Sunday, October 21, 2001, Chandigarh, India





E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


PERSPECTIVE

Future of world order hinges on war against terror
Prem Prakash
T
HE September 11 attacks on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington shook the world. Once it became clear that the evil and sick mind behind the horror was the most wanted terrorist leader in the world, Osama bin Laden, the international community backed the resolve shown by America to stop him. 

Towards new vistas on Indo-Pak ties based on amity, trust
Jagjit Singh
T
HE immediate aim of the ‘international coalition’ to combat terrorism is to capture Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect behind the carnage, whom the Taliban regime has refused to hand over. American President George Bush is making every effort to convince the Muslim world that the fight is against the cult of terrorism, and not against Islam or the people of Afghanistan.


 

EARLIER ARTICLES
West Asia on boil
October 20
, 2001
Powell’s visit and after
October 19
, 2001
TADA in new garb
October 18
, 2001
A “viable” card
October 17
, 2001
George wins his own war
October 16
, 2001
A tainted Pak trust
October 15
, 2001
Combating proxy war: India can do it
October 14
, 2001
A scuttled initiative
October 13
, 2001
Complete isolation of Taliban
October 12
, 2001
War impact on economy
October 11
, 2001
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
 

Getting to the roots of the problem
Gobind Thukral
I
F we really understand the import of the plane bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon on September 11, then the new century bodes ill for mankind. We could be very well drifting to the ‘middle ages’. 

The sword arm of political militancy
Abu Abraham
T
HE promise of martyrdom draws young men to jehad. Why go through years of fasting and prayer when heaven is so close at hand and entrance is free? Afghanistan is where Muslim youths from around the world are heading for, expecting to meet the crusaders from the West in one long battle.

PROFILE

Harihar Swarup
Nobel doctors fight against cancer
C
ANCER patients around the world cheer up. Three medical researchers have made a breakthrough in the treatment of the dreadful disease and new principles for cancer therapy may be available before long. The American researcher, Dr. Leland Hartwell, and British scientists, Dr. R. Timothy Hunt and Dr. Paul M. Nurse, have been honoured with the Nobel Prize in medicine for their key discoveries in the nature of cancer cell development. 

DELHI DURBAR

No command for Congress high command
T
HERE were days when the “high command” (read party President) of the Congress decided on anything and everything related to the party. This included the appointment of Chief Ministers of various Congress-ruled states. It was in the backdrop of this tradition that the Chief Minister of Pondicherry, P. Shanmugham, was handpicked for the job by the party high command in the Capital.

  • Balanced George

  • BJP reorganisation

  • Classified history

  • Matching wit

  • Advantage Pakistan

DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER

Humra Quraishi
Disassociating religion from terrorism
F
IRST things first. Another anti-war demonstration would have been held here at the Vithalbhai Patel House lawns, this weekend (Saturday, October 20). Organised by SAHMAT this three-hour programme would have several amongst us to protest against “the unilateral declaration of war by the US on the entire Afghan people. 

  • Noam Chomsky

  • American insensitivity

  • Amrita Sher-gilTop








 

Future of world order hinges on war against terror
Prem Prakash

THE September 11 attacks on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington shook the world. Once it became clear that the evil and sick mind behind the horror was the most wanted terrorist leader in the world, Osama bin Laden, the international community backed the resolve shown by America to stop him. President Bush was absolutely right in declaring: “You are either with us or against” — that is, against terrorism or with its perpetrators.

For too long terrorism has been tolerated -- for example, in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, the Philippines, Karachi, Bombay, Kashmir, or, for that matter, in New York in 1993. Tragically it took the mass slaughter of 7,000 innocents from 40 countries to awaken the world to the menace.

The people of Afghanistan have suffered more than most from terrorism. Never before has a nation been so cruelly torn from its roots. Never before has the world seen such a total collapse of an ancient civilisation — one that flourished 3000 years before the birth of Christ, and which embraced Hinduism and Buddhism centuries before Islam was born.

One can perhaps point the finger at the United Nations itself for failing to punish those who attacked the UN compound in Kabul on September 29, 1996, brutally killing former President Najibullah and his brother. That crime was not just an affront to the UN, but an act of terror against the world. Yet, the world allowed it to pass, as did the USA. Twelve days after the event I interviewed Robin Raphael, the US Under Secretary of State for South Asia in Washington and found absolutely no remorse for what had happened and for what the Taliban were doing to the people of Afghanistan.

The UN action would have been of no consequence to the Taliban, whose fight is against the world, anyway. But did they deserve the help they got from many in Pakistan, the Clinton Administration in Washington and Saudi Arabia, in their fight against the duly recognised government of Afghanistan?

