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EDITORIALS

No to creamy layer
SC lays down criteria for reservation
T
HURSDAY’S ruling by the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench upholding quota-based promotions for government employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes holds immense significance for the polity. 

Justice for Imrana
A brave woman’s honour is vindicated
A
rape is the most traumatic nightmare that any woman can ever have. If it is committed by her own father-in-law, her anguish multiplies a million-fold.

Isle of discord
Lanka SC ruling worsens crisis
T
he Sri Lankan Supreme Court’s declaration of the merged Northeast province as “null, void and illegal” could not have come at a worse time for the island republic.




EARLIER STORIES

Planning for 9% growth
October 20, 2006
Justice retrieved
October 19, 2006
On the mat
October 18, 2006
N. Korea under sanctions
October 17, 2006
Consensus on delimitation
October 16, 2006
What ails the police?
October 15, 2006
Code for babus
October 14, 2006
SC on pardon
October 13, 2006
Dangerous liaison
October 12, 2006
Regrouping of Taliban
October 11, 2006
It wasn’t a bluff
October 10, 2006
Tactical victory
October 9, 2006


ARTICLE

Tackling Naxalite menace
Conflicting figures are being dished out
by P.V. Ramana
T
he Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), evidently, is blissfully ignorant of the intensity of the Naxalite-Maoist threat. Or, perhaps, it is deliberately underplaying it.

MIDDLE

Spotted, a leopard!
 by Donald Banerjee
It was about 12 in the afternoon about eight years back. A person rang up from Sector 30. A jumbled voice shouting “tendua!”, “tendua!” was enough to send goose pimples up one’s body. Yes, he had spotted a leopard in a house in the sector.

OPED

Human Rights Diary
Orissa’s resources under threat of misuse
by Kuldip Nayar
D
O you know of an elected chief minister who does not speak the language of the state? No, this is not a quiz. It is a fact that Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik cannot talk in Oriya. And the gullible people of Orissa have elected him for the second five-year term.

“Don’t mention the war!”
by Rupert Cornwell in Washington
F
inally George W Bush is rewriting history, or at least history as he understands it. Until now his Gulf adventure has been the new vital enterprise forced upon a wounded America. Now however a darker ghost is officially present, as the feast of hubris has turned into nemesis in Iraq. It is the shade of Vietnam.

Inside Pakistan
Frontier Post on the chopping block
by Syed Nooruzzaman
General Pervez Musharraf never misses an opportunity to claim that Pakistan today has greater Press freedom than it ever had. The reality, however, is entirely different. The media in Pakistan criticises the policies and programmes of the government only in a guarded language. Those who do not bother about playing safe suffer like The Frontier Post and its sister publication in Urdu, The Maidan.

  • Challenge from Baloch jirga

  • Open Letters for democracy


 REFLECTIONS

 

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No to creamy layer
SC lays down criteria for reservation

THURSDAY’S ruling by the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench upholding quota-based promotions for government employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes holds immense significance for the polity. It is a landmark judgement because the laws by various states (including the Centre’s proposal for 27 per cent quota for the Other Backward Classes in higher educational institutions) that are currently being challenged would be decided in accordance with the law laid down by the apex court in this case. The five-judge Bench has upheld the validity of four constitutional amendments providing quota-based promotions. At the same time, it has laid down clear-cut guidelines for providing reservations. One, there can be no quota for the creamy layer for all categories, including the SCs and STs. Two, the total reservation for the SCs, STs and OBCs cannot exceed 50 per cent. And three, before making provision for reservation, the government will have to show in each case the existence of compelling reasons, namely backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency.

The apex court’s ruling on the creamy layer is a reiteration of its 1993 ruling while upholding the validity of the Mandal Commission recommendations. According to the court, people with yearly income of over Rs 2.5 lakh a year and those with considerable landholding constitute the creamy layer. Children of those holding constitutional positions are also included in this. It would be eminently desirable to deny quota even to the children of IAS, IPS and IFS officers, engineers and doctors belonging to the backward classes. Otherwise, it would be a mockery of the spirit of the provision to help the sections at the lower rungs of the ladder.

