Sunday, December 2, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


POTO controversy and its various dimensions
A matter of national security
S. K. Datta
HE debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) has been politicised. The immediate reason for POTO is that the United Nations had asked all nations to enact urgently laws to curb terrorism. After the Sept 11 attacks, no nation can afford to sit back and relax.

Terrorism as election fodder
M. G. Devasahayam
ITH the crucial elections to Uttar Pradesh and Punjab assemblies and the Mumbai and Delhi Municipal Corporations, fast approaching, the BJP has been on a hyperactive mode searching for issues that can enthuse people to vote for them.


Benazir awaits third chance
Rakshat Puri
O judge from the various statements she has made, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto’s views appear to represent the views of the “silent majority” in Pakistan. They contrast significantly with those of the Musharraf military dictatorship.




Enron is sinking
December 1, 2001
Pointless posturing by ICC
November 30
, 2001
SGPC & Punjab poll
November 29
, 2001
Nepal’s (and India’s) crisis
November 28
, 2001
List of don’ts for MPs, MLAs
November 27
, 2001
Quickfix history
November 26
, 2001
War against terror: The public opinion conundrum
November 25
, 2001
What has Dalmiya done?
November 24
, 2001
BJP’s new stance
November 23
, 2001
Denness stumps cricket
November 22
, 2001
Call back the cricketers
November 21
, 2001
PM’s sangat darshan
November 20
, 2001

Osama will soon be forgotten
Abu Abraham

T was all over before you could say ‘Osama bin Laden’. Or so it would seem. The rout of the Taliban and the fall of Kabul, followed by Kandahar and Jalalabad, came suddenly and unexpectedly. Hardly any military or diplomatic analyst had predicted such a swift development. They had been writing about the USA’s strategy getting into a blind alley.


She is no longer hawkish & not the one to give up
Harihar Swarup
ALL it a quirk of destiny but what Gen.Musharraf could not perform, Benazir Bhutto has done and this may be a turning point in her tormented life. Pakistan's military ruler skipped “ziyarat” at the dargah of the Sufi Saint Kwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer following failure of the Agra summit while the former Prime Minister specially visited the holy shrine last week.


A different story behind the scenes
HE Congress may be putting up a united posture in Parliament over the George Fernandes issue. But behind the scenes it is an altogether different story. Just a couple of days back there was a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the Congress.


Situation in Pakistan doesn’t seem to be hopeless
Humra Quraishi
OME winter and this city witnesses a sudden rise in the number of seminars, an expected spurt in visitors from across the border. No, I am not hinting at Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s visit to New Delhi, but at others who didn’t make headline news.



A matter of national security
S. K. Datta

THE debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) has been politicised. The immediate reason for POTO is that the United Nations had asked all nations to enact urgently laws to curb terrorism. The USA enacted recently “Patriot Law” while the UK had passed Anti-Terrorist Act. After the Sept 11 attacks, no nation can afford to sit back and relax.

After the lapse of the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) in 1995, there was no special law to deal with the rising tide of terrorism in India. This was proving embarrassing in the international for as all countries of the world have since united to combat terrorism. To obtain international cooperation, the principle of dual-criminality has to be in place to facilitate arrests, searches, extradition of suspects from other jurisdictions. This is the legal way to deal with terrorism which has invariably a global reach.

Terrorism threatens the national security as terrorism has a political agenda unlike organised crime which is purely motivated by monetary profit. National security involves safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation against coercive/hostile actions by other states or their agents in order to preserve the real freedom that citizens enjoy to pursue the objectives they have reason to value.

In India, 90 per cent of terrorist cases originate from our hostile neighbour. The conflict situation in India arising from dissatisfaction are exploited by the ISI establishing links with such forces promising to promote their causes. Thus the ULFA’s agenda, inter alia, was to prevent infiltration of Bangladeshis into Assam. This agenda was hijacked by the ISI in 1990 when the entire leadership visited Pakistan for discussion. While helping the ULFA, the ISI was also pushing its own agenda to create a separate Muslim state in the North East.

In the investigation of a case detected two years ago, it was found that the local Assam Mujahideen groups had already been created and trained for armed insurgency. These groups have linkages with Jamait-e-Islami of Bangladesh and the ISI operating from Bangladesh.

In South India, not too long ago, Bangalore and Hyderabad based Deendar Anjuman did try seriously to create a communal division in the country by organising a series of blast in churches. The motivation for such act comes from the present chief of Anjuman who resides in Mardan city of Pakistan. When initially the cases remained undetected all sorts of allegations were levelled against certain parivar organisations. After the detection of these cases, no political leader came out with strong condemnation against the designs of the Pakistan sponsored acts of religious sacrilege.

