SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

Oil for profit
No alibi for Natwar and son
A
CCORDING to newspaper reports, the Justice R.S. Pathak Inquiry Authority has indicted former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, his son Jagat Singh and his close associates in the oil-for-food scam.

Sorry, Asma
PM saves nation’s face by an apology
A
sma Jahangir, a noted human rights activist of Pakistan, should have been an honoured guest in the Indian Capital. Instead, the Delhi police searched her room and subjected her to questioning, ostensibly as part of increased surveillance against Pakistanis following last month’s blasts in Mumbai. This action against a distinguished sub-continental person who clearly could not have had anything to do with terrorists of any hue, must be condemned. 





EARLIER STORIES
Deadly colas on sale
August 4, 2006
Wasted talent
August 3, 2006
Banish the thought
August 2, 2006
Stop it now
August 1, 2006
For affirmative action
July 31, 2006
File notings must be shown to public: Aruna Roy
July 30, 2006
Captain’s pack
July 29, 2006
Moving ahead
July 28, 2006
Pak N-stockpiles
July 27, 2006
Limits of power
July 26, 2006


Unsafe for children 
Enforce SC guidelines on school buses
S
IX school children died and survivors were traumatised after a school bus fell into a canal near Sonepat on Tuesday. The bus of Satkumba Vidya Mandir in Kheri Gujjar village went out of control when the driver tried to avoid a collision with a mule cart while crossing a bridge. It is obvious that the bus was being driven fast.

ARTICLE

Greed and growth
China today faces moral vacuum 
by S.P. Seth
F
orty years ago China was turned upside down because Mao Zedong felt that his Party was ignoring him, treating him like a “dead parent at a funeral.” His Great Leap Forward had been a great disaster, leading to food shortages and famine in which nearly 30 million or more people died. Mao suffered a political setback. The Party machine under Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping sought to stabilise the situation.

MIDDLE

Eudaimonia
by Harish Dhillon
I
woke up to the realisation that it was my birthday. The predominant feeling was one of relief - I had crossed the bar and was now, at long last, entitled to an income tax rebate.

OPED

Bangladesh–new hub for terrorism
by Selig S. Harrison
W
hile the United States dithers, a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement linked to al-Qaida and Pakistani intelligence agencies is steadily converting the strategically located nation of Bangladesh into a new regional hub for terrorist operations that reach into India and Southeast Asia.

NATO’s new role in Afghanistan
by Anita Inder Singh
O
n Monday, 31 July, NATO took up its first military combat role since its founding in 1949 – not in Europe, for the security of which it was established during the Cold War, but in Afghanistan.

Parmar: Proud pahari and able leader
by Ambika Sharma
F
ondly remembered as the architect of Himachal for his feat in earning Himachal full statehood on January 25, 1971, Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar was a personality to reckon with.

 


From the pages of

 
 REFLECTIONS

 

Top








 

Oil for profit
No alibi for Natwar and son

ACCORDING to newspaper reports, the Justice R.S. Pathak Inquiry Authority has indicted former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, his son Jagat Singh and his close associates in the oil-for-food scam.

The Authority has reportedly absolved the father-son duo of the charge of making money and has given the Congress a clean chit. It found that businessmen Andaleeb Sehgal and Aditya Khanna benefited to the tune of Rs 80 lakh by selling the oil coupons introduced by the Saddam Hussein regime to get around the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq. Mr Natwar Singh has taken the stand that he had neither received any money nor had misused any official position. To buttress the argument, he has pointed out that he and his son did not hold any official position; he himself was not in the government and Mr Jagat Singh was not even an MLA.

These arguments do not hold ground. It has been proved that the letters of recommendation that Mr Natwar Singh gave in his capacity as a senior Congress leader and former minister and Mr Jagat Singh as a Youth Congress leader facilitated the business of Andaleeb Sehgal and Aditya Khanna to earn a huge sum of money. Saddam Hussein’s government valued the letters of the duo because of the positions they had held or were likely to hold in future. Surely, it was not in the national interest that Mr Natwar Singh and his son facilitated the business of their friends and associates who, incidentally, stashed away the money in foreign banks. The findings clearly prove that his claims that the Paul A Volcker report that listed 2,000 beneficiaries of Saddam’s largesse was a cock and bull document and that he and his son had nothing to do with the oil-for-food scam were false and the Prime Minister was justified in asking him to quit his government. The findings have also made his return to the government untenable.

