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EDITORIALS

De-stressing education
Kapil Sibal is on right track
THE breath of fresh air sweeping through the corridors of the Human Resource Development Ministry is reflected in the announcement by the Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, that he wants to make the Class X board examination optional. This being the dreaded first hurdle that students have to cross in their quest for higher education, the move has been welcomed widely. In so far as it reduces the pressure on students who are already overburdened with heavy school bags and voluminous syllabi, it is a big relief.

Statues of arrogance
Mayawati on inauguration spree
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is notorious for defying prevalent norms of propriety. She can even cock a snook at the possibility of judicial intervention, it seems. The Supreme Court was to hear a PIL on July 13 against her government for building memorials and statues — including many of her own – with public money.


EARLIER STORIES

Boosting higher education
June 26, 2009
Containing Maoist menace
June 25, 2009
Banning Maoists
June 24, 2009
Varun said it all
June 23, 2009
BJP at sea
June 22, 2009
People have right to know
June 21, 2009
Enforce the norms
June 20, 2009
PM’s offer well-meant
June 19, 2009
Beyond the handshake
June 18, 2009
Mayawati again
June 17, 2009
No changers win
June 16, 2009



A database of Indians
Nilekani — right man for right job
I
N a rare departure from the practice of handing over top government posts to politicians, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has brought in a technocrat to head an agency that will prepare and maintain a national identification database of Indians. Mr Nandan Manohar Nilekani will quit as co-chairman of Infosys Technologies, India’s second largest IT company he founded with N.R Narayana Murthy and others, to join as the chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India with the status of a Cabinet minister. Work that requires specialised knowledge or technical skills can be handled best by a non-politician.

ARTICLE

Stuck in a time warp
BJP unable to shed Hindutva and RSS
by Kuldip Nayar
I
WISH I could believe L.K. Advani when he said at the BJP’s conclave this week that the RSS with which the party has links had rejected theocracy, the Hindu Rashtra concept. Then why insist on the word, Hindutva, and why not Bhartvata? At least, the BJP would not be equivocal as it sounds today. Mr Advani would recall the criticism he had to face for having hailed at Karachi Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as secular.

MIDDLE

Remembering Anil Wilson
by S.Y. Quraishi
W
HEN Mr Anil Wilson joined in 1991 as Principal of St. Stephen’s or “College”, as we remorselessly proud Stephanians call it, none of us was amused. With two generations of St. Stephen’s in me (my father and myself) and a third generation (my daughter) waiting to arrive there, Mr Wilson, who never studied or taught in my alma mater, looked a clear outsider. In fact, there was unspoken but perceivable hostility to the thought among most Stephanians.

OPED

Deemed varsity status
A blunder by HRD Ministry under Arjun Singh
by Om Parkash Wadhwa
T
HIS is in continuation of “Sibal cracks down on deemed varsities” (June 5), The Tribune editorial “Why deemed varsities? (June 10) and the front-page news “Fate of 125 deemed varsities hangs in balance” (June 12), it is submitted that a university in India is set up by an act of either the state or the Central legislature. Lord Dalhousie set in motion the process of creating universities in India and in 1857, three universities were established at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras on the model of London University.

Pop star who bridged eras
by Geoff Boucher
Michael JacksonMichael Jackson was fascinated by celebrity tragedy.
He had a statue of Marilyn Monroe in his home. He bought
the publishing rights to Buddy Holly's songbook and studied
the sad Hollywood exile of Charlie Chaplin. He married the
daughter of Elvis Presley. Jackson met his own untimely
death on Thursday at age 50. More than any of those
icons, he left a complicated legacy. As a child star he was
so talented he seemed lit from within; as a middle-aged
man he was viewed as something akin to a visiting alien
who, like Tinkerbell, would cease to exist if the applause ever stopped.

Inside Pakistan
Mehsud’s  challenge  to army
by Syed Nooruzzaman
T
HE Pakistan Army suffered a major setback when Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud  got a rival Taliban faction leader Qari Zainuddin  killed by the latter’s own security guard on Tuesday. The slain Taliban commander was busy organising a new group of militants belonging to the Mehsud tribe with the support of the army.

