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Cash for votes
Jaswant Singh caught on camera
B
JP leader Jaswant Singh has committed an act of grave impropriety and breached the code of conduct by distributing cash among some people in Gajeria, Rajasthan, in an attempt to influence them to vote for his son, Manvendra Singh — the party candidate for the Barmer Lok Sabha seat.

A serialised spat
UT can be spared of an Administrator
F
OR too long the so-called City Beautiful has been witnessing an ugly slugfest between Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Gen S. F. Rodrigues (retd) and his Adviser Pradip Mehra, and the UT’s citizens have marvelled at the Centre’s failure to set things right. 



EARLIER STORIES


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Exports shrink
The meltdown impacts India
T
HAT exports have declined for the fifth consecutive month in February hardly comes as a surprise. The 22 per cent fall in one month, the steepest in two decades, is likely to scuttle the government aim of achieving a scaled-down export target of $175 billion for 2008-09.
ARTICLE

After Lahore outrage, what?
Danger of Taliban takeover of Pakistan
by Inder Malhotra
M
ONDAY’S brazen terrorist attack on Lahore’s heavily guarded Police Training Academy — less than a month after the equally audacious assault on Sri Lankan cricketers — is the final wake-up call for the Pakistani ruling establishment. The terrorist outfits that Pakistani intelligence agencies had created and nurtured with a view to “bleeding India through a thousand cuts” have turned into a Frankenstein’s Monster out to devour Pakistan itself, exploding the myth that Talibanisation was confined to tribal lands in the Northwest, and the heartland was “safe”.

MIDDLE

The local directory
by Girish Bhandari

The publication of the local telephone directory was hailed as a great achievement. Arranged in alphabetical order, street order and advertiser order, it boasted of Mahanagar numbers, mobile numbers, and email addresses, besides several dozen utility numbers. Printed on glossy thick paper it was a shot in the arm for the local residents’ association.

OPED

India Votes
Politics and justice
Poll-related petitions flood courts
by R Sedhuraman, our legal correspondent
E
VERY time the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner, poll-related petitions fly thick and fast across the country, with litigants rushing to courts and the judiciary throwing out the pleas with equal speed in most cases. And the scene is no different this time when the nation is witnessing the poll battle for the 15th edition of the Lower House, also known as the House of the People.

US policy burdened by old baggage
by Greg Miller
P
resident Barack Obama’s plan to create a unified U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan marks his effort to sever his administration’s approach from the failures of the past. But administration officials are struggling to identify a clear path around the same problem that has undermined U.S. policy in those countries for much of the past seven years: The United States can operate freely in Afghanistan, the nation where al-Qaida used to be based, but has limited ability to control what happens in neighboring Pakistan, which the terrorist network calls home now.

Inside G-20 Summit
by Michael Muskal

Corrections and clarifications




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Cash for votes
Jaswant Singh caught on camera

BJP leader Jaswant Singh has committed an act of grave impropriety and breached the code of conduct by distributing cash among some people in Gajeria, Rajasthan, in an attempt to influence them to vote for his son, Manvendra Singh — the party candidate for the Barmer Lok Sabha seat. TV visuals showed him distributing cash in an election rally. This is not only objectionable but also speaks poorly of the BJP and one of its senior leaders. His claim that he was “just helping the poor” is amusing for his discovering poverty in the country at election time. When he is so brazenly vitiating the election process, no one can endorse his claim that philanthropy is his family tradition. It may certainly be there, but at election time!

The Election Commission has taken serious note of Mr Jaswant Singh’s involvement in cash distribution. It is expected to take a decision on the complaint against him after examining the report of the Rajasthan Chief Electoral Officer and the compact disc being sent with it on Monday. Clearly, Mr Jaswant Singh cannot claim immunity from legal action on the ground that he is not a candidate and that his son was not present at the meeting where he was distributing cash. Under the election law, whoever woos the voters with cash or gifts is liable for action for breaching the code of conduct.

