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50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

President Obama 
Enormous challenges to meet

W
ith
the White House getting a new tenant, President Barack Obama, there is some hope for change in the United States. As most Americans expect, he is bound to concentrate on how to turn the US economy around as his first priority. It is indeed a challenging task. He has to find a way to give a new direction to his country’s economy, faced with the kind of crisis it has never seen since the Great Depression of the thirties.

Son rises, as expected
Sukhbir can be more than a deputy

Politics in India has become a family concern. Also in Punjab with Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal’s proposed elevation as the Deputy Chief Minister in his father’s government. For the past some years Mr Parkash Singh Badal had been grooming his son for the top post, sidelining senior leaders who could pose a hurdle. By handing over party affairs to Sukhbir, he let him bring in his faithfuls to key posts.



EARLIER STORIES

Adieu, George Bush
January 19, 2009
Making TV a scapegoat
January 18, 2009
Miliband’s ballistics
January 17, 2009
Terror under arrest
January 16, 2009
Friends or foes?
January 15, 2009
Losing sheen
January 14, 2009
A dangerous trend
January 13, 2009
Don’t bank on others
January 12, 2009
Policing the people
January 11, 2009
Prosecute Raju
January 10, 2009
Asatyam
January 9, 2009


It calls for probe
The farce known as National Games

The Indian Olympic Association’s announcement of the postponement of the 34th National Games is shameful since the major reason for the move is “lack of preparation”. The games were originally scheduled to be held in Jharkhand in 2007, and now after an expenditure of hundreds of crore of rupees, they have yet again been postponed from February 15 to June 1, 2009.

ARTICLE

Enemy next door
Threats from Pakistan army’s jihadi links
by Amulya Ganguli

A year after the adoption of the Muslim League’s Pakistan resolution, Jinnah told a gathering in Aligarh: “Let us, therefore, live as good neighbours; let the Hindus guard the south and western India and let the Muslims guard the north-west and eastern frontiers. We will then stand together and say to the world: Hands off India; India for the Indians”.


MIDDLE

They fought for America
by Harwant Singh
T
HE Tuskegee Airmen are the intrepid fighter pilots from World War II. They were around 990 of them with a ground support personnel strength of approximately 15,000. More than 1,50,000 operation sorties in their logbooks, they had flown in North Africa and Europe during World War II, escorting allied bombers and knocking out hundreds of enemy aircraft. 


OPED

Israeli ceasefire
Set up a UN war crimes tribunal
by Robert Fisk

I
t's
a wrap, a doddle, an Israeli ceasefire just in time for Barack Obama to have a squeaky-clean inauguration with all the world looking at the streets of Washington rather than the rubble of Gaza. Condi and Ms Livni thought their new arms-monitoring agreement – reached without a single Arab being involved – would work. Ban Ki-moon welcomed the unilateral truce.

Chandigarh needs democracy
by Gobind Thukral

O
ver
a million Chandigarh citizens are a privileged people. They earn the highest in the country and spend the highest, perhaps. The per capita income, though a not very correct way to judge the real wealth of the people, last year was over Rs 1 lakh, the highest in the country and beats even Delhi, the national capital.

Inside Pakistan
Who are Swati Taliban?

by Syed Nooruzzaman

The Taliban in the Swat valley are in total control of the area, once known as the Switzerland of Pakistan. They have set up Sharia courts to dispense justice in their own style. Reports say that everyday people find beheaded bodies in different parts of the valley. Mingora, the biggest town in Swat, is now known for its Khooni Chowk more than anything else.

  • Wahabi domination

  • Zaradri’s powers

Delhi Durbar
Stickers to boost Advani image

Undeterred by a Bhairon Singh Shekhawat or a Kalyan Singh or even a Narendra Modi trying to play spoilsports to L.K. Advani’s ambition to become the next Prime Minister, the BJP is going full blast in its campaign to see him occupy the highest administrative position in the country.