Zardari may lose powers
The angry Baloch

 


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De-stressing education
Kapil Sibal is on right track

THE breath of fresh air sweeping through the corridors of the Human Resource Development Ministry is reflected in the announcement by the Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, that he wants to make the Class X board examination optional. This being the dreaded first hurdle that students have to cross in their quest for higher education, the move has been welcomed widely. In so far as it reduces the pressure on students who are already overburdened with heavy school bags and voluminous syllabi, it is a big relief.

As expected, there have been voices of dissent that maintain that examinations are needed for children to study. Changing a system that traces its roots to British colonial rule is tough, but for long the need has been felt to have a system of education that lays more stress on creativity and higher learning skills than on rote learning. The proposal to change the method of evaluation by giving grades rather than allocating marks to students would also help reduce stress levels.

The Minister’s determination to clean the Augean stables is apparent, but he will have to tread cautiously while advocating a single all-India board to conduct school examinations. Since education is on the concurrent list, it would be incumbent on him to take along the state governments, some of which have responded positively to the suggestion.

Similarly, initiating private-public collaboration, permitting FDI in the education sector and allowing foreign universities in India has obvious benefits, made even more relevant in the light of the spate of attacks on Indian students abroad. However, not surprisingly, the Left has expressed reservations on the issue.

Mr Sibal proposes to send the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill to Parliament, where it will be open to scrutiny and debated upon. Indeed, all young Indians must be educated and while the Minister’s fresh approach has raised the expectations of the nation, especially the youth, the onus is now on him to deliver what he is promising.

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Statues of arrogance
Mayawati on inauguration spree

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is notorious for defying prevalent norms of propriety. She can even cock a snook at the possibility of judicial intervention, it seems. The Supreme Court was to hear a PIL on July 13 against her government for building memorials and statues — including many of her own – with public money.

When the court advanced the hearing date to June 29 after hearing a special application petition to prevent the state government from holding the “gala event of unveiling the statues” on July 3, she acted even faster and unveiled them on June 25 itself. The development is as unexpected and shocking as the unedifying sight of a leader inaugurating a statue of herself, but she has gotten away with such deeds so often that she does not think twice before repeating herself.

Lucknow is now dotted with giant statues of hers and her mentor Kanshi Ram. Not only that, she has also put up 60 marble statues of elephants, her party’s election symbol. What public purpose they serve is beyond comprehension and has led to a PIL calling for immediate halt to such constructions and questioning whether political leaders could indulge in such self-glorifying acts at the cost of the public exchequer.

Statues of Mayawati and Kanshi Ram in Lucknow alone have cost Rs 6.68 crore. The marble elephants cost the tax-paying public Rs 52 crore. There is more. In 2008-2009, the UP Culture Department had allocated more than Rs 194 crore for building statues of “great leaders”. The entire amount was spent.

All this is happening in a “BIMARU” state, which is abysmally low in human development index. Millions of families live below poverty line. Instead of improving their lot, the impervious Mayawati is forcibly thrusting her own memory on public psyche. One does not have to be a political opponent of her to deprecate this trend. But public opinion is something she cares little about.

Perhaps only the courts can rein her in. But for now, she has hoodwinked them also. The voters have given her a thumbs down in the Lok Sabha elections. Yet, she is in the Chief Ministerial saddle and what happens in the next Assembly elections is none of her immediate worries.

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A database of Indians
Nilekani — right man for right job

IN a rare departure from the practice of handing over top government posts to politicians, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has brought in a technocrat to head an agency that will prepare and maintain a national identification database of Indians. Mr Nandan Manohar Nilekani will quit as co-chairman of Infosys Technologies, India’s second largest IT company he founded with N.R Narayana Murthy and others, to join as the chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India with the status of a Cabinet minister. Work that requires specialised knowledge or technical skills can be handled best by a non-politician.

It is, therefore, quite appropriate for the Congress government to tap talent from outside its political circle. Sam Pitroda, picked up by the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, has immensely contributed to India’s telecom revolution. Dr Manmohan Singh, himself a bureaucrat and trained economist of repute, was chosen by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to head the Finance Ministry at a time when India’s economy was at a critical stage.

The economic reforms he launched as the Finance Minister have catapulted India to the global stage as an emerging economic power. India needs many more talented people at the helm to improve the quality of governance and raise the standards of living. The task assigned to Mr Nilekani is gigantic. The agency he chairs will provide every Indian citizen a unique, foolproof identification number which will, among othe things, help in curbing corrupt practices.

