Clipping the wings
Balancing the scales
The will to win
Indo-Pak issues not for Summit
JK militancy casts its shadow on Himachal
Clipping the wings
THE euphoria in the Congress ranks over the Judeo embarrassment faced by the BJP is proving to be short-lived. The Election Commission notice to it on the misuse of Chhattisgarh state-owned aircraft and helicopter by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker Shriniwas Tiwari has come as an equally debilitating bolt from the blue. The Congress has in a way been told that it runs the risk of derecognition as a national party if it does not give a satisfactory reply to the show-cause notice within seven days. The Election Commission says the state plane and helicopter had been used by the Congress leaders on and after October 6 – the date of announcement of the election schedule when the model code of conduct came into operation – up to November 12 as many as 10 times. The Congress is equally emphatic that Ms Gandhi had not used the aircraft on the dates mentioned by the EC.
It is common knowledge that politicians in power tend to treat official machinery as a hired prop during elections. Despite the best efforts of the election panel, they manage to circumvent the law. But the use of aircraft may not be that easy to hide, especially since it is clearly codified that ministers shall not combine their official visit with electioneering work and shall not make use of official machinery or personnel during electioneering work.
The reaction of the Congress spokesman is facetious. He says it needs to be examined why there is a bar on other parties hiring planes owned by state governments when the Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister are allowed to hire IAF planes. He should know that there is a special law in the case of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for reasons of security. Ms Gandhi does not occupy any of these positions. A line has to be drawn somewhere and the Leader of the Opposition or Chief Ministers cannot demand an accommodation after an irregularity has been committed. In place of seeking a change in rules at this stage, the Congress should come clean whether or not it broke them.
Balancing the scales
THE Supreme Court’s decision to transfer the corruption cases against Ms J. Jayalalithaa to a special court in Bangalore would certainly hurt the Chief Minister. It amounts to a severe indictment of her government as the court has come to the conclusion that the process of justice could be subverted in Tamil Nadu. It is also a reflection of the functioning of the Madras High Court, which could not measure up to her machinations. It did not find anything amiss when 64 of the 74 witnesses, including many senior police officers, turned hostile when they were recalled for deposition. The public prosecutor did not raise any objection when her counsel asked for re-examination of those witnesses. Obviously, he was acting as the cat’s-paw with a view to weakening the cases against her. Had the Supreme Court not intervened, she could have got away.
It is not surprising that Ms Jayalalithaa tried to influence the outcome of the cases. In many ways the case has resemblance to the Best Bakery case in Baroda where too every witness turned hostile making a mockery of the criminal justice system. Sooner than later, the apex court has to decide on the National Human Rights Commission’s petition to transfer all the riot cases in Gujarat to outside the state. Now that a precedent has been set, it is a warning to those in power trying to influence judicial verdicts.
There is no guarantee that with the transfer of the cases against Ms Jayalalithaa to Bangalore, justice will ultimately prevail. By virtue of the post she holds, she will still be able to exert undue influence on the witnesses, many of whom are government servants. Similarly, it is her government which appoints prosecutors whose job is to prosecute her. Thus there are umpteen ways in which she can manipulate the cases to her advantage. It is for the court to see through her game and stop the Chief Minister in her tracks. One can only hope the Karnataka High Court will succeed where the Madras High Court has failed.
The will to win
JUST about every cricket playing country has nice things to say about India. Even the Indian crowds, made up of undemanding fans, take little time in putting the players on a pedestal most of them do not deserve. If the Indian team is so good, why does it fail to deliver? There is no doubt that Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, Virendra Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif are among the top one-day players in international cricket. Yet in tournament after tournament, in match after match, the so-called superstars, with a few exceptions, keep letting the country down. Most of them develop a Viv Richards-type swagger without the talent that made bowlers tremble with fear when he came out to bat.
Tuesday's final of the triangular series between India and Australia once again proved that the Indian players have not yet realised the importance of playing as a team. For once the bowling was adequate, but the fielding was sloppy. Laxman had apparently forgotten to remove the butter from his fingers when he came out to field. There may be some merit in the argument that the Eden Garden wicket was under-prepared. The long Indian monsoon did not allow the ground staff enough time to put the wicket in order for the crucial match. Mohali would have been a better choice for holding the final keeping the weather factor in mind.
In any case, the disadvantage of playing on an under-prepared wicket should have worked against both Australia and India. Ricky Ponting must have felt that he had made a mistake by deciding to bat after winning the toss. A target of 235 looked reachable. Unfortunately, only Tendulkar seemed to have understood the nature of the wicket and wisely decided to play a wait and watch innings. The rest of the batters simply gifted their wickets to the second string Australian attack. But the most important factor why Indian players seem to give up without a fight is the absence of the killer instinct. Or mental toughness that wins matches.