  • Miliband gets a snub

  • SC judges’ photos greet visitors

Corrections and clarifications

 


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President Obama 
Enormous challenges to meet

With the White House getting a new tenant, President Barack Obama, there is some hope for change in the United States. As most Americans expect, he is bound to concentrate on how to turn the US economy around as his first priority. It is indeed a challenging task. He has to find a way to give a new direction to his country’s economy, faced with the kind of crisis it has never seen since the Great Depression of the thirties. Going in for more spending by the government may be one of the measures he may take, as he promised during his campaign. A bit of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal may become necessary, but he has to be really innovative to pull his country out of the crisis.

New Delhi will be watching with curiosity not only his moves on job outsourcing, which can adversely affect India’s BPO companies, but also how the Obama administration looks at the US relations with India. The Bush administration took the Indo-US ties to a new high with the signing of the nuclear deal. Mr Obama has indicated that the relations between the two countries will be strengthened further during his tenure in the Oval Office, but how he keeps his word remains to be seen. If he gives a fillip to the Indo-US nuclear deal he will be serving US economic interests along with helping India in its drive for meeting its growing energy requirement through the use of nuclear technology. But if he succumbs to the wishes of the nuclear Ayatullahs in the Democratic Party there can be difficulties in relations with India.

It all depends on how he views the situation in South Asia. The US does not know how to get out of the mess the Bush administration has created in Iraq and Afghanistan. The threat from the Taliban in Afghanistan remains as potent today as ever despite all that the US and its NATO allies have been doing since 9/11 with Pakistan as “a key non-NATO ally”. Pakistan itself has emerged as a major threat to peace and stability because of its policy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The latest proof is the Mumbai carnage. The Obama administration will help fight terrorism if it forces Pakistan to change its policy and crack down on terrorist groups. 

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Son rises, as expected
Sukhbir can be more than a deputy

Politics in India has become a family concern. Also in Punjab with Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal’s proposed elevation as the Deputy Chief Minister in his father’s government. For the past some years Mr Parkash Singh Badal had been grooming his son for the top post, sidelining senior leaders who could pose a hurdle. By handing over party affairs to Sukhbir, he let him bring in his faithfuls to key posts. On his part, Mr Sukhbir Badal successfully proved his organisational skills in the last assembly elections. No one in Punjab is surprised at what is clearly a part of the family’s succession plan.

Understandably, none in the party has raised a voice of dissent. Opposition, if any, has come from the coalition partner, the BJP’s state unit. The party’s national leadership has instead willingly accepted Mr Badal’s arrangement for his son. In Indian coalition politics a single party does not usually hold both the top posts. That is why Punjab BJP leaders cried foul, but the BJP national leadership does not want any showdown or controversy with its partner on the eve of Lok Sabha elections. The open rift between the coalition partners, though subdued for the time being, may resurface in the coming elections to the advantage of the Congress. The BJP already has to contend with a divided and dissatisfied state unit in Rajasthan.

Despite senior Badal’s deft political maneuvering, Mr Sukhbir Singh’s aggressive and a bit impatient style of functioning has made him unacceptable in certain quarters. Even as the president of the Akali Dal, his meddling in government affairs was seen as an unwelcome intrusion. He would make official announcements while holding a party position. Now at least he will have some legitimacy to speak on behalf of the state government. This, hopefully, will make him more responsible, especially in dealing with his political opponents. He has much to learn from his father’s polite and down-to-earth approach to what concern the public. There is also the possibility that he will be more than a deputy.

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It calls for probe
The farce known as National Games

The Indian Olympic Association’s announcement of the postponement of the 34th National Games is shameful since the major reason for the move is “lack of preparation”. The games were originally scheduled to be held in Jharkhand in 2007, and now after an expenditure of hundreds of crore of rupees, they have yet again been postponed from February 15 to June 1, 2009.

