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

Setback for BJP
Nemesis catches up with Sidhu
M
EMBER of Parliament and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu’s conviction by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the death of a person 18 years ago is a big setback for him and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine. The Bench consisting of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Baldev Singh held the Amritsar MP guilty of culpable homicide, not amounting to murder.

The angry Dalit
Remove his sense of victimhood
V
IOLENCE from any quarter is unacceptable, particularly when it is directed against public property as in Maharashtra and some other states on Thursday. The pictures of the burning Deccan Queen will forever haunt the Mumbai-Pune commuters, for whom the train was a second home. The immediate provocation for the mob fury is the defilement of a statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in distant Kanpur. Some television channels added fuel to fire by repeatedly beaming pictures of the beheaded statue.






EARLIER STORIES

Protest within limits
December 01, 2006
Politics of oil
November 30, 2006
Rajnath again
November 29, 2006
Maya in the soup
November 28, 2006
Dam of discord
November 27, 2006
Career in the military
November 26, 2006
SC snubs Modi
November 25, 2006
Hu’s advice
November 24, 2006
India, China move forward
November 23, 2006
Blasting peace
November 22, 2006
Tackling the big fish
November 21, 2006
Neglected lot
November 20, 2006
Scope of judiciary
November 19, 2006


Wonder growth
High prices spoil the party
I
N the first half of the current financial year India has achieved 9.1 per cent GDP growth. It is the second time the country has grown so fast. The first was when in 1988-89 the economy cloaked over 10 per cent growth following a year of drought.
ARTICLE

Will Japan go nuclear?
N. Korean test will force the issue
by S.P. Seth
T
HE recent North Korean nuclear test raises the important question: will Japan go nuclear? The answer to this and the general question of Japanese military revival depends on how vulnerable Japan will come to feel in the context of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and, more importantly, China’s rising military and political profile.

MIDDLE

Fading into eternity
by B.K. Karkra
H
IS mind already seems to have wandered away from this world, but his soul is still stuck here. My father lies semi-conscious on a hospital bed at Bikaner with left side of his body paralysed.

OPED

News analysis
Maya carries on as usual
May not lose much political ground
by Shahira Naim
W
ITH the Supreme Court clearing the decks for the filing of a charge sheet against BSP President Mayawati, at least one thing is clear. Now the two most serious contenders for the post of Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh in the coming months are on an equal footing.

‘Chemotherapy causes brain damage’
by Thomas H. MaughII

C
ancer
chemotherapy can severely damage the brain, killing crucial brain cells and causing key parts of the brain to shrink, according to two studies released this week.

Inside Pakistan
Jirga time in NWFP
by Syed Nooruzzaman
Jirgas (traditional assembly of tribal and religious elders) have special significance in the tribal areas on both sides of the 2,500-km Durand Line, serving as the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. They have been known for being independent and arriving at unanimous decisions.

  • Bill on women’s rights

  • Promoting Punjabi

 REFLECTIONS

 

Top








 

Setback for BJP
Nemesis catches up with Sidhu

MEMBER of Parliament and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu’s conviction by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the death of a person 18 years ago is a big setback for him and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine. The Bench consisting of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Baldev Singh held the Amritsar MP guilty of culpable homicide, not amounting to murder. Gurnam Singh died in December 1988 after Sidhu and his associate, Rupinder Singh, had allegedly beaten him up following a dispute over parking at Patiala. The court rejected Sidhu’s claim that he had reached the spot after the incident. A person of “international fame” cannot be falsely implicated in a crime “on a busy road in full public view”, the Bench said. It also ruled that the victim died of haemorrhage and not of cardiac arrest. In doing so, the Bench reversed Sidhu’s acquittal by the District and Sessions Judge in September 1999. The case reached the High Court when both the Punjab government and Gurnam Singh’s son appealed against the acquittal.