Every effort is being made to revive insurgency situation in Punjab by the ISI. For this to happen the Pakistan Government positioned an ISI Gen (Retd) Javed Nasir as President of the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. It is like appointing a Hindu as Chief of the Jama Masjid, Delhi. He is a fundamentalist of the Tableegi Jamaat and openly meets so-called Khalistani elements in Pakistan. On Pakistan Day, expatriates, who still hold on with the ideology of Khalistan are invited, entertained and are shown on PTV for inciting insurgency in Punjab. Therefore, the security threat concerning the survival of Indian state cannot be ignored or sidelined. The externally induced internal terrorism needs to be tackled. Incidentally, the Pakistan TV is now in the forefront in launching a campaign against POTO.

Terrorism is relatively a new area of serious crime. The existing laws provide only interrogation of suspects for not more than 15 days under police remand. Filing of chargesheet has to be completed within 90 days, otherwise, the accused gets bail automatically. No terrorist case can be investigated within 90 days. POTO takes care of this situation by increasing the period of police remand of accused from 15 days to 30 days, and filing of chargesheet from 90 days to 180 days.

For purposeful investigation, the arrested suspects need to be thoroughly interrogated. This cannot be completed within 15 days of police remand. The suspects do not open up with their version within that short period. Therefore, the period of police remand has been increased to 30 days from 15 days. In the recent US case of September 11, suspect Zacarius, a French citizen of Morrocan origin was arrested a month before the incident, and who is now strongly suspected to be the 20th accused of the September 11 case, has not yet started speaking in spite of long detention.

The previous law i.e. TADA didn’t provide tools for new methods of evidence collection. ‘Intercepts’ were not legally admissible as piece of evidence to prove conspiracy or links with other conspirators. This was a big lacuna which has since been plugged by providing intercepts as valid evidence.

The Press apprehends danger to their freedom as they may be charged for not disclosing their contacts with the terrorist organisation when they happen to cover them for news. This apprehension is understandable and therefore 14 (1) and 14 (2) needs to be re-drafted putting obligation only to furnish information by authorities which should include banks, companies, firms or legally constituted institution and establishments. This should not be considered as dilution of the ordinance. This provision exists under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

There is apprehension that POTO may be misused for political reasons as was the case when TADA was in force. This apprehension is equally of concern to many. Therefore, there should be a provision in the law by way of relaxation of Section 154 Cr. PC that a case under the Ordinance could only be registered on the written approval of the jurisdictional IG. In CBI in the past all TADA cases were registered under the orders of the Director. In some instances, permission to register TADA cases were even refused. This was done to prevent misuse of the Act. It is now felt necessary to have an in-built provision in the ordinance for registration of cases on the specific orders of a very senior police officer of the rank of IG of the jurisdiction.

Section 32 (1) deals with confession made to police officers as an admissible piece of evidence under this Ordinance. By way of precaution Section 32 (5) provides a provision for re-recording of the statement before a Chief Metropolitan Magistrate or Chief Judicial Magistrate as the case may be.

There is a shortcoming in the provision as it does not say that the Police Officer recording the confession should not be the one who is investigating the case. By way of abundant precaution, the CBI ensured induction of police officer not below the rank of SP from another jurisdiction, not connected with the case, to record such confessions. Therefore, this section needs to be amended to ensure recording of confession by an officer unconnected with the investigation of the case.

Section 36 provides appointment of an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India to accord permission for interception of communications by wire or otherwise. This power is exercised in other countries by judicial officers. If the power is to be exercised by an executive officer, then he or she should not be below the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India.

POTO needs to be supported on grounds of our human right obligations. It is preventive and punitive. Thousands of policemen and army officers and men have sacrificed their lives in fighting insurgency and proxy war. A stitch in time saves nine.

The present scheme under the Constitution does not allow some serious criminal cases like terrorism to be treated as federal offences. In the USA, terrorism is a federal crime to be investigated by the FBI. It is time now to allow a public debate on the concept of federal offence to deal with crimes having serious inter-state and international ramifications.

Terrorism is an aggravated offence. The ISI-sponsored terrorism have a political agenda of annexation of Kashmir, revival of insurgency in Punjab, creation of a Muslim state in Assam and balkanisation of India. How can the leadership of the country ignore such genuine threats? The country needs to be secured from externally induced terrorism. The situation is either we win or perish as a nation.

The writer is former Director, CBI.



