Saturday, February 3, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Timid tremor tax
LARITY of thinking is obviously not a strong point with the present central government. And this cannot be entirely blamed on the coalition set-up. 

Krishna controls damage
thoughtless and insensitive remark by a minister in Karnataka on the Gujarat earthquake could have undone what the tragedy has achieved in promoting communal harmony in the ravaged state. 


Greying of the Green Revolution - V
WTO and Haryana’s agricultural economy
Serious threat that the new regime poses
By Raman Mohan
ITH the World Trade Agreement almost in place, Haryana continues to be complacent and utterly unprepared to face the threats the new regime will pose to the State’s agricultural economy.


A budget for disaster
February 2
, 2001
Disaster mismanagement
February 1
, 2001
Earthquake economics
January 31
, 2001
The world responds
January 30
, 2001
Mother earth as killer
January 29
, 2001
The Kumbh mela — a tradition that lasts
January 28
, 2001
Wheat man’s burden
January 26
, 2001
Pressing on with peace
January 25
, 2001
VVIP as a pilgrim
January 24
, 2001
For the sake of Samjhauta
January 23
, 2001



Teething troubles for George Bush
By V. Gangadhar
NE of the most fascinating aspects of American politics is the selection of the Cabinet and the filling up of several major posts in the government by the President-elect. Normally, an incoming President had nearly 75 days for the job. But President George W. Bush, because of the Florida imbroglio, got only half of this period for this job.


By Tavleen Singh
Where Indian politicians are a disgrace
T was so unexpected a sight that for a moment I thought I was hallucinating. There, walking down a snow-covered Davos street were a group of Hindu holy men wearing, thin, white muslin. Delicate shawls lay over their shoulders but they seemed not to need them despite the snow they trudged through and the icy cold day.


Economy not responding to Musharraf tunes
By Gobind Thukral
AKISTAN’S military ruler, the self-styled Chief Executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf, does not find the economy responding to his tunes. His much touted accountability slogan has proved a total sham. The most corrupt of the politicians and the deposed Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, has escaped gallows.




Timid tremor tax

CLARITY of thinking is obviously not a strong point with the present central government. And this cannot be entirely blamed on the coalition set-up. After all, the two United Front governments which preceded the NDA regime were marked by good team work and clear policy lines. What ails the present alliance is its penchant for speaking in conflicting voices and some Cabinet members pulling in different directions. The imposition of a 2 per cent surcharge is a product of this lack of internal cohesion. It will boost revenue by a mere Rs 1,300 crore based on the budget estimate of Rs 65,000 crore as income and corporate taxes. The Prime Minister has already announced a relief of Rs 500 crore to Gujarat; hence the state will get an additional Rs 800 crore. Just Rs 800 crore to help Gujarat tide over the worst earthquake in memory? It is as though New Delhi is asking: Earthquake? what earthquake? It seems the worthy Cabinet members have not read about the scale of devastation nor are aware of the Prime Minister’s declaration that the budget would include tough measures. He has certainly not intended it but Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has in effect frustrated the call for harsh measures by pushing through this soft option. Not much thinking has gone into devising the measure. The government has asked a humble Class D employee to accept the same share of the burden of rebuilding Gujarat as a Birla or a Tata! Of course, the money involved will differ but that is because of the difference in income and not because the levy recognises this hard fact. The salaried class is a sitting duck for illogical surcharges since it cannot escape them. Also there was no urgency. Donation is pouring in and the government in the affected state has badly failed to coordinate relief work. And the proposed all-party meeting is only a few hours away. Hence neither there was any great urgency nor consultation to build a consensus. Perhaps the government wanted to tell the world that it was busy helping the victims. If so, this is an awkward way of proclaiming that intent.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has let it be known that she does not propose to increase passenger fares. That is final. She may increase freight rates but only marginally. Her immediate concern is neither the earthquake nor railway finances. It is winning the coming Assembly election in West Bengal. It is not as though Bengali travellers are ultra sensitive to a higher fare. But any anti-people measure will give the ruling Left Front a powerful stick to beat her with. So she will rather ruin the financial viability of her Ministry, and perhaps even lose the election, rather than go by the Prime Minister’s advice. If she sticks to her stand when she gets up to present the railway budget later this month, she would prove that she is a power unto herself. In other words, she will be saying that the Prime Minister has no control over her and she is not bound by what he wants her to do or what the government must be doing. That will mark an alarming erosion of the authority of the Prime Minister and the concept of collective responsibility. The Prime Minister must head off that event and the only way to do is to shift Ms Banerjee to some other Ministry and hand over the Railways to a more reasonable and less toofani leader. Of course she will resign and perhaps rant a bit but that is much less damaging than accommodating a Minister who defies Cabinet.Top