The High Court will begin hearing on the quantum of sentence for Sidhu and Rupinder on December 6. The maximum sentence under Section 304 (II) IPC is 10 years’ imprisonment. Sidhu is entitled to appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction. All this suggests that he will have to face a tough legal battle ahead. This might prevent him from playing an active role in Punjab politics where Assembly elections are due in March. Television channels too will miss him for his expert comments on cricket.

Sidhu’s conviction comes at a time when the BJP-led NDA has been taking the high moral ground on the issue of criminalisation of politics after it got a shot in the arm when Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader and Union minister Shibu Soren was convicted for the murder of his secretary. The BJP has been asking the Congress how it allowed a person facing murder charges to continue in the Cabinet for so long. The Congress can now retort and ask how the BJP had allowed him to contest the election and remain an MP when he was facing an equally heinous charge. Though Sidhu has put in his papers as a member of the Lok Sabha on moral grounds, his innings in politics has come under cloud following the conviction. The conviction has cut short the political career of Sidhu, who could even have been fielded against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in the ensuing elections.

Top

 

The angry Dalit
Remove his sense of victimhood

VIOLENCE from any quarter is unacceptable, particularly when it is directed against public property as in Maharashtra and some other states on Thursday. The pictures of the burning Deccan Queen will forever haunt the Mumbai-Pune commuters, for whom the train was a second home. The immediate provocation for the mob fury is the defilement of a statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in distant Kanpur. Some television channels added fuel to fire by repeatedly beaming pictures of the beheaded statue. But to put the entire blame at the doorstep of the media is to miss the wood for the trees. For the Dalits in Maharashtra, who revere the architect of the Constitution, what happened in Kanpur was certainly a matter of grave concern. But it is difficult to believe that they could have been so provoked that they would come out in such large numbers and indulge in mindless violence.

What is more reasonable is to assume that the Dalit anger was all set to burst. Kanpur provided just the spark. The violence should be seen against the backdrop of the recent incident in Bhandara district where a family of four Dalits, including two women, was killed. What added to their shock was the revelation that the women were also raped before they were butchered. Anger was, therefore, brimming when the Kanpur incident occurred. It is apparent from the reports that the arsonists had a free run with little resistance from the police. It seemed the police was scared of taking the challenge head-on for fear that it would tread on the establishment’s toes.

The Maharashtra government is not only guilty of not dealing with the mob, it also allowed discontent to grow among the Dalits. Thursday’s events reflect the increasing alienation of the Dalits, who feel that they continue to be victims of discrimination in an unjust society. Had the government been more sensitive, it could have taken preemptive steps to avert the flare-up of tension. It showed similar incompetence when the Shiv Sainiks went on the rampage to protest against the desecration of a statue of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s wife a few months ago. The government should try to understand why causing mob violence has become as easy as putting a garland of shoes on a statue in Mumbai or beheading another one in a town in Uttar Pradesh.

Top

 

Wonder growth
High prices spoil the party

IN the first half of the current financial year India has achieved 9.1 per cent GDP growth. It is the second time the country has grown so fast. The first was when in 1988-89 the economy cloaked over 10 per cent growth following a year of drought. The present rate is close to a double-digit dream, which does not seem too distant now and is not far from China’s 9.5 per cent this year. What is remarkable is that this has happened despite some obvious limitations: high global oil prices, government dithering on reforms, policy hindrances to higher FDI inflow and an inadequate infrastructure.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is aware of the bottlenecks, mostly domestic and easily removable, to growth. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram himself feels lack of political space to take decisions that he wants to. No one has yet assessed the damage done by the Left by persistently opposing certain reforms. There are states which are yet to wake up and join the growth bandwagon. Leave alone Bihar, Jharkhand and UP, even a once-progressive state like Punjab is growing slower than the national average and there are no signs of a turnaround in the near future.

The growth story is exciting only for some as benefits are yet to percolate downward. If an average Indian does not share the Finance Minister’s advice of “just savour the moment”, it is because the prices of items like wheat flour, pulses, vegetables and milk have risen beyond tolerable limits. The number of those feeling left out is not small. The BJP was voted out because India did not shine as the party thought it did. The UPA programmes like Bharat Nirman and the job guarantee scheme have not yet made any visible impact in the neglected rural India. Small wonder that the dry figures of growth make little sense in villages where the basic necessities of life like clean water and access to health are lacking.

