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EDITORIALS

Eye in the sky
Satellite will monitor borders better

S
ecurity
men keeping an endless vigil on the border will be in a better position to discharge their duty following the launch of RISAT2, India’s first radar imaging satellite, on Monday. For the first time, the country has got its own capability to see through cloud and fog, and even at night.

Pay hike in Punjab
Employees need to improve performance

T
HE Punjab Pay Commission’s report should have been released either well before or after the elections to avoid being seen as an attempt at influencing the government servants by the ruling Akali-BJP coalition even though the Election Commission had given a go-ahead. 


EARLIER STORIES

Threat to Kashmir voters
April
21, 2009
Aid for Pakistan
April
20, 2009
Voting for democracy
April
19, 2009
Democracy alive and well
April
18, 2009

Polls now, tie-ups later
April
17, 2009

A state within a state
April
16, 2009
Not by violence
April
15, 2009
Heed the EC
April
14, 2009
Criminal cases on the rise
April
13, 2009
Filmstars and elections
April
12, 2009
Belated, but right
April
11, 2009
Fighting Taliban
April
10, 2009


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Tackle ragging
Time to check drinking on the campus

T
HE Raghavan Committee set up by the Supreme Court to investigate Aman Kachroo’s ragging-death has come out with a startling revelation. In its report to the apex court, it said that alcoholism on the Rajendra Prasad Dental College campus at Tanda in Himachal Pradesh was the main reason behind Aman’s ragging last month.
ARTICLE

N-arms debate revives
Serious security implications for India
by Arundhati Ghose 

A
lmost
since Independence, India has not only vigorously called for the elimination of nuclear weapons but has also clung to the reiteration of that demand even after declaring the country a nuclear-weapon state in 1998. The early opposition to nuclear weapons was not only on moral grounds, though it was voiced as such, but, as Nehru said in 1954, these were weapons “…before which our normal weapons (would be) completely useless.” When threatened by Sino-Pakistani nuclear collusion, India decided on acquiring these weapons for itself. The rhetoric did not, however, change; in public, India remained committed to nuclear disarmament and even took several initiatives, valiantly facing the skepticism of the non-proliferation lobby.

MIDDLE

The art of loafing
by Raj Chatterjee

The ancient Chinese philosophers, when they were not busy extolling such human virtues as humility, toleration, and obedience to one’s elders, took great delight in the ritualistic brewing of fragrant pots of tea for themselves, which is why they valued leisure, or what they sometimes called the cult of idleness, so highly.

OPED

Focus on Article 370
Fresh debate on special status to J and K
by Balraj Puri
B
JP general secretary Arun Jaitley has reiterated, during his election campaign in Jammu, that the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was the key issue for his party. He has invited Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to debate with him on it.

Repression in Burma
by Desmond Tutu 
W
HEN President Obama was elected, I was filled with hope that America would regain the moral standing to aid those who are impoverished and oppressed around the world. I have since rejoiced to see him reversing the most obnoxious policies of the Bush administration — by ending torture, announcing the closure of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay and engaging the world on climate change, to name just a few.

Inside Pakistan
by Syed Nooruzzaman

  • The Taliban’s expansionist designs

  • Thirsty for blood

  • Religious politics





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Eye in the sky
Satellite will monitor borders better

Security men keeping an endless vigil on the border will be in a better position to discharge their duty following the launch of RISAT2, India’s first radar imaging satellite, on Monday. For the first time, the country has got its own capability to see through cloud and fog, and even at night. The threat to India’s sovereignty and integrity has been getting more and more serious with the situation spinning out of control in Pakistan and terrorists making a regular effort to breach international borders. Things are equally hot along borders with China and Bangladesh. Under the circumstances, the need for keeping vigil in the sky was pressing. In fact, the country suffered tremendously in the absence of satellite information, whether it was during the Kargil war or the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. Intruders will find the going more difficult now, with such 24-hour surveillance. Not only that, the all-weather satellite would also give early warning about any kind of troop build-up, terrorist camps and even ballistic missile attacks.