It will strive to ensure that benefits given by the government reach the targeted beneficiaries, thus minimising the possibility of misappropriation. Huge amounts of money released for various government schemes like the public distribution system, the rural job scheme, Bharat Nirman and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan will be less prone to falling in wrong hands. Besides, it will be possible to identify non-Indians and deal with migrants and terrorists from across the border more effectively. It all adds up to a promising fare.

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Thought for the Day

The innocent and the beautiful /Have no enemy but time. — W.B. Yeats

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Stuck in a time warp
BJP unable to shed Hindutva and RSS
by Kuldip Nayar

I WISH I could believe L.K. Advani when he said at the BJP’s conclave this week that the RSS with which the party has links had rejected theocracy, the Hindu Rashtra concept. Then why insist on the word, Hindutva, and why not Bhartvata? At least, the BJP would not be equivocal as it sounds today. Mr Advani would recall the criticism he had to face for having hailed at Karachi Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as secular.

The RSS literally hauled Advani over the coals. He gave many explanations to water down what he said. Not that Advani’s statement was wrong. The RSS was not ready to forgive the person “who had vivisected the limbs of Bharat Mata.” Mr Advani, I am afraid, may interpret Hindutuva differently when he tours the states to explain why the BJP lost. He should realise that the party won in eight states, including Gujarat on the plank of parochialism. Will he reinterpret the victory?

I think the party has once again avoided facing the moment of truth. Surprisingly, it has not struck the BJP leaders that the party is not selling any more because of the divisive credentials it carries. Its Hindutva, soft or hard, is lessening in appeal as pluralism is increasing its space. Over the years, India’s temperament is becoming secular. The crisis that the BJP faces is not that of image but of identity. The image of Hindutva, despite its limitations, has given the party the recognition it has sought. The new brand does not impart any sharper, popular edge because Hindutva is Hindutva, Hindu in content and appeal. In due course, the soft Hindutva would assume the shape of Hinduism.

The presence of leaders like Narendra Modi, who has not changed, is a guarantee that it would happen that way. Whatever the explanation on the basis of cultural heritage or nationalism means, it has little relevance when the expression boils down to Hindutva. The 15 per cent of the electorate, the Muslims, do not buy this. Nor do the expanding youth that is attuned to science and technology. They do not feel at home with the language of mandir or the new word, inclusive, coined by Advani. They are Hindu and do not feel threatened in a country where they are 80 per cent. The BJP tries to play on the fear which is artificially created to get the vote. But this is having diminishing returns.

Where the BJP gets stumped is on the point of identity. The party is intertwined with the RSS so much that it does not have a personality of its own. However liberal the BJP may become, it cannot escape the odium of the RSS philosophy which emanates from Nagpur where some half a dozen persons, never elected by the people or even the BJP members, pronounce judgment on crucial problems facing the country. They are like the Taliban leaders, confined to narrow religious practices expressed in extreme forms.

The BJP has no cadre of its own and depends on the RSS cadre which includes the Bajrang Dal of anti-Christian fame in Orissa and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of the Gujarat carnage. The BJP got a chance to turn a new leaf when it joined the Janata Party after the Emergency (1975-77). It promised to sever links with the RSS. But the erstwhile Jana Sangh members went back on the undertaking given to Gandhian Jaya Prakash Narayan who led the movement that ousted Mrs Gandhi. Instead, they constituted a new party, the BJP. When the Janata Party was routed in 1980, one of the causes was that the BJP divided the anti-Congress vote. Together the two might have done better.

After the reverse in the recent Lok Sabha elections, I heard some liberal elements in the BJP renewing the demand for going it alone. But in no time they seem to have realised that they do not have the inclination or determination to build a cadre of their own. This is an arduous job. The youth can do it. Probably, the party can attract them more so on its own, not with the RSS which is attracting less and less young people at its shakas (morning camps).

The BJP has not yet done any analysis of the causes for its reverses in the elections. When they met last, there were only harsh words exchanged and inflammatory letters written and leaked out. One leader even called those in charge of elections as “conspirators.” Another regretted that the ones who won did not get the reward. It was clear that the acrimonious attacks were made deliberately, in a planned manner, primarily against party president Rajnath Singh and Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley.

