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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Tasks assigned
PM can enforce accountability on his Ministers
The impact of strength that numbers provide to Dr Manmohan Singh after the parliamentary elections is quite noticeable in the allotment of portfolios. The Prime Minister has put in place a team which can indeed act like a team.

Hate in Melbourne
Australia must protect Indian students
T
he three successive attacks in less than three weeks on Indian students in Melbourne are shocking. Australia has become one of the most favoured destinations for overseas students but the attacks which smack of traces of racism reflects on its society and the government.

Back to selling
Disinvestment yes, but handle with care
Raising revenue has to be a top priority for the new government. The combined state and Central fiscal deficit, or the gap between the government’s revenue and expenditure, has widened to an unacceptable level of 11 per cent of the GDP.



EARLIER STORIES

Team Manmohan
May 29, 2009
Lahore again
May 28, 2009
Let peace prevail
May 27, 2009
PM’s appeal
May 26, 2009
Mayawati goes berserk
May 25, 2009
Mandate for Manmohan
May 24, 2009
Manmohan Singh’s A team
May 23, 2009
Perils of “arrogance”
May 22, 2009
The failed fronts
May 21, 2009
Advani stays put
May 20, 2009
Vote for growth
May 19, 2009


 
ARTICLE

The security agenda
New govt must fill the gaps fast
by Gurmeet Kanwal
O
N the national security front the performance of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first five years in power presented a mixed bag of a few spectacular achievements and many dismal failures. The successfully concluded Indo-US nuclear deal was a shining example of the government’s single-minded resoluteness in furthering national interests in the face of stiff political opposition.
MIDDLE

Nehru’s nephew Napoleon
by Uttam Sengupta
T
he name is Bond. James Bond. No name can match the resonance of the name ‘James Bond’. Imagine calling the character Richard or Henry ! But barring Ruskin Bond and members of the ‘Bond’ clan, I cannot remember anyone calling himself Bond in India. Somehow Ramesh Bond or Rajeev Bond, I suspect, would not sound as menacing and would hardly have the same effect that James Bond has on women, at least in films.

OPED

India has limited missile strike capability
by Dinesh Kumar
O
n May 19 the Indian Army tested the indigenously built 2,000-km range Agni-II surface-to-surface missile (SSM). There has been no official word as to the extent to which the test has been successful. But tests of such strategic hardware are essential for the users like the Army for testing equipment and training and assessing their potential.

Voters want MPs punished
by Steve Richards
T
wo MPs fall in a single day, one from each side. Julie Kirkbride’s political career is over. Margaret Moran has gone too. One insisted she could have bought a new home, but chose to build an extension. The other had a home in Southampton that required investment for the sake of the family. Or was it the other home that was furnished to excess?

Inside Pakistan
Sharif’s fresh moves
by Syed Nooruzzaman
S
peculation has begun about what Nawaz Sharif  may do now that he has been declared eligible to contest elections by the Pakistan Supreme Court. He successfully fought for the restoration of the judiciary as it existed before the declaration of the Emergency in November 2007. His party’s government in Punjab, which had been replaced with Governor’s rule, has also been restored with his younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, as Chief Minister.

 


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EDITORIALS

Tasks assigned
PM can enforce accountability on his Ministers

The impact of strength that numbers provide to Dr Manmohan Singh after the parliamentary elections is quite noticeable in the allotment of portfolios. The Prime Minister has put in place a team which can indeed act like a team. With less dependence on allies, he has made sure that all major portfolios — Foreign, Defence, Home, Finance — go to tried and tested Congressmen who can pull along the line given by the Prime Minister. The experienced men he has put in the top jobs — Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), P. Chidambaram (Home), A.K. Antony (Defence) and S.M. Krishna (External Affairs) — can be depended on to be in sync with Dr Manmohan Singh’s agenda and show quick results. It is quite clear that foreign policy, taking care of challenges to India’s security from home and abroad, pulling up the economy and building infrastructure will bear his distinctive stamp. Plus, he has also retained Personnel, Public Grievances and Planning, Atomic Energy and Space with himself. That is how it should be, given the need for a calibrated response in these vital fields.