The Taliban’s first act on taking power was to terrorise the Afghan people into submission. Once that had happened, it was easy for Al Queda to move in with its several thousand multinational terrorists, dominated by Arabs fleeing the corrupt regimes of their own lands. Now, at a time when the world’s sympathy should be with the ordinary Afghans, they have once again become victims of cross fire in a battle in which most of them are not involved.

Following the demand by President Bush to hand over bin Laden, the Taliban cleverly passed the buck to the ulema (religious leaders) to decide what should be done. More than a thousand of them, meeting in conclave, called on bin Laden to leave their country voluntarily. The terrorist leader, encouraged by the Taliban, offered only defiance. Together they have usurped the role of the religious leaders and, without licence from any Islamic authority, have unleashed a holy war against the USA.

It is time someone asked the powerful Arab nations why they have failed to support the Afghan Ulema’s call for bin Laden to leave their country. At that stage Saudi Arabia recognised the Taliban as the Government of Afghanistan, yet it did not ask for the extradition of Osama bin Laden, who is a Saudi national.

Afghans have been portrayed over the last two decades as a backward people — illiterte tribals; their 20th century history speaks otherwise. The country has been brutalised because of its strategic location. It became a victim of the cold war and is now a victim of terrorists from other lands who have made it their refuge. The illiterate Afghans who support terrorism today were born and brought up in the refugee camps of Pakistan, following the Communist coup of 1978 and the Soviet invasion of 1980.

King Zahir Shah, who was deposed in 1973 and has lived in Italy ever since, was not a king in the autocratic mould of Middle East rulers; he was, and remains, a democrat. That was the reason for his success. His faith in democracy was the keystone of the stability and progress Afghanistan enjoyed during his reign. The one ray of hope for Afghanistan since September 11 is that the octogenarian Zahir Shah could be given a role to restore sanity to his homeland.

History, they say, repeats itself. King Amanullah, the great visionary who wanted to take Afghanistan along a road similar to that followed by Kamal Ataturk in Turkey, abdicated under pressure in 1929 and was succeeded briefly by an outlaw, Bacha Saqa, who was sponsored and armed by the British. Bacha Saqa proclaimed himself the ‘Amir’ of Afghanistan and ruled much as the Taliban does today. There was chaos and mayhem in Kabul, until Sardar Mohammed Nadir Shah, the Afghan Ambassador in Paris, decided to take on Bacha Saqa and finally ousted him from Kabul in October of 1929. Bacha Saqa was subsequently captured and executed.

Nadir Shah did not proclaim himself King. Instead, soon after his victory, he called a jirga, the grand Assembly of tribal leaders, who elected him to the throne. He managed to bring peace to his troubled land. Schools were opened, roads were built, a bank was set up, and dams were built to store water. During his four years of rule he laid the foundations of a stable state.

Tragically, Nadir Shah was assassinated on November 8, 1933, at a school prize-giving ceremony. But for once chaos did not follow the violent killing. Instead, Nadir Shah’s young son, Mohammed Zahir, educated mainly in Paris, chose to be a constitutional King and involved the tribal leaders and people at large in the running of the country. His was a benign monarchy in a feudal country still deeply rooted in the past.

King Zahir Shah perhaps must be the most saddened Afghan to see his lifetime’s work being totally ruined. Hundreds of thousands of educated, modern Afghan men and women, who emerged as a result of his forward-looking policies, are today surviving in other countries as refugees and asylum seekers. When approached recently to play a part in resolving the Afghan imbroglio, the King clearly called for a lohia jirga, (grand assembly of tribal leaders) to find a solution. That should be the path to follow, if the world is serious about ridding Afghanistan of terrorists. The Afghan people do not support the Bacha Saqas of today — the Taliban — nor do they welcome the Arabs amidst them.

There is urgent need to revive the political aspect of the Afghan crisis. The world community should honour the call by the former King Zahir Shah for a lohia jirga. Efforts should be made to bring it about. For this the recognised Government of Afghanistan that sits in the UN should be made responsible, with full UN backing and supervision.

The tragedy today is the manner in which Muslim religious leaders have gone into a deafening silence. Why are they not condemning bin Laden or the terrorism that he sponsors ? Agreed, there are grave injustices taking place in Palestine, as there are in Arab states ruled by kings and sheikhs. The cohorts bin Laden has gathered around himself are not Palestinians or Afghans, but Arabs, including several from influential oil-rich states. As long as the people of those countries are denied their democratic rights, they become easy prey to the seductions of bin Laden and his ilk.

Compounding the issue is the fact that Western democracies have been fully supportive of the oppressive and exploitative regimes that exist in most parts of the Arab region. Thus educated young Arabs see collusion between the West and their rulers as being exploiters of their homelands, which leads to hatred for the West, which in turn converts to a battle against Christianity.