On its part, the government should publish the report as early as possible to avoid unnecessary speculation about what exactly the Authority has found and the extent of indictment. It also follows that it should take action on all its recommendations. The Enforcement Directorate has been conducting its own inquiry into the scam and it is only proper to expect it to pursue such cases to their logical conclusion. The report of the Authority has only bolstered the case against Mr Natwar Singh, Mr Jagat Singh and their friends. They should have known that the business of oil is slippery.

Top

 

Sorry, Asma
PM saves nation’s face by an apology

Asma Jahangir, a noted human rights activist of Pakistan, should have been an honoured guest in the Indian Capital. Instead, the Delhi police searched her room and subjected her to questioning, ostensibly as part of increased surveillance against Pakistanis following last month’s blasts in Mumbai.

This action against a distinguished sub-continental person who clearly could not have had anything to do with terrorists of any hue, must be condemned. What exactly was the police trying to achieve? The incident only serves to stress much that is wrong with our policing and intelligence systems. Precious resources and assets are irrationally targeted and wasted, while the culpable roam free and strike at different places at will.

The only redeeming feature was the timely and befitting apology that was made to Ms Jahangir, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, by none other than the Prime Minister of the land. Dr Manmohan Singh did not hesitate to pick up the telephone to express his regret for the unseemly behaviour of the police. In these days, when all and sundry demand apologies for imagined slights and injuries, historical wrongs and bruised egos, Dr Singh has shown what a fine gesture a sincere apology can be.

Ms Asma Jahangir was reported to have been deeply touched by the call. She may indeed not be the type to nurse an injury or grudge. She, it may be recalled, has been subjected to this kind of treatment in her own land. Indeed, armed gunmen raided her home on one occasion. Ms Jahangir is no fan of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, or vice-versa. Had the PM not made the call, the shameful incident would have lingered on as a bitter memory for concerned people on both sides of the border. The quality of feeling and expressing genuine regret is precious, and should wipe off the bitterness the incident might have generated.

Top

 

Unsafe for children 
Enforce SC guidelines on school buses

SIX school children died and survivors were traumatised after a school bus fell into a canal near Sonepat on Tuesday. The bus of Satkumba Vidya Mandir in Kheri Gujjar village went out of control when the driver tried to avoid a collision with a mule cart while crossing a bridge. It is obvious that the bus was being driven fast.

The Supreme Court had laid down guidelines for school buses some years ago. The speed limit for school buses was set at 40 kmph and if a driver was booked twice for traffic-related offences, he was not to be allowed to drive a school bus. The court had maintained that only drivers who had five years’ experience in driving heavy vehicles would be eligible to transport school children. It had even suggested preventive measures: a first-aid box in the bus, doors to be fitted with locks, a fire extinguisher, horizontal parallel grills on windows, a school bag tray under each seat and provision for water. These guidelines have been enforced in cities like Delhi and Chandigarh. In smaller towns, however, these are observed more in breach than in compliance. Most schools even hire private buses and shift the responsibility for children’s safety to the transporters.

Even as the tragedy unfolded at Sonepat, surviving children began saving lives before the local people rushed to their assistance. Their quick thinking and bravery helped in saving the lives of a few children. The driver too, reportedly pitched in, as did farmers and others who rushed to the spot. The administrative machinery came in much later. The knee-jerk official reaction ignored the issue of safety. The licences of drivers, particularly those driving school buses, should be checked. The school buses should also be examined to see that they comply with the guidelines. There should be no compromise on safety norms.

Top

 

Thought for the day

Dating is a social engagement with the threat of sex at its conclusion.

— P.J. O’Rourke

Top

 

Greed and growth
China today faces moral vacuum 
by S.P. Seth

Forty years ago China was turned upside down because Mao Zedong felt that his Party was ignoring him, treating him like a “dead parent at a funeral.” His Great Leap Forward had been a great disaster, leading to food shortages and famine in which nearly 30 million or more people died. Mao suffered a political setback. The Party machine under Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping sought to stabilise the situation.

