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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

EDITORIAL 03.05.11

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month may 03, edition 000822, csollected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.

















































































  4. 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers  - By Sumaiya Rizvi
















Nato's airstrikes on Saturday that killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Arab, along with three of his grandchildren, deserve to be unequivocally condemned. Col Gaddafi may have been a terrible leader — a brutal dictator even — but that does not give the Nato-led military forces the authority to target his home and his family. Of course there is that very conveniently loosely-worded UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which has served as an excuse for a large-scale military intervention in Libya, but even that resolution states in clear terms that the assassination of the leader or members of his family is not part of the mandate. The UNSC resolution only provides for the protection of Libyan civilians from Col Gaddafi's forces. Yet, the question remains how, exactly, do you protect these people without launching a direct military attack against Col Gaddafi? The answer is you can't, especially given Libya's current proxy civil war situation. And policy-makers in the West who are directing the military operation have always been aware of this dichotomy; more so, they have constantly taken advantage of the same to legitimise attempts to depose Col Gaddafi and usher a regime change in Libya. Saturday's killer attacks on the now discredited leader's home in Tripoli — an attack that he escaped by the skin of his teeth — only serve as additional proof.

Nato has taken great pains to explain that its forces did not intend to kill Col Gaddafi or his family. On Sunday, Canadian Lt-Gen Charles Bouchard, who is commander of the air campaign, emphasised that killing the Libyan leadership is not Nato's mission, adding, "Our mission is to stop the harming of civilians. The rest is somebody else's job." His words echoed the sentiments voiced months earlier by a senior American official during a Pentagon Press briefing, who said similar things but then added that if Col Gaddafi happened to be at the site of an airstrike, let's say inspecting weapons at his arms depot, and his team, unaware of the dictator's presence, launched an attack, then… He did not complete the sentence, but it was an eerie prophecy. The unexpectedly harsh criticism from Russian authorities, hence, is not without reason. The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed "serious doubts" over statements by the coalition members that the airstrikes were not meant to kill Col Gaddafi and stated that "the disproportional use of force...beyond the mandate of UNSC leading to harmful consequences and the death of civilians." This is definitely a wise assessment as is evident in the increased shelling of rebel positions by pro-Gaddafi forces. Moreover, Col Gaddafi has used the death of his son as a tool to seek sympathy and it appears to be working.







The world is no doubt a far better, if not safer, place with Osama bin Laden no longer alive to preach his perverse ideology of hate and revel in the slaying of innocent men, women and children which did not, in the least, bother him all these years. Humankind can do without such monsters with an insatiable thirst for blood in its midst. There are of course those who are enraged by the CIA-directed operation carried out by the elite US Navy Seals that has neutralised the most dreaded — and most wanted — terrorist with near zero collateral damage, but there is no reason to be fearful of them. Neither should we feel any sympathy, or even pity, for the orphaned jihadis of Osama bin Laden, nor should we excessively worry about Al Qaeda, which Osama bin Laden founded along with the Egyptian jihadi Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the many terrorist organisations it has spawned avenging their leader's death by launching terror strikes: They have been killing ruthlessly and they shall continue to do so till such time the last 'soldier of god' in their ranks is put down, which will perhaps take a long time but no longer appears impossible. If the man who successfully evaded detection for a decade after bringing down the Twin Towers in New York on September 9, 2001, could be traced to his fortified hideout, others, too, can be hunted down. The successful mission to neutralise Osama bin Laden has sent out a strong message: The world must remain resolute in its commitment to eradicate terrorism; this is also a moment to acknowledge that Mr George W Bush, whom the Left-liberals love to deride, had it right all along.

That said, it would be in order to raise three issues that directly impinge on India's national interest. First, the fact that Osama bin Laden was tracked down to not merely Pakistan but a house in Abbottabad, a short distance from Islamabad and which is for all practical purposes a cantonment town with a huge military presence and the Kakul Military Academy, makes it abundantly clear that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex has a lot to answer for. Neither the Government nor the Army of Pakistan can pretend either surprise or ignorance: Osama bin Laden could not have been staying in Abbottabad in a safe house built in 2005 without the knowledge of the Islamabad-Rawalpindi establishment. Pakistan now stands exposed to the whole world as a complicit partner in the business of exporting terror. Second, the US, too, owes an explanation. It is amazing that the American Administration should continue to write out billion-dollar cheques to Pakistan for its 'cooperation' in the war on terror. Worse, the US insists that India should toe the American line, which our Prime Minister is only too happy to do. Third, although it is too early to speculate on the details, Osama bin Laden's killing will have a profound impact on the US's AfPak policy. Now that "justice has been done" — to quote US President Barack Obama — will the Americans lose interest in keeping the Taliban at bay in Afghanistan? Will they slowly but firmly shift towards a position that Pakistan should be allowed to control Afghan affairs and determine that country's destiny? If that were to happen, where would it leave India? Will pressure now mount on Mr Manmohan Singh to scale down India's presence in Afghanistan so that the US's "frontline ally" in the war on terror can be appeased?








Rather than join the battle against corruption in high places, the Congress-led Government is busy trying to tar the reputation of those leading the campaign.

The United Progressive Alliance Government was virtually on its knees in the first week of April when Anna Hazare began his indefinite fast demanding a strong Lok Pal Bill and induction of 'civil society' members into a committee that would draft the law. Mr Hazare's Gandhian, non-violent and disciplined protest caught the imagination of citizens across the land and was snowballing into a massive nation-wide movement. Shaken by the movement's instant popularity, the Manmohan Singh Government, which had grossly misjudged the peoples' anger vis-à-vis corruption, quickly gave into Mr Hazare's demand and announced a 10-member committee to draft the Bill.

Having survived the scare, the Congress opened its bag of tricks, a few days hence. Anxious to get even with Mr Hazare and his fellow travellers, the party's leaders picked on individual members of this group. A Commission of Inquiry report, which was gathering dust in Maharashtra, was pulled out to show that Mr Hazare was "tainted" — he had spent, without authorisation, a couple of lakhs of rupees on a birthday celebration.

Justice Santosh Hegde, the Karnataka Lok Ayukta, who is having a running battle with the Yeddyurappa Government, was scoffed at for not being "efficient enough" to curb corruption in that State. Mr Shanti Bhushan and his sons were first"exposed" via an audio CD and thereafter criticised for getting lucrative farmland allotments from the Mayawati Government in Uttar Pradesh. However, before it launched the anti-Hazare campaign, the Congress targetted Baba Ramdev, who has been campaigning for strong measures to bring back black money stashed away by politicians and businessmen in Swiss banks and other secret offshore accounts.

There can be no doubt that the party's efforts have paid some dividends. It has certainly dented the image of Mr Hazare and his team, and members of the dirty tricks department of the Congress must be feeling mighty thrilled about themselves. But their happiness could be short-lived.

In fact, far from getting any relief, the UPA Government could well be heading into a storm in the second half of 2011. Here are four reasons why:

First, the Supreme Court is breathing down the Government's neck and keeping up relentless pressure to ensure proper and timely investigation of cases pertaining to the 2G Spectrum scam, the Hasan Ali case and secret bank accounts abroad.

Second, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, which are under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court, have begun to deliver results and are promising to put a lot more material before the court after the summer recess.

Third, Mr Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, the dreaded destroyer of reputations, has issued a warning and said the names of Indians holding illegal bank accounts in Switzerland will be out someday. The people of India should not lose hope, he says, and assures that WikiLeaks will not succumb to pressure.

Fourth, Baba Ramdev, the renowned yoga guru who has millions of followers in the country and abroad, has set June 4 as the date for the launch of a satyagraha along with one lakh followers at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi to force the Union Government to act on several corruption-related issues.

Take the developments in the Supreme Court. The apex court has been unrelenting and its watchful gaze has forced the CBI and the ED to step up their inquiry into the 2G Spectrum scam and unearth the money trail vis-à-vis Swan Telecom and Kalaignar TV. It has forced the Government to announce a 10-member high-power committee headed by the Revenue Secretary to probe illegal bank deposits of Indians in foreign countries.

The Government announced the setting up of the committee after a Bench of the Supreme Court suggested that a Special Investigating Team, headed by a retired judge, could be constituted to monitor the investigations. It asked the Government why was the investigation confined to the Hasan Ali case. Sensing the court's mood, the Government announced the appointment of the committee which will comprise top officials from the CBI, the ED, the Reserve Bank of India, the chairman of CBDT and others.

Everyone is aware of the impact the court's observations are having on the reputation of the Government. Meanwhile, Mr Assange has announced in an interview to Times Now that the WikiLeaks bomb may explode anytime, exposing those who have secret accounts in foreign banks. Some of his observations are ominous and should make every Indian sit up.

For example, Mr Assange says Indians have the maximum deposits in Swiss banks among all nationalities; that Indian names are very much there in the leaked lists of account-holders; and, that the Government of India is just not serious about pursuing the wrong-doers.

As if all this were not enough, Baba Ramdev's Bharat Swabhiman Andolan has announced that he would be launching a 'Brashtachar Mitao Satyagrah' from June 4. Baba Ramdev plans to get one lakh people to join the fast with him to press for rigourous anti-corruption measures. His demands include: Enactment of a strong Lok Pal Bill by August 2011; declaration of all illegal wealth held by Indians in foreign countries as national property; immediate ratification of the UN Convention against Corruption; and, recall and re-issue of all high denomination currency (like Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes).

Baba Ramdev has been running a nation-wide campaign for the recovery of funds stashed by corrupt Indian politicians and businessmen in Switzerland and other countries and for demonetisation of currency to unearth black money. Considering the massive turnout at his rallies — be it in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana or Delhi — he is someone who is not to be trifled with. In fact, there is not a single politician in the country who commands a following which is comparable to that of Baba Ramdev. The yoga guru's decision to take his anti-corruption movement to a new level next month should be a matter of concern not only for the Congress but also for the entire political class.

While each of these time bombs are ticking away, there are leaders at 24, Akbar Road, New Delhi, who are gloating over the petty points they have scored over Mr Hazare and his friends. They think that the anti-corruption movement hinges solely on the reputation of a few members of 'Team Hazare' and public anger against rapacious politicians will subside once the credibility of some members of this team is called into question. Since the days of Mahabharat there is just one term to describe such stupidity on the part of rulers — Vinaash kale vipareet buddhi.






Osama bin Laden's death could be far more damaging psychologically than operationally. Yet we are unlikely to witness any immediate dramatic decline in Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism globally, write Adam Goldman & Matt Apuzzo


US intelligence officials believe Al Qaeda will have a hard time recovering from the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden.

After all, his heir apparent, Ayman al-Zawahri, is a harsh, divisive figure who lacks the charisma and mystique that Osana bin Laden used to hold together Al Qaeda's various factions. Without Osama bin Laden's iconic figure running Al Qaeda, intelligence officials believe the group could splinter and weaken.

But if there is one thing Al Qaeda has proved it is able to do, it is adapt to adversity. Its foot soldiers learned to stay off their cellphones to avoid US wiretaps. Their technical wizards cooked up cutting edge encryption software that flummoxed American code-breakers. And a would-be bomber managed to defeat billions of dollars in airline security upgrades with explosives tucked in his underwear.

Osama bin Laden's death, by an American bullet to the head in a raid on his fortified Pakistani hideout early Monday, came 15 years after he declared war on the United States and nearly a decade after he carried out the worst attacks on US soil. But the Al Qaeda network he leaves behind is far different from the one behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Today, Al Qaeda's core in Pakistan is constantly on the run, hiding from US Predator drones. Communication is slow. The ability to plan, finance and carry out attacks has been greatly reduced. Al Qaeda franchises have sprung up in Yemen, Iraq and Algeria, where terrorists fight local grievances under the global banner of jihad.

In that regard, Osama bin Laden's death could be far more damaging psychologically than operationally. Al-Zawahri has been running Al Qaeda operations for years as Osama bin Laden cut himself off from the outside world. There were no phone or Internet lines running into his compound. And he used a multi-layered courier system to pass messages. It was old-fashioned and safe but it made taking part in any operation practically impossible. Osama bin Laden had been reduced to a figurehead by the time US commandoes eliminated him, counterterrorism experts say.

Today, the greatest terrorist threat to the US is considered to be the Al Qaeda franchise in Yemen, far from Al Qaeda's core in Pakistan. The Yemen branch almost took down a US-bound airliner on Christmas 2009 and nearly detonated explosives aboard two US cargo planes last fall. Those operations were carried out without any direct involvement from Osama bin Laden.

Al Qaeda's leadership in Yemen has also managed to do what Osama bin Laden never could: Adapt the message for Western audiences and package it in English. The terrorist magazine Inspire, coaches would-be bombers on how to make explosives. It teaches them that they don't need to seek training in Pakistan or Yemen, where they could be intercepted by US spies. Rather, they are instructed to become one-man terror cells that pick targets and carry out attacks without any instruction from Al Qaeda's core leadership.

Osama bin Laden was more of a symbol than anything else, said Qaribut Ustad Saeed, a long-time member of the Hezb-e-Islami rebel group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the US has labeled a terrorist. Saeed is currently a member of the Afghan High Peace Council set up to try to negotiate a peace settlement with the Taliban. Osama bin Laden's loss will be an inspirational one, rather than an operational one, he said.

"Osama bin Laden became a symbol and inspiration for the young Muslim extremists," he said. But the group has expanded into a worldwide movement that is now bigger than Osama bin Laden," he said.

Even if the US manages to find and kill Zawahri, whose last-known sighting was in Peshawar in 2003, it won't mean the end of Al Qaeda. Like Hamas and Hizbullah who have seen their leaders eliminated, Al Qaeda will probably continue to exist, terrorism experts say.

Within hours of Osama bin Laden's death, for instance, members of groups affiliated with the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in Pakistan were already promising that the day-to-day mission on the ground would not change.






Reviled in the civilised world as the personification of evil, Osama bin Laden was admired by radical Islamists who embraced his vision of jihad, says Paul Haven

Osama bin Laden was born into one of Saudi Arabia's most prosperous families, but he left home in search of revolution, found a path of fanaticism, inspired a murderous organisation that terrorised the West, and ultimately became the most wanted man in the world.

The most intense manhunt in history finally caught up with Osama bin Laden, whose money and rageful preaching inspired the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and ripped a hole in America's sense of security in the world.

Reviled in the West as the personification of evil, Osama bin Laden was admired and even revered by some radical Muslims who embraced his vision of unending jihad against the United States and Arab Governments he deemed as infidels.

His actions set off a chain of events that led the United States into wars in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and a clandestine war against extreme Islamic adherents that touched scores of countries on every continent but Antarctica. America's entire intelligence apparatus was overhauled to counter the threat of more terror attacks at home.

Osama bin Laden, 54, was killed in an operation led by the United States, President Barack Obama said Sunday, touching off scenes of jubilation at the site of the World Trade Center, in Washington and elsewhere. A small team of Americans carried out the attack early Monday in Pakistan, and took custody of Osama bin Laden's remains, which were quickly buried at sea.

Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organisation has also been blamed for the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa that killed 231 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.

Perhaps as significant was his ability — even from hiding — to inspire a new generation of terrorists to murder in his name. Most of Al Qaeda's top lieutenants have been killed or captured in the years since September 11, 2001, and intelligence officials in Europe and Asia say they now see a greater threat from homegrown radical groups energised by Osama bin Laden's cause.

As his years in hiding dragged on, he became less and less of a presence. Revolutions and upheaval in West Asia and North Africa in recent months were largely inspired by young people seeking economic and political freedom, rather than Osama bin Laden's radical vision of an Islamic caliphate ruled by shariah law.

Al Qaeda is not thought to have provided logistical or financial support to the group of North African Muslims who pulled off the March 11, 2004, bombings in Madrid, Spain — which killed 191 people — but they were certainly inspired by its dream of worldwide jihad. Likewise, no link has been established between Al Qaeda's leadership and the four British Muslim suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London on July 7, 2005, but few believe the attack would have taken place had Osama bin Laden not aroused the passions of young Muslim radicals the world over.

The war in Iraq — justified in part by erroneous intelligence that suggested Saddam Hussein had both weapons of mass destruction and a link to Al Qaeda — became a cauldron in which some of the world's next generation of terrorists honed skills.

Al Qaeda took advantage of the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq — helping to drag the United States into a quagmire that led to the death of some 5,000 American troops, and many scores of thousands of Iraqis.

Indeed, Osama bin Laden's legacy is a world still very much on edge.

Terms like dirty bomb, full-body scan and weapons of mass destruction became staples of the global vocabulary; and others like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition fuelled a burning anger in the Muslim world. But long before Osama bin Laden became the world's most hunted man, few believed fate would move him in that direction.

Osama bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia on March 10, 1957. He became known as the most pious of the sons among his wealthy father's 54 children. Osama bin Laden's path to militant Islam began as a teenager in the 1970s when he got caught up in the fundamentalist movement then sweeping Saudi Arabia. He was a voracious reader of Islamic literature and listened to weekly sermons in the holy city of Mecca.

Thin, bearded and over six feet (1.83 metres) tall, Osama bin Laden joined the Afghans' war against invading Soviet troops in the 1980s and gained a reputation as a courageous and resourceful commander. Access to his family's considerable construction fortune certainly helped raise his profile among the mujahideen fighters.

At the time, Osama bin Laden's interests converged with those of the United States, which backed the 'holy war' against Soviet occupation with money and arms.

When Osama bin Laden returned home to Saudi Arabia, he was showered with praise and donations and was in demand as a speaker in mosques and homes. It did not take long for his aims to diverge from those of his former Western supporters.

"When we buy American goods, we are accomplices in the murder of Palestinians," he said in one of the cassettes made of his speeches from those days. A seminal moment in Osama bin Laden's life came in 1990, when US troops landed on Saudi soil to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.

Osama bin Laden tried to dissuade the Government from allowing non-Muslim armies into the land where the Prophet Muhammad gave birth to Islam, but the Saudi leadership turned to the United States to protect its vast oil reserves. When Osama bin Laden continued criticising Riyadh's close alliance with Washington, he was stripped of Saudi citizenship.

Osama bin Laden had a knack for staying alive. After being kicked out of Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden sought refuge in Sudan. The African country acceded to a US request and offered to turn Osama bin Laden over to Saudi Arabia in 1996, but his native country declined, afraid a trial would destabilise the country.