The Jaswant episode is all the more unfortunate because his party created scenes in the Lok Sabha when it tried to prove that cash had been used for buying MPs to save the government of the day. His involvement in the cash-for-votes controversy comes close on the heels of the party’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani’s concern about the role of black money in the elections. The commission has only pulled up several politicians including Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Govinda and Mr M.K. Stalin for distributing cash. Part of the problem is the Election Commission’s lenient attitude towards them. Of late, the role of money power in the elections has increased so much that the candidates will not change their ways if they are just reprimanded or censored. Only stringent punishment will deter those who violate the law.

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A serialised spat
UT can be spared of an Administrator

FOR too long the so-called City Beautiful has been witnessing an ugly slugfest between Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Gen S. F. Rodrigues (retd) and his Adviser Pradip Mehra, and the UT’s citizens have marvelled at the Centre’s failure to set things right. The Centre, judging from its missives to General Rodrigues, knows that he has grossly faltered the way he has taken some questionable decisions and for his row with Mr Mehra. But, sadly, it has not done anything more than snubbing the Administrator. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has had to write twice in two months to restore the powers of Mr Mehra to write the annual confidential reports (ACRs) of his subordinate officers. General Rodrigues, who had arbitrarily taken away these powers with a fiat, has been resisting the restoration on the plea of an ongoing vigilance probe against Mr Mehra, but in vain. The serialised spectacle continues and the UT citizens are not amused.

All this has been happening ever since three of the four mega projects conceptualised by General Rodrigues – Medicity, Filmcity and Amusement-cum-theme park—mired into controversies with Mr Mehra raising doubts about the projects and General Rodrigues would have none of it from the Adviser, who dared to differ. The row raised so much of stink that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had to step in. Hurt, the Administrator withdrew the Adviser’s inherent powers to write ACRs of his juniors. The Centre had to order him to restore the powers.

The unseemly spat refurbishes the demand for restoring the system under which the Chandigarh Administration was governed by a Chief Commissioner. The Punjab Governor was made Administrator of Chandigarh during the terrorism days so that the menace could be fought seamlessly in the Union Territory and Punjab. Now that the threat is no longer there, it is time to go back to the old system. It will make the UT Administration more responsive to the people than an Administrator.

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Exports shrink
The meltdown impacts India

THAT exports have declined for the fifth consecutive month in February hardly comes as a surprise. The 22 per cent fall in one month, the steepest in two decades, is likely to scuttle the government aim of achieving a scaled-down export target of $175 billion for 2008-09. This is despite a slew of sops announced late February. Though exports account for only 15 per cent of the GDP, which is quite modest compared to China and other East Asian countries, the sector is employment-intensive. The downturn has sparked layoffs in textile, gem and jewellery and IT companies.

Although the election code bars the government from announcing any immediate aid for the beleaguered sector, its ability to provide another stimulus package is limited by a cash crunch and a burgeoning fiscal deficit. Despite help from a depreciating rupee, the crisis is unlikely to go away even in the months to come. That is because large world economies are in recession. To fix their economies, many countries have turned protectionist. The Obama administration has tied its bailout aid to the condition that rescued companies use American inputs and hire Americans. Thus, not just the drying up of demand in the recession-hit US, Europe and Japan has hurt Indian exports, the raising of protectionist barriers too has dealt a deadly blow.

Notwithstanding the G-20 Summit’s efforts to hammer a consensus to fix the sinking global economy, the situation defies a near-term solution. In India, interest rates are still high. India Inc is starved of cheap credit. One indication of corporate slump is the steep fall in inflation. Imports, too, have plummeted in tandem with exports. Share markets the world over are steadily going up on some positive developments, including the US plan to rid banks of toxic assets, but the ground reality has not yet changed materially.

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Thought for the Day

Sorrow and silence are strong, and patient endurance is godlike. 
— H. W. Longfellow

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After Lahore outrage, what?
Danger of Taliban takeover of Pakistan
by Inder Malhotra

MONDAY’S brazen terrorist attack on Lahore’s heavily guarded Police Training Academy — less than a month after the equally audacious assault on Sri Lankan cricketers — is the final wake-up call for the Pakistani ruling establishment. The terrorist outfits that Pakistani intelligence agencies had created and nurtured with a view to “bleeding India through a thousand cuts” have turned into a Frankenstein’s Monster out to devour Pakistan itself, exploding the myth that Talibanisation was confined to tribal lands in the Northwest, and the heartland was “safe”.