The coalition against terrorism that the USA has managed to build must address the issues that fan the fires of such hatred. Palestine is not the only issue, important though it is. The lack of democracy and abuse of human rights in other countries is just as crucial. And as the USA and the West are seen as the allies of such repressive regimes, the anger of the repressed is turned on them.

Mullah Omar, the religious cleric who heads the Taliban, though an Afghan, is flouting all the accepted norms of Afghan behaviour, particularly those followed by Pakhtun society, where Muslim clerics have a very limited role. To quote Khan Wali Khan, the most revered Pakhtun leader of the North West Frontier Province, the mullah’s role in Pakhtun society is restricted to “leading the prayers, doing marriage contracts, delivering sermons and appearing in funerals, and has nothing to do with government policies”. In Pakhtun culture, worldly affairs have never been left to the mullahs, but assigned to the assemblies of hujra and jirga. But then, we must not forget that Mullah Omar was an agent of Pakistan, appointed by the ISI, who has since been taken over by bin Laden.

The realisation is fast dawning that, in the heat of an intense satellite television war, the real war against terrorism is being converted into West versus Islam. My forty-odd years working in television news has taught me that it is apt to be restricted, and therefore distorted, by truncated sound bites and over-condensed field reports put together against unrelenting deadlines. That Osama bin Laden’s media advisors had learned this lesson is only too apparent; thanks to the propaganda they fed to a compliant television network, the terrorist leader has succeeded in presenting himself as the leader of a unified Islamic world.

For South Asia there are greater dangers ahead. Pakistan is already feeling the heat of an Afghan exodus. No one knows how many more weapons have been smuggled into that country and how many of the refugees are marauders who have escaped the bombings. Law and order problems, already severe, could be compounded. Meanwhile, another serious possibility is worrying defence analysts in London, as the efforts to bring bin Laden out of hiding continue.

Colonel Christopher Langton, head of defence analysis at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (an independent internationally governed “think-tank”), feels that Osama bin Laden has so many friends in Pakistan that, if he decides publicly to escape to Pakistan with a few hundred of his Arab and other multinational supporters, he could set off a crisis that President Musharraf would not be able to manage.

Sceptics in India will brush aside such a scenario, but where else can Osama go, if not to Pakistan? After all, he has himself recently claimed that he could escape even to Kashmir! With Osama in Pakistan, the jehadis there could create civil strife of unmanageable proportions, while in India men like Imam Bukhari could well use the occasion to further their political ends and create social and communal tensions.

It is therefore in India’s interest to ensure that the “coalition against terrorism” works on a political resolution of the Afghan problem. The coalition must understand that Afghans do not want Osama bin Laden in their midst, and that to them Mullah Omar and his following are only part of bin Laden’s organisation. Pakistan, too, must realise that the political solution of who rules Afghanistan must be left to the Afghans themselves, led by the father figure of Zahir Shah. The sooner the political process begins, the better it would be for South Asia.

Osama bin Laden and Al Queda must be stopped from promoting terrorism in the name of Islam, a creed they do not truly represent. The future of the world order, as we know it, hinges on the success of this fight against terrorism. The men who want to turn this battle against terrorism into a war of civilisations are living in the middle ages and want to take the whole world back to that era. But once the evil has been eradicated, the task of bringing democracy, justice and fair play to countries lacking those basic rights must be pursued with vigour, if another generation of Osama bin Ladens are to be stifled at birth.

The writer is a veteran mediaperson.Top

 

Towards new vistas on Indo-Pak ties based on amity, trust
Jagjit Singh

THE immediate aim of the ‘international coalition’ to combat terrorism is to capture Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect behind the carnage, whom the Taliban regime has refused to hand over.

American President George Bush is making every effort to convince the Muslim world that the fight is against the cult of terrorism, and not against Islam or the people of Afghanistan.

Almost the entire world, including India, Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE has also lined up with America to eradicate the scourge. Pakistan, for one, initially wavered — whether to side with Afghanistan, having nurtured its Taliban regime for so long, to meet its strategic interests, or to join America and rest of the world. It has eventually taken the pragmatic decision to opt for the latter course, despite protests by its religious fanatics, who took to streets, proclaiming bin Laden as the hero of Islam.

While the Taliban have vowed to fight the American-British onslaught to the finish, they cannot be expected to repeat what they were able to achieve during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, totally isolated, as they are, in the current scenario. Added to it is the renewal of an offensive by the Northern Alliance, emboldened by assurance of military assistance from America, Russia, the Central Asian States and Iran.