Back on familiar terrain in Afghanistan — allowed in by the Government of Burhanuddin Rabbani — Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network prepared for the holy war that turned him into Washington's No. 1 enemy.

When the Taliban — who would eventually give him refuge — first took control of Kabul in September 1996, Osama bin Laden and his Arab followers kept a low profile, uncertain of their welcome under the new regime. The Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar called Osama bin Laden to southern Kandahar from his headquarters in Tora Bora and eventually through large and continual financial contributions to the isolated Taliban, Osama bin Laden became dependent on the religious militia for his survival.

In Afghanistan, he would wake before dawn for prayers, then eat a simple breakfast of cheese and bread. He closely monitored world affairs. Almost daily, he and his men — Egyptians, Yemenis, Saudis, among others — practiced attacks, hurling explosives at targets and shooting at imaginary enemies.

He also went horseback riding, his favourite hobby, and enjoyed playing traditional healer, often prescribing honey, his favourite food, and herbs to treat colds and other illnesses. In Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was often accompanied by his four wives — the maximum Islam allows. Estimates on the number of his children range up to 23.

Al Qaeda's first major strike after Osama bin Laden returned to Afghanistan was on August 7, 1998, when twin explosions rocked US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Most of the victims were African passers-by, but the bombings also killed 12 Americans.

Days later, Osama bin Laden escaped a cruise missile strike on one of his training camps in Afghanistan launched by the United States in retaliation. Osama bin Laden is believed to have been at the Zhawar Kili Al-Badr camp for a meeting with several of his top men, but left shortly before some 70 Tomahawk cruise missiles slammed into the dusty complex.

Since September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden stayed a step ahead of the dragnet — perhaps the largest in history for a single individual.

As the Taliban quickly fell under pressure of the US bombardment, Osama bin Laden fled into the inhospitable mountains in the seam that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan, keeping up a spotty stream of chatter — first in video tapes and then in scratchy audio recordings — to warn his Western pursuers of more bloodshed.

Just hours after the US assault on Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, Osama bin Laden appeared in a video delivered to Al-Jazeera, an Arab satellite television station, to issue a threat to America.

"I swear by god... neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before we live it in Palestine, and not before all the infidel Armies leave the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him," said Osama bin Laden, dressed in fatigues.

He reappeared in a video appearance broadcast by Al-Jazeera on December 27, 2001, shortly after US forces apparently had him cornered in Tora Bora, a giant cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. Hundreds of Al Qaeda suspects are believed to have escaped the massive US bombing campaign there, and Osama bin Laden is believed to have been among them.

During the past decade, Osama bin Laden and deputy Ayman al-Zawahri have appeared regularly in audio and video tapes to issue threats, and comment on a wide range of current events, although the appearances trailed off in recent years.

In November 2002, Osama bin Laden threatened Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany and Australia for their support for the United States, saying: "It is time we get even. You will be killed just as you kill, and will be bombed just as you bomb." Later, he called on Muslims to rise up against leaders in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait he saw as Washington's stooges.

In 2004, he tried a new tack, offering a "truce" to European countries that don't attack Muslims, then later saying that the United States could avoid another September 11 attack if it stopped threatening the security of Muslims.

After a long silence, Osama bin Laden stepped up his messages in 2006, and the subjects he addressed became more political. In January 2006, he addressed his comments to the American people rather than US President George W Bush because, he said, polls showed "an overwhelming majority" of Americans wanted a withdrawal from Iraq. He even recommended Americans pick up a copy of the book The Rogue State, which he said offered a path to peace.

At several points in the years since the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden's capture or death had appeared imminent. After the March 2003 arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, officials in Islamabad and Washington were paraded out to deny a consistent stream of rumors that Osama bin Laden had been captured.

US forces poured into the border region looking for him and former Taliban and Taliban in hiding said he had constantly been on the move, travelling through the mountains with a small entourage of security.

Through it all, Osama bin Laden vowed repeatedly that he was willing to die in his fight to drive the Israelis from Jerusalem and Americans from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"America can't get me alive," Osama bin Laden was quoted as saying in an interview with a Pakistani journalist conducted shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan.

And while his bluster proved prophetic, in the end it was not Osama bin Laden who would get the last word.

"On nights like this one," Mr Obama said in announcing Osama bin Laden's death to the world, "we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done."










The news of Osama bin Laden's death in a US military operation deep inside Pakistan marks a moment in history. The mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks in the US, bin Laden's impact on world events in the first decade of the 21st century was profound. Terrorism became a global security agenda. It provided the impetus for US military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. It would be premature to predict the downfall of al-Qaida or jihad-inspired terrorism with bin Laden's end. The days ahead call for a state of high security alert.

That the No.1 terror fugitive in the world made his last stand not in the rugged terrain of the AfPak border but inside a plush compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad - a mere 100 km from Islamabad - is significant. Pakistani authorities have long denied bin Laden's and the al-Qaida leadership's presence inside that country. The Americans have insisted that the operation against bin Laden was wholly theirs with no prior information being shared with any other country. If we take the US narrative at face value, Pakistan's lack of cooperation in dealing with terror is laid bare. On the other hand, if Islamabad feels constrained in publicly owning up to any kind of help in the operation, that indicates the degree of fear inspired by bin Laden's followers and concomitant difficulty of combating his legacy.

Bin Laden's death could also impact the situation in Afghanistan. The American military-intelligence combine has long insisted that al-Qaida is their primary target. With bin Laden out of the way, cutting a deal with the moderate factions of the Taliban appears sweeter. That's especially the case if targeting bin Laden has been part of a quid pro quo with the Pakistanis. With an eye on the 2012 US presidential polls, President Obama may speed up the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. But this could as easily lead to chaos with serious security ramifications for the region, including India. Indian diplomacy will need to scramble to deal with the consequences of bin Laden's death.

The world would do well to remember that al-Qaida is a highly decentralised organisation. There is reason to believe that its elaborate network will endure and undertake retaliatory attacks to prove its vitality. Bin Laden's aura grew as he successfully evaded capture for over a decade. Even now as reports of burial of his body at sea trickle in, there is scope for propaganda furthering the jihadi cause. Bin Laden may be dead, but terrorism continues to be a global threat.






From Infosys Technologies to Infosys Ltd, the name isn't all that's changing for India's number two software services exporter. A new guard at the top will be led by K V Kamath, due to replace company founder Narayana Murthy.

The chairman-designate having shown what he's capable of in banking, hope's pinned on Kamath to similarly energise the technology major. Under Murthy's leadership, Infosys achieved iconic status here and globally.

The Kamath-led team is expected to meet present and future challenges. Successive worrying quarterly results have raised questions about Infosys's strategy against strong competitors like TCS, HCL and Cognizant. Some rivals seem to have better weathered the slowdown, including by taking calculated risks with asset acquisition.

Despite its welcome focus on consulting and strengths in retail and utilities, it's believed that Infosys has been over-cautious exploring business avenues, especially in emerging markets. It plans to rectify this, and push segments like healthcare and public services. Stemming brand erosion will be the key task for a firm that pioneered India's IT boom.

If Infosys faces challenges, so does the IT sector as a whole. On the right track, the industry's moving from just offering technology solutions to more holistic end-to-end business consulting. The world recession showed that seeking new markets is imperative for Indian firms, not least due to anti-outsourcing sentiment in major export destinations like the US.

Sustaining competitiveness requires focus on top quality professional skills, better R&D, technological upgrades and inventive products. Innovation must be the byword to raise competitive standards domestically and confront established and emerging tech powerhouses overseas, including China in catch-up mode.

BPO service providers should tap the potential of knowledge process outsourcing in domains such as engineering design and product development, which will mandate domain-specific specialisation. Finally, cloud computing is seen as the next big innovation. Indian IT needs to be up to the challenge.









Business is taking India's international relations in new directions, and the flag must follow trade. Yet is the natioan's traditional foreign policy community up to the task? Can it, for instance, contemplate a merger of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and the ministry of commerce?

Foreign direct investment ( FDI) in India amounted to a paltry $393 million in 1992-93. By 2007-08, it had climbed to $34.7 billion and by 2008-09 to $35 billion. What is less recognised is the quantum of outbound FDI: money Indian businesses invest abroad. In 2007-08, this reached $18.8 billion and in 2008-09, it was marginally lower at $17.5 billion. In effect, for every two dollars overseas investors put into the Indian economy, one is exported.

For what was till recently a closed economy, that is a remarkable ratio. It represents a growing risk appetite for Indian business. Big-ticket acquisitions - such as that of the Britain's Corus Steel by Tata Steel in 2007 - also become symbols of middle-class pride. All of this has an impact on foreign policy. It makes the support - if not yet 'protection' - of Indian capital abroad a legitimate expectation of Indian diplomacy.

Of course, foreign acquisitions by Indian companies are almost always autonomous corporate decisions. They are not pushed by the government's strategic imperatives. This has inoculated them from some of the controversies that have thwarted Chinese efforts - such as the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation's attempt to buy Unocal in the US in 2005 or Aluminium Corporation of China's problems with expanding its stake in Rio Tinto in Australia in 2009.

In essence, the Indian government plays catch up with the business relationship rather than nurtures it. With some countries, it is only after the business relationship has become too big for the foreign policy establishment to ignore that the MEA steps in. The India-US relationship is emblematic of this equation but there are other examples.

After Brasilia, Santiago is perhaps the second most important capital in South America for New Delhi. In April 2008, President Pratibha Patil travelled to Chile for three days. The visit had zero political content. If it was a priority for the MEA it was entirely due to business. In the preceding three years (2005-06 to 2007-08) India-Chile trade had almost quadrupled from $586.65 million to $2093.35 million.

In 2005, India's biggest IT/ITES company, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), had acquired Chilean BPO firm Comicrom for $23 million. Part of TCS's professional responsibility was supervising the public transport system in Santiago.

More than one country has drawn India into a broader strategic relationship by first making itself important to Indian business. Chile followed one route; the US and Singapore took another, with business associations becoming the initial interface for not just trade negotiations but an entire gamut of political issues.

India lacks a strong culture of foreign policy think tanks. Fortuitously, Indian business is better organised. In January 2002, India's first 'Track 2' dialogue with the US was hosted in Udaipur, with Henry Kissinger leading the American delegation. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) put together a group of business leaders and former diplomats under Ratan Tata and Naresh Chandra. So successful was the interaction that in 2006 the Indian government asked CII to catalyse a similar dialogue with the Japanese.

A CII insider argues the 'strategic dialogue' series - it extends to Singapore, Israel and even China - is not quite Track 2 but more Track 1.5, given the amount of MEA buy-in.

It wasn't always like this. The business community was not recognised as a partner of the foreign policy establishment for most of independent India's history. In many ways it is the response of other countries and capitals that has forced New Delhi to rethink.

Singapore, where some 4,000 Indian companies have made investments, has played a key role. It is not just a business partner but a quasi-ally that has drawn India into the Southeast Asian strategic calculus. Indeed, it was Singapore that set the alarm bells ringing when the Satyam scandal broke in January 2009. Satyam's foreign clients included the company that runs Changi airport. It also provided back-office support to the Singapore government's payroll system. Authorities there reportedly contacted the Indian ambassador and urged the Indian government to not allow Satyam to sink.

In New Delhi, a meeting of senior ministers was called. The then finance minister recommended market forces run their course and Satyam not be bailed out. The commerce and foreign ministers disagreed, arguing this would damage India's reputation and it would lose face diplomatically. They won the day.

The Satyam affair poses a question. If business and foreign policy goals are beginning to converge, can India envisage a merger of the MEA and the commerce ministry, just as, say, Australia created a combined Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the 1980s?

In May 2005, the government moved half a step in this direction when it set up the Trade and Economic Relations Committee (TERC). Chaired by the prime minister, TERC comprises, among others, the finance, foreign and commerce ministers. As a collective, it runs economic diplomacy. Admittedly TERC has lost some of its salience in the second UPA government. Even so it offers a template that India needs to build upon.

Malik is a political commentator; Medcalf is a programme director at the Lowy Institute, Sydney.







There's a familiar ring to Bollywood these days and it's not just the trill of the box office. Several productions are offering 'remixed' versions of earlier hits. Breezy comedy Housefull featured the jaunty Amitabh Bachchan hip-swinger 'Apni toh jaise taise' recreated with Akshay Kumar, action movie Dum Maaro Dum has Deepika Padukone swaying to Zeenat Aman's unforgettable number, while forthcoming films offer remixes like 'Laila O Laila'.

The move towards remixes is both heartening and wise. Picking up old classics and breathing new life into them with contemporary musical styles, stars and settings keeps these evergreen. India has an incredibly rich cinematic history. It's only fair that each generation should experience and enjoy classics, albeit dressed in styles that suit the modern. With a remarkable absence of cinema museums, film history courses or shows preserving the world's most vibrant screen industry, remix numbers are a great way to keep popular and commercial interest in conserving cinema's best.

Were it not for remixes, we might have lost trademark Bollywood features like the cabaret or mujra, back now as sizzling screen 'items'. Interestingly, 'originals' themselves drew from a rainbow of sources; folk and classical music, bhajans, ballads, proverbs and fables fuse together to form Bollywood's core. Who's to say where the 'remixing' starts and ends? Bollywood's beauty lies in innovating using fabulous archives of art and emotion.

Should Kishore Kumar have been stopped from 'remixing' S D Burman's song, 'Dheere se jaana bagiyan mein, re bhanwra', into the hilarious 'Dheere se jaana khatiyan mein, re khatmal'? Hindi cinema would have been a poorer place if this were the case. 'Remixing' forms part of any creative process. While Mendelssohn and Puccini influenced popular composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, Shakespeare drew from Plutarch in reworking dramatic Roman classics. Why then deny Bollywood the freedom to remix?








It is unfortunate that the latest fetish of our Bollywood film-makers to recycle old melodies and serve them to audience as retro classics is being described as a positive trend. Copying is an age-old Bollywood habit.

Now more and more film-makers have joined the bandwagon to cash in on the trend. Not surprisingly, these days every big release is coming with at least one remixed retro song. While some retro classics might have worked, most of them have failed to impress the movie-going audience.

Yet that hasn't stopped our tinsel town's composers from increasingly reusuing hit numbers of the 1970s and '80s. Why? Because they're simply out of ideas, and don't have what it takes to come up with fresh songs that could replace yesterday's classics.

However, what is more worrying is that the music and song composers are not only destroying old songs in terms of music, but also topping them up with vulgar lyrics and dance steps. The cult songs which form part of Bollywood folklore and heritage - such as 'Dum maro dum' from the 1971 film Hare Rama Hare Krishna - are being mutilated for nebulous reasons ranging from striking a chord with today's youth to conserving the classics. It is a misconception that through retro classics, old songs can be kept alive. Even a random survey of radio channels could prove that listeners of all generations yearn for the original numbers.

Bollywood film-makers digging into the archives is indicative of the decay that has set into the Hindi film industry. It shows up both a dearth of new ideas and a lack of talented music composers. Not only is music at the heart of Hindi movies, it contributes as much as 15% of an individual film's earnings. If creativity is a cardinal feature of film-making, the reliance upon retro classics only shows the death of imagination.







As kisses go, this one was no sizzler. It was a happy, somewhat embarrassed quick peck, rather than a passionate smooch that scorches and simmers. The second attempt to make up for the blink-and-you-have-missed-it kiss wasn't any better, with the patrons looking more amused than bemused as they executed another butterfly flutter.

In fact, nourished as we are on a diet of passionate smooches and 22-kisses-a-movie promises, the lip-lock between Prince William and his bride, the newly anointed Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, was a royal disappointment! Admittedly the pressure to perform on the two was immense, with two billion around the world gathered to witness their first snog as a royal couple. What else did you expect of the British, snickered a colleague. They are so cold they are known to make love with their socks on! But still, you do expect much more from a couple who has had almost a decade to perfect the art!

The saving grace was that in admirable contrast to Prince Charles's stiff cold-lipped greeting of his shy bride Princess Diana 30 years ago, son William was warmer and more human. Still, a somewhat sad-looking, shy Di arching her graceful long neck to reach for Charles's reluctant royal lips is a far more picture-worthy and touching moment than the coming together of the new royals who, after all, looked like any other young couple in love!

However, William's kiss was no display of British coldness, but of royal decorum. Stepping back from the first kiss, delivered with his hands clasped together tellingly in front of him, William is supposed to have murmured "I love you" to his bride. Or so say lip readers, the latest tool of paparazzi. The lascivious crowd exhorted, "More, more, we want more...kiss again!" Lip readers decipher the prince's next words thus, "'Let's give them another one. l love you. One more kiss, one more kiss, okay." And the couple leaned in to yet another 'lip-sealed' sedate peck. But this time they couldn't conceal the amusement in their eyes or the happy smile on their lips. Kate giggled, William grinned.

The crowd shouted in ecstasy as the storybook walk of 'one of them' from commoner to princess was sealed with a kiss, so what if it was a sealed-lip kiss!

The tightly pursed mouths and conscious restraint clearly signified the beginning of a more responsible relationship, one that takes into account the burden of responsibility that future monarchy imposes on young William and Kate. No more can they cavort in public. Perhaps that is why the young couple took nine years to formalise their relationship; the only thing that changes with the vows is that their embraces and public dalliances are henceforth subject to public approval or disapproval as behaviour befitting the future king and queen. In fact, the couple didn't seal their wedding with a kiss at Westminster Abbey as the Church of England forbids it in holy sites. With this wedding, Diana's son has formally and consciously stepped into the royal frame set up for him since birth.

Back in 1981, when the crowds clamoured for a Charles and Diana kiss on the balcony after they married, Charles reportedly murmured to Di, "I am not going to do that caper. They are trying to get us to kiss." And she is supposed to have responded, "Well, how about it?" Their body language showed a miserable-looking Charles's extreme reluctance, portending a disastrous marriage.

The body language of young William and Kate was diametrically opposite. Happy, totally in love, shy, exchanging loving glances and sharing a clear connect - body experts talk of their 'total confidence' and how they looked into each other's eyes while taking their vows. The young couple was regally composed with an irrepressible happiness shining through. Just like the kiss that will, for a long time to come, be a defining image of their wedding day.







It was a cliché to call Osama bin Laden the world's most dangerous man. It is now, after his death, a cliché to say the threat from Islamicist terrorism is not over.