In a resurgent India, infrastructure development is of paramount importance. All such ministries have gone to handpicked men. For instance, Kamal Nath, with a reputation for getting work done, has been shifted from Commerce to Road Transport and Highways, a weak link during the previous government. Similarly, Power portfolio has been assigned to to the tried hands of Sushil Kumar Shinde, who had the same portfolio in the previous government. Mr Anand Sharma has been given the key portfolio of Commerce and Dr Farooq Abdullah a vital area like new and non-conventional energy.

Dr Manmohan Singh is committed to promoting a knowledge-society. A suave Kapil Sibbal has been brought into Human Resource Development in place of Mr Arjun Singh, who was generally obstructive in approach. Social sector ministries like Health do not normally go to seniormost ministers but the Prime Minister has changed the trend bringing on board someone like Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is known for putting in all his energy into the task assigned to him. Similarly Environment and Forest will be under the charge of enthusiasts like Jairam Ramesh, while Mukul Wasnik will look after Social Justice and Empowerment.

There can be overlapping in such fields between the Centre and the states. The aim should be that the Centre becomes the fountainhead of national policies in these neglected areas, while the states augment the effort.

Some of the vital ministries have been allotted under the pressure of the allies—mainly because of the compulsions of a coalition, which does not permit annoying too many people at the same time and so soon after the elections. This entails the risk of small parties asking for too much. It is hoped that the Prime Minister will ensure that they remain accountable and responsive to him and the Cabinet he leads. Nevertheless, coalitional pressures from within the council of ministers will be less than Dr Manmohan Singh faced in the previous government. He has strength to lead and has capacity to say “No” to a recalcitrant colleague.
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Hate in Melbourne
Australia must protect Indian students

The three successive attacks in less than three weeks on Indian students in Melbourne are shocking. Australia has become one of the most favoured destinations for overseas students but the attacks which smack of traces of racism reflects on its society and the government. The deplorable incident which has seen six Indian students being murderously attacked in 18 days, one of whom is battling for his life, has evoked outrage in New Delhi leading the External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to strongly condemn the attacks even as the Australian government has assured India that it would not tolerate discrimination against any international student.

The current series of attacks is not the first. For the last two years, there has been a steady increase in attacks on the Indian student community in Melbourne. Most of these incidents have gone unreported and the Victorian police has done precious little to do something about it even though the Indian Consulate in Melbourne and the High Commission in Canbarra have repeatedly been raising this matter with the Australian authorities. There are about 98,000 Indian students in Australia of which 47,000 are in Melbourne alone making it the second largest grouping of foreign students in this Australian metropolis. Most Indian students enroll in Australian educational institutions with the intention of settling there with an attractive job. Many Indian students, however, end up driving taxis and working at night as cleaners, in take away joints and petrol pumps mainly to pay for their studies. Thus students returning to their homes in not so safe suburbs that are relatively cheap on rent present vulnerable and soft targets to drug addicts, drunks and rowdy elements.

The attacks have been due a mix of racism and opportunism. But there is still the question of why Indians are being selectively targeted and that too mostly only in Melbourne. Education’s contribution to Victoria’s economy, most of it by foreign students, was estimated at $ 4.5 billion last year alone. This year enrolment of Indian students has increased by 40 percent. Surely both the Australian and the Victorian government need to do more than issue condemnatory statements. Else, such attacks may have repercussions with that country being labeled unsafe for Indian students who may start looking elsewhere for studies abroad. At stake also in Australia’s image as a democratic country, free from racial prejudice.
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Back to selling
Disinvestment yes, but handle with care

Raising revenue has to be a top priority for the new government. The combined state and Central fiscal deficit, or the gap between the government’s revenue and expenditure, has widened to an unacceptable level of 11 per cent of the GDP. Already hard pressed to make large borrowings, the government is under further pressure to provide another fiscal boost to the economy. The RBI Governor, however, has cautioned the government against a fresh injection of capital in the economy. New Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee says, as usual rather diplomatically, that economic reforms will be the next stimulus. Dr Manmohan Singh, as expected, has struck a balance, saying: “We would ensure economic growth momentum but at the same time fiscal prudence will be kept in mind”.