Most probably, one purpose of the assailants was to warn all concerned that Punjab and its capital Lahore, the heart of Pakistan in every sense of the word, were no longer out of the reach of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their sundry allies. Thoughtful Pakistanis had been apprehending that Islamabad, that has already witnessed the squalid Lal Masjid episode, Lahore and Karachi could all be “engulfed” by extremism before long. (Pervez Hoodbhoy in Newsline, January 2009.)

The terrorists’ second objective - according to Saleem Shehzad of Asia Times, one of the best informed correspondents in Pakistan - was to “retaliate” against the Pakistan government’s agreement with the United States to “open a second front within Pakistan” against Al-Qaeda, “hardcore Taliban” and their allies. Shehzad reports that this agreement was reached during the recent visit to the US by the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaque Parvaiz Kiyani, and reaffirmed 
during the sojourn of the new CIA Director, Mr William Panetta, in Pakistan.

No wonder, Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has claimed full responsibility for the horrendous Lahore episode, especially in view of the close links between the TTP and most other terrorist outfits. One of the men arrested by the Pakistani paramilitary forces is said to be a Pushto-speaking Afghan. It is necessary to note that there is no difference between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. Neither respects the largely notional Durand Line. Both cross it with impunity, as do the Americans.

It is also remarkable that Baitullah is accused also of being the mastermind behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Yet the government, headed by her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, has not been able to nab him.

In this context it is a small mercy that for once the Pakistani government has not tried to prevaricate or obfuscate the issue by its familiar ploy of blaming the “foreign hand” for its woes. It had tried to do so in the case of the dastardly attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team and even named India until the Sri Lankan government firmly put paid to this nonsense.

Initially, in the present case, too, Mr Rehman Malik, the man in charge of the Ministry of the Interior, tried to cast aspersions on “foreign countries” and brought in 1965 (when India and Pakistan were at war). When asked about the relevance of this reference, he replied: “I want the country to be as united in its fight against terrorists as it was in 1965 when Pakistan was invaded.” Wiser counsels seem to have prevailed since then because Mr Malik’s current refrain is that the people of Pakistan had two choices: “Either to had over the country to the Taliban or to fight them out.”

Better to tumble to the obvious conclusion late rather than never even though a lot of valuable time has been lost already. Two questions arise, however. First, whether the Interior Adviser’s observation has the concurrence of the Army, which has hitherto been reluctant to take on the Pushtoons on both sides of the Durand Line. Secondly, and more importantly, is Pakistan alive to all the implications of US President Barack Obama’s new “AfPak” policy and to the blunt statements his National Security Adviser, Gen James Jones, and his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, have made?

Parts of the new policy on Afghanistan-Pakistan may be called the old Bush wine in a new Obama bottle. But there are some important changes, too. A promise to pour more money than before into Pakistan is accompanied by two other stipulations: more troops for Afghanistan, and a regional approach that would bring in India, Russia, China, Iran and Central Asia. Most significantly, America has made it clear that if Pakistan does not keep its side of the bargain by first stemming and then stamping out the Taliban and its allies, American largesse would dry up.

To be sure, Pakistan has a long record of taking its America benefactor for a ride. It did so all through the Musharraf era when, in Afghanistan, the military ruler hunted with the American hound and ran with the jihadi hare. The US was distressed and remonstrated with the General in private but publicly hailed him as a “key ally in the war on terror”. Things have now changed and it remains to be seen how Islamabad, especially the GHQ, acts now.

That is precisely where plain-speaking by General Jones, Admiral Mullen and even by the US Defence Secretary, Mr Robert Gates, comes in. Both the Defence Secretary and the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs have stated that Pakistan’s ISI and military continue to have links with the Taliban and other extremists, sometimes warning these groups of impending action against them. The New York Times that quoted Admiral Mullen also reported that Pakistani military and civilian officials, who did not wish to be identified, had unabashedly stated that the links with the Taliban, etc, were necessary because Pakistan had to think of the time when the American and NATO troops would leave Afghanistan. Otherwise, its “arch-enemy”, India, would exploit the situation. Haven’t policy makers in Pakistan yet realised that the threat to their existence is not India but terrorism within?

General Jones’s statement must have been a bigger shock to Islamabad. For, he said categorically that the US had no intention of getting involved in the Kashmir issue though it would welcome a lessening of tensions between India and Pakistan and the resumption of the peace process. India’s Foreign Secretary, Mr Shiv Shankar Menon, has announced that the peace process can be resumed only after Pakistan has acted, adequately and satisfactorily, on the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai from Pakistan on November 26, 2008. Pakistan, which has so far been telling the US that it cannot shift any soldiers from its eastern border to the Afghan frontier until its security concerns in relation to India are not taken care of, cannot rely on this lame excuse permanently.

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The local directory
by Girish Bhandari

The publication of the local telephone directory was hailed as a great achievement. Arranged in alphabetical order, street order and advertiser order, it boasted of Mahanagar numbers, mobile numbers, and email addresses, besides several dozen utility numbers. Printed on glossy thick paper it was a shot in the arm for the local residents’ association.

Soon I felt the first tremors. The phone rang and the caller, without as much as telling me his name, advised that my name had a serious flaw in terms of the principles of numerological science. “You have six letters in your first name as opposed to the eight letters in your surname. The product is 48. The digits four and eight add up to 12. The digits one and two in 12 add to three. That is a destructive number. Well, you can seek an appointment with me now and you will be eligible for a discount. Only one thousand rupees and I will tell you how to change the spellings of your name for prosperity to just walk in”.

I tried to tell him that three was an auspicious number. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh are three. So is the Holy Trinity. “Well, I will give you a further discount—five hundred rupees. Do you know who are my present clients?”, he said and he narrated a long list of politicians, actors and bureaucrats.

“I am a Vaastu expert also”, said the caller. I knew that many in his imaginary list of “present” clients had long left to meet their creator. I promptly discounted, sorry, disconnected the line.

Two days later another call came, this time on the mobile. The caller identified himself as Nasiruddin Shah Bengali — the world-famous king of black magic. “You live in a house bearing the number 13. There are dark spirits, I can see even from where I am sitting. These spirits are dangerous and will harm you, unless you consult me — the king of all ‘ilms’. Bring two lemons and I will show you the bloodthirsty evil spirits” He gave an address, which was very near a waste dump. I dumped him out of my mind.

A call then came claiming that the caller was in possession of the original “bhojpatra”-written Bhrigu Samhita, which could tell me my past, present and future. Having some knowledge of the modus operandi of these peddlers, I told him exactly how they went about their business. “Well I am extremely busy. Will call you tomorrow”, said the original bhojpatra holder with a slight stutter. No call ever came from him!

Offers to park my money in the best instruments in the market flooded me. I had to remind them that I had no money and unsolicited calls were not welcome, but they were hardened souls and kept on pestering me.

One caller asked me a dozen times over the weekend to collect a prize, which I had won. I did not recall having participated in any activity, which could entitle me to a prize. So I asked him to be enlightened on this. The caller said that they had chosen me of their own! I graciously told him that I had decided to donate the prize to him.

Offers on laptops, Internet connections, plasma TVs, dishwashers, kitchen environment processors, tunes to download, even discount offers on bridal makeup came thick and fast. I thought I would implode. The first urge was to run and switch off the phones. Some friends, who were genuinely calling, took offence at this uncivilised boorish behaviour.

I did not know that the world had become so much tech-savvy. My e-mail account was flooded with junk. I had to open another account and forget all about the previous one!

Finally, yesterday I decided to put an application to the local body, which had brought out the directory, to delist and debar me from all categories in the new directory to be printed. Anonymity is such a great blessing, I suddenly realised.

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India Votes
Politics and justice
Poll-related petitions flood courts
by R Sedhuraman, our legal correspondent

EVERY time the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner, poll-related petitions fly thick and fast across the country, with litigants rushing to courts and the judiciary throwing out the pleas with equal speed in most cases. And the scene is no different this time when the nation is witnessing the poll battle for the 15th edition of the Lower House, also known as the House of the People.

The judiciary disposes of such cases with alacrity as it is fully aware of the importance of the largest democratic exercise and in the process, makes or mars prospects of the petitioners bracing up for the electoral race.

In fact, this time the poll-related cases seem to have greater depth, variety and substance than those filed in the past. For the issues involved range right from the appointment of Naveen Chawla as the Chief Election Commissioner at the top of the heap to convicted politicians queueing up before the judiciary at the lower rung.

Uppermost in the minds of such tainted politicians, who knock at the doors of the judiciary seeking suspension of their conviction and sentence to enable them to contest, is the urge to prove a point – that they still enjoy the confidence of the all-important voter. They feel that winning the poll and sharing power would refurbish their sullied image, besides staving off the legal threat, at least for some years.

Several poll-related case have come up to the level of the Supreme Court and some of these are still pending before it. Among the first few PILs was a petition seeking a directive to the Centre not to go ahead with the appointment of Chawla in view of several controversies that stalked him.

The latest problem was a letter shot off by outgoing CEC N Gopalaswamy to the President, listing a series of charges against Chawla for passing on confidential information to the Congress that heads the UPA government. The PIL had cited this letter.

However, a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan threw out the PIL, observing that the court had its limitations in interfering with the elaborate, well laid-out procedure followed by the government for such appointments.

The biggest gainers of these court interventions were the three start-up parties down South, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to be precise, as they have been allotted common symbols, the privilege meant only for recognised parties with proven poll credentials.

Despite stiff opposition from the Election Commission, the CJI Bench issued an order in favour of the parties. This would now enable the Praja Rajyam of Telugu actor Chiranjeevi to use the “rail engine” to chug its way to Parliament and the assembly and former IAS official Jai Prakash Narayan’s Lok Satta to make a similar attempt, using the “whistle” symbol. The DMDK of a former Tamil matinee idol would try and “drum” up its way to the Lok Sabha.

The RJD’s Mohammed Shahabuddin was not so lucky. The sitting MP from Siwan, Bihar, succeeded in convincing the Supreme Court to issue a directive to the Patna High Court for an early hearing of his plea for a stay on his 10-year sentence in an attempt to murder case.

But the HC subsequently rejected his petition, thereby trashing his hope of getting back his seat in the green-carpeted circular House with a dome-roof, presided over by the Speaker.

In fact, a Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat expressed its displeasure over such attempts, observing it would be better if elected bodies had fewer criminals. It made the comments while hearing a petition by a POTA convict from Andhra Pradesh.

Another high-profile poll-related case pertains to the BJP’s Varun Gandhi, son of party leader Maneka Gandhi. At the time of writing this column, the Uttar Pradesh police had arrested him under the National Security Act (NSA) for making an inflammatory public speech while campaigning in his Pilibhit constituency.

Earlier, he had obtained time-bound anticipatory bail from the Delhi High Court. The EC also had intervened in the matter, advising the BJP not to field him, but the saffron party rejected it.

However, the party appears to be divided on how to deal with the situation. On his part, Varun had alleged that the video, purported to contain his controversial remarks, was doctored and that he had full faith in the judiciary. At the same time, he also asserted that he would not “retract a single step.”

The April-May election to the 545-member House also brought under public glare an apex court order that had allowed cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in a byelection by staying his conviction and three-year sentence in a road rage killing case. Sidhu retained the seat vacated by him in the wake of his conviction.

Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, sentenced to six years for illegal possession of arms, also sought a SC stay on his conviction, citing Sidhu’s case. Shortly after Sanjay had put in his plea, three lawyers from Lucknow, where he had aspired to contest as a candidate of the Samajwadi Party, filed a PIL, questioning the validity of the relief given to Sidhu and voicing its objection to allowing convicted candidates to jump into the poll fray.

The CJI Bench, however, dismissed the PIL as withdrawn, after finding fault with the method adopted to challenge the court order and the “timing” of the plea. Senior counsel Soli Sorabjee did not agree with the “timing” remark, insisting that now was the right time, not after the election. His plea went in vain in that case. But the court subsequently rejected Sanjay’s plea for contesting the poll, drawing a clear distinction between his case and that of Sidhu.

“The petitioner has been convicted for serious offences…we do not think that this is a fit case” for relief, the CJI Bench ruled on March 31 while dismissing Sanjay’s plea, and in the process dampening the spirit of similar candidates awaiting verdicts.

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US policy burdened by old baggage
by Greg Miller

President Barack Obama’s plan to create a unified U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan marks his effort to sever his administration’s approach from the failures of the past.

But administration officials are struggling to identify a clear path around the same problem that has undermined U.S. policy in those countries for much of the past seven years: The United States can operate freely in Afghanistan, the nation where al-Qaida used to be based, but has limited ability to control what happens in neighboring Pakistan, which the terrorist network calls home now.

The policy unveiled on Friday put the consequences of those constraints in sharp relief.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. is poised to send an additional 21,000 troops and to train thousands of Afghan soldiers and police officers, while working directly with the government to bring corruption under control.

In Pakistan, however, the U.S. approach hinges on providing an extra $5 billion in aid over the next five years and leaning on that nation to take steps against the Islamic militants that it has so far been unwilling, or unable, to take.

The skepticism surrounding Pakistan’s ability to assert control in its tribal areas prompted even architects of the Obama plan to describe that component as the most difficult aspect of the strategy.

“Of all the dilemmas, problems and challenges we face, that’s going to be the most daunting,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy overseeing U.S. efforts in the region.

“You could have a great government in Kabul,” Holbrooke said on Friday, speaking of the Afghan capital. But, “If the current situation in western Pakistan continued, the instability of Afghanistan would continue.”

In some ways, the roll-out of the US strategy last week marked the beginning of a concerted effort to increase the pressure on Pakistan.

Obama described the country’s border region as “the most dangerous place in the world,” and warned that the United States’ patience was wearing thin after providing more than $12 billion in aid to Pakistan over seven years only to see al-Qaida remain intact.

“After years of mixed results, we will not and cannot provide a blank check,” Obama said. “Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al-Qaida and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken, one way or another, when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.”

The remark appeared to be one of the most pointed threats of U.S. unilateral military action inside Pakistan since early in the Obama presidential campaign.

But Obama administration officials labored to explain exactly how they expect to persuade Pakistan to take a different course.

Asked in a television interview what part of the new plan might make Pakistan go after insurgents more aggressively, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in the region, talked of building trust but listed no specifics.

“What we need to do is, again, partner together effectively, confident that we are going to be there for each other in the future,” Petraeus said.

A central component of the Obama plan is legislation, introduced by Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and John Kerry, D-Mass., that would triple U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan.

The measure calls for that aid to be released only after the U.S. State Department has certified that Pakistan has made “concerted efforts” to prevent al-Qaida and associated terrorist groups from operating inside the country.

But U.S. officials and Pakistan experts noted that the United States has found it difficult to withhold aid from a country whose counterterrorism cooperation it needs.

And it is unclear how Pakistan’s performance might be measured when the nation’s security services often seem to be working at cross-purposes. Over the last year, Pakistan’s army has launched forays against militant strongholds even as the nation’s spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, has been accused of aiding Taliban groups.

Pakistan’s activities “remain a mystery to folks here in Washington,” said Alan Kronstadt, a Pakistan expert at the Congressional Research Service. “That makes it fairly difficult to find legislative language that would address this concern.”

Even after the Obama administration held high-level discussions with Pakistan in recent weeks over the new strategy, U.S. intelligence officials said that its officials continued to foster relationships with Islamic militant groups that it helped organize with U.S. support in the 1980s.

“After 9/11 they did a turnabout, but not 100 percent turnabout, and remain engaged with a number of these groups who also operate inside Pakistan,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official, who was made available to discuss the issue by the Obama administration on the condition that he not be identified.

For years, CIA officials and others have accused elements of the ISI of providing guidance and material support to certain Taliban groups, as well as tipping them off to possible U.S. strikes.

Asked to describe the scope of that problem and how often it has hurt U.S. efforts to strike militant targets, the official replied: “Too big. Too often.”

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Inside G-20 Summit
by Michael Muskal

World leaders are attending the G-20 summit in London to discuss ways to fix the global economy. Here is a primer explaining the economic and political issues, and what to watch.

What is the G-20?

The formal title is the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, and it is composed of 19 of the world's most important national economies, plus the European Union. Its members have about two-thirds of the world's population and control some 85 percent of the world's economic output.

Isn't there also a G-7? What's the difference?

The G-7 is made up of the world's industrialized powers – the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom – while the G-20 adds developing economies such as Brazil and Argentina in South America; China, India, South Korea and Indonesia in Asia; and Mexico, Australia, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The G-20 was created in 1999, and because it includes so many economic and political systems, it has become the steering committee for the world's economy and a key forum to discuss diplomatic differences.

How often does it meet?

It used to be that only finance ministers and the governors of central banks attended the sessions. But as the world economy went into a tailspin, the heads of the G-20 nations met for the first time in Washington last fall. This week's session is the second summit involving heads of government.

What is the agenda?

The main session of the summit will be held Thursday. Wednesday was largely devoted to ceremonial activities and to bilateral meetings – sessions between leaders of specific countries. The bilaterals are important because they give leaders a chance to talk face to face and to announce previously discussed agreements.

What was announced on Wednesday?

The United States and Russia declared that they were going to try to negotiate a nuclear arms reduction deal to replace the one that expires in December. The announcement is important because it signifies that Russia and the United States, whose relations have been testy, are trying to find some common ground. Obama also formally accepted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's invitation to visit Moscow this summer.

What about China?

Obama met with President Hu Jintao of China to discuss economic and military issues and human-rights concerns. They agreed to establish what they termed a "strategic and economic dialogue" group that will meet in Washington this year. That could be an important step since because economic relations between the countries have been hurt by currency and trade issues. There are also diplomatic questions about North Korea that worry both countries.

What about the world economy?

The main issue for the summit is how to deal with a recession that is pinching economies everywhere. The United States has gone through 17 months of recession, and the global economy is expected to contract for the first time since World War II. The output of goods and services will contract worldwide by 1.7 percent, and even the roaring developing world will slow down, economists say. The World Bank predicts growth will drop from 4.4 percent to 2.1 percent.

What will the G-20 seek to do?

There are two camps. The United States and Britain are pushing for more stimulus spending and for reform of the financial system. Other European governments are stressing reform of the financial system first.

Why is there a difference?

The Europeans see the crisis as caused primarily by greed on Wall Street, which created new, unregulated financial instruments that caused a bubble, and are pressing the U.S. to deal with reform first.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Corrections and clarifications

l The report , ‘ BIT student files FIR against seniors’ (March 28), mistakenly names the institution as ‘Birla’ Institute of Technology. It should have been named as ‘Bihar’ Institute of Technology, which is at Sindri (Jharkhand). Birla Institute of Technology is also in Jharkhand but it is located at Mesra near Ranchi. Another institution named BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Science) is at Pilani (Rajasthan).

l A photo caption on page 4 in some editions of March 28 says harvesting going on in ‘paddy fields’. As it is wheat that is being harvested these days, this was a mistake that was corrected in later editions.

l In the edition dated March 26, Quick Crossword inadvertently did not appear. But in the edition of March 27, “yesterday’s solutions” did. The omission is regretted.

l In the report, “ Woman alleges harassment at workplace” on March 29, part of a sentence reads, “ …to seek out the matter”. It should have been “to sort out the matter”.

l The report, “ EC transfers DIG Asthana”, a sentence reads, “ DC was told twice to verify complaints”. To say that the DC was asked, directed or instructed to verify complaints would have been more appropriate.

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 Uttam Sengupta, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is uttamsengupta@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua
Editor-in-Chief

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