save Pakistan”, as Business Recorder (May 2) warns.

Sufi, the village cleric

“While extremism expresses itself in various forms and shapes, the views put forth by Sufi Mohammad represent the most pernicious strain of the phenomenon.” This is what The Nation (May 5), a conservative daily, has to say about the maulana who has been frequently in the news for some time. “His ideas about women are out of sync with the modern times, and amount to pushing the country (Pakistan) back to the cave age”, the daily adds.

But who is this most sought-after man in the NWFP these days? What is the background of the cleric who signed the Swat deal between the Taliban in Pakistan and the NWFP government?

Rahimullah Yusufzai, Resident Editor of The News in Peshawar, says in an article (May 5), “He founded the TNSM (Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi) on June 28, 1989, after dissociating from the Jamaat-i-Islami and giving up electoral politics. This clearly meant rejecting democracy and elections and embarking on a path of struggle whose battle-cry was ‘Sharia or Shahadat’.”

The controversial Sufi comes from Lal Qila in Lower Dir district’s Maidan area. With a village background, “he did contest elections, winning a seat in the district council of Dir on the Jamaat-e-Islami ticket and represented his Maidan constituency for a while,” according to Rahimullah. His followers have fought alongside the Taliban against the US-led multinational forces in Afghanistan.

The TNSM chief and his followers “are not much different than the Taliban…. The only difference is that Sufi Mohammad’s men want to peacefully achieve their goal of Sharia while the Swat Taliban and their colleagues in Buner, Dir and elsewhere in the Malakand region are ostensibly trying to reach this objective through violent means. Both groups of militants have the same worldview and are definitely pro-Taliban, though their strategy is different,” Rahimullah adds.

Illiteracy and extremism

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, according to The Frontier Post, has said that “illiteracy and ignorance are the major causes of extremism, terrorism and lawlessness”; therefore, a coordinated course of action is needed to educate the new generation. The “nexus between illiteracy and extremism and terrorism is too well known”, as the paper says. His views, however, cannot be translated into a reality with the budget on education remaining a mere 2 per cent of the GDP.

Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s party, the PML (N), has been only trying to fish in the troubled waters. It has done very little to control militancy in Pakistan. His elder brother, Mr Nawaz Sharif, has been against the military option to fight militancy and terrorism. But Dawn (May 5) has warned that “There are disquieting signs that the next wave of militancy may wash over Punjab itself.”

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