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EDITORIALS

Washington has erred
Its fears on safety of citizens are misplaced
T
HE US decision to club India with 29 other countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Israel and Lebanon which figure on its 30-strong list of ‘unsafe destinations’ for travel by its citizens is shocking. A US travel advisory justifies this by saying that there is a ‘high threat’ from terrorism throughout India.

Slow and painful
An indifferent babudom refuses to change
I
NDIA happens to figure abysmally low on various lists of social indices. Another dubious distinction has been brought to the country by its “suffocating bureaucracy” which has been ranked the least efficient by a business survey of 12 Asian economies. The poll of 1,274 expatriates working in 12 North and South Asian nations has only contemptuous things to say about India’s civil servants.



EARLIER STORIES

President speaks
June 5, 2009
Pak flexes muscles, again
June 4, 2009
Treading the beaten path
June 3, 2009
Friends, or foes?
June 2, 2009
Better days ahead
June 1, 2009
The fury of cyclone Aila
May 31, 2009
Tasks assigned
May 30, 2009
Team Manmohan
May 29, 2009
Lahore again
May 28, 2009
Let peace prevail
May 27, 2009


Not a one-day affair
Saving environment will need peoples’ help
W
ITH glaciers melting, tigers dwindling, rivers dying, lakes vanishing and water tables receding, there is no debating the fact that the environment is under threat. Commemorating the World Environment Day can spread environmental awareness but the message cannot last long. The one-day effort marked by token gestures and photo ops for the big wigs is not enough to save the environment which is being plundered day in and out.

ARTICLE

Violent agitations destroy
State must tackle them firmly
by S. S. Johl
W
HILE India’s electoral democracy has matured, the country seems to have degenerated into a virtual soft state in delivering governance. India now qualifies to comprise a ‘no punishment society’, especially when it comes to dealing with persons placed in high authority and also miscreants who take law into their hands.

MIDDLE

The taste of Udupi
by Gauhar Vatsyayan
L
AST year, I joined a postgraduation course at Udupi, a conservative coastal town of Karnataka. Living nearly 3,000 km away from my native city of Ludhiana, I was fascinated and amused to experience the difference between the north and the south parts of India.

OPED

Britain in the grip of political anarchy
by Stephen Foley
H
OW odd it looks, from this side of the Atlantic, that the British might be about to plunge a fatal knife into their prime minister. Just a few weeks ago, Gordon Brown was corralling the rest of the world’s leaders in the desperately complicated but desperately needed effort to re-shape global finance.

Nurturing forest communities
by Raju Kumar
F
OR forest communities living in the interiors of Madhya Pradesh, the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2006 should have signalled a new era. Recognising the symbiotic relationship between forest dwellers and the forests, the Act seeks to correct a historic injustice by giving forest communities a primacy in forest management and give ownership rights to them.

Inside Pakistan
Saeed’s release: Islamabad slammed
by Syed Nooruzzaman
A
N editorial in Daily Times (June 5) on the release of Mumbai terrorist attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed provides an insight into the mind of the thinking class in Pakistan. The paper said, “The national Press, unhappy with the release, has reacted in interesting ways.





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Washington has erred
Its fears on safety of citizens are misplaced

THE US decision to club India with 29 other countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Israel and Lebanon which figure on its 30-strong list of ‘unsafe destinations’ for travel by its citizens is shocking. A US travel advisory justifies this by saying that there is a ‘high threat’ from terrorism throughout India. Americans have been advised to assess security and keep a low profile while visiting public places and to keep their travel documents ready, presumably to ensure that they are able to leave India in a hurry. Such paranoia is uncalled for and is the result of not only an exaggerated threat perception but also Washington’s known tendency to equate India with Pakistan in their dealings.

As Home Minister P. Chidambaram has pointed out in reaction to the US advisory, India is as safe a country as any for foreign tourists. What he has left unsaid is that if sporadic incidents of terror do take place in India, it is in large measure due to the persistent and large scale funneling of arms to a recalcitrant Pakistan by the US despite Islamabad’s record of fuelling cross-border terrorism. Time and again, American intelligence reports have indicated that money and armament given to the Pakistan army for use against the Taliban and al-Qaeda are being diverted for use against India. Yet, the quantum of aid to Pakistan is being stepped up. Even on the recent release by Pakistan of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who was believed to have masterminded the 26/11 attack on targets in Mumbai, the American administration protested only mildly as if only for the record.