India has made it bold to utilise a satellite made by Israel for this purpose, which has considerable expertise in the field. With the snow melting in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani jehadis have been making desperate attempt to enter India. That is why the need for surveillance capabilities was felt so acutely that the launch date was advanced to April, and it took place ahead of RISAT1, which ISRO has been developing indigenously.

Officially, it is not a spy satellite and would only augment India’s capability for mapping the earth, particularly for tracking weather and predicting weather patterns, and during floods, cyclones and landslides. It can also be used in mapping forests, agriculture, soil moisture and sea ice. But the fact remains that after a long wait, India has finally entered the league of nations which have satellites with military use. Its capabilities may be small as compared to some other countries, but RISAT2 marks a big jump nevertheless. 

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Pay hike in Punjab
Employees need to improve performance

THE Punjab Pay Commission’s report should have been released either well before or after the elections to avoid being seen as an attempt at influencing the government servants by the ruling Akali-BJP coalition even though the Election Commission had given a go-ahead. The commission had delayed the report so much that the Finance Minister had to postpone his budget. The forever cash-strapped Punjab government has only Rs 1,000 crore in its kitty whereas the pay-pension hike will cost the exchequer Rs 2,700 crore more annually. For meeting the shortfall, the Finance Minister will have to levy fresh taxes and gear up government machinery for better revenue collection. The Punjab government had not prepared itself well in advance to bear the expected burden.

The Pay Commission cannot be faulted for recommending the raising of the retirement age to 60 as the Centre and several states had already done that. But in Punjab, more than the employees, the Finance Department itself had been asking for a hike in the retirement age. This was to save Rs 2,000 crore, which would have been paid as gratuity, leave encashment, provident fund, pension and other retirement benefits to about 18,000 employees retiring in the next two years. Lack of funds has kept a large number of posts vacant. Staff shortage has particularly crippled education and health services. Fresh recruitment has virtually dried up. The private sector in the state is stagnant, if not shrinking. Youngsters have to move out of the state for seeking employment.

The poor financial condition of the Punjab government has not deterred the Tuteja commission from suggesting a hefty rise in salaries. The 27 per cent salary hike for the Punjab staff is substantial when compared with the 21 per cent hike for the Central employees and a 20 to 25 per cent increase suggested by the pay commission in Haryana. With the implementation of the pay report, the Punjab expenditure on salaries, pensions, interest payments and subsidies will go well beyond the existing 71 per cent of the revenue, leaving little for development. The people may not mind paying a little extra for government employees’ increased compensation, but they will certainly expect better performance and responsiveness from them. They would also like the state government to enforce accountability to the people. 

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Tackle ragging
Time to check drinking on the campus

THE Raghavan Committee set up by the Supreme Court to investigate Aman Kachroo’s ragging-death has come out with a startling revelation. In its report to the apex court, it said that alcoholism on the Rajendra Prasad Dental College campus at Tanda in Himachal Pradesh was the main reason behind Aman’s ragging last month. The committee has drawn this inference after wide-ranging consultations with various sections. It said that alcoholism on the campus generated violence which, in turn, led to Aman’s ragging and death. This should make the authorities concerned to introspect and take corrective measures. Alcoholism should never be encouraged among the students. Indeed, if some of them at Tanda are given to drinking, as revealed by the committee, it speaks poorly of the students’ discipline and the value system of the college functionaries.

As the college in question had a history of ragging, the authorities will have to be goaded to take all possible measures to prevent its recurrence. The wardens and the assistant wardens must do their duty properly. They must step up vigil at the campus, particularly in the hostel, to ensure that the students don’t indulge in drinking. For effective surveillance, the wardens should better reside at the campus itself, unlike in Tanda. As ragging has become a scourge almost everywhere, this rule applies equally to all institutions in the country.