That al Qaeda still exists and the pan-global terrorism that it has represented is still extant are statements of the obvious. But there is little doubt that bin Laden's death, and the nature of his death at the hands of US soldiers in a daring nighttime attack, are an enormous setback for al Qaeda and militant groups and solo terrorists who claimed inspiration from the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack.

So far, al Qaeda has survived as much on mythology as it has from its destructive accomplishments. One part of its legend arose from 9/11 itself, the greatest act of terrorism, and one carried out against the greatest power in the world.

The other part of its legend has been bin Laden, a man who claimed to have helped destroy one superpower in his youth and whose fugitive life was seen as evidence of the powerlessness of the remaining superpower.

Al Qaeda is a shadow of itself, not merely because of bin Laden's death. It has been growing paler over the past few years for a number of reasons.

One was that support for its brand of militancy in the Muslim world has been declining for years. The Islamic mainstream was horrified at the terrorism being practised in the name of its faith and revolted by al Qaeda's willingness to kill fellow Muslims, women and children.

Two was that bin Laden's original strategy of trying to replicate the destruction of the Soviet Union by drawing the United States into a forever war in Afghanistan was a failure.

The war may still be on, but the US is more in danger from its investment bankers than from jihadis. Bin Laden's limitations as a strategist became clear when he offered no back-up plan for his organisation. He continued to fight the same Afghan war without any real chance of success.

Three, and perhaps most important, is that the Arab Muslim from whose ranks al Qaeda arose has taken a completely different path to political salvation over the past month.

It is now almost forgotten that the founders of al Qaeda sought, more than anything else, the overthrow of the regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Egypt's ruler has fallen - through mass political action whose Gandhian tactics were the polar opposite of those preached by bin Laden.

Which raises the question of where was bin Laden still relevant?

The answer, unfortunately, is probably Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. It is here, not in his Arab home, that bin Laden's blood-filled millenarian vision remains alive and well.

This is why India rightly warns that terrorism remains a global threat until the terrorist cancer in Pakistan is also excised, that the ghost of bin Laden is driven from the lands to its west, and that the US and the rest of the world rests on its laurels now only at their peril.

Bin Laden is dead. But his legacy lives on in a part of the world to which he did not belong.




When Osama bin Laden finally departed for the great sheikhdom above, you could not but help tip your hat to the ever-watchful vigil kept by sentinels of the information age.

Even as US helicopters circled and zeroed in on the neighbourhood where bin Laden lived, an information technology professional kept tweeting about the raid, oblivious to the significance of what he was witnessing.

'Go away helicopter', he wrote, threatening to go after the whirligig with a 'giant swatter'. In the event, he didn't and bin Laden's plans to put up his feet and direct a bit of mayhem from a wealthy Abbottabad mansion came to naught.

With popular imagination replacing the harsh terrains and dark caverns of Afghanistan with a comfortable mansion as the bin Laden hideout, online jokes flew thick and fast surrounding the life and death of this incendiary icon.

A couple of months ago, a fake Twitter profile, claiming to belong to bin Laden, had declared that the best part of his job was that he "got to work from home".

That the proponent of holy wars was found at Abbottabad, a little further up from Islamabad is just as well, some speculated - there is, after all, no place called 'Ecclesisbad'. Others reflected on the precariousness of life in Pakistan, where even bin Laden is not safe.

The after-life got its share of attention too: what were the odds that there was a submarine somewhere in Davy Jones's locker, near bin Laden's watery grave, ready to whisk him away to Libya? What, indeed, would happen, if the 72 houris that he encountered turned out to be infidels?

The rest wondered at what seemed like an extended Disney weekend on earth: the pageantry of a prince getting married followed by the death of the 'bad guy'. And everyone lived happily ever after or till we tweet again.






However emotionally satisfying for many the slaughter of Osama bin Laden is, it should be disturbing for many more on a crucial point. The al Qaeda leader had eluded a massive manhunt for him all these years, hiding supposedly in some inaccessible Af-Pak borderland areas, untraceable by US human and signals intelligence.

The Pakistani political and military leadership has all along denied any knowledge of his whereabouts, even feigning that he wasn't in Pakistan. And where did the archetypal terrorist finally meet his nemesis - in a villa of sorts in Abbottabad, in a town peopled with retired Pakistani military officers.

It's less important that bin Laden has been killed; much more pertinent is where he was killed, as this speaks volumes for the deception by the much-touted non-Nato ally of the Americans.

Of late, decibel levels of American complaints against Pakistan's selective combat against terrorism has risen, and direct accusations against double-dealing by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have surfaced.

The dark shadows of Pakistan's performance on terrorism become easier to apprehend with the exposure of this conspiracy of the country's deep state to protect bin Laden and, surely, his acolytes like Ayman al-Zawahiri, with all the past charade of videotapes secreted to Al Jazeera.

Pakistan's red-handed complicity has been exposed dramatically, but it's not in the US interest to play it up. They need Pakistan as much as before to extract themselves from the Afghan quagmire with honour and prestige intact, and more importantly, without President Barack Obama's bid for a second term being jeopardised by any scar of failure in the Hindukush.

The symbol of terrorism has gone, but its substance remains. Bin Laden, hounded and hiding, had become a spent force as a field leader. But he has remained a potent inspiration for those who still dream of destroying the Great Satan.

The al Qaeda, never a structured, hierarchical organisation, operates as a dispersed and decentralised collection of groups driven by shared hatreds and violent solutions sanctified by a self-serving interpretation of Koranic texts.

It's a mindset fired by a vision of a society fundamentally opposed to that of the West. Bin Laden's elimination is not enough to change the course of the combat; the West has to restrain its impulse to dominate, control its tendency to use military force to resolve political problems and discard double standards.

Obama was right to recall in his address that America's fight is not with the Islamic world. The amount of firepower that the US and NATO are expending in Libya should be matched with equal diplomatic energy to resolve the Palestinian issue.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan has little to do with bin Laden's objectives. The Afghan Taliban treated him as a guest; he needed them more than they needed him.

Their comeback in Afghanistan has nothing to do with bin Laden; it has all to do with Pakistan's strategic ambitions, its protection of its Afghan Taliban assets, and the ambivalence of the West towards the Taliban, best exemplified today by a willingness to 'reconcile' with them as part of a political solution in Afghanistan.

If it took the Americans years to trace bin Laden's hide-out; the watering hole of Mullah Omar and his ilk in Quetta has been known to them for a long time. They have chosen neither to put Pakistan on the mat for its perfidy in Afghanistan, nor decimate the Afghan Taliban leadership, which is Pakistan's partner in the pursuit of its Afghan policy.

Having allowed the ground situation to deteriorate in their disfavour by ignoring the Taliban threat and targeting principally the al Qaeda, they now have concluded that the only way to retrieve the situation is to both depend on Pakistan even as they question its reliability, and engage the Taliban even as they fight it. It is this half-cocked approach that feeds the growing perception that the Americans have possibly lost their moorings in Afghanistan.

As the days pass, it will be clearer whether it was essentially a US operation or the Pakistanis were involved, and at what stage. It says much about of the Pakistan-US relationship, with all its undercurrents of cooperation and suspicion, the prickly assertion of sovereignty by Pakistan at one level and a humiliating cession of it to a foreign force at another, that the bin Laden operation was carried out not by the Pakistani security forces but by US Special Forces presumably flying in from Afghanistan.

It's not clear under what provisions of Pakistani law foreign military units were allowed to engage in a law and order operation deep inside Pakistani territory and kill a person found there. The US forces carried away bin Laden's body with them; it wasn't subject to identification and autopsy in Pakistan as per its laws. This exposes the real quality of the Pakistani State and the temper of its constituents.

Did the fuss created over the Raymond Davis affair by both sides have some links to the bin Laden operation?

Now that this has been accomplished, it's likely that, irrespective of the odious nature of that personage, anti-American feelings in Pakistan will be further fuelled. The extremists in Pakistan would have one more reason to accuse the country's leadership of joining hands with the Americans to eliminate, this time, a uniquely powerful contemporary symbol of Muslim resistance to US imperialism.

The Americans have the obligation to recognise Pakistan's cooperation in this operation, as otherwise Pakistani sovereignty would have been blatantly violated. Too much credit given to the Pakistan government could, of course, provoke a stronger extremist backlash. Obama has been rightly restrained in crediting Pakistani cooperation, limiting himself to only mentioning Zardari's name and hoping Pakistani cooperation will continue.

Obama can savour this hour of emotional catharsis, but the reprieve he has got from his worries is temporary. Bin Laden's death closes a chapter, but the book of America's Af-Pak problems is long.

(Kanwal Sibal is a former Foreign Secretary. The views expressed by the author are personal Sitaram Yechury's column 'Left Hand Drive' will appear tomorrow0




The outsider as insider

Is the Congress finally going to rehabilitate Suresh Pachouri, former Madhya Pradesh Congress president? Pachouri had quit as minister of state handling the sensitive personnel ministry in 2008 to lead the MP Congress in the assembly elections. Three years later, tribal leader Kanti Lal Bhuria replaced him. The word in party circles is that Pachouri may return to the Rajya Sabha and Manmohan Singh's Council of Ministers, thanks to the seat vacated by Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan. Speculation about Pachouri's return started doing the rounds shortly after the Congress leadership told Maharashtra leaders not to aspire to Chavan's RS seat, as it was to be given to an 'outsider' who would be subsequently 'accommodated' in the PM's team. From personnel to personal.

A slightly faulty connection

Uttarakhand's BJP chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal is spending an awful lot of time traversing the state's 70 constituencies on a helicopter. The attempt seems to be to shore up his image ahead of the assembly polls due early next year. Billed as 'Antodaya Vikas Yatra' to woo voters, he is trying to show that he listens to people's problems. Even as the Congress is questioning the "huge expense" to promote the BJP's prospects, Pokhriyal is calling it a "people connect" plan. But he is unable to explain why he waited till the last year of his term. A late starter here.


Taking a crack at it

Many were left puzzled last week when junior science minister Ashwani Kumar repeatedly referred to "post-shutdown coding" at India's nuclear reactors. Quiet chuckles followed once the officials, and journalists alike, realised the minister was misreading 'post-shutdown cooling', or passive cooling, which could have reduced the Fukushima crisis. Perhaps that's why Kumar and his senior minister for science and technology, Pawan Kumar Bansal, at a recent monsoon briefing were overheard chuckling to themselves about the complexities of their new assignment. But the consensus remains that both ministers are trying their best to crack the science 'code'. We can't quite decode that.

Not bamboozling him now

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has a reason to smile. His ardent critic Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment had written to the PM praising Ramesh for ensuring that the forest bureaucracy adopts bamboo as a minor forest produce. After ensuring that tribals in Maharashtra got the right to harvest and transmit bamboo, Narain has written to the PM applauding Ramesh for his support for the campaign. Wonder what she will say about his permission to the Posco project? Her steely side may surface again.


The facts' in the fire

AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa has moved the Madras high court to block author Vaasanthi and Penguin Books India from publishing her biography. She has alleged that the book contains unverified personal information, which is both false and defamatory. She says it's customary for any journalist to verify the facts with the person concerned and publish the article along with his/her version - more so when it's a biography. What has upset her is that the contents of the book relating to her original name, her father and name of her brother emphasised their connection to the Mysore Palace and her closeness with long-time aide Sasikala. Now we know the origins of her ire.






It's confirmed the US is not a paper tiger. But it doesn't mean much for Obama

It's been nine years and seven months since Osama bin Laden orchestrated 9/11, but an American team finally killed him. This is revenge, but it's also deterrence and means that bin Laden won't kill any more Americans. This is the single most important success the US has had in its war against al-Qaeda.

So what does this mean? First, it's good for the US's reputation, power and influence that we finally got bin Laden. His ability to escape from the US and his apparent impunity fed an image in some Islamist quarters of America as a paper tiger.

Moreover, this sends a message that you mess with America at your peril.

That said, killing bin Laden doesn't end al-Qaeda. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian No 2, has long played a crucial role as alQaeda's COO. And al-Qaeda is more of a loose network than a tightly structured organisation, and that has become even more true in recent years. AQIM, the version of al-Qaeda in North Africa, is a real threat in countries like Mali and Mauritania; killing bin Laden will have negligible consequences there. And Anwar al-Awlaki, the Qaeda-linked terrorist in Yemen, likewise won't be deterred by bin Laden's killing.

It's also true that bin Laden's killing might have mattered more in 2002 or 2003. At that time, in countries like Pakistan, many ordinary people had a high regard for bin Laden and doubted that he was centrally involved in the 9/11 attacks. Over time popular opinion has moved more against him.

Some people still feel respect for his ability to outwit the US, or they are so antiAmerican that they embrace anybody Americans don't like, but bin Laden has been marginalised over time. His declining image also means that he won't be a martyr in many circles. His death won't inspire people, the way it might have in 2002. And al-Qaeda is already going through a difficult time because it's been sidelined by the Arab Spring protests; on top of that, losing its top leader will be a major blow.

It will be fascinating to see what the Pakistani reaction is to a US military operation on their soil. President Barack Obama seemed to have gone out of his way to sound deferential to Pakistan precisely because he was concerned that Pakistanis might react with outrage at an American military operation. Of course, this also raises questions about how Osama got to Abbottabad from Afghanistan and what, if anything, the Pakistanis knew. Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and others always told me and others that Osama was in Afghanistan and even suggested that he might have died. So much for Musharraf.

One question is whether the bin Laden killing will lead to intelligence that will help track down Zawahri and other al-Qaeda leaders or operatives, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world. Will there be a reprisal attack by al-Qaeda? Maybe. But after all, it's already been trying to hit us.

It's not as if it has shown any restraint.

The larger challenge is whether we can press this gain and further dismantle alQaeda in the Af-Pak region. If so, it may be easier to end the Afghan war by working out a deal in Afghanistan between the Karzai government and the Taliban; if foreign fighters like bin Laden are out of the picture, an agreement becomes more feasible. Of course, allowing the Taliban a role in southern Afghanistan raises all kinds of questions, not least the impact on Afghan women. On the other hand, the war is also a catastrophe for Afghan women. And there are some indications that the Taliban are willing to compromise on some elements of policy toward women, such as girls' schooling. That would all have to be negotiated.

Finally, what does this mean for President Obama's political prospects? I don't think very much. November 2012 is a long way away, and the main political issue is likely to be the economy. After all, George HW Bush was a hero after the Gulf War victory in early 1991, and by November 1992 was defeated by Bill Clinton because of the economic slowdown. New York Times




T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".

Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."

No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.

Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian






The killing of Osama bin Laden in such genteel surroundings, literally in the shadow of the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad, shows that his story may be yet more fantastic than had been imagined. The consequences of the capture of the most hunted man of our times will be many, given that he contributed in so many ways to global instability — as instigator and inspiration, as financier and a Pied Piper sort of recruiter. Whether directly affiliated to him or not — and we still do not have a good enough measure of the ties that bin Laden directly nurtured — there are all kinds of constituents of the al-Qaeda diaspora. Nonetheless, the biggest consequence will be for the subcontinent, where Pakistan's enabling environment for al-Qaeda and its affiliates has been the principal source of regional instability, not least in Pakistan itself. Indeed, the American operation is confirmation that the war for Afghanistan, and the region as a whole, has to be fought in Pakistan.

The ISI and the Pakistan army did not offer what now appears could have been easy cooperation to make the hunt for Osama shorter, a reflection of how differently Pakistan views its stakes in Afghanistan. The powerful chief of the Pakistan army, General Ashfaq Kayani, is a laconic man, but he has made little secret of his expectation that Afghanistan is to become his country's backyard. He also recently made claims, unusual for him, about breaking the back of terrorism. The American operation in Abbottabad will therefore pose questions of him and his army about the means they use for strategic advantage, and the quality of the cooperation extended upon promises of fighting terrorists.

For India, however, this a not a moment to gloat over. The death in Abbottabad is a reminder of the realism needed to negotiate the new great game being played for Afghanistan after the drawdown of American troop presence. Of course, India has to continue to be innovative and largehearted in engaging with as large a section of the Pakistani establishment as it can. But given its limited leverage within Pakistan, India must also be engaged with the US and the international community on steps towards Af-Pak peace, to prevent the re-emergence of Afghanistan as a hotbed for extremism and also to enable political stability in Pakistan. The slick operation in Abbottabad has given the US, and most importantly President Barack Obama, greater purchase. The operation will no doubt re-establish Obama's political credentials domestically, at a time when he was being written off as a one-term president; internationally too, especially on Afghanistan, his leadership stands strengthened.






Osama bin Laden was a weird, compelling figure — a product of the American mobilisation against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, he became its most hated enemy. His death, long anticipated, is unlikely to make a tangible impact on terrorist cells, but it is a symbolic reversal.

His family flourished under the Saudi royal family's patronage, creating a colossal construction business. However, this shy 17th son of the bin Laden family was somewhat different. After joining an Islamic study group inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, and later, Palestinian theologian Abdullah Azzam, his religious beliefs hardened into warfare circa 1979 — the eventful year of the Mecca siege, the Iranian revolution and, most of all, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Osama joined the Afghan mujahideen, and built a reputation as a committed fighter and generous funder of the insurgents. Though this early induction into jihad began with America's support and guidance, as for so many others, Osama turned against the West after the war ended. In the late '80s, when his ideas about global jihad solidified, addressing Muslim struggles in far-flung parts of the world, he formed al-Qaeda, which operated in Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, and commanded armies of ideologues on the Web.

Osama's most audacious act was the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that sent the US into an interminable war in Afghanistan. Through the fumbling and missteps of the last decade, he periodically reminded the world of his existence through home-made videos, editorialising on events in the Muslim world. It is important to remember that al-Qaeda has been geographically and politically rooted in the Middle East — and his talk of overthrowing the corrupt dictators in the region clearly resonated with the disenfranchised young. However, as the Arab spring of recent months has demonstrated, that there is another way. The largely non-violent protests that toppled seemingly invincible regimes in Egypt and Tunisia hold out another path to change, through democracy and the rule of law, not clash-of-civilisations vengefulness.







As of today, the public distribution system entitles poor families to subsidised foodgrain. There are, of course, giant failings in the system. Some of those are administrative, others built into the design of the PDS. And there are conceptual flaws, too: one such being the long-standing approach that the monthly entitlement is framed in terms of a per household allowance. There are several problems with this approach, and the idea has been floating for some time that, as part of food security reform, the allowance be redefined to target poor individuals rather than poor households. The PM's panel on PDS reform has pushed the idea again, saying that it is a "progressive step" that will help poorer households — which tend to be larger.

