|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Friday, July 23, 1999
JD split and after
TALIBAN IN KASHMIR
Pakistan ever learn?
cyber knee-jerk reaction
session of Assembly
The JD split and after
SAMATA Party leader and one-time socialist George Fernandes barged into the cavernous NDA edifice on Wednesday wheeling in a new member. But the BJP, which holds the lease for most NDA floor space, muttered to itself, Beware of the Greek bearing a gift. You see, last time the gift turned out to be the Trojan Horse! Trojan Horse it can well be, considering that Mr Fernandes has brought in yet another splinter of the perpetually disintegrating Janata Dal, which is notorious for its political divisiveness, ideological impetuosity and personal incompatibility. In fact, it is this unstable chemical composition that periodically sets off explosions, throwing up debris in the form of the Samata Party, Samajwadi Party, Lok Shakti, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Ajit Singh-led party whatever its present name and now the two factions, one cosying up to the BJP and the other vowing to liquidate it.
Guiding the BJP-friendly J.H.Patel faction into the NDA is a solo effort of Mr Fernandes, Indias restless political soul, with marginal help from Mr Ramakrishna Hegde. He has ambitions to play a more prominent role at the national level and for that needs a broader and stronger springboard like the latest regrouping of the long-lost Janata Parivar. Mr Hegde wants to be the next Chief Minister of Karnataka and his Lok Shakti is too weak a vehicle to carry him to the pinnacle. The two want to acquire muscle by enrolling the Patel faction and, funnily, think that nobody knows their real game and that all believe their solemn assertion that their sole mission in life is to strengthen the hands of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and the NDA, so as to defeat the plans of a certain foreign-born lady who wants to exploit her marriage connection to become the later-day empress of India!
At the ground level
though, the truth is out. The Karnataka unit of the BJP
has stiffly opposed the entry of the Janata Dal, calling
it an ideological pollutant and an electoral liability.
The Chief Minister and his MLAs will bring in the
stinking baggage of incumbency factor. So much about Mr
Hegdes home base. Things are not rosy in Bihar, Mr
George Fernandess grazing ground.The state unit of
the BJP has opposed the admission of the Janata Dal
saying that it plotted with others to topple the Vajpayee
government and even worked overtime to install Mrs Sonia
Gandhi as Prime Minister. No entry to fifth columnists,
says Mr Sushil Modi, the local saffron satrap. Of course,
these are cries in the wilderness, for the top boss, Mr
Vajpayee has blessed the move, obviously because he is
still in the time wrap of the untouchable
days when every party shunned the saffron parivar and any
support was a life-giving force. Others like party
president Thakre and Mr L.K.Advani are hard-nosed and
would battle it out at the coordination committee of the
ruling alliance. That will be parivar (Sangh) versus
parivar (Janata). Real fireworks will be there.
Gills fair poll formula
THE credit for making the highly complex process of elections in India fair and transparent should go to the flamboyant Mr T. N. Seshan, who as Chief Election Commissioner drew on the hitherto untapped powers given to the Election Commission by the Constitution for implementing his poll reforms agenda. Of course, Mr Seshan would not have been true to himself had he not used a bit of bluff and a lot of bluster for the laudable objective of making the political class realise that he meant business. His soft-spoken successor, Dr M. S. Gill, is trying to keep the Seshan tradition of poll-eve hyperactivism alive. No one can question his commitment to ensuring free and fair elections to the Lok Sabha and some State Assemblies in September-October. However, the same cannot be said about some of his ideas on clean elections. If he has not been misquoted by the Press during his visit to Guwahati, he should be asked to share with the nation his complete agenda for ensuring free elections, which should include the proposal to dismiss State governments two months before Assembly elections. It is evident that Mr Seshan was not the only Chief Election Commissioner with a weakness for throwing up unworkable proposals. That Dr Gill has not be misquoted or quoted out of context is supported by his earlier statements on the subject of dismissing State governments for ensuring fair Assembly elections. If the issue is seen in a larger context, it would become clear that debunking the electoral laws and the system of holding elections has apparently become politically fashionable. The sweeping criticism of the electoral laws ignores the fact that in spite of many shortcomings they have helped India emerge as a stable democracy. It does not mean that the electoral laws are sacrosanct and do not need to be modified or replaced by a fresh set of laws for removing some of the flaws which have crept into electoral politics.