Thought for the day
Indo-Pak issues not for Summit
ADDRESSING the Combined Commanders’ Conference of the armed forces on November 1, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave India’s top military brass a bird’s eye-view of the global and regional parameters that define the country’s quest for national security. The armed forces commanders were told that India couldn’t confine itself to basing its foreign and security policies on the goodwill of any single power. Being nonaligned involved partnership with a variety of countries. If Brazil, South Africa and China were key partners and indeed allies in the WTO, the United States and Russia were important partners on issues of national security and in confronting the menace of terrorism. He spoke of the new dynamism that characterises our relations with ASEAN and the need for new and innovative approaches to deal with the differences with China. He categorically rejected the narrow Pakistan-centric vision that is widely prevalent in our security establishment. He defined India’s security perimeters as extending across the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca, including Central Asia and Afghanistan in the northwest, China in the northeast and extending to South-East Asia.
While New Delhi can derive satisfaction from the developments in its relations with major power centres in the world, its imaginative approach to the WTO and its growing economic integration with ASEAN, it cannot be too pleased with the developments in its South-Asian neighbourhood. Led by a hawkish General Musharraf, the Pakistan military establishment continues to believe that resort to nuclear blackmail and terrorism will force India to yield in Kashmir and elsewhere. Nepal is confronting a deadly Maoist insurgency, with its ruler appearing determined to address this challenge by stifling democratic freedoms. Bangladesh, led by Begum Khaleda, makes some noises professing friendship, while fomenting insurgencies in the Northeast. And Sri Lanka is in the midst of a constitutional crisis, as the peace initiative launched by Prime Minister Wikremesinghe lies mired in uncertainty, with the LTTE determined to dismember the country. Complicating matters for New Delhi is the growing propensity of external powers to meddle in the internal affairs of South Asian countries. If the Norwegians show little understanding of the imperatives of national unity in Sri Lanka, the Americans have been slow in realising that a Maoist insurgency in Nepal can be dealt with only by a judicious combination of democratic political accommodation, socio-economic transformation and military force.
It is in this environment that India has to prepare for the forthcoming SAARC Summit in Islamabad, scheduled for the first week of January 2004. General Musharraf and his publicity hounds will spare no effort to portray that an “obdurate” India is missing a golden opportunity to engage in a bilateral dialogue. And there will be no dearth of scribes from India who will echo this view. The entire effort will be to reduce the SAARC summit to an Indo-Pakistan soap opera. It is for this reason that New Delhi has to go to the Summit with a positive agenda. Foremost among the items to be focused on is the finalisation and signing of a framework agreement on a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). It is evident that Pakistan has been pushed to a corner and sees no alternative to signing such an agreement. But the Pakistan Commerce Minister has at the same time categorically stated that India will be granted MFN trade facilities only when the differences over Kashmir are resolved. Pakistan’s strategy will, therefore, be to pretend that it is cooperating on moves for a SAFTA while actually refraining from taking any measures to implement what is agreed upon.
Pakistan agreed in Kathmandu to implement the proposals envisaged in the report submitted by the SAARC “Group of Eminent Persons”. Under these proposals Pakistan is obliged to move towards removing all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade with India and other SAARC members by 2008. This process has to commence immediately, with a 20 per cent reduction in tariffs annually, if the schedule of removing all trade barriers by 2008 is to be adhered to. Pakistan is also obliged to change its present trade policies by replacing its list of restricted items permitted for import from India with a small and steadily dwindling negative list. New Delhi should insist that Pakistan establishes its bona fides and commitment to South Asian economic integration only if it takes these measures. The Islamabad summit should also agree on comprehensive measures for the harmonisation and mutual recognition of standards, adoption of common tariff nomenclatures, harmonisation of customs and procedures and having a provision of transport and transit facilities.
Addressing SAARC Information Ministers on November 11, Prime Minister Vajpayee served notice that if Pakistan went on stalling progress on economic integration in South Asia by repeating its hackneyed clichés about bilateral differences hampering regional cooperation, it would lead to the increasing marginalisation and indeed irrelevance of SAARC. “If SAARC cannot organise itself, it will simply miss the boat”, Mr Vajpayee asserted. He went at length to point out how bilateral differences and historic animosities had not come in the way of economic integration in ASEAN and Europe. He also pointedly referred to the fact that India did have other routes through groupings like BIMSTEC to move ahead with measures for constructive economic cooperation if Pakistan chose to persist with its present ways. The strategy that India will adopt at the Islamabad SAARC Summit is now taking shape. It will involve telling Pakistan, other SAARC members and the international community that while India is desirous of promoting regional economic cooperation, it will not allow Pakistan, or any other country to stymie the promotion of such cooperation because of territorial ambitions, or imagined grievances.