Another aspect of the US-Afghan confrontation is the ultimate American aim to overthrow the Taliban Government in Afghanistan and replace it by a more moderate leadership. In this, the Northern Alliance is likely to play a key role. The ex-king of Afghanistan, Mohd Zahir Shah, living abroad in exile, may also return to his homeland, to help bring about a new political order. This development would be to the great discomfiture of Pakistan. India, on the other hand, must lend its all out support to it, rather than remain a silent spectator.

What would be the future shape of things that finally emerge in Afghanistan? What would be the fall-out of millions of Afghanistan refugees already in Pakistan and those that are presently trying to enter the country? How would it affect the internal politics of Pakistan, when there is a public upsurge in its provinces of North West Frontier and Baluchistan, as the American military action in Afghanistan continues. The future of Gen Pervez Musharraf who, till now has thrown his lot with the USA also hangs in balance. Will he continue to hold the reigns of power or will Pakistan fall into the grips of religious fundamentalists? Above all how will it affect India, with particular reference to Jammu and Kashmir. As it stands today, while India and Pakistan are on the same side of the fence for the first time since Independence, though for different reasons, their mutual hatred and distrust continues. And so does cross-border terrorism in J and K.

As to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J and K, a more proactive approach involving aerial strikes and ground raids against militant camps in PoK is often talked about. Militarily, these are sound steps to take. They would also help dispel Pakistani misgivings that India is a soft state, longing for peace at any cost and take full advantage to further its ends.

And yet, military wisdom also dictates that before taking a more proactive stance, as above, the country must first secure it’s home front more effectively, than what it obtains at present. In this regard, participation of Indian youth, rural and urban, in large numbers, both in border areas and elsewhere within the mainland, is an essential pre-requisite. The existing approach that national security is the domain and responsibility of the security forces alone is fallacious and must be set right. I must equally reiterate the need of civil participation, not only to counter terrorism but also to further boost the country’s defence capability.

And ad hoc approach, merely to plug the holes temporarily, is not the answer. Civil participation must be institutionalised. The area to be covered is vast indeed and the tasks numerous — including selection, training, duration of duty, incentives and weaponry. Towards this end, a committee of experts, with adequate military representation, must be constituted to prepare a broad framework, followed by working out the nuts and bolts, both to combat terrorism and help defend the motherland, in the event of an all-out war. To start with, the focus must be on J and K. The tears shed by Dr Farooq Abdullah on the massacre of innocent people in a terrorist attack on the J and K Assembly complex on Oct 1 must be vindicated by a further consolidation of the home front, duly backed by civil participation. Or else of what avail is India’s strength of a billion people?

Of equal relevance is the need to imbibe patriotism in a far greater measure in the masses, in general, with the political leadership ‘leading from the front’, to combat the enemy within. Nor can there be any doubt, despite the US lead to combat terrorism, that in India, as elsewhere, the brunt would require to be borne by each country so affected.

Would it not merit starting a new chapter of Indo-Pak relations based on amity, friendship and trust? To consign the ugly past, dripped in blood and tears to the dust bin of history. To cast aside national bravado, one-upmanship and ego. To remind ourselves that the ASEAN has come of age. Russia and China have come closer, Korea and Vietnam are endeavouring to sink their internal differences, while the Europeans have forged a formidable union. Only the SAARC still continues to limp, primarily on account of the Indo-Pak rivalry. That the core issue is not Kashmir, but the poverty and illiteracy of its teeming millions. That a time must come when India, Pakistan and Bangladesh group themselves into a confederation which is secular in outlook. After all, it was a secular Pakistan that Mohd Ali Jinnah had aimed at. So did Mujib-ur-Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh.

A distant possibility. But therein lies the ultimate salvation and strength of the Indian sub-continent. Towards this end, help of other members comprising the SAARC may prove invaluable. Inter alia, the said confederation would help strengthen the former, with added muscle, both economic and military. South Asia would thus find a more honourable place than what it has today, in the comity of nations.

The prospects of an Indo-Pak-Bangladesh Confederation notwithstanding, the need to tone up the country’s vigil, both external and internal, needs no overemphasis. For this, closer participation of Indian youth, in an institutionalised manner is a must.

The writer, a retired Major-General, is the author of “With honour and glory”, “The saga of Ladakh, 1962” and “Indian gunners at war, 1971”.
Top

 

Getting to the roots of the problem
Gobind Thukral

IF we really understand the import of the plane bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon on September 11, then the new century bodes ill for mankind. We could be very well drifting to the ‘middle ages’. There is neither spiritual unity nor secular rule. It is being made out one religion against another. Christianity versus Islam and sometimes as in India, Hinduism versus Islam or even Sikhism. Our political imagination is getting frozen as glorification of violence as an end itself has increased manifold.

People all across the globe shudder as they think of a world war knocking at their doors. Eight decades back, some kind of crusade was started in Ireland by IRA and earlier by Ku Klux Klan in the USA, we have yet to see their ends. In between the world has witnessed destruction all around.

