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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

First high-profile arrest
All Gujarat killers must be nailed
Howsoever slowly, horrendous sins of the past are
finally catching up with the killers of Gujarat. Seven years
after the nightmarish post-Godhra riots, Dr Maya
Kodnani, Gujarat Minister of State for Women and Child
Development, has become the first high-profile person to
be arrested for inciting and arming a killer mob that
claimed over 95 lives in the 2002 Naroda Patiya and
Naroda Gam carnages.

Obama’s anti-terror policy
Pakistan will have to show results
U
S President Barack Obama is ready with his strategy to fight to the finish Al-Qaida, the Taliban and the terrorist outfits associated with them. The contours of the anti-terrorism drive he unveiled on Friday shows a departure from the policy pursued by the previous administration under Mr George W. Bush. The US will not hesitate in taking the help of the countries in the region, including India and Iran.







EARLIER STORIES

Publish history of all wars India fought
March 29, 2009
ISI-Taliban terror nexus
March 28, 2009
Realignment in Tamil Nadu
March 27, 2009
The daily bread
March 26, 2009
Third alternative?
March 25, 2009
Prosecute Varun Gandhi
March 24, 2009
Iran as the US master-key
March 23, 2009
Buy the best for armed forces
March 22, 2009
Jail for Telgi
March 21, 2009
Threat to security
March 20, 2009
Punish Varun
March 19, 2009


Suspension upheld
SC stands by Meghalaya Speaker
T
HE Supreme Court order upholding Speaker Bindo M. Lanong’s suspension of
an Independent legislator before the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance government’s
trial of strength on March 16 reinforces the Speaker’s supremacy on matters
relating to suspension and disqualification of MLAs under the Tenth Schedule
of the Constitution.

ARTICLE

What ails Pakistan?
Role of Zardari, Sharif crucial
by Balraj Puri
T
here are certainly positive features in recent developments in Pakistan. The stand-off between the massive popular upsurge led by advocates, members of civil society and a popular political leader, Mr Nawaz Sharif, on the one hand, and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, on the other, was resolved on the terms which should strengthen the judiciary, a vital pillar of democracy.

MIDDLE

A greenfield business
by S. Raghunath
W
ITH Lok Sabha polls round the corner, a friend of mine has shrewdly got in on the ground floor of a NextGen business opportunity and thanks to his foresight and sagacity, he is today presiding over the booming fortunes of the well-known firm of “Rent-A-Abuse” which is listed in the yellow pages under “Political Services”.

OPED

Pakistan adrift
Zardari faces uncertain future

by Pamela Constable
P
akistan's ruling party, which has narrowly survived a meltdown in the face of massive street demonstrations, is working to regroup and regain credibility despite the weakened position of its top leader, President Asif Ali Zardari.

N. Korea plans missile launch
by Blaine Harden
W
HILE North Korea has been making missiles to intimidate its neighbors for nearly half a century, what makes this launch particularly worrying is the increasing possibility – as assessed by U.S. intelligence and some independent experts – that it has built or is attempting to build nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop its growing number of missiles.

Chatterati
Nitish – Bihar’s Zardari
by Devi Cherian
I
N Bihar there is a “Bihari Zardari” now. Many supporters of NDA convener George Fernandes have nick named Nitish Kumar “Zardari”.

Dressing up for elections
Outsiders spark protests

 


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First high-profile arrest
All Gujarat killers must be nailed

Howsoever slowly, horrendous sins of the past are finally catching up with the killers of Gujarat. Seven years after the nightmarish post-Godhra riots, Dr Maya Kodnani, Gujarat Minister of State for Women and Child Development, has become the first high-profile person to be arrested for inciting and arming a killer mob that claimed over 95 lives in the 2002 Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam carnages.

Also arrested along with her is Jaydeep Patel, VHP leader, who stands accused
of similar charges. Ironically, Kodnani resigned from the Narendra Modi Cabinet
and surrendered before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) only after the
Gujarat High Court cancelled the anticipatory bail granted to her by the
Ahmedabad Sessions Court.