The National Games have a sorry history of recurring postponements. Far too many times the premier sports meet in the country has not been held on schedule because necessary facilities were not available on time. Increasingly, the National Games have attracted flak. Why should they be shifted every time to a new venue, especially when the infrastructure for holding the meets is seldom utilised properly after the concluding ceremonies? The high-tech facilities are often shut to state and regional players and there are reports of specialised equipment gathering dust in the warehouse because of disuse.

Unfortunately, the National Games have become more of a farce than a serious competition in which athletes give their best performance and thus prepare for international events. Official bodies like the Indian Olympic Association do not seem to spare a thought for the athletes and their morale. All over the world, sportsmen work hard to get ready for major sporting events, which are never postponed. Athletes have been preparing for this year’s games for the past two years. Many missed deadlines later, it would be unfair and wrong to expect them to give their best performance. The summer heat would add to their woes. The government needs to order a probe as to why the games have to be put off again. Someone must be held responsible for not doing his job. 

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Thought for the Day

Unkempt about those hedges blows/An English unofficial rose. — Rupert Brooke

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Enemy next door
Threats from Pakistan army’s jihadi links
by Amulya Ganguli

A year after the adoption of the Muslim League’s Pakistan resolution, Jinnah told a gathering in Aligarh: “Let us, therefore, live as good neighbours; let the Hindus guard the south and western India and let the Muslims guard the north-west and eastern frontiers. We will then stand together and say to the world: Hands off India; India for the Indians”.

It is clear that Jinnah regarded himself then as an all-India politician, viewing India as a whole and Indians as a composite entity despite their various religions. These two concepts — the unity of India and the common identity of Indians — were to become the casualties when the Quaid-e-Azam’s “moth-eaten” Pakistan came into being. But, in Aligarh in 1941, Jinnah was still articulating the vision of his earlier political phase as the “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”, in Sarojini Naidu’s words.

There is basically one reason why Pakistan did not live up to this vision or the one visualised by Jinnah’s “Hindus will cease to be Hindus, Muslims will cease to be Muslims” speech on August 11, 1947. It was the deaths of Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan in quick succession which meant that Pakistan was deprived of any politician of stature (unlike India), who could ensure the new country’s development as a good neighbour. Instead, it fell into the hands of petty politicians, whose bickering enabled the army to take charge on the plea of restoring order. In the process, however, it inflicted two grave damages on Pakistan.

One was to stifle the growth of democratic institutions and the other was to perpetuate its own rule by fostering the bogey of India as the big, bad bully forever threatening Pakistan’s survival. The US, too, made its highly damaging contribution to this depressing scenario by describing Ayub Khan’s takeover as a “popular coup”, thereby legitimising army rule then and later. Washington was propping up dictators wherever it could at the time to counter the communists and deriding Indian democracy as a “functional anarchy”, in J.K. Galbraith’s words. It was a myopic policy which reached its most fateful climax when the US built up the Islamic zealots, including Osama bin Laden, in the eighties to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

But it is India which is facing one of the most critical periods of its post-Independence history as a result of these American-inspired events in Pakistan from the mid-fifties. While the earlier threats were from the army alone, the latest is from a dangerous combination of the army and the militant fundamentalists, which has its roots in the Islamisation of the military in Zia-ul-Huq’s time and the growth of terrorism in Afghanistan. This covert alliance between the army and its adjunct, the ISI, on the one hand, and the religious extremists on the other is a dangerous, as well unique, formation which is establishing a new precedent in modern history. Never before has an army been in cahoots with anarchic elements to fulfil its strategic objectives.

It is not difficult to understand why this partnership between an institution of the state and the so-called non-state actors is taking place. Pakistan lost both its two major wars with India. It was forced to make peace in 1966 when an advancing Indian army directly threatened Lahore, and suffered a crushing setback with the surrender of 93,000 soldiers in 1971 when Jinnah’s two-nation theory was buried by the secession of East Pakistan. Since then, the Pakistan army has never ceased to plan its revenge by trying to enact in Kashmir India’s success in Bangladesh. The 1999 Kargil misadventure of Gen Pervez Musharraf was one such attempt, but behind it was the grandiose game-plan of building up the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as an area of strategic retreat in the event of a war with India.