Top

 

Thought for the day

A good leader is also a good follower. — American proverb

Top

 

Will Japan go nuclear?
N. Korean test will force the issue
by S.P. Seth

THE recent North Korean nuclear test raises the important question: will Japan go nuclear? The answer to this and the general question of Japanese military revival depends on how vulnerable Japan will come to feel in the context of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and, more importantly, China’s rising military and political profile.

Tokyo might fear a conjunction of strategic interests between China and Korea (divided or unified at some point) against Japan. Already, both North Korea and South Korea, alongside China, are unhappy about the lack of Japan’s remorse for its war-time atrocities in these countries and elsewhere in Asia. Japan, in other words, is a shared concern.

However, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, particularly its recent testing, are not appreciated in China. Apart from complicating its relations with the United States, Pyongyang’s nuclear antics will only tend to strengthen elements in Japan that favour its military revival, including nuclear weapons.

But China is hoping to use the six-nation forum to manage North Korea’s nuclear issue.

During her recent China visit, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had indicated that the United States was not opposed to resumption of six-nation talks but it wouldn’t lift sanctions. It now appears that Washington might consider Pyongyang’s concerns arising from US financial sanctions in bilateral talks within the framework of the six-nation format. In return, Pyongyang might be willing to forgo any further nuclear tests.

The suspension and roll-back of North Korea’s nuclear programme, the crux of the six-nation process, is likely to become more of a goal than an easily achievable target. With the United States mired in Iraq and Mr George Bush increasingly becoming a lame duck President (even more so after the mid-term elections going against the Republicans), the whole process of the six-party talks, when revived, is likely to slow down to a crawl without any substantive progress.

As for sanctions, there is some talk now that these are non-coercive. If so, how will these be enforced if Pyongyang were to refuse inspection, as would seem likely, for contraband goods under the UN Security Council provisions?

In other words, China would be back in the driver’s seat at the six-nation forum but without any serious promise of progress on North Korea’s nuclear programme.

What would that mean for Japan? It would mean that Beijing will drive the regional agenda, at least in the short term, by making itself central to the North Korean nuclear question; though the lack of progress is bound to exacerbate tensions between China and the United States soon enough, with Washington expecting Beijing to bring Pyongyang into line.

Tokyo has undertaken to continue pressing ahead with its sanctions against North Korea. According to Foreign Minister Taro Aso, “We will continue to demand that North Korea give up all its nuclear weapons and its existing nuclear programmes.” But that is not going to happen any time soon, if at all.

The dichotomy between Japan’s status as the second most powerful economic power and its secondary political and military role is evident on the North Korean issue, where the revival of six-party talks, it would appear, seems to have been decided between China and the United States without reference to Japan.

As Mr Yasuhiko Yoshida of Osaka University of Economics and Law has said, “The agreement to resume six-party talks was reached because the Bush Administration wants to score a diplomatic point ahead of the mid-tem elections in the United States (which it has lost anyway) and North Korea does not want to see China losing face.”

It is not a situation that Japan likes but it doesn’t have many options but to operate within the constraints of its security treaty with the United States.

While most Japanese people do not favour nuclear weapons for their country, it has at times been canvassed by some powerful figures in its political establishment. For instance, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and LDP leader Shoichi Nakagawa did canvass the need for a debate on the issue in the context of the threat from North Korea.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, quashed the idea lest it might create more complications regionally and internationally, preferring to be satisfied with the strong US commitment as expressed by Ms Condoleezza Rice during her recent Japan-visit. She said, “The United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range, and I underscore full range, of its deterrent and security commitments to Japan.”

But even Mr Abe had canvassed the issue in 2002 as a rising political star, having reportedly said that there was nothing in Japan’s pacifist constitution to preclude Japan from having nuclear weapons “small enough to be strictly defensive.”