Her continuation in the ministry for so long was in itself a crying shame, considering that an affidavit filed by the Gujarat Government itself before the High Court last month had said that “she was a leader of the mob and at the relevant point of time she was an MLA who instigated the mob to commit the crime and, therefore, was in the main role”. Not only that, the affidavit also asserted that “she had fired from her pistol and it has been further revealed that she came in her car and distributed swords to the mob”.

What High Court Judge D H Vaghela said while cancelling the anticipatory bail granted to her and Jaideep Patel on February 5 should be a warning to all political collaborators in communal pogroms. He equated the religious fanatics with terrorists.

Regretfully, such leaders still continue to spew their venom, not only in Gujarat
but in many other states. Those defending the fulminations of Varun Gandhi must
treat it as a lesson.

It is only in Modi’s Gujarat that the case could remain closed for seven long years and a person like Kodnani could get elected twice as an MLA from Naroda. One cannot but give credit to the witnesses who withstood the pressure mounted by her and her collaborators.

The High Court has cancelled her anticipatory bail so that she may not influence the investigation. But the arm-twisting tactics of her colleagues can still come into play. It is the duty of every right-thinking person and organisation to ensure that they cannot short-circuit justice.

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Obama’s anti-terror policy
Pakistan will have to show results

US President Barack Obama is ready with his strategy to fight to the finish Al-Qaida, the Taliban and the terrorist outfits associated with them. The contours of the anti-terrorism drive he unveiled on Friday shows a departure from the policy pursued by the previous administration under Mr George W. Bush. The US will not hesitate in taking the help of the countries in the region, including India and Iran.

The Obama administration will provide massive financial and other kinds of assistance to Pakistan, where most of the terrorist masterminds are believed to be hiding, but not without strings attached.

There will be strict compliance audit. The amount of Rs 7,500 crore that Pakistan will receive annually for five years as part of the US AfPak policy will be allowed to be used only for development purposes like building roads, schools and hospitals.

This may enable Pakistan to use development as a weapon to help defeat the terrorist outfits. But Pakistan will have to ensure that the results are there for all to see. It cannot escape the responsibility of destroying the terrorists’ infrastructure, including their funding sources.

If this really happens, Pakistan itself will be a major beneficiary. The resort to
suicide bombing by terrorists — as it happened in a mosque in Jamrud border
town in the NWFP, resulting in over 70 deaths on Friday — is making Pakistan an
ungovernable country.

Terrorists and religious extremists have made a mockery of Pakistan’s policy of striking “peace” deals with these elements. This shortsighted approach has emboldened them to regroup and launch renewed attacks on their targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The US will have to force Pakistan to abandon its policy of entering into any kind of deals with terrorists and extremists. The ISI must be made to delink itself from the terrorist outfits it created or nurtured at different stages.

The report that the Taliban factions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are busy forging “unity” among themselves indicates that they are feeling uneasy after the Obama administration’s focus on Pakistan to win the war against terror in Afghanistan.

Key Al-Qaida and Taliban figures have found a new haven in Balochistan province of Pakistan. These enemies of peace must be pursued wherever they are to immobilise and crush them.

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Suspension upheld
SC stands by Meghalaya Speaker

THE Supreme Court order upholding Speaker Bindo M. Lanong’s suspension of
an Independent legislator before the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance government’s
trial of strength on March 16 reinforces the Speaker’s supremacy on matters
relating to suspension and disqualification of MLAs under the Tenth Schedule
of the Constitution.

Quashing the Guwahati High Court order, a Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice A.K. Ganguly questioned the High Court’s legitimacy in preventing the Speaker from conducting the disqualification proceedings. The High Court had stayed the suspension of three members on March 26, deferring a decision on two others.

The apex court thought it improper to encroach upon the Speaker’s domain even though his actions were subject to judicial review. It has thus averted an unsavoury controversy between the legislature and the judiciary.

The Speaker’s suspension of five members had resulted in a tie on the no-confidence motion in the Assembly on March 16. After the Congress and the MPA secured 27 votes each, the Speaker exercised his casting vote in favour of the government, thus defeating the no-trust motion.

But the Centre clamped President’s Rule on March 19, keeping the Assembly
under suspended animation. Interestingly, emboldened by the apex court ruling,
Mr Lanong has called for the installation of a popular government in the state.
He said there was no reason to remove an elected government that had won
the trust vote in the House.