Since the economy is still trying to come off a slippery ground, the government cannot afford to wantonly raise taxes, individual or corporate. There is rather a corporate demand for concessions like scrapping the fringe benefit tax and the middle class wanting the income tax exemption limit to be raised. In this context, disinvestment of public sector units comes as a handy tool for the government to raise resources. During the UPA’s last term, the Left parties had forced the government to shelve the issue of disinvestment. The process of dilution of the government stake in companies like Shipping Corporation, NALCO and State Trading Corporation was wound up.

The NDA’s pursuit of disinvestment had become controversial. The UPA, therefore, will have to avoid the mistakes the NDA committed. That is not easy. There can seldom be a political consensus over what is the right price for selling a government asset. While the Leftists are ideologically opposed to disinvestment policy, the BJP may not go along with the government simply because it is sitting in the opposition. There will have to be transparent, non-discriminatory and broadly acceptable policy for disinvestment. Any ministerial bungling or taint of favouritism could tarnish and derail the whole exercise.
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Thought for the Day

Force, unaided by judgement, collapses through its own weight. — Horace
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ARTICLE

The security agenda
New govt must fill the gaps fast
by Gurmeet Kanwal

ON the national security front the performance of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first five years in power presented a mixed bag of a few spectacular achievements and many dismal failures. The successfully concluded Indo-US nuclear deal was a shining example of the government’s single-minded resoluteness in furthering national interests in the face of stiff political opposition. The inability to speedily conclude major defence contracts to enhance national security preparedness in the face of growing threats and challenges, exemplifies the UPA’s reluctance to grapple with systemic flaws in the procurement procedures and processes. It is a national shame that the budgetary allocations earmarked on the capital account for the modernisation of the armed forces continue to be surrendered year after year with complete lack of accountability.

With explosive flashpoints around India and an unstable internal security environment, the new government has its work cut out. Right on the top of its defence and security agenda should be the formulation of a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS), including internal security. The NSS should be formulated after carrying out an inter-departmental, inter-agency, multi-disciplinary strategic defence review. Such a review must take the public into confidence and not be conducted behind closed doors.

The armed forces are now in the third year of the 11th Defence Plan (2007-12) and it has not yet been approved by the government. The government has not approved the long-term integrated perspective plan either. Defence procurement is being undertaken through ad hoc annual procurement plans, rather than being based on duly prioritised long term plans that are designed to systematically enhance India’s combat potential. These are serious lacunae as effective defence planning cannot be undertaken in a policy void. The government must commit itself to supporting long term defence plans or else defence modernisation will continue to lag and the growing military capabilities gap with China’s People’s Liberation Army will assume ominous proportions. This can be done only by reviving the dormant National Security Council as defence planning is in the domain of the NSC and not the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which deals with current and near term threats and challenges and reacts to emergent situations.

While internal security challenges are gradually gaining prominence, preparations for conventional conflict cannot be wished away. Major defence procurement decisions must be made quickly. The Army is still without towed and self-propelled 155mm howitzers for the plains and the mountains and desperately needs to acquire weapons and equipment for counter-insurgency operations. The Navy has been waiting for long for the Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) aircraft carrier, which is being refurbished in a Russian shipyard at exorbitant cost. The plan of the Air Force to acquire 126 multi-mission, medium-range combat aircraft in order to maintain its edge over the regional air forces is stuck in the procurement quagmire. India’s nuclear forces require the Agni-III missile and nuclear powered submarines with suitable ballistic missiles to acquire genuine deterrent capability. The armed forces do not have a truly integrated C4I2SR system for network-centric warfare, which will allow them to optimise their individual capabilities.