Feeling sidelined by the Party, Mao decided to hit back by rallying his troops which created the phenomenon of the Red Guards, his storm-troopers. And the mayhem thus created became “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”. There was nothing cultural about it. If anything, the Red Guards did their utmost to destroy all signs of China’s old culture.

The Cultural Revolution lasted 10 years until Mao’s death in 1976. Towards the end of his life, the Gang of Four, led by his wife Jiang Qing, was virtually ruling the roost by invoking his authority even though the “Great Helmsman” was neither great nor functional.

A flavour of the times in terms of its barbarity is contained in a recent book, “Revolution, Resistance and Reform in Village China” by Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz and Mark Selden. Reviewing it in the New York Review of Books, Jonathan Mirsky writes, “Executions, usually to fill a quota, were common in those days, and were carried out in public” (shades of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan).

Liu Shaoqi, who served Mao loyally and continued to consult him even when cleaning his mess from the Great Leap Forward, was thrown into the prison and hounded by Red Guards until he died a miserable death. Among the Party bigwigs, Deng Xiaoping survived (after his time in the purgatory) with some protection from Zhou Enlai. Zhou was spared to run the ramshackle administrative machinery of the government, as Mao didn’t regard him as a threat to his authority and power.

No wonder, Deng Xiaoping was not overtly critical of Mao’s disastrous experiment in Cultural Revolution. After Mao’s death, he became the paramount leader with a personality cult of his own. And when his Party General Secretary, Hu Yaobang, and Zhao Ziyang (his own appointees) respectively, sought to widen political space in the country a little bit, they were unceremoniously got rid of.

The result was the Tiananmen massacre when, under Deng’s orders, Chinese soldiers gunned down students seeking democratic reform. But that is another story.

In Deng’s estimate, Mao was 70 per cent right and 30 per cent wrong. He knew, though, from personal experience and by watching the havoc all around that Mao was proving to be a great disaster. They say that revolutions tend to eat their children. In this case, Mao was devouring them without any qualm.

After Deng Xiaoping became the supreme leader in the late seventies, he gave the country a different turn. The revolutionary ethos was abandoned, even though that was no great loss in the circumstances considering the mayhem caused by the Cultural Revolution. In its place, greed was sanctified, and China was launched on the course to become a powerful nation.

It is important to remember that the stated goal of the Mao-led communist revolution was to empower and enrich the workers and peasants of the country. It never transpired that way because of the power imperatives underlying the revolution. To make Mao’s power base secure, he was constantly carrying successive purges of his real or imagined enemies in the name of class struggle and by inventing new ways of mobilising masses to reach the revolutionary nirvana.

Deng Xiaoping and his successors have always known how close Mao came to destroying not only the old but an emerging new China. But they are not allowing the Cultural Revolution and its disastrous results to be studied, examined and analysed in China.

Forty years on, people in China (many born after the Cultural Revolution) would know Mao only as the father of the country’s communist (modern) revolution and a benign figure approvingly looking at the way China has turned out a free-wheeling economy where the rich are getting richer in cahoots with the Party elites.

Indeed, Mao has been commodified. According to an Australian Sinologist, “As economic reform developed into a consumer revolution, Mao’s image was transformed from Great Helmsman to great logo. He became the fashionable embodiment of that mass-produced art form of the common and the everyday: kitsch.”

In other words, Mao has been appropriated as part of the new consumer culture. The great virtue of the dead Mao is that he is so flexible that anybody and everybody can claim him as their own patron saint.

The Party, therefore, is not interested in raking up the past when Mao ran amok during the Cultural Revolution, as he had also done before during all the purges, killings and the Great Leap Forward. At the same time his, by now beatified image, both as a revolutionary leader and “a soothsayer for troubled times”, gives the post-Mao communist regimes a legitimacy of sorts.

The brand name, the Communist Party of China, is still the same, though the message and the mission have completely changed. It is now the champion of greed and in league with all kinds of carpet beggars and robber barons.

In her book “China’s Pitfall” (the English title), He Qinglian dissects at length the darker side of China’s economic growth. Talking about the urban boom in the 1990s, she says that it was “a process in which power-holders and their hangers-on plundered public wealth. The primary target of their plunder was state property that had been accumulated for forty years of the people’s sweat, and their primary means of plunder was political power.” It has shades of what happened to Russia in the Yeltsin years.