His grandfather, then Prime Minister Nabusuke Kishi, had expressed the same view in 1958. But he also categorically said that “Japan will not arm itself with nuclear weapons”, preferring to rely on the US nuclear shield.

That position, more or less, holds. But it is interesting that Japan’s pacifist constitution is not considered an obstacle, in some influential Japanese quarters, to acquire a small nuclear armoury for defensive purposes, if necessary.

For the present, though, Japan and the United States are working to enhance Tokyo’s role in the alliance both geographically and operationally. The two countries have recast their security alliance. According to Ms Rice, this has re-energised their alliance from “bilateral defense cooperation vital to the security of Japan as well as to peace and stability of the region” into “a global alliance”.

In other words, Japan is assuming an activist role as part of its alliance with the United States, be it in the Indian Ocean as rearguard support for US military operations in Afghanistan, and in Iraq.

This has happened with US encouragement and pressure, especially after the first Gulf War when Japan came under criticism for buying its way out of military commitment through financial contributions.

But Japan’s political establishment is now increasingly in favour of a higher military profile within the alliance, and is taking measures to facilitate this through the legislative process. And as Japan’s role expands, with US increasingly over-committed, it will come to acquire a greater leverage in their bilateral alliance.

If Japan wants to continue operating within its US alliance, the only way it can acquire nuclear weapons is as part of their joint defence project. And it is not inconceivable considering that Japan is already involved in the development of a joint missile defence programme and is part of joint research and development of all sorts of military-related stuff.

It is true that the United States is unlikely to envisage an independent Japanese nuclear role but it could, over a period of time, develop into something like the Anglo-American partnership. If the China threat directly, or through the maverick Kim Jong-il regime, were to become serious, US-Japan partnership might take an even more interesting turn.

Top

 

Fading into eternity
by B.K. Karkra

HIS mind already seems to have wandered away from this world, but his soul is still stuck here. My father lies semi-conscious on a hospital bed at Bikaner with left side of his body paralysed.

Often he takes his right hand instinctively to his head where a pool of blood has been formed due to hemorrhage. This loose blood pressing against his brain tissues has damaged his cognitive capacity. For all practical purposes the stroke has snatched him from us.

Some 50 years back the father-son relationship among us got pushed to the backyard of our minds and entirely new bond of friendship got gradually forged. We could now open our hearts to many new areas. At stake now are, thus, not only the final ties but also this companionship of half a century.

Yet, we are already reconciled to his loss. After all, he is 94 and all these years have been well-lived. Even minutes before the paralytic attack, he was firmly in command as head of our family — sharing our situations, shouting instructions and eager to extend his helping hand to the people in problem. This, no doubt, would never be the same for us again.

But, what else can be asked from God for him? He has already lived many memorable moments in his long life and is leaving for us a bagful of memories.

Like every father, he always had exaggerated ideas about our abilities. We, the brothers, are fairly well-placed in our lives, but do not have pretensions to any sort of extra-ordinariness. Still, it feels good that there is at least one person on earth who thinks no end of us. All of us like to live with small little illusions. Even the British had illusions of permanence about their rule. Sadly, all this would be over for us as he closes his eyes on this world.

As for him, every human being has two aspects to his personality. As our father, he has been a sort of institution for us. As a person of blood and bones, he must surely be an ordinary mortal. Still, on balance, he has been a benign, well-meaning and worthy individual. We are sure, the people who come close to him in his life would not dispute this view.

We are told that there are three ways of getting to God — “Gyan Yoga” (thought knowledge), “Bhakti Yoga” (thought faith) and “Karma Yoga” (by just doing one’s worldly duties well). Our father was not much of a thinker. However, he was, undoubtedly, a man of faith and a great doer. We believe that his attainments in these areas would serve him well and take him safely and surely to his salvation.

If he rises from the ashes to read this, it would, indeed, be a divine miracle.

Top

 

News analysis
Maya carries on as usual
May not lose much political ground
by Shahira Naim

WITH the Supreme Court clearing the decks for the filing of a charge sheet against BSP President Mayawati, at least one thing is clear. Now the two most serious contenders for the post of Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh in the coming months are on an equal footing.