The mathematical calculations surrounding the decision aren't trivial. There are various amounts of foodgrain per family that have been named as possible under a food security law — from 25 kg to 35 kg. Shifting the entitlement from families to individuals would theoretically improve the targeting process, and make the sums easier to do.

But, for many of us outside the process, that isn't the only takeaway. We should look at this also as a long-overdue recognition of the primacy of the individual in social sector programmes, which have been subservient for too long to the power structures embedded in family, clan and village. The panel points out that this much-needed reform would also allow foodgrain entitlement to be tightly linked to the UID when it rolls out — another reminder of the revolutionary possibilities embodied in the UID, and its ability to change the nature of the interaction between the individual and the state.








Finally, after nearly a decade, the fountainhead of global terror has been cut off by US forces. In a dramatic announcement, President Obama said, "The most significant battle against terrorism has been won; justice has been served." Yes, the icon of terror has been obliterated — but the war will only be won when the deviant ideology of political Islamist supremacy that Osama bin Laden and his fellow ideologues fulminated ad nauseum is defeated by the followers of Islam itself. Justice may have been served for the victims and families of 9/11, but its use as justification for a US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to divide global opinion.

Now, the battle within the beleaguered Muslim community, the battle of minds and hearts, could well tilt towards the silent majority that has shunned the un-Islamic acts of terror and suicide bombings of innocents — acts inspired largely by bin Laden's version of divine sanction under Islamic law.

The maximum damage that Osama bin Laden inflicted was about 3,000 deaths nearly a decade ago. But that one heinous crime jeopardised the dignity and existence of over a billion Muslims globally. Taunted, vilified as sympathisers, and racially profiled as vile, predatory, terror-mongers, many Muslims "retreated" into a shell of hurt and ignominy. The sullen followers of Islam who retreated into this cocoon of insularity should question: why was the "first Muslim nation" — Pakistan — hiding bin Laden for so long? Despite repeated denials parroted by Pakistani authorities over the years, the truth had to emerge. And will the US now reward Pakistan with more largesse — both monetary and perhaps advanced weaponry — as a reward for finally "delivering" Osama to US forces? Such benevolence has and continues to be directed against India and its citizens. Will we ever know the role of the ISI and other rogue elements in first protecting and then selling out Osama?

Threatening jihad and claiming divine justification, al-Qaeda and its clones in the Af-Pak region are, in reality, subjecting us to heinous, wilful misrepresentation — aimed at usurping power and starting a new religion, which can never be the Islam preached 1,400 years ago. Islam says: "The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr," but the ignoramuses revel in bombing schools and closing down centres of knowledge. The Prophet beseeched the community to embrace and seek knowledge but these people live in and seek darkness for the believers.

The silver lining for the second-largest Muslim population worldwide, the 180 million-strong Indian Muslim communities: despite being "suspect", not one Indian Muslim was ever known to be a member of al-Qaeda. Every second Indian Muslim is below the poverty line; and recruiters who preyed on the poor to further their jihadist desires tried their damnedest — but failed.

Preying on poverty, pushing the concept of glory in the afterlife, these terror jingoists would forgo the importance that Islam gives to present-day life, and brainwash their recruits into believing in martyrdom and heaven, both of which are not possible for killing innocent people. India's Muslim communities have largely been free of this virus, and abhor connectivity with Pakistan. In fact, for years if not decades, the maximum damage to the believers has come from Pakistan's obsession with India. Integral to the Idea of India is our multiplural set up; this Indian ethos, our multicultural milieu, is anathema for Pakistan.

We live in the 21st century and our democratic structure is our way of life. Indian Muslims have suffered twice over, first from terror strikes that were aimed randomly at all citizens, and then from accusations afterwards. The opinion-makers and the religious clergy should declare these jihadist forces as enemies of the nation, and deviant heretics; recruiters and handlers should be dealt with severely. But that can only happen by working with marginalised sections of society. The potential and hope for a better life is the first line of defence in our war against terror.

The US is fighting its own battle in Afghanistan and we have to secure ourselves irrespective of US policy. There is no substitute to setting our own house in order. There is no overnight solution or quick-fix to complex challenges. Violent extremists are themselves very careful with their words, and have developed a slick media strategy to justify their actions and exploit grievances that resonate, manipulating theology as well as history and contemporary politics.

We need to communicate in a way that counters that, rather than in a way that fuels the terrorist narrative. This battle against Osama has been won. Now, the war against the ideology of terror needs to be won, too.

The writer is chairman of the editorial board at the Kanpur-based Urdu newspaper 'Daily Siyasat Jadid',







In death, as in life, Osama bin Laden will be over-interpreted. His crimes are easily described. He masterminded an extraordinary network that was responsible for some audaciously murderous acts of terror. There is no adequate moral framework in which to comprehend his death. There will perhaps be some closure for the families who suffered immeasurably by what he unleashed. But whether the terms of justice or revenge measure up to the sheer convulsions he unleashed is an open question.

Osama became a force, far in excess of the violence he unleashed, fundamentally transforming our world. Ideologically, he created an extraordinary churning in the Muslim world: a potent combination of inner-directed resentment, violent fervour and anti-imperialism. He fought his own reactionary milieu with an unprecedented fanaticism. He challenged the established order and produced a crisis of authority inside Islam. When the entire world was putting its weight and force of arms behind reactionary regimes like Saudi Arabia, he created his own geopolitical convulsions. In an age that prized the nation state, he spawned a violent global movement. He became everything: an agent, an idea, an ideology, a pretext. These ideological effects, as far-reaching as they were, will not endure. The Americans may have killed bin Laden. But the ideology he unleashed will die if the democratic revolutions in the Arab world succeed in full measure. His greatest ideological nightmare, modernity, has an uncanny way of reasserting itself.

But his enduring effect is more subtle. He redefined the way in which we think of power in the modern world. A small group using violence and artfully manipulating the media could create disproportionate effects on a scale unimaginable. He was never going to defeat the power of liberalism ideologically. But he managed to transform liberal practice for the worst. Freedom in liberal states now comes against a backdrop of surveillance, militarisation, suspicion and human rights compromises. This legacy will take a long time to undo, if ever.

What will be the consequences of his death? The immediate consequence is a much-needed boost for President Obama. It will come as a much-needed palliative for American pride that was being relentlessly dented in all quarters. And the first rule of international politics is that psychological effects are more far-reaching than any assessment of interests. The politics behind Osama has always been even more shadowy than his movements were. There is still no reckoning of the forces that supported him and used him. Just the circumstances of his death, barely 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy, should leave no one in any doubt that he was, all these years, being politically used and protected by the ISI in Pakistan. The US has, for more than a decade, been either unbelievably gullible or ominously cynical in relation to Pakistan. In a curious way, Osama's death only deepens the mystery of US and Pakistani conduct; it does not resolve it.

But future events turn on two questions. If the ISI was using him in life, what are their calculations about his death? Did he die because his protectors now found his death convenient? Or did he die despite his protectors? The US will have to play this narrative very delicately. The one thing you know about the ISI establishment is that it is very good at playing heads we win, tails you lose. If this operation is seen in any way as a humiliation for the ISI, it will get its back. Nothing is more dangerous than the core Pakistani establishment licking its wounds. And the one thing Osama has taught us is this: there is no force more lethal than the sense of being wounded. If the ISI was in on it, it will extract its pound of flesh.

How his death is represented is going to be crucial in determining future politics. Some argue that his death exposed Pakistan's complicity; others that it demonstrates their cooperation with the West. But whether Pakistan was duplicitous or cooperative will probably not matter much. It will remain indispensable for the US for two reasons. First, if this allows the US to claim victory and hasten a withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan will remain important even in a post-withdrawal scenario. Second, Osama's death will not do away with the most important pretext for heavy US adjustment towards Pakistan: the blackmail that nuclear weapons may fall into the wrong hands. Unless the US calls Pakistan's bluff on this proposition, its hands remain tied.

The second question is this: what impact will Osama's death have on radical militant groups and movements, both inside and outside Pakistan? The short answer is: probably very little. Many of the terrorist groups have been sustained by the support of some state or the other. Those geo-political considerations that lead the states to support some groups are not likely to diminish. Or rather they will diminish only for other larger considerations. In the case of Pakistan the core question still remains: Osama or no Osama, does the support of terror groups still constitute a core of the Pakistani state's strategic orientation towards both Afghanistan and India? Second, radical politics, such as it exists, is shaped by larger social and political forces. To what extent does al-Qaeda remain an important inspiration? All accounts seem to suggest, not very much. But Osama's death is probably going to allow for a little bit of ideological clearing. Instead of an ideological construction of a single war on terror, we will now place different groups more firmly in their geopolitical and social settings. It will be harder to personify all terrorism behind a single face.

The regime in Pakistan still has to handle two delicate political issues. The point about large terror networks, like civil wars, is this. Once structures of violence have been put in place they don't simply disappear. Some will doubtless try acts of revenge to polarise politics further. But the second question is the degree of political blow-back inside Pakistan. I think it is fair to say that there is probably not much popular support for Osama at this point; the chances of a popular backlash are remote. But if the sense grows that Pakistan is being humiliated in the aftermath of this attack, then the psychological dynamics of politics could change. This is where the politics of representation will be important.

Osama may be gone. His tactics made him impossible to deal with in political terms. Whether his death will leave us politically wiser is an open question.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi,







Osama bin Laden's capture from the garrison town of Abbottabad, just a couple of hours drive from the capital city of Islamabad, is extremely scandalous. This is a story that means different things for different people and organisations. While it will bring accolades to Barack Obama and the CIA, fargreater questions will be asked about the will of Pakistan's security establishment in fighting the war on terror. Many in Pakistan find it hard to believe that the ISI, which sniffs around all places and keeps a close watch on ordinary citizens, could not have detected bin Laden in a place quite close to the army's primary training academy, the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.

Pakistan's foreign office issued a bland statement confirming nothing more than general cooperation with the US in fighting the war on terror. Media reports also emphasise that the military operation was more American than Pakistani. Indubitably, there would have been some tactical cooperation from GHQ Rawalpindi; without that the US might not have been able to conduct its "kill bin Laden" operation. It is possible that some arrangement might have been worked out between the two militaries in a bid to sort out their bilateral tensions. After all, Pakistan has always helped catch al-Qaeda operatives when under immense pressure from Washington.

We would not be told exactly how deep the Pakistan's military's involvement went, given the fear of repercussions. The local al-Qaeda franchises will not take kindly to the news, and there is a fear that these forces will strike at the Pakistani state, especially if they suspect any involvement. And there are people inside the security establishment and in society at large who are sympathetic to jihad and to organisations such as al-Qaeda.

Indeed, the death of bin Laden is just an event and not the end of a trend in Pakistan and the region. In fact, Osama's death has an uncanny resemblance to General Zia-ul-Haq's death on August 17, 1988 — it was hard to believe that the man had died. We in Pakistan had lived for so long with General Zia; and now with bin Laden, that it will take a while before the reality begins to sink in. In fact, the pro-jihad media outlets, anchors and commentators did not wait long before they started spewing venom against the US and calling this some big conspiracy.

There are many who have begun to cast doubts on the story. Then there are others who have started to raise concerns about US secret operations inside the country and so close to the national capital. One such journalist got fairly offensive when I reminded her that a more credible question for her to ask was: what does Osama bin Laden's presence so close to Islamabad mean for Pakistan's security?

Such a media offensive could possibly be to cushion the defence establishment from any pressure that might have arisen domestically. The ISI had always, after all, denied bin Laden's presence in Pakistan. The fact that the mansion bin Laden was living in was in a garrison city, and close to the primary military academy, reduces the possibility of lack of collaboration between al-Qaeda and the military establishment. Indeed there are whispers now: how come the ISI, which keeps tabs on everyone's backyard, did not know about this? More doubts will be raised internally, unless the military spokesperson, Major General Athar Abbas, manages to spin some story about some rogue elements inside the ISI providing assistance to the al-Qaeda chief. The general is quite well connected in the mainstream media through his family and other personal links.

But bin Laden's death is not necessarily the end of the era that started with Zia. The former was, in fact, part of the terror machine built by the latter during the '80s to fight the US's war in Afghanistan. Pakistan and the region will continue to live with bin Laden's spectre for a long time, as they did with Zia's; there is an abundance of Zia and bin Laden's children.

The head of al-Qaeda was more of a symbolic figure by the time he was taken out by the US military. He was certainly not an expert on organisational details, especially those concerning the local franchising of his terror network. Organisations such as Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Harkat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami (HUJI) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) represent some of al-Qaeda's local franchises that are more difficult to fight as they have built deep social roots. These militant networks are wiser, too, as they know how to keep a distance between themselves, their core strategy and events such as this. The coming days and months are critical, as these local al-Qaeda franchises will re-group and fight back.

The writer is an Islamabad-based security analyst






Osama bin Laden is dead — and so is an old Middle East. That they died together is fortuitous and apt.

Bin Laden lived to propel history backward to the reestablishment of a Muslim caliphate. He died a marginal figure to the transformation fast-forwarding the Arab world toward pluralism and self-expression.

He came of age as the Arab world shifted from Nasserite nationalism to the discovery of identity in political Islamism. It was a potent form of anti-Western defiance. His death comes as post-Islamist revolutions from Tunis to Cairo topple despotism in the name of democratic values long denied Arabs, who, in their vast majority, now seek a reasonable balance between modernity and their faith. Arab pride has disentangled itself from the complex of the West.

Bin Laden's Holy War drew sustenance from "Westoxification" — the sense of humiliation among Arabs at perceived Western dominance and aggression. Bin Laden whipped that resentment into al-Qaeda's capacity for nihilistic mass murder.

He died as Arabs en masse move away from the politics of rage and revenge, directed mainly outward, toward a new politics of responsibility and representative government, directed mainly inward.

It is not only the timing of his death at the hands of US forces that is apt, but also its location — far from a Middle East with which he had lost touch. He died in Pakistan. Or rather he died in the so-called Af-Pak theatre where a decade of war has fed jihadist ideology even as it has lost appeal for Web-savvy Arab youth in the region of its birth.

An era has passed. It was a painful decade of disorientation and American whiplash. The mass murder so agonising it had to be distilled to three digits — 9/11 — poisoned a new century at its outset. Bin Laden was that poison's slow drip.

I was in New York City that day, at the bottom of Atlantic Avenue, by the East River, when a guy next to me said, "Hey, look, the World Trade Centre's on fire." So, on a clear day, began the pulverising horror that turned human beings to dust and shook Americans' most basic assumptions about the land that morphed into a "homeland."

Today I'm in Benghazi, where brave Libyans determined to forge a decent society battle an Arab despot, Muammar Gaddafi, the sometime terrorist and slayer of Americans who then claimed anti-Qaeda credentials to secure the support of the West. In fact, of course, his tyranny, which must end, has fed the very extremism he claimed to oppose. Bin Laden thrived on Arab despotism and on the American hypocrisy involved in supporting that repression.

He died as President Obama's America has made democratisation in the Arab world at least a semi-serious US objective for the first time. Effective counterterrorism does not lie in starving a whole region of basic rights. That much has been learned.

There is hope in this passage from the suicidal Arab rage of 9/11 to the brave resistance of Libya's 2/17 Benghazi revolution — and the other revolutions and uprisings sweeping the region. A long road is left to travel — al-Qaeda is not dead — but the first step was the hardest: the breaking of the captive Arab mind, the triumph of engagement over passivity, the defeat of fear. Bin Laden's rose-tinged caliphate was the solace of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the desperate. A young guy with a job, a vote and prospects does not need virgins in paradise.

America initially nourished bin Laden's ideology as a means to defeat the Soviet empire, before becoming its target. Neglect and end-of-history euphoria preceded devastating blowback. In the decade since then, there has been further blowback — from two punishing wars and from mistaken policy.

This is a triumphant day for a young American president who changed policy, retiring his predecessor's horrible misnomer, the Global War on Terror or GWOT, in order to focus, laser-like, on the terrorists determined to do the United States and its allies harm. Bin Laden had enticed George W. Bush's flailing America into his web. Obama saw the need for extraction and engagement — extraction from the wars and engagement with the moderate Muslim majority.

The passage has been uneven but his achievements unquestionable. Open societies have this going for them over circles of fanatical conviction: they learn from mistakes.

How then to complete the work and make a corpse not only of bin Laden but his movement? Oust Gaddafi with ruthlessness and in short order. Steer the Arab revolutions into port with consistent political support and funding. Arab democracy must also mean Arab opportunity.

End the war in Afghanistan as soon as America's basic security requirements are met. Make America's closest regional ally, Israel, understand that a changed Middle East cannot be met with unchanging Israeli policies. Palestine, like Israel, must rise to the region's dawning post-Osama era of responsibility and representation.

The 2012 campaign just got less interesting. Obama, as I've written before, is a lucky man. I suspect luck and purposefulness do a two-term president make. Obama got Osama because he turned a wider tide.






For months after 9/11, people watched planes. They watched skyscrapers. They looked over their shoulders in crowded places — at baseball games, college graduations, New Year's celebrations. They eyed bearded men on planes and trains, glanced nervously at suspicious packages in shopping malls, and listened for the lilt of Arabic in airports and bus stations. They profiled relentlessly and shamelessly, and waited for the next attack to come.

I moved to Washington, DC, a year after the twin towers fell, and there was a touch of London during the blitz in the way that people carried themselves in those days.

My friends and neighbours rode the Metro with stiff upper lips, kept calm and carried on as they headed to work at the Pentagon or the State Department (or a minor think tank or political magazine, for that matter), and generally behaved as if even the most everyday activities were taking place in the valley of the shadow of death. We felt as if we were living with targets on our backs. We assumed that it was only a matter of time until al-Qaeda struck again.

Ten years later, we're still waiting. There have been many plots, certainly, foiled by good intelligence work or good police work or simple grace and luck.

There have been shoe bombers and there have been underwear bombers and Times Square bombers — and others still, presumably, that were cut short before they reached the headlines.