Shockingly, ragging has not stopped even after a national outcry following Aman’s tragic death. On April 20, 19-year-old Ankita Vegda fell off the terrace of her nursing institute hostel building in Ahmedabad following ragging. Earlier, the ragging of Coimbatore student P.S. Akhil Dev had left him with nine holes in the retina and impaired hearing. Ragging can be rooted out from the campus if the college authorities tackle it firmly through rigorous monitoring. The Centre assured the apex court on April 20 that a Central anti-ragging agency would be set up in a week. This web-based agency with a helpline is expected to help students in distress. Any constructive suggestion that will help tackle ragging on the campus merits a fair trial, but there is no substitute for the school and college authorities’ will to enforce discipline. 

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Thought for the Day

Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,/ Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. — Alexander Pope

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N-arms debate revives
Serious security implications for India
by Arundhati Ghose 

Almost since Independence, India has not only vigorously called for the elimination of nuclear weapons but has also clung to the reiteration of that demand even after declaring the country a nuclear-weapon state in 1998. The early opposition to nuclear weapons was not only on moral grounds, though it was voiced as such, but, as Nehru said in 1954, these were weapons “…before which our normal weapons (would be) completely useless.” When threatened by Sino-Pakistani nuclear collusion, India decided on acquiring these weapons for itself. The rhetoric did not, however, change; in public, India remained committed to nuclear disarmament and even took several initiatives, valiantly facing the skepticism of the non-proliferation lobby.

Today, faced with the forthcoming Review Conference of the NPT in 2010, concerned by threats of nuclear terrorism and the potential of further nuclear proliferation to the countries not aligned with the Western powers, there has been a storm of initiatives, mainly from the West and its allies, to promote the goal of a nuclear weapon- free world. Starting with four eminent statesmen from the US — Kissinger, Nunn, Perry and Schultz — followed by the UK’s initiatives and multiple-point programmes and the setting up of yet another Commission on Disarmament by Australia and Japan, the rhetoric of nuclear disarmament has reappeared on the table.

The latest pronouncements have come from the new US President, Mr Barack Obama. In a speech in Prague, he underlined the importance of a nuclear weapon-free world and promised some concrete steps towards that goal, even if the goal could not be achieved in his lifetime. Much of his speech dealt with non-proliferation, however — that is, the spread of nuclear weapons and its dangers. This has been a constant theme of the US Democratic Administrations. What was new was a clear political commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons — without a time frame - and a commitment to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in (the US) security strategy...” His approach to the NPT, too, was more nuanced than the earlier US positions.

There is no doubt that all this activity is with a view to trying to ensure that the 2010 NPT Review Conference does not end in the stalemate that was the fate of the 2005 conference which was felled by the distance between the NPT nuclear “haves” and the “have-nots”. The latter had agreed to the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 on the understanding that the “bargain”, said to be contained in Article VI of the NPT, that the States with nuclear weapons should hold in good faith negotiations to eliminate their arsenals, be fulfilled.

The NPT nuclear weapon States, however, have been more interested in the issue of compliance by the non-nuclear weapon States of those provisions of the NPT that control the spread of nuclear weapons. The current focus of the US and its allies is Iran and North Korea, though the dangers posed by the nuclear renaissance, the search for civilian nuclear energy by many non-nuclear weapon States, has also brought to the fore the demand that sensitive technologies for weapons manufacture such as enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent fuel from reactors be restricted, and proposals such as the setting up of fuel banks have been on the table for some time now. The non-nuclear weapon States have balked at further restrictions without any movement on the part of the nuclear weapon States towards nuclear disarmament.

India has never attended the meetings preparatory to the Review Conferences themselves. It has not been a sign of disinterest so much as that of disapproval of the dangerous imbalance inherent in the NPT. In fact, one of the demands of the NPT countries is the inclusion of India, Pakistan and Israel, which have so far refused to sign the NPT, into the Treaty as non-nuclear weapon States.