All of these high-priority acquisitions will require extensive budgetary support. With the defence budget languishing at less than two per cent of India’s GDP — compared with China’s 3.5 per cent and Pakistan’s 4.5 per cent plus US military aid — it will not be possible for the armed forces to undertake any meaningful modernisation. The funds available on the capital account at present are inadequate to suffice even for the replacement of obsolete weapons systems and equipment that are still in service well beyond their useful life cycles. The central police and para-military forces also need to be modernised as they are facing qualitatively greater threats while being equipped with obsolescent weapons.

The government must also immediately appoint a Chief of Defence Staff or a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee to provide single-point advice to the CCS on military matters. Any further dithering on this key structural reform in higher defence management on the grounds of the lack of political consensus and the inability of the armed forces to agree on the issue will be extremely detrimental to India’s interests in the light of the dangerous developments taking place in India’s neighbourhood. The logical next step would be to constitute tri-Service integrated theatre commands to synergise the capabilities of individual Services. International experience shows that such reform has to be imposed form the top down and can never work if the government keeps waiting for it to come about from the bottom up.

The softer issues that do not impinge immediately on planning and preparation for meeting national security challenges must never be ignored as these can have adverse implications in the long term. The numerous anomalies created by the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission report must be speedily resolved so that the morale of the armed forces is not undermined. In fact, the ham-handed handling of this issue has led to a dangerous “them versus us” civil-military divide and the Prime Minister must take it as a personal challenge to bridge this gap quickly.

The ex-servicemen too have had a raw deal and have been holding fasts for justice on their most legitimate demand of “one rank-one pension”. Many of them have taken the extreme step of returning their medals to the President. One rank-one pension is an idea whose time has come and it must be implemented without further delay and without appointing any more committees of bureaucrats to look into the issue. While a Department of Ex-servicemen’s Welfare has been created in the Ministry of Defence in keeping with the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme, there isn’t a single ex-serviceman in it. Such measures do not generate confidence in the civilian leadership among serving soldiers and retired veterans. Finally, India is still without a National War Memorial!

The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.
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MIDDLE

Nehru’s nephew Napoleon
by Uttam Sengupta

The name is Bond. James Bond. No name can match the resonance of the name ‘James Bond’. Imagine calling the character Richard or Henry ! But barring Ruskin Bond and members of the ‘Bond’ clan, I cannot remember anyone calling himself Bond in India. Somehow Ramesh Bond or Rajeev Bond, I suspect, would not sound as menacing and would hardly have the same effect that James Bond has on women, at least in films.

But names are important and people like to name children after celebrities. A generation of Bengalis brought up on Bengali filmdom’s heart-throb, Uttam Kumar, got themselves named or named their children after the celluloid hero. But I had the singular misfortune of being born without any of the attributes for which the actor was known. I was short, dark, ungainly, plump and with a snub nose, forever a butt of ridicule as people drew a parallel and amused themselves. I once pleaded with my parents to get my name changed but I was firmly told to shut up. My elder brother’s name was Goutam and so, my name was meant to rhyme with his, I was informed. Stupid logic, I thought but was clever enough not to articulate it.

But I have had to bear the burden of my name as an albatross round the neck. Well-meaning elders would bless me by saying that I should live up to my name. I had to be prim and proper. My friends could whistle at girls and nobody complained. But the only time I did so, a neighbour promptly rushed over and boxed my ears. “ You should at least remember your name,” he told me. Ever since, I have counseled friends to give homely, worn-out names, preferably with no meaning , to their children.

But people with a passion for names would go to any length. I remember a log cabin doubling as a tea-shop in Darjeeling. The owner had scrawled the name with a piece of charcoal. Sophia Lorraine tea shop, it said. In the backwaters of Bihar, a private school held classes below a tree in a remote village. But the name of the school, written with chalk on a blackboard which hung from one of the branches, was, “ St. Bajrangbali Convent School”. Devotees of Lord Hanuman, I presume, did not object.