But the wave of further violence that seemed inevitable in those fraught months after 9/11 never materialised within our borders. And what seemed like the horrifying opening offensive in a new and terrifying war stands instead as an isolated case — a passing moment when al-Qaeda seemed to rival fascism and Communism as a potential threat to our civilisation, and when Osama bin Laden inspired far more fear and trembling than his actual capabilities deserved.

Now the man is dead.

This is a triumph for the United States of America, for our soldiers and intelligence operatives, and for the president as well. But it is not quite the triumph that it would have seemed if bin Laden had been captured a decade ago, because those 10 years have taught us that we didn't need to fear him and his rabble as much as we did, temporarily but intensely, in the weeks when ground zero still smoked.

They've taught us, instead, that whatever blunders we make (and we have made many), however many advantages we squander (and there has been much squandering), and whatever quagmires we find ourselves lured into, our civilisation is not fundamentally threatened by the utopian fantasy politics embodied by groups like al-Qaeda, or the mix of thugs, fools and pseudointellectuals who rally around their banner.

They can strike us, they can wound us, they can kill us. They can goad us into tactical errors and strategic blunders. But they are not, and never will be, an existential threat.

This was not clear immediately after 9/11. On that day, they took us by surprise. They took advantage of our society's great strength — its openness and freedom, the welcome it gives to immigrants and the presumption of innocence it extends. And in the wake of their attack, we did not know what they were capable of, or how they might follow up their victory.

Now we know. We know because bin Laden is finally dead and gone, but in a sense we knew already.

We learned the lesson in every day that passed without an attack, in every year that turned, and in the way our eyes turned, gradually but permanently, from the skies and the skyscrapers back to the ordinary things of life.

We learned when the planes landed safely, when the malls stayed open, when the commencements came and went, when one baseball season gave way to another. Day after day, hour after hour, we learned that we were strong and they were weak.

One of bin Laden's most famous quotations (there were not many in his oeuvre) compared the United States and al-Qaeda to racing horses. "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse," he told his acolytes over table talk, "by nature, they will like the strong horse." In his cracked vision, America was the weak nag, and al-Qaeda the strong destrier.

But the last 10 years have taught us differently: In life as well as death, Osama bin Laden was always the weak horse.







Senior Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, author of 'Taliban', 'Jihad' and 'Descent into Chaos', has extensively covered the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He spoke to Alia Allana about the killing of Osama bin Laden and its possible fallout, warning that an attempt may be made to create divisions between Pakistan and India through "another attack as horrendous as Mumbai 26/11". Excerpts from the interview:

How does Osama bin Laden's death impact the war in Afghanistan?

The strategy will continue to remain the same. Yes, his death will lead to the usual suspects — some in the US Congress and the peace lobby — asking for reductions. In fact, the real novel development has been the US's willingness to undertake such an operation. It has been a risky venture. It was after all an intrusion into Pakistani territory.

Bin Laden was found hiding in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. What do you make of this?

Historically Pakistan has been hesitant, it has refused to go out against al-Qaeda allies like the Haqqani network. That bin Laden was found in Abbottabad is not that much of a shock when you look towards the activities of the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Immediately after 9/11, the LeT had helped hide many senior al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan's cities and it is possible that bin Laden too received their assistance. One should remember that allies like the LeT are extremely valuable — they have close ties to the intelligence networks.

How does bin Laden's death affect the al-Qaeda network?

Unquestionably, the death of Osama bin Laden is a blow to the terrorist network and hundreds of dedicated jihadis will be in mourning. I would not be surprised if many are swearing to give their lives in revenge. But al-Qaeda will continue to exist without bin Laden. It is no longer the highly centralised hierarchical system of yesteryear. One should note that there has been a shift in the network — rather than all orders and training being authorised by the top leaders, it is now a more amorphous outfit.

What, if any, retaliatory attacks from al-Qaeda loyalists do you foresee?

There are two parts to this question: the immediate neighbourhood and the West. Of course Afghanistan, where the franchise continues to command dedication, is at risk. But the real threat will be to Pakistan. Of late, al-Qaeda has had its base in Pakistan, despite the Pakistani authorities' denials. Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups may well be determined in launching a campaign in the memory of bin Laden. It does not stop there. Al-Qaeda and its allies may use this moment to create divisions between India and Pakistan through another attack as horrendous as Mumbai 26/11.

What about the West?

The possibility of another 9/11 are very low. But that does not mean the threat does not exist, and this needs to be understood through its current philosophy: one man, one bomb. And there are examples to validate this — last year there were two attempted attacks, one in Times Square in New York and the other in a New York subway. So the threat is random suicide bombings in Europe and the US. In fact, my fear would be attacks on Western military targets.

The al-Qaeda franchise has grown over the years. What is the biggest challenge now?

The rise of sleeper cells, their growth since 9/11 and their awakening. You see this particularly in Europe; just look at Germany and the arrest of the three Moroccans last week. They had been trained in the tribal areas. Those who live in Western societies may well be encouraged to spring into action now that bin Laden has been killed. But al-Qaeda itself faces challenges now with bin Laden's death.







In Pakistan, certain absurdities are casually treated as being products of clever political pragmatism. Nothing's shocking anymore.

As civilians and security personnel build taller and taller walls around their schools, mosques, shrines, markets and offices, a hapless polity and its leadership have no clue so far how to stop monsters we call "khudkush bambaar" (suicide bombers). Yet, in the animated electronic media of Pakistan, it is not these mad men with bombs around their waists and visions of paradise in their warped heads that dominate the discourse on the country's war against Islamists. No sir, what gets discussed and decried more in this respect are the American drone attacks in the country's tribal, militant-infested north-west areas.

Statistics do not matter. For example, a whopping 34,017 people have died in terrorist attacks since 2004 in Pakistan, whereas 1,968 have been killed by the drones — more than half of them militants! Nevertheless, this hasn't stopped the media and politicians from sounding louder in their condemnation of drone attacks, and striking utterly ambiguous postures about terror attacks.

The groaning became so loud at one point that the truth finally came screaming out. Fortunately, amidst all this, some senior journalists and political analysts turned leftwards and became articulate vassals of this truth. They suggested that it is most probably the Pakistani intelligence agencies who want their various recruits in the media to begin a concentrated campaign against the Americans, using the drone attack issue as a confrontational plank.

Not so absurd a theory, really. The CIA accuses the ISI of being selective in targeting Islamists, killing some but at the same time protecting others. The drones issue becomes a way for the media and opposition parties to whip up anti-American sentiments in the public, so the agencies can tell their aggravated counterparts in the CIA that America better listen to the ISI's concerns, otherwise the public will eat them up.

Yes, Pakistani intelligence agencies have had a history of propping up whole political parties and politicians and a number of media-men to speak for them in a civilian set-up. But now the scenario has become rather bizarre. As the rampaging media's credibility is increasingly coming under scrutiny, it seems those who want to keep this cyclic game against the Americans going have begun to prop up certain politicians. Again, nothing new. But what is new is the fact that it is those parties and politicians with a history of being propped up by the agencies in the past who have decided to raise the alarm.

The leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar, thumped his desk in the National Assembly for three consecutive days, accusing the ISI of funding cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Though there is every likelihood that Nisar is right, it is ironic that he belongs to a party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which in the 1990s was the most gracious recipient of agency tinkering and manoeuvring.

But why is the PML-N raising the biggest hue-and-cry about Imran's new-found status? After all, it shares Imran's largely right-wing views and concerns about drone attacks, and has sounded as apologetic about the Taliban as has Imran.

Well, Imran's almost non-existent party is now said to be all set to suddenly emerge into an organised unit. But his enigmatic backers also know that, no matter how much of a shine they give to his party, his vote-bank will remain rooted in the central part of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab.

Central Punjab is also the PML-N's traditional constituency. But since the PML-N has washed its hands of whatever history it has had as an establishmentarian party, the establishment has gone looking for those who not only have similar right-wing views, but can be easily controlled.

Thus Imran becomes an attractive choice. Though still a minnow, some of his backers see a lot of promise in him. They feel he can be moulded into the next big right-wing thing in the populous Punjab, and his rampant quasi-reactionary views can be an asset, helping the military-establishment continue its silly little games with the Americans.

In another bizarre twist, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has dismissed Nisar's anti-ISI tirades. This is bizarre because Gilani belongs to a party (PPP) that is perhaps the only mainstream Pakistani party that had no links whatsoever with the agencies. In fact, it had been a target of the establishment for over 30 years.

But look at it this way. The PPP is in the government. It is barely surviving, but has done well to stay put. Come the next elections, it is bound to lose a lot of votes, especially in Punjab. But if Imran is able to make a dramatic impact in Punjab, he will be cannibalising PML-N votes, not the PPP's.

So why should the PPP be worried about what the ISI is supposedly up to with Imran? In fact, Gilani, a southern Punjabi, seems to be saying, "ISI propping up a new alliance in Punjab? Sou bismillah!" (By the grace of God, do it a hundred times).

The writer is a Karachi-based journalist







In the mid-1990s, when Maruti was being run as a JV with Suzuki and the latter had finalised a new engine for the Maruti 800, the heavy industries ministry came up with a plan to send a group of joint secretaries around the world to evaluate other engines! Never mind that the cars the JV sold were on the strength of Suzuki's technology, or that the bureaucrats had no particular expertise in evaluating engines. In 2011, as reported in FE yesterday, the oil ministry has written to the home ministry on the RIL-BP deal, to ask for its view of the antecedents of BP's 13 directors (including its chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg), and its assessment of BP's track record and abilities to handle deepwater exploration. That the ministry is concerned about what happened to the BP wells in the Gulf of Mexico is a good thing, but if anyone has to take a call on this, it should be the oil regulator (Directorate General of Hydrocarbons) whose job includes looking after the safety of oil/gas exploration, and not the home ministry. In any case, as the investigations into the accident have shown, the US regulator is also to blame since it okayed what BP proposed—safety is specific to each well/field, and not to companies per se. Even more intriguing, as FE has pointed out, is that BP has been a partner of RIL in the D-17 block, and the question of its capabilities has not arisen before. Indeed, it is curious that questions should be asked of its directors, given that BP already has a presence in India (it employs 8,000 persons in India, directly and indirectly).

Under normal circumstances, the oil ministry's queries may have been seen as just routine bureaucratic paperwork. But given the history of how the oil ministry has delayed the Cairn-Vedanta deal, although it is clear the ministry has no locus standi, and you begin to get a bit worried—as FE has pointed out earlier, if ONGC has a dispute with Cairn on whether royalty payments are to be expensed or not, it needs to go in for arbitration, not get the oil ministry to arm-twist Cairn into accepting ONGC's view if the deal is to be cleared.





One of the reasons why PSUs, and not just Air India, tend to get treated with kidgloves is the belief they serve the public purpose. So, Air India is important since it provides low-cost flying options for Indians, BSNL ensures low-cost connectivity and more so in rural areas, oil PSUs like Indian Oil Corporation have petrol pumps in the most far-flung areas of the country … the list goes on. Like most beliefs, it's good to test them out against the facts. In the case of Air India, we find that a relative newcomer like Indigo has a 19.5% share of the domestic market as compared to Air India's 14.9%—not surprising then that its revenues have fallen from R15,257 crore in 2007-08 to R13,402 crore in 2009-10. As for BSNL, it is the market leader in landlines, but no one wants landlines anymore—landlines in the country fell from 37.1 million in December 2009 to 35.1 in December 2010. In the case of mobile phones, BSNL is down to number 4, and its 86.7 million subscribers are small compared to Bharti's 152.5 million—in the case of rural phones, BSNL's 30.8 million subscribers are around half that of Bharti's 60.9 million, and even Idea-Spice has more rural subscribers at 40.7 million. BSNL has covered 2.9 lakh villages as compared to Bharti's 3.3 lakh. In the case of the oil PSUs, it is true that nearly all the retail outlets in the country are those of public sector firms, but keep in mind that private firms like RIL were driven out of the business when the government ensured the oil PSUs spent R4,23,000 crore between 2003-04 and 2010-11 to sell products at below-market prices. The only sector where the central public sector units have been able to increase their market share is the power sector, where the failure to open up distribution networks and increase competition has marginally pushed up their share from 38% to 41% in thermal power and from 31% to 38% in hydro power.

The decline in the CPSEs is not just restricted to market share but extends even to their contributions to the exchequer, in the form of taxes and duties, which has fallen from R1,45,821 crore in 2007-08 to R1,19,531 crore in 2009-10. We've seen how Maruti's capacity, and exports, rose dramatically after it was privatised—today, it is an integral part of even Suzuki's global R&D. In the case of Balco, its capacity trebled post-privatisation. If the PSUs earn less profits than private firms and don't offer a particularly great product—why else would their market share fall so steadily—you wonder what public purpose they serve. Apart from giving our public servants and politicians something to control, that is.







The execution of Osama bin Laden by the US forces last night puts the Pakistan Army on the defensive, allows Washington to redefine the strategic calculus of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and provides an opportunity for India to reimagine the peace process in the Subcontinent. Above all, the military action deep inside Pakistan's territory boosts US President Barack Obama's image at home and abroad as a decisive military leader.

India, to be sure, can take satisfaction at the irrefutable demonstration of Pakistan army's complicity in protecting bin Laden for a decade and its institutional support to extremism and terrorism. But India also needs to think creatively about the post-Osama possibilities to promote civilian control over the Pakistan military. The killing of bin Laden provides a rare chance to transform civil-military relations in Pakistan and end the Pakistan army's prolonged political dalliance with terrorism.

At a time when much of Asia sees the US as losing political ground everywhere, Sunday night's successful operations against bin Laden underline the depth of Washington's power and the will to exercise it.

When Pakistan is openly urging the Afghan leaders to dump the US and align with China, Obama has underlined Washington's primacy in shaping the Subcontinent's regional balance.

The biggest loser from the death of Osama bin Laden is the Pakistan army headquartered in Rawalpindi. After a decade of the Pakistan army's double dealing on terrorism, Washington has gained the upper hand, at least for the moment, by killing bin Laden.

The US raids on bin Laden's safe house do not appear to have been conducted either with the prior permission of, or cooperation from General Kayani.

While Obama said counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan did lead to information about bin Laden's movements, he did not thank the Pakistan army or civilian leaders for the success of Sunday night's operation.

Obama's remarks announcing the death of bin Laden suggested that he was merely 'informing' the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, of the US action and emphasising the importance of stronger US-Pakistani cooperation in defeating terrorism.

Obama also said his senior officials had contacted their relevant counterparts in Pakistan, including, presumably, in the Pakistan army. Throughout the last decade, the Pakistan army repeatedly denied reports that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. It encouraged speculation that bin Laden might be hiding in the ungoverned tribal areas straddling the Pak-Afghan border.

That Osama was nailed down in Abbottabad, a military town not too far from the capital Islamabad, puts the Pakistan army, as an institution, in an unenviable situation.

Before he took charge as the army chief in 2007, Kayani was the head of ISI and could not have been unaware of his organisation's protection of bin Laden.

Washington, however, was willing to cut much slack for Rawalpindi all these years. For the US operations in Afghanistan during the last decade were critically dependent on overland supplies through Pakistan and intelligence cooperation from the ISI.

By running an independent military operation to kill Osama in

Abbottabad, Washington has not only exposed

Pakistan's deceit, but demonstrated its capacity to act without regard to Kayani's sensitivities.

In his remarks at the White House, Obama recalled his muscular campaign promise during the presidential election campaign of 2008 that he would go after bin Laden and al Qaeda hideouts, without a reference to Pakistan's territorial sovereignty, if he had the evidence. That evidence had come last August and Obama led the meticulous preparations to capture or kill bin Laden in Pakistan's territory.

It is one thing, however, to expose the fact that the Pakistan army was playing both sides of the street in the war on terrorism—hunting with the American hounds and running with the al Qaeda.

The US will still need the cooperation of the Pakistan army to bring any measure of stability to Afghanistan and end its occupation by 2014 with a discernible measure of success.

The death of bin Laden has not altered the geography of the north-western Subcontinent. But it certainly provides an important moment for Washington to rework the incentives and disincentives to the Pakistan army.

If the $20 billion offered over the last decade did not buy the US the love of Rawalpindi, the demonstration of the capacity to take out sensitive targets in Pakistani territory should concentrate the mind of General Kayani.

As the US explores a new framework for regional security, India will inevitably figure in the calculations of Washington and Rawalpindi. General Kayani never tires of telling us that the Pakistan army is 'India-centric'.

Instead of objecting to Kayani's obsessions with India, the UPA government must now boldly step in to help Pakistan secure itself—internally and externally.

India must offer to support any framework that will reduce Rawalpindi's dominance over Pakistan's national security decision-making, promote civilian control of the military, and wean the Pak army and the ISI away from supporting extremism and terrorism.

The author is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







Infosys Technologies, to be shortly called Infosys Ltd, has pulled off a casting coup. By deciding to appoint KV Kamath as the chairman and Kris Gopalakrishnan as the executive co-chairman, it has ensured a win-win situation for the company, forging a technology-execution master class at the top of the management tree. This has also enabled the quietly ambitious SD Shibulal to scale up to the post of chief executive officer and managing director. The board has shown great clarity of thought here, and the nominations committee did not spoil the party just as well. Now let's examine what has been achieved by these astutely taken decisions.

For a long time, it was thought that CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan would become the chairman of the company, in keeping with the existing practice of elevating founders to the very top.

But, as luck would have it, Infosys went through a rocky patch over the last one year and the period also saw it getting embroiled in a visa-related case in the US. Now, if Kris had gone on to become chairman, the debate about founders being preferred would have reached deafening decibels. And it would have been equally imprudent to keep Kris in the same position after many years as CEO.

Top management officials at Infosys felt that it would have been a travesty of justice if Kris did not make it to the chairman's seat. Under him, Infosys grew from a $3-billion firm to a $6-billion one. This is no mean task, considering that he had to propel the company through the choppy waters presented by the all-consuming global economic recession. It was also important for the board of directors to take cognisance of Shibulal's simmering ambition to become CEO.

With the appointment of Kamath, whom founder-chairman Narayana Murthy knew for 41 long years, all issues have been solved with one swish of the magic wand. For the outside world, the new appointments give out the perfect message. Infosys has now broken out of the shackles of being termed as a founder driven company, without having to hurt the ambitions of any of the founders. Kamath is a man of immense stature in the Indian banking circles and industry analysts feel that a man of his credentials is a worthy successor to Murthy, especially when it comes to corporate governance principles. Kamath will also bring in his considerable experience in the BFSI segment—a vertical that all tier-1 IT firms bank upon. He has also shown a great penchant for technology, raising ICICI Bank to one of the most tech-friendly financial institutions in the country.