The reason why Dr Gill
is in favour of the dismissal of governments in States
where Assembly elections are to be held is not difficult
to understand. There have been and would continue to be
complaints of abuse of power for influencing the
electoral outcome by the party or combination of parties
in power. How would Dr Gill handle similar complaints
against the ruling party or a coalition of parties at the
Centre? Would he advocate the Constitution to be amended
so that Rashtrapati Bhavan can take direct charge of the
administration two months before the Lok Sabha election?
What is more pertinent to the current debate is the
metamorphosis of Raj Bhavans as parallel centres of
political activity. Gone are the days when Raj Bhavans
were not only above controversy, but were seen to be so.
Can Dr Gill give a categorical assurance to the nation
that some Governors would not abuse the two-month period
up to the constitution of the new State Assembly for
subverting the election process in favour of the
political party to which they belong or which offered
them the gubernatorial office for services rendered? The
unpleasant truth is that most Raj Bhavans have not only
become parallel centres of power but also equally potent
centres of corruption. To take away the reins of
administration from one set of people with suspect
integrity and place it in the hands of another group of
people whose integrity is equally suspect is more likely
to cause more damage to the electoral process which Dr
Gill seeks to reform. As of today, the Election
Commission should concern itself with the non-too-easy
task of ensuring free and fair elections within the
existing constitutional framework. It is clear that the
political class itself is not interested in effecting any
major change in the current election laws. Reservation of
seats for women in Parliament and State Assemblies,
amendments in the current laws for debarring criminals
from contesting and making the anti-defection laws more
effective are issues which have deliberately been put on
the back-burner by the political class for reasons which
do not need to be explained.
TALIBAN IN KASHMIR
THE intruders having been flushed out or having withdrawn themselves, Indias military success is very much written on the hilltops of Kargil, notwithstanding certain operational handicaps and policy failures. South Block can also legitimately take credit for a limited diplomatic success which mainly emanated from the governments decision to exercise restraint by not crossing the Line of Control (LoC). This self-imposed restraint won the country global support, especially from Washington, London, Paris, Bonn, Beijing and even Tokyo.
A school of thought in New Delhi, however, desired that the armed forces should tackle Pakistans militancy-cum-military menace once and for all by cutting off its supply lines from the other side of the border. Yet another school of thought advocated the destruction of training camps opened by Islamabad for militants and mercenaries. The government withstood such pressures. It was clear about its target of getting the Pakistani aggression vacated but avoided the temptation of enlarging the conflict keeping in view global concerns.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee conducted himself with maturity and dignity, though he had his moments of anxiety since he could never be sure of Pakistans behaviour. Once bitten twice shy. The Kargil aggression after his sugar-coated bus diplomacy was a bitter pill for him. Another blunder would have been simply suicidal, especially now that Islamabad has nuclear bombs. At one stage, New Delhi feared that the Pakistani warlords might execute their oft-repeated threats of using nuclear devices out of sheer desperation. Mercifully, better sense prevailed in Islamabad. The credit for this must go to Indian restraint and the sobering role played by Washington in properly directing Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to respect the LoC.
But, despite the guns falling silent, from the Indian point of view the basic problem which prompted Islamabad to open a new dangerous front in Kargil remains. Our policy-makers will have to find answers to Pakistans aggressive designs and the open challenge posed by the ISI-narco mafia-militant-Islamist tie-up to this country.
The first crucial issue is the attitude of the Pakistani establishment. Islamabad has suffered a series of setbacks in its military misadventures starting with 1948, 1965, 1971 to 1999. Have these debacles injected a sense of sobriety in the Pakistani leadership? Have the rulers realised the futility of aggressive moves to grab Kashmir?
