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PERSPECTIVE

IMRAN  KHAN FROM PLAYBOY TO PM-IN-WAITING
The jury is out on whether the former cricketer suffers from delusion or an excess of  self-belief. But he has often set out to do the impossible and done it.
Chris Allbritton
T
HE road to Imran Khanís palatial house spread in the hills above Pakistanís capital is a perfect metaphor for his vision of his political career: twisty and pot-holed, but ending in a grand estate.

Revolutionary
POLL?


EARLIER STORIES

Back to reforms
November 19, 2011
Regulating pensions
November 18, 2011
UP deserves division
November 17, 2011
Politics in Punjab
November 16, 2011
Despondency sets in
November 15, 2011
Row over AFSPA
November 14, 2011
Demise of the American Dream
November 13, 2011
Visible signs of bonhomie
November 12, 2011
Exemplary verdict
November 11, 2011
Iran towards nukes?
November 10, 2011

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


OPED

Fight Corruption but not by law alone 
A second look at what is on the table as the Lok Pal Bill gets ready to be introduced
Harpal Singh
A
corruption-free society is the result not only of good laws but also of a belief system that corruption is immoral, harmful and bleeds the nation. Its negative impact eats into the regenerative power of progressive societies and ultimately, like a cancer, consumes its host.

On the record by 
Lack of infrastructure can no longer be an excuse
Rakesh Lohumi

Vidya Stokes, who reigned over the Indian Women's Hockey Federation for over three decades, favours bringing sports bodies under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as proposed in the draft National Sports Development Bill and welcomes steps to bring transparency in the functioning of sports bodies. Her hectic life belies her age. At 84 she is as active as ever. A fitness buff, she has been on a non-cereal diet for over four decades.

PROFILE 
The bacteria tracker
BY Harihar Swarup

T
uberculosis
kills two people every three minutes in this country, maintains Dr K. Narayanswamy Balaji, a recipient of this year's Shani Swarup Bhatnagar Award for Science and Technology. An Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the young research scientist warns that time is running out and new medicines are required to fight the newer, more sophisticated and drug-resistant strains of the disease, which has begun afflicting even the affluent and in the urban areas.





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IMRAN KHAN 
FROM PLAYBOY
TO PM-IN-WAITING
The jury is out on whether the former cricketer suffers from delusion or an excess of self-belief. But he has often set out to do the impossible and done it.
Chris Allbritton

THE road to Imran Khanís palatial house spread in the hills above Pakistanís capital is a perfect metaphor for his vision of his political career: twisty and pot-holed, but ending in a grand estate.

Alone in the beginning but now surrounded by smaller buildings, the house itself is cool and pleasant, with Mughal-era swords arrayed on a coffee table and two playful dogs-- one a German shepherd named Sheru -- romping about the carefully manicured lawn.

"I built this house," Khan said as he sat on the shaded verandah eyeing the sweeping vista overlooking the city. "There was nothing here. It was scrub jungle all around. There was only a dirt track here."

For Khan, creating something from nothing could be the sogan for a chequered life.

A graduate from Oxford and very much a man-about-town in London in the late 1970s, he became one of the worldís most admired cricketers. He was captain of Pakistanís team of talented but wayward stars and, with many whispers of autocracy, led them to win cricketís World Cup for the first and only time in 1992.

After years of fund-raising, Khan opened a cancer hospital in the memory of his mother in Lahore in 1994. He is a conservative Muslim but was married to a Jewish heiress and then divorced, joined politics and for years been somewhat of a joke in Pakistanís unruly democracy.

But in the past 15 years, through sheer force of will and a reputation for personal integrity, he has gone from political punch line to a superstar now attracting heavy-hitting politicians to his party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (Pakistanís ovement for Justice). He ó and a lot of other people ó believe he could very well be Pakistanís next prime minister.

Khanís confidence stems from what he sees is a tsunami of support for the PTI in Pakistan as traditional parties falter amid charges and counter-charges of corruption and petty jealousies.

But Khan remains relatively untested. In the last 15 years, his party has only briefly held one seat in parliament - his own. He has had tumultuous relationships with the established political parties as well as the military, the real decision maker in the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people.

He does not openly criticise the military but in a book on Pakistani politics published in September, he walks the line, saying: "Only a credible government can save and strengthen the Pakistan army by making sure it stays within its constitutional role. We have no other choice: in order to survive, we have to make Pakistan a genuine democracy."

Khan also has a touchy relationship with the United States, Pakistanís ally in the war on militancy and its biggest aid donor. He says that if heís elected prime minister, he would end Pakistanís cooperation in the fight against militants based in its tribal areas, end the American drone campaign and refuse all U.S. aid, which totals some $20 billion since 2001.