The rural sector is still paying the price of urban boom, with its depressed economy, land plunder and its youth leaving in their millions to eke out a living in cities.

In the meantime, the country is descending into a moral vacuum. The only morality is money and how to earn more. The entire edifice of today’s China is based on an assumption that rapid economic growth will continue forever and this will be the magnet drawing people to the regime. But there is also an underlying fear that the entire superstructure could come crumbling down if something suddenly went wrong.

An example in point is a report in The Telegraph (London) from its Beijing correspondent. It says that the government has blacklisted and virtually banned a golf equipment salesman from Shenzhen from carrying on his campaign against high property prices by calling on people to stop buying real estate for three years.

As Richard Spencer has reported, “The subject is deemed so sensitive not least because there have been warnings a property crash could in theory jeopardise the whole Chinese banking system.” In a state of moral vacuum, where the only value is money, its sudden collapse could mean total disaster.

It is worth noting that China’s communist rulers draw their primary legitimacy from the country’s economic growth. And they contend that the Communist Party’s monopoly power is necessary to ensure economic growth and to prevent the country from descending into chaos.

Well, the Communist Party had monopoly power at the time of the Cultural Revolution. But Mao still managed to plunge China into chaos by launching his Cultural Revolution by sidelining the Party. It happened precisely because the entire political structure lacked popular institutional base as would be the case in a democratic polity.

That remains the case even today. And if and when the crash comes, as it did during the Cultural Revolution, there will be nothing to fall back on in the midst of a moral vacuum and absence of democratic institutions.

Top

 

Eudaimonia
by Harish Dhillon

I woke up to the realisation that it was my birthday. The predominant feeling was one of relief - I had crossed the bar and was now, at long last, entitled to an income tax rebate.

When I came down there were as usual, numerous bouquets and gift-wrapped packages crowding the dining table. I was pleased and found joy at opening each packet. But I was also aware that these flowers and gifts were more a tribute to my chair than to me, as an individual, and would not be forthcoming when I retired.

This thought raised, once again, my anxieties regarding my post-retirement life. After 40 years of a life regulated by school bells, what bliss it would be to lie indefinitely in bed in the mornings. But in more rational moments, I admit to myself that this is a pipedream: my finances will not permit such indulgence, and having been a workaholic all my life I would not be able to survive a life of indolence, for very long.

I know of dozens of people who have reinvented retirement by starting new and hugely successful careers. A “retired” university professor started a bookshop, proving that a love of books and the ability to successfully market books are not mutually exclusive. A “retired” government doctor gave free rein to her flair for designing and now runs boutiques all over the world.

A judge, turned full time to painting. His work is now available only through auctions and goes for six digit figures. A “retired” housewife runs a successful NGO bringing succour and hope to the lives of cancer-affected patients. They are examples of eudaimonia - they are doing well what they do best.

I have examined all the options for an alternative career open to me when I retire and have rejected them all as being unsuitable. I finally have to admit that I would like to continue doing what I have been doing all my life. My bread and butter comes from teaching English, something I do with deep and abiding passion and which defines me as an individual.

I have continued to write as a hobby in spite of the fact that my work has received little public recognition, even though I know that most of my work has been well crafted.

This lack of critical or popular acclaim has long ceased to bother me because I have realised that the real purpose of my writing is the pleasure that I derive from the act itself. I now write only to explain the world I live in to myself and find that I do this well.

So I look forward to a post-retirement life in my cottage in Dharampur doing what I have always done, only perhaps a little slower: writing books and teaching English to any youngsters who choose to come to me. I realise I am one of the fortunate few who have always had eudaimonia, doing best what I am best at doing.

Top

 

Bangladesh–new hub for terrorism
by Selig S. Harrison

While the United States dithers, a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement linked to al-Qaida and Pakistani intelligence agencies is steadily converting the strategically located nation of Bangladesh into a new regional hub for terrorist operations that reach into India and Southeast Asia.

With 147 million people, largely Muslim Bangladesh has substantial Hindu and Christian minorities and is nominally a secular democracy. But the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) struck a Faustian bargain with the fundamentalist party Jamaat-e-Islami five years ago to win power.

In return for the votes in Parliament needed to form a coalition government, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has looked the other way as the Jamaat has systematically filled sensitive civil service, police, intelligence and military posts with its sympathizers, who have in turn looked the other way as Jamaat-sponsored guerrilla squads patterned after the Taliban have operated with increasing impunity in many rural and urban areas.