I doubt if the basic calculations of the Pakistani establishment have undergone any change to make bilateral talks a worthwhile exercise. To say this is not to suggest that India and Pakistan should not resume the dialogue. Talks between the two countries have to be restarted sooner rather than later. But the point which the international community ought to note is that without Pakistan adopting positive thinking and attitude, nothing much can be achieved by parleys. The onus in this regard lies with Islamabad. After all, Pakistan has been very much committed to the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. Still, the net result so far has been anything but satisfactory.
The second point which needs a fresh look by South Block is Indias response to the problem of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country.
Islamabads Kargil offensive was but another form of militancy-linked naked aggression. There was direct involvement of Pakistans regular armymen in the Kargil misadventure. Do we have answers to an offensive in which the Pakistani army operates under the cover of the so-called mujahideen and Islamic militant groups? We have also to constantly keep in mind that Pakistan is not going to give up its nefarious designs on Kashmir. It will continue with its dubious games to harass and provoke India.
As far as Pakistan-sponsored militancy is concerned, New Delhi will have everything to gain and nothing to lose if it internationalises the problem of terrorism. Can it do so? Can we put Pakistan in the dock? We can do it, provided we know how to go about this task.
Pakistan has been the home of fundamentalism for half a century. It was born of the two-nation theory, which brought about the partition of India. It turned to terrorism. And yet Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, never envisaged a theocratic state. He wanted Hindus and Muslims to live together. But after his death (or even before it) power passed into the hands of the Army which was under the influence of Islamic hardliners. The Pakistan Army had already earned the reputation of brutality in Jammu and Kashmir. The fundamentalists were behind the hate India campaigns during the wars of 1965 and 1971, and the present Kargil aggression.
In Kargil, India has a taste of the Bin Laden type of Islamic fundamentalism. The chief of Markaz-e-Dawah and its militant wing, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, has gone to the extent of saying that he does not recognise even Pakistans existence when it comes to stepping up militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.
Ironically, Washington had a major role in creating the mujahideen. They were needed for the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. And unlimited resources were poured into Pakistan to train and equip tens of thousands of the so-called mujahideen.
It is sad but true that Washington today finds itself helpless to deal with fundamentalism. It is unable to eliminate Osama bin Laden, who is under the protection of the Taliban.
The USA may be frowning upon the policies of the Taliban, but with what result? The Taliban defies Washington.
Indias interest demands that we should encourage American fears on this score and share Washingtons concern over the threat posed by Osama bin Ladens Islamic fundamentalists. This Indo-American perspective is widely shared by European countries and other parts of the globe. Are we ready for this? Indeed, we should make American worries about peace and stability in the region as part of our own search for stability and progress.
Our national interests require us to have a fresh look at our relations with the Americans; we should do so without any hesitation. This point needs to be borne in mind by all political parties which have a stake in tackling terrorism in the country and beyond.
There is a sure shift in the US policy in Indias favour. This shift should not be seen as a new-found American love for Indian democracy or the Vajpayee government. The shift is the result of the USAs changing perspective in this region. Washington is equally concerned about Islamic fundamentalist-sponsored terrorism which is a threat to its own institutions.
It is a fact that the US policy towards China, India and Pakistan is in a state of flux. Washington is increasingly worried over the Asian balance and the rise of religious terrorism in Pakistan. Islamic fundamentalism, as represented by the Saudi billionaire, Osama bin Laden, now operating from the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt, is apparently weighing heavily on the policy-makers in Washington, including the all-powerful Pentagon. He is seen as the most explosive symbol of anti-Americanism. Washington will probably welcome New Delhis active cooperation to strike at Bin Ladens bases and supply lines. South Block will have to give a serious thought to this matter.
Indias External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, will have an opportunity to discuss this and other related matters when he meets the US Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, in Singapore next week. It is gratifying that she has already come out against the massacre of civilians in Doda.
Viewed in this light, it will be in Indias interest to help the USA reassess its approach to the region. The nature and dimension of Indo-American cooperation in this regard should be a matter of a serious dialogue between the two countries. In responding to American perspective and apprehensions, our policy-makers would do well to avoid the old Cold War-type thinking and evolve new parameters in Indo-American political, economic, diplomatic and military cooperation.