In June this year the apex court had refused to stay the income tax authorities’ notices to Samajwadi Party chief and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family members who have been directed to submit details of tax returns for the past six years in a PIL charging them with amassing disproportionate assets.

So if by the Supreme Court direction Ms Mayawati appears to have lost some political ground — let it be clear that the ground is very murky and extremely slippery. Her main rival, the Samajwadi Party, would not really be able to pin her down here as its own chickens will come home to roost sooner or later.

Going by the recent history of corruption cases against politicians in the country one can safely say that it has never interfered in the upward climb of the graph of their political careers. As a matter of fact in some cases it has even added a feather or two to their caps by projecting them as being hunted by their political rivals. Be it Lalu Prasad Yadav, Sukh Ram, Shibu Soren or even our own Mulayam Singh Yadav or Mayawati, both carry enough corruption baggage from their previous terms.

Did their reported corruption cases seriously erode their largely rural caste-loyal vote banks who are made to see every fresh attack as further harassment by their political rivals?

Often twisting facts and embellishing arguments to their political advantage, politicians draw mileage out of such situations as their supporters are often not discerning enough to distinguish who the so-called “culprit” is.

For instance, in the case at hand it remains to be seen how the PIL into the Rs 175 crore Taj corridor case would be unfolded before the rural dalit voter in that remote village in district Akbarpur. Will she walk home believing that her “behenji” is being harassed, specially now when her mentor, Kanshi Ram, is no more as the poor woman is trying so hard to bring dignity to Dalits like her?

Will the fact that the Supreme Court has actually indicted the CBI that is a central agency and not under the control of the state government run by Mulayam Singh Yadav be shared with the voter? These are questions that will be answered in the coming weeks.

The Supreme Court directions would serve some serious purpose if it manages to shake the BSP out of its false sense of security of being the new address for the state’s Brahmin voters.

The swing in the BJP’s fortune as reflected in the unexpected results of the local body elections had already started a churning process in the saffron party and its traditional vote bank- that is the tilak, tarazu and talwar castes of Brahmins, bania and kshatriyas.

The message that has gone out with the saffron party bagging eight of the 12 Mayor seats in Uttar Pradesh is clear - the saffron party which had appeared to be dying is only sick and can be nurtured back to health by proper care and guidance of experts like the RSS.

This apparent belief amongst its traditional supporters, especially Brahmins, can ring the death knell of the BSP’s newfound Sarvjan ideology that in recent months had considerably diluted its core political Bahujan ideology of being the upholder of the rights of the Dalits by manoeuvering political space for them.

While it is too early to see a definite trend some instances have already occurred to substantiate this. The notorious BJP MP from Gonda Brij Bhushan Singh, whose wife Ketaki Singh kept his seat warm while he cooled his heels in jail under TADA, was about to move to the BSP. To test waters he had made his wife join the BSP a few months ago.

In both BSP and BJP circles it was a foregone conclusion that the husband would inevitably follow the wife. However, much to the surprise of leaders in both parties Singh was seen sharing the dais with senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu in Ayodhya recently where Naidu was addressing a party rally. Insiders in Mayawati’s party admit that behenji’s remark against the Muslims and banias at a press conference immediately after the announcement of results of the local body elections were no off-the-cuff remarks.

Always armed with written notes the BSP chief never makes a statement without giving it a proper thought. People close to her point out that the remarks were made by Ms Mayawati to send a signal to her core Dalit constituency that for her accommodating other castes and communities was merely a political strategy. She wants to let them know that Dalits and Dalits alone would remain her true beneficiaries.

Some time ago her announcement that her political inheritor would be a Dalit was also done with this agenda in mind. In this political milieu the Supreme Court direction has on the contrary, the potential to be a lethal piece of ammunition in the BSP’s already strong weaponry.

Top

 

‘Chemotherapy causes brain damage’
by Thomas H. MaughII

Cancer chemotherapy can severely damage the brain, killing crucial brain cells and causing key parts of the brain to shrink, according to two studies released this week.