Critics sounded like settling personal scores. I wish they had the courage to pursue the matter, but it turned out to be only a storm in the teacup. That the BJP should have analysed the reasons of its losses is natural. Every defeated political party go over the exercise as the CPI (M) has also done it. But there is a difference between the two. The politburo of the Communists is the final authority. In the case of the BJP, the buck does not stop at Mr Rajnath Singh or the elderly Mr Advani. The high priests are the RSS leaders.

Had the BJP shed off Hindutva and snapped its relations with the RSS it might have provided a much-needed alternative to the Congress. The new formation may have been on the right of centre, but it would have given a platform to those who differed with the Congress and who may have been rubbed on the wrong side.

If the BJP cannot convert itself into a secular party, however rightist, it should not hide itself behind soft Hindutva. In that case, it would have been better for the party to own Hindutva openly. Its hedging is not going to attract Muslims, liberals or the youth. A party avowing Hindusim publicly may also be more recognizable when it says it is related to the culture and ethos of the people—a way of life. At present the party has the same old image of Hindutva and no identity of its own. It is also a divided house. How can it retrieve the ground it has lost?

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Remembering Anil Wilson
by S.Y. Quraishi

WHEN Mr Anil Wilson joined in 1991 as Principal of St. Stephen’s or “College”, as we remorselessly proud Stephanians call it, none of us was amused. With two generations of St. Stephen’s in me (my father and myself) and a third generation (my daughter) waiting to arrive there, Mr Wilson, who never studied or taught in my alma mater, looked a clear outsider. In fact, there was unspoken but perceivable hostility to the thought among most Stephanians.

But Anil Wilson came with a bang and dominated the college scene quickly enough, which only continued to grow over the years. Soon enough, he was passionately in love with College and immensely proud of it. Mr Wilson always thought out of the box. One interesting debate (controversy?) he started was on the pronunciation of the name of the college itself. He insisted that St. Stephen’s should be pronounced as St. Steven’s. It almost aroused anger in some people who had always pronounced College as St. Stefen’s. However, a look at the dictionary showed Wilson to be correct. But soon the debate died down with a sort of agreement that the traditional and historical pronunciation was absolutely fine since English language happily adopted any regional variation.

I remember an interesting fact that Mr Wilson used to mention in his speeches — that the college has no signboard anywhere in and around,since there is no need for it. Another point he used to stress was that there is no ex-Stephanian; there are only Stephanians. The rule clearly was “once a Stephanian, always a Stephanian”. He would pounce on anybody making the mistake of using the word ‘ex’ with a Stephanian. My association with him grew further in 2005-06 when we were celebrating 125th anniversary of College. I was made the convener of two committees — one for media and the other for fundraising.

I think I did reasonably well in the first committee because our celebrations did get a lot of media coverage. My convenership of the fundraising committee, however, was more memorable – a total disaster. We raised, after a few months of efforts, a princely sum of Rs 500! We are still trying to locate the donor to examine his head! Was it the apathy of the Stephanians, or their feeling that their College needed no development? Or, most plausibly, I was a hopeless fundraiser.

Mr Wilson had a number of dreams to change the face of College in keeping with the changing times. Unfortunately, Stephanians’ apathy led to his dreams remaining unfulfilled. It is reassuring that the new Principal, Rev. Valson Thampu, is carrying the dreams forward enriched by his own vision. Anil Wilson was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, but his heart was always in College. A time came when he had to choose between the high office of Vice-Chancellor or the Principalship of one college. He made the right decision. After all there are 400 universities and only one St. Stephen’s college!

Mr Wilson was an exceedingly charming person, very social, amiable and ever available to the members of our tribe whenever we needed him on a social occasion. He had a presence. Wilson was a strong family man, who would rarely be seen without his wife, Rita — herself a charming personality and an educationist of eminence. Anil’s humour was simply brilliant. He would keep his audience in raptures. In October, 2008, it was discovered that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

A shattered Anil did a lot of internet search to know about the disease and discovered that there is only 2 per cent chances of survival in cases like his. Ignoring the 98 per cent, he clutched on to 2 per cent hope which was reflected in all his messages that he sent to friends, with humour intact. Anil Wilson’s departure is a great blow to St. Stephen’s and Stephanians, everywhere. His departure has upset our plan for 27th June.