Pakistan may have lost Afghanistan after 9/11, but its tactics remained unchanged — to use the jihadis based in the badlands of the north-west and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to undermine India. In the words of Lashkar-e-Taiyaba’s Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, “there cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy”. What is alarming is that this insane hatred is shared by at least sections of the Pakistan army and the ISI, though not by the Pakistani people or the country’s civilian leadership.

The latter seem to have not only realised that India cannot be made to kneel, but the new generation of leaders in Pakistan also probably do not have any desire to make it do so. As any visitor from India to Pakistan has experienced, there is such an abundance of goodwill for them that often shopkeepers refuse to accept payments or taxi drivers their fares. It is worth remembering that the first series of cricket Test matches between India and Pakistan was in 1952-53, only five years after the traumatic events of Partition. Evidently, the ordinary people of the two countries had decided to forgive and forget.

Only the army and the ISI have retained their animus. In fact, their antipathy towards India is so great that they haven’t hesitated to foster the jihadi culture even if it hurts Pakistan itself, for the religious bigots have no time for democracy and other civil institutions which cannot but be neutral in the modern age. So, the highly unusual nature of the threat against India is obvious. It comes not from a country or its people, but from the army of that country, whose policies are at variance with those of the civilian leaders. The latter is also virtually helpless because the background of successful coups has made the army a law unto itself, which allows the civilians to rule at its pleasure. Otherwise, they will be toppled.

The events of the recent past confirm this assessment. As soon as the army realised that the new government of Mr Asif Ali Zardari is keen on friendship with India, it decided to nip such a development in the bud by organising an attack on Mumbai. There were other reasons, too, for its offensive. India’s economic growth, its proximity to the US via the nuclear deal and its rising stature because of its thriving multicultural democracy must have unnerved the Pakistan army, for it realised that India would soon become too successful and powerful a regional power to be contained any more. Pakistan army’s old preference for parity with India, which used to be encouraged by the US during the Cold War, would then have to be abandoned forever.

India’s growing presence in Afghanistan, where it is welcomed by the locals, was also a matter of concern to the Pakistan army. Not only had it lost its area of retreat, the total jihadi territory in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden lives, was shrinking. And it would shrink further when the new American President, Mr Barack Obama, introduced his proposed surge in troops in Afghanistan and carried out more aerial bombardment of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The Pakistan army and the ISI, therefore, didn’t have a moment to lose. They had to carry out a major strike against India with the help of their jihadi collaborators in order to provoke a war, which would refocus American and international attention on Kashmir. Perhaps the reports about Mr Bill Clinton’s appointment as a special envoy for South Asia were seen by the Pakistan military as an excellent opportunity to turn Kashmir again into a nuclear flashpoint, as in 2001 after the attack on the Indian Parliament. It is a manoeuvre which India must nullify at the earliest. Kashmir is a problem for future generations to solve, as even Beijing once said. In any event, India cannot discuss it as long as Pakistan remains the hotbed of terrorism and its government unable and perhaps unwilling to end the menace.

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They fought for America
by Harwant Singh

THE Tuskegee Airmen are the intrepid fighter pilots from World War II. They were around 990 of them with a ground support personnel strength of approximately 15,000. More than 1,50,000 operation sorties in their logbooks, they had flown in North Africa and Europe during World War II, escorting allied bombers and knocking out hundreds of enemy aircraft. Some were taken prisoners, and more died in combat. Roughly 330 are still alive: 119 ex-pilots and 211 former ground crews. They are in their eighties and nineties: frail and in failing health with limited mobility.

Some 60 years later in March 2007 their acts of valour were formally acknowledged with the award of Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour Congress can bestow. Three hundred of them had come to collect their bronze replicas at a ceremony held at the Capitol Hill, presided over by the President. The actual Gold Medal itself was kept at the Smithsonian Institute.