The judgement should be seen as a sincere attempt by the court to help the really deserving among the SCs, STs and OBCs to provide fairly equal opportunity to all. Those who are in favour of quotas for the creamy layer ostensibly to protect their vote banks — like the DMK, the PMK, the RJD and others — will have to accept the ruling which has become the law of the land.

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Justice for Imrana
A brave woman’s honour is vindicated

A rape is the most traumatic nightmare that any woman can ever have. If it is committed by her own father-in-law, her anguish multiplies a million-fold. That is what Imrana of a village near Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh had to undergo last year. And to think of it, her cup of woe was still not full! When the matter went to her community panchayat, it ordained that her marriage stood automatically dissolved and she should treat her husband like a son, now that her father-in-law had had physical relationship with her. Even superior maulvis also endorsed this shocking fatwa. How this frail woman rose against this ignominy is the stuff legends are made of. After a brave court battle – which, mercifully, ended in just a little more than a year – justice has been done to the wronged woman with the beastly father-in-law being sentenced to 10-year imprisonment and fine. It is another matter that since he is a close relative, the conviction is a matter of acute pain to the hapless lady.

The husband who stood by her to begin with has bowed to family and community pressure. He has thrown the mother of his five children out of house and has even threatened to commit suicide if his father goes to jail. The dilemma of the woman can only be imagined. Social organisations, the authorities and the media, which took up her cause must ensure that she is not victimised thus.

Above all, there is need to rein in community panchayats which act worse than even kangaroo courts. The tendency is not confined to any one religion. If Imrana had been done in by insensitive maulvis, upper-caste Hindu community leaders too have issued equally scandalous diktats – asking a legally wedded man and woman in Haryana to live like brother and sister just because it had been discovered that they belonged to the same gotra. The attempts to glorify incidents of sati also fall in the same category. Enlightened citizens belonging to all communities must come forward to ensure that such people loving in the past are put in their place. And the government too must steel itself and never succumb to the pressure exerted by a misguided few in the name of religion or caste.

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Isle of discord
Lanka SC ruling worsens crisis

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court’s declaration of the merged Northeast province as “null, void and illegal” could not have come at a worse time for the island republic. The ongoing military confrontation between the Sri Lankan armed forces (SLAF) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has revived its bomb attacks in civilian areas, shows no sign of a letup despite both parties agreeing to talks. The ruling of the five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva — on a petition filed by the Janatha Vimukthi Perumanuma (JVP) — is bound to harden attitudes on both sides of the Sinhala-Tamil divide. Whatever the constitutional and legal interpretations, the political conflict will only deepen the crisis in which Sri Lanka finds itself trapped.

The northern and eastern provinces were temporarily merged in 1987 as a consequence of the India-Sri Lanka Accord signed by then President J R Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The accord laid down that merger would follow the cessation of hostilities and laying down of arms by militant groups. Since these conditions were not fulfilled after the LTTE’s violation of the ceasefire and voters in the merged entity were deprived of voting for the Provincial Council, the court has struck down the merger. Now, only Sri Lanka’s Parliament can decide on the issue by a two-thirds majority.

While the North is almost entirely Tamil, the East has a sizable Muslim and Sinhalese minority. Even so, the merger was one issue that united all Tamils and Tamil organisations. Hence, undoing the merger would not only aggravate the conflict and the ethnic polarisation but also serve to boost the LTTE. This, in turn, would make the JVP and other Sinhalese parties — who have been stoutly opposed to the merger — more belligerent as a result of their victory in court. Moderates of all hues would be marginalised further. New Delhi, too, cannot be happy at the verdict that has overturned the Indian contribution towards a federal solution in recognition of Tamil aspirations. 

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Thought for the day

Remove the rock from your shoe rather than learn to limp comfortably.