At a level, India has kept clear of the details of international debate on the nuclear issue, satisfying itself with general support for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Officially, India continues to be in favour of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, including presumably, its own. While this is a perfectly acceptable objective, the question arises whether this position has been reached after examining all the implications of total nuclear disarmament to our security interests, which was the reason in the first place for having weaponised our nuclear technology in the 1990s.

At that time, and presumably even today, the threat identified was of nuclear blackmail, if not a more direct threat of nuclear attack, from the Sino-Pakistani nuclear condominium. There is little to be gained by trying to analyse why China would have taken the risk of not only providing Pakistan with designs, technology and materiel to build a nuclear weapon, but also helping in the first Pakistani “hot test” in 1990. What is important is that Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is solely India-centric, and Pakistan is today in an unstable situation. If a Taliban government were to take over in Pakistan, India would have to consider its strategic options.

What makes the situation even more troubling is that there does not appear to be a clear consensus within the country’s political establishment on India’s weapon status. At any rate, the role of nuclear weapons in our military strategy is a deeply held secret, not available even to the strategic community. The last substantive pronouncement on the subject was the adoption of the nuclear doctrine in January 2003.

If India is to support nuclear disarmament, as it has been doing, for the approach to go beyond the repetition of a general rhetorical position, certain issues need to be addressed. One is not sure whether this has been, or is being done. Issues such as the kind of verification regime that would be required, the assurances needed from the countries whose past behaviour has not been very reliable, the kind of assurances that will be required of India need to be debated widely so that a broad national consensus can be gradually built.

Nuclear disarmament is no longer just a moral imperative; it has serious implications for our security, as it does for most of the States with nuclear weapons. India needs to be clear about that.

The writer is India’s former Ambassador to the UN in Geneva.

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The art of loafing
by Raj Chatterjee

The ancient Chinese philosophers, when they were not busy extolling such human virtues as humility, toleration, and obedience to one’s elders, took great delight in the ritualistic brewing of fragrant pots of tea for themselves, which is why they valued leisure, or what they sometimes called the cult of idleness, so highly.

A modern Chinese philosopher, the late Dr Lin Yu Tang, lived in the materialistic West where they make tea by the barbaric process of dipping a small cloth bag containing the leaves in boiling water. Nevertheless Lin Yu Tang put in a delightful chapter on the subject of idleness in his book, “The Importance of Living”.

According to Lin Yu Tang, culture being a product of leisure, the art of culture is the art of loafing. In the Chinese view of life, a man cannot be busy and wise at the same time and the wisest man, therefore, is the one who loafs most gracefully.

And so, when I retired from my job as a business executive, 45 years ago, almost the first thing I did was to look up that particular chapter in Lin Yu Tang’s book, only to find the proverbial fly in the ointment. Leisure, it would appear, is merely a prerequisite of great art or literature or poetry or music.

I do not, alas, have the talent required to produce any of these things. Doodling on my memo pad is the closest I have got to painting. The only verses I ever wrote were for bawdy songs in my college days. The novel which was to make my fortune had to be abandoned when it began to look too much like the autobiography of an undistinguished Indian.

Also, I like to visit my barber at least once in three months. It used to be once a month when I had more hair. I shave and change my shirt every day. Long and dirty fingernails put me off my food. I cannot, therefore even pose as an “intellectual”.

Having realised that I was unable to contribute to the art and literature of my country I have tried to do the next best thing which is to loaf without exciting the envy of those of my friends who, driven by necessity, or because of their restless nature still work from six to 16 hours a day.

My efforts in this direction have been sabotaged, I regret to say, by those nearest and dearest to me. In all these years I have become an expert at securing the best seats for a play or a cinema show, a good judge of fish and poultry and an artful dodger of policemen who stride menacingly towards the family car in which I wait patiently while my daughters flit from shop to shop in a “no parking” area.

Outside my house I seem to be the only able-bodied male available to act as a stooge for various do-gooders who organise charity shows, children’s fetes, jumble sales and talks on family planning.

I have also acquired the reputation of being a safe and obliging male for ageing spinsters and stone-deaf men who have a yen for seeing all the eight cities of Delhi before they pass on,

Peace, as someone said, is only for the birds and not for the likes of you and me.