Terrorism as election fodder
M. G. Devasahayam

WITH the crucial elections to Uttar Pradesh and Punjab assemblies and the Mumbai and Delhi Municipal Corporations, fast approaching, the BJP has been on a hyperactive mode searching for issues that can enthuse people to vote for them. At their Golden Jubilee celebrations held a couple of weeks ago, the BJP’s chief strategist Mr. L.K.Advani commended the party’s role in the Ayodhya movement and gave a clarion call to “continue to propagate the Ram Janmabhoomi project in the right perspective and carry it forward”. This was interpreted as reinstallation of Lord Ram as the icon and Ram Janmabhoomi as the platform to exploit the emotive issue of ‘Faith’ for garnering votes, particularly in UP.

Within days, meeting at the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, the BJP National Executive Committee decided to add another emotive issue to their arsenal. This time it was ‘Fear’ and terrorism that instills fear was to become an election issue. The BJP made no bones about it and the party spokesman V.K. Malhotra unequivocally declared: “Terrorism is going to be the main issue in the forthcoming elections”. The Prevention Of Terrorism Ordinance [POTO] promulgated by the Centre was adopted as the mascot that would form the core of this strategy. Mr. Advani was elated and added the punch line. “We’re in a win-win situation. Those who are opposing POTO are wittingly or unwittingly appeasing the terrorists”, he said drawing the electoral battle lines sharp and clear.

It looks as if Mr. Advani is on target. By this ‘two-in-one’ packaging of ‘Faith & Fear’, the BJP is probably aiming to capture the core of the human mind deeply influenced by these two conflicting emotions. ‘Faith’ has been left to Hindutva specialists in the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal and the mainstream party front liners comprising Cabinet and State Ministers have taken up ‘Fear’. This Minister brigade has hit the ground running with high profile canvassing through press columns, talk show cum debates on TV, focused interviews and newspaper articles. The refrain closely follows the line of the current master-blaster of international terrorism George W. Bush: “Terrorism is evil; we are saints; if you are not with us you are with the terrorists”. They are positioning POTO as the magic wand that will make terrorism disappear with the caveat that: “If you oppose POTO you are appeasing terrorists”.

Some of the arguments marshaled by the proponents of POTO are contained in Union Minister of State I.D.Swami’s article in ‘The Tribune’ (Nov 11). Prominent among these is that it was the Congress party’s Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who have enacted MISA and TADA respectively during their Prime Ministership. Congress opposing POTO is hypocrisy since they have enacted similar laws in Maharashtra and Karnataka. There is no other course open for the government when threats to civil society acquire a virulent form beyond the control of the existing provisions of law so the argument goes. Proponents of POTO must pause and consider as to why things have “gone beyond control of the existing provisions of law”. It is simply because India has one of the most archaic and decadent systems of criminal justice dominated by policemen who are increasingly becoming mercenaries of politicians in power.

POTO is meant to fight terrorism more effectively, says Mr. Swami. According to him, “Terrorism has after all acquired catastrophic dimension. Considering the seriousness of the situation created by the terrorists and also considering their ability to shock humanity, harsher laws to deal with them is more than justified. When extraordinary situations have been created by terrorists, extraordinary laws are needed to deal with them”. Nothing could be farther from truth. The extraordinary situation referred to is created solely because of the nexus between criminals who indulge in organised crime and political leadership who benefit from it. This nexus was clearly established in the ‘Delhi’s Sikh massacre’ and ‘Bombay blast’ cases, which are among the most violent criminal acts in recent times. Yet not one person who indulged in these heinous crimes years ego has been brought to justice so far and all that the rulers want is “extraordinary laws”!

Perhaps the most dangerous argument put forth by POTO proponents is that freedom is something that can be abridged at will. According to them “The greatest right is the right to live. What the terrorists want to take away is the very life of unsuspecting innocent people wanting to lead a peaceful life. This is a fight between those who ‘deny right to live to others’, and those who ‘defend their right to live’. Survival is the most important right of the people and to ensure that there is nothing that he cannot give up, civil liberties and rights included. The Indian society will have to decide which of these two — ‘a bit of curtailed rights’ or ‘cut-short life’ — is preferable. We certainly can live with a bit of curtailed civil liberties and human rights”.

This is preposterous. These worthies want India to be legislated into a ‘police state’ with the very arguments put forth by Indira Gandhi to impose emergency, suspend fundamental rights and extinguish democracy. The slogan then was ‘bread is more important than freedom’. Jayaprakash Narayan countered it with a loud declaration: “Freedom is too precious a gift to be compromised for bread, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else”. Ironically, the present BJP rulers who stood behind JP and overthrew the emergency rule are now coming with the specious theory that ‘security is more important than freedom’ and the Congress party is opposing it. During the emergency, the Congress government argued that individuals have ‘no right to life’. Now BJP stalwarts are saying people should give up liberty just for the privilege of living. Indeed, the charade seems to have come full circle!