To the dismay of her business supporters, the prime minister gave the coveted post of industries minister to Matiur Rahman Nizami, a high-ranking Jamaat official who has helped promote the growth of a Jamaat economic empire that embraces banking, insurance, trucking, pharmaceutical manufacturing, department stores, newspapers and TV stations. A study last year by a leading Bangladeshi economist showed that the “fundamentalist sector of the economy” earns annual profits of some $1.2 billion.

Now the BNP-Jamaat alliance is rigging the next national elections, scheduled for January, to prevent the return of the opposition Awami League to power. Voter lists are being manipulated, and the supposedly neutral caretaker government and the commission that will run the election are being turned into puppets.

The BNP argues that coalition rule helps moderates in the Jamaat to combat Islamic extremist factions. But the reality is that Jamaat inroads in the government security machinery at all levels, starting with Home Secretary Muhammad Omar Farooq, widely regarded as close to the Jamaat, have opened the way for suicide bombings, political assassinations, harassment of the Hindu minority, and an unchecked influx of funds from Islamic charities in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf to Jamaat-oriented madrassas (religious schools) that in some cases are fronts for terrorist activity.

With some 15,000 hard-core fighters operating out of 19 known base camps, guerrilla groups sponsored by the Jamaat and its allies were able to paralyze the country last Aug. 17 by staging 459 closely synchronized explosions in all but one of the country’s administrative districts. When the key leaders of these groups were captured, they were kept by the police in a comfortable apartment, where they were free to receive visitors. A cartoon in the Daily Star of Dhaka on July 24 showed them lounging on a rug, conducting classes in bomb-making. Their fate and present place of confinement is uncertain, and all of the major guerrilla groups are back to business as usual.

The bitterness of Bangladeshi politics is often attributed to a personal vendetta between two strong women, Prime Minister Zia and the Awami League leader, Sheikh Hasina Wajed. But the roots of the current struggle go back to 1971, when Bengali East Pakistan, led by the Awami League, broke away from Punjabi-dominated West Pakistan to form the nation of Bangladesh. The Jamaat, which originated in the western wing, opposed the independence movement and fought side by side with Pakistani forces against both fellow Bengalis and the Indian troops who intervened in the decisive final phase of the conflict.

For Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, especially Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the legacy of the independence war has been a built-in network of agents within the Jamaat and its affiliates who can be utilized to harass India along its 2,500-mile border with Bangladesh. In addition to supporting tribal separatist groups in northeast India, the ISI uses Bangladesh as a base for helping Islamic extremists inside India. After the July 11 train bombings in Bombay, a top Indian police official, K.P. Raghuvanshi, said that his key suspects “have connections with groups in Nepal and Bangladesh, which are directly or indirectly connected to Pakistan.”

A State Department report cited evidence that one of the Jamaat’s main allies, the Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami, also headquartered in Pakistan, “maintains contact with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Bangladesh Harakat leader Fazlul Rahman was one of the six signatories of Osama bin Laden’s first declaration of holy war against the United States, on Feb. 23, 1998. Since the October 2002 Bali bombings led to repression of al-Qaida, some of its Indonesian and Malaysian cells have shifted their operations to Bangladesh.

What makes future prospects in Bangladesh especially alarming is that the Jamaat and its allies appear to be penetrating the higher ranks of the armed forces. Among many examples, informed journalists in Dhaka attribute Jamaat sympathies to Maj. Gen. Mohammed Aminul Karim, recently appointed as military secretary to President Iajuddin Ahmed, and to Brig. Gen. A.T.M. Amin, director of the Armed Forces Intelligence anti-terrorism bureau.

The respected journalists in question cannot write freely about the Jamaat without facing death threats or assassination attempts. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists has published extensive dossiers documenting 68 death threats and dozens of bombing attacks that have injured at least eight journalists. “We are alarmed by the growing pattern of intimidation of journalists by Islamic groups in Bangladesh,” the committee said recently. “As a result of its alliance with the Jamaat-Islamiyah, the government appears to lack the ability or will to protect journalists from this new and grave threat.”