Krishna controls damage

A thoughtless and insensitive remark by a minister in Karnataka on the Gujarat earthquake could have undone what the tragedy has achieved in promoting communal harmony in the ravaged state. However, minutes after the hurtful utterance by Mr T. John, equating the tragedy with divine punishment for the acts of atrocity against Christians, Chief Minister S. M. Krishna asked him to resign from the Council of Ministers. Had the Chief Minister allowed Mr John to continue in office it is likely that not just Gujarat and Karnataka, but other communally sensitive regions, may have had to pay the price for the offensive statement. Equally astounding is the fact that he had the temerity to make the condemnable statement at the World Peace Day celebrations organised by a Christian organisation in Bangalore. It was an unChristian remark which sounded more jarring considering the remarkable stories emanating from the rubble in Gujarat about how the devastation has helped bridge the communal divide. In Ahmedabad, where Hindu-Muslim riots have become routine occurrences, the tragedy has made the members of the two communities forget the bitterness of the past. Mr John should be made to read the story of how grateful Hindus in the textile city of Gujarat expressed their gratitude to members of the Muslim community for helping them in coping with the tragedy. In a rare gesture a group of Hindus washed and swept the Shahi Masjid in the old city. Thereafter they invited their Muslim brethren to offer “namaz” at the mosque located in the communally sensitive area of the city. Muslims had given up praying in the mosque because of the history of communal riots in the area where it is located.

A happy fallout of the earthquake is that it has at least helped heal the wounds of communal violence and now members of the two communities have vowed not be misled by the communal rhetoric of politicians. Another piece of good news is that members of the Muslim community have once again begun offering prayers at the Shahi Masjid five times a day. There are the equally touching stories of long lines of Muslims donating blood for the quake victims. In Bangalore Mr John was preaching the gospel of hatred? The Karnataka Chief Minister deserves praise for showing remarkable political sagacity in dealing with the avoidable crisis created by his colleague in the Congress. Leaders of the church too have done well to express surprise and anguish over the remark. According to a report from Bangalore, the police have registered a case against the former Karnataka minister based on a complaint that he was trying to “incite communal feelings”. The Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has launched a campaign for his arrest. And why not? After all, Mr John committed not one, but two crimes. One, he sought to create communal disharmony by instigating members of the Christian community against the Hindus. Two, he did great violence to the universally accept image of God as forgiving and merciful by painting Him as partisan and vindictive!


Greying of the Green Revolution - V
WTO and Haryana’s agricultural economy
Serious threat that the new regime poses
Raman Mohan

WITH the World Trade Agreement almost in place, Haryana continues to be complacent and utterly unprepared to face the threats the new regime will pose to the State’s agricultural economy. Though the WTO regime will affect the farming community all over the country, yet Haryana will be the second worst affected State after Punjab because these two states occupy the first two places in agricultural production in the country.

The complacency at the government level is reflected sharply in the absence of concern for the fallout of the implications of the WTO at the farmer level. All that the State’s farming community knows about WTO is that it is in some way related to GATT against which the present rulers had made a lot of hue and cry some years ago.

The farmer is not to be blamed for this complacency. It carries only one meaning. The government itself has failed to grasp the implications and take appropriate steps in time for otherwise, the farmers would have been aware that the WTO regime will change farming and with it even their lives for all times to come.

Haryana’s main problem lies, of course, in what it produces — wheat, rice, cotton and oilseeds. Already, import surges in palm oil and dairy products have struck a deadly blow to its agricultural sector. There are hardly any buyers for sarson as well as sunflower. The same fate now awaits wheat, rice and cotton producers in Haryana in the post WTO era.