By military cooperation, I am definitely not suggesting a military alliance. In fact, one thing for which I very much admire Jawaharlal Nehru is the way he kept India out of the US military protection. We have to maintain our identity as a sovereign nonaligned nation which has rich civilisational roots and a glorious heritage. Still, there are vast diplomatic, economic and strategic areas of cooperation between India and the USA which can be exploited to mutual advantage in the larger interest of peace and stability in South Asia and beyond.
Democracy, as we know it today, took a thousand years to evolve. Of course, it is not a perfect system. But it is the best form of governance, with the rule of law. The law is made by the people. But fundamentalism does not believe in democracy. It does not believe in dialogue, in discussion or in consent. It does not believe in a representative form of government.
Fundamentalism in Jammu and Kashmir began with the ethnic cleansing of the valley. The Pandits, the original inhabitants of the valley, were driven out. The fundamentalists would have used the valley for a Talibanese experiment had it not been for the Indian Army.
Kargil has shown to Washington and the world at large what these fundamentalists can do. They are determined killers foolishly driven by the ideology of Jehad (holy war). What if one day they get hold of the nuclear bomb?
America should have anticipated all these problems when it helped create this monster. But it did not. What was the important to America was the rout of the Russians. It was clear then that these mercenaries would have to be provided alternative jobs once they were demobilised. But neither Washington nor Islamabad had any such plans.
Fearing domestic repercussions, Pakistan decided to let them loose in Kashmir, thus creating a major problem for India. For the past 10 years, India has been the victim of these killers. There was no word of anxiety from America. In fact, at one stage the State Department refused to admit that Pakistan had a hand in promoting terrorism in Kashmir and beyond.
But Kargil must have come as an eye-opener to Washington. Perhaps, it explains why it has changed its line. It must now help to find a solution. In this effort, India should be ready to cooperate in whatever way it can.
India is a country of
great diversity. And it has a stake in secularism. That
is why fundamentalism is anathema to us. We must,
therefore, try to destroy the foreign sources nurturing
these forces. For this, we have to organise globally and
hence the importance of strategic cooperation with the
USA in this critical area of terrorism. This will call
for a major policy shift by South Block in national
Will Pakistan ever learn?
THE Kargil war is over. Jubilant soldiers are hoisting the Tricolour over Kargil, Dras and Batalik peaks vacated by the Pakistanis. The soldiers are returning home. Pakistan has suffered a humiliating defeat as in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971. Yet Pakistan claims that it has withdrawn its army and the mercenaries under the terms of the Clinton-Nawaz Sharif understanding. It is an attempt at face-saving, after utter defeat. This is making a virtue of necessity.
While we were happy over the success of Indias bus diplomacy and hoping that a new chapter of friendship with Pakistan was going to be opened, Pakistani regular armymen and mercenaries were sneaking into mountain tops in the Kargil region, even occupying the bunkers built by India but vacated for winter.
Pakistans persistent perfidy makes all its assurances and commitments suspect. From one falsehood to another that is their policy and strategy.
India did have to offer some 300 martyrs. This was because Pakistani soldiers were occupying commanding heights. They could disrupt our road to Ladakh and cut off Leh. From their privileged positions, they could rain bombs and shots on Indian Armymen climbing up to dislodge them. The Indian soldiers had to climb after midnight under cover of darkness. Oxygen being rare at the height of 15000-18000 feet, every step upward was very exhausting. The enemy seemed to hold all the aces in its hands. At the end of the climb, there had to be hand-to-hand fighting, the most dreadful of all and fraught with casualties fatal and wounded. Our soldiers worked wonders and once again proved that they were the best fighting material in the world.
The infiltrators had American guns, gifted to them to drive out the Russians from Afghanistan. The Indians weapons were not the most modern. This has proved that wars are won not by weapons but by the quality of the fighting men. All honour to our jawans.