Two world wars that shook mankind from its very roots have not taught any lesson. Terrorism, a new war by the invisible armies, striking each passing day with fury not known even in hell, is pushing the world to destruction. Once the weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of these lunatics, nothing can escape. No continent, has escape from its lethal attacks.

Instead of globalisation of economy and creation of a just egalitarian order or cohesive mixing of cultures or religions, we have globalised terror. While countries like India, Ireland, Algeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Russia, former Yugoslavia have suffered and continue to suffer, the world’s only superpower, the USA has emerged its latest victim. There are indeed profound lessons to be learnt from this horrendous crime. Yet it does no match the bombing of Sudan and the near-total destruction of its pharmaceutical industry and killing of unknown number of people by the Clinton Administration. The USA blocked an inquiry by the United Nations. The USA in Nicaragua did it and Cuba has been kept on hooks for decades for daring to adopt a political system to the dislike of the powerful West.

In Iraq, after the Gulf war, the destruction of infrastructure and banning of imports to repair has caused untold misery. Disease, malnutrition and an early death on huge scale, include 567,000 children by 1995 alone. Remarkably there is no gain to the USA since this has only strengthened Saddam and hatred against the American government has increased. Even humanitarian aid is banned.

The USA is now worried about the funding of 27 terrorist organisations. But terrorist outfits do not require international banking facilities. They depend more on offshore banking havens available courtesy the governments of USA, UK and other countries. These outfits operate within an area and have no global reach. Take the case of IRA, that 80-year-old outfit. People of Irish origin from the USA send millions of dollars every year. The fact remains that some of these terrorist organisations have been created by nation states to enforce para policies. Did the USA not provide huge funds and arms when Saddam Hussein fought against Iran or Osama bin Laden and his associates in Afghanistan? Between 1980 and 1991, it gave $ 3.4 billion, besides arms and ammunition. Afghanistan every year produces narcotics worth $ 5 billion and ISI, army generals and the so-called freedom fighters get fat shares. The value of cocaine imported from Afghanistan is many times more. Some estimates suggest, it is worth $ 90 billion. Here is the real source of everlasting funds. The lifestyle of Taliban leadership confirms as it does of the Pakistani generals. Now this decision would not affect their funding. The international community, those seriously concerned and committed to eliminate terrorism from the face of earth, should strive to create a civil society and combat narcotic terrorism, the real source of funding.

With nation states and religious organisations having lent covert or overt support to terrorism worldwide, those wish to have terrorism- free states have a challenging task. Military solutions have their limitations. As economic sanctions and political isolation have proved to be halfhearted measures, we should find the roots of terrorism. We should search the minds of those who yield the gun. through forums like the United Nations. There is also the need for a sustained and systematic campaign to create a tolerant, just and multicultural society in each country. Otherwise, sermons on globalisation will remain sermons.
Top

 

The sword arm of political militancy
Abu Abraham

THE promise of martyrdom draws young men to jehad. Why go through years of fasting and prayer when heaven is so close at hand and entrance is free?

Afghanistan is where Muslim youths from around the world are heading for, expecting to meet the crusaders from the West in one long battle. In Britain, an exodus has begun of young Muslims to Pakistan to join the holy war. Recruitment by Osama’s Al-Qaeda is in full swing.

Leaders of British society are anxious to assure Muslim Britons that their fight is not against Islam, but only against terrorism. But for the religious leaders and their followers, any fight against Taliban is a fight against Islam. Religion thus becomes the sword arm of political militancy.

Marx described religion as the opium of the people. He has been proved wrong. Recent decades have shown that far from being the opium, religion is like a drug that excites them to persecute one another, to provoke them to commit (or at least support) the most monstrous crimes imaginable. At the same time, they claim for themselves sole possession of the truth.

Recent events have bared to the world in general the real face of religious ‘fundamentalism’ (fanaticism would be a better word) and have led us to believe that we have been cohabiting with the devil without ever realising his potential for evil.

Our spiritual leaders never tire of telling us that all religions preach love and kindness – that the salvation of the human race rests on the promotion of spirituality. They do not pause to ask themselves, if religion is such a good thing, why does so much unhappiness and bloodshed and conflict take place in its name. All around the world religious leaders are exhorting their followers to defend their faiths, to resort to violence if necessary, all in the name of God. While preaching love, they promote hatred.

Take our own Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari. For him, Afghanistan has become the holy land and Osama bin Laden the true messenger of Allah. He has announced jehad “to protect the greatness and respect of Islam’’. He has claimed that the Muslims of the world are with bin Laden.

The phenomenon of religious nationalism is an old one, but it is only in recent years that it has taken on such a violent nature. Its most horrendous manifestation appeared on September 11 in New York. Terrorism has now become global. It is closely connected with the narcotics trade and is well financed.