— Stepehen C. Paul and Gary Max Collins

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Tackling Naxalite menace
Conflicting figures are being dished out
by P.V. Ramana 

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), evidently, is blissfully ignorant of the intensity of the Naxalite-Maoist threat. Or, perhaps, it is deliberately underplaying it.

In its annual report for the year 2005-06, and in a document entitled Status Paper on the Naxal Problem distributed to members of the Lok Sabha on March 13, during the reply by the Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, to the debate on the Demands for grants for the MHA, it was stated that 509 police stations country-wide were affected by Naxalite violence. On the other hand, speaking at the Chief Ministers’ conference on internal security chaired by the Prime Minister on September 5, the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Chief Minister, Dr Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, said 500 police stations were affected in his State. Evidently, either Mr Patil or Mr Reddy is ill informed about the spread of Naxalite violence in AP.

According to the status paper, the number of affected police stations in AP has increased to 202 in 2005 from 154 in 2004. However, senior police sources told this author that 566 police stations are affected in AP. Against this backdrop it would be instructive to know why the MHA has prescribed AP as a model for the rest of the county to tackle the Naxalite problem. As an acknowledged authority on the Naxalite movement noted, the AP model is largely titled towards a military response than addressing the socio-economic dimensions of the problem. Thus, the Maoists have been put on a tight leash in their flagship guerrilla zone, North Telengana, and are on the defensive in the Nallamla forests, while they continue to have an upper hand in their strongholds in north coastal AP.

Contrary to reality, the MHA has made a habit of taking a less grave view of the Naxalite problem, as well as concealing information from Parliament and the people. Besides, it has been providing information that stands in stark contradiction to what was, and is, being stated by responsible leaders within its own fold, and at the highest level in the government.

On March 15, 2005, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal, said in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha that “126 districts in 12 States are affected by Naxal violence/influence in varying degrees”. To be fair to him, he also mentioned: “Out of these, 76 districts in nine States are badly affected”.

But, his senior colleague and Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, held a different perception. Speaking in the Lok Sabha on May 22, he said: “I have personally collected data… only 50 districts are affected.”

Perhaps, not wanting to be left behind in sharing his own perception, the Union Home Secretary, Mr V.K. Duggal, insisted, on July 3, at the National Police Academy (NPA), Hyderabad that Naxalite activity was noticed in merely “6.5 states to be precise.”

The annual report of the MHA notes that “509 police stations in 11 states, including [in] nine states mentioned above” were affected. For some inexplicable reason, in a departure from the hitherto known practice, the annual report made no mention of the total number of districts affected to varying degrees, but introduced an entirely new unit of classification — number of police stations affected by Naxalite violence.

It is not difficult to ponder over a plausible reason for this unexpected shift in the unit of classification. A district as a unit of measurement gives the impression of a larger swathe of territory being affected, while a police station as a unit of measurement gives a vastly diminished impression of the expanse of the problem.

Barely a month and a half ahead of Mr Shivraj Patil’s assertion in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister took a different view. Addressing the second meeting of the Standing Committee of Chief Ministers of Naxalite-affected states on April 13, the Prime Minister said the Naxalite movement “has now spread to over 160 districts.”

The story of dishing out conflicting figures on the intensity and spread of the Naxalite movement is somewhat old, and is common to both the ruling UPA and its predecessor NDA government. At a meeting of the Coordination Committee of Naxalite-affected States held in Bhubaneshwar, on November 21, 2003, the then Union Home Secretary informed that Naxalite violence affected in varying degrees a total of 55 districts in nine States.

Less than a year later, on September 21, 2004, in an official note circulated at a meeting of Chief Ministers of Naxalite-affected States, the MHA disclosed that 125 districts in 12 States were affected by Naxalite violence. For those who are familiar with the stages in the progression, and dynamics, of the Naxalite movement, it is starkly clear that the figures have been botched up.

In fact, in the absence of any information on the methodology followed by the MHA, or the States, in determining how a district/police station is classified as affected, or any informed debate on its scientific validity, observers of the Maoist movement outside the government are, thus, at a loss to understand the same, and might invariably join the bandwagon of the blind men.