Revolutionary

It may be all pie-in-the-sky, but Khan, 58, is nothing if not charismatic. Still athletic and craggily handsome with darting eyes and an intense demeanour, he can rarely sit still for long. He fidgets and twists, almost as if he were about to leap to his feet and launch into his fearsome pace bowling.

"For a lot of people who donít have hope in their political system, in a democratic system, heís the one person they seem to have hope in," said a senior Western diplomat, who requested anonymity to speak about internal Pakistani politics.

"I think heís an important phenomenon because he articulates the very real frustration of the country at a time when they need articulation."

And articulate he does. In an interview, Khan quickly lists Pakistanís very serious economic problems: electricity shortages, crumbling railways, a crisis in education, massive unemployment and endemic corruption.

"Weíve hit rock bottom," he said. "It doesnít get worse than this, where to qualify for any position of important public office, you have to have committed a crime."

For Khan, the current government headed by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Khanís old Oxford classmate Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007 after returning to Pakistan from self-imposed exile, is the most corrupt government Pakistan has ever seen. Transparency International, which listed Pakistan as the 143rd most corrupt country in its 2010 corruption index, might agree.

As such, Khan believes in a fresh start for Pakistan, a country that, like his home above Islamabad, is a jungle ready to be cleared out and made anew. He believes Pakistan should wipe out the past and rebuild from a clean slate, with he as the architect-in-chief.

He is calling not only for a new government, but a new political order, one based on what he says are the real ideals of Pakistanís founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who worked to forge a homeland for Muslims.

Instead of fighting the Taliban militants, Khan said, Pakistan should enter into dialogue with them. He says if he were in power, he could end militancy in 90 days.

A senior Taliban commander and spokesman contacted by Reuters laughed off this idea and said they would continue the fight. "He is, in fact, living in a foolís paradise," the commander said.

And yet, Khan is no fundamentalist. The idealised Islamic state he says he would build in Pakistan would focus on justice, fairness and equality for all its citizens before the law. It would, above all, be "humane."

Khan often veers between shrewd political calculations -- "as a political party, you canít rule out alliances" -- and what seems to be naive idealism. His plan to raise revenue for Pakistan is to "inspire" people to pay their taxes through his personal example and somehow rooting out all corruption, boosting the countryís pitiful tax-to-GDP ratio of about 10 percent, one of the lowest in the world.

Some of the parties he has associated himself with in the past are notably lacking in democratic and liberal bona fides, such as the conservative Jamaat-e-Islami, which has cheered the murder of blasphemers and campaigned against laws that would grant women and religious minorities equal status to Muslims.

POLL?

But how might Khan do in the election? Given the current flux in Pakistani politics, few analysts would hazard a guess. Many think he could split the right-leaning, nationalist voters currently dominated by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifís Pakistan Muslim League and keep Zardariís Pakistan Peopleís Party in power.

"He seems to have inspired more people to join the political process," said Brian Katulis, a senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington. "But to date, his political organisation has seemed weak and not well managed, particularly in contrast to his charity."

Khan himself believes his time has come. "I have this very clear vision, as I say in the book," he said. "This has been a 15-year struggle which no one has conducted in Pakistan before. And now I feel Iím closer to my destiny."

But all thatís really clear right now is that Khan reflects the yearnings of a deeply disillusioned and frustrated country that has seen 63 years of military and civilian governments repeatedly fail it -- all in the service of a national ideology looking for a nation.

It is this ideology ó a home for South Asiaís Muslims and a shining beacon of Islamic democracy ó voiced by Allama Iqbal, considered the spiritual founder of Pakistan and the man who coined the name of the country, that motivates Khan. óReuters

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Fight Corruption but not by law alone 
A second look at what is on the table as the Lok Pal Bill gets ready to be introduced
Harpal Singh

A corruption-free society is the result not only of good laws but also of a belief system that corruption is immoral, harmful and bleeds the nation. Its negative impact eats into the regenerative power of progressive societies and ultimately, like a cancer, consumes its host.

The fight against corruption should therefore be an all pervasive activity starting from schools with children as the focus, to other institutions including corporate bodies, Parliament, the Judiciary, the Executive and even the Civil society. Such activity must focus on the creation of an environment which breeds a corruption- free society as also on laws that decisively, and within a short time-frame, punish those who indulge in it.

The principle of accountability, however, will only work if it is equitably applicable to all, even though the institutional framework for doing so may vary depending on the institution and in some cases, the circumstances. While crafting a framework, the framers need to be careful and consider some of the necessary principles.