Mr Chidambaram has rightly asked Washington to withdraw the advisory. The US advisory is bound to impact the flow of tourists into India at a time when their numbers are already dwindling due to recession in the West. Surely, if we share a ‘special relationship’ with the US as is often claimed, we should be able to exercise some influence on it especially when it is evident that India is a safe and worthy destination for tourists from the US and other countries.

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Slow and painful
An indifferent babudom refuses to change

INDIA happens to figure abysmally low on various lists of social indices. Another dubious distinction has been brought to the country by its “suffocating bureaucracy” which has been ranked the least efficient by a business survey of 12 Asian economies. The poll of 1,274 expatriates working in 12 North and South Asian nations has only contemptuous things to say about India’s civil servants. “They are a power centre in their own right and extremely resistant to reform that affects them or the way they go about their duties”, it has lamented. That is basically a reiteration of the feelings of all those Indians who have been frustrated all their lives during their unfortunate brush with the bureaucracy which wakes up from its slumber only when it has to watch its own interests but never when public interests are at stake.

During the 62 years of independence, umpteen administrative reforms commissions and committees have brought out how flawed is our system and suggested ways to set them right, but all these attempts have been effectively scuttled by a well-entrenched babudom. The same has been the fate of state committees set up to bring about some responsiveness in civil servants. There are tomes on reforms but these reports have gathered dust. Even in the 21st century, the administrative attitude remains colonial. The nexus with politicians has made matters worse.

The bureaucracy has also derailed the criminal justice system leading to a proliferation in crime at every level. Vested interests thrive on status quo and scuttle every move for reforms. A drastic look is needed at the hopeless state of affairs. All that is needed to set things right is political will. Since the Congress has returned with adequate mandate this time, now is the time to carry out long-delayed administrative reforms. We have already become the worst in Asia. Any further delay may sink us deeper. Of late, persons from rather modest backgrounds have started making it to the IAS and allied services. These men and women know first hand how frustrating it can be to deal with an unresponsive bureaucracy. Perhaps that can be the harbingers of the change that India so desperately needs. The danger is that the system might soon co-opt the new comers to carry on as it has been over the decades. Macaulay’s children have proliferating tendencies.

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Not a one-day affair
Saving environment will need peoples’ help

WITH glaciers melting, tigers dwindling, rivers dying, lakes vanishing and water tables receding, there is no debating the fact that the environment is under threat. Commemorating the World Environment Day can spread environmental awareness but the message cannot last long. The one-day effort marked by token gestures and photo ops for the big wigs is not enough to save the environment which is being plundered day in and out.

India faces formidable challenges on climate change and its problem is not confined to global warming alone. Loss of natural resources, soil erosion, deforestation and water and air pollution are concerns that an overpopulated yet developing nation seems ill-equipped to handle. Pollution is choking its rivers what with 80 per cent of India’s urban waste ending up in them. The world’s fourth largest emitter of green house gases, its major cities do not meet air quality standards. Crop yields are being affected by climate change. In India’s coastal cities, 50 million people are at risk from rising sea levels.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change recognises the need for sustainable growth and emphasises upon several initiatives like calling for greater use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. According to experts, India can become an active participant in its war against environment degradation without compromising on its economic growth. The World Bank report, too, says that India’s climate resilience can be improved and suggests setting up of a climate information management system for policy, planning and investment decisions. There is an urgent need to go beyond rhetoric. The slogan of the World Environment Day 2009 is “Your Planet Needs You-Unite to Combat Climate Change”. Indeed, protecting the environment is not the responsibility of a few green warriors alone. Better results can be shown if they invoke community participation and rely both on traditional knowledge and scientific action. Local communities can play a keen role especially in plantation drives and water conservation. The nation has to draw a definite road map that must include set milestones possible only through tangible measures.

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Thought for the Day

A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

— Alec Issigonis

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Violent agitations destroy
State must tackle them firmly
by S. S. Johl

WHILE India’s electoral democracy has matured, the country seems to have degenerated into a virtual soft state in delivering governance. India now qualifies to comprise a ‘no punishment society’, especially when it comes to dealing with persons placed in high authority and also miscreants who take law into their hands. The Akali Dal was once a shining example of peaceful protest marches against the Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This added a feather to the cap of a maturing democracy while the world looked on with approval. But somewhere along the way this decent weapon of peaceful protests has got lost leading to a degeneration of the nation’s social ethos.