To keep the people ill-informed, bestow upon them the comfort of a sense of courage and confidence, as well as deceive the enemy is one thing, but getting trapped in one’s own tales of deception is disastrous beyond redemption. In this wake, one wonders if the ministry is, at all, aware of the magnitude of the problem it has at hand.

Thus, a ministry that is endemically afflicted with gloss in mind and haze in sight can hardly be expected to squarely address the Naxalite problem and resolve it at the earliest, as the Prime Minister earnestly wished in his April 13, address to the Standing Committee of Chief Ministers of Naxalite-affected States.

The writer is Research Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

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Spotted, a leopard!
by Donald Banerjee 

It was about 12 in the afternoon about eight years back.

A person rang up from Sector 30. A jumbled voice shouting “tendua!”, “tendua!” was enough to send goose pimples up one’s body. Yes, he had spotted a leopard in a house in the sector.

A telephone call to Chhat Bir Zoo confirmed that they had received an SOS about the beast having been spotted somewhere near the CSIO in Sector 30.

By the time The Tribune team reached the spot, the men in khaki had already arrived. Armed with self-loading rifles they were standing near the forest area of the CSIO. Also at hand were forest officials with tranquiliser guns.

The most vociferous person in the crowd kept on repeating: “I saw big, big eyes. They were glaring at me. I beat a hasty retreat”.

A forest official also chipped in: “I also saw those deadly eyes.”

Some students of the Indo-Swiss Training Centre also claimed having sighted the leopard at 8.30 the previous night.

One of the students even claimed having seen the spotted big cat baring its fangs. And he said it in such a way as if he had spotted a pre-historic sabre-toothed tiger. One of the eyewitnesses said, “ I saw the beast galloping like a horse.”

This statement put at rest the theory that the animal was a leopard.

This was the first time I had heard of a leopard “galloping”.

To allay the fears of the residents, the Chhat Bir Zoo Director, Dr Vinod Sharma, and the Chief Wildlife Warden, UT, Mr H.S.Soha, ventured into the CSIO forest where there was a thick undergrowth. No pugmarks were visible.

“Go deeper”, shouted the residents. The panic on the campus could not be ignored. They launched a “haka” to drive out the beast. Special armed policemen stood on standby as drummers beat up a tempo and shouted their heads out.

The 90-minute operation was of no avail. No beast could be spotted. Thorns and shrubs had to be removed from the winterwear of the officials.

As the “operation imaginary leopard” came to an end, a donkey across the street brayed, displaying its teeth and then virtually “galloped” away into the forest area.

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Human Rights Diary
Orissa’s resources under threat of misuse
by Kuldip Nayar

DO you know of an elected chief minister who does not speak the language of the state? No, this is not a quiz. It is a fact that Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik cannot talk in Oriya. And the gullible people of Orissa have elected him for the second five-year term. If there were elections today – he might go for mid-term polls within a year – he would sail through comfortably. Does it mean that he is indispensable or does it mean that people have made themselves dispensable? The latter is true.

A short visit to Bhubaneswar, the state’s capital, has not given me the full answer. But I have got an explanation of sorts. Belonging to a state, tucked on the eastern coast of India, Orissa longs for attention. The late Biju Patnaik, Navin’s father, was a dynamic chief minister who built a big steel plant, a modern port and a few other projects. People still remember him not because he in anyway improved their lot but because they came to be noticed in the rest of India and even foreign countries.

Exploiting his father’s name, Navin founded a party: Biju Janata Dal. With no other legacy except the sentiment, Navin’s venture worked. He won a majority in the state assembly. Navin’s political career is short. But he continues to catch the imagination of the Oriyas by announcing the entry of multinationals. He is signing an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with one company or the other practically every week. Therefore, he has been nicknamed as Mr MOU. He has very little to show on the ground in terms of achievements. But he is selling dreams which people are lapping up.