Stephanians are organising a function to honour Mr Navin Chawla, the Chief Election Commissioner of India. We had asked Mr Chawla to suggest whom he would like to be invited. He had mentioned only one name —Anil Wilson, and desired to seat him on the dais. Since people are already invited, the get-together will go ahead but Anil Wilson’s departure from the scene will inevitably dominate everyone’s thoughts. We miss you, Mr Wilson.

(The writer is Member, Election Commission of India.)

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Deemed varsity status
A blunder by HRD Ministry under Arjun Singh
by Om Parkash Wadhwa

THIS is in continuation of “Sibal cracks down on deemed varsities” (June 5), The Tribune editorial “Why deemed varsities? (June 10) and the front-page news “Fate of 125 deemed varsities hangs in balance” (June 12), it is submitted that a university in India is set up by an act of either the state or the Central legislature. Lord Dalhousie set in motion the process of creating universities in India and in 1857, three universities were established at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras on the model of London University.

In 1947 India had 19 universities. In 1993 the list of universities established by the Centre/state governments were 152 plus 29 deemed varsities declared by the Central Government on the advice of the University Grants Commission. In 1995 the privatisation of universities Bill came before Parliament but could not get through. My submission here is that when Parliament has not passed the privatisation of Universities Bill, state governments should not have stepped in and given a signal to private players to establish private universities though state legislatures are competent to establish public universities.

In 2002 Chhattisgarh enacted a law for establishing self-financed private universities for higher education. As a result 117 private universities came into being in about one year or so. In 2004, Prof Yashpal, an eminent scientist and former Chairman of the UGC, approached Supreme Court contending that the state government had been issuing simply a notification in the gazette for establishing universities in an indiscriminate and mechanical manner without having the slightest regard to the availability of any infrastructure, teaching facility or their financial resources.

These universities were wholly incapable of imparting any education much less quality education. A three member bench headed by Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, decided this case on February 11,2005, and quashed the orders of establishing private universities. The private players then approached the HRD Ministry, which obliged them under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956. Of late it is learnt that the MHRD even allowed these universities to drop the word ‘deemed to be’ and instead write a ‘university’. It absolutely circumvented the apex court’s judgement.

Section 3 says, “The Central Government may, on the advice of the Commission, declare, by notification in the official gazette, that any institution for higher education, other than a university, shall be deemed to be a university for the purposes of this Act, and on such a declaration being made, all the provisions of this Act shall apply to such institution as if it were a university within the meaning of clause (f) of Section 2.” The UGC Act, 1956 particularly Sections 2 (f), 3, 22, 23 and 24 make it amply clear that a university can be established by a Central or state legislative Act whereas an “institution” can be declared to be a deemed university by the Central Government on the advice of the UGC.

Our Constitution has empowered Parliament/state legislatures to establish a university and nowhere given the power to the Central or state governments to allow a body corporate to use the word “University”. No deemed university had affixed or suffixed the nomenclature ‘university’ in the past. Take, for example the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), which was established in 1936, as Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work. In 1964 this institution got the status of a deemed university as per Section 3 of the UGC Act.

Again, the Birla Institute of Technology & Sciences (BITS), Pilani, was founded by Mr Ghanshyam Das Birla in 1929 as an intermediate college. In 1946, it was converted into Birla Engineering College with degree programmes in electrical and mechanical engineering. This institute too got the status of a deemed University in 1964. The Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology (TIET), Patiala, was established in 1956 by Mr Karam Chand Thapar. In 1985, TIET was granted the status of deemed university by the University Grants Commission. The National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) was initially established at Banglore in 1923 as the Imperial Institute for Animal Husbandry & Dairying.

In 1936, it was expanded and renamed as Imperial Dairy Institute. Further in 1955 its headquarters was shifted to Karnal. It got the deemed university status in or around 1992-93. Justice is not only to be done but justice must seem to be done. In allowing/declaring large institutions as deemed universities as per Section 3 of UGC Act, the HRD Ministry did a very wrong thing for the reasons best known to the then minister, Mr Arjun Singh. Mr Kapil Sibal, the present Cabinet Minister, HRD, must look into the matter thoroughly and get declared institutions as deemed universities in accordance with the law of the land.