The Bush administration has yet to speak with comparable candor. The latest State Department annual report on terrorism mentioned only one of the three Jamaat militias as a terrorist group and avoided direct criticism of the BNP for its coalition with the Jamaat, referring only to the “serious political constraints” that explain the government’s “limited success” in countering “escalating” terrorist violence. On July 13 the U.S. ambassador called Bangladesh “an exceptional moderate Muslim state.”

The United States and other donors gave Bangladesh $1.4 billion in aid last year. There is still time for the administration to use aid leverage and trade concessions to promote a fair election by calling openly and forcefully for nonpartisan control of the Election Commission and the caretaker government. In addition to implicitly threatening an aid cutoff if it is rebuffed, the administration should offer the powerful incentive of duty-free textile imports from Bangladesh if Prime Minister Zia cooperates.

In Pakistan, the United States has been gingerly pushing Gen. Pervez Musharraf for democratic elections because it needs the limited but significant support he is giving against al-Qaida and fears what might come after him. But what is the excuse for inaction in Bangladesh, where the incumbent government coddles Islamic extremists and a strong secular party is ready to govern?

————

The writer, a former South Asia bureau chief of The Washington Post is the director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy and a senior scholar of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

Top

 

NATO’s new role in Afghanistan
by Anita Inder Singh

On Monday, 31 July, NATO took up its first military combat role since its founding in 1949 – not in Europe, for the security of which it was established during the Cold War, but in Afghanistan.

Some 18,000 NATO troops from Britain, Canada, Holland and other countries will control most of Afghanistan with a view to shoring up the beleaguered government of President Hamid Karzai, containing escalating extremist violence, and reconstructing Afghanistan. The force will be commanded by Lt. Gen David Richards of Britain. Guns and development must go hand-in-hand in Afghanistan.

NATO’s presence in Afghanistan signifies the extension of Europe’s security frontier to South Asia. The expansion of NATO’s operations in Afghanistan comes in the wake of America’s failure to stabilise the country, despite the alacrity with which it overthrew the Taliban regime in November 2001. Almost five years later the war against Taliban militants continues. NATO will therefore first take aim at checking the rising spiral of violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan which has taken more than 1,000 lives. This is a prerequisite for helping Karzai’s government to extend its sway over the whole of Afghanistan, building stable institutions of governance, disarmament, demobilisation, and developing capacity for economic development. It is anticipated that NATO will leave in three years’s time.

‘Security’ in contemporary Afghanistan encompasses the ministries for foreign affairs, defence, interior, counter-narcotics and border, tribal and ethnic affairs. Whether Afghanistan can be made stable and secure in three years when the US and its allies have failed to accomplish that in five is questionable.

Partly this is because the US, despite its leverage over Islamabad, has not been able to stop Pakistan’s terrorist-training; and Pakistan is the springboard of renewed Taliban violence. A combination of truculent warlords, drug traffickers, and tribal tensions all benefit from weak government.

Also, coordination between the countries trying to consolidate security in Afghanistan is poor. Italy is responsible for justice sector reform, Germany for building up the Afghan police, Britain heads the counter-narcotics campaign; the US trains the Afghan National Army and Japan is in charge of disarmament. The clumsy and uncoordinated handling of responsibilities by foreign powers itself highlights some of the problems involved in forging security in Afghanistan, but the situation would be worse without the presence of these countries.

Britain has not had much success with its anti-narcotics campaign so far. Opium poppy growing is the major source of income for many Afghans. In 2005 only 4 per cent of poppy gardens were destroyed: the opium-cart carrying the harvest of one hectare of narcotic poppies continues to earn farmers ten times more than a hectare of wheat. Not surprisingly, the life chances of ordinary Afghans remain poor.

Justice and police sector reforms are hampered by a weak rule of law tradition and the absence of a functioning judiciary in Afghanistan. Judges well-versed in the sharia are being retrained in secular law and are expected to practice it. But how easily do people throw off established ways of thinking, especially in an environment rife with corruption, and made uncertain by weak leadership and insecurity?

Since 2002 the US has trained about 26,000 soldiers for the Afghan National Army. But Afghanistan needs an army of at least 70,000 men to cater for its security needs, and a force of this size will not be ready before 2010. So insurgents and extremists have to be fought by NATO countries. This may not be easy: anti-American violence in Kabul in May suggested that the traditional xenophobia of the Afghans could resurface if Western troops were not well disciplined.