Agricultural experts rule out any possibility of exporting foodgrain produces in Haryana at present because of their current quality and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures stipulated in the WTA. Haryana produces very little of durum wheat which has export potential but only if it meets the nutritional and ecological standards at the international level. Thus the state will be rendered with unmanageable surpluses in wheat sooner than expected.

The other major agricultural produce — cotton — is already finding few buyers within the country as well as outside. The international standard for trash content in cotton is 3 to 4 per cent. However, in Haryana, as in the rest of the country, this is more than double this mark. This coupled with low fibre quality means that cotton is unlikely to find an international market too.

We now come to rice. This is the brightest spot in Haryana’s post-WTO scenario. Over the years, Haryana has emerged as one of the biggest exporters of rice. However, this advantage is likely to be offset by competitors in the international market because of their better quality shelling and polishing technology. Hydraulic jet polisher and light colour sorters are yet to make their presence felt in Haryana.

Another related aspect of the problem is over-exploitation of the wheat-rice crop cycle. The irrational exploitation of the rotation cycle together with flood irrigation has led to a severe degradation of soil in the State as in the neighbouring Punjab. This rotation cycle is not expected to remain remunerative for long. When that happens, rice could well go the cotton and oilseeds way.

Does that mean all is lost already? Experts say yes unless drastic and speedy steps are taken to keep agriculture sustainable in the post-WTO era. This is where the political leadership and government acumen will be put to test. So far, all political leaders and successive governments have been all but shoving the implications of the WTO under the carpet partly because of their own incomprehension of the implications and partly because of a lack of political courage to take harsh but beneficial long-run steps.

The WTO core group at Hisar’s Haryana Agricultural University has been grappling with the problem for quite some time now, but it is generally admitted that adequate governmental support is not forthcoming. Moreover, the government does not have even a blueprint for the future of agriculture in the State. Whatever efforts are being made remain in files only.

Experts say the first priority of the government should be to create industrial support base for its agriculture sector. This means setting up modern industrial units, which can use every agricultural produce as raw material for producing value added products for the international market. These industrial units should be composite plants, which can use even the by-products efficiently. For instance, sugar mills in the State will have to produce much more than sugar. All byproducts, including molasses, will have to be used as raw material for producing a wide array of goods, which can sell. These include candy, sweets and fuel.

Private sector will have to be encouraged to create and maintain a modern state of the art industrial sector, which can produce international quality items. The industrial base to support agriculture will have to be planned keeping in view which agricultural produce can be produced best in a particular area. This requires meticulous planning with little scope for error.

Agriculture itself needs to be overhauled. Scientists and agricultural planners say increasing atmospheric temperature; erratic rainfall, new diseases and pests are already hampering agricultural progress in the State. However, in the post WTO times, Haryana will have to set its research priorities right from several other angles as well. Costs, quality and sanitary and phyto-sanitary parameters will be the new paradigms of future in so far as agriculture is concerned. This requires a long term and systematic approach to the problem.

Dr B.L. Jalali, Director of Research, HAU, Hisar, says: “We need to consider the ways in which we conceive, plan and conduct research. We will have to ensure that the results of research reach the farmer. It means that optimal use of available human, infrastructural and financial resources will become increasingly important. There is an urgent need for technology forecasting which primarily attempts to bring potential future technology in sharper focus.”

In plain words, this means total location specific diversification of agriculture attuned with requirements of the international competition, integrated plant management technology and creation of appropriate infrastructure to sustain agriculture in the future. The key to success will lie with the farming community itself. Why? Because it is this community, which by and large decides what kind of government it requires. The farmers, therefore, will have to dictate to the government to see that its interests are taken care of.

Should Haryana succeed and show the country once again how good its farming capabilities are, what will agriculture in the State look like in the coming years? Experts say floriculture and horticulture will replace traditional agriculture in areas around Delhi. Cut flowers, vegetables and processed food will be the key areas of development in this belt. International quality cotton, oilseeds and wheat will be produced in Hisar, Fatehabad, Sirsa and Bhiwani districts. Durum wheat, high quality basmati, vegetables and fruits will be the main produce of Ambala, Kaithal, Karnal and Kurukshetra districts and their surrounding areas.