The importance of Meghalaya suspensions can be gauged by the fact that the imposition of President’s rule has also been challenged in the Supreme Court. The apex court’s clean chit to Mr Lanong notwithstanding, he would do well to tread with caution and exercise his power of disqualification impartially and objectively.

This is all the more important because of the partisan role played by his counterparts not long ago in Goa, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The Speaker ought to uphold the rule of law at all times as envisaged under the Constitution and not behave as a hatchetman of the ruling party in making and breaking governments.

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Thought for the Day

Satire is what closes Saturday night. — George S. Kaufman

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What ails Pakistan?
Role of Zardari, Sharif crucial
by Balraj Puri

There are certainly positive features in recent developments in Pakistan. The stand-off between the massive popular upsurge led by advocates, members of civil society and a popular political leader, Mr Nawaz Sharif, on the one hand, and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, on the other, was resolved on the terms which should strengthen the judiciary, a vital pillar of democracy.

The promise to end Governor’s rule in Punjab and restore the chief ministership
of Mr Shahbaz Sharief, too, is a victory for democracy. After the February 2008
elections there was no justification for not reinstating Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry,
who was dismissed from the post of Chief Justice of Pakistan in November 2007 by
the then President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, under the infamous PCO (Provisional
Constitutional Order).

For, the new ruling party was committed to the Charter of Democracy signed by Benazir Bhuttoo and Mr Nawaz Sharif which provided for the independence of the judiciary and that “no judge shall take oath under any Provisional Constitutional Order” as Justice Chaudhry’s successors did. Nor can the dismissal of a popular government in Punjab be justified.

However, the announcement of the government to undo both unjustified decisions raises certain questions. Unless the PCO is annulled and fresh constitutional provisions for appointment and removal of judges are adopted, reinstatement of Chief Justice Chaudhry may not make much difference.

The promise to undo the order for the disqualification of the Sharif brothers and restoration of the government led by the Pakistan Muslim League (N) raises a similarly ticklish issue. The government will move a review petition before the same judges who had passed the unpopular order that triggered the popular protest.

How can the government make a commitment on behalf of the judges? If it
can do this, will not it imply that the earlier decision, too, was made under
the influence of the government?

Another related question is the powers of the President. The way the crisis arose and was resolved has considerably weakened the position of President Zardari. Will he reconcile to it and give it a constitutional shape?

Unless the President is directly elected by popular vote, he should act as a constitutional head on the advice of his Council of Ministers, which should be answerable to the legislature. Moreover, the federal government should not have the power to arbitrarily dismiss provincial governments.

The recent crisis was resolved, in no small measure, by the exceptionally helpful role of three A’s — Allah, the Army and America — which had traditionally been shaping Pakistan’s politics. Allah’s role cannot be defined except as an unknown factor.

Should the destiny of a sovereign democratic country be left to such an unpredictable factor which in the past has often played a negative role? Is Pakistan’s institutional and socio-political system upto the mark?

Much will depend on how Mr Zardari and Mr Nawaz Sharif behave. Is Mr Zardari willing to abide by the Charter of Democracy in letter and spirit? Is Mr Sharif reconciled to playing the role of a responsible opposition leader and contribute to laying the foundation of a two-party system? Or encouraged by his recent victory, he may attempt a short-cut to attain power instead of remaining the leader of the opposition till the next elections.

The recent crisis was more due to the discontentment in Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan. Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is more a hero of Punjab than a symbol of the independent judiciary. The political base of the PML (N) is also mainly confined to Punjab.

Another Punjabi leader of the resistance movement was a popular cricketer, Mr Imran Khan. Though the demands of the movement had relevance for the whole country, its response outside Punjab was, on the whole, lukewarm.

Restoration of the pre-eminence of Punjab has, however, its own implications. The secessionist movements in the NWFP and Balochistan were mainly against what they perceived to be Punjabi domination. Taliban factions provided an answer to their urge for identity and autonomy.

Ethnic affinity between Pashtoons on both sides of the Durand Line that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan made the Taliban a welcome factor in the north-western part of Pakistan. For Pashtoons, ethnicity is the base of the Taliban who had their own reasons to be dissatisfied in Afghanistan and resort to armed struggle.