The writer is the Head (Public Administration), Pt. NRS Government College, Rohtak.

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Pop star who bridged eras
by Geoff Boucher

Michael Jackson was fascinated by celebrity tragedy. He had a statue of Marilyn Monroe in his home. He bought the publishing rights to Buddy Holly's songbook and studied the sad Hollywood exile of Charlie Chaplin. He married the daughter of Elvis Presley. Jackson met his own untimely death on Thursday at age 50. More than any of those icons, he left a complicated legacy. As a child star he was so talented he seemed lit from within; as a middle-aged man he was viewed as something akin to a visiting alien who, like Tinkerbell, would cease to exist if the applause ever stopped.

It was impossible in the early 1980s to imagine the surreal final chapters of Jackson's life. In that decade, he became the world's most popular entertainer thanks to a series of hit records – "Beat It," "Billie Jean," "Thriller" – and dazzling music videos. He created his own iconography with the single shiny glove, the moonwalk, the signature red jacket and the Neverland Ranch.

In recent years, he inspired fascination for reasons that had nothing to do with music. Years of plastic surgery had made his face a bizarre landscape. He was deeply in debt and had lost his way as a musician. He had not toured since 1997 or released new songs since 2001. Instead of music videos, Jackson images became tabloid reports about his strange behavior, including allegations of child molestation, or the latest failed relaunch of his career.

A frail-looking Jackson had spent his last weeks in rehearsal for an ambitious comeback attempt and 50 sold-out shows in London. A major motivation was the $300 million in debt run up by a star who lived like royalty even though his self-declared title of "King of Pop" was more about the past than the present.

"It's one of the greatest losses," said Tommy Mottola, former president of Sony Music, which released Jackson's music for 16 years. "In pop history, there's a triumvirate of pop icons: Sinatra, Elvis and Michael – that define the whole culture. ... His music bridged races and ages and absolutely defined the video age. Nothing that came before him or that has come after him will ever be as big as he was."

Jackson "had it all ... talent, grace, professionalism and dedication," said Quincy Jones, Jackson's collaborator on his most important albums and the movie "The Wiz." "He was the consummate entertainer, and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."

Jackson was born Aug. 29, 1958, in Gary, Ind. His mother, Katherine, would say that there was something special about the fifth of her nine children. "I don't believe in reincarnation," she said, "but you know how babies move uncoordinated? He never moved that way. When he danced, it was like he was an older person."

He struggled to understand a world that he saw mostly while staring into spotlights and flashbulbs. Standing ovations greeted him on stage; parental slaps awaited him in the dressing room. Like his mother, he became a Jehovah's Witness, forswearing alcohol, cigarettes and foul language. He fasted on Saturdays and went door to door, wearing a disguise, to spread the faith. (He ended his association with the religion in the late 1980s.)

In a Motown TV special in 1983, Jackson, then 24, electrified the nation with his moonwalk, a dance step that created the illusion of levitation. He took the stage in a black sequined jacket, silver shirt, black fedora and black trousers that skimmed the tops of his white socks. The final touch was a single white glove, studded with rhinestones. The "Thriller" success enabled Jackson to negotiate what were believed to be the highest royalty rates ever earned by a recording artist. But it also put him in a cage of his own anxieties and obsession.

Jackson bonded with past pop-music royalty by marrying Lisa Marie Presley in 1994 and grabbing a major interest in the Beatles catalog, an asset worth $500 million. The marriage was short-lived, however, and his wealth was imperiled by an extravagant lifestyle that included the 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, where he lived with a menagerie of exotic pets.

Jackson became a prisoner of his own celebrity. He became so accustomed to bodyguards and assistants that he once admitted that he trembled if he had to open his own front door. He compared himself to "a hemophiliac who can't afford to be scratched in any way."

Notoriously shy off stage, he was acutely attuned to what his fans craved on stage. Commenting once on a sotto voce note at the end of a ballad, he said: "That note will touch the whole audience. What they're throwing out at you, you're grabbing. You hold it, you touch it and you whip it back – it's like a Frisbee."

In better days, his wealth allowed him to fulfill personal fantasies – including building his own amusement park – and bankroll charities, particularly those involving children. Then came the dark whispers about the nature of his relationship with boys. He was often seen with youngsters, both famous and those plucked from the everyday world to visit his estate. In 1993, he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy who was a frequent overnight guest in his home.