Jehad, I understand, is an Arabic word meaning ‘struggle’. According to the late Eqbal Ahmed of Pakistan, a prolific writer and Professor of International Relations at Hampshire College, Massachusetts, there are two forms, the small jehad and the big jehad. The small jehad involves violence, the big jehad involves struggle with self. He says: “Jehad as an international violent phenomenon had disappeared in the last four hundred years, for all practical purposes. It was revived suddenly with American help in the 1980’s. When the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator of Pakistan, saw an opportunity there for a jehad against godless communism. The USA saw a god-sent opportunity to mobilise one billion Muslims against what Reagan called the Evil Empire. Money started pouring in. CIA agents started going all over the Muslim world recruiting people to fight in the great jehad. Bin Laden was one of the early prize recruits. He was not only an Arab. He was also a Saudi. He was not only a Saudi. He was also a multi-millionaire, willing to put his own money into the matter. Bin Laden went around recruiting people for the jehad against communism’’.

It appears that Osama turned against the USA when he found that American troops were staying on in Saudi Arabia after they defeated Saddam Husain in the Gulf War.

Jehad and terrorism are so volatile they can change sides without any warning.

We do not yet know whether the Americans will catch Osama. Osama says he’ll be happy to become a martyr. He deserves to have his wish fulfilled.
Top

 

Nobel doctors fight against cancer
Harihar Swarup


From left: R.Timothy Hunt, Leland Hartwell, Paul M. Nurse

CANCER patients around the world cheer up. Three medical researchers have made a breakthrough in the treatment of the dreadful disease and new principles for cancer therapy may be available before long. The American researcher, Dr. Leland Hartwell, and British scientists, Dr. R. Timothy Hunt and Dr. Paul M. Nurse, have been honoured with the Nobel Prize in medicine for their key discoveries in the nature of cancer cell development. Fifty professors of Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, which constitutes the Nobel Assembly and votes for the winner of medicine, are optimistic that cancer may no longer be a killer ailment. The assembly declared the cheering news that years of research by the three men of medicine might soon open new principles for cancer therapy.

The human body is made up of billions of cells that divide as the body grows. Cancer develops when some cells start dividing in an abnormal way. The award-winning team made crucial breakthrough in understanding how cells control their division. An adult human being has approximately 1,00,000 billion cells, all originating from a single cell; the fertilised egg cell. In adults there is also an enormous number of continuously dividing cells, replacing those dying. The three Nobel Laureates have made seminal discoveries concerning the control of the cell cycle. Defects in cell cycle control invariably lead to development of cancer. Their discovery raises hope of the treatment of the hideous disease.

The year 2001’s award, incidentally, marks the 100-year anniversary of the first ever Nobel Prize awarded in 1901 and funded by the late Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor, Alfred Nobel. According to his will, the medicine award was “to go to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of medicine”. The first-ever medicine prize was given to German scientist, Emil Adolf von Behring for his discovery of a diphtheria vaccination.

Winners of this year’s Nobel come from different background but their mission was one; find cure for cancer. The 61-year old American researcher, Dr. Leland Hartwell, was once a rowdy teenager in Los Angeles. He was not rated as a bright student, barely made passing grades in High School and began his higher education in a community college. He received vocational training as a car mechanic and was supposed to help his father with neon sign business but destiny had willed something else for him. The course of his life changed when he met a physics teacher in college who realised something unique, if not weird, in Hartwell. It was the teacher who turned the young man to the wonders of science and the below-average student in his school is now a Nobel laureate. At present, Dr. Heartwell is a geneticist in world-renowned University of Washington and director of the Fred Hutchnson Cancer Research Centre.

Both Dr. Timothy Hunt and Dr. Paul Nurse are Englishmen, had brilliant academic career and currently working with Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London. While Dr. Hunt discovered the first cyclin molecule in the early 1980s, Dr. Paul Nurse followed Hartwell’s approach in using genetic methods for cell cycle studies. Both British scientists initially found hard to believe that they were awarded the Nobel but exclaimed with joy when a colleague of theirs showed their names on the Nobel Website. The reaction of Dr. Paul Nurse, who has been earlier given the title of “Sir” for his work, was that of bewilderment. “I started running around like a headless chicken when I heard the news,” Sir Paul Nurse, currently director general of the Cancer Research Fund, said.

Fiftynine-year old Dr. Hunt is not financially as well-off as his two co-Nobel laureates. He proposes to use the prize money to pay off his mortgage. Much younger in age—only 52— Sir Paul would like to upgrade his Kawaski motor cycle to a 500cc version. He would also like to go in for a bigger mobike. Scientists have weird hobbies; a Nobel Prize winner is a lover of fast moving motor cycles. The two British scientists have found how cells divide and this breakthrough is certain to help cancer therapy and tumour diagnosis. Already clinical trails are in progress and the treatment of cancer, like other terrible diseases like TB, may be on the anvil.

