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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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O P I N I O N S

Fifty Fifty
When one has it all, and yet nothing
Loneliness is the biggest worry, and can even kill when people start skipping meals or having unhealthy life styles since there is no one to care about them.
Kishwar Desai
All over the world, governments are not just measuring the Gross Domestic Product, but also examining changing life styles and relationships as these affect both the happiness and health of the population.

Guest Column
Operation Zarbe Azb will throw many challenges
Pakistanis are waiting for the final move with caution and concern, while hopeful that a more secure, terror-free future lies ahead.

Nasim Zehra
After having stayed with the dialogue option for almost eight months, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifís government has finally gone for the long-awaited Operation Zarbe Azb (the sharp cut), named after the sword of the Prophet Mohammad.


SUNDAY SPECIALS

OPINIONS
PERSPECTIVE
PEOPLE
PRIME CONCERN

GROUND ZERO


EARLIER STORIES

Taking on black money
June 21, 2014
Governors and governance
June 20, 2014
Battered Iraq
June 19, 2014
Temples of learning
June 18, 2014
Cementing ties
June 17, 2014
Badalís agenda
June 16, 2014
Turbulence in Iraq: A boost to political Islam
June 15, 2014
Extremist advance
June 14, 2014
Transition from CM to PM
June 13, 2014


ground zero
Why the Iraq crisis will define Modi 
Any lives that are lost in Iraq would reflect adversely against the Modi government. Also, our immigration recording system is a dinosaur as compared to the technology available and needs an urgent revamp.
Raj Chengappa
To say the situation is grim in Iraq is an understatement. But for India, which has high stakes in Iraq, the conflict has become a major foreign policy challenge for the Narendra Modi government. Topmost is the fate of 86 Indians, 40 of whom are from Punjab, who have either been abducted or held in captivity in North Iraq by a ruthless jihadi army called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) with links to the feared Al Qaeda.







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Fifty Fifty
When one has it all, and yet nothing
Loneliness is the biggest worry, and can even kill when people start skipping meals or having unhealthy life styles since there is no one to care about them.
Kishwar Desai

All over the world, governments are not just measuring the Gross Domestic Product, but also examining changing life styles and relationships as these affect both the happiness and health of the population. In the UK, the results of the latest survey on contentment and well being, done at the behest of Prime Minister David Cameron, by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) give a somewhat disturbing picture of how the British view themselves. The GDP obviously does not reflect the state of a nationís happiness!

And yet for so many, simply living in Europe is the ultimate dream because it offers greater avenues of success. For those migrating to the UK, for instance, especially when coming from countries like India, it might be a question of escaping poverty, or unemployment. That also means that the migrant population might face many more challenges: but reading about the ONS report one wonders if those who come from outside the UK might actually be happier than the local population!


Where does one go for happiness?
Where does one go for happiness?

Perhaps the Brits enjoy being gloomy, but things do appear bleak with the country ranked 11th among the 28 European nations which were measured in the league of happiness. One of the most worrying factors to emerge was the loneliness experienced by the British, as one in every eight says that they have no one to visit, or even to speak to. Of course, some of these factors are due to the population living to an older age, possibly aggravating the feeling of isolation. And loneliness apparently has a huge impact on health as it leads to depression. Loneliness, in fact, has been measured as being as detrimental as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So while eight out of 10 might feel they have a happy family life, it is puzzling as to how, in the long run, this does not provide support. I was shocked to learn that there are many in the UK, especially among the older age group, who go through months without exchanging a word with anyone else.

Of course, I would imagine that many of these problems do not exist in the immigrant communities. Most Asians, for instance, tend to cling to each other when they settle abroad. Loneliness is also kept at bay because the whole family will live together. The community, too, tends to be fairly parochial about their culture, and in the past set up their own shops as well as places of worship, which have become meeting grounds for migrants, keeping loneliness at bay. These spaces thus are very crucial to keep the conversation going.

Ironically, the British, obviously need to create more social spaces for themselves, especially once the children leave home, or if the family breaks up. The local pub might not be enough, while cultural activities might be too expensive or elitist.

Some other countries have begun to find solutions to these issues. The Germans particularly have been very responsive and started setting up inter-generational homes, where people of different generations tend to gather or even live together. They have found, for instance, that within an old peopleís home, it makes sense to have perhaps a play school which young children can come to. Then it is likely that their parents will also be present, and all three generations can interact with each other. This obviously makes the atmosphere much more healthy, instead of just having all the elderly together in one place, and all the younger people accommodated elsewhere. And so, even if the three generations do not have any immediate family link with each other, some kind of family grouping can be created.

Thus, little children can find temporary grandparents, and vice versa, and this has been seen to have a healthy impact on all the generations. Obviously some out of the box thinking will have to be done in the UK as well to ensure that people do not get too alienated or lonely.

Who would have thought that as we become more prosperous and live longer other problems and issues might start cropping up? Loneliness is the biggest worry, and can even kill when people start skipping meals or having unhealthy life styles, since there is no one to care about them. Even social media aggravates loneliness, both amongst those who are savvy and can use it, and those who don't. The younger age group should be warned that spending too much time in the virtual world alienates one from real emotions. It is the physical presence of people which allows us to keep evolving, and perhaps even remain stable.