Both enforcement of law and order and delivery of justice has gone haywire in the country. The maxim of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ has become all too pronounced. Litigations last for decades and many cases lapse after years of litigation due to the demise of the accused.

Law and order enforcement in India has become farcical in its operative mode. There are innumerable examples of people beating and lynching thieves and criminals when caught red handed. Even traffic violators and accident causers get brutally roughed up by the public. A major reason behind these unlawful actions is the lack of faith in law enforcing agencies, especially the police and the judicial system that is often circumvented and manipulated by perpetrators of crime and violators of law. The aggrieved public prefers to render immediate justice and pay in kind to these criminals and violators. The intricacies of judicial procedures are such that corruption cases keep pending against so many people in position of high authority for years together. Witnesses go hostile with impunity and investigating authorities back track without being accounted for it. It is only occasionally that the higher courts order a re-investigation. Otherwise, powerful criminals end up manipulating the system to their advantage.

Often agitations and protests that start peacefully are taken over by miscreants and criminals who are experienced in triggering mob mentality and hysteria that frequently leads to damage of public and private property and throwing life out of gear. They know that they would not be held accountable and proceeded against either on the spot or in courts later on. There are the classic examples of the 1984 carnage against Sikhs, the riots against Christians in Orissa and killings of Muslims after the Godhra carnage. These are just a few of the incidents that continue to stick out like sour thumbs and serve as ugly blots on the face of our secular democratic society. In addition to the loss of thousands of innocent lives, public and private properties worth thousands of crores were damaged or destroyed in these incidents. In every case, the police remained a mute witness until the situation went out of control. Rather than being proactive, law-enforcing agencies went into a reactive mode. By that time miscreants and criminals had completed their dirty job of crime against the society.

Do we ever hear of exemplary punishment being awarded to these criminals despite the judicial process dragging on for decades. Even the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks on Parliament in December 2001 and in Mumbai in November 2008 continue to hide behind the intricacies of law. Had the criminals behind the1984 carnage been punished in time rather than being rewarded with high offices and promotions, there would have been no killings after the Godhra carnage. If the perpetrators of the post-Godhra riots had been administered exemplary punishment, there would have been none of the violence that took place in Orissa. It is therefore not surprising that in our increasingly ‘no punishment society’, such crimes against society continue to occur with impunity.

The present upheaval in Punjab is the latest in the series. The entire nation, particularly the Punjabi society and the Sikhs, are shocked about the cowardly attacks in a gurdwara in Vienna and the murder of a saint-leader of the Guru Ravidas Samaj. Leaders of every description and society at large have condemned this heinous crime. Aggrieved followers of the Dera had every right to protest peacefully and demand stern action against the criminals involved. Yet no one had the right to take law into their own hands and damage public and private property and in the process causing loss of innocent lives.

Every life lost is as painful to the near and dear ones as of any other person. Unfortunately, miscreants appropriated these protests and, as usual, the police stood mute in the initial stages of the devastation caused by ravaging crowds. It was only when the situation was hurtling out of control and the Union Home Minister spoke in an admonishing tone that the Army and central forces were called in and curfew imposed. When vandalism was in full swing, the mob got further encouraged and even the police ended up tasting the brunt. Shockingly some political activists ended up demanding the release of miscreants rounded up by the police.

A careful examination of newspaper pictures and TV footage of mobs damaging vehicles and property reveals that they mostly comprised teenagers. Even children below nine to ten years of age formed part of these mobs. Many in the mobs were seen laughing and damaging vehicles and properties on the streets as if it was all a game. There was not even a shadow of gloom on their faces. Looting liquor vends, vandalising banks and ATM machines, breaking shops, burning trains, looting passengers even on platforms are certainly not signs of gloom or grief. It is quite in order and desirable for political leaders, social activists and religious authorities, and saints of different sects to issue appeals for restraint and restoration of peace and harmony. Yet, governments are not meant for merely issuing appeals. They are mandated to govern and to act in order to safeguard the lives of people and both public and private property. The government must handle the miscreants with an iron hand and bring them to book. Justice must prevail to bridle the waywardness of elements that strike at the vitals of social harmony, damage properties and disturb peace. Politicians must act as statesmen and should not forget that a soft state created through myopic vision and competitive political underscoring carries highly potent seeds of a melt down in its womb. This is the last thing a secular democratic India would deserve to be served with by its government.