The principle of 'balance of power' should not get diluted as we develop a framework. The dictum that absolute power corrupts absolutely is an important principle to remember. Hence, the Lok Pal should not be allowed an excessive concentration of power as that has the potential of destroying the very outcome one is trying to achieve.

The framework must also distinguish between corruption that afflicts public good as against corruption which affects individuals and private institutions without serious consequences on public interest. An ethically correct and efficient system is what should be adopted, and, if necessary, we can have more than one kind, so long as the objectives are well served.

The framework must be able to prevent the misuse of power - public or private. Having said so, the framework for controlling these two centres of power need not necessarily be the same. The proposed Lok Pal should address the misuse of 'public power' and should ensure that public assets and resources are used to promote only public good. Equally important is the need to strengthen existing institutions like SEBI, Economic Offences Wing etc. to check the misuse of private power. These latter institutions should remain independent of influence from the private sector.

At the heart of a successful system for curbing corruption is the independence of the Judging/Reviewing authority. There should be no link between those being judged and those sitting in judgment. Any link between the two will create a conflict of interest, allowing for the possibility of corrupt practices taking root.

Currently all the institutions holding public power come either directly or indirectly under the executive arm of the government. When it comes to law makers in Parliament, there is no institutional framework to oversee their potential misuse of power. In both cases the creation of an independent Lok Pal will substantially add to our ability to curtail the misuse of public power for private benefit.

When it comes to the Judiciary, allowing more resources, simplifying the CPC and using technology are measures that can add to the efficacy of judicial functioning and reduce corrupt practices in the judicial system. There is already a system of impeachment that can bring to book corrupt members of the Judiciary. The successful conduct and culmination of a recent case is proof that the system works.

It is important that we should not succumb to the suggestion of including the Corporate sector within the ambit of the Lok Pal because in some simplistic rendition it appears to be the fair thing to do. This would be pandering to the galleries but would be devoid of any merit. However it is important for the private sector to recognise that people today perceive the private sector using its power to the detriment of public good. It would be in the interest of Corporate India to address such misconceptions and put peers under (moral) pressure to prevent such misuse.

To foster a corruption free environment, it is of utmost importance to minimise the interface between Government and Citizens, Civil Society and Corporates. Widespread use of technology, simplification of procedures, reduction of discretion and greater transparency, backed by mission mode implementation should deliver the desired results.

It is now well established that scarcities are often a fertile ground for the breeding of corrupt activity. This was hugely evident earlier and continues to exist today in sectors like health, education, PDS etc. The government should come out of its current policy paralysis and focus on supply side policy reforms for enhancing availability of goods and services that are currently in scarce supply. Better availability of, for instance, quality education and health services will greatly contribute to a happier citizenry.

Finally, much has been said about whether the prime minister should come under the ambit of the Lok Pal or not. It must be the case that whilst no one, or institution, should be above the law it is also true that the highest office of the Govt and the country should have an unfettered ability to lead the nation, and hence whilst in office the Lok Pal should have no oversight over him/her. On demitting office the person should come under the Lok Pal's ambit.

(The author is Mentor and Chairman Emeritus , Fortis Healthcare(India) Ltd)

Too much power concentrated in the Lok Pal will be counterproductive

Laws alone cannot rid the country of corruption

Existing anti-corruption institutions need to be strengthened

The Lok Pal should confine itself with corruption affecting the public good

Corporate bodies should not be brought under the Lok Pal

The private sector should be allowed to self-regulate

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On the record by 
Lack of infrastructure can no longer be an excuse
Rakesh Lohumi

Vidya StokesVidya Stokes, who reigned over the Indian Women's Hockey Federation for over three decades, favours bringing sports bodies under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as proposed in the draft National Sports Development Bill and welcomes steps to bring transparency in the functioning of sports bodies. Her hectic life belies her age. At 84 she is as active as ever. A fitness buff, she has been on a non-cereal diet for over four decades.

What is holding back the Indian Hockey ?

Lack of infrastructure is no longer an excuse. Astroturf has been laid at a number of stadia and Delhi alone has three such fields. Training facilities are also world class but we do need good coaches and we should not have any reservations in hiring foreign coaches. There is no dearth of good coaches in the country but foreign coaches have become essential as the game and its rules have undergone a sea change. They are not only fully aware of the rules but also well-versed with the new techniques and styles being followed by our rivals. Also they are more disciplined and see to it that players also follow discipline during training.

The problem is on the physical front as modern hockey is a power game and one has to be strong and more than hundred per cent fit to deliver at the international level. Unfortunately, our players lack the physical strength and stamina and the traditional dietary habits have much to do with it. Our girls, in particular, struggle with vegetarian diet on foreign tours.

You recently blamed KPS Gill for the crisis in Indian hockey. What do you expect him to do ?

