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Saturday, December 4, 1999
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The emerging realities in Pakistan

APROPOS of Mr Harwant Singh’s illuminating article, “Combating insurgency in J&K: the emerging realities in Pakistan” (November 18) there is no reason to differ with the author that in Pakistan it is the army that calls the shots”. Although a civilian government had been in office there for nearly a decade, the army had never really been far from the scene of power. Even during the confrontation between Nawaz Sharif and former Supreme Court Chief Justice, Chief of Army Staff Gen Jehangir Karamat played a mediatory role. That the army remained an important part — perhaps that most important — of the Pakistani establishment is a hard fact: The return of the army again shows, as the columnist aptly points out, that India has ultimately to negotiate with a military regime in Pakistan.

It is not a cakewalk for Gen Parvez Musharraf too to meet the post-coup challenges facing his nation. If the civil strife in Afghanistan has disrupted Pakistan’s internal cohesion, Kargil misadventure in which Gen Musharraf was actively involved, has led to an economic disaster.

I feel that the response that India has crafted to “the changing realities of Pakistan” is a little too rigid and unnecessarily belligerent. Soon after assuming power as the Chief Executive, Gen Musharraf talked of resuming dialogue with India without any preconditions. We keep insisting that the normalisation process is contingent not only in withdrawal of the intruders, but also on a firm understanding to stop sending saboteurs to India. In view of Nawaz Sharif’s perfidy a stiffer posture may appear appropriate. But it must be realised that the pre-Kargil Musharraf and the chastened post-Kargil Musharraf are two different persons, and we should give him an opportunity to establish his bona fide rather than wait for the re-installation of a civilian government which is a remote possibility. It is always counter-productive to rub in the dust the nose of a defeated adversary.

Kargil has certainly driven home certain lessons to Pakistan. It is in India’s interest to make life easier for Mr Musharraf and restart the peace process while the international climate is also favourable. May be, this time again the effort would fail. But even if it fails a hundred times, we cannot give up in despair, as this would be a pragmatic approach — the sanest and most beneficial course open to this country.


Health care

While in Hong Kong, about 30 years or so ago, I had a very exhilarating experience. When I looked out of my apartment window, in early morning, the day after I reached there, all sorts of people of all ages and hues, were doing aerobic exercise.

Here in India we find that generally only old people are out for morning walks, and that too out of compulsion — one physical ailment or another — and not for the sake of pleasure. In older cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana, Rohtak etc. some do exercises otherwise also: due to old age they get up early and have nothing else to do.

It is nice to see that in newer developing cities and towns like Chandigarh, Panchkula etc. people are becoming more health conscious and taking up exercise, sports and so on which is evident from more and more health clubs and gyms coming up; and greater encouragement to sport in schools and other activities like excursions and so on. It is good to see very young children on skates practising daily in schools and on roads (during competition days) in early morning when there is no vehicular traffic.

It is encouraging as physical health and sports are a prerequisite for a healthy mind — which brings out the good in a human being and makes a good citizen in all respects and hence a good future generation and strong nation.


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Orissa cyclone

Last month when I first read about the Orissa cyclone, I felt heavy in my heart reading about the miseries of those affected. But very soon I accepted the fact that natural calamities are beyond one’s control and there is very little one can do to minimise the damage, other than warning the people well in advance. But again you come to terms with the existing reality that ours is a grossly over-populated country with limited resources. So we can’t compare our damage control statistics with those of the developed countries.

Let us not go into the debate as to why the Prime Minister did not declare this catastrophe as a national calamity and talk about the relief operations. The country responded immediately with help coming from all states. But the Orissa Government still seems to be in a state of shock. With continuous help pouring in from within the country and from overseas, all the efforts are being blocked at one place due to the inefficient and ineffective administration. Funds are being misused. Truckloads of accessories are lined up at Bhubaneswar waiting for the directions to come from the direction-less government.

I myself have thought a number of times to do some little thing that I can, and make a humble contribution in this gigantic relief operation. No matter how genuine our efforts would be to help our fellow beings in Orissa, the whole exercise of rehabilitating them is futile unless the government and the administration of the state oils its rusting machinery. And till help arrives, the survivors of the cyclone can only pray to God to keep them alive.



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