While New Delhi is placing considerable attention on its diplomatic strategy to make SAARC a meaningful forum for regional cooperation, it would do well to ensure that the Islamabad summit does not end in a media fiasco and indeed disaster like the much-hyped Agra Summit. I have noticed how upset India’s SAARC neighbours get when the media gets excessively engrossed in photographing and covering only what transpires between this country and Pakistan during regional conferences. New Delhi should take measures to see that our spokesmen, particularly the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary are available on a continuing basis to interact with the media during the summit. Secondly, questions from the media on India-Pakistan relations should be responded to by pointing out that the SAARC Summit is not an occasion to focus on bilateral problems. Finally, maximum publicity should be given to the Prime Minister’s meetings with leaders of various countries other than Pakistan.
Mr Vajpayee very tactfully put paid to Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid’s efforts to seek to convey a “message” from Prime Minister Jamali during the New Delhi meeting of Information Ministers. It is important to tell Pakistan that it should not expect to let its unrealistic ambitions for “parity” with India to cloud the reality that within SAARC, Pakistan is nothing more than one of the six members who share common land and maritime frontiers with India. Nothing used to amuse me more in Pakistan than the exertions of some scholars there to describe the Indian subcontinent as the “Indo-Pak” subcontinent. Carried to its logical conclusion, they will next demand that the Indian Ocean should be renamed the “Indo-Pak Ocean”!!
LIFE begins with the L of libido and ends with the E of end. Sandwiched between L and E is if. Yes, life is full of ifs. It is really iffy. In more ways than one. It spares none. But one has to get along with it, warts and all.
In days of yore, life was generally simple and straight, with few diversions. It had a rhythm. Pace was predictable. One could plan and programme for the present and near future. A blissful blend of matter and spirit scripted the profile of a man of moderate means. Utilisation or exploitation of material resources was dictated by the need rather than the greed.
Fast forward to the last two decades of the twentieth century. Technology drives our lives. Rather recklessly. Call it the business of technology or the technology of business, we all are stewed in our own juices.
Merchants of wealth manage the modern day living and life. It is all about managing contradictions. Take the burgeoning fast food industry, a rage among all age groups. Aided and abetted by hefty ad-spends and media blitzkrieg, fast food has made its consumers slow and slothful. But the bane of obesity has come as a boon for the flourishing fitness industry. A network of gyms, aerobic centres, yoga experts, and dieticians et al is benignly beholden to the patronising couch potatoes proliferating by the day. Treadmill manufactures must be busy minting money.
Ditto for icecreams, colas and chocolates, which have, became an integral part of modern life. Side by side, there exists a whole range of remedies to cure diabetes which threatens to debilitate half the population, especially the youths. The tale of tobacco and paan - masala promoters is no different. To heal the havoc wrought by their products, seductive substitutes are being researched and retailed, boring a hole both in the body and pocket of the addict.
So the modern mantra is, produce an angel which sooner than later will become a devil, to counter him produce another angel and so on and on. Let the good and the evil coexist, woe betide the consumer who is hailed as the King!
Information technology has scripted numerous successful stories of our times. But who will save the nerds turning into spine - sick morones? Popularity of mobile phones has been hailed as the biggest ever experiment on human brains drowned in radio waves. Sure enough, shortly we will be flooded with a plethora of research and remedies. Another industry in the making.
Look at the top notch pharma sector. It claims to have a solution to almost every problem. Never mind if the solution begets a fresh set of problems. Any allopathic medicine does have sideeffects that might be more serious and complex than the patient ever bargained for. Transient relief at getting rid of an ailment gives way to uncertainty, doubt and fright. On the other hand, medical experiments and research go on and on, winning new frontiers, though victimising the poor patient. About horrors of adulteration in drugs and eatables, the less said the better.
Modernists say that longevity has increased. But does adding more years mean more happiness? Perhaps not. A diseased body kept on the crutches of drugs, dos and don’ts and pacemakers is akin to a person clad in tatters, trying to enjoy the snowfall.
JK militancy casts its shadow on Himachal
THE unexorcised ghosts of terrorism from neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir have cast a looming shadow over the “Dev Bhoomi” Himachal Pradesh, disturbing its heavenly peace in the recent past.