Now they have been invited to attend the January 20 inaugural ceremony of Barack Obama as the country’s first black President. They and their spouses or one guest each will be given seats along with 30,000 select guests on the terrace below the podium. In all, a crowd of about 1.5 million is expected to attend the inaugural function in Washington DC. Given the state of their health, how many of the Tuskegee Warriors will make it to the inauguration is a moot point!

The Tuskegee Airmen was an all-black force of elite pilots, trained at the Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama during 1942-1946. They have a special place in history. They fought for a country which actively discriminated against them. In recognition of their services to the country, President Henry Truman desegregated the military. At the ceremony for the award of Congressional Gold Medal, President Bush said: “The Tuskegee Airmen preceded Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and if they hadn’t helped generate climate of tolerance by integration of the military and without their active support and patience we might not have progressed through the civil rights era.”

They had suffered discrimination on many fronts. When, after the war William M Wheeler, an ex-fighter pilot, tried to become a commercial pilot, instead he was offered the job of cleaning aircraft. As a final tribute to their contribution to the integration of the American society, Barack Obama said: “My career in public service was made possible by the path heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen trail blazed.”

The Tuskegee Airmen have a special place in American history. They had ignored the barbs of the Germans who tauntingly asked them as to why they were fighting for those who so blatantly discriminate against them. Their contribution to the melding of the American society will always remain praiseworthy. They, like all others, fought in the Great War as Americans.n


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Israeli ceasefire
Set up a UN war crimes tribunal
by Robert Fisk

It's a wrap, a doddle, an Israeli ceasefire just in time for Barack Obama to have a squeaky-clean inauguration with all the world looking at the streets of Washington rather than the rubble of Gaza.

Condi and Ms Livni thought their new arms-monitoring agreement – reached without a single Arab being involved – would work. Ban Ki-moon welcomed the unilateral truce.

The great and the good gathered for a Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Only Hamas itself was not consulted. Which led, of course, to a few wrinkles in the plan. First, before declaring its own ceasefire, Hamas fired off more rockets at Israel, proving that Israel's primary war aim – to stop the missiles – had failed.

Then Cairo shrugged off the deal because no one was going to set up electronic surveillance equipment on Egyptian soil. And not one European leader travelling to the region suggested the survivors might be helped if Israel, the EU and the US ended the food and fuel siege of Gaza.

After killing hundreds of women and children, Israel was the good guy again, by declaring a unilateral ceasefire that Hamas was certain to break. But Obama will be smiling on Tuesday. Was not this the reason, after all, why Israel suddenly wanted a truce?

Egypt's objections may be theatre – the US spent £18m last year training Egyptian security men to stop arms smuggling into Gaza and since the US bails out Egypt's economy, ignores the corruption of its regime and goes on backing Hosni Mubarak, there's sure to be a "compromise" very soon.

And Hamas has had its claws cut. Israel's informers in Gaza handed over the locations of its homes and hideouts and the government of Gaza must be wondering if they can ever close down the spy rings. Hamas thought its militia was the Hizbollah – a serious error – and that the world would eventually come to its aid.

The world (although not its pompous leaders) felt enormous pity for the Palestinians, but not for the cynical men of Hamas who staged a coup in Gaza in 2007 which killed 151 Palestinians. As usual, the European statesmen appeared hopelessly out of touch with what their own electorates thought.

And history was quite forgotten. The Hamas rockets were the result of the food and fuel siege; Israel broke Hamas's own truce on 4 and 17 November. Forgotten is the fact Hamas won the 2006 elections, although Israel has killed a clutch of the victors.

And there'll be little time for the peacemakers of Sharm el-Sheikh to reflect on the three UN schools targeted by the Israelis and the slaughter of the civilians inside.