The ideology of jihadi Islam came handy to them. This is a vital clue to understanding the phenomenon of terrorism. But that is another matter for bigger forces engaged in the “war against terror” to ponder over.

In any case, Pakistan must set its own house in order. Benazir, during her election campaign, had assured autonomy to the NWFP and Balochistan, which has not been implemented by her party headed by her husband.

Not long ago, popular Sindhi leader GM Syed had started the Jiye Sindh movement for an independent Sindh in protest against the official interpretation of Pakistan’s history which traced its beginning with Mohammad bin Qasim, the first Muslim raider of the subcontinent who conquered Sindh.

GM Syed, on the other hand, maintained that Mohammad bin Qasim was the first aggressor on Sindh and Raja Dehar, whom he defeated, was its hero. Sindhi sentiments were assuaged, inter alia, by the rise of the Bhuttoos and their martyrdom, and wider support to the PPP, except in Punjab.

The Urdu-speaking Muhajir community, represented by the Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz led by Altaf Hussain and settled around Karachi had similarly complained against the non-recognition of its distinct identity.

Its ideologue, Rais Amrohi, had said, “We belong to the greatest civilisation
of the world called Ganga-Yamuna civilisation.” The Muhajirs demanded Urdu
Pradesh to revive the nostalgia of UP (Uttar Pradesh) in India from where most
of them had migrated.

That the common ideology of Islam was not a sufficiently strong force to keep the unity of Pakistan and to be a substitute for ethnic urges was eloquently demonstrated by a revolt in its eastern wing and separation from Pakistan as an independent country called Bangladesh.

IA Rehman, chairperson of non-official Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and a liberal Punjabi, has, in an article in Dawn, therefore, pleaded for genuine federalism for Pakistan which recognises the aspirations of all ethnic identities and concedes adequate autonomy to all provinces.

It is for the leaders of Pakistan and its friends to work out the details of the constitutional and institutional framework which recognises the urge for identity and real autonomy for its constituent units to ensure unity of the country and a lasting basis for a democratic polity.

The writer is Director, Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs,
Karan Nagar, Jammu.


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A greenfield business
by S. Raghunath

WITH Lok Sabha polls round the corner, a friend of mine has shrewdly got in on the ground floor of a NextGen business opportunity and thanks to his foresight and sagacity, he is today presiding over the booming fortunes of the well-known firm of “Rent-A-Abuse” which is listed in the yellow pages under “Political Services”.

I looked in on him the other day wanting to see for myself how well he was doing.
“Business has never been better,” he said buoyantly, leaning back on his plush,
leather-bound executive chair, “I’ve been able to supply choice and field-proven
abuses to almost all the recognised political parties and I’ve immediate plans to
open offices in all the state capitals and district headquarters towns. More than
the money I’m making, it’s the satisfaction that I’m making a positive contribution
to a free and fearless election process and thereby upholding India’s great
democratic traditions.”

“What accounts for your success?” I asked enviously. “Well,” said my friend modestly, “I recognised a sunrise, greenfield business opportunity opening up and I seized it with both the hands, I saw that political parties and their bosses were floundering about hopelessly, desperately searching for vituperative abuses to heap on their poll opponents and that’s where I come in.”

“How does one go about securing your services?” I asked. “Well,” said my friend, “a political party, let’s say the Congress(I) is locked in a bitter straight fight against the BJP in a key North Delhi Lok Sabha Constituency and they apply to me for an indexed list of abuses. Off-the-shelf, I can provide them with “Murderer of Gandhiji”, “Agents of monopoly capitalists” and “fundamentalist-reactionary obscurantist force”. Any number of abuses are available from my computerised index.”

“What if the BJP seeks your services?” I asked. “Well,” said my friend, “I’m in business to make money and I’m totally non-partisan, objective and apolitical and the BJP will get the same courteous and customised service. Let me see, ah yes, for the BJP I can supply top-spinner epithets like “Dynastic hegemonists”, “spent force”, “fellow travellers of communists” and “American stooges”.

“As a value add-on bonus, my consultancy division can provide specialised services and solutions in character assassination, mud-slinging, rumour and whisper-mongering, signature drives and planting slanted stories in the media.”

“I suppose your services cost quite a penny,” I said. “That’s right,” said my friend, “after all, I’ve to survive in business and this is a highly competitive field with rapid obsolence. The number of original abuses is limited and the name of the game is to shuffle them around so that each of my client feels satisfied that he has hurled the most shocking and most defamatory abuses against his political rival.

“If a socialist candidate emotionally tells the masses that he stands for the equitable distribution of wealth, I can stick on him a couple of name-calling abuses that ’ll make him sound like he stands for the equitable distribution of AIDS.”

“You’re right on the ball,” I marvelled. My friend took a long-distance telephone call from Kolkata. “Yes, Ms Mamata Banerjee, I’m at your service,” I heard him say.

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Pakistan adrift
Zardari faces uncertain future
by Pamela Constable

Pakistan's ruling party, which has narrowly survived a meltdown in the face of massive street demonstrations, is working to regroup and regain credibility despite the weakened position of its top leader, President Asif Ali Zardari.

Many Pakistanis hope Zardari, who has been forced to capitulate to a coalition of opponents and reinstate a group of deposed senior judges, will rise above his personal defeat and reach out to forge a permanent reconciliation, especially with his arch-rival, ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

"If we want to succeed against extremists and terrorists, we must get our house in order," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told journalists. "I appeal to both the ruling party and the opposition to seek reconciliation. If we continue on the path of confrontation, it will do us great damage. We must strengthen democracy to have a strong foreign policy."

But analysts and critics within Zardari's Pakistan People's Party said they feared that the president, who has remained mostly silent and invisible since the crisis erupted, will resist mending fences with Sharif and leave Pakistan politically adrift at a time of severe threats from Islamist extremists and a gravely ailing economy.

Sharif, the leader of a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, threw his weight behind a national lawyers' movement to restore the judges ousted by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, and ended up as the campaign's triumphant champion. Sharif has said he would like to reconcile with his long-time adversary, though just recently he was calling for a "revolution" against him.

As for Zardari, critics here described him as isolated, surrounded by a few hawkish advisers and unwilling to face facts. They noted that only under intense pressure from the army chief and the United States, a major source of economic and military aid, did the president agree to restore the judges and call off plans to forcibly thwart a mass protest in the capital.

"Mr. Zardari is in a bunker, and party workers feel disillusioned and disconnected. Our party has always been populist, but now it is dominated by power politics," said Safdar Abbasy, a senator from the PPP who broke with the president last week after police began arresting opposition activists. "What Mr. Zardari needs to do is sit and reflect on the need for reconciliation and stability in our society. It is all up to him."

Abbasy is one of half a dozen senior party members, including Sen. Raza Rabbani and former information minister Sherry Rehman, who resigned from their posts recently. The country's leading opposition lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, is a life-long PPP stalwart, but has never supported Zardari.

One thing the dissidents have in common is a strong devotion to the memory and ideals of Zardari's late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007.

They view Zardari, a businessman with a reputation for corrupt dealings and a short temper, as a poor substitute who has damaged the party and the country.

In contrast, the star of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, once viewed as the president's yes-man, has risen rapidly during the recent crisis. In private, he was reported to strongly oppose the government's crackdown on the opposition.

In public, he was the reassuring figure who appeared on television to announce that the judges would be restored and the ban on public rallies would be lifted. Now, some in PPP circles see Gillani as a potential savior of the party.

"While Zardari's democratic credentials have been severely undermined, Gillani has gone from being seen as a puppet to looking like a statesman," said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of security studies at Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad.

One key difference between the two officials is over how to deal with Sharif. Zardari, whose family rivalry with Sharif goes back decades, engineered several judicial and executive actions last month to reduce Sharif's political power, including imposing emergency rule on Punjab province, his stronghold.

Gillani, emphasizing the need for stability, has publicly called for those measures to be reversed, and Sharif has suggested that he would be willing to rejoin the governing coalition if the government drops its effort to control Punjab and implements a "Charter of Democracy" that Sharif signed with Bhutto before her death. However, Zardari is said to be resisting.

Analysts said that one lesson from the political crisis was the need to replace personality-driven politics with stronger civilian institutions. At a time when the nuclear-armed nation faces a growing menace from armed Islamist extremists, many Pakistanis and foreign observers were dismayed to see the country's two political dynasties at each other's throats again.

"This is the time to move away from the politics of individualism," said Abbasy. "Today Zardari may be president and tomorrow somebody else, but people want to make sure our institutions are strong."

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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N. Korea plans missile launch
by Blaine Harden

WHILE North Korea has been making missiles to intimidate its neighbors for nearly half a century, what makes this launch particularly worrying is the increasing possibility – as assessed by U.S. intelligence and some independent experts – that it has built or is attempting to build nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop its growing number of missiles.

North Korea "may be able to successfully mate a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile," Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said this month in testimony prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee.

David Albright, a physicist and nuclear weapons expert who runs the Washington-
based Institute for Science and International Security, has written that North
Korea is "likely able to build a crude nuclear warhead" for its mid-range missiles
that target Japan.

Experts agree that North Korea is probably years away from putting nuclear warheads on long-range missiles that could hit the United States.

"North Korea's nuclear strategy is to keep everyone confused, keep everyone wondering," Albright said.

The country's founding dictator, the late Kim Il Sung, created a military academy 44 years ago to "nurture" missile builders, ordering them to make weapons that could strike Japan and "prevent" the United States from meddling on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim's son and successor, Kim Jong Il, has continued to nurture the missile makers, who have built more than 200 Nodong missiles capable of hitting most of Japan.

The Kim dynasty's commitment to missiles continues to rattle nerves, with Japan and South Korea repeatedly protesting as North Korea moves closer to the planned launch of its new long-range missile.

North Korea says it plans to put a communications satellite into orbit, but that claim is widely viewed as a pretext for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Taepodong-2. The U.S. national intelligence director, Dennis Blair, told a Senate committee that a three-stage missile of this type, if it works, could strike the continental United States.

"Most of the world understands the game they're playing," Blair said, adding that North Korea "risks international opprobrium and hopefully worse" if the launch proceeds. If the international community sanctions North Korea for the launch, Pyongyang threatened this week to abrogate an agreement with the United States and five other countries to abandon nuclear weapons in return for aid and other concessions. It has also threatened to go to war, if what it calls its peaceful research launch is shot down.

North Korea exploded a small nuclear device in 2006 and has since declared it has "weaponized" its entire plutonium stockpile, which it says totals 57 pounds – enough, experts say, to build four or five bombs.

But it is another major technical step to miniaturize these bombs for missile
delivery. Scientists and governments disagree about how far North Korea has
gone toward this goal.

The governments of South Korea and Japan both say that North Korea has not succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear warheads.

But Japan's Defense Ministry has concluded that North Korea may be getting close. "We cannot deny that North Korea will probably be able to do that in a short period of time," said Atsuo Suzuki, director of the ministry's defense intelligence division.

And South Korea's foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan, told reporters that North Korea's push to develop "long-range missile capability after a nuclear test is literally (making) weapons of mass destruction."

North Korea's test of a nuclear device in 2006 produced such a small explosion
that it was probably only a partial success, according to Theodore Postol, a
professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.

Based on this one test of a nuclear device, Postol said, it is "not credible" that North Korea could have succeeded in less than three years in miniaturizing "an advance design" nuclear warhead.

But he said there is a remote possibility that North Korea has made a warhead of an untested crude design that could produce a relatively small nuclear explosion, akin to its 2006 test.

It would be the equivalent of exploding several hundred tons of TNT, as
compared with the exponentially more destructive 25-kiloton blast of an
advanced nuclear warhead.

Postol estimates that it is possible for North Korea to make a warhead that is small and light enough to be mounted on a Nodong missile, which has a diameter of about 4 feet and can carry a payload of about 2,200 pounds.

"It would be a very inefficient way to use a weapon," he said. "But if you are desperate enough, I think such a weapon would certainly have deterrent capability. Tokyo is a large enough target to be relatively sure that a non-full-yield weapon would still cause tremendous death and destruction."