The new findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that the phenomenon of ``chemobrain'' -- the mental fuzziness, memory loss and cognitive impairment often reported by cancer patients but often dismissed by oncologists -- is a serious problem.

“Those of us on the front lines have known this for a long time, but now we have some neuropathological evidence that what we are seeing involves an anatomic change,” said Dr. Stewart Fleishman, director of cancer supportive services at Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

He said the most common question he encounters from patients when he give a public lecture is: “My doctor doesn't believe me. How can I convince him this is real?”

The new studies should help convince physicians who are skeptical about the phenomenon, said Fleishman, who was not involved in the research.

Because chemotherapy is a such a crucial component of cancer treatment and cannot be abandoned, scientists are calling for increased research on shielding the brain from its toxic effects and developing more selective cancer drugs.

``There are no easy answers,'' said Dr. Patricia K. Duffner of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine. “We must balance the need for survival with quality of life.”

Several studies have suggested that from 40 percent to 80 percent of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy suffer from chemobrain. The problem is particularly severe for breast cancer patients, Fleishman noted, because the treatment induces hormonal changes typical of menopause, and these changes can also produce memory problems.

It has also become more common as chemotherapy has increasingly been used at an early stage of treatment rather than as a treatment of last resort.

Dr. Masatoshi Inagaki of the National Cancer Center Hospital in Shikoku, Japan, led a team that used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 51 women who received chemotherapy for breast cancer with those of 54 breast cancer patients who had only surgery.

Inagaki and his colleagues reported Monday in the current issue of the journal Cancer that, one year after treatment, key areas of the brain involved in cognitive processes -- including the prefrontal, parahippocampus and cingulate gyri -- were significantly smaller in the women who had chemotherapy.

The greater the volume loss in those areas, the team found, the greater the difficulty shown by the women in tests of concentration and memory.

When they studied the same women three years after therapy, however, the volumes were about the same in both groups of women, suggesting that the brain has unsuspected recuperative powers.

In the second study, biomedical geneticist Mark D. Noble and his colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center exposed human brain cells and brain tumor cells grown in a laboratory dish to three of the most commonly used cancer drugs, carmustine, cisplatin and cytarabine.

They reported Thursday in the Journal of Biology that low doses of the drugs caused a 60 percent to 90 percent reduction in the viability of the brain cells, but had little effect on the tumor cells. To kill 40 percent to 80 percent of the tumor cells required drug doses that killed 70 percent to 100 percent of the brain cells.

Even though the cancer drugs are targeted at replicating cancer cells, the researchers found that both replicating and nonreplicating brain cells were killed.

The team then administered the drugs to mice and autopsied their brains. They found that the drugs killed cells in several regions of the brain and that cells continued dying, in some cases, for several weeks after the cessation of treatment.

“This is the first study that puts chemobrain on a sound scientific footing,” Noble said.

In a third study, reported last month in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Dr. Daniel Silverman and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, used positron emission tomography to study brain metabolism in 16 women who underwent chemotherapy and surgery for breast cancer and five who had only surgery. They also studied 13 women who did not have cancer and received no treatment.

They took images of the women's brains at rest and while they were performing exercises in short-term memory. They found that the women who received chemotherapy had lower metabolism rates while they were resting than did the women in the other two groups. The lower the resting rate, the more difficulty the women had on the memory tests.

During the memory tests, the metabolism of the women who received chemotherapy spiked sharply.

“`In effect, these women's brains were working harder than the control subjects' brains to recall the same information,” Silverman said.

They also found that the effects persisted in some of the women for at least 10 years.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

Top

 

Inside Pakistan
Jirga time in NWFP
by Syed Nooruzzaman

Jirgas (traditional assembly of tribal and religious elders) have special significance in the tribal areas on both sides of the 2,500-km Durand Line, serving as the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. They have been known for being independent and arriving at unanimous decisions.