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The taste of Udupi
by Gauhar Vatsyayan

LAST year, I joined a postgraduation course at Udupi, a conservative coastal town of Karnataka. Living nearly 3,000 km away from my native city of Ludhiana, I was fascinated and amused to experience the difference between the north and the south parts of India.

North Indians (read Punjabis) are considered to be the most vociferous among the Indians. Blessed with my Ludhianavi flamboyance and a heavy voice, initially I found it hard to compete with the simplicity and sinuousness of the local people. People could easily know my nativity from my accent and started addressing me as Sardarji, though I do not sport a turban. Pats on the back were not considered civilised gestures and I had to learn other milder options to show my affection.

Language is always an emotional factor in the southern states but it was good to see that majority of the young people are well-versed with Hindi. An interesting practice there was writing the Sanskrit letter ‘t’ as ‘th’ turning names like Parvati and Ravikant into Parvathi and Ravikanth. Initially I did try to convince people about the correct Hindi names but later gave up.

In south Indian diet-plan rice enjoys the status of what wheat is to us here. My weight increased within a month of my coming to Udupi, thanks to the consumption of rice thrice a day. During my short visits back home, my mother used to delight me with the choicest of delicacies but the option of rice was kept out for obvious reasons.

Gradually I adjusted to the southern eating pattern and ‘palayas’ or mashed vegetables took place of sabzi in my diet and different types of dals were substituted by spicy sambhar curries.

Enjoying the winter sun is an unheard phrase in the south. In December and January, calls from my parents revealed their pleasure of enjoying the warmth of sun.

The hot and humid weather of the coastal area soon took its toll on my north Indian complexion. The rainy season which spanned five months could give the team of National Geographic Channel a fair amount of shoot. Since my room was barely a few hundred metres away from the Arabian sea, which on many times used to become rough, it was common to hear the sound of speeding vehicles applying brakes to let pass the snakes on road. Mosquito coils failed to act on many different kinds of bugs clinging to my body, which I hadn’t seen in my life earlier.

South India is a land where much of our ancient culture and art have remained unaffected by the vagaries of time. In the interiors, people have preserved their belongingness to the great Indian traditions and the associated moral values. No wonder the only two Sanskrit-speaking villages of the country are just a few kilometres from Udupi.

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Britain in the grip of political anarchy
by Stephen Foley

Gordon BrownHOW odd it looks, from this side of the Atlantic, that the British might be about to plunge a fatal knife into their prime minister.

Just a few weeks ago, Gordon Brown was corralling the rest of the world’s leaders in the desperately complicated but desperately needed effort to re-shape global finance. Even today, the conversation here is about how Brown masterfully steered the UK away from catastrophe during last autumn’s financial panic, in contrast to the confusion and interminable policy switches of two US administrations.

While the world is just tiptoeing out of this crisis, it looks simply perverse to ditch a leader who took his country unburned through that fire, and who is most engaged in the effort to prevent such a fire from igniting again.

Brown’s alleged sluggish response to an expenses scandal that has not touched him personally and is only a few weeks old, his apparent inability to “connect” to the British people on a personal level – these things seem trivial compared to the great issues or failings that should bring down world leaders. It looks from here as if Britain is in the grip of a political anarchy.

It sounds from the headlines of the past few days that Brown would struggle to run the management committee of a church fete, let alone a cabinet and a major world government. But that was not what business and political leaders here saw when he was in New York and Washington in March, laying the groundwork for the G20 economic summit meeting.

Then we saw a man totally on top of his subject, capable of steering not just the UK economy but also the global financial system through the treacherous waters that must be crossed in the next few years.

The G20 meeting was more than the usual talkfest. Economists here were impressed that it produced real money to stimulate global trade at what was then the darkest hour of the recession.

It was not the “new Bretton Woods” that Brown dreamed about, but it kept up the pressure for the international cooperation needed if we are ever to end the imbalances in the global economy that underlie the financial meltdown and which haven’t gone away. Similarly, if bankers are hemmed in by one country’s rules, they will go elsewhere to make their mischief.

This is stuff that cannot be done alone, and which must be done if the financial crisis is not to repeat and repeat in the coming years. With the immediate catastrophe averted, the pressure for this vital action will dissipate without leaders such as Brown.

It wasn’t just Downing Street’s spin machine that manufactured the notion that Brown was leading the world through the financial crisis last autumn. When the Bush administration was careening about trying to find a free-market solution to the implosion of free markets, Brown poured money into the worst-hit banks.