The spillover of militancy from J and K into Himachal, particularly the vast mountainous Chamba district, has often shattered its peace and signalled dangerous portents for the hill state. Sporadic incidents of militant violence in the district adjoining the Doda and Kathua area, have meant to serve a grim warning to the state police to put its act together.
The killing of 35 labourers in the Kalaban and Satrundi area of Chamba in August 1998, was the most audacious strike by Kashmiri militants in Himachal territory. However, small incidents like the killing of a constable of the Himachal police by suspected militants and gunning down of two army personnel at the firing range near Damtal in Kangra district in recent times do strengthen a case for more vigil and preparedness by the state police against the threat of Kashmiri militancy.
Intelligence reports point out attempts by militants to look for safer havens in the vast inaccessible terrains of Himachal bordering J and K. Whenever pressure is mounted on Kashmiri militants in the valley, they often retreat towards Himachal looking for succour and shelter in the sparsely populated region.
“Though no militant activity is taking place in the Himachal area, yet the presence of militant hideouts and their movement, especially in the Bhalesh area of J and K, makes us very vulnerable,” admits a senior police official.
Shaken up from its complacency, the “gentle” Himachal police, used to a leisurely pace of work in the generally peaceful state, has now taken a serious note of militant activities in the vicinity of its 216-km long boundary, guarded by 35 check posts of the Indo Tibetan Police Force (ITBP) and the police along the border with strife-torn J and K.
Counter-insurgency training is the latest buzzword among the top echelons of the state police as the force has already started equipping itself with advanced firearms and logistics to deal with the looming threat. Already two battalions of the India Reserve battalion (IRB), and more than 600 ITBP personnel have been deployed in the Tissa, Kehar, Pangi and Khairi sectors, deployed in the Chamba belt. Routine patrolling of the belt is done by the security forces to look for militant hideouts and thwart any terrorist activity in Himachal territory.
“We are essentially a civil police in a peaceful state but the availability of soft targets in Himachal makes the border areas vulnerable, but to the best of our knowledge no area of the state is being used as a safe haven by militants from the neighbouring state,” reasons Mr A.K. Puri, Director-General of Police.
Militants are also making attempts to create a communal wedge to suit their ends in the border belts .The penetration of activists from Islamic religious outfits like Tablique Jamat into the remote interior villages of Chamba, had some time back threatened to disturb the communal harmony. “Had it not been for the deterrent action taken by the police against suspected indoctrination of the local Muslim population into fundamental religious practices, the situation could have become very sensitive,” admits a senior politician on the condition of anonymity.
The sudden mushrooming of madrasas, during the last four years in some of the districts like Chamba, Una and Kangra had become a cause for concern for the police and intelligence agencies. “From our experience in Jammu and Kashmir, we know that these very madrasas if misused by militants, could breed militancy,” opined a senior Army officer.
More than 150 village defence committees have been formed and arms and ammunition given to them for self-protection and fighting militancy. “Apart from this, we hold a monthly inter-state coordination committee meeting with the J and K police and the Army for the exchange of information as complete vigil is being maintained along the border,” said Mr Puri.
“The biggest advantage that we have is the absence of local contacts and sympathisers of militants and the fact that they had started establishing links in Himachal, was a cause for worry,” says a senior police officials. Still there is no denying the fact that locals in the Chamba region live in the shadow of fear. There have been instances when militants held villagers from Kehar as hostages and released them after the payment of ransom.
The police investigations into the Kalaban-Satrundi carnage revealed that the militants had succeeded in winning over some of the nomadic “Gujjars” who move up to the higher grazing grounds during summer months with their cattle. The Gujjars, many of them from areas like Kathua, have their “kothas” (sheds) at places located at more than 12,000 feet which during the harsh winter months remain abandoned.
From Pakistan LAHORE: Hundreds, possibly thousands of youths from religious schools across Pakistan have joined the ranks of Taliban cadres that have regrouped in Afghanistan in the last few months. According to one estimate, at least 5,000 youths, including former Taliban soldiers who went underground after the fall of their regime in December 2001, and students from religious seminaries from Balochistan, have joined their compatriots in Afghanistan. Many of these young men are known in the ranks as “sarbaz” (those who have given their lives to the cause and will readily sacrifice them in suicide missions). Regrouped, reorganised and rearmed, these warriors are now all set to launch a new guerrilla war for as long as it takes to expel what they call the “infidel forces” from Afghanistan.