The BJP brigade duly supported by their ‘natural ally’ Ms.Jayalalitha seem to be very condescending on the police: “Abuse of power is always a possibility and that applies to all in authority. Even the existing laws have conferred tremendous powers in the policemen including the power to arrest and deprive personal liberties. An essential and urgently required legislative measure cannot be delayed till we radically reform the police and make them not to succumb to the arrogance of power and temptations of corruption”. Indeed true. What else can a bunch of people who cannot govern do except to heap powers on the police and helplessly watch ‘we the people’ shrieking and shrinking in terror? This has become a regular happening in Tamil Nadu once known for fair and just governance. Even after heaping such enormous powers on the police, “the new law does not guarantee end of terrorism but it will certainly impede motivation of terrorists to commit terror acts”. Hopefully so and one must keep one’s fingers crossed and be thankful for small mercies.

Terrorism, in the absence of any elaborate definition, could be described as “usage of methods of extreme fear for governing or for coercing government or community”. It is immaterial as to who uses these methods — individuals, organisations or governments. From the way police and politicians are functioning these days, POTO itself could become a ‘method of extreme fear’. To enact such a law may make the Government feel good as it can claim it has done something to deal with the very real menace of terrorism. But, without radically reforming politics and civil services to provide good governance and overhauling the system of criminal justice involving the police, prosecution and judiciary to render speedy and equitable justice enacting this law or any other law that takes away the liberties of the people is purposeless.

Laws such as POTO can only help give legal cover to the police for blatant acts of terrorism against innocent people. This will seriously jeopardise whatever freedom is left for the people of this impoverished land for whom the only pride is its fabric of democracy.

Be that as it may, elections in India are perceived more as ‘manipulation of mind’ than political and economic agenda or performance. ‘Faith in the Lord and Fear of the terrorists’ could be the ‘brahmastra’ that may pierce people’s minds and force them to vote for those wielding the ‘trishul and the sword’. But if past is any lesson, it could also boomerang.

The writer is a former IAS officer.



Benazir awaits third chance
Rakshat Puri

TO judge from the various statements she has made, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto’s views appear to represent the views of the “silent majority” in Pakistan. They contrast significantly with those of the Musharraf military dictatorship. If the promised general election does take place in Pakistan next year in a free and fair manner, and if Benazir and her party are not prevented from participation, there is clear likelihood of her returning to power.

This is not to say that Benazir has not been tainted in the public mind with corrupt means and gains during her tenure in office. But as the Indian experience shows, people generally opt for a new government for a whiff of fresh air. Notably, while not differing from Musharraf’s opinion about J-K as the “core issue” and about Pakistan’s “strong case on Kashmir”, Benazir disagrees with his approach and methods. She prefers to focus not only on Kashmir but on other issues as well. For instance, she indicated her opposition to encouraging and supporting the Lashkar-e-Toiba and other fundamentalist “Islamic” organisations to take over “the indigenous political movement” in J-K. She would like to focus on “conflict management if we cannot immediately find a solution”.

Even as Benazir detailed her policy options before the media in New Delhi, Musharraf was reiterating on Pakistan Television that the Indo-Pak talks would have to focus on the “centrality of Kashmir”. He reiterated that there was a “split in the Indian Government” on the Kashmir issue. He brought up a four-stage plan for resolution of the issue: highest-level dialogue, agreement to focus on Kashmir, elimination of all suggestions not acceptable to both parties, and then discussion on an actual solution. There seems no place in his plan, as in Benazir’s approach, for an overall improvement in Indo-Pak relations.

Benazir has obviously been able to see that the socio-economic situation in Pakistan is apparently in ruins. The military rulers have allowed their so-called “strategic considerations” to guide them into self-injurious extravagance. They appear to have placed Pakistan’s national independence at the disposal of Chinese motivations and machinations in South Asia. If Benazir returns to power, will she have the courage, determination and resources to bring her country out of this morass?

In her address to the Confederation of Indian Industry, she argued for closer trade and commercial relations between India and Pakistan. She laid emphasis on her disagreement with the Musharraf regime and pointed out that “in our world today economic interests drive nation states into new political alignments”. Her fears about the alarming socio-economic situation in Pakistan are not misplaced, if popular opinion is considered.