Even then, we were not prepared when we found that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had decided to induct ‘Napoleon’ in his cabinet. Must be a typing mistake, we hollered in unision. One of those unpronounceable South Indian names perhaps that the poor chap in PTI got wrong, I muttered under my breath. But Napoleon turned out to be real and from South India. A Tamil to be precise. His parents had christened him Kumaresan, it seems. But our man was so bowled over by the French hero that he changed his name to Napoleon and that is how he took his oath.

And as if this was not enough to tickle our funny bones, Napoleon’s uncle turns out to be a ‘Nehru’ , a minister in Tamil Nadu. Now we know how Karunanidhi overcame the Amma. Anyone who can handle Stalin, Nehru and Napoleon together, is capable of doing anything.
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OPED

India has limited missile strike capability
by Dinesh Kumar

On May 19 the Indian Army tested the indigenously built 2,000-km range Agni-II surface-to-surface missile (SSM). There has been no official word as to the extent to which the test has been successful. But tests of such strategic hardware are essential for the users like the Army for testing equipment and training and assessing their potential.

India has undoubtedly been able to make considerable strides in its SSM development programme, notwithstanding limitations in the country’s scientific and engineering base along with the imposition of technology-denial regimes all through the 1980s and 1990s, the very years when the country embarked on missile development in earnest. But the country’s missile programme is far from complete and certainly a long way away from assuring India a credible deterrence capability, especially against the threat from China.

The importance of missiles need not be over emphasised. It is the primary means for delivering a nuclear warhead and is considered crucial for a second-strike capability.

In other words, India’s status of a nuclear weapon state is meaningless without long-range missiles along with a triad of land, air and sea-based
delivery systems.

Of this triad, it is the sea-based system, more specifically missiles launched from nuclear-powered submarines, which constitute a nuclear weapon state’s credible second-strike capability.

This is because nuclear-powered submarines can stay submerged undetected for weeks on end and fire a volley of missiles as a counter-strike.

The only missile systems considered completely operational are the two variants of the Pakistan-specific Prithvi-I and Prithvi-II SSMs with a limited range of 150 km and 250 km respectively. Both the Army and the Air Force have inducted this missile, while the Navy has placed orders for this missile’s naval variant, the 350 km range Dhanush or Prithvi-III to be fitted on some of its warships.

Even so the Prithvi missile is not without a major drawback. Since it is a liquid-fuelled missile, the Prithvi needs to be fuelled prior to firing and therefore takes more time to prepare for a launch compared to solid-fuelled missiles, which are manufactured with fuel already in place.

While the Prithvi SSM may be considered sufficient to deal with any threat from Pakistan, India’s missile strike capability vis-`E0-vis China is severely limited, if not altogether non-existent. Chinese missiles, on the other hand, have the capability of striking any part of India.

India is yet to test a missile that can reach China’s ‘centre of gravity’, Beijing, or it’s financial capital, Shanghai. India has so far tested the indigenously developed Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III SSMs with ranges of 750 km, 2,000 km and 3,500 km respectively.

Although Agni-I and Agni-II have been inducted into the Army, there are doubts whether these missiles, ritualistically paraded on Republic Day, have been actually operationalised. The 3,500 km Agni-III is still at the development stage and some time away from induction.

In any case, these three Agni variants cannot still reach China’s military-industrial complex located in its northeastern region. India will attain credible deterrence against China only after it develops SSMs with ranges of 5,000 km. The 5,000-km range Agni-V SSM is another two to three years away from testing and six years from induction.

India has successfully tested the indigenously developed Sagarika missile five times from a submerged pontoon. But it is only when the Navy inducts nuclear-powered submarines, currently under indigenous development, and integrates with it the Sagarika missile as a SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) that India can claim to have achieved a credible second-strike capability.

India’s nuclear-powered submarine or Advance Technology Vessel being built in Vishakapatnam and Kalpakkam is expected to undergo sea trials later this year but is still some years from formal induction.

Noteworthy is also the fact that India is developing the Shaurya SSM, which is to form part of India’s second-strike capability. Unlike the Prithvi and Agni, which are launched from truck or train-based mobile launchers, the 600 km range Shaurya missile, tested on November 12 last year, is meant to be launched from a silo.