LAHORE: Hundreds, possibly thousands of youths from religious schools across Pakistan have joined the ranks of Taliban cadres that have regrouped in Afghanistan in the last few months.
According to one estimate, at least 5,000 youths, including former Taliban soldiers who went underground after the fall of their regime in December 2001, and students from religious seminaries from Balochistan, have joined their compatriots in Afghanistan. Many of these young men are known in the ranks as “sarbaz” (those who have given their lives to the cause and will readily sacrifice them in suicide missions).
Regrouped, reorganised and rearmed, these warriors are now all set to launch a new guerrilla war for as long as it takes to expel what they call the “infidel forces” from Afghanistan. — Newsline
75% dissatisfied with govt performance
LAHORE: Around 75 per cent population of the country has expressed its utter dissatisfaction over the delivery of services by various government agencies, with only 31 per cent households satisfied with public transport, 13 per cent with sewage services and 23 per cent with health facilities. This has been revealed in a survey, “Social Audit of Governance and Delivery of Public Services”, the first of its kind and ever conducted in the history of Pakistan. This huge exercise was undertaken by Community Information Empowerment and Training (CIET), an NGO, in collaboration with the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), with a view to monitoring the effects of devolution on public service delivery and on the engagement of citizens in local governance. The survey report now made public at a limited scale, makes very startling revelations about the dismal performance of different government departments engaged in providing utility services to the citizens over the years.
— The Nation
LAHORE: Around 75 per cent population of the country has expressed its utter dissatisfaction over the delivery of services by various government agencies, with only 31 per cent households satisfied with public transport, 13 per cent with sewage services and 23 per cent with health facilities.
This has been revealed in a survey, “Social Audit of Governance and Delivery of Public Services”, the first of its kind and ever conducted in the history of Pakistan. This huge exercise was undertaken by Community Information Empowerment and Training (CIET), an NGO, in collaboration with the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), with a view to monitoring the effects of devolution on public service delivery and on the engagement of citizens in local governance. The survey report now made public at a limited scale, makes very startling revelations about the dismal performance of different government departments engaged in providing utility services to the citizens over the years. — The Nation
MQM for middle class rule
KARACHI: Chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussian has claimed that his struggle is to establish a middle class order which is against religious and sectarian extremism. He said that provincial autonomy should not only be mentioned in the constitution, but should also be practised. He also opposed the dual educational system in Pakistan and demanded that a balanced and pragmatic system be introduced. “Ethnic, religious and sectarian divides become sharp when the gulf between the haves and the have-nots widens and the institutions responsible for dispensing justice are not independent. In such countries adhocism and pseudo-democracy prevail”, he said and regretted that in Pakistan there was one set of rules for the privileged class and another for the general public.
— The Dawn
KARACHI: Chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussian has claimed that his struggle is to establish a middle class order which is against religious and sectarian extremism.
He said that provincial autonomy should not only be mentioned in the constitution, but should also be practised. He also opposed the dual educational system in Pakistan and demanded that a balanced and pragmatic system be introduced.
“Ethnic, religious and sectarian divides become sharp when the gulf between the haves and the have-nots widens and the institutions responsible for dispensing justice are not independent. In such countries adhocism and pseudo-democracy prevail”, he said and regretted that in Pakistan there was one set of rules for the privileged class and another for the general public. — The Dawn
Parliament not allowed to
ISLAMABAD: Five parliamentarians who have returned from a study tour of Germany expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which democratic institutions are run in Pakistan. Senator Sanaullah Baloch, leader of the Young Parliamentarians Forum and a member of the delegation, said a true federal system did not exist in Pakistan nor parliament was allowed to function properly. The week-long visit of the delegation was arranged by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of the German Social Democratic Party to educate young parliamentarians about the country’s parliamentary system.
— The Dawn
ISLAMABAD: Five parliamentarians who have returned from a study tour of Germany expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which democratic institutions are run in Pakistan. Senator Sanaullah Baloch, leader of the Young Parliamentarians Forum and a member of the delegation, said a true federal system did not exist in Pakistan nor parliament was allowed to function properly.
The week-long visit of the delegation was arranged by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of the German Social Democratic Party to educate young parliamentarians about the country’s parliamentary system. — The Dawn
Let us be united always with one intention and one mind; let eating and drinking be common to all. Let the mind be linked to the common ideal of life for the benefit of each other.
— Atharva Veda
There have been sects enough in this country. There are sects enough, and there will be enough in the future... Sects must be, but sectarianism need not.
— Swami Vivekananda
My religion is a matter solely between my Maker and myself.
— Mahatma Gandhi
O Son of Being!
Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.