Even as reports of British causalities come in, British commanders express confidence that NATO troops are up to the task of countering extremism. To win over ordinary Afghans NATO forces must respect human rights norms and local sensibilities. The Taliban are not popular, but they can only be routed by Western soldiers who are gentlemen.

Top

 

Parmar: Proud pahari and able leader
by Ambika Sharma

Yashwant Singh Parmar
Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar

Fondly remembered as the architect of Himachal for his feat in earning Himachal full statehood on January 25, 1971, Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar was a personality to reckon with.

Born on August 4, 1906 at Chanhalag village near Bagthan in the former State of Sirmour, the state celebrated his hundredth birth anniversary on Friday.

Born to Bhandari Shivanand, an Urdu and Persian scholar of his time, Parmar obtained his early education from Nahan High School. This was considered a prestigious institute of the area. Since there was no college in the vicinity he was sent to Lahore’s famous Christian College for Men. He got his Ph.D. degree from Lucknow University in 1944 and went on to become a magistrate. He rose to become the first Chief Minister of Himachal in 1952.

“It was his simplicity that has won him the appreciation of the people. It is difficult to believe that a Chief Minister could walk miles together with his officials to meet people of his region” recalls Thakur Tulsi Ram of village Nohradhar who had remained his close aide. The absence of electricity in the region led him to walk with hand held torches to meet people even in the remotest villages recall old timers.

His untiring efforts won Himachal the status of being declared the eighteenth state of the Union of India on 25th January, 1971. He played a key role in carving out a separate State out of the 31-odd princely hill states. He was also a member of the prestigious Constituent Assembly. It was only Dr. Parmar’s prestige in the estimation of Prime Minister that fetched this status to Himachal.

Hailing from a remote village which neither had any educational institute nor had road connectivity he realized the importance of both. It was his vision that laid the foundation of connecting the entire state with an effective road network. “It is a pity that his native village Chanhalag is yet unconnected. The Solan-Minas road which was supposed to be laid during the last tenure of the present Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is yet to be completed.” rues a villager.

Realizing the significance of education in the uplift of the rural masses his pioneering efforts led to the opening of a number of educational institutes in the state. Himachal was among the most backward states at the time of its constitution. Dr Parmar endeavoured to raise the socio-economic status of the people. This he accomplished by tapping the bountiful natural resources. Gauging the hydel power potential of the state he laid the foundation of harnessing it at a large scale. He said, “The numerous rivers of Himachal were mines filled with gold which if harnessed could fetch good returns.”

Forestry and environmental conservation attracted him in particular and he founded the Himalayan Forest Farming and Environmental Conservation Society. He also introduced the three-dimensional forest policy to meet the needs of timber, fuel and wood in the state. It was due to his love for horticulture that apple cultivation has made such phenomenal progress in Himachal Pradesh.

Leading a simple life Dr Parmar had a great love for the tradition- rich culture of Himachal. His ardently followed the traditions and was proud of being a Pahari. He preferred Pahari food and emulated the traditional culture. Encouraging people to work hard he said, “Pahari people have to be hard workers only then can we achieve prosperity.”
Top

 

From the pages of

March 23, 1972

Iran’s executions

The recent series of political executions in Iran tarnishes the liberal image the Shah tried to project for himself during the 2,500th anniversary celebrations of the Persian monarchy. Nine dissidents died before a firing-squad last week. Ten people were shot earlier this month. Further death sentences have been passed on a number of prisoners held by “Savak”, Iran’s secret police. The execution apart, what is shocking is the physical torture inflicted on political prisoners.

The Shah’s Government no doubt is having a tough time tackling the growing terrorism in the country. The challenge has mainly come from two guerrilla groups — Siakhal, which are Maoist in approach, and the Organisation of Combatants of the People of Iran (O.C.P.I.). The latter has affinities with the Al Fatah movement of Palestinian guerrillas.

Top

 

But this natural condition cannot claim our respect as one of the noble moral qualities. Unless a man is purged of the low motives which bar him from truth, his veracity is questionable.
—The Koran

The world is so enmeshed in falsehood and is so cheated by its false values that 
whosoever is slandered by it, is dear 
to me.
— Guru Nanak

Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |