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

EDITORIALS

Munnabhai is not Gandhi
SC has rightly said ‘No’ to him

P
eople’s
respect for the Constitution, the rule of law and the Apex Court will go up by several notches following the Supreme Court judgement rejecting Sanjay Dutt’s plea for suspension of his conviction in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case so that he can contest the Lok Sabha election from Lucknow as the Samajwadi Party candidate.

Pakistan lacks seriousness 
Terrorist threat can’t be met by soft approach

M
onday’s
suicide bomb attack on the Police Training School in Manawan, near Lahore, which came soon after a similar daring strike at the Sri Lankan cricket team on March 3, underlines the challenge the Pakistan-based jihadi elements pose to peace and stability in the region. 


EARLIER STORIES



Ragging deaths
Educational institutions can’t escape the blame 
T
HE nation may have woken up to the menace of ragging in the aftermath of medical student Aman Kachroo’s death. But the apex court had realised its gravity way back. It had set up the Raghavan Committee and also proposed several measures to curb ragging in educational institutions. 
ARTICLE

Agitations by military veterans
There is need for introspection
by Vice-Admiral Premvir Das (retd)
V
eterans in the armed forces, read retired military men, are just that; yet, unlike others who have done duty for the government, they are in a class of their own. Many of the privileges enjoyed by those in uniform are also available to them. They have a retired Armed Forces Identity Card, which gets them entry into places that might not be accessible to most and has other benefits more unquantifiable, getting off some indiscreet driving on the road being only one such.

MIDDLE

“Mota Lala”
by S.S. Beniwal

I first heard of Chandigarh when our village school was closed for a day to commemorate the shifting of Punjab Capital from Simla to this new city. Little did I know then that six years later, it will suck me into its orbit for life.

OPED

Global recession
‘Why did no one see it coming?’
by Pradeep S. Chauhan 
T
HE world is in despair now when two prominent international monitory institutions — the World Bank and the IMF —have also finally declared a global recession. “The IMF expects global growth to slow below zero this year, the worst performance in most of our lifetimes,” IMF boss Strauss-Kahn has said.

Obama as a car salesman
by Dana Milbank
T
HE White House was aiming high with Monday’s announcement that President Obama was pretty much becoming CEO of the American automotive industry. Minutes before the president’s arrival in the Grand Foyer of the White House, a technician in the back of the room tested the teleprompter for Obama’s speech.

Inside Pakistan
by Syed Nooruzzaman 

  • Blaming‘foreign hand’ won’t do

  • A flawed argument

  • Extremists’ alliance



Top
















 

Munnabhai is not Gandhi
SC has rightly said ‘No’ to him

People’s respect for the Constitution, the rule of law and the Apex Court will go up by several notches following the Supreme Court judgement rejecting Sanjay Dutt’s plea for suspension of his conviction in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case so that he can contest the Lok Sabha election from Lucknow as the Samajwadi Party candidate. It is a landmark ruling because the Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice R.M. Lodha has upheld the law and did not allow itself to be influenced by the petitioner’s celebrity status. More important, it is in conformity with the nation’s dire need to check the increasing criminalisation of politics. At a time when there is a crying need for checking the entry of criminals into Parliament and state legislatures, the judgement will help as a benchmark and give impetus to the movement for throwing the criminals and their collaborators out of the political system. Surely, if the Bench provided relief to Sanjay, it would have set a wrong precedent and evoked widespread criticism in the country.

Clearly, Sanjay Dutt’s plea for suspension of his conviction to help him contest the Lok Sabha election did not stand the scrutiny of the law. Though Mumbai’s Special Judge P.D. Kode had acquitted him of TADA charges in July 2007, he had convicted Sanjay under the Arms Act for possessing an AK-56, which was reportedly part of an arms consignment that was to be used for carrying out the blasts, and sentenced him to six years of rigorous imprisonment. The mere possession of this weapon of mass destruction is itself a serious crime and Sanjay could not seek immunity under the right of self-defence. When Section 8 (3) of the Representation of the People Act debars a person sentenced to two or more years of imprisonment from contesting an election, how could one sentenced for six years, that too, under the Arms Act, be given relief?

Significantly, the Supreme Court was not impressed by his counsel’s argument that Sanjay’s case had a “striking similarity” with Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu’s. The apex court had stayed Sidhu’s conviction in 2007 to help him contest the Lok Sabha election. (The Punjab and Haryana High Court had sentenced Sidhu to three years imprisonment in a road rage case). Tuesday’s ruling is a big blow to the Samjawadi Party on whose ticket Sanjay would have contested for the Lucknow seat. It has sent a strong message to all political parties that it will not allow those who have been convicted for serious crime to contest elections to Parliament and state legislatures. 

Top

 

Pakistan lacks seriousness 
Terrorist threat can’t be met by soft approach

Monday’s suicide bomb attack on the Police Training School in Manawan, near Lahore, which came soon after a similar daring strike at the Sri Lankan cricket team on March 3, underlines the challenge the Pakistan-based jihadi elements pose to peace and stability in the region. The well-entrenched terrorists in Pakistan have proved that they can strike at will, anywhere, anytime. Earlier, their focus was the tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan. Now, it seems, Lahore and the surrounding areas are on their radar screen. Lahore, after all, is the nerve-centre of politics in Pakistan. After an eight-hour battle with the militants, Pakistan’s security personnel have succeeded in capturing at least three of the attackers. This may help the authorities in getting at the bottom of the truth. No such arrest could be made when the Sri Lankans were targeted.

Interestingly, the chief of the Pakistan Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has taken the responsibility for the killing of eight cadets of the police training academy. He is a Waziristan-based tribal chieftain and also a key operative of Al-Qaida. There is a strong nexus between the terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi based in Punjab and those having their bases in the NWFP. Obviously, the Taliban activists apparently used the opportunity provided by the deal between their counterparts in Swat and the government to regroup themselves to do what they have done. They have torn into pieces Islamabad’s policy of reaching agreements with the elements bent on implementing their destructive agenda. Pakistan will have to show the required seriousness in handling terrorism. A soft approach in dealing with those who have no appreciation for such a course of action will not do.

The situation is getting alarming for India, as Monday’s incident occurred at Manawan, hardly 12 km from the Wagha border. India cannot afford to take it lightly when there are clear indications that the government in Islamabad finds it difficult to ensure that its writ runs in the border areas near India. There is a need for the US to put greater pressure on Pakistan to fight against the threat posed by the terrorists. It should insist on Pakistan demolishing the infrastructure the terrorist groups have built on its soil with Islamabad’s approval. 

Top

 

Ragging deaths
Educational institutions can’t escape the blame 

THE nation may have woken up to the menace of ragging in the aftermath of medical student Aman Kachroo’s death. But the apex court had realised its gravity way back. It had set up the Raghavan Committee and also proposed several measures to curb ragging in educational institutions. Now, taking a serious view of Kachroo’s death, the Supreme Court has issued a directive to the Himachal Pradesh government seeking immediate suspension of Dr Suresh Sankhyan. Without mincing words, the court has questioned the propriety of Dr Sankhyan, who had quit as the Principal of Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Kangra, continuing as a teacher in the college where the appalling incident had occurred. Besides, it has sought an explanation from the Andhra Pradesh government for its failure to take action against the principal and the warden of Government Agriculture Engineering College, Bapatla, where ragging had forced a girl student to attempt suicide.

Ragging, a colonial legacy, has long ceased to be a harmless college custom. In more recent times, the physical and mental abuse in the name of ragging has snuffed out many lives. Yet college authorities across the nation have invariably turned a blind eye to the scourge. From indifference to apathy, their response has remained typically insensitive and casual. Rather than fixing responsibility, by and large, educational institutions try to hush up the matter, as a result of which ragging hoodlums remain unpunished. Even prior to Kachroo’s death, several cases of ragging at Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College had been blatantly ignored.

Undeniably, ragging can only be checked by a multi-pronged approach that also requires the participation of parents. However, the educational institutions must initiate steps against ragging as well as realise that the buck stops there. The Raghavan Committee has set an April deadline for the implementation of the anti-ragging measures. The role of regulatory bodies like the UGC and the Medical Council of India, far from creditable so far, needs to be stressed. But zero-tolerance against ragging can be ensured only if the educational institutions take proactive steps. The college authorities have to be made accountable for ragging incidents. 

Top

 

Thought for the Day

We all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other married couples they sometimes live apart. — Saki

Top

 

Agitations by military veterans
There is need for introspection
by Vice-Admiral Premvir Das (retd)

Veterans in the armed forces, read retired military men, are just that; yet, unlike others who have done duty for the government, they are in a class of their own. Many of the privileges enjoyed by those in uniform are also available to them. They have a retired Armed Forces Identity Card, which gets them entry into places that might not be accessible to most and has other benefits more unquantifiable, getting off some indiscreet driving on the road being only one such. Canteens and the associated facilities are available to them in the same way as they are to those in service. They get concessions on air and rail tickets and, in not a few states, their wards are also eligible, along with those of serving personnel, for seats specifically reserved for this category in educational institutions, including engineering and medical colleges.

They can purchase motor vehicles at a considerable discount just as uniformed people can. They have shed their uniform and yet not shed it; on some occasions — for example, Army, Navy or Air Force Days and other ceremonial parades — they can wear their medals in the same way that their successors in uniform do. At many functions hosted by the uniformed military community such as regimental get-togethers, Infantry Day celebrations, etc, in the Army and equivalents in the other two Services, they get invited which is not common in, say, the civil services or in the private sector. In short, they continue to be “military” and are treated as such by those still in uniform even if they themselves have put their uniforms in naphthalene or dispensed with them altogether.

Therefore, when some of them — yes, some of them, not the great majority — agitate in the way that they have been doing for the last few months, there is need for some self-introspection. Actually, agitation in the military itself is not something new. In the Navy, there was a “Topass” episode in the early 1960s. This category of sailors who attend to toilets and bathrooms in ships, and also carried out combat duties such as loading of guns during the days when these things were not automated, is not there in most other navies and the leadership felt it desirable to make this change which would mean that these duties would need to be shared by everyone on board. Understandably, this aroused great resentment in the “upper classes” and led to quite a few unwholesome incidents which, in the military, are classified as “mutinous”. The order was withdrawn even as several agitators were thrown out of service.

In the 1970s, sailors in a major warship did not have their meals to protest a perceived grievance and this again was viewed as a “mutinous” conduct; over 100 men were dismissed summarily, and many others who were retained, just withered away, their records permanently blackened. Then, there was the agitation of Sikh personnel who wanted to keep open beards. Following the 5th Pay Commission awards, technical personnel of the Air Force, officers and men, agitated as they felt discriminated against their “flying” counterparts. In all these cases, the Services viewed the agitations as “mutinous”. They may have been dealt with in different ways but on the manner of these protestations, there was clarity. It was simply unacceptable.

So, what is one to make of the present-day scenario in which former military men, who had viewed these episodes in their own time as “mutinous” now themselves go on hunger strikes, return their medals and resort to other such means of agitation to project their grievances. In what way is this different than what was done by the sailors in INS Mysore in 1973 when they did not eat their lunch? The demand for “one rank one pension” or “rank-based pension”, as it has now been termed, is undoubtedly legitimate and must be fought for; it is the methodology being adopted by some that is in question.

On more than one occasion, the veterans’ cells in the major political parties have succeeded in getting this issue on their party’s election manifestos; sadly, it has not, subsequently, been implemented. It is more than likely that this will be done once again for the ensuing elections and there is no knowing whether the follow-up will be any different this time. There is an alternative available which is to seek judicial intervention which would force governmental action. As it happens, in a recent order regarding pensions of Major-Generals, the Supreme Court has commented critically against the irrationality and injustice of not treating people who have held the same rank at different times at par in regard to their pensions. This must be taken further to cover the entire spectrum of ranks which is unique to the military.

In fact, this process has been going on for decades with some “ad hoc” measures having being taken by the government through a “one-time increase” some years ago but without accepting the centrality of the demand. A battle has been won but the war must go on. There can be no doubt in any veteran’s mind on this score. The Navy Foundation, an association of retired Navy people, has, correctly, decided to file a suit in the Supreme Court seeking the necessary injunctions to the government. Hopefully, this will achieve the desired result.

Having said this, nothing should be done which should deconsecrate the uniform that all of us have worn with such great pride, including the medals that go with it. Indeed, it is sad that many who have now made such an issue about having had to return their precious possessions, do not care to wear them proudly when they should. Having attended Navy Day receptions every year and similar functions of the Army and Air Force fairly often, this writer has been distressed to see how few of the veterans wear their medals on these, undoubtedly, ceremonial days. Even more disheartening is that even at a function of former military men held in NOIDA recently to pay respects to those who gave their lives in the service of the nation, only a handful of the 200-odd former Servicemen present chose to put on their medals.

If there is something honourable in an item of uniform, there must be pride in displaying it on one’s person; then there is greater credibility in giving it up as a “strategy”. Even more, the agitators must reflect on the message they are sending to their young successors, now in uniform, who still see them, hopefully, as role models. If these agitational methods are good for the veterans, they are good for them. After all, the road-map and traditions that they are following are the ones that have been charted for them by those who were there not so long ago. No, this is not the military way of doing things.

The writer is a former Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command. 

Top

 

“Mota Lala”
by S.S. Beniwal

I first heard of Chandigarh when our village school was closed for a day to commemorate the shifting of Punjab Capital from Simla to this new city. Little did I know then that six years later, it will suck me into its orbit for life.

Alighting from bus in 1958 at the tin shed called bus stand, Sector 17, to join duty in the Estate Office, Sector 18, I was like “Alice in Wonderland”. There was no semblance of a conventional city. Open spaces with wild growth were everywhere.

Duty joined, I was posted in the branch of residential plots. I made an instant friend of a young colleague, coaxing him to share his room with me in contractor’s colony (Sector 30).

Going to and coming from Estate Office was on foot. On way back in the evening I would often see a white complexioned, chubby, short man walking on the inner roads, meticulously watching the facades of buildings. My hunch was that he was some property dealer or an NRI desirous of purchasing a house to settle here. But his real identity remained an enigma.

Those days, the residential plots were allotted by inviting applications from the public and commercial ones sold through auction. As many a purchaser would vanish after payment of one or two instalments, resumption and re-allotment of plots was the order of the day.

French architect Monsieur Pierre Jeanerette (cousin of legendary Le Corbusier), the Chief Architect and Chief Town Planner, held full sway over the capital project Chandigarh. The address of correspondence with his department invariably bore his name followed by designation. Once, a letter prepared by me with his designation only got signed and issued to his department without the mistake being noticed by the superiors. Prompt came back the reference, pointing out the omission. I was of, course, at the receiving end of the rebukes from my boss. Thereafter, fear of the Monsieur gripped my psyche.

In the next auction of commercial plots, in the Estate Office, all the officers concerned of Capital Project were seated on the podium facing the bidders. We the office minions had our chairs on the left ready with files and pens like musicians of an orchestra. Lo, the enigmatic person appeared on the podium. All were on their feet before he took the central chair.

The scene was beyond my comprehension. “How could a man wandering on city streets receive such an ovation”? I wondered. With rustic curiously, I enquired from the nearby colleague. “Yaar, who is that Mota Lala”. His hushed voice: “Arey Buddhu, don’t you know, he is our Jeanerette Sahib? Not a leaf flickers without his consent,” made me speechless.