For example, in a letter published by “The Friday Times” of Pakistan early last April, Zahid Hussain said an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis would, in order of preference, place employment, schools, hospitals and law-and-order “way before Kashmir”. Zahid recalled in the letter that “in 53 years of independence” official Pakistan had nothing to show but “a stock of 32 F-16s, 65 A-5s, 180 Mirages, 2050 MBTs, 350 surface-to-surface missiles, three naval destroyers, nine submarines, and three mine-sweepers. On the nuclear front, we have an estimated stockpile of 730 kg of weapons grade uranium (enough to make 36 nuclear weapons), four reactors, three uranium enrichment plants, two weaponisation sites, three milling sites, one heavy-water plant, one fuel-fabrication plant, and two plutonium-processing units”. All this, the letter added, had in part been achieved at the cost of “human deprivation”...

The question needs to be put to the military regime in Pakistan: Does the military regime understand the need for peace and de-escalation of tension at the borders? If it did, it would move to end cross-border terrorism, which Musharraf is pleased to call jehad. In addition to the socio-economic problems that face the military dictatorship, there are others that are gradually causing increasing alarm, nervousness and dismay in Pakistan’s general public.

There is for instance the increasingly serious sectarian trouble in the country — mainly Shia-Sunni. Figures reported last April indicated that between 1987 and 1989, some 22 people died in Pakistan’s Shia-Sunni clashes. In 1990, the number rose to 32. Forty-seven died in such clashes in 1991, nearly 60 in 1992, about 40 in 1993, and about 75 in 1994. This situation parallels separatist tendencies in Pakistan’s provinces.

The Programme Director of the World Sindhi Institute in Washington, Munawar Laghari, exclaimed in a newspaper interview some months ago: “Help us achieve freedom from Pakistan and the Kashmir problem will automatically resolve itself!”

He said, “We (in Sindh) believe Pakistan is not a natural country. It is a fraud perpetrated on the Sindhis and other oppressed nations — the Baluchis, the Saraikis, and the Pashtuns”.

All this seems to fit in with last year’s remark by Altaf Hussain, leader in exile of Pakistan’s mohajir organisation, Muttahida Qaumi Movement. He described the partition of the sub-continent as modern history’s biggest blunder. If Benazir returns to power, she would face problems relating to the very continuation of Pakistan, in its present form, as a nation-state. Would she be able to handle these problems? Would she be able to put through the plans and programmes highlighted in her speeches and conferences in India last week?

Benazir was unable to do so in her last two terms. She did have the intention even then. She voiced such an intention in course of an interview with this columnist at London in 1984. She could not give effect to the intention when she became Prime Minister because, in the system that has prevailed in Pakistan, the army and its Inter-Services Intelligence in the background have called the shots.

Will it be different next time — if and when next time comes? (Asian Features)



Osama will soon be forgotten
Abu Abraham

IT was all over before you could say ‘Osama bin Laden’. Or so it would seem. The rout of the Taliban and the fall of Kabul, followed by Kandahar and Jalalabad, came suddenly and unexpectedly. Hardly any military or diplomatic analyst had predicted such a swift development. They had been writing about the USA’s strategy getting into a blind alley.

Now the Americans and their allies can see their objectives clearly. The Taliban is finished for all practical purposes. Some groups may operate from the mountains, but as an organised force they have no future.

It was moving to see the joy on the faces of the young crowds that greeted the Northern Alliance forces. Not since the end of the Second World War were such scenes witnessed anywhere. After five years of barbaric oppression, the Afghans could listen to music, shave off their ugly beards, discard their burqas. Not many women were seen on the streets on that day of liberation, but it was, I’m sure, a day of deliverance for them.

What the jehadis call infidels are people who seek change, who do not want to be shut off from scientific progress. To call them fundamentalists is to mistake their evil frustrations, their hatred of their own physical desires, their lack of pleasure in their lives for some phenomenon called religion.

The Afghan war is a triumph for women’s liberation throughout the world. It is a challenge to mullahs and priests everywhere who seek to exert their power over their communities in the name of spirituality and love of God.

As I write these lines, Osama bin Laden is still ‘in hiding’, though reports say he is encircled by British and American ground forces. Religious bigots get sympathy and support from large segments of the population. Such was the case with Bhindranwale who set out to create a separate Sikh state. Once he was removed from the scene, his followers soon returned to their senses. Now, who thinks of Bhindranwale?

Osama is more like Hitler. Genocide is his ambition and his men are more scattered and widespread than were Hitler’s. If he is not destroyed now, he will destroy anyone who doesn’t fit in with his scheme of things — infidels of all kinds, including Muslims. Osama will soon be forgotten. Nobody will mourn him, certainly not the women of Afghanistan.

From India’s own national point of view, the major gain of the Afghan war is that Pakistan’s complicity in terrorism in the region has been exposed. The world now knows more about their role in the creation of Taliban than they did before. If it is still close to the USA, it is only because America needs her help in its war against terrorism. There is no ideological alignment of any kind. Pakistan for its part gets the financial help it badly needs. If America exerts some pressure to induce in Pakistan’s rulers some moderation on the Kashmir issue, we in India cannot hope for more. Some day Pakistan and India will come to terms with each other. After all the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland have almost come to an agreement.