Pakistan tried to get away with the fib that infiltrators were not Pakistans armymen (in mufti). It would have the world believe that they were Kashmiri freedom fighters, helped by Islamic fanatics and that Pakistan had nothing to do with them. They were not under its control. It was Kashmirs war of liberation. Pakistan used to float such gross falsehoods in the past with success, but this time these lies were rejected by the USA, China and Japan, in fact by the whole world, out of hand.
Pakistan refused to receive some of its dead, saying that they were not its soldiers. Their survivors could not receive big money gifts and privileges which are generally given for sacrifices in war. Even their brave deeds (if any) could not be rewarded with Army honours and other distinctions.
In the 1947 Kashmir war too Pakistan denied in the UN that the raiders were its soldiers. But ultimately it had to eat its words and confess before the UN and the world that they were its own soldiers. This time this fact was proved to the hilt by the Pakistani armys identity cards and other irrefutable evidence.
For the first time since Independence, all the big powers in the East and the West were siding with India. In the past they had all lined up behind Pakistan. Pakistan pinned its last hope on China its time-tested friend. Mr Nawaz Sharif planned a six-day visit to China. But he was told to withdraw his troops, respect the LoC and settle all disputes with India bilaterally. Cutting short his visit, he returned the next day. On the way back, he tried his luck with the British Prime Minister, but there too he drew a blank. The world was in no mood to be deceived by Pakistans clever lies. His last port of call was Saudi Arabia, but there too nothing came of it. This only proves that in politics there are no permanent friends and enemies only permanent interests.
Like Bourbons in France, the Pakistani rulers learn nothing and forget nothing. In the 1971 war despite their powerful patrons they lost 60 per cent of Pakistani territory and population. But Kashmir is their obsession.
Another factor in the present conflict is Osama bin Laden, the Arab financier of international terrorism. He has on his hands the blood of 250 Americans. He is Americas enemy number one the reason for the USAs and its allies support to India. Pakistani rulers had raised the religious temperature of their people to keep their chairs intact. Any leader who aspires to rule over Pakistan plays two cards Islam and Kashmir. The Pakistani people believed that Laden would get them Kashmir.
extremists threatened to take out a protest demonstration
of one million people and stage a civil war. Ladens
men Taliban and other allies had conquered
90 per cent of Afghanistan. Why not use Kashmir as a
springboard for further conquests including
Pakistan? If his writ runs in Pakistan as in Afghanistan,
then farewell to politicians like Mr Nawaz Sharif, Ms
Benazir Bhutto and others. No leader or class works for
self-liquidation. Their aim is to extend fundamentalist
Islamic rule all over the world.
A cyber knee-jerk reaction
IN the wake of the Kargil conflict, India can rightly feel good about a number of successes on the diplomatic and the military front. There was, however, a miscue on the cyber front the so-called ban on the Internet site of the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn.
At a fundamental level, the action smacked more of a knee-jerk reaction than a well-thought-out manoeuvre. In one fell swoop we lost the high moral ground, earning condemnation from diverse forums, and that too for an action that was also technically untenable. What is the point of blocking something that remains accessible even after it is banned?
It has been proved over time that no matter what newspapers print, banning the Press is always counterproductive. Also, Dawn is a well-regarded Pakistani paper, which has maintained a fairly balanced coverage of events in Pakistan. Of course, the opinions are from a Pakistani perspective, which became an enemy perspective in the context of the recent war-like situation. But, as they say, better a known enemy than an unknown one. Incidentally, other Pakistani newspapers like; The Nation, Frontier Post and The News could be accessed easily.
How was Dawns Internet site banned? It was blocked through Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL). Since the VSNL is the largest provider of Internet services in India (even private operators go through the VSNL gateways) all that it had to do was to put Dawns Internet address (its IP number) on the list of sites that would be denied access. That this denial was easily flouted, with the help of some Indians, is another story.
Attempts at blocking something on the Internet are ineffective, as many governments have realised at various times. One of the primary properties of the Internet is its ability to defy attempts at stifling communication through it.
As John Gilmore, an Internet pioneer, said: The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. There are always ways around blockages. For us to understand this, we have to get a bit technical.