The first and only test of this missile conducted so far has been from a 30 to 40 feet deep pit with an inbuilt canister to mimic an underground silo.

It is therefore necessary to conduct further tests of longer-range versions of this missile from actual silos that will need to be strategically located across the country. But this again is still a few years away.

Another missile system a few years from induction is Nirbhay, a 1,000 km range subsonic terrain-hugging cruise missile that can avoid radar detection and be deployed from multiple platforms.

India is relying on internal research and development to build an indigenous missile programme, which has included technology from its space programme. Pakistan, in contrast, has relied almost entirely on support from China, North Korea and, to a lesser extent, Iran.

Thus while India continues to struggle with its missile programme, Pakistan, in a remarkably short time, has managed to procure advanced and ‘tested’ missiles that can strike almost any part of India. Both China and, its beneficiary, Pakistan, are far ahead of India in the missile game.

When India first tested the 150-km range Prithvi SSM in 1987 and the 750-km range Agni-I missile in 1989, Pakistan’s missile arsenal comprised only the 80-km range Hatf-I SSM and the 300-km range Hatf-II SSM, which then lacked proper guidance and control functions and were probably not even nuclear-capable.

Since then, Pakistan has become the beneficiary of the ‘proven’ North Korean Nodong missile series (renamed Ghauri) and Chinese M and DF-series missile systems (renamed Shaheen) with ranges up to 2,500 km.

This missile proliferation occurred in blatant violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime and under the very watch of the Americans, who simply winked even as they arm-twisted India into halting further testing of the Agni missile from 1994 to 1998.

The Agni tests and further missile development programmes were resumed in earnest only after India conducted five nuclear tests in May 1998 and declared itself a nuclear-weapon state.

India is also engaged in developing ballistic missile defence (BMD), which has been tested thrice. But New Delhi is still a long way away from developing anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon capability.

In 2007, China first demonstrated this capability by shooting down one of its weather satellites by a ground-launched missile orbiting earth at an altitude of 500 miles. As a result, Indian satellites are vulnerable to attacks from China.

It is only when India is able to develop and operationalise long-range air, land and sea-based missile systems and also an ASAT capability that it would have made a definitive step towards deterring China. Until then, China, which is strategically encircling India, will remain a formidable threat to India’s security.
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Voters want MPs punished
by Steve Richards

Two MPs fall in a single day, one from each side. Julie Kirkbride’s political career is over. Margaret Moran has gone too. One insisted she could have bought a new home, but chose to build an extension. The other had a home in Southampton that required investment for the sake of the family. Or was it the other home that was furnished to excess?

I am beginning to lose sense of who claimed for what. My mind is drowning in images of duck houses, moats, massage chairs and the rest.

The glory of politics is its unpredictable shapelessness. Anything can happen and usually does. This though is getting both silly and sinister. The silliness and the sinister dance together. None of it makes any sense.

David Cameron tells some MPs to explain what they have done to their constituencies, the equivalent of being given a political death sentence in two stages. Kirkbride did not wait for the second phase. She knew she would be eaten alive at a meeting of activists and avoided the experience by standing down first. Others will do the same.

But Cameron’s interest in local assertiveness is limited. He has told some MPs that the game is up, an act of centralised control deployed with limited consistency. Shadow cabinet members, especially close allies, seem to be safe. The grandees are doomed.

Cameron hopes the clear-out will do him good, but it is not clear who will replace the rejects, and a lengthy process will lead to internal tensions. In the 1980s Neil Kinnock got credit at first for taking on internal troublemakers. The supporters of the troublemakers hit back and his party was dismissed as fatally divided.

On the government side the whip is withdrawn from some Labour MPs but cabinet ministers remain in place even if Gordon Brown deems their behaviour unacceptable. Some fear a visit to Labour’s Star Chamber. Moran left before her interrogation. Others will also do so, though not all of them will have been as culpable as she was.