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Focus on Article 370
Fresh debate on special status to J and K
by Balraj Puri

BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley has reiterated, during his election campaign in Jammu, that the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was the key issue for his party. He has invited Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to debate with him on it.

Whether or not it remains the key issue of the party in the rest of the country, it promises to remain a perpetual controversy within the state where the coalition partner, the National Conference, had contested the election on the slogan of restoration of autonomy of the state. It is, therefore, necessary to seek an end to this controversy.

Omar had maintained that any change in the statues of the state would have to be done only by its constituent assembly, which ceased to exist in 1956. The constitutional validity of this stand was never tested by a judicial court. Never were series of measures for the erosion of autonomy of the state challenged in the court on this ground. Likewise Parliament has inherited all the powers of the Constituent Assembly of India.

Intriguingly, the Congress, which is locked in a contest with the BJP and not the National Conference, in two Lok Sabha seats in Jammu, has not joined issue with its rival. That tends to make it a Jammu-versus-Kashmir issue.

As for actual possibility of the abrogation of the Article is concerned, the BJP does not have the support of its own allies in the NDA.

Moreover, the Law Minister in the government led by it had declared that Parliament had no power to abrogate the Article unless the state assembly recommended it.

Not that the Article has entirely been used in the interest of the people of the state. For instance 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution, which ushered in Panchayati Raj and local self government in urban areas, were not applicable to the state.

The most diversified state of the country, consequently, has been administered by a most centralised government, which is the root cause of most of the internal tensions within the state.

Similarly, autonomous institutions like the National Human Rights Commission and the National Women Commission have no jurisdiction in the state. Obviously, people of the state do not get any benefit for being out of the jurisdiction of these national institutions, which are autonomous of executive authority.

It was under the pressure of public opinion generated by some enlightened citizens that the state has just adopted the Central Right to Information Act.

If Article 370 is restored to its original position, central autonomous institutions like the Supreme Court, the Auditor General and the Election Commission would not have any jurisdiction over the state. These would be appointed and managed by the state government.

It would also facilitate the Union Government to manipulate affairs of the state. If the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction had extended to the state in 1953, Sheikh Abdullah could not be arrested under any law then in force in India.

It is the manner in which ruthless integration was imposed on the state by the post-Nehru leadership in Delhi and the manner the issue was posed as Kashmir versus Jammu and Kashmir versus India that provoked the people of Kashmir and alienated them.

It was the agitated mood of the people in 1965 over such measures of forced integration that might have tempted President Ayub of Pakistan to send its army men in the form of infiltrators to the state that led to the 1965 war.

National interest, in no way, is linked with the degree of integration of the state. Nor Jammu’s grievances have any thing to do with Article 370. Let people of Kashmir be free to discuss and decide — in consultations with people of other regions — the type of Centre-state relations that serve their interest.

Much damage was done to Kashmir’s emotional relations with India by the agitation for “Ek vidhan, ek pradhan and ek nishan” (one constitution, one head of the state and one flag) launched by Praja Parishad, Jammu affiliate of the Jana Sangh, in 1953 ostensibly to safeguard Jammu’s interest and the national interest.

Dr Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, the founder president of the Jana Sangh, came to lend his support to the agitation.

Jawaharlal Nehru, in a letter to Jayaprakash Narayan on July 29, 1953, observes: “Reactions in the Kashmir to the situation have weakened our position terribly and for the first time I feel very doubtful about the future.”

Dr Mukerjee had also entered into a prolonged correspondence with Pandit Nehru. Nehru had warned him also about the dangerous repercussions of the Jammu agitation on the Kashmir problem.

Eventually, Mukerjee in his letter dated February 17, 1953, agreed to support the Delhi Agreement that had conceded special status to the state provided the “principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu as also to Ladakh and Kashmir valley.”