Top

 

Global recession
‘Why did no one see it coming?’
by Pradeep S. Chauhan 

THE world is in despair now when two prominent international monitory institutions — the World Bank and the IMF —have also finally declared a global recession. “The IMF expects global growth to slow below zero this year, the worst performance in most of our lifetimes,” IMF boss Strauss-Kahn has said.

It will be majorly on the agenda for discussion at the upcoming G-20 summit. UK Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander has said the summit in London of the G20 group of rich and emerging nations “is an important moment”.  Mr Douglas said that a failure at the summit would be very risky for the world economy.

“At a meeting in London in 1931, the world came together and failed to reach an agreement on the way to deal with the recession at that time and we all know the consequences,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund has identified 26 countries, half in sub-Saharan Africa, that are particularly vulnerable to the crisis. Central and eastern European economies are estimated to face a financing gap of $100bn in 2009.

And the World Bank estimates that 129 developing countries are facing a financing shortfall between $270 and $700bn. Additional 90 million people will fall into poverty as a result of the crisis.

However, the million dollars question was rightly raised by the British Queen about the global recession. The Queen’s question: ‘Why did no one see it coming?’ appeared in The Guardian in the series of debate ‘Capitalism in Crisis’.

Until 2007, many people had believed that global economic growth, led by the U.S., could continue unabated for the foreseeable future. Mainstream commentators based their optimism on greater global economic integration and the adoption of market-driven patterns of development. They seemed little concerned that global current-account imbalances, especially the U.S. deficit, would remain huge.

We have no dearth of great economists who had analysed economic cycles to predict them properly and reduce their effects. In reality, no macroeconomist could predict the greatest meltdown nor provide any solution except the tested Keynesian pump priming of the 1930s in terms of fiscal stimulus.

The only exception was Professor Nouriel  Roubini, who was called ‘Dr Doom’ after his forecaste about the present crisis in 2006. On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing.

In the coming months and years, he warned that the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unravelling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt.

These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The audience seemed sceptical, even dismissive. After Roubini had finished his talk, the moderator of the event quipped, “I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that.”

People laughed — and not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation remained low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing, despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market.  Anirvan  Banerji in response to Roubini’s talk, noted that Roubini’s predictions did not make use of mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a career naysayer.

But Roubini was soon vindicated. In the year that followed, subprime lenders began entering bankruptcy, hedge funds began going under and the stock market plunged. There was declining employment, a deteriorating dollar, ever-increasing evidence of a huge housing bust and a growing air of panic in financial markets as the credit crisis deepened.

By late summer, the Federal Reserve was rushing to the rescue, making the first of many unorthodox interventions in the economy, including cutting the lending rate by 50 basis points and buying up tens of billions of dollars in mortgage-backed securities.

When Roubini returned to the I.M.F. last September, he delivered another talk, predicting a growing crisis of solvency that would infect every sector of the financial system. This time, no one laughed. “He sounded like a madman in 2006,” recalls I.M.F. economist Prakash Loungani, who invited Roubini on both occasions. “He was a prophet when he returned last year.”

Roubini, a respected but formerly obscure academic, has become a major figure in the public debate about the economy. The seer who saw it coming ,was summoned to speak before Congress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum at Davos. He is a sought-after adviser, spending much of his time shuttling between meetings with central bank governors and finance ministers in Europe and Asia and is a part of Obama’ team on economic affairs.

When  a journalist from The Times in October 2008 asked two questions that how long and  deep will be this recession and who is responsible for that, Roubini  replied: ‘I fear  the worst is yet to come’ and  global economy may  take  another 36 months to climb up  in his reply to the second question he blamed the Federal Reserve.

He said that first of all the Fed kept interest rates too low for too long and created the housing bubble. Secondly, the Fed and the other regulators were asleep at the wheel and allowed all these toxic mortgages to be created without control. Three, there was plenty of greed and excessive risk-taking on the Wall Street. And four, the rating agencies had major conflicts of interest because they were being paid by those that were supposed to be rated. So the blame is to be shared by many different culprits.