Having said that, it is apparent that it would be Kris who would still drive the company in his capacity as executive co-chairman. Kris is someone who the analyst community does not rate very highly. But that is not a reflection of what he has done for the company. The industry watchers point out that Infosys has missed profit estimates drawn up by financial analysts repeatedly in the last one year. But what they miss is that Infosys almost always exceeded its own guidance numbers by a healthy margin. Also, Kris has been quite outstanding in his work as the CEO—a fact repeatedly acknowledged by Narayana Murthy—though the IT industry often fails to give him enough credit.

With Kris's elevation as company co-chairman, Infosys would continue to gain from his immense experience as a master technologist. He is also young enough (56 years) to go on to become its sole chairman one day. His mantle has now been passed on to Shibulal, with whom he shares a great passion for the latest gadgets and technology. Shibu is known to be a stickler of processes though, the way it should be in multi-billion dollar firms. His success will lie in how he can help the company win larger transformational deals while keeping the margins high enough in true Infosys tradition. He will also have to drive the company further down the realms of cloud computing and narrow down the revenue gap with TCS. In his journey, he is likely to enjoy the cushioning provided by one of India's best respected bankers and one of the best known IT CEOs, who have been elevated to occupy the best chairs at Infosys.







In the nearly 10 years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, if there was a man who could claim responsibility for single-handedly setting the world's agenda, it was Osama bin Laden. As the smiling face behind the 9/11 attacks, the leader of a global terror network that reared its head in countries from the U.S. to the United Kingdom to Indonesia, bin Laden changed the way we led our lives in more ways than has yet been fully understood. With the attacks on the Twin Towers, the U.S invaded Afghanistan, unleashing a war that has claimed thousands of civilian lives, in which much of the western world is involved to a greater or lesser degree. It did not make the world a safer place as promised but only made people everywhere more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda's alleged spread into Saddam Hussein's Iraq was one of the reasons cited by the Bush administration for the 2003 invasion of that country. With an ideology that offered nothing but a pledge to destroy the U.S. and the "enemies of Islam" everywhere, bin Laden and his network of jihadists exploited a welter of real and perceived grievances of populations in the Islamic world, both against their own governments and the outside world, especially the U.S. In the al-Qaeda solution, there was no room for negotiations, bargains, or compromises with the "enemy." The true path was that of violence, which created a self-fulfilling prophesy of a "clash of civilisations" by drawing the U.S. and other western powers into an ever-spiralling war against "terror" — a war al-Qaeda and its ally, the Taliban, and other groups linked to them by their radical ideologies were able to project as a war against Islam, strengthening bin Laden's hands with every passing day. The U.S. had been pursuing him even before 9/11, in fact from as far back as 1992. After his escape from the fierce assault on his hideout in Afghanistan's Tora Bora caves, he was suspected to be hiding in Pakistan. His killing on the night of May 1, in a targeted operation by U.S. Navy Seals at his hideout 150 km from the Pakistan capital city Islamabad, is a landmark development in the "war against terror."

Beyond relief, what implications does this development hold for the world? When President Barack Obama announced the death of bin Laden in an address from the White House, he was correct in cautioning that this did not mean the end of al-Qaeda. Over the decade since 9/11, the network has expanded, spread, morphed, and broken off into what have come to be known as "al Qaeda franchises" round the world. These franchises have shown their ability to plan and carry out attacks in their area of operation independently of bin Laden. Only last year, a plot to carry out a bombing in the United States with explosives packed in couriered parcels was uncovered in the nick of time; the plot was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AIQM). Last month al-Qaeda warned it would unleash "a nuclear hell storm" in Europe, giving rise to fears that it might have a nuclear bomb. There is a real possibility that the killing of bin Laden will turn him into a martyr, inspiring others to take up the battle. Certainly, countries around the world are bracing for reprisal attacks. Much, however, depends on how Washington conducts itself from this point onwards. For starters, President Obama needs to rethink the war in Afghanistan. If the ultimate objective is to talk to "moderate" Taliban in order to negotiate an end to this war, there is no justification for further military operations in that country, and no excuse for delaying the departure of the U.S. and other foreign troops.

Pakistan certainly has some soul-searching to do. Its political leaders and officials always rejected suspicions that the al-Qaeda leader was holed up in their country. It is deeply troubling that the 54-year-old bin Laden, for whom the U.S. had announced a bounty of $50 million, had made a home not in some remote inaccessible corner of Pakistan, but in one of its most pleasant cities, close to the capital, in a house that was so big it could not have escaped notice. That it was located less than a kilometre from the Kakul Military Academy is even more troubling. Is it believable that Pakistan's intelligence agencies did not know about the presence of the world's most wanted terrorist? Did they ignore what was going on under their noses? Or worse, were they involved in maintaining the safe haven? During his 2008 election campaign, President Obama pledged that if there was "actionable intelligence" about bin Laden in Pakistan, he would authorise action with or without Islamabad's help. In his speech, he was careful to highlight Pakistan's counter-terrorism cooperation. But this daring operation, eight months in the planning, had no Pakistanis on board. In the last few months, relations between the two countries have deteriorated over the CIA's covert operations inside the country.

While much blame can be apportioned to the way the U.S. has conducted itself in the region, for Pakistan the killing of bin Laden on its soil is a moment of truth, somewhat similar to the discovery that the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks were launched from its territory, only much bigger in its implications. In India, which has tried to overcome the public's hostility towards Pakistan over the Mumbai attacks through a series of peace moves under the personal initiative of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it will certainly be hoped that the death of bin Laden strengthens the hands of those forces in Pakistan who want their state to shut the door on militancy, extremism, and terrorism once and for all. While it may be tempting to see bin Laden's killing at Abbottabad as confirmation of India's worst fears, New Delhi must resist the temptation to crow, and must push ahead with the peace process with the civilian government of Pakistan.








"History," wrote Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden's mentor, "does not write its lines except with blood." He then added: "Glory does not build its lofty edifice except with skulls; honour and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses."

Osama bin Laden became one of those corpses on Monday: but even as America, and many others across the world, celebrate the killing of a man who more than any other came to represent evil, there is in fact little reason for jubilation.

The stark truth is this: a decade after 9/11, the jihadist movement is more powerful than at any time in the past. The small group bin Laden built in Afghanistan has flowered

Bin Laden himself, the scholar C. Christine Fair has noted, has emerged as a "kind of Che Guevara of the jihadist movement": an icon important not for the operational role he played, but an inspirational figure who could figure the imaginations of young recruits. Put another way, bin Laden's death — or, to the faithful, martyrdom — might prove to be his last service for his macabre cause.

Back in 2001, at the perceived peak of its power, the al-Qaeda had a core of just under 200 cadre — 120-odd grouped together in a crack unit, and a small number of foot-soldiers handling logistical work and training. Perhaps a thousand men had graduated from the training camps it ran in Afghanistan, but they were riven by ideological disputation and personal feuds.

For years before them, bin Laden had sought to become the principal leader of the jihadist movement, by developing loose alliances with ideologically-affiliated organisations — alliances that were built around personal relationships, and cemented with cash from his coffers.

Both ambition and pragmatism underpinned this strategy. In 1996, when international pressure led Sudan to expel the jihadist leader, his following numbered just 30. He had cash, but he had demonstrated little organisational genius, nor had he authored a corpus of original doctrinal thought.

Bin Laden had sought to draw attention by declaring war against the United States and, in 1998, forming the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jews. More than a few organisations signed on to the declaration, but bar the Egyptian jihadist, Ayman al-Zawahiri, none proved willing to suborn themselves to the Saudi jihadist's authority.

Facing extinction, bin Laden ordered a series of increasingly audacious attacks. In 1998, the al-Qaeda bombed the United States' embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Even then, though, he did not acquire the status he craved.

In Afghanistan, the Libya-born jihadist, Ali Mohamed al-Fakheri, and Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, a Saudi national now held in Guantanamo Bay, stonewalled his attempts to exercise power over their training camps. Syria-born Spanish national Mustafa Sett Maryam Nasar, considered by many to be the foremost Islamist ideologue of his generation, also chose not to recognise bin Laden's authority.

Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal — the Iraqi jihadist who was later to become infamous under the pseudonym Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi — was willing to use bin Laden's resources to train cadre, but not to recognise his authority.

In the build-up to 9/11, bin Laden's efforts to take control of a large group of foreign fighters in Afghanistan were repulsed by the Taliban's Mullah Muhammad Omar himself, who gave it instead to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — another group that bin Laden had been attempting to take charge of.

Perhaps paradoxically, 9/11 did for bin Laden what he had been unable to do for himself: as the U.S. became involved in multiple theatres of conflict, it emerged as a common enemy for organisations linked by ideology, but until then focussed on local concerns.

Part of the new push came from al-Qaeda leaders who had fled to Iran after 9/11, where for a time they enjoyed some freedom to organise. The al-Qaeda leadership in Iran developed new programmes and ideological strategies to weave together the disparate jihadist movement into a single cause.

Zarqawi's Jamaat Tawhid wal'Jihad thus submitted to the authority of bin Laden, even though it commanded significantly larger numbers of cadre than the al-Qaeda, suborned itself to bin Laden.

Zarqawi, whose organisation renamed itself the al-Qaeda in Iraq, also persuaded the al-Jamaa'at al-Salafiyyatu lil'Dawati wal-Qitaal, or the Salafist Organisation for Preaching and Combat, to become part of the al-Qaeda umbrella, giving the organisation new reach in North Africa. The al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as it became known, gave the organisation new reach — staging high-profile attacks in countries from Mali to Niger and Algeria.

Leah Farall, a former Australian counter-terrorism analyst who is among the preeminent scholars of al-Qaeda, notes that as these new organisations "pursued local agendas, the franchises were required to undertake some attacks against Western interests."

"Leaders of groups joining al-Qaeda," she wrote in a seminal article in the journal Foreign Policy, "had to be willing to present a united front, stay on message, and be seen to fall under al Qaeda's authority — all crucial for demonstrating the organization's power and attracting others to its cause."

The cause itself had long been known: Abdullah Azzam had written that the Islamic state he hoped to found would "send out a group of mujahideen to their neighbouring infidel state. They should present Islam to the leader and his nation. If they refuse to accept Islam, jizyah [a tax] will be imposed upon them and they will become subjects of the Islamic state. If they refuse this second option, the third course of action is jihad to bring the infidel state under Islamic domination."

The new al-Qaeda that grew up after 9/11 gave teeth to the idea. From 2003, when the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula first plotted an abortive attack on New York's subway system, the organisation's affiliates became increasingly active.

Major attacks on western nations, like the 2009 plot to bomb a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, or last year's nearly successful targeting of United Parcel Service flights, came from affiliates — not units directly under bin Laden's command.

In 2010, the Pakistani jihadist, Muhammad Illyas Kashmiri, joined the al-Qaeda, giving it a formidable pool of cadre and deep logistical resources in Pakistan's northwest.

Kashmiri is believed by western intelligence services to have been involved in an abortive attack on the Jyllands Posten, which incensed many Muslims by publishing cartoons purported to be blasphemous, as well as last autumn's attempted suicide-squad attacks in western Europe.

Last year, Said al-Masri, a top al-Qaeda operative killed in a drone strike, left a posthumous message calling on "the youth of our Muslim nation to inflict damage on the enemies of Allah the Exalted, the Americans, on their own soil, and wherever they are to be found."

That is the task bin Laden's successor will now have.

Even though Zawahiri, as the al-Qaeda's deputy amir, will take charge of the organisation, intelligence officers believe that real power will lie with a younger generation of leaders — key among them a dark-eyed, olive skinned man whose name no one knows.

Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi, also known as Ibrahim al-Madani, Omar al-Somali and Saif al-Adel — which means 'the sword of justice' — is believed to have been picked to direct operations targeting the West.

Al-Adel wants to conduct a prolonged war of attrition, built around low-cost, low-risk operations. He hopes this will push western governments to retreat from Afghanistan, and to back away from brewing conflicts in north Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

In 1991-1992, he trained al-Qaeda jihadists at a camp near Khost in Afghanistan. Later he travelled to Khartoum, providing explosives training at bin Laden's Damazine Farm base. Mohammed Odeh, a jihadist jailed in the U.S., recalls al-Adel telling him that as the fighting in Afghanistan was winding down, it was time to "move the jihad to other parts of the world."

Parts of al-Adel's thinking can be pieced together from a memoir he wrote in 2005. In 1987, the memoir records, al-Adel was a colonel in Egypt's special forces when he joined Zawahiri's group, the al-Jihad. Prosecutors said he had planned to drive a bomb-laden truck into Egypt's Parliament, and to crash an aircraft into the building — tactics that the al-Qaeda would later use to effect.

But al-Adel was less than impressed, holding them guilty of "over-enthusiasm that resulted in hasty action" which brought the wrath of the authorities before the al-Jihad was prepared.

Like other top al-Qaeda operatives, al-Adel was involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. In July 2001, however, al-Qaeda leaders were told the operation did not have the support of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader. The U.S.'s official investigation of the 9/11 strikes, records Mullah Omar's dissent was endorsed by al-Adel and his associates Mahfouz al-Walid and Mustafa Uthman.

Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, al-Adel left for Iran. U.S. intelligence believes he masterminded several attacks on U.S. targets while based there. In response to U.S. pressure, Iran later detained al-Qaeda leaders operating from its soil. Al-Adel lived under house arrest near Tehran with his wife and children until April, when he was released in return for a kidnapped Iranian diplomat.

Last summer, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "I assume somebody in government, from top to bottom, does know where bin Laden is. I'd like to know, too." Now, she does — but the war against al-Qaeda is still very, very far from over.

(Praveen Swami is Diplomatic Editor of The Daily Telegraph , London.)







If there is one European country for which Osama bin Laden had special contempt it is Britain because of its pro-active role in America's "war on terror" and its direct involvement in the invasion of Iraq. He regarded Britain as his biggest enemy in the West and it became central to his terror campaign.

The attack on the London Underground system on July 7, 2005, which killed more than 50 people and left hundreds maimed for life and traumatised, was the most audacious terror atrocity carried out by al-Qaeda in Europe and has been dubbed Britain's 9/11. The most shocking aspect of the London bombings was that they were planned and executed not by the usual suspects — hired guns from the badlands of Somalia and Chechnya — but by a group of educated young men born and brought up in Britain with no apparent "jihadi" bent. This revealed the extent to which al-Qaeda had infiltrated into Britain.

Britain a safer place?

Will Osama's death make Britain a safer place?

The sense of relief on Monday was tempered by a palpable fear of an al-Qaeda backlash amid warnings of possible "reprisals" against western targets. Prime Minister David Cameron cautioned that Osama's death did not mark the end of threat from terrorism and stressed need for utmost vigilance in the days ahead.

"The news Osama Bin Laden is dead will bring great relief to people across the world. Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terror — indeed we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead," he said.

Foreign Secretary William Hague ordered a review of security of British embassies abroad and across Britain amid a heightened sense of alert though the "threat level" remained unchanged. He said that any organisation that suffered a serious blow such as the one al-Qaeda had in Osama's death would "want to show in some way that they are still able to operate."

"We must remember that this is not the end of being vigilant against al-Qaeda and associated groups, and, in fact, there may be parts of al-Qaeda that will try to show that they are still in business in the coming weeks, as indeed some of them are," Mr Hague said.

The Foreign Office asked Britons overseas to "exercise caution in all public places and avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events".

Tony Blair, former Prime Minister, whose close alliance with America in the wake of 9/11 made Britain particularly vulnerable to terrorism, said Osama may be dead but the ideology that he preached was still very much alive and continued to pose a threat.

"This is a huge achievement in the fight against terrorism but we know the fight against the terrorism and the ideology that Bin Laden represents, continues and is as urgent as ever," he said.


Experts pointed to reported claims revealed in WikiLeaks documents that al-Qaeda had hidden a nuclear device somewhere in Europe which would unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" in the event of Osama being captured or killed. The claim was made by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , the self-confessed mastermind behind 9/11, during his interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

Farzana Shaikh, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, said Osama's death would "heighten rather than ease" the climate of fear.

"He remains for his followers (and there are still many) an icon, a hero and a worthy crusader for Muslim causes. But I suspect that in the first instance we are going to witness revenge attacks mainly in Pakistan orchestrated by pro bin Laden groups allied to the Haqqani group and LeT. The death of bin Laden may well heighten rather than ease the climate of fear both in the U.K. and in Pakistan," she said.

There has been no attack on Britain since 7/7 but a number of terror plots allegedly targeting high-profile public buildings in London and other major cities have been foiled. In 2006, an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights taking off from Heathrow airport was disrupted. Al-Qaeda or groups linked to it are believed to have infiltrated deep into Britain. The MI5 claims that it is aware of around 2,000 radicalised Muslims who might be involved in terror plots.

According to WikiLeaks, Britain became a happy hunting ground for al-Qaeda in the 1990s using mosques and so-called "Islamic" centres to recruit "jihadis." Most of them came to Britain as economic migrants but fell under the spell of radical preachers who incited them against the West by showing videos of "atrocities" committed against Muslims in places like Chechnya and Bosnia. Over the years, London has earned the nickname "Londonistan," a haven for extremists from around the world though not all were directly linked to al-Qaeda which, as The Times noted, has come to stand "as a kind of shorthand" for terrorism. There was no immediate public reaction from British-based extremist groups but some Muslim critics of al-Qaeda reported receiving abusive messages. A message on the web declared: "Bin Laden Killed — But Al Qaeda Lives On.








In tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad on Sunday night, America finally seems to have got something right.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were the result of a catastrophic intelligence failure in which different American agencies failed to connect the dots. In response, the George W. Bush administration launched not one but two wars, first in Afghanistan and then Iraq, but did not manage to capture or kill the mastermind behind those attacks. The military sledgehammer produced collateral gains and losses for the U.S. — regime change in Kabul and Baghdad but thousands of body bags too, military bases in the cockpit of Asia but international opposition and even opprobrium as well, a bonanza for its arms and contractor industries but also a fiscal deficit which helped pave the way to a full blown financial crisis.