Nowadays most readers are familiar with the internet addresses,which are more correctly called URLs (for Uniform Resource Locator) like http://.www.tribuneindia.com which is the domain name of the Internet edition of The Tribune. URLs are used extensively on the World-Wide-Web.
While URLs are easy to remember, for computers, they just lead to an Internet Protocol (IP) address that uniquely identifies a node on the Internet. Thus, whenever you type http://www.tribuneindia.com in your browser, a message goes to a DNS (domain name system) server that is a general-purpose distributed, replicated, data query service chiefly used on Internet for translating domain names into Internet addresses. This computer checks a directory, which has a list of domain names and their respective IP addresses. After it finds a match, it connects you with the site.
In order to ban access to the Dawn Internet edition, all that VSNL had to do was to put it on the not allowed list and block its DNS entry. The user got the message that access had been denied and the browser did not display the contents of the web site. All this was apparently done under the authority of the antiquated Indian Telegraph Act.
A common way to go around a blockage of a site on the Internet is to use tools that allow people to maintain their privacy while communicating online. One such tool is an anonymiser service site, which does precisely what the name suggests makes it possible to anonymously surf the net and get around the blockages someone might have put. It does this by acting as a conduit between you and the site that you are looking for. As we said, DNS lists are widely distributed and replicated. If you block a DNS entry to the nearest server, the anonymiser site (which is not blocked) will act as a conduit to another DNS server and will open the site you want through it. It will seem that you are going through the anonymiser site even when you visit the blocked site.
In fact, within days of the ban, a major Indian Internet site put out an item detailing various ways of getting around the blockage.
The ban on Dawn probably did not have any impact on the conflict. This one action of blocking the Dawns site was adversely noticed in the foreign media, especially in the ever-widening Internet fraternity, and to some extent it negated Indian diplomatic victories.
The online magazine Salon, had an article titled India darkens Dawn, by Andrew Leonard, in which the subhead ran: The giant nations online censorship of a Pakistani newspaper highlights its disturbing hold on the Internet. This raised the rather unwarranted Orwellian spectre.
Dawn, on its part, displayed This site is banned in India, banner while the ban was on. The message has now been changed to This site was banned in India, which leads to a message that says: This site was banned in India starting June 25 or 26, till the morning of July 13. We are thankful to readers around the world, specially those in the Indian media, who made people aware of what had happened thereby helping getting the ban lifted.
The reaction of the Indians, both in the media and out of it, did bring about a positive response from the Dawn groups CEO, Mr. Hameed Haroon. In a statement issued on July 16, Mr Haroon welcomed the decision to lift the ban on the Dawn website. Quite apart from all the issues that are raised when attempts are made to assail the functioning of a free Press, he said, the very character of the Internet made the ban ineffectual, as anyone living in India could still access our website by using the anonymiser route. However, an important lesson to be retained from this experience is that sometimes a bilateral approach is the best solution.
The statement added: When, in the last week of June, Dawn was alerted to the fact that its website had been blocked by VSNL, the natural course of action would have been to bring the matter to the attention of the international press.
Dawn, however, decided to adopt a more measured strategy, which was to limit its protests to the Indian Government, via its High Commissioner in Islamabad, and the Indian Press. That this strategy paid off can be seen by the widespread support Dawn received from large sections of the Indian Press.
We must not forget the role played by all those Indian citizens living abroad who wrote to Dawn to express their outrage about the ban.
Another lesson to be drawn from the experience is the importance of being credible. One of the reasons why the Indian Press was united in its condemnation of the ban was because Dawn is respected in India for its sober and moderate approach on the many contentious issues that affect relations between Pakistan and India.
The lifting of the
ban in India was immediately reflected in a considerable
jump in the number of visitors from India to our website.
In fact the Dawn Internet edition has reached a new
record in terms of visits from India. A fact we welcome
and one that cannot but prove positive to the development
of a better understanding of the issues affecting South
Fundamentalism: shape of things
WHAT is the future of fundamentalism? Rather bleak. Of terrorism? Even worse. As an ideology, fundamentalism has little attraction, except for the demented. As for terrorism, only the hopeless and desperate volunteer. What is pushing the two around the world is Arab money, Saudi money to be precise. That means, fundamentalism is a kind of Wahabism, the beliefs of the Beduin tribes of Saudi Arabia. Will non-Arab countries good for it? I have my doubts. Money cannot buy those who are not in need of money.