In Europe, among countries which fare better in the happiness league table, is Denmark, at the top. And Bulgaria is at the bottom. All of this should make us realise that perhaps we need to look at the whole concept of happiness once again. Didn't someone wise once say: ultimately, happiness lies within you?

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Guest Column
Operation Zarbe Azb will throw many challenges
Pakistanis are waiting for the final move with caution and concern, while hopeful that a more secure, terror-free future lies ahead.
Nasim Zehra

After having stayed with the dialogue option for almost eight months, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifís government has finally gone for the long-awaited Operation Zarbe Azb (the sharp cut), named after the sword of the Prophet Mohammad. Cleared by the government, using airpower, regular troops, commandos, intelligence, tanks and artillery, the military leadership believes Zarbe Azb can destroy terrorist sanctuaries, principally in North Waziristan. For at least a decade, first the military command and subsequently the political leaders avoided undertaking a large-scale operation in the Tehreek-i-Talibaan Pakistanís (TTP) primary base.


Families fleeing the operation area
Families fleeing the operation area. Reuters

Over the last couple of years, the political parties passed at least two resolutions demonstrating political unity on trying the dialogue option with the Tehreek-i-Talibaan. Finally, the June 8 attack on the old Karachi airport ended the vacillation on the question of a large-scale operation. Instead of ifs and buts, an all-out operation is under way. It was the attack on the airport that struck the death knell for the dialogue process. Barring Jamaat-i-Islami, all of Pakistanís political parties support Operation Zarbe Azb. Imran Khanís party PTI and JUI have, however, supported it with some reservations. Among the multiple challenges that confront Pakistan and the government, especially with regard to the operation, four are noteworthy. The political challenge of unifying political forces and the people on the need for the operation is the key, especially given the fear of blowback in the urban areas. Pakistani people, hit by hundreds of attacks every year, have remained skeptical of the stateís ability to provide security to its citizens. Mindful of both the terrorist threat and the skepticism regarding the governmentís track record, only a clear articulation by the Prime Minister of the problem will give the people the confidence that the risks attached to this military operation are worth taking.

The Prime Minister opted for the military public relations department to announce the operation instead of announcing it in a national address. The operation, which is viewed by the majority in Pakistan, requires complete backing by the government. The Prime Ministerís support only now seems to be rolling in. He has addressed the national Assembly on the issue and visited the Corps Headquarters of the Peshawar Corps which is leading the operation.

However in the last 72 hours, the Punjab government has managed to produce perhaps the gravest challenge ever faced ever by the PML-N government. With 20 people dead in police firing on the supporters of fire-brand religio-political Dr Tahir ul Qadri, the opposition is fast putting pressure to remove Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Prime Ministerís younger brother. A worse political distraction at this critical point would have hardly been conceivable.

Then there is the challenge of protecting the urban areas where terrorists have shown their lethal presence through thousands of attacks over the last few years. Schools, shopping centres, mosques, churches, burial procession, dargahs, prime military, police and intelligence facilities have centres. Deadly attacks on politicians, generals and police personnel clearly signals to the ability of the terroristsí presence within the urban centres. The government has deployed military and paramilitary forces in several cities. There is red alert in Pakistanís key cities. People realise that foolproof security against terrorist attacks is almost impossible.

The third internal challenge is linked to the outflow of civilians from the operation area. In an effort to reduce civilian casualties, the government and the military are both encouraging civilians to vacate the operation area. More than 5,00,000 civilians are already moving out. Issues ranging from the provision for food and shelter as well as security, all require elaborate government arrangements. The chances of terrorists getting Ďlostí within these internal displaced persons (IDPs) is also a serious issue.

Finally, the challenge on the external front is the Afghan factor. With the TTP sanctuaries in the areas of Kunar and Nooristan, and the established routes to the north of Bajaur ó the tribal agency neighbouring the operation area ó TTP militants are using them to conduct operations in Pakistan. Already the militant leaders who escaped to Afghanistan after the 2009 Swat operation have settled in the Afghan sanctuaries ever since. Between Kabul and Islamabad it has been the Fazullah versus the Haqqani network contest. Islamabad has repeatedly accused Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies of aiding the TTP against Pakistani targets. Pakistan has conveyed its request to the Afghan leadership and to the ISF commanders diplomatically and politically.

The Prime Ministerís special envoy leader, Mahmud Khan Achakzai, met with President Karzai two days ago. Pakistan is requesting that the routes near Bajaur should be sealed and there should be more effective surveillance. Pakistanís army chief, Gen Raheel Shareef, too, in a meeting with the Afghan ambassador in Pakistan has sought Afghan deployment to discourage the militants from crossing over to the Afghan sanctuaries once the operation begins.

The operation is likely to go into full swing in the next couple of weeks. Until then, the focus is on cordoning the areas and ensuring civilians move out of the area. Pakistanis are waiting for the final move with caution and concern, while hopeful that a more secure, terror-free future lies ahead.

The writer is a Pak-based anchor

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