While this blame game will continue, it is imperative to note that there is a need to review the current management training and practices which place more emphasis on targets rather than consequences; fat pay packages rather than value addition to economy based on equity; exploitation of greed psyche of shareholders rather than responsible distribution of resources; blind consumerism rather than rational consumption; mass production rather than production for masses.

A nation like India cannot sit quite and watch the actions of the US and other developed countries. India is also a member of G20 and it should behave responsibly and effectively. This is a historic moment to prove oneself to be a leader of wisdom and a country of action. Effects of the meltdown on a country like India, having almost half of the poor of the world, could be more painful. Nobody in world, including India, could see such a crisis coming due to thick blindfolds of irrelevant economic models based on elaborate mathematical calculations and an indiscriminate pursuit of fashionable policies like privatization-globalisation-liberalisation.

Communism has failed and capitalism is surviving on life support of huge stimulus packages from taxpayers’ money. Can there be another way? India , the land of the middle path as espoused by the sons of the soil,  Buddha centuries ago and  Gandhi recently, has all the answers if it looks within rather than through the spectacles of the West.

The writer is a Fellow at the South Asian Study Centre, Oxford University 

Top

 

Obama as a car salesman
by Dana Milbank

THE White House was aiming high with Monday’s announcement that President Obama was pretty much becoming CEO of the American automotive industry.

Minutes before the president’s arrival in the Grand Foyer of the White House, a technician in the back of the room tested the teleprompter for Obama’s speech. “Fourscore and seven years ago,” announced one of the screens in big letters, “our fathers brought on this continent a new nation ...” In the actual event, Obama opted for a more modest text — less Lincoln at Gettysburg than Krystal Koons cutting an ad for the family car dealerships.

“If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always,” the president promised Monday morning from the executive mansion.

And that’s not all, folks! “Your warranty will be safe,” the salesman in chief went on. “In fact, it will be safer than it’s ever been, because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.”

Incentives? Obama’s got ‘em. “If you buy a car any time this year, you may be able to deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes,” the president offered. And nobody beats Obama on trade-ins; he wants a “generous credit to consumers who turn in old, less-fuel-efficient cars.”

Perhaps the president can interest you in a Chevy Malibu? “In 2008, the North American Car of the Year was a GM,” he pitched. And the Buick Lucerne is a real cream puff. “This year, Buick tied for first place as the most reliable car in the world,” he declared from behind the presidential seal.

If you buy now, he may even throw in the floor mats.

Playing car salesman is an unusual role for a president of the United States — but, then again, Obama has taken the presidency to many unusual places in his 70 days on the job. Republicans are howling about a “power grab” and “dictatorial” powers that, they say, would allow the Treasury secretary to take over private businesses at will. Even congressional Democrats are balking at Obama’s broad plans to expand the government’s role in energy and health care and increase its ownership of the banking industry.

Now Obama is taking a turn behind the wheel of the automotive trade. In exchange for more bailout funds, Obama ordered the ouster of GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner and the merger of Chrysler with Europe’s Fiat. And, in the federal government’s first foray into the muffler-and-brake-pad business, the White House announced a “Warranty Commitment Program” under which the federal government would “stand behind new cars purchased from GM or Chrysler.”

When Obama, preceded by a sales team of a dozen economic aides, entered the Grand Foyer Monday morning, he offered assurances that “we have no intention of running GM.” But, in the rest of his 18-minute speech, he sounded as if he was doing just that. He ordered up “a better business plan” from GM and asserted that “Chrysler needs a partner to remain viable.” In both cases, the restructuring “may mean using our bankruptcy code.”

The idea of bankruptcy may be “unsettling,” Obama allowed — so he came equipped with a sales pitch worthy of Madison Avenue. “Some of the cars made by American workers right now are outperforming the best cars made abroad,” Obama declared, tossing in phrases such as “unsurpassed around the world” and “some of the finest cars the world has ever known.”