Economists marvelled at the quick and clear-headedness of the British response, and the US followed within weeks. In the flavour-of-the-month phrase in US political debate, lawmakers insist that they “get it” and that their opponents “don’t get it”. On economic and financial matters, Brown simply “gets it”.

Removing him is not just perverse. It looks a little dangerous, frankly. For a frenzied few minutes on Thursday lunchtime, currency traders were seized by the notion that Brown was about to pre-empt his ouster by announcing his resignation, and the rumour sent the pound plunging.

When Downing Street’s response – “nonsense” – was flashed up on screens, things returned to normal. It’s not that currency traders love Brown, per se. Partly, they just love exciting rumours. But mainly they hate uncertainty.

Financial markets matter – not a one-day wow in the currency market, of course, but over the long term. For all Western governments, which have had to empty the public purse to prop up the banking system and stimulate economic activity, financial markets matter a great deal.

Britain, which could have the biggest budget deficit compared to the size of its economy next year and a government debt rising to its highest levels since the Second World War, retaining the confidence of financial markets is key to surviving the next decade without a disaster.

If foreign investors won’t buy British government debt, we won’t be talking about cuts around the edges for public spending. There will have to be a wholesale re-think about what the government can provide in public services. It will be a very nasty decade.

There are very few politicians in the UK who are better placed than Gordon Brown to keep the confidence of financial markets. Certainly none of the candidates for prime minister in any party can match him.

The US has just ditched a dumb leader for a smart one. The UK looks from here as if it might be about to do the opposite.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Nurturing forest communities
by Raju Kumar

FOR forest communities living in the interiors of Madhya Pradesh, the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2006 should have signalled a new era. Recognising the symbiotic relationship between forest dwellers and the forests, the Act seeks to correct a historic injustice by giving forest communities a primacy in forest management and give ownership rights to them.

However, this noble intent has seen a dilution down its various stages of interpretation and implementation. The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) constituted to look into this in a comprehensive way envisaged community control through gram sabhas. They will be empowered to settle forest rights within the local jurisdiction. However, in areas in M.P, this seems to have fallen by the wayside. In 93 per cent of the gram sabhas there was no discussion, let alone concrete steps in the direction.

While forest rights committees have been set up in 80 per cent of the villages, around 67 per cent of its members were unaware of the very fact of their membership. Nearly all were ignorant about what they are meant to do, what their rights and duties are.

Even amongst forest communities, there is movement away from the forest to centres of commerce and industry. They too do not continue to live in pristine isolation but are affected by the shrinking of traditional livelihoods.

According to latest statistics, out of 9,543 families in 43 villages, 3,054 families (32 per cent) have migrated away from their homelands. This accounts for 32 per cent of the local population which is simply absent. This naturally reflects in poor attendance in the gram sabha meetings where issues of relevance are discussed and perspectives formed.

These findings were unearthed by a group of local organisations coming together under an umbrella of the Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Sajha Manch to conduct a survey. Conducted from March 15 to April 10, they covered 11 development blocks and 43 villages in eight districts of the state, including Rewa, Dhar, Shyopur, Mandla, Balaghat, Satna, Damoh and Dindori.

In a typical scenario, the Forest Act will serve as a guide to the numerous claims and ownership rights of the community. Settlers who earlier were seen as encroachers of land they have occupied for generations will now become rightful owners.

Govind Yadav, who plays a significant role in awareness and implementation processes, lamented that even after four months of the enactment of the Forest Rights Act, the process to hand over rights of forests to the tribal people is yet to take off. Worse, in many villages official forms to be filled to make claims, have not yet reached.

There is then the more fundamental question of efficacy of the Forest Act to address the present issues and protect the forest communities from exploitation. There has been a move away from the original recommendation of the JPC.

For all decisions at the local level, the gram sabha does not have the final say, it has been deftly shifted to panchayati raj officials along with Forest Department officials.

Activist groups say that this is the original source of exploitation of the tribal people as it opens them out to machinations of a group that does not hold the interests of the communities at the core.

Clearly there are many loopholes, some of them at the ground level. As per the new law, all those who occupied forest land before December 13, 2005, have a right to live and earn their livelihood from forests.

However, Section 2 of the law says that the beneficiary will have to produce evidence to prove that his or her previous three generations have been living on the same piece of land.