Poor old Ban Ki-moon. He tried to make his voice heard just before the ceasefire, saying Israel's troops had acted "outrageously" and should be "punished" for the third school killing. Some hope. At a Beirut press conference, he admitted he had failed to get a call through to Israel's Foreign Minister to complain.

It was pathetic. When I asked Mr Ban if he would consider a UN war crimes tribunal in Gaza, he said this would not be for him to "determine".

But only a few journalists bothered to listen to him and his officials were quickly folding up the UN flag on the table. About time too. Bring back the League of Nations. All is forgiven.

By arrangement with The Independent

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Chandigarh needs democracy
by Gobind Thukral 

Over a million Chandigarh citizens are a privileged people. They earn the highest in the country and spend the highest, perhaps. The per capita income, though a not very correct way to judge the real wealth of the people, last year was over Rs 1 lakh, the highest in the country and beats even Delhi, the national capital.

Its literacy rate of over 84 per cent should provoke its neighbours. Over 90 per cent people live in the urban areas. There are over 1.1 million telephone and mobile connections. Over one lakh internet connections speak about the connectivity the people enjoy. It also prides itself to be the capital of Punjab and Haryana.

This city state boasts of over eight lakh vehicles and the number is ever increasing. Amenities like air-conditioners, cars, cell phones and visits to restaurants and cinema houses are not luxuries, but necessities for the middle and higher income group people. The same is true about liquor consumption.

In terms of education and health services also, the majority of the citizens are luckier than their counterparts elsewhere in the country. It is another matter that 40 per cent or so people live in slums and slum-like conditions. They provide the essential support system; domestic helps, rickshaw-pullers and street hawkers or other sundry workers.

The citizens are privileged in another way too. The city state has a total budget of Rs 1547.65 crore, almost the highest for its size of population and geographic area. The non-plan side claims Rs 1,243 crore and the plan Rs 304.65 crore.

This is meant to improve human development, infrastructure and the environment. A sum of Rs 438.59 crore goes as salaries to over 24,000 employees. And, the citizens pay as much as Rs 1,467 crore or even more as taxes.

The budgetary surplus of Rs 577 crore this year indicates the pink health of the economy. It is another issue that no other state in terms of democratic institutions is treated in this manner.

The high economic status and educational standards [Chandigarh must have the highest number of graduates and postgraduates] should mean full political participation. It is here that the privileged citizens draw a near blank.

The city, no doubt, elects one member for the Lok Sabha and has a nearly elected Municipal Corporation. The current member of Parliament, Mr Pawan Bansal, is a minister of state for finance and hence funds should be no problem. It is another privilege indeed.

Yet we find the seasoned politician mostly in tears. He has been sending missives to the city administrator who is also the Governor of Punjab, complaining of being ignored.

Every week his complaints mount and he feels crestfallen. May it be the cause of farmers, whose lands have been virtually usurped by the administration all in the name of development or the plight of the poor, the underprivileged slum dwellers and small shopkeepers.

Indeed he is worried as elections are a few months away. The Congress Party has now donned the role of the Opposition. Why should a democratically elected leader feel ignored? Somebody has to provide an answer.

There is, one hears, the argument, another democratically elected institution, the municipal corporation, that has a swanky office in Sector 17, the prized sector. It too is having a running battle with the Chandigarh Administration — partly because its powers are limited and circumscribed by officialdom and partly it is packed with nominated councillors.

This renders it nearly an ineffective instrument .This should not mean that the councillors are performing well all the time and officials block their good work. At times, the councillors too lag behind and demonstrate utter partisanship.

Yet is it not a negation of democratic norms that a deputy commissioner or a secretary or even a police superintendent is more important than an elected Mayor of this privileged city?

One reason for which the citizens agree in a big way is that the Administrator, who is also the Governor of Punjab and whose accessibility to the citizens is limited because of the constitutional position he holds, should be replaced by a Chief Commissioner.

The present setup was created because of terrorism in Punjab and the neighbouring areas. It was felt that to ensure coordination between the law and order agencies and the civil administration, there was a need for one person as a commander.