No credit? No problem. “We are working intensively with the auto finance companies to increase the flow of credit to both consumers and dealers,” Obama pledged.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

Top

 

Inside Pakistan
by Syed Nooruzzaman Blaming
‘foreign hand’ won’t do

It is in the larger interest of Pakistan not to hide the failures of the government by attempting to invent a ‘foreign hand’ for terrorist attacks like the one on the Manawan Police Training School on the outskirts of Lahore. The suicide bombers have the hallmark of Pakistan. The intelligence-gathering apparatus is almost non-functional. Terrorism is not being treated as the most serious threat to stability in Pakistan. This seems to be the main point that many newspaper editorials have highlighted after what happened in Lahore on Monday.

Daily Times (March 31) said, “Unfortunately, however, the easiest speculation that will emerge in the days to come will be that an ‘Indian hand’ is involved in the attack on the police. Mr Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, alluded at a Press conference later that the sophisticated weapons with the terrorists pointed to a foreign hand….

“When it comes to India, there is very little to go on. Most incidents of this sort have been blamed on India before, only to discover later that they had their origin inside Pakistan as a part of the ongoing war with Al-Qaeda and its local foot soldiers. And some of them have been owned by the commanders of Baitullah Mehsud, the warlord who sits at head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). There are other signs too.”

Business Recorder had this to say, “How ironic is the reality that when our (Pakistan’s) national existence is in great peril mainly because of ruthless terrorists, our defences against terrorism remain profoundly inadequate and woefully outdated. A force that is expected to protect citizens is incapable of defending its own self! No lesson seems to have been learnt from the past. See how first came the police, then the Rangers and finally the Army to flush out the terrorists from the building of the police training centre. How is it that the whole host of intelligence outfits didn’t have a whiff of information on the plan to pre-empt the attack in which scores of persons must have participated?”

A flawed argument

The comment carried in Dawn was, perhaps, most interesting: “It should be clear by now that we (Pakistanis) are at war with ourselves as the enemy within grows more audacious by the day. Yet there are educated people within this country who continue to blame American foreign policy and the ever-potent ‘foreign hand’ for the wave of terrorism sweeping the country. This argument is deeply flawed on several counts.”

The paper warns Pakistan to root out terrorism quickly. “If we can’t do the job ourselves, others might do it for us. And that way lies disaster”, Dawn concluded.

The News says, “The scene in Lahore as people and the police pounced on suspected militants, threatening to beat them to death, indicates the mood that prevails. People are desperate. They have lost all faith in the ability of the state to protect them; and this is nothing short of a disaster.”

Extremists’ alliance

The militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas do not seem to be scared of the US plan to defeat terrorists. Perhaps, they expected the US to come out with the new strategy as announced by President Barack Obama. That is why the militants have succeeded in forming an alliance despite their deep-rooted differences.

In an article in Dawn (March 31) Syed Irfan Ashraf and Shaukat Khattak point out that “The militants have already devised a strategy of ‘readjustment and relocation’ to strengthen FATA as the first line of defence. Accordingly, they (decided to ) wind up their makeshift settlements — from where terror emanates — in the less strategic areas of the tribal belt and relocate to their strong bases in North and South Waziristan. The warlords are united in their stand and are seemingly more focused on their target across the border.

“Insiders say it took one month for an eight-member Taliban delegation from Afghanistan to reconcile with the militants in FATA and make them agree on a one-point agenda — to launch a united front against the allied forces under the leadership of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and to stop activities inside Pakistan.”

Masood Sharif Khan Khatak, a PPP leader and former Director-General of Intelligence Bureau, Pakistan, says in his article in The News, “We must not lose sight of the proven fact that long-drawn low-intensity wars are mostly won by unconventional forces, and with each passing day new militants are motivated and recruited. The cycle can only be stopped through political initiatives and not military operations alone. It is in America’s own interest that a quick political solution is now found to the Afghan problem….”


Top

 





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