North Korea's missiles are inaccurate and decades out-of-date by the rocket-science standards of the United States, Russia and China. Most of its more than 800 missiles are believed to be modified versions of Scuds, a Soviet-era weapon with rocket motors and guidance systems that date from the 1950s.

The Scud was never intended to be a precision weapon. Iraq's Saddam Hussein sprayed dozens of them around Israel in the first Gulf War to terrorize civilians and provoke the government. Similarly, pin-point accuracy is hardly the point of North Korea's missile program, analysts say.

"Even with very low accuracy, that is sufficient to create fear in civilian society," said Cha Du-Hyeogn, a research fellow at the government-funded Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.

"The leaders of North Korea are not madmen. They have their own reasoning. They want attention, and they want rewards for not using these weapons."

Missile-making in North Korea has been sufficiently menacing – and marketable – to qualify as one of the few successful industries in the history of the secretive communist country, where a comand-style economy has largely collapsed and chronic food shortages cause widespread malnutrition.

In 1999, the North halted missile tests to negotiate improved ties with the Clinton administration, but talks were suspended after the election of George W. Bush.

Despite its poverty, North Korea has made itself into the "greatest supplier
of missiles, missile components and related technologies" in the developing
world, according to a 2008 report for the U.S. Army War College's Strategic
Studies Institute by Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the
International Crisis Group.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Chatterati
Nitish – Bihar’s Zardari
by Devi Cherian

IN Bihar there is a “Bihari Zardari” now. Many supporters of NDA convener George Fernandes have nick named Nitish Kumar “Zardari”.

In their private conversation they address Nitish as Asif Ali Zardari for conspiring against his own men – Digvijay Singh and George Fernandes.

The Pakistan President does the similar thing across the border to secure his position. Nitish has denied the ticket to both these former NDA ministers.

He obviously does not realise how senior they are. He wants Fernandes to retire now, keeping in mind his age and health. But both are fighting independently.

Dressing up for elections

It seems after pundits, pujas and tantriks, appearances matter for politicians. But thank God, our netas are not following their American counterparts.

Well, Obama wore expensive stylish suits and Sarah Palin spent all her election money on her wardrobe.

The netas here are a bit careful. In Delhi the khadi bhandar is overflowing for orders of spotless crisp Karai Veshtis and kurta pyjamas.

From hair trims to facials, hair colouring and manicures are being done. And, surprisingly, it’s the older lot asking for how to avoid getting tanned.

In the South fair skin wins hearts and votes. Remem-ber M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa’s fair complexion? Jayalalithaa may have shed her diamonds but her crepe silk sarees and matching wrist watches are an envy of many.

Kanimozhi Karunanidhi’s daughter loves to wear bright salwar kameez and colourful designer sarees. Dayanidhi Maran wears only shirts and trousers.

The young baba logs in Delhi are seen in khadi kurta pyjamas like Rahul Gandhi and change to international designer clothes for small intimate gatherings.

Come elections and the designer-clad lady politicians demurely dress up in Indian attires. Heads covered, bindis in place. For them portraying a conservative image and a quick Botox is an easy way out.

Outsiders spark protests

Grassroots workers of all political parties are angry. How can they be working for years and be denied the ticket?

Bringing in Sanjay Dutt by the Samajwadi Party in Lucknow has left many workers of the party upset. Azharuddin’s entry into the Congress has left many shocked.

It’s embarrassing now because no state wants him. He was sent from Hyderabad to Rajasthan and now is trying for UP.

In Himachal’s Hamirpur constituency retired cricketer Madan Lal’s candidature has led to demonstrations by local Congressmen.

Workers get angry when they are neglected and someone from outside is put on the seat which is rightfully theirs.

They have slogged and sweated for years for the party in the hope of being
rewarded one day. Now the dropping of retired off beat stars by parachutes
is not done.

In UP and Bihar the Congress decision of fighting it alone was welcomed by the local party worker because now he will be heard and there is hope for him.

Internal political differences of groups should be overlooked by the high command and their own survey done for the winning candidate should be the final.

Isn’t it better to pick up a local guy and groom him for tomorrow or make a strong Congress minister to fight against the Chief Minister’s son?

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