On the industrial front, agriculture produce based units will come up everywhere in the State pushing steel and other basic industrial activity to the back. Cooperative sugar mills and dairy units will be professionally managed without any interference by the government which is the prime reason why these incur losses in Haryana, but help the farmers prosper in Maharashtra and Gujarat. On the animal husbandry side, the available genetic wealth will be put to good use to improve animal breeds to compete in the international markets.

Nevertheless, scientists say howsoever pleasant this scenario may look from a distance, going by the present conditions Haryana is more likely to miss the bus. They only hope the vibrant and assertive farming community whose lives have been put at stake by the WTO regime will shake the State out of its complacency.

While that continues to be a big IF, planners also say the slogan of the Emergency era — Be Indian, Buy Indian — will be more important in the post WTO era than at any other time. Unless we discourage use of cheaper imported goods in the near future, all efforts to use the WTO regime to our advantage will fail, they warn.




Teething troubles for George Bush
V. Gangadhar

ONE of the most fascinating aspects of American politics is the selection of the Cabinet and the filling up of several major posts in the government by the President-elect. Normally, an incoming President had nearly 75 days for the job. But President George W. Bush, because of the Florida imbroglio, got only half of this period for this job.

Cabinet formation in the USA had certain distinct advantages. The President-elect had a comparatively free hand and could tap talent from any source, even from the opposition Democratic Party. He would recruit men and women of talent from the industry, universities and within the existing bureaucracy. The process had been described in a fascinating manner in their memoirs by the aides of late President Kennedy, Teddy Sorensen and Prof. Arthur Schlesinger (Jr). Kennedy hunted high and low for talent and one of his master strokes was the selection of the then Ford Company chairman and a staunch Republican, Robert McNamara, as his Secretary of Defence.

At the same time, even the all powerful US Presidents had to contend with certain constraints. Left to himself, Kennedy would have loved to have his own trusted men heading the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which were headed by the all powerful Edgar Hoover and Allen Dulles. In fact, everyone in the USA including its President, was a bit scared of Hoover who had evidence of the wrong doings of all leaders and was prepared to use it to cling to power. The wrong doings included personal, sexual matters and Hoover had clear evidence on Kennedy’s romantic flings. Allen Dulles was the younger brother of the notorious Red baiter, John Foster Dulles, who was the Secretary of State in the previous Eisenhower administration, was worshipped by the powerful right wing lobbies in the USA and Kennedy who squeaked home with a narrow majority did not want to alienate them during the early days of his presidency.

Kennedy, however, basked in the love and affection of the young Americans who were eager for a change. Such feelings always helped a President when he was settling down. He also had a narrow but significant majority in the popular votes and led in the electoral college seats. Naturally, Kennedy could claim that he was a “fullfledged, popularly elected” President, despite the closeness of the race.

The new President is handicapped on these grounds. A full count of the votes in Florida would have favoured his rival, Al Gore. Bush had been described as a President by default and had to carry on this stigma for the next four years. Both within the USA and outside, there are already critical comments on his presidency. He was among the few heads of state whose gala inauguration was marred by hostile demonstrations. There were still several thousands of people in the USA who believed that George Bush had got to the White House through a pliable Supreme Court and the machinations of Republican bureaucrats like Katherine Harris, the Florida Secretary of State. Her action during the tense days of counting and recounting of votes clearly showed her bias for her party candidate. No wonder, she had emerged as the “Joan of Arc” of the Republicans and it is very doubtful if she ever would be burnt at the stake!

It is important to note that no American President since 1888 had been elected to office without winning the popular vote. The November election was the first in the history of the USA to be decided by the Supreme Court. George Bush, as he took the Oath of Office, had the highest unfavorable rating for any new President during the past two decades. Placards bearing messages like “Hail to the Thief”, “Silenced Majority”, “Bush is a Racist”, “God Help Us” greeted the presidential motorcade on the way to the swearing-in ceremony. His limousine was hit by an egg, an orange and a tennis ball. Clearly, this was not how Americans normally greeted their new President! It was clear that this President will not have the traditional honeymoon with the media and the people and that his choice of Cabinet members will attract closer scrutiny than usual.