With a generation being defined as 25 years, it is a tall order for tribal people for whom oral tradition is the more reliable way of transferring information and local wisdom down the generations.

Given this hard guideline, totally out of sync with the tribal way of life, communities are finding it difficult to produce this evidence. There are other glaring discrepancies. In Jhabua, a Bhil would enjoy rights to the forest land whereas in other districts the same Bhil would not get the same benefit as he may not fall within the ambit of the SC/ST category there. It is rather a quixotic situation where one section of the same community benefits from the Act while the other section gets shut out completely.

In January itself, a group of adivasis from Burhanpur forest area were evicted arbitrarily. In response to a PIL filed, the M.P High Court upheld the rights of this group to continue in the forest till adequate arrangements for land distribution and rehabilitation are made.

The Central Government has come out with a policy to recognise the claims of forest communities to their land, even if they are presently living on what is called ‘revenue land’ which belongs to the state.

To streamline policy implementation and ensure that the provisions of the Act are upheld and reach the Adivasi communities, it is not enough to have straws in the wind. Perhaps, an audit system on the lines of the NREGA could be conceived. A clear picture of both the positives and the defects could then work as a guide to all those who are working to bring the benefits of this Act to those who thrive on the forest.

— Charkha Features

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Inside Pakistan
Saeed’s release: Islamabad slammed
by Syed Nooruzzaman

AN editorial in Daily Times (June 5) on the release of Mumbai terrorist attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed provides an insight into the mind of the thinking class in Pakistan.

The paper said, “The national Press, unhappy with the release, has reacted in interesting ways. One paper editorialised on June 4: ‘India is unhappy that Saeed and some others arrested in the aftermath of the attacks have been released. At the very least, their release sends a bad [signal] that the government here is perhaps not up to the task of prosecuting them even if evidence is adduced. The Pakistan government must urgently explain what it plans to do next or else risk losing another opportunity for peace, now that the elections have concluded in India’.”

Daily Times quoted another newspaper as saying, “In the current climate this evidence needs to be produced before people. We must tackle terror wherever it exists. This is also the key to eliminating the groups that fuel it and, by doing so, distancing them from people who still have doubts about their role.”

The Urdu Press, by and large, “either ignored the subject … or was completely taken up with ‘slamming’ India’s reaction to the release”, the Lahore-based daily pointed out.

 Business Recorder criticised Islamabad by arguing, “It is plain that the government did not make a serious effort to present the necessary evidence to justify the detention” of Saeed.

Leadership crisis

The biggest problem Pakistan is faced with today is the poor quality of its leaders. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was chosen to head the government not only due to his being close to the top PPP leadership but also because he was believed to be pliable. He has, however, improved his image considerably by emerging as a leader of consensus. Yet he finds it difficult to function without taking into account the views of the President and the Army Chief on “all major policy matters”, as Lt-Gen Talat Masood (retd) says in an article in The News (June 1). 

President Asif Ali Zardari “lacks the intellectual and moral fibre that is needed at this time to handle the affairs of a state that is virtually at war with itself. Due to his soiled reputation, poor communication skills in English and Urdu and the absence of a coherent vision, even his good side remains hidden”, Lt-General Masood points out. Perhaps, Zardari does not realise this weakness in his personality. That may be the reason why he has not bothered about having expert advisers “on a non-partisan basis” which could have helped him anchor the ship of the state successfully. It is, therefore, hoping against hope that the threat to Pakistan’s stability posed by the Taliban and other extremist elements can be handled effectively if the leadership shows vibrancy, as Shehryar Khan says in an article in The Frontier Post (June 1).

Only bad Taliban

Anyone who thinks that all the extremists associated with the Taliban movement are not bad is not properly informed. There is nothing good about the Taliban. The proof has been provided by Taliban commanders themselves during the army operation in Malakand division.

Commenting on the kidnapping of students of a military college in North Waziristan, Dawn (June 3) says that what happened “is another graphic reminder that the good Taliban/ bad Taliban distinction is a failed policy, but one which the (Pakistani) state continues to pursue.”

North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, considered one of the “good guys”, was mainly responsible for the kidnapping of the defenceless students. Maulvi Nazir of South Waziristan, whose name figures on the list of “good” Taliban commanders, has also proved the good and bad Taliban theory wrong. These two along with Baitullah Mehsud have formed an alliance to fight against the Pakistani forces engaged in Operation Rah-i-Haq in Malakand.

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