The two Britishreates were critical of the previous Tory government, which they say, neglected science for years. The researchers were underpaid, laboratories were allowed to decay but Tony Blair’s regime is doing a bit better.
Top

 
DELHI DURBAR

No command for Congress high command

THERE were days when the “high command” (read party President) of the Congress decided on anything and everything related to the party. This included the appointment of Chief Ministers of various Congress-ruled states. It was in the backdrop of this tradition that the Chief Minister of Pondicherry, P. Shanmugham, was handpicked for the job by the party high command in the Capital. So far, so good. But then there has been a slight hitch. Shanmugham is not a member of the Legislative Assembly and has to be elected within six months. Shanmugham has no problems getting elected, provided he is given a seat to contest. If Congress officials are to be believed none of the MLAs are willing to resign in favour of the Chief Minister. Even Congress President Sonia Gandhi has failed to persuade any of them to resign. Shanmugham has no option but to resign.

Party insiders, however, confide that the revolt does not mean that Sonia Gandhi’s hold on the party members is waning. It is just a strategy. After Tamil Nadu strongman and supporter of Shanmugham G.K. Moopanar’s death in August and the ouster of J. Jayalalitha as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Shanmugham is of no use to Congress.

Balanced George

With the return of George Fernandes as the Defence Minister there is hope as well as disappointment among the senior officials of the armed forces. Jaswant Singh’s term as Defence Minister had seen misunderstanding cropping up among the armed forces, especially the Army and the Air Force. There was a feeling in the Indian Air Force that Singh, who is himself a retired Major from the Army, was siding with the force he had served. Most of his decisions allegedly reflected a bias towards the Army and this had made the Air Force officials quite unhappy.

Now there is a feeling that parity would be restored and George Fernandes would be taking decisions, particularly those related to reorganising and integration of the armed forces, with much more care than was done earlier. The IAF officials, who had felt left out in the earlier decisions, believe that Fernandes would be able to do justice to all three forces.

They also feel that in this restructuring, the appointment of the first Chief of Defence Staff would be delayed as Fernandes is expected to go into details of each aspect before giving his consent for the proposal. This could be disappointing for the Army, which was expected to gain the most in the restructuring. The Army’s loss it seems is the Indian Air Force’s gain.

BJP reorganisation

With BJP strongman Narender Modi quitting as the party general secretary to take over as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, there is talk of reorganisation in the ruling party. Party observers are speculating that Rural Development Minister, M. Venkaiah Naidu, would be recalled to take up a party post. Naidu, who on the day of his swearing-in had mentioned that party work was his first love, may not mind a senior party post.

It is being suggested that a special post of Secretary-General is likely to be created for Naidu and he would be the number two in the party hierarchy, next only to the president. Seen as an efficient manager and excellent organiser, the party hopes to cash in on Naidu’s rich experience to tide over the coming elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Classified history

Classified information on the various wars fought by India could be available to the public soon. The Government has decided to constitute a review committee on war history to examine the issue of publication of official war histories for open sale. Headed by former Defence Secretary N Vohra, the committee would review the official histories of Indo-Pak war of 1971, Indo-Pak war of 1965, the 1962 conflict with China and Operation Pawan — IPKF in Sri Lanka.

The committee would have access to all relevant documents, including classified ones, in both the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs and it would recommend or reject their publication for open sale. The recommendations are expected by December 31. Observers say considering the fact that all wars were fought under the Congress regime, there could be a “tehelka” on some of the “dubious” decisions.

Matching wit

When it comes to cracking witty one-liners, there is no match for the Congress chief spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy. His deputy, Anand Sharma, often tries his level best to match Reddy even if it means taking the help of journalist friends.

The other day when Sharma was briefing the press on the VHP leaders’ forceful entry into the disputed site in Ayodhya, he quoted a slogan coined by a journalist friend to attack the BJP. “BJP ek dharam nirpeksh party nahin, sharam nirpeksh party hai ,” he said.

Advantage Pakistan

India’s loss in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks on the US has not been confined to the diplomatic turf alone. Pakistan’s new found closeness with the world’s only superpower could hit India on the economic front too. The garment sector seems to be the first casualty. With the USA and the European Union deciding to give preference to Pakistan in trade-related matters, garment exports from that country is expected to get a major boost. In other words people in the USA and Europe would be wearing more of clothes made in Pakistan. The catch is with garment exports increasing from Pakistan, the two economic giants would require to cut costs elsewhere. Well it seems Pakistan’s increased exports would be at the cost of India. India’s garment exports to the EU and the USA account for nearly 40 per cent of its total exports of $5.5 billion.