Arab fundamentalism has two fierce opponents Iran and America. Iran is an inveterate enemy of the Arabs, particularly of Saudi Arabia. But it is also a proponent of Shiia fundamentalism. Thus, two fundamentalisms are in conflict.
Twenty years have passed since the Khomeini revolution in Iran. It has, as is usual, run out of steam. The recent massive student demonstration against the clerics is a pointer to what is in store. The students are asking for reforms. The Iranian President himself is for reform, but he has to go slow.
The Khomeini revolution has failed because it challenged the might of the USA. Perhaps the clerics had no other alternative. The students should not repeat the folly. If Iran is to come out of its isolation and play a meaningful role in the world, it must give up its anti-Americanism. This is possible if the leadership of the country passes into the hands of the students. They alone can meet the modern challenges. But they should not fall into another error become a client state of America.
Iran is a Muslim country. But it is not Arab. And it is Shiia. Above all, Iran is inspired by its glorious past of millennia, which is still preserved. The Arabs have nothing similar. Their past has mostly been nomadic. Iran has never reconciled itself to the Arab conquest. Firdausi, the greatest historian of Iran and author of Shahnama, had only contempt for the Arabs. He wrote: It (Iran) was the home of mighty warriors and the royal seat of great monarchs. Now it has become the scene of woe and want and the hunting ground of blood-thirsty dragon.
Firdausi was denied a Muslim burial. (He was buried in a garden). It was Raza Pahalavi, the last of the line and a true nationalist, who built a tomb for Firdausi.
Iran will never accept Arab leadership. Certainly not that of Saudi Arabia. And it is a fierce foe of Saddam Hussain, too. The Arabs have brought only ruin to Iran, say the Iranians. They can never forget it. Ibn Khaldun, the great historian and philosopher of Islam, has this to say of Arabs: Mark how all the countries of the world which have been conquered and dominated by the Arabs have had their civilisations ruined... Egypt and Persia, two of the oldest, are the best examples.
As the most powerful Shiia state, Iran has a role to play in the consolidation of the Shiia community all over the world. More so now when it is under attack by the Wahadi fundamentalists. There was mass genocide of Shiias at Mazar-i-Sharif, as also at Bamia, both in Afghanistan, when these cities fell to the Taliban. And more hundreds died when the Taliban set fire to the Charar-i-Sharif, the mosque of the Sufi saint Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani, in Kashmir. Noorani represented the ideology of Hindu-Muslim unity. The Taliban will have none of it. Shiias are hunted down all over the world by the Sunnis in their present state of fundamentalist hysteria. Not a day passes in Pakistan without an attack on Shiias. And there is the greatest challenge before the Shiias: in Iraq a Sunni minority is ruling over a Shiia majority!
Iran has a mission before it:to free the Shiias from their thraldom and to secure a reasonable life for them.
The confrontation between the Taliban and Iran could have led to a major war. But Pakistan and Taliban backed out. About three million Shiias have taken shelter in Iran from Afghanistan. They have to be rehabilitated. But Iran can also turn them into soldiers of a shiite fundamentalism. This will create new crises. Ayotollah Ali Khomeini, Irans Supreme Leader, has warned both Pakistan and Taliban Pakistan to stop its interference in Afghanistan and the Taliban to abandon its criminal ways and make up for their past errors. He called the Taliban the heartless and savage tribe.
Iran is the gateway to Central Asia. Its security and prosperity are tied up with Central Asia and Russia. And it is on good relations with China, too. As an economic power, Iran has a great future. It still has vast reserves of oil and gas, which can last for half a century or more. In short, Iran has the economic resources to play a meaningful role in the world in the next century. And I believe one of its major roles will be to oppose Wahabi fundamentalism. The world must welcome it.