Gill has been unnecessarily interfering in the functioning of the official body and indulging in needless litigation. He wanted to get his man included, which is not possible in an elected body. It is time that he appreciates the ground reality, gives up his adamant attitude and instead of relentlessly trying to undermine Hockey India, make efforts to promote the game. It will be better for the game and all those associated with him.

Most of the sports bodies continue to oppose moves to regulate their functioning. They clearly do not want any 'government control'. What is your take ?

The clamour for regulating the sports bodies is a relatively recent phenomenon but I had resigned as President of the Indian Women's Hockey Federation when there was talk of limiting the tenure of office bearers after Rajiv Gandhi took over as Prime Minister. However, there was stiff opposition from others and after a few months I was persuaded to withdraw the resignation. I find nothing objectionable in bringing the sports bodies under the purview of the Right to Information Act as it will ensure transparency in their functioning.

You had a rather long stint as President of the Indian Women's Hockey Federation. Are you happy with the proposal to limit the tenure of the office bearers ?

There is no harm in putting a cap on the number of terms a person can hold an office as a safeguard against sports bodies being reduced to personal fiefdoms by vested interests. I headed the Indian Women's Hockey Federation for almost three decades only because the members wanted me to continue. I was not keen to contest the controversial election to the post of President of Hockey India (HI) but I was thrown into the arena as a majority of the members felt that I was the strongest candidate to ensure the defeat of former captain Pargat Singh, backed by the rival camp. However, I resigned within a few months as the new responsibility, particularly the crisis plaguing the game in the country, asked for too much time which I could not spare.

What prompted you to take interest in sports, particularly hockey?

It was largely because of my brother, Prakash, who happened to be a national hockey player. At that time there was no women's hockey and girls were hardly encouraged to take up sports. However, I used to watch his matches and also exercised a lot along with him to keep fit. He was a dedicated sportsman and a fitness buff who always motivated me. I used to enjoy horse riding, ice skating and others sports in his company. The good habits I picked from him as a teenager have indeed helped me keep healthy and fit. He was also a keen mountaineer and regularly went for trekking and expeditions. During one such expedition in the Darjeeling area, he caught pneumonia. It was a severe attack and he succumbed before he could be brought down and given medical assistance.

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PROFILE 
The bacteria tracker
BY Harihar Swarup

Tuberculosis kills two people every three minutes in this country, maintains Dr K. Narayanswamy Balaji, a recipient of this year's Shani Swarup Bhatnagar Award for Science and Technology. An Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the young research scientist warns that time is running out and new medicines are required to fight the newer, more sophisticated and drug-resistant strains of the disease, which has begun afflicting even the affluent and in the urban areas.

TB is increasingly becoming difficult to tackle, needing a new line of drugs. Not only has the bacteria become multi- resistant, it is now increasingly associated with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. Dr Balaji has done intensive research in this sphere. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize committee cited his research on the mechanism the TB bacteria uses to alter the body's immune response to its own benefit. According to Dr. Balaji's research, an understanding of this pathway could lead to effective drug design.

TB can no longer be considered the poor man's disease. People all over the world, and in urban areas, are contracting TB. Indeed, a third of the world's population is currently infected with the TB bacillus, points out the scientist. The drugs used in India , he recalls, were actually developed in the 1970s. Decades have passed since then and, new, resistant strains of the disease have developed. Much of the delay in development of new drugs can be attributed to the widely prevalent prejudice surrounding the "the third-world disease" till recently. With the 'First Two Worlds' showing no interest in developing drugs, the initiative has to come from the 'Third World', underscores Balaji.

People with diabetes, post-operative patients, pregnant women and children-anyone whose immune system is weak or suspect-- are particularly vulnerable to TB. What makes TB difficult to cure is the sophisticated biology it uses to dodge both drug therapy and the body's natural immune system. "One, its cell-wall is highly fortified and quite impermeable to drugs; two, the bacteria can travel from the site of infection and find new hiding places in other organs, mostly lungs, and find new hiding places in other organs such as the stomach and the brain; finally, it has the ability to remain latent--- for decades together-and emerge to infect the patient again", he explains. On the positive side, there is a growing awareness abut the disease. "There is a new thrust for drug development in India and abroad, that looks at directly targeting the bug. Both active and latent ones. But it could be several years before new therapies enter the market".

Given out annually by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for notable and outstanding research, applied or fundamental, in Biology. Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine and Physics, the award seeks to recognise outstanding Indian work in science and technology. It is the highest award for science in India. The award is named after the founder Director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar. The award comprises a citation, a plaque, and a cash award of Rs. 500,000. In addition, the recipients also get Rs. 15,000 per month up to the age of 65 years. 

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