Biju’s undoing was his dishonesty. A special commission, headed by Supreme Court judge H.R. Khanna, found him guilty of corruption and misuse of power. Navin has been careful.  His reputation is that of a clean person. He has had dealings with several firms, foreign and Indian. But there is no charge against him of accepting any pecuniary gain. The allegation that all deals are being finalised at Delhi, where his brother lives, is persistent. But it is only an allegation, which has not hurt Navin very much. He may one day meet his father’s fate whose travel to fame was so fast that it took public men some time to catch up with his misdeeds.

Some well-meaning persons are accumulating material against Navin. The Congress, his main opponent, is trying to use the Right to Information Act for this purpose. He is fortunate that he has no tall person to challenge him in Orissa. State Congress president Jayadev Jena is pigmy. The party has a formidable person in former chief minister Janaki Ballabh Patnaik. But he is too tainted to be taken seriously for the allegations he makes.

The party itself is so hopelessly divided that one leader is busy pulling down the other. In contrast, Biju had men of repute to oppose him. Among them were Hari Krishan Mehtab, who had been a central minister, governor and state chief minister and the legendary editor Radha Nath Rath, also once a minister. They cut him down to size. He fell from the grace of even Jawaharlal Nehru who had lionised him.

Navin is not a popular figure. Nor does he address public meetings. The Oriyas are irritated over the lack of direct contact with the Chief Minister. But they have a temperament which does not get upset easily. The Oriyas either rise in revolt in lakhs or they let their anger simmer. Emperor Ashok had to kill 10 lakh of them before he could subdue them. But the butchery also made him bid farewell to arms.

This is the reason why the protest against foreign companies which propose to appropriate Orissa’s mineral resources is limited. Occasionally, a few NGOs go on hunger strike in protest. But they fail to get attention. Even otherwise, the South Korean company which is setting up a steel plan is yet to get the lease of any iron ore mine. As many as 45 steel plants are in the queue. They have made a common cause: iron ore should not be exported, something which the South Korean company is said to be doing.

One estimate is that half of the known iron ore reserves, 9,300 million tons, are already exhausted. Besides iron ore, the agricultural land, forests and water resources in the region are doomed and thousands of people are being uprooted. People are also raising their voice against the low royalty the state gets. It is Rs 24 per ton against the market price of Rs 2,800. (Incidentally, the Tatas, reported to be most liberal in the corporate sector, pay only Rs 11 per ton for its Jamshedpur steel plant.)

The Oriyas are currently talking about yet another multinational which has announced the setting up of Vedanta University over an area of 10,000 acres. Must be a city! The multinational’s real purpose is to establish an aluminium plant at Kalahandi where Orissa’s other mineral wealth, bauxite, is concentrated. The university has been thrown in to make the project attractive. There are many projects based on either iron ore or the bauxite in the offing. Foreign exchange of thousands of crores of rupees has already been pumped in, enough to make Orissa the highest earner of foreign exchange.

Still, the plight of the people has remained the same. Nor has the state shown any sign of prosperity. Patient as the people of Orissa are, they are waiting for the much-needed improvement in their living conditions. From the perennial deficit Kalahandi to the Vedanta University or other projects is quite a change. But what does it mean in real terms? True, Navin does not speak Oriya but he is conscious of the Oriyas’ miserable conditions. It looks the bureaucrats are having the best of both worlds. They know the state language, Oriya, and they also know that the chief minister is too dependent on them. One thing good about Orissa is that caste and communalism do not count in the state.

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“Don’t mention the war!”
by Rupert Cornwell in Washington

Finally George W Bush is rewriting history, or at least history as he understands it. Until now his Gulf adventure has been the new vital enterprise forced upon a wounded America. Now however a darker ghost is officially present, as the feast of hubris has turned into nemesis in Iraq. It is the shade of Vietnam.

“It could be right,” the President admitted this week, that the current upsurge in violence is similar to the Tet Offensive of January 1968, that in retrospect spelt the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War.