The American system of choosing a Cabinet had certain in-built checks and balances which had led to the overall strength of the nation’s strong democratic roots. The antecedents of every candidate for every job were closely scrutinised and the nominee was cross examined by a special committee. One of former President Bill Clinton’s favourite nominees had to withdraw because it was proved she had employed migrant workers as domestic help, paying them lower than normal wages. The USA did not tolerate these actions which would be normally be “non issues” in other democracies, including India. The same fate befell one of the new President’s nominees.

Most of President Bush’s Cabinet appointments for senior posts reflected a tendency to the past and not the future. The choice of Dick Cheney, who was the Secretary of Defence in the George Bush (Sr) administration, as his running mate was a clear indication to this. Cheney, in his 70s and with a history of heart attacks, made it clear he had no political or presidential ambitions. Perhaps, this assurance got him the job. The same was the case with the appointment of the Gulf War hero, Gen. Colin Powell, as the Secretary of State. Gen Powell was one of the party’s candidates for the highest office in 1996. He had had no experience in administration but was preferred to endorse the “hawkish” policy of Bush, particularly in foreign affairs.

The Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield was also a relic from the past, having served in the Ford administration of the 1970s. While experience was a factor to be considered, most puzzled why the President had to go back so much in time to pick someone for this major post . It created the disturbing feeling that President Bush was in tune only with those who had been time tested or were part of his father’s White House days. This attitude would not win him any popularity in the days to come.

While some of the nominees were confirmed without much difficulty, there could be problems for others. The appointments of John Ashcroft as the new Attorney General, in particular, and that of Gale Norton as Interior Secretary would not be confirmed without a bitter fight in the Senate. Ashcroft was severely bruised in his encounter with the Senate. It was even rumoured that Senator Edward Kennedy, the veteran Democrat from Massachusetts, would resort to a filibuster to block his nomination. The Attorney General’s post is one of the most sensitive one and Ashcroft could turn out to be too controversial for it. The Senate Democrats pointed out that if the President was really interested in “healing the wounds” caused by his victory, he would withdraw the Ashcroft nomination.

In the days to come, the new President will have to do a lot of political tightrope walking to have his way. For the first time since 1881, the Senate is evenly split between the Democrats and the Republicans. The Vice-President can be expected to use his “casting vote” on controversial issues. In Congress, the Republicans had only a slim majority of five. The President was in no position to insist that he would have his way on all major issues. He can breathe free only after most of his nominees for Cabinet posts were confirmed by the Senate. That may witness some bruising battles in the days to come.


Where Indian politicians are a disgrace
By Tavleen Singh

IT was so unexpected a sight that for a moment I thought I was hallucinating. There, walking down a snow-covered Davos street were a group of Hindu holy men wearing, thin, white muslin. Delicate shawls lay over their shoulders but they seemed not to need them despite the snow they trudged through and the icy cold day. So mesmerised was I by this little group that I crossed the street and introduced myself only to find that I was in the presence of Sri Ravi Shankar. My first question was: “Aren’t you cold?” “Not at all” he smiled “the weather is lovely”. My second question was not so much a question as a statement of fact. You are here, I said, for the World Economic Forum meeting and he replied that indeed he was and had spent two days speaking at various sessions on the importance of human values and religion in modern life.

He is not the only man of religion attending the conference this year. Among the others were the Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn from Vietnam, Reverend Jesse Jackson from the United States, Chief Rabbi Meir Lau from Israel, His Eminence Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane from South Africa and Sheikh Zafzaf from Egypt. They were invited to address a special session on religion — what does the future hold for different faiths; will there be conciliation or confrontation. It is exactly this kind of thing, the eclectic nature of the discourse, that makes the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos an annual treat for those lucky enough to be members of the forum or, like yours truly, an invitee. The annual meeting begins on the last Thursday in January and lasts six days during which you can choose from an intellectual feast of sessions that start at 8 a.m. and end well after 10.30 p.m. During the course of a single day you could find yourself going from a session on “Can technology alleviate Poverty” to a discourse by Thich Nhat Hahn on ‘The Meaning of Mindfulness’ to listening to professors from Harvard and Yale discussing “new actors on the nuclear stage.”

India is, of course, among the new actors but the only Indians in the session were in the audience. It was left to a panel of four Americans and a Russian to discuss the possibilities of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. We Indians listened in wonderment as these experts talked of how defence analysts in the United States had concluded that we were the two countries most likely to start a nuclear war. This assessment is based not just on speculation but on war games that American strategists have played among themselves and concluded that a nuclear war in the sub-continent was almost inevitable if hostilities over Kashmir remain. Not since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly started a nuclear war have two countries been as close to one as we apparently are in the sub-continent.

It could happen, they said, accidentally since neither country has so far established proper chains of command. Or it could happen pre-emptively with both sides trying to ensure that they they get first strike. And, although we will not succeed in destroying the world as the US-Soviet confrontation could have done it can certainly destroy the sub-continent. Even a small bomb could kill 10 million people. I noticed that the Indians in the audience were listening in awed silence not just because of the terrifying scenario that the expert panel painted but because it was the kind of discussion you rarely hear in our own fair and wondrous land.

On the nuclear issue, because emotions on both sides run high, we in India hear too much polemics and too little analysis. But, alas, this is true of almost all other issues so when Indians speak in Davos they tend to sound like village idiots compared to even Africans and south-east Asians.

Indian businessmen, especially those who have been coming to Davos regularly, have learned to express themselves in short sentences and to articulate in six minutes what they want to say but our political leaders sound about as Third World (and third rate) as ever. This year, the new politico on the Davos scene was the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Digvijay Singh. I made it a point to attend a session he was addressing on water just to see if he had any idea at all that would be remembered. On the panel with him were Egyptian, Israeli and European experts on the issue and they were clear that the problem of water was not so much one of availability as of management and pricing. Politicians were not prepared to charge for water and this was a serious problem in urban areas but the real problem was not so much drinking water as irrigation. The CEO of Nestle, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, pointed out that the real problem was agriculture which consumes 70 per cent of the world’s water, industry, accounts for another 20 per cent and domestic consumers use less than 10 per cent.

The Chief Minister had little to say and said it badly. He used jargon to explain just how much good work he was doing in his own state. He told us nothing of the problems in India except to concede (graciously) that yes, politicians were responsible for not pricing water and that when they had the courage to do this people were prepared to pay. He produced no facts, no figures, no ideas, no analysis and when at the end of his banal presentation I asked if he could tell us the percentage of people in his state who had access to safe drinking water, how much it had been increased since he took over and why after 50 years India was still unable to provide this most basic of requirements he said every village has a tubewell. This would be a cheerful statistic if it were true but when it came to actual figures the Chief Minister admitted that he could not talk in terms of percentages. “It’s a difficult question”, he said.

Mr Digvijay Singh is not exceptionally bad. In the years I have been coming to Davos I have had the dubious honour of listening to Deve Gowda, as Chief Minister of Karnataka, Chandrababu Naidu and a long list of other Indian leaders and most of them have sounded confused and inarticulate.

Luckily we have a few holy men to redeem us and a few musicians and writers who contribute to making us sound not completely like village idiots but our politicians and bureaucrats are a disgrace. It is not their fault entirely since real debate is absent even from our legislative assemblies and Parliament. Having said that, though, is it not about time that they improved themselves for our sakes if not for the sake that the world has become such a very, small place?


Economy not responding to Musharraf tunes
By Gobind Thukral

PAKISTAN’S military ruler, the self-styled Chief Executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf, does not find the economy responding to his tunes. His much touted accountability slogan has proved a total sham. The most corrupt of the politicians and the deposed Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, has escaped gallows. The total condemnation of his exile by the mainline newspapers like Dawn, Frontier Post, Nation and Nawa-e-Waqt has not moved the military regime in any manner. Traders have also escaped the threatened wrath of the khaki regime and they would not oblige by paying the taxes. Escape of Sharif has given them a shot in the arm. If a big fish like Sharif can escape in this manner, how could they be touched? They could strike some deal and pay some kind of one time tax. That is all.

Now the Religious Affairs Minister, Dr Mahmood Ghazi, has declared that the government would soon eliminate “riba” or fixed interest by July, 2001. This is as per the judgement of the Supreme Court that ordered complete Islamisation of Pakistan’s financial system. Riba is a sin and hence banned. There are directions too. This is having a dampening effect on the foreign investors whom the Pakistani rulers have been seeking out. Newspapers have been reporting how successive governments have been sidestepping the issue. Clearly the military regime is anxious to pander to the Islamic fundamentalists who have been demanding Islamic economic order. This is inviting Talibanisation of the civil society as some commentators have been saying.

Pakistan is indeed having a tough time. It is neither able to meet targets set by the International Monetary Fund nor push the economy to the level where it can help fight the endemic poverty or to help reduce the growing unemployment. Domestic economy continues to be in recession with a 4 per cent increase in the price of petroleum products that has pushed the inflation to 5 per cent. The rupee has depreciated further by 14 per cent to the dollar during the past six months. This has added to the debt which is already very heavy at $ 38 billion.

In November last year the IMF had provided Pakistan with a standby credit of $ 595 million to tide over the balance of payment position. It indicated some solid support by the international funding institutions. In turn, Gen Musharraf had promised economic reforms and tax collection system. Pakistan was to reduce its budget deficit so that it could be just 5.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product by end of June this year. Budget deficit was 6.4 per cent of the GDP last year. It will have to increase foreign exchange reserves to $ 1.74 billion by June, 2002. At present it is $ 1.1 billion.

It had also committed to increase its poverty alleviation budget. It is a tall order for the Finance Minister, Shaukat Aziz, who is now virtually pitted against the Religious Affairs Minister, Dr Ghazi. Mr Shaukat Aziz has promised, as vowed before the newspersons, to stick to the IMF targets despite shortfalls on all fronts. He would also not ask for the revision of targets. Revenue collection totalled Rs 180 billion, 5 per cent short of the target. The trade deficit has soared to $ 938 million between July and December last year. It is up by 22 per cent over 1999. The government has set a target of $ 800 million by June, 2001. Exports too have been off target at $ 4.48 billion by end of the last year. The government had hoped to touch $ 10 billion.

Talibanising Pakistan?
By Dr Mubashir Hasan

WILL the ruling elites of Pakistan Talibanise Pakistan? By Talibanisation, I mean imposing edicts such as those issued by the Amir-ul-Momineen and his General Presidency of Amr Bil Maruf and Nai Az Munkir (Religious Police) of Afghanistan.

Sample: Women should not step outside their residence like women before the coming of Islam... All family elders should keep tight control over their families, otherwise these women will be threatened, investigated and severely punished as well as the family elders... In shops, hotels, vehicles and rickshaws, cassette and music and in wedding parties music and dance are prohibited.... All people are obliged to go to mosque at prayer time. If young people are seen in shops at prayer time they will be immediately imprisoned... To make ladies clothes, tailors should not take female body measurements. If women and fashion magazines are seen in any shop the tailor should be imprisoned.. Any form of interest or profit on loans is banned. Any charge on changing small denomination notes and charge on moneyorders is also prohibited. Violators should be imprisoned for a long time.... Public executions of criminals and cutting of hands and feet as punishment should be introduced.

For the past several hundred years, if not more, the Afghans had been a tolerant society. People of all faiths Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims of all sects lived in harmony with each other. There was no state-sponsored persecution of ethnic or religious minorities or sects. There were universities in Kabul and Herat, devoted to liberal educational philosophy as well as Islamiat, which were open to men who sported or did not sport beards as they pleased and women who dressed as they pleased without invoking the wrath of the state. All Muslims, kings or subjects, communist ministers or Sufi leaders, businessmen or craftsmen punctiliously prayed five times a day. The month of Ramazan was observed with great solemnity. (Pakistan Today)



On the rising of the ego everything rises

with its subsidence all subside

The ego is therefore all,

Tracking it is the way to victory over everything.


The 'I' does not rise in the real state,

Search for the source of 'I' dissolves it,

How else can one attain the supreme state of one's own self?


Discover the real source of the ego,

by exploring within, with keen intellect,

by regulating breath, speech and mind

As one would do to recover a thing which

has fallen into a deep well.

— Sri Ramana Maharishi, Sat-Darshanam (Forty verses on Reality), 25-28

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