This worked since Punjab during that harrowing period was mostly under Central rule and where the Governor called the shots.

Yet we must not fail to remember that Punjab regained normalcy because of an elected government under Mr Beant Singh. The earlier positioning of the Chief Commissioner as head of the Chandigarh Administration is considered more advantageous for the day-to-day running of the administration. His accessibility is greater than that of a Governor.

Yet would that ensure better democratic functioning? The democratic system would suffer if the peoples' day-to-day participation in decision-making processes is not ensured.

Yet in order to have a real democratic setup there is an urgent need to think out of the box. It could be something more than the present denuded municipal corporation and less than a full-fledged assembly where the citizens can debate and decide their annual plans, supervise functioning of the administration and feel the glow of freedom and nurture democratic institutions and norms. 

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Inside Pakistan
Who are Swati Taliban?
by Syed Nooruzzaman

The Taliban in the Swat valley are in total control of the area, once known as the Switzerland of Pakistan. They have set up Sharia courts to dispense justice in their own style. Reports say that everyday people find beheaded bodies in different parts of the valley. Mingora, the biggest town in Swat, is now known for its Khooni Chowk more than anything else.

The security forces deployed there have virtually turned into silent spectators. Most of the schools in the valley are closed. The few which had been allowed to function because of having no girl students or female teachers have been turned into barracks by the troops. More than 80,000 girls will not be able to go to their schools and around 8,000 female teachers have lost their jobs in Swat.

Besides Swat, the areas captured by the Taliban include parts of Balochistan, North and South Waziristan, the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), and most parts of the NWFP.

But who actually are the Taliban in Swat? As Daily Times says, “…Swat saw its trouble first in the mid-1990s with a radical cleric, Sufi Muhammad, asking for Sharia. In 2001, the Sufi joined the Taliban in Afghanistan to fight against the Americans. After his arrest, his son-in-law Maulvi Fazlullah unfurled the flag of jihad in Swat and was soon taking orders from the South Waziristan warlord Baitullah Mehsud. Today, Swat lives under the Sharia of Fazlullah.”

Sufi Muhammad was the founder of the Tanzim Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TSNM).

In an article in The News (Jan 17), Rahimullah Yusufzai, Resident Editor of the paper in Peshawar, says, “The Swati Taliban are a different breed compared to the other militants. Many among them haven't studied in madarsas, or Islamic schools, and even their leader Maulana Fazlullah was unable to complete his religious education. Members of jihadi groups are also to be found among the Taliban in Swat.”

Wahabi domination

In an article in The News on Jan 19 Khurshid Alam says, “During the TNSM movement in Swat the Wahabi school of thought spread its roots and established its religious seminaries. In the absence of Sufi Muhammad, his son-in-law, Fazlullah, filled this gap and became popular in the area. The Wahabis joined his group and seized all the important areas. Besides others, Maulana Shah Dawran and Maulana Muhammad Alam are key clerics who keep important portfolios in the Taliban movement in Swat. They are known for their hard and harsh beliefs, and hence it could be said that the Swat Taliban are completely under the influence of violent jihad doctrines.

“They loathe the Barelvi school of thought and have assassinated many renowned religious scholars in Swat during the ongoing turbulence. They consider them mushrik (one who ascribes partners to Allah). The assassination of Pir Samiullah and the hanging of his mutilated body in a square for public display show their attitude towards their opponents.”

Zaradri’s powers

The controversial 17th Amendment to Pakistan’s constitution and Article 58 (2) B are being debated again by the media. The MQM has submitted a Bill in the National Assembly seeking their repeal while the PML (N) has given its proposals to the PPP leadership for the purpose. The PPP leadership says it will go ahead with removing these measures from the statute book but only when there is a consensus on the subject.