“However, the concept and function of jirgas have changed over the years. The jirgas convened by governments are stuffed with their nominees who make decisions favouring the rulers. The independent jirgas such as those called by tribes in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) mostly take decisions in accordance with riwaj (customs) and tribal traditions and in line with Islamic injunctions”, says Rahimullah Yusufzai, Executive Editor of The News, in his article carried in the paper on November 24.

The November 20 jirga in Peshawar might have been organised by Mr Afsandyar Wali Khan, chief of the Awami National Party (ANP), keeping in view the next year’s elections in Pakistan. It may help him in expanding his base in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). However, it was held for promoting peace and had a larger appeal. It reflected growing uneasiness among the Pakhtuns in the wake of the Bajaur killings.

Yusufzai adds: “There is no doubt the power of jirgas has diminished due to a host of reasons, ranging from government and political interference to the rise of moneyed classes able to influence tribal elders and clergymen. Jirgas like the one arranged by the ANP will have political and moral weight only because there is no official sanction to the decisions to be implemented.”

Reports suggest that more such jirgas are likely to be organised in the tribal province because of the unending bloodshed, continuing since 9/11. In the opinion of Yususzai, “Subsequent jirgas would add to the value of the ANP initiative and primarily follow its lead in demanding an end to hostilities in the Pakhtun belt.”

The ANP-sponsored jirga was unique as it attracted “Pakhtun politicians, religious scholars, intellectuals, bureaucrats, diplomats and artists … having conflicting views”.

Bill on women’s rights

The Pervez Musharraf government is faced with a serious crisis following the passage of the Women’s Protection Bill by the Pakistan National Assembly recently. Members of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six religious parties, have threatened to resign from the assembly (Pakistan’s parliament) to register their protest against the law enacted to safeguard women’s rights. The MMA has also decided to hold country-wide demonstrations if the Bill is allowed to become the law.

In this context, Najam Sethi, Editor of The Friday Times, says in his editorial that General Musharraf “has taken the plunge —- enacting the Women’s Protection Bill, which challenges the Hudood laws —- seemingly at the most inopportune and weakest moment of his seven-year rule. The mullahs who helped him amend the constitution in 2003 to remain army chief and President are now baying for his blood because of his allegedly ‘pro-moderation’ policies. His popularity too has hugely dipped in the wave of anti-Americanism sweeping the country.”

Warning the MMA of the possible consequences of its planned street protests, a Dawn editorial asks: “…is the MMA sure that what will follow will be in its and the country’s (Pakistan’s) interest? As Pakistan’s history shows, street agitations have always led to the capture of power by generals who had their own agendas.” These agitations will wreck the economy, and “the ultimate beneficiary of a regime change could be a new set of generals.”

Promoting Punjabi

Efforts are on to ensure that no harm is caused to indigenous languages and cultural traditions because of reckless globalisation. This has led to an interesting movement called the Lok Boli Mela, launched three years ago.

This year’s five-day Boli Mela began on November 27 at a little-known place called Okara on Faisalabad Road, according to a Dawn report. It has been jointly organised by the Punjab Lok Sujag, the Punjab Lok Rahas and the Punjab Lok Boli Sangat.

A Boli Conference, a Punjabi essay writing contest and debates involving school students were among the major attractions. A few plays were also staged to entertain the visitors.

The organisers use the occasion to highlight the problems faced by Punjabi and other indigenous languages. They point out that Punjabi in particular was being suppressed by the authorities.

Interestingly, 35 farmers’ organisations and the All-Pakistan Bonded Labour Federation also participated in the mela.

Top

 

Do not give anything without considering the need of the taker. Giving should not abuse the dignity of the receiver. It should be in keeping with the welfare of the person and should genuinely uplift him. The real intention of help should be this.
— The Bhagvad Gita

The human body has nine doors (outlets). Three gunas (Sattva, Rajas Tama gunas) are inherent in the body, pervading and regulating it. The body has a heart likened to a lotus, wherein dwells the Spirit-to-worship. He who has realised Brahma knows that spirit as the Atma itself.
— The Vedas

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 |