Bad luck is not confined to the garments sector alone. When the Anthrax scare broke in the USA, Indian companies like Ranbaxy, which manufacture antibiotics for the disease, had hoped to cash in because of its cost competitiveness. Unfortunately, they have been told that an American company held the patent for the antibiotic in the USA and that the administration there could not import cheaper substitutes from abroad.

Contributed by T.V. Lakshminarayan, Girija Shankar Kaura and S. Sathyanarayanan.
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DIVERSITIES — DELHI LETTER

Disassociating religion from terrorism
Humra Quraishi

FIRST things first. Another anti-war demonstration would have been held here at the Vithalbhai Patel House lawns, this weekend (Saturday, October 20). Organised by SAHMAT this three-hour programme would have several amongst us to protest against “the unilateral declaration of war by the US on the entire Afghan people. And to reaffirm the commitment towards peace.” There would be readings by Arundhati Roy, Sharmila Tagore, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Praful Bidwai, Mushir ul Hasan, Prabhat Patnaik, Zoya Hasan, anti-war songs: Susmit Bose, Manu Kohli, anti-war poetry: Manglesh Dabral, Gauhar Raza, Vishnu Nagar and somewhere along would be interspread the verses of Sahir Ludhiyanvi: “Jang, jangon ke falsafe ke khilaf amn, pur amn zindagi ke liye....”

Another trend that has been more than writ large here is that this week alone saw two meets wherein several intellectuals took pains to try and disassociate religion from terrorism. To be nearer precision — tried to disassociate Islam from terrorism. The first meet was held last weekend at the India International Centre and second at Vithal Bhai Patel House wherein several (and these included Shabana Azmi, Justice Ahmadi, Javed Akhtar, Vinod Mehta , Mushirul Hasan, Tahir Mahmood and several others) persons took pains to try and rationalise the ostensible ‘link’ between religion and terrorism. In fact Ahmadi brought up a very vital query — have we bothered to ask ourselves the very crucial why — why this growing number of terrorists? And one doesn’t have to travel as far as the USA or Afghanistan to try and find out the reasons to it. A little introspection on our part would get us the ready answers.

The latest being this government’s very obviously biased decision to ban one communal outfit SIMI and not even casually touch the other communal outfits like the VHP and Bajrang Dal. And also the biases being introduced at the very elementary level , through distorted syllabi, which would cause divides, which in turn would lead to a new set of frustrated people….

Noam Chomsky

And quite appropriately in this changing world scenario, the Institute of Social Sciences has invited Professor Noam Chomsky to deliver this year’s D.T. Lakdawala Memorial Lecture on November 3, at the FICC auditorium. And once again quite appropriately the theme of this lecture will be: “Peering into the abyss of the future.”

Author of several books which include The Culture of Terrorism, Manufacturing Consent, American Power and the New Mandarins, Problem of Knowledge and Freedom, Profit over People, Noam Chomsky who teaches linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been described as “arguably the most important intellectual alive” and also as “perhaps the clearest voice of dissent in American history.....”

In fact, his coming here at this juncture can be labelled more than appropriate for when this Right Wing government is all set to go along the American way at least there’s going to be a voice of dissent. And a voice that cannot be really crushed. In fact, this brings me to write that till date those six students affiliated to PUDR and who were arrested last fortnight for distributing anti-US pamphlets have not been bailed out. So much for our pro-US stand!

American insensitivity

Whilst US Secretary of State Colin Powell and the high-powered — team were here (staying at Maurya Sheraton) they fed on Afghan delicacies. On one hand human flesh was being pounded by heavy bombardment in Afghanistan, members of this team relished the succulent meat at one of the restaurants of this hotel which boasts of the most authentic of Afghan cuisines. Ironically, around the same time I visited at least two Afghan families living here as refugees and they had nothing on their platter except two pieces of stale bread .....this demonstrates the new world order!

Amrita Sher-gil

Artist Vivan Sundaram is not just a nephew of Amrita Sher-gil but one of those who has taken pains to focus on his maternal aunt. In fact, last year he gave an illustrated lecture at the Hungarian Cultural Centre on Sher-gil in the so-called “European context” but towards the end of it, all wasn’t quite clear whether she was a bisexual, for there had been more than hints of a lesbian relationship she’d indulged in while she was living in Europe....probably we would get to know the finer details of it in the book that he has been compiling on her. But before that, he is coming up with yet another exhibition of digital photomontages titled “A retake of the Sher-Gil Archive: Stills from Amrita 2001.” This exhibition is being held at the Hungarian Cultural Centre and will start on October 29.
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