On tour in Asia when the charges were filed, Jackson canceled his performances, citing exhaustion and addiction to painkillers as the reasons. Jackson's attorney charged that the boy's father, a would-be screenwriter who had tried to obtain Jackson's backing for a project, was trying to extort money. The criminal investigation was closed after the boy refused to testify. A civil lawsuit was settled for a reported $20 million.

There was intense public curiosity about his physical metamorphosis. Jackson often
insisted that his wan complexion was the result of treatment for a skin disorder
called vitiligo, but that did not explain why his once-broad nose became long,
sleek and pertly tipped. He admitted to two nose operations but cosmetic surgeons
who studied his photographs surmised that he had undergone far more, possibly so
many that he had destroyed the cartilage. In 1996, Jackson married his former
nurse, Debbie Rowe, who bore two of his three children, Prince Michael Jr. and
Paris Michael Katherine. He did not disclose the identity of the mother of his third
child, Prince Michael II.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Inside Pakistan
Mehsud’s  challenge  to army
by Syed Nooruzzaman

THE Pakistan Army suffered a major setback when Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud  got a rival Taliban faction leader Qari Zainuddin  killed by the latter’s own security guard on Tuesday. The slain Taliban commander was busy organising a new group of militants belonging to the Mehsud tribe with the support of the army.

According to The News (June 24), it is yet to be seen “what impact Zainuddin’s death will have on the efforts to erode the power of Baitullah. In the increasingly vicious power struggle in Waziristan, the latest development will go to strengthen Baitullah and to prove that he remains the main force in Waziristan.”

The defeat of the Taliban in Waziristan appears to be the key to winning the battle against terrorism. There can be no peace in Pakistan until the army succeeds in killing Baitullah, whose private army consists of around 20,000 men even during these difficult times for him.

Dawn (June 24) says, “The truth is though little is known about what exactly
is going on in the South Waziristan Agency (where Baitullah has his major base),
who is fighting whom and why, what is likely to happen in the days and weeks
ahead. What is clear so far is that the security forces are squeezing Baitullah
Mehsud’s strongholds...”

Zardari may lose powers

President Asif Ali Zardari is set to lose his powers to sack the elected government and dissolve the National and Provincial Assemblies if the move to restore the Pakistan Constitution to its almost original position succeeds. The constitution was adopted in 1973 to provide a parliamentary form of government to Pakistan, but it got its character diluted mainly by the late Gen Zia-ul-Haque and former President Gen Pervez Musharraf.

As Dawn (June 25) says, “Today constitution stands denuded of its parliamentary character. The villain of the piece is Article 58(2)(b), which is part of the MMA-supported 17th Amendment validating virtually all General Musharraf’s actions contained in the Legal Framework Order.”

According to Daily Times (June 26), “The PPP has already circulated its 80-point amendment proposal, based, it says, on the Charter of Democracy signed by the PML (N) and the PPP in 2006. The PML (N)’s ‘amendment committee’ member, Ishaq Dar, says his party will accept joint electorates and minority voting rights of the 17th Amendment plus some other items, but will focus on removing the imbalance of the powers between the President and the elected Prime Minister.”

The angry Baloch

The unrest in Balochistan continues to remain a major headache for Islamabad. The people in this mineral-rich largest province have a long list of grievances against their federal government, which has no time to take care of their problems seriously. Announcements are made for righting the wrongs done to the Baloch but not to be implemented.  As The Frontier Post (June 26) says, “There is no perceptible attempt at understanding the problem's complexities in evidence in Islamabad…. It needs hard-boiled thinking, creative thoughts and imaginative planning to address….

“While doing all to give a stab to boiling issues like the cases of disappeared persons, political prisoners and political activists' assassinations to the general satisfaction, it (All-Party Committee) must sit down, think hard, evolve imaginative policies and pragmatic plans, and execute them robustly to address the real Balochistan problem. The focus of this new order should solely be the emancipation, empowerment and enrichment of the huge enslaved humanity being kept caged by the province's privileged elites.” However, there are thinkers in Pakistan who, instead of arguing for giving greater attention to the Baloch, are repeating the theory of foreign forces active to cause instability in Balochistan. See what Majeed Javed writes in The Nation (June 24).

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