“However, some circles fear that in the changed political scenario the PPP might not stick to its earlier stance (as contained in the Charter of Democracy signed by Mr Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto) and soon show fluctuation regarding it. For this reason the Bill is considered a sort of a challenge to the PPP,” according to an article in The Frontier Post (Jan 19) by Anwar Jalal.

He adds, “In particular, changes curtailing the President’s powers may not receive Zardari's approval, the reason being that he is not supposed to become President just to be powerless and a ceremonial head.”

As Daily Times says, “Everyone has his version of how the presidential powers are to be brought back to ‘normal’, which is a reference to the 1973 constitution which has been so mangled in the last 30 years that it is not clear what is ‘normal’ and what is not. Anyway, the ruling PPP, too, has a comprehensive proposal containing 80 items. The proposal has been ignored by the opposition, but then the opposition parties have failed to align their positions before coming up with their own self-serving drafts masquerading as ‘principles’.” 

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Delhi Durbar
Stickers to boost Advani image

Undeterred by a Bhairon Singh Shekhawat or a Kalyan Singh or even a Narendra Modi trying to play spoilsports to L.K. Advani’s ambition to become the next Prime Minister, the BJP is going full blast in its campaign to see him occupy the highest administrative position in the country.

The latest is a sticker the party has come out with. It has a caption saying L.K. Advani for PM. Alongside is the photograph of the octogenarian leader.

The background is sea blue. Advani seems to love the sea and the corresponding colour. The same sea background was there on the cover of his recent autobiography.

The BJP has decided to get at least a crore such stickers printed to paste them on cars all over India.

Miliband gets a snub

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s attempt linking terrorism to the Kashmir issue in an article published in The Guardian incensed the Indian leadership no end.

He had already ruffled the Indian feathers by giving a clean chit to the Pakistani state, contradicting New Delhi’s stand that official agencies in Pakistan had aided and abetted the Mumbai terror attack.

When External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee read Miliband’s article, so incensed was he that he asked top External Affairs Ministry officials to immediately issue a statement, snubbing the young British leader for his remarks.

Senior officials pointed out that Miliband was still in India and it would be undiplomatic to issue such a statement until the foreign dignitary had left the country’s shores.

However, the tough-talking Foreign Minister was in no mood to listen. “Forget it, issue the statement right away,” he told his officials.

SC judges’ photos greet visitors

A new look has been given to the Chief Justice’s court in the Supreme Court.

As you reach the CJI court after climbing up the main stairs, it is not the day’s causelist that would catch your eyes any longer. It is the judges of the court who will be looking at you.

The laminated photos of all the 24 judges of the court have sprung up on the wall on either side of the main entrance of the CJI court.

The colour photographs, measuring one foot by ten inches each, are kept in two new showcases that have replaced the notice boards that were there earlier.

The photos evoked a lot of comments, some of them snide, from journalists, lawyers and litigants.

Contributed by Faraz Ahmad, Ashok Tuteja and R. Sedhuraman

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Corrections and clarifications

The headline “Maharaja’s descendant to complete their works” (page 4, January 19) was wrong. Lahore-based Faqir Syed Saifudin is the descendant of Faqir Aziz-ud-din, foreign minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The Lifestyle item “For a million dollar smile” (page 4, January 19) should have referred to Dr Sanjay Kalra as orthodontist, and not orthodentist.

The blurb of the story “Desi delight” (Lifestyle, page 1; January 19) should have been “Punjabi-dubbed Hollywood flicks are an absolute laugh riot”.

The first paragraph of the news-item “Majithia offers to quit in favour of Sukhbir” (page 4, January 17) should have read: “Minister of Information and Public Relations Bikram Singh Majithia today offered to resign from the Cabinet and vacate his Majitha assembly seat for the sake of SAD supremo and his brother-in-law Sukhbir Singh Badal to clear the way for his appointment as Deputy Chief Minister”.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error. We will carry corrections and clarifications, wherever necessary, every Tuesday.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Amar Chandel, Deputy Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is amarchandel@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief

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