Central Asia is going to be the most dynamic region of the world in the next century. It will also be rich and resourceful. As against this, both Pakistan and Afghanistan have a bleak economic future. The destiny of both is to be client states. Pakistans ambition to emerge as the leading Muslim state in the region is thus a pipedream, even with nuclear weapons. The Muslim bomb has not carried much weight, for it is a weapon that cannot be used. And growing prosperity of Iran and Central Asia will make fundamentalism less appealing in the region.
As for Afghanistan, it will not have peace for decades, for it will continue to be under pressure of both Iran and Pakistan. And most probably from Central Asian republics in the next century. It is more likely that Afghanistan will break up into several ethnic states, in which case the Pukhtoons will emerge as the largest unit. But, then, will they not want to unite with their brothers in the NWFP of Pakistan? By sowing the wind, Pakistan will reap the whirlwind.
Fundamentalism has another opponent America. But America makes a distinction. It says, the Taliban are fundamentalists, not terrorists, although they have sponsored terrorism in Kashmir. But the latest US sanctions against the Taliban will make a difference. And that is because the Taliban has given shelter to Osama bin Laden, currently enemy number one of America. Of course, sanctions against Kabul will make Pakistan uneasy, for it has been the patron of the Taliban.
Of late, fundamentalism has not found favour with the Kashmiris. Perhaps because it is spread by the Taliban. Nor do they favour terrorism. The London Times had said: There are no longer effective Kashmiri militant groups left in the valley and foreign mercenaries are in full control.
PoK and other Kashmiri leaders have lashed out against the Hurriyat leaders, particularly Abdul Ghani Lone, for inviting the Taliban as mercenaries to Kashmir. They say it is Totally irresponsible and shocking, and accused Lone of wanting to transform Kashmir back into an Afghan colony. They say that Lone has not learnt any lesson from two centuries of Afghan tyranny.
It is interesting that even Afzal Tahir, Chairman of PoK Kashmiri International Front, has chosen to criticise Lone, for he says. You couldnt expect better from Hurriyat leaders. Referring to the report of Amnesty International on the mass genocide carried out by Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif, Tahir says: Obviously, the Hurriyat is not satisfied with the slaughter of thousands of Kashmiri youth. It is planning a mass genocide in Kashmir. Tahir went on: Pak mercenaries by their depravity and barbaric killing have already left deep wounds on Kashmiri people, and, to top it, it appears Hurriyat leaders would like to invite Taliban bandits to sow killing fields in Kashmir. In fact, ISI highlighted the Lone invitation to Taliban prominently. Tahir fears that the first thing the Taliban would do in Kashmir is to start ethnic cleansing. And the Punjabi Muslims would be ready to buy up the property of those who are made to disappear. The covert war has already cost 18,000 lives.
In Pakistan, private armies of fundamentalist organisations have been to seek a domestic role for themselves. These are not small organisations. Dawat-al-Irshad, a fundamentalist organisation, has a trained army of 30,000 men! They all want to Talibanise Pakistan. Where will all these lead to? No doubt, to a form of theocracy, with power being shared by the army and the fundamentalists. And they are more likely to control nuclear weapons too.
Such developments will not go unchallenged, for Iran and Central Asian republics see the Taliban as a surrogate of Pak-Saudi expansionism. And America and India are unlikely to tolerate a nuclear-armed Pakistan under the fundamentalists. Perhaps. economic problems will overwhelm Pakistan, in the meantime. The same fate awaits Afghanistan, though its narcotic trade can keep alive its fundamentalism for some more time.
A US economist says: India could over the next decade become the overwhelming regional power, next to which Pakistan cannot compare in any way, including militarily...India will be seen as the power of the future.
session of Assembly
AS it is probable that other legislative business, besides the consideration of the Tariff Bill, would be disposed of during the next session, attention may be drawn to the important private Bill of Dr Gour for raising the age of consent from twelve to fourteen years, which was referred to a Select Committee during the Delhi Session.
The report of the Select
Committee was submitted and further progress of the Bill
was to be stayed until there had been opportunity to
elicit public opinion on it. The report was published in
the Gazette of India and the opinions of interested
bodies should be made available as soon as possible.
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