The Tigris of course is not the Mekong. As Tom Friedman – the New York Times columnist who this week first drew the parallel – points out, Tet was a co-ordinated offensive launched by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong against US and South Vietnamese forces. The daily slaughter in Iraq is far more complex. Only in part is it an insurgency against foreign occupiers, that threatens to make October 2006 the bloodiest month for US troops in almost two years.

Far deadlier is the toll being taken by the sectarian conflict between Shias and Sunnis. The heightened violence may be linked to the holy month of Ramzan. It may be geared to America’s approaching mid-term elections, as US commanders in Baghdad claimed yesterday. Equally possible, however, it may be obeying an uncontrollable internal dynamic of its own.

But the similarities are at least as powerful. Tet brought home to ordinary Americans the futile and bloody nature of the war. Though the North and the Viet Cong suffered military defeat, they had scored a massive psychological victory. It occurred at the start of an election year that would become the most traumatic and convulsive year in modern US history. A fortnight before America elects a new Congress, there is a whiff of tumult in the air.

In this campaign, nothing matters like Iraq. Iraq has turned the usual dynamics of an American election on its head. For once Republican candidates are running from a national security issue.

Talk about anything – but Don’t Mention the War. Democrats on the other hand, who normally venture onto military terrain as if they were picking up a scorpion by the tail, are raising Iraq in speeches and ads across the country.

The Republican dilemma may be gauged by the President’s travel schedule during the mid-terms. Bush likes campaigning, and is pretty good at it. At the last mid-terms in 2002, when his approval rating was 65 per cent or more, a personal appearance could tip the scales for a Republican in a close race. This time around, he is doing a lot of closed-door fundraising.

But on the stump he is well-nigh invisible. For what individual candidate fighting for his political life wants to be seen with a President whose popularity is falling by the day? And as Iraq worsens, so do the Republicans’ overall prospects for 7 November. A few weeks ago, it was a toss-up whether Democrats would capture the net 15 extra seats they need to win control of the House of Representatives. Now the talk is of a net swing of 25 or 30 House seats - and of a possible Democratic capture of the Senate as well.

But what is to be done? If there were an obvious pre-electoral change of course in Iraq, Bush would leap at it. So, needless to say, would the America people, two thirds of which now believe the war was a mistake. But the harsh truth is that no good option exists. General Sir Richard Dannatt is absolutely correct when he says that the presence of foreign troops only exacerbates the situation in Iraq.

On the other hand, the large US force on the ground is the only thing preventing Shias and Sunnis sending their own armies into the field, and transforming a low-level civil war into the real, all-out thing. From a strictly military viewpoint, there is at least as strong a case for boosting US troop strength in Iraq as there is for cutting it back.

Realistically, the best opportunity for a policy overhaul lies beyond the election, when the Iraq Study Group, a bi-partisan commission of the great and the good, headed by James Baker, Secretary of State under Bush the elder, presents its conclusions, probably in December or January.

Baker’s closeness and loyalty to the Bush family is legendary. But he has already said that some of the group’s recommendations will not be to the liking of the White House - including, it appears, a suggestion that the US enter talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq.

Is such a reversal really conceivable - and at the very moment the US is leading the charge for UN sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions? Ditto, the other long aired possibility, the removal of Donald Rumsfeld from the Pentagon.

Like McNamara before he announced his resignation in November 1967 (two months, incidentally, before the Tet Offensive), Rumsfeld has become the symbol and increasingly the scapegoat for an unpopular war.

But this President, as we know, hates nothing more than to admit error. But war is creating its own political reality, that could turn such squeamishness into a mere footnote to history. Just as the Tet Offensive of that long-ago January, the unrelenting bloodshed in Iraq could herald political turbulence at home, of which the mid-terms are only the start.

By arrangement with The Independent

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Inside Pakistan by Syed Nooruzzaman
Frontier Post on the chopping block

General Pervez Musharraf never misses an opportunity to claim that Pakistan today has greater Press freedom than it ever had. The reality, however, is entirely different. The media in Pakistan criticises the policies and programmes of the government only in a guarded language. Those who do not bother about playing safe suffer like The Frontier Post and its sister publication in Urdu, The Maidan.