This was precisely what I was campaigning for and had succeeded in getting Nehru and Abdullah to declare at a joint press conference on July 24, 1952, that “when the constitution of the state is framed, it will provide for regional autonomies.”

The Praja Parishad agitation was finally withdrawn on July 3, after a meeting of its leaders with Nehru on this very formula.

Meanwhile, Dr Mukerjee’s death in Srinagar jail had created sharp reactions in Jammu and many parts of India with counter reactions in Kashmir. This had caused further tensions and complications in the situation which were a major cause of the August 1953 crisis when Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed from power and put under detention. From the Indian point of view, it was the beginning of the Kashmir problem.

After some months, according to Balraj Madhok, who became the president of the Jana Sangh after some years, the party withdrew its support to the formula Mukerjee had agreed viz autonomy of the state within India and of the regions within the state on directions from Nagpur (the RSS headquarters).

If the successors of Nehru, Abdullah and Mukerjee had stood by their joint agreement, on the issue of status of the state, alienation of the people of Kashmir would not have gone to the extent it exists today and the Kashmir problem would have been resolved long ago. Let their respective commitment be recalled and debated to find an end to the Kashmir imbroglio.

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Repression in Burma
by Desmond Tutu 

WHEN President Obama was elected, I was filled with hope that America would regain the moral standing to aid those who are impoverished and oppressed around the world.

I have since rejoiced to see him reversing the most obnoxious policies of the Bush administration — by ending torture, announcing the closure of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay and engaging the world on climate change, to name just a few.

But there is another issue on which America’s moral leadership is desperately needed, and here, it must be acknowledged, President Bush was on the side of the angels: the struggle for human rights and justice in Burma.

Last year, when a cyclone struck Burma, we watched in horror as the country’s military government refused offers of help to save thousands of people clinging to survival.

Not everyone noticed what the government was focused on in those terrible days — a referendum to ratify a new constitution, designed to entrench its rule forever.

As villagers in affected areas fought to stay alive and the rest of the country anguished over their fate, the government mobilized its forces not for rescue but to herd people to the polls.

Of course, this was not a real referendum; it was illegal for any Burmese to urge a “no” vote, and the results were rigged in any case. But it was a real manifestation of the heartlessness of those who rule Burma.

Now the Obama administration is reviewing America’s policy toward Burma. A thoughtful review is needed; as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said, neither economic pressure nor diplomacy has yet achieved the change we seek in Burma.

It stands to reason that every aspect of U.S. engagement with this country needs to be made more effective, more targeted and more broadly supported by key countries around the world.

But as we wait for the results of this thought process, as America’s allies wait, as the United Nations waits, as the Burmese people wait, we should remember that the Burmese government is not waiting.

Each day, it moves a step closer to its goal of eliminating opposition and consolidating power, with another stage-managed “election” looming in 2010.

The administration does not have the luxury of considering its options and then starting to lead; it must somehow think and lead at the same time, before it loses the initiative, and misimpressions about where it stands spread.

As the administration reviews its policy, I hope it will remember that the voices of those with the most at stake cannot easily be heard.

My sister Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the heroic and beloved leader of the Burmese democracy movement, remains under house arrest and cannot speak to the world.

In recent months, hundreds of prominent activists, Buddhist monks and nuns, journalists, labor activists, and bloggers who want the world to maintain pressure on their government have been sentenced to years, even decades, in isolated jungle prisons, where not even their families can visit.

Meanwhile, those who support or have resigned themselves to their government’s approach are free to speak out. This repression cannot be rewarded; the voices of those it has silenced must be heard as if the walls of their jails did not exist.

I hope that the Obama administration will energize global diplomacy on Burma. It should be willing to talk to Burma’s leaders, to work intensively with Burma’s neighbors and to make clear that there is a dignified way forward for all those in Burma who are willing to compromise.

It should support carefully monitored humanitarian assistance directed to help Burma’s people, so aid reaches them and does not reinforce corruption or result in other unintended consequences.