While counter-terrorism gains such as the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were almost all intelligence driven, the preoccupation with a military approach to the 'AfPak' region has produced the single biggest liability for Washington: a toxic dependence on the Pakistani army. GHQ, Rawalpindi's associations and entanglements with terrorist groups ensures the "war" being fought remains unwinnable. No amount of tinkering at the margins, no Petraeus or McChrystal plan, no proposal of rehabilitation and reintegration of the Taliban, has helped the Pentagon overcome this fundamental flaw.

Patience wearing thin

Though the U.S. gave Pakistan a very long rope, signs that Washington's patience was wearing thin have been multiplying in recent months. As the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and GHQ happily played both sides of the 'war on terror' game in pursuit of their own long-term political and strategic objectives, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was quietly distancing itself from its unreliable Pakistani counterpart. The Raymond Davies affair — in which no less a person than President Barack Obama saw fit to intervene — brought this decoupling out into the open in a particularly dramatic fashion. The Abbottabad operation is also likely a product of America going solo on Pakistani soil.

Last month, Admiral Mike Mullen openly accused the Pakistani military of collusion with the Haqqani network and other terrorists operating in Afghanistan. It is safe to assume he laid this charge in full knowledge of the fact that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad, a town north of Islamabad that is a stone's throw away from the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul. The fact that the world's most wanted man could remain undetected in a small town crawling with soldiers and officers suggests either a high degree of dysfunctionality within the Pakistani system or, worse, a high degree of collusion. Plausible though the first option is, most Americans inside and outside the administration — not to speak of officials and lay persons the world over — will likely believe the second.

Mr. Obama was gracious enough to say in a general sort of way that America's "counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding" but a senior administration official who briefed reporters later on Monday was blunt about the limits of that cooperation. "We shared our intelligence on this bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan," he said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan

Where do U.S. relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan go from here? Indian officials fear there will be growing domestic political pressure on Mr. Obama to declare the 'Fourth Afghan War' over and accelerate the drawdown of U.S. troops in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. But just because the U.S. is waging a war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is no reason for India to fear its departure. At stake is what remains to fill the void. The insurgency in Afghanistan can only be defeated by strengthening the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), on the one hand, and expanding economic opportunities for the country's peoples, on the other. Unfortunately, the former has only recently become an American priority and even then, Washington remains unwilling to allow the ANSF to develop critical assets like an air force. As for development, it is contingent on security and stability, both of which have proved elusive.

If the Pakistani military has run with the jihadi hares even as it has hunted with American hounds, it has done so in anticipation of Washington's eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan. At the same time, this cannot be an argument for the indefinite extension of the American military presence in that country — especially when U.S. troops and aircraft have killed a large number of innocent civilians. Ten years on, it should be clear that the problems in Afghanistan do not have a military solution, at least not one the U.S. can deliver. What America can and must do, however, is to choose its friends wisely and to use its economic and political clout to ensure the Army's nexus with jihadi groups in Pakistan is weakened and destroyed. If indeed the ISI was kept in the dark about Abbottabad, this is a bad augury for the Pakistani military. But unless the U.S. is prepared to go further down that fork in the road, the terrorists who are already preparing themselves to take bin Laden's place will continue to find fertile ground inside Pakistan.








Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan on Sunday (May 1), was a son of the Saudi elite whose radical, violent campaign to re-create a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century.

With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, bin Laden was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for leaders like Hitler and Stalin. He was a new national enemy, his face on wanted posters, gloating on videotape, taunting the United States and Western civilization.

The United States went on a manhunt that culminated in a December 2001 battle at an Afghan mountain redoubt called Tora Bora, near the border of Pakistan, where bin Laden and his allies were hiding. Despite days of pounding by American bombers, bin Laden escaped. Five years later, he was believed to be alive, safe in hiding somewhere across the border in western Pakistan, and plotting new attacks.

'North Star' of terror

Long before, he had become a hero in much of the Islamic world, as much a myth as a man what a long-time officer of the CIA called "the North Star" of global terrorism. He had united disparate militant groups, from Egypt to Chechnya, from Yemen to the Philippines, under the banner of his al-Qaeda organisation and his ideal of a borderless brotherhood of radical Islam.

Terrorism before bin Laden was often state-sponsored, but he was a terrorist who had sponsored a state. For five years, 1996 to 2001, he paid for the protection of the Taliban, then the rulers of Afghanistan. He bought the time and the freedom to make his group, al-Qaeda — the name means "the base" — a multinational corporation to export terror around the globe.

For years after the September 11 attacks, the name of al-Qaeda and the fame of bin Laden spread like a 21st-century political plague. Groups calling themselves al-Qaeda, or acting in the name of its cause, attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, bombed tourist spots in Bali, and blew up passenger trains in Spain.

Used modern methods

He waged holy war with distinctly modern methods. He sent fatwas — religious decrees — by fax and declared war on Americans in an email message beamed by satellite around the world. Al-Qaeda members kept bomb-making manuals on CD-ROM and communicated with encrypted memos on laptop computers, leading one American official to declare that bin Laden possessed better communication technology than the United States. He styled himself a Muslim ascetic, a billionaire's son who gave it all up for the cause. But he was media-savvy and acutely image-conscious; before a CNN crew that interviewed him in 1997 was allowed to leave, his media advisers insisted on editing out unflattering shots. He summoned reporters to a cave in Afghanistan when he needed to get his message out, but like the most controlling of CEOs, he insisted on receiving written questions in advance.

Although he claimed to follow the purest form of Islam, many scholars insisted that he was glossing over Islam's edicts against killing innocents and civilians. Islam draws boundaries on where and why holy war can be waged; bin Laden declared the whole world fair territory.

The early life

By accounts of people close to the family, Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden was born in 1957, the seventh son and 17th child among 50 or more of his father's children.

His father, Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden, had emigrated to what would soon become Saudi Arabia in 1931 from the family's ancestral village in a conservative province of southern Yemen. He found work in Jidda as a porter to the pilgrims on their way to Mecca, and years later, when he would own the largest construction company in Saudi Arabia, he displayed his porter's bag in the main reception room of his palace as a reminder of his humble origins.

But some people close to the family paint a portrait of bin Laden as family misfit. His mother, the last of his father's four wives, was from Syria, the only one of the wives not from Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden Sr. had met her on a vacation, and Osama was their only child. Within the family, she was said to be known as "the slave" and Osama, "the slave child."

According to his brother, Osama was the only one of the bin Laden children who never travelled abroad to study. A biography of bin Laden, provided to the PBS television program "Frontline" by an unidentified family friend, asserts that bin Laden never travelled outside the Middle East.

That lack of exposure to Western culture would prove a crucial distinction; the other siblings went on to lead lives that would not be unfamiliar to most Americans. They took over the family business, now estimated at $5 billion, distributing Snapple drinks, Volkswagen cars and Disney products across the Middle East. On September 11, 2001, several bin Laden siblings were living in the United States.

The aftermath

After the attacks of September 11, bin Laden did what had become routine: He took to Arab television. He appeared, in his statement to the world, to be at the top of his powers. President George W. Bush had declared that the nations of the world were either with the Americans or against them on terrorism; bin Laden held up a mirror image, declaring the world divided between infidels and believers.

Bin Laden had never before claimed or accepted responsibility for terrorist attacks. In a videotape found in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar weeks after the attacks, he firmly took responsibility for and revelled in the horror of September 11. In the videotape, showing him talking to followers nearly two months after the attacks, bin Laden smiles, hungers to hear more approval, and notes proudly that the attacks let loose a surge of interest in Islam around the world.

His greatest hope, he told supporters, was that if he died at the hands of the Americans, the Muslim world would rise up and defeat the nation that had killed him. ( Tim Weiner contributed reporting.) — © New York Times News Service





A team comprising Japanese and Australian researchers have headed to the Osprey Reef of Queensland of Australia to start scanning parts of the Great Barrier Reef with a special deep-sea robot.

The scientists are hoping the video will reveal links between tropical marine life on the Great Barrier Reef and organisms in Antarctic waters.

The expedition is the first time the 220 kg robot called "Picasso" has been used outside of Japanese waters. The robot is about 2.2 m long and 80 cm high. The team will return to Cairns on May 17. — Xinhua






The carefully plotted killing of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in a firefight inside a mansion in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, not far from Islamabad, on Sunday night is a historical event whose practical implications will be sought to be grasped for some time to come. Bin Laden had not only created Al Qaeda, but he also funnelled and helped coalesce the forces that would eventually attack the American mainland on September 11, 2001, a horrific event that set the stage for the unleashing of US military power in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and in sharpening the capabilities of a vast military machine in the Gulf with the aim of arresting the spread of Al Qaeda in Arab lands, with which America's political, economic and military policy has been intertwined since the end of World War II. These developments came to be drawn together under the rubric of the "global war on terror". Ironically, the demise of the terrorist leader cannot automatically signify the rollback of the US military machine from these areas, although it is possible some political openings may be created to help accelerate processes that would lead to a US withdrawal from Af-Pak and elsewhere.
If a rough parallel were sought to be drawn with the death of Adolf Hilter on April 30, 1945, it will be noticed that when Nazi Germany's leader took his own life, his Third Reich was disintegrating, German forces were surrounded by its enemies (tasting defeat on all fronts), and the end of World War II was near. The opposite is the case with the irregular military detachments (like the Taliban and some others) which found inspiration from Bin Laden. Their end is not in sight, and bringing this about will take some doing. The rise of democratic sentiment in North Africa and some Gulf states, leading to widespread public demonstrations against dictatorships — rather than a lurch towards extremism on a significant scale — does not negate the dynamics of Al Qaeda's affiliates like the Taliban. This was implicitly recognised by US President Barack Obama in his short speech, in which he announced Osama bin Laden's death. His killing marked "the most significant achievement to date" in the US attempt to defeat Al Qaeda, Mr Obama noted. But he also said: "Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There is no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us".
The official reaction in India is little more than a tepid — and elliptical — version of the US President's short address. External affairs minister S.M. Krishna said on Monday: "The world must not let down its united effort to overcome terrorism and eliminate the safe havens and sanctuaries that have been provided to terrorists in our own neighbourhood. The struggle must continue unabated." Contrast this with the US President's directness: "And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against Al Qaeda and its associates." This appears to be more an instruction than an appeal, although the Americans are fully aware that the Pakistan government and its military leadership will pretend to their people that they had no contribution to make in the US enterprise of killing Bin Laden. (This due to widespread lurking sympathies for extremism and terrorism in Pakistan). It would be dreadful if India simply sat back and watched what the Americans and the Pakistanis now do with regard to Afghanistan, not to say cleaning up of Taliban sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Indeed, it is time to project a muscular Indian diplomacy in the wake of Bin Laden's death in order to work for an outcome that is consistent with our regional perspectives.






The killing of Osama bin Laden is significant on two counts. It marks the end of a 10-year hunt for the mastermind of the horrendous 9/11 tragedy — the death of some 3,000 people in New York's Twin Towers, in the Pentagon in Washington and on remote fields as another plane went down after it was wrestled down by passengers. Second, the scene of the firefight, so close to Pakistan's capital Islamabad and the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, is symptomatic of the American problem in the war on terror: Pakistan's importance in the operations and its complicity in the web of terrorism woven around Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Osama's death, in a sense, represents a closure of the deep wounds inflicted on the American psyche by the greatest peace-time attack on American soil.

It also signified the new form of terror in that a group of dedicated men relying on a terrorism network halfway around the globe could make missiles of passenger planes to bring down two of New York's symbols of economic power and a portion of the Pentagon representing American military might. But of greater interest to America and the world will be the long-term implications of Osama's death on the future of US troops in Afghanistan and the unravelling or otherwise of the US-Pakistan relationship.
In one respect, it makes plans for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan easier. Former US President George W. Bush's much-derided call, after the American Wild West fashion, for Osama to be delivered "dead or alive" has finally been answered. But US policymakers are still wrestling with how and when to leave Afghanistan and what kind of a post-withdrawal military presence it should maintain. Second, Pakistan's frantic efforts to put in place an alternative policy in league with Afghanistan, and possibly China, reveal an impatience with a scheme of things in which the Pakistan Army believes it might be short-changed.
What it also reveals is the mutual lack of trust between the US and Pakistan — like a quarrelling couple threatening to divorce and shying away from it, neither party seems to reach the breaking point.
For US President Barack Obama, Osama's death is a welcome development for his re-election campaign, besieged as he has been by a sea of problems in the economic and political spheres. But he has to be ready for a backlash by supporters of Osama who would naturally try to seek revenge for the killing of their iconic leader.
In Pakistan, there will be some soul-searching on where the Army goes from here. Perhaps, Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will take it as an indication that his own plans for Afghanistan should be speeded up in a changing environment.
It is no longer news to the United States, India or the rest of the world that Pakistan has thus far been successfully running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. The crucial point is what happens next. President Obama cannot simply fold up his tent and leave Afghanistan, as the US did once before. On the other hand, Pakistan still remains important for the US, given its geographical location, the terrorist web it is part of even as it has also become its victim and its aim of seeking to build a privileged relationship with Afghanistan.
Washington does not believe that it is in its interest to abandon the billions of dollars it has been giving the country in military and economic aid and say goodbye.
Yet there are valid reasons to believe that the US-Pakistan relationship will take a new turn now that the inspiration and financier of Al Qaeda is gone. In Washington, this will trigger moves for seeking greater accountability for Islamabad's actions, particularly in relation to its funding and support for elements of the Taliban leadership.
Besides, there will be increasing efforts to get Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to come clean on his future plans. Reports of Islamabad offering him a deal to change his alliance with the US for a pact with China and Pakistan have inevitably raised many eyebrows.
It remains to be seen how the absence of Osama will impact Al Qaeda. As America has discovered, Al Qaeda has, over the years, become something of a franchise operation, seeking inspiration from one source but autonomous in its operations and funding in countries in which it operates. But it would be difficult to over-emphasise Osama's role as the lodestar for the ranks of terrorist outfits. Neither his accepted No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, nor anyone else can be a substitute. Osama's own story is well-known. He used his share of his family's fortune for the cause of jihad after his baptism under American benediction to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, returned to Saudi Arabia after the Soviet withdrawal to agitate for the withdrawal of US troops, went to Sudan and thence back to Afghanistan, then under the control of the Taliban. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the end, the future scenario of Afghanistan will determine, to an extent, how Al Qaeda develops in the absence of Osama. The Arab world is in ferment, with two Presidents already toppled, a third on the way to being removed and turmoil in other countries signalling a rare moment of hope. The fact that these breathtaking events can take place through methods other than those adopted by Al Qaeda and its offshoots should dent the appeal of extremist violence for the disenfranchised young. In part, it will of course depend on how the American establishment pursues its national interests.
After the relatively smooth changes in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya has muddied the waters and the geopolitical interests of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni world have, for the moment, triumphed over the wishes of the majority in Bahrain. But it will be difficult to stem the changes lit by
the spark in Tunisia last December.
American perseverance has paid off in finally getting its quarry. Now it is up to the US establishment to convert its success into the proverbial peace dividend.
S. Nihal Singh can be contacted at






The significant thing about the successful effort to locate and kill Osama bin Laden, the global symbol of Islamic extremism and head of the Al Qaeda terrorist organisation, is its doggedness. Stretching out over three administrations and some 10 years, this hunting down of Osama suggests the resolute will of the US government to mete out condign punishment to the chief ideologue and planner of the 9/11 terrorist spectacular — two hijacked American passenger aircraft slamming into the twin trade towers in New York. The subsequent US military intervention in Afghanistan dislodged the Al Qaeda-friendly Taliban regime in Kabul but, through acts of omission, failed to take out Osama in the campaign in the Tora Bora mountains. The important thing to note is that Osama ultimately paid with his life for his terrorist excesses and the message it has telegraphed to jihadis everywhere is the same as that sent out by Israeli special forces actions in assassinating Hezbollah leaders, namely: Don't mess with us.
The Indian government will be pleased that its own intelligence, communicated to the US agencies through the intelligence-sharing mechanisms in place, that the Pakistan Army and its Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were directly involved in protecting Osama and his cohort, and further that the ISI perceived the Al Qaeda leaders as providing Pakistan a cashable policy leverage against Washington, was on the mark. But that was unlikely to have been a great revelation to the US' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). But, there is no reason for Delhi to gloat because it would be silly to assume Washington knew nothing about any of this, or that the ISI had no hand in harbouring Bin Laden. The latter story of ISI being as unaware of Osama in the cantonment town of Abbottabad as the US but intent on helping American special forces to carry out the operation, is too pat and won't wash, considering Osama was housed in some luxury, surrounded by 16-foot high walls and protected 24/7 by ISI minders, in close proximity to premier Pakistan Army installations, among them, the Pakistan Military Academy and the Pakistan Army Training Centre!
In this situation, it will be foolish indeed for the Manmohan Singh regime to expect that a more enthused Washington will do what Delhi has wanted it to do all along but so far has resisted doing: Pressure the Pakistan Army and the ISI into closing down their terrorist-support structures, and handing over to India the likes of Mahmood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba's (LeT) Hafiz Saeed implicated in the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The Obama administration has already weakened the Pakistan Army by making it complicit in the covert anti-Osama operation and, thereby, cleverly closing the option of the ISI publicly disavowing any role in, first, keeping Osama safe, and then, under pressure, standing aside as he was killed. But it is not going to imperil its own position, interests and the leverage it has gained, nor further alienate Pakistani Army and state by demanding Islamabad help India out on the terrorism front.
In other words, India will have to do the hard anti-terrorist work by itself. The trouble is: Does the Congress Party coalition government, encouraged by the successful action to finish off Osama, have the guts, gumption, but mostly the will, to rethink its "kya phark painda hai" (who cares, what difference will it make) attitude, when it comes to doing what any self-respecting country would do when under terrorist threat — bump off those responsible in a major way for terrorist strikes within India? It is the sort of targeted intelligence operations I have been advocating for over a decade now as the only response rather than uselessly mobilising the field Army for war and getting everybody's dander up (as happened with the 2002 Operation Parakram). Surely, Muridke, headquarters of LeT, is not all that inaccessible.
The far greater covert operations challenge is posed by the absconding Mumbai gangster Dawood Ibrahim and his so-called D-Company, under ISI protection and ensconced in a posh bungalow in the tony Clifton area of Karachi, virtually thumbing his nose at India. Almost all the underworld activity on the western seaboard — from smuggling arms and RDX, running extortion and hawala rackets, black money laundering, loan-sharking, to facilitating LeT actions, such as the ones in Mumbai, is attributed to this man's network. Instead of setting a priority agenda of having a sustained coordinated intelligence operation, powered by the absolute determination to go it alone if need be, Delhi habitually pleads with Washington to do something. "Soft" help can be solicited from Israel's Mossad, the Central Intelligence Agency, and whoever else may be willing, but Delhi cannot bank on any assistance. No other country is going to do the heavy lifting for India.
True, the "Gujral Doctrine" of the mid-1990s, requiring the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to cease and desist from all involvement inside Pakistan, especially in the then ongoing "civil war" in Karachi, defanged RAW. Two generations worth of carefully cultivated intelligence assets were lost. But the shared South Asian social fabric is such, humint (human intelligence) assets can be procured. This won't be easy, because it involves winning back the trust of potential local collaborators. But it can be done. Together with the country's elint (electronic intelligence) capabilities, repeated missions can be mounted to remove Dawood Ibrahim and company permanently from the scene. And India need never own up publicly to any such action (unlike what Mr Obama has done vis a vis Bin Laden). Imagine, however, the message it will send out to the aspiring Dawoods of the Indian underworld: You can hide for a time, you can run for a while, but finally we'll get you, you will pay! Or, to the Hafiz Saeeds of the jihadi fraternity: Send your boys across the border at your personal peril!
But instilling such dread in terrorists and other Pakistan-based no-gooders seems beyond the ken of the Indian government in general and, in particular, Dr Singh — a Prime Minister trapped between doing little and doing nothing on almost every issue.