The more orthodox political leaders have no choice but to seek the prize of ultimate disciplinarian. Voters want punishment. A colleague happened to be in Michael Gove’s constituency the other day. He saw the MP in the high street engaged in an exchange with a few voters. Sliding past, he heard only one sentence. It was Gove trying to defend MPs’ behaviour as “not the same as stealing”.

MPs around the country are having similar conversations. Voters are starting to enjoy being angry. Lots of them have always hated politicians without specifying who they would put in their place. Now they have the ammunition.

There seems little desire also in making distinctions between those who spent the admittedly generous allowances on second homes and the much smaller number who disgracefully fiddled the system, switching main homes and the rest.

For those who believe in the power of government to do good this is a depressing time. I find it difficult to see how elected politicians will be trusted to invest substantial sums in public services in the post-credit crunch future. If voters do not trust them with their expenses I dread to think how they would react to news of more spending, even though public services need funding as well as reform in the coming years.

— By arrangement with The Independent
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Inside Pakistan
Sharif’s fresh moves
by Syed Nooruzzaman

Speculation has begun about what Nawaz Sharif  may do now that he has been declared eligible to contest elections by the Pakistan Supreme Court. He successfully fought for the restoration of the judiciary as it existed before the declaration of the Emergency in November 2007. His party’s government in Punjab, which had been replaced with Governor’s rule, has also been restored with his younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, as Chief Minister.

The first task that Nawaz Sharif is reportedly going to accomplish is to get elected to the National Assembly. He has been assured of support by the PPP. He, too, has offered all kinds of cooperation to the PPP-led government in Islamabad during this crucial time when a major anti-Taliban Army drive is on in the Swat region and beyond.

According to Daily Times, “A section of the Press has expressed fears that the PML(N) will think of a mid-term election now that its ‘most-popular-in-Pakistan’ leader has been cleared of disqualification. Although this should have been the ‘normal’ reaction of a party making a brilliant comeback after the ouster of its leaders in 2000, Mr Nawaz Sharif has chosen a different line of action.” Some political analysts believe that he may try to get the condition of “two terms only” for the post of Prime Minister removed.  Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad, a well-known political analyst, says in an article in The Nation, “The question now is: will Zardari agree to get the ban on the tenure removed through parliamentary means.” President Zardari, however, appears to be reluctant to oblige Nawaz Sharif.

Crisis after Swat

The war against the Taliban in the Swat valley and other areas has led to the displacement of over two million persons. These uprooted people are desperately seeking shelter in safer areas, but there is much resistance from the locals wherever they go. In Sindh, even the provincial government is opposed to the entry of these internally displaced persons (IDPs).

 The MQM and the Sindhi nationalist movements fear that the stay of the IDPs in large numbers in the cities of Sindh may change the demographic complexion of the province. This, in their opinion, may lead to major social unrest.

In an article in The News (May 27), Shirin M. Mazari, a defence analyst, says that if the situation remains unchanged, the fast growing number of IDPs “will present ideal breeding grounds for extremists.” The extremist masterminds “prey on the dispossessed and marginalised segments of society”. This may further complicate the fight against terrorism and extremism.

What is Pak bomb for

As Pakistan celebrates the 11th year of its emergence as a so-called nuclear power, questions are being asked about what it has really gained by having nuclear bombs. Today it has 60 nuclear bombs and efforts are on to acquire more, according to a report quoting the US Congressional Research Service. But what for?

 Pervez Hoodbhoy, who teaches nuclear physics at Islamabad’s Qaid-i-Azam University, in an article in Dawn (May 27) says, “Contrary to claims made in 1998, the bomb did not transform Pakistan into a technologically and scientifically advanced country….”

Then he asks, “What became of the claim that the pride in the bomb would miraculously weld together the disparate peoples who constitute Pakistan? While many in Punjab still want the bomb, angry Sindhis want water and jobs — and they blame Punjab for taking these away…

“As for the Baloch, they deeply resent that the two nuclear test sites — now radioactive and out of bounds — are on their soil. Angry at being governed from Islamabad, many have taken up arms and demand that Punjab’s army get off their backs.”
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