The Frontier Post, published from Peshawar and Quetta, exposed the Musharraf regime’s media policy in an editorial on October 18, highlighting the treatment meted out to this respected daily itself. The paper said: “We have our own views and ideas. And it is but natural that we articulate them, pointing out simultaneously the shortcomings that we objectively perceive in the government’s policies…. But, from Islamabad we receive only token government advertising, far lesser than even this region’s new entrants. Evidently, for our independence we are systematically being financially starved out of the field.”

The daily is being punished by the provincial governments also for its non-conformist views. It is interesting to read what the Post has to say about the government led by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the NWFP: “But if we are having a harrowing time at the hands of Islamabad’s enlightened moderates, we are receiving equally raw deal from the holy fathers presiding over the destiny of the NWFP’s unfortunate people. They have virtually put us on their chopping block.”

The truth is that there can be no Press freedom so long as there is no democracy in the real sense of the term.

Challenge from Baloch jirga

A recent Dawn report had it that the Supreme Council of the Baloch, formed at a grand jirga at Kalat on September 21, approached lawyers in the Netherlands to file a case at the International Court of Justice against the violation of an accord reached between the then Khan of Kalat and the British and Pakistan governments. Within a few days after the present Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Daud, informed the media about this development came an announcement by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz that the Pakistan government had finalised a new scheme —- “Vision for Balochistan” —- to solve the province’s problems. The Islamabad regime is obviously feeling uneasy because of the unending unrest there.

The Pakistan government’s past record shows that it has only connived with the local sardars to deny the fruits of development to the people of the province. “Not only did the successive governments not avail themselves of any chance of addressing the suffering of the people of Balochistan, but also did nothing to take the province out of the tyrannical rule of certain individuals…”, Zarak Khan Baloch says in his well-researched article in The Frontier Post of October 17.

Commenting on the subject, a Dawn editorial suggested: “It is important that funds are budgeted for specific projects whose viability and need have been assessed thoroughly, instead of simply handing over cash (Rs 19.5 crore) to be utilised at the discretion of provincial and district-level officials. Otherwise, given the timing (next year’s elections), the disbursement of federal largesse may be perceived as an attempt to buy the loyalties of power brokers.”

Open Letters for democracy

Individuals distinguished in different fields have written during the past few days at least three Open Letters, carried in Pakistani newspapers, lamenting the state of affairs in their country. They want President Pervez Musharraf to doff his army uniform in the interest of democracy. They feel that the coming elections cannot be free and fair under a government controlled by the military.

The latest Open Letter says: “Today we find ourselves unable to look our children in the eye, for the shame of what we did and didn’t do during the past 59 years, for the shame of what we allowed to happen. Pakistan is under military rule for the fourth time and is going downhill.”

“True democracy”, as they say, is not possible when “civil society lies at the feet of the army” and Pakistan is “ruled by a general in uniform who lacks both legitimacy and credibility.”

Unfortunately, however, the letter writers, too, suffer from a credibility problem as Burhanuddin Hasan, a former director of PTV, points out in an article in The News of October 19. They have served all types of governments since 1947. They did nothing when they could do a lot.

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To answer brutality with brutality is to admit one’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy.
—Mahatma Gandhi

The people have been tortured so ruthlessly that they cried out to heaven. Did it not awaken any pity in You, O Lord?
— Guru Nanak

Listen, my friend! There is no other satisfaction, except in the encounter with the beloved.
— Kabir

Ten Perfections (paramis) Generosity(dana); Morality (sila); Renunciation (nekkhamma); Wisdom (panna); Energy (viriya); Patience (Khanti); Truthfulness (sacca); Resolution (adhitthana); Loving-Kindness (metta); Equanimity (upekkha).
—The Buddha

God is Master of the day of Requital (Malik al-Yaumiddin). He Himself judges the world. He has not made over the dominion of earth and heavens to anybody, nor has He entrusted the right of judgement to any particular person.
—The Koran

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