The most remarkable development of the war in Afghanistan is the cooperation and military coordination between the two major powers, the USA and Russia. The Bush-Putin alliance is a major gain for the world and its peace and stability. Something like this couldn’t have been imagined even ten years ago. This cooperation can now be extended to international aid to better the lives of the poor people of the world. Afghanistan is the first tangible evidence of the benefits arising from the end of the Cold War. The paranoiac fear of Communism (without understanding the cause of it) had distorted all clear perceptions of the problems of the world. Every situation was judged on the basis of whether it would help the Communist powers or the Western powers without regard for the peoples or countries involved.

The disastrous Vietnam War was caused by the kind of crude thinking that John Foster Dulles showed when he spoke thus of the scene in South-east Asia (1954): “Under the conditions of today, the imposition on South East Asia of the political system of Communist Russia and its Chinese Communist ally, by whatever means, must be a grave threat to the whole free community. The United States feels that the possibility should not be passively accepted but should be met by united action”.

Looking back, it seems to me that Dulles was perhaps the most ignorant and bigoted of all the Secretaries of State that America has produced since World War Two.

Amulya Ganguly in the Hindustan Times tells the story of how Dulles was explaining to the famous journalist Walter Lippmann the need to have Pakistan on America’s side “because we could never get along without the Gurkhas”. Lippmann pointed out that the Gurkhas were in India. “Well”, said Dulles, “but they are Muslims aren’t they?” “No”, said Lippmann, “they are Hindus.” “No matter,”said Dulles. 



She is no longer hawkish & not the one to give up
Harihar Swarup

CALL it a quirk of destiny but what Gen.Musharraf could not perform, Benazir Bhutto has done and this may be a turning point in her tormented life. Pakistan's military ruler skipped “ziyarat” at the dargah of the Sufi Saint Kwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer following failure of the Agra summit while the former Prime Minister specially visited the holy shrine last week. Maybe, it is blind faith but according to popular belief "Amjer wahi ate hain jinhe kwaha bulate hain" (only those who are desired by Kwaja come to his shrine) and if one prays with pure heart, his wish is fulfilled. Benazir had visited the “dargah” in 1991 and she says "my prayers were heard". Having been banished from her own country, persecuted for years with her husband still languishing in jail in Pakistan, she needs the blessings of Kwaja more than ever. Faithful say her prayers may be heard this time too.

Benazir was barely 32 when she swept into the prime ministerial office for the first time in 1988, creating history; became the first woman head of the government in an Islamic country. Though smashingly charming, she had girlish look, considered inexperienced to be head of a government and sounded hawkish in her utterances. I had occasion to interact with her when Rajiv Gandhi visited Islamabad for the first time while on his way back home from Moscow. Her girlish looks notwithstanding, she was even then very sharp and articulate and, in some respect, better than her Indian counterpart. As Benazir and Rajiv addressed a joint press conference and sat side-by-side, they were indeed most handsome prime ministers of the world; both clicked with each other almost instantly and developed a rapport which was later manifested at the SAARC summit in Islamabad.

Benazir was in Delhi last week and she interacted with journalists. She has turned 48 and gone were the girlish looks; the strains of rough and tumble were clearly visible on her face. Two terms in the Prime Minister's office and the hard knocks of life — years in prison and in exile when out of power — made her a mature, determined, pragmatic and composed leader, having developed a clear perspective of developments in the subcontinent and the current world situation. She is no longer a hawkish Benazir, attacking India at the drop of a hat. She is convinced that there is no alternative for India and Pakistan but to cry halt to hostility and live in peace; this is the desire of the people of the two countries. She was honest enough to admit that she lost an opportunity in her second term as Prime Minister to normalise relations between the two countries having so many things in common. As a first step now, her party — the PPP — has proposed that New Delhi and Islamabad should begin negotiations on having "safe and open" border. She candidly admits that India had made such an offer which in other words means opening up "people-to-people contact" and hopes that the people of Pakistan will give her third chance to bring down "the invisible Berlin between our two countries". She does not agree with Gen Musharraf that Kashmir is the core issue and says the two countries can move forward in other spheres while trying to reconcile differences over J & K.

Benazir's immediate objective is to return her country irrespective of an hostile military regime and possibility of judicial harassment. Top on her agenda is restoration of democracy in Pakistan and for that, she feels, India as largest democracy and America as the most powerful democracy, have an important role. "Geopolitical situation in the region demands that army dictator should not be foisted on Pakistan as happened too often in the past". She feels that Gen.Musharraf may not hold elections and, even if he does so, it will be a sham poll.

Benazir has been a bold leader, a relentless fighter and her track record shows that she is not the one to give up. She spent more than five and half years in detention during Zia-ul-Haq's marshal law regime, underwent the trauma of the execution of her father, Z.A. Bhutto, whom she loved most but did not bent. When her government was dismissed and the National Assembly dissolved in November, 1996 by President Farooq Leghari, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was the focus of much of the criticism. She had, for whatsoever reason, appointed him Investment Minister in her government with Cabinet rank. He was accused of taking bribes and pocketing money from government contracts and had come to be known as "Mr 10 per cent".

It was a tragedy for Pakistan that Governments of both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif had acquired the image of the most corrupt dispensations. She was virtually foxed when asked at her Delhi press conference — “If it is not a fact that between you and Nawaz Sharif, democracy was damaged in Pakistan”? Evading that question she made a forceful plea for return of Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan.



A different story behind the scenes

THE Congress may be putting up a united posture in Parliament over the George Fernandes issue. But behind the scenes it is an altogether different story. Just a couple of days back there was a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the Congress. The issue that came to be discussed hotly in this forum was whether the Congress was doing the right thing by not putting questions to Fernandes in Parliament.

Senior leader Pranab Mukherjee opined the Congress was not doing the right thing. He even went to the extent of terming it “unconstitutional” and said the Congress attitude was bound to set a wrong example in Parliament. Almost echoing so-far-so-good approach, Mukherjee advocated for ending the party’s protest and restoring normalcy.

Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Chief Whip of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, joined issue with Mukherjee which soon snowballed into a debate. Other senior Congressmen like Arjun Singh, Manmohan Singh and Hansraj Bhardwaj also joined the issue. While Manmohan Singh and Bhardwaj supported Mukherjee, Arjun Singh found merit in Das Munshi’s argument. Eventually, the party decided to continue with its Fernandes policy. All’s well that ends well!

Opposition langar

The dinner hosted by senior CPI (M) leader Somnath Chaterjee for the Opposition party leaders in Lok Sabha was the toast of political circles in the past week and for a number of reasons. It is rarely that a CPI (M) leader hosts a dinner. It is still rare to find Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav coming together and nodding at each other. And then there was Sharad Pawar who has not been seen sharing the platform with Sonia Gandhi since he parted ways with the Congress.

But if you thought it was easy for Somnath Da to bring the disparate opposition leaders together it was not. To make sure that he was not criticised by the ‘bhadralok’ for trying to get too close to the Congress, Somnath Da had ensured that senior party leaders, specially from West Bengal, were present. Apart from Jyoti Basu there was Biman Bose, Left Front chairman in West Bengal and the state Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar was also present.

While no one took credit away from Somnath Chaterjee for organising the dinner, the new flexibility in the Congress posturing was also attributed to Shivraj Patil, the new Congress Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha who was the only other Congress leader present at the dinner. The Congress, the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha, had not forgotten the last session’s experience when the all-party meeting called by Sonia Gandhi was not attended by the SP and some of the Left parties. The BJP was quick to take note of Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition, going to a “smaller party”’ for an all-party get-togther. Though those at the dinner said that only floor coordination in Parliament was discussed, there was no mistaking that the meeting took place in the light of the coming assembly elections in UP where there is prospect of a division in the minority vote. But even going by official word of the dinner being for greater floor coordination, it had its pitfalls. The BSP was not there, nor was the AIADMK.

Breaking silence

The other day when BJP parliamentary party spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra hosted a lunch for newspersons, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee graced the occasion much to the cheer of scribes. However, the Prime Minister on the pretext of ‘Parliament in session’ chose to keep mum. It took a cheeky question by a scribe to break Vajpayee’s ‘Maun Vrat’. The Prime Minister could not hold himself back when he was asked if he had met Narasimha Rao recently as his style of functioning matched that of the former Congress Prime Minister. Vajpayee had a good laugh and finally opened up to give the much-needed news peg for the journalists. Thank you Mr Rao.

Balancing act

Dinners are not always for playing diplomacy with the Opposition. Food can help break barriers within the ruling party too. There was a stir in economic circles early this month when it was mentioned that the high-profile Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran’s name does not figure in the core ministerial team announced by the Prime Minister to keep a tab on the economic front. Was Maran paying a price for his inflexible stand on the ongoing WTO negotiations?

Having realised that a wrong message had gone out, Vajpayee immediately set matters right when he called the members of the Cabinet Committee on WTO for a tete-a-tete at a dinner party. Vajpayee went out of his way to commend the committee members on the excellent role they had played in defending India’s interests in the WTO. Most of the praise was directed at Murasoli Maran. Having mended fences, the next we heard from the PMO was that Maran was back in the core economic team of the Prime Minister.

Singles club

It proposes to be a singles club with a difference. The special members of this club are physically challenged people and they would make use of the internet to carry on their activities. Making it happen are the city-centric portal and city-based NGO, Voices. They have created “” a portal for the physically challenged. They hope the site would serve as a meeting ground for those seeking companions.

The portal would enable an online forum where people with disabilities may share information, links and views on a range of issues including access to public places, disability laws, employment and education. The Sign Language Club, the photo gallery, useful links and important events are slated to make a visit to the site memorable for the physically challenged.

Contributed by Rajeev Sharma, Prashant Sood, S. Satyanarayanan and T. V. Lakshminarayan.





Situation in Pakistan doesn’t seem to be hopeless
Humra Quraishi

COME winter and this city witnesses a sudden rise in the number of seminars, an expected spurt in visitors from across the border. No, I am not hinting at Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s visit to New Delhi, but at others who didn’t make headline news. Probably because they spoke along apolitical lines! Yes, times are such that apoliticals inevitably don’t make it to the 
front page.

At a meet hosted by Delhi Policy Groupand Friedrich Ebert Stiftung to coincide with a two-day seminar on ‘Peace initiatives in South Asia’, I met two such apoliticals from Pakistan —Ejaz Ahmad, News Editor of The Friday Times and Lieut -General Talat Masood. Both felt that the situation in the region is not hopeless and there was no immediate threat to President Pervez Musharraf, in spite of the downfall of the Taliban and the angry mood of the people.

While Ahmad told me about the tight spot the President has landed in, Masood even went down nostalgia lane, recounting how his grandfather found a burial space right inside the daragah of Nizamuddin Aulia while adding that President Musharraf’s last-minute cancellation to visit the dargahs of Aulia and Chishti in Delhi and Ajmer respectively was seen as a bad omen. But some of other ‘peace initiators’ at this 
meet, from the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh were vocal about the dismal developments around.

Let me add that very recently, though prior to the latest round of developments in Nepal, I had met Manjushree Thapa , the lovely looking daughter of the Nepalese envoy to India and whose first novel will be launched here next month (incidentally it is perhaps one of the first novels to be set in Nepal). She told me that she is already begun working on her second novel which deals with the latest developments in Nepal with particular focus on the royal massacre and the political fallout thereafter.

Based in Kathmandu, this young woman is writing this book which will have all the political frills webbed around the Palace intrigues. I think I had mentioned in the confines of this column that immediately after the massacre of the royal family a keen observer of developments in Nepal had commented that monarchy was on its way out and that the Maoists would take over. Current developments seem quite in keeping with this.
And just a day back I met JKLF’s Yaseen Malik at New Delhi’s Hurriyat office. He had returned a night before from the USA (he was there for a round of surgeries) and he seemed angry about the implementation of POTO in Srinagar. Perhaps the first case of POTO implementation or say misuse. But he refused to give any statement “No , I am not giving any statement here..I will reach Sringar tomorrow and issuesvtatement there....but I know all this is happening because of the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh”.

He ruled out any side effects in J&K because of the developments in Afghanistan and added that they were two totally separate issues.

Unlike others, Malik doesn’t speak more than two sentences at a time, but each word seems very carefully chosen and uttered after much pondering. I have been pondering ever since he told me that it was time apoliticals like “Kuldip Nayar, Rajmohan Gandhi are involved in a series of dialogues with Kashmiri people”. Why don’t politicians here at the Centre involve apoliticals to bridge the gap that has come about before the situation turns even more hostile? Let me also add that this weekend Serbjeet Singh and his son Karamjeet Singh will hold the first screening of the 15-part film made by them. Titled ‘Kashmir’, I am not sure whether this series deals with the scenic beauty of the state or its political chaos. Watch this space.

On December 8, ‘Champa’ — the Amiya and BG Foundation — will hold a day-long seminar on violence against women. Speakers including Khush Rukh Kabir from Bangladesh and Hina Jilani from Paksitan and Qurrat-ul-ain from Srinagar will speak on the state of women. I really don’t know whether there are any follow-ups once these seminars get over.


Iftaar diplomacy continues as blatantly as before. Though I purposely didn’t attend the one hosted by Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaaz Hussain on November 29 (because it is time we put our foot down to the ongoing facades around), there is news that some of the others are planning a ‘sehri’ get together. Sehri is held pre-dawn when one commences the fast. So the pendulum shifts from one end to the other.


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