So yes — America should engage Burma, but it should not engage in wishful thinking. Nothing in our experience suggests that offers of aid will cause Burma’s generals to change course; unlike some authoritarian regimes, this one seems to care not a bit for the economic well being of its country.

It would probably interpret an easing of sanctions as an acknowledgment that it has won the struggle with its people and proved its right to rule. Indeed, all our experience suggests that diplomatic engagement is likely to succeed only when sanctions have truly hit their mark.

The writer won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Inside Pakistan
by Syed Nooruzzaman
The Taliban’s expansionist designs

Sufi Mohammad Khan, who signed the controversial Swat deal with the NWFP government on behalf of the Taliban, has been making scary statements about the real intentions of the forces behind him. He has sent out alarming signals by saying that the existing judicial system in Pakistan is “un-Islamic” and, therefore, the courts functioning under it cannot hear appeals against the Qazi courts that are coming up in the NWFP’s Malakand division. He is believed to be harbouring the desire to see the Taliban idea of the justice system to prevail all over Pakistan.

The Dawn commented, “The demand (replacement of the regular justice system with Darul Qazas for appeals against the verdicts given by lower Qazi courts) constitutes cause for the gravest concern since, if accepted, it will remove the existing courts from the jurisdiction of the country’s judicial system. Appellate power will go to Darul Qazas headed by qazis with no legal training and appointed by Sufi Mohammad himself. In attempting to decide cases in line with ‘Islamic injunctions’ that have never been defined in full, the qazis will effectively be not only making their own laws but also making them according to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Sufi Mohammad’s own skewed version of the Sharia.

The Nation points out that “certain developments have borne out the fears of those who had thought that after the peace agreement not only the list of demands would grow ever longer, but also ceding ground to fanatical elements would open the floodgates of pressure to replicate the system elsewhere in the country.”

The Taliban has been continuing its militant drive despite the so-called “peace” deal. There is no end to suicide attacks.

Thirsty for blood

According to The News, “The audacious attack on the check-post in Hangu, in which 27 people, including 25 soldiers, died, is proof of the fact that the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) remains thirsty for blood. The killings seen across the country have not satiated them and nor has the peace deal in Swat appeased them.

“The bomber who crashed his truck, laden with explosives, into the police post was quite obviously backed by a force with an organisational structure capable of planning and financing such attacks.”

The Taliban’s morale obviously has gone up after the success it has achieved. These elements seem to have no fear of being brought to justice with the Army doing little to tame them.

They are not prepared to lay down their arms, contrary to what Islamabad has been claiming. That is why Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan evaded a direct answer to a question about surrendering arms in an interview with the Dawn News channel. But he admitted that “we are Pashtuns and every Pashtun has a gun”.

Religious politics

The chaotic situation that has been created as a result of the militants’ activities is the subject of most of the opinion pieces carried in the Pakistani newspapers today. Questions are being raised if people should get ready for a different kind of system in their country. Some thinkers warn that the march of the Taliban must be stopped to prevent the disintegration of Pakistan. There are also those who argue that Pakistan must accept the path of religious pluralism to survive as a nation-state.

In an exhaustive article in Daily Times (April 21), Dr Rasul Bakhsh Rais, who teaches political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, says, “Extremist ideologies, including militant Islamism, have flourished not under true democracies but in less open, misgoverned societies.

”Religious politics is, therefore, less about piety and more about power and using religious symbolism to question the legitimacy of the traditional ruling classes … Those who take a hegemonic view of religion may not accept religious pluralism and term the individual’s search for true faith, if it happens to be different in any manner from established norms, as heretic deviation.”

Any talk of secularism is vehemently denounced by religio-political leaders. See what Qazi Hussain Ahmad, former Amir (Head) of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan, says in an article carried in The News on April 20: “Those who believe that Pakistan can be secularised by separating the Islamic system from its state are suffering from a serious fallacy.” As could be expected from a person like him, he argues, “The entire debate that Islam should not be the system of governance in the country was the thinking paradigm of those who are mental slaves to the Western culture and averse to the Islamic ideology.”

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