bharat karnad is professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi









Even as President Obama confirmed the news that US counter terrorism personnel had killed Osama bin Laden and family members in a fire fight at a location outside Islamabad, Pakistan, hundreds of Americans, mostly young people, began gathering outside the White House, waving US flags and celebrating the killing of the man held responsible for the 9/11 terrorist strikes on the World Trade Center and other locations. The Government of the United States thus has fulfilled the promise it had made to the countrymen and the world at large that it would track down the culprits of the 9/11 attack. In course of his speech, Obama said "The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's struggle to defeat al Qaeda. We must and will remain vigilant at home and abroad." He also took care to dissociate Osama from Islam, saying the "US is not and never will be at war with Islam." Osama was not, the president pointed out, a Muslim leader; he was rather "a mass murderer" whose victims had included hundreds of thousands of Muslims. US analysts, in immediate reactions to the news that Osama is dead, say the killing of the al Qaeda head will have more "iconic" than "practical" value. It has been a long time, analysts say, since Osama was actively involved in planning al Qaeda strikes, and therefore the killing of Osama does not automatically mean that the terrorist organization is crippled. However, they point out, Osama has a halo effect for the organization, with many flocking to al Qaeda ranks simply because of the image of its founder. To that extent, they say, the killing of Osama will have a dampening effect in a symbolic, if not a real, sense. Analysts also said that the US and allies will now likely be doubly vigilant, as the prospect of retaliatory attacks cannot be ruled out. The death of Bin Laden is a huge punctuation in the American-led war on terrorism. What remains to be seen is whether the death of the leader of Al Qaeda galvanizes his followers by turning him into a martyr, or whether it serves as a turning of the page in the war in Afghanistan and gives further impetus to the Obama administration to bring American troops home. At the same time, the impact of elimination of the monster on the jihadi campaigns in different parts of the world with epicentre in AF-Pak region will also remain under focus of observers. It is interesting to note that the fire-fighting took place close to Islamabad were Bin Laden was hiding, of course, with the covert support of his Pakistani chapters like TTP and others. Commentators will unravel the entire assault plan and strategy that brought to an end the life of a person who had been the source of destruction of thousands of innocent persons, radicalization of segments of Islamic community and causing turmoil and chaos in otherwise peaceful and tranquil societies. His decimation means dismantling of terrorist structure and dispersal of many of his followers to ignominy. Of course credit should also go to the intelligence establishment of the US whose moles in Pakistan did a commendable work in identifying the location of the Al-Qaeda leader and the logistics that would lend support to his elimination.






Accountability of Government functionaries to an accredited institution has become an affront to the latter that are used to general loot of public exchequer. It is a much abhorred word for them to hear. Critics argue that democratic institutions are the biggest protectors of corrupt public functionaries because the accountability has to be conducted along a complicated process which generally ends in failure. With the exposure of each scam peoples' trust in the elected government runs to its nadir. Jammu and Kashmir is among the most corrupt states in the country and the government is least interested to remove the blemish by taking stringent measure for reclaiming its credibility. Way back in July 2005, the Government hyped with great fanfare the inception of Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (JKSAC) saying that the fully powered instrument would see to it that corruption was eradicated from state organs lock, stock and barrel. It trumpeted the autonomous structure of the organization thereby trying to instill confidence among the people that the errant functionaries would be brought to book. People welcomed the initiative and were even ready to cooperate with it to make accountability a success because as they rightly thought corruption was a social evil. What did the JKSAC stand for?

The State Accountability Commission had been constituted under the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act-2002 to inquire into grievances and allegations against public functionaries and for matter connected therewith Under the Act, the Commission should consist of a chairperson and two members. The first chairperson of JKSAC was Justice R.P Sethi, a retired judge of the Supreme Court. But he resigned from in May 2006, and nobody cared to ask the reasons for a senior and reputed judge to resign that quickly.

But after June 2008, the Government failed to appoint a chairperson in all probability a deliberate attempt. At that time, nearly 50 recommendations against corrupt bureaucrats, MLAs and ministers were made to the Government. No action was initiated. More interestingly, trivializing the newly founded accountability institution, the indicted persons approached the court of law in total contravention of the constitution of the JKSAC Act that was very much in force at that time. Since April 2009, there is neither a chairperson nor any member in the JKSAC. It was all deliberate and manipulated to keep the institution without a head and thereby make it dysfunctional.

In a striking contrast to the autonomous JKSAC, the coalition Government has now pulled up its socks to convert the existing Vigilance Organization into the Jammu and Kashmir State Vigilance Commission (JKSVC) to fight corruption. Naturally any dispassionate observer will ask the simple question that when the JKSAC was rendered ineffective despite allowing it autonomous character, how is it possible for the new institution called JKSVC to deliver the goods when the policy of paralyzing any accountability institution is the handiwork of the bureaucratic-legislature nexus? The government has already put draft changes of the JKSVC Act-2011 in the public domain for inviting suggestions from stakeholders. The simple question is that stakeholders meaning the civil society have no other stakes except that corruption among public functionaries and institutions should be eradiated. Change of nomenclature does not carry any sense if the purpose is not realized. The corrupt functionaries would be out to defeat any initiative Government would take. The remedy to this malaise lies in the complicated and time consuming system of justice in this country. Therefore the focus of the government should have been on streamlining the legal and constitutional authority and empowering it with wide and special powers so that the cases of corruption are dispensed with in shortest possible time and verdict is delivered. We do not oppose structuring a new institution. What we are concerned with is the circumventing maneuvers of indicted functionaries allowed to take the noose out of their throats.







The 11th Five Year Plan draws to a close and the Planning Commission is about to kick off the process for the 12th Plan. The planners are faced with difficult and complex choices in charting out the country's course for the next five years. There have been extraordinary swings in the manufacturing growth rates in recent months, mirrored by mood swings of the Indian business community. Political logjams and scams seem to be have dimmed "India Shining". At the same time, the global environment continues to remain difficult, with faltering growth and debt overhangs in many parts of the developed world, coupled with high inflation rates in most countries. More recently, the massive turmoil in West Asia and North Africa has led to a huge spike in oil prices. In this scenario of high uncertainty, what should be the aspiration or the overarching theme for the 12th Five Year Plan?

There are two very different perspectives as starting points for this discussion. The first perspective is that of the aam aadmi policies and programmes, which have been among the singular successes of the Congress-led coalition government. The 11th Plan document and the Budget speeches of the finance minister have all emphasised the importance of inclusive growth. Even the external world has recognised this success.

The World Economic Forum at this year's Davos summit, which had a theme of "Shared Norms for the New Reality", celebrated India's inclusive growth model. Business newspapers headline advice from economists and other experts to the government to continue to push the inclusive growth platform seen as critical to achieve future economic growth.

The other perspective is described by The Economist in recent headlines-"India's surprising economic miracle-The country's state may be weak but its private companies are strong", or "A bumpier but freer road-Despite all the mess...and chaos of India, the country's business is booming. This will change the world".

The Economist takes the view that the growing global competitiveness of India's companies is not just transforming the domestic business environment but will have a profound impact on the rest of the world. In other words, Indian companies have the potential to become global champions, the implicit message being that the Indian state should support this journey more actively.

Two very different perspectives. Aam aadmi- vs- global champions! Each one a legitimate aspiration for the nation. But, one may ask, do we need one to develop the 12th Five Year Plan? It can be argued that the need of the hour is a pragmatic set of policies that systematically address the numerous challenges faced by the nation rather than a grand dream.

In my experience, which I will readily admit has been mostly with businesses, setting an aspiration... is critical for the success of any transformational journey. An aspiration is like a magnet that aligns all the different stakeholders in the same direction, who otherwise could end up working at cross-purposes. Let me illustrate this with an example. It is now well recognised that industrial clusters are a critical policy lever for industrial growth and competitiveness.

A plant in a good cluster can have as much as 8 per cent lower operating costs compared to a standalone plant. For building successful clusters in India, many disparate elements have to come together-well-developed infrastructure, skill training institutions, research institutions and policies that support innovation, tax and other fiscal benefits, removal of constraints currently faced under the labour laws, factories Act and environmental laws, etc. Each of these areas is under a different Central government ministry or the state government, which often work independent of each other. How can they work together towards... a common objective to create, say, 50 new globally competitive clusters generating millions of new jobs? They can, if there is a common aspiration for the country articulated in the five-year plan, which then informs all policies that are framed by different parts of central and different state governments? Perhaps a utopian dream but nevertheless one to strive for!

So, what should be our aspiration that should guide the 12th Five Year Plan? Let's look at some basic facts. The last two decades have seen India's economy and its industrial sector grow at 6 per cent to 7 per cent per annum. However, during most of this period, the growth in formal employment in industry has been at best marginal and most of the employment has grown in the informal and unorganised sector. It is now well-recognised that the biggest challenge facing the Indian economy is employment generation.

India needs over 220 million jobs between now and 2025, which calls for achieving double-digit economic growth. But, unless industry can grow at around 12 per cent from its current 7-8 per cent level, we will not reach this target. And industry cannot grow at 12 per cent without doubling the current growth rate of its exports. To do this, India has to create not just a few but many global champions. So, the perspective of The Economist is surely the right one.

There is another set of facts. As per the government's own estimates, 5.3 crore households got jobs under MGNREGA-the biggest of the aam aadmi policies. That is 265 crore man-days of employment at 50 days a year per person. So, the perspective of the home-grown economists who aspire to improve the lot of aam aadmi is also right.

As we start the 12th Five Year Plan development, do we have to necessarily choose between these two "aspirations" for the nation? Can they not be combined to create a far more powerful one? An aspiration that does not exclude the other but is inclusive, and celebrates both the aam aadmi and the global challengers! (INAV)

(The writer is chief economist with Reliance Industries)






The globalization of the recent past, governed primarily by a market-oriented philosophy, has a number of implications for modes of governance. In the realm of education, the institutions of higher education face new pressures and demands for accountability, access, quality, introduction of new technologies and curriculum. A number of countries have introduced reforms to meet the challenges arising out of such a situation though the context and nature of reforms vary from one country to another. First, is the concrete references available for post secondary education gave rise to privatization of higher education. The protagonists of privatization see it as an alternative when the supply and demand do not match or when demands are diversified or when public education is seen as not promoting quality. Second, the Governments are under pressure to attract foreign capital; and this means providing a ready supply of skilled labour. This translates into pressure to increase the average level of education in the labour force. The higher level of education are important in a society wherein the economy is becoming more knowledge based than product based. Third there is the closer relationship between the private sector including multinational corporations and the state agencies concerned with product development and innovation.

Further, it knowledge is fundamental, globalization should have a profound impact on the production and transmission of knowledge, some have argued that this has not occurred; they are casting doubts on the capacity of globalization to permeate knowledge production and transmission as per local needs. In the context of Asia, this seems more relevant. In terms of the production of knowledge, it remained limited to the western world. Sometimes, we even find people advocating the replacement of textbooks with the motion pictures or instructional television. At another level, even when there were attempts to use modern technology in higher education, it remained limited to the use of computers. It appears that the educational practices at the classroom level have changed a little in most developing countries of Asia.

In terms of labour market reforms, the Governments are under pressure to attact foreign capital and this requires a ready supply of skilled labour. Further the shift from manufacturing to the services sector is an important development in the nineties. Thus, the concerns about attaining quality and curricular relevance in higher education with reference to international standards and demands have become prominent. This has placed increased emphasis on mathematics and science in the curriculum, and techno-scientific areas of knowledge. Thus the discourse today is about the skills 'relevant for the employment, and enterprise. These dimensions certainly have some effect on the national planning for labour force, industries and professions; on the one hand, and on the higher education development on the other.

The role of the corporate sector in higher education was earlier limited to providing fellowships and loans to the deserving students and facilitating internships of the students to fulfill the requirements of a degree. However, in the context of globalization, two major developments have taken place. One is the inclusion of members of the business houses on the boards of the public universities in order to enhance the industry-institution linkages. This is expected to ensure the relevance of the contents of the curriculum and new academic programmes vis-à-vis the needs of the industry. Areas of particular interest to the business sector include accountancy, business studies, engineering and technology based curriculum. Obviously, in this case, the private sector has special interest in what the universities teach their students in these areas because they are the major employers of the graduates in the era of the globalization.

The advocates of globalization today argue for internationalization of curriculum. For them, a truly global university today is characterized by its engagement with the process of globalization, its international networks, and its internationalized curriculum. The internationalization of curriculum entails a complex inter-play of history, politics, knowledge production, and its use as well as teaching and learning. All these, however, are influenced by international market conditions and professional orientation. If this is so, the internationalized curriculum involves the development of new skills, attitudes and knowledge among students and teachers alike. It requires creation of new learning practices, spaces, ethos and cultures. Internationalization of curriculum is a dynamic process.

However, there is a danger in such internationalization of curriculum. For instance, internationalization means the homogenization of curriculum across all the nations and cultures. This obviously undermines the values of uniqueness and diversity in cultures. The internationalization of curriculum in the wake of globalization may create conflicts at the local level, which threaten the social harmony as is evident in some of the South Asian countries. The grass-root movements in the region are an example of these trends.

Thus, the impact of globalization on education is general and higher education in particular has been manifold. It has different kinds of impacts on different kinds of societies and cultures. For instance, the impact of globalization on education in a developed country such as the United States of America is different from that on India. The nature and scope of the impact is different. In developing countries such as India, globalization seems to be increasing the gap between the rich and the poor, thereby aggravating the problems of social inequality, which is also inherent in the education system as well






The situation in Af-Pak is getting complicated by the day and the Obama administration is bitterly divided over its future course of action to fashion a coherent strategy towards the region. Recent events have only compounded the confusion.

Some time last year, Terry Jones, pastor of a tiny Florida church, declared Islam's holy book 'guilty of crimes against humanity' and ordered it set ablaze in a portable fire pit. Days later, after the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, decided to ask for Jones' prosecution, Afghans took to the streets to protest the burning of the Quran in Florida.

An angry mob killed at least seven foreigners in Afghanistan and set fire to a UN compound in Mazar-e Sharif, a city where the Nato forces have transferred power to the local Afghan forces. Another bloody day followed in Kandahar, when police fought with protesters, leaving at least nine dead and more than 80 injured.

The ongoing tumult prompted Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top Nato commander in Afghanistan, and his civilian counterpart, ambassador Mark Sedwill, to issue a statement reiterating "our condemnation of any disrespect to the Holy Quran and the Muslim faith. We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Quran."

When Jones threatened to burn a Quran on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks last year, Petraeus was among several top US officials who strongly urged against it and warned about the troubling consequences that could arise in Afghanistan.

Jones eventually called off the event only to announce this January that he was going to "put the Quran on trial." He said he didn't hear a single complaint. The "trial" was held on March 20, and the holy text subsequently burned, leading to turmoil in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, suicide bombers struck a Sufi shrine compound in Pakistan, killing more than 40 people. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has repeatedly aimed attacks at Sufi shrines across the country, along with government targets and security forces installations, promptly claimed responsibility for the attack. The latest attack is another attempt by militants to exacerbate the ideological divides that exist within different schools of Sunni Islam. There have been growing concerns that militants from the tribal regions of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, (formerly North-West Frontier Province), have been using Dera Ghazi Khan, where the shrine was based, as a route to enter Punjab.

This turmoil comes at a time of growing tensions within the Obama administration over the size and pace of the planned pullout of US troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate. At a time of economic turmoil in the US, the war's cost estimated to reach $120 billion this year is leading to increasing public disenchantment with the war. Attention is shifting to 2012 presidential elections and the political class, including Barack Obama, will be reluctant to challenge public opinion.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans, according to latest surveys, no longer find the war in Afghanistan worth fighting. Obama's failure to take complete ownership of the war that he had once described as the necessary one is becoming a big liability. Moreover, he has failed to reconcile the differences among his advisors even as the perception is gaining ground that the war is going nowhere for the Nato forces. Though Obama made it clear that the current war strategy will continue and not be altered, there is a grudging acknowledgment in the US policy-making circles that Obama's surge is not showing any signs of success so far.

Although military officials contend that the surge has enabled US forces to blunt the Taliban in key areas over the past several months, White House officials remain sceptical that those gains will survive without the presence of American troops and without US financial aid.

Obama had approved a 30,000-troop increase sought by the military in 2009 but at the same time he had made it clear that the surge forces would begin returning home by July 2011. The pace of that reduction, however, was ambiguous, with defence department officials describing the initial reductions as minor and some of Obama's other advisers, including vice president Joe Biden, saying the pullout would be as rapid as the deployment of the surge troops.

Meanwhile, a major Pentagon task force that has sought to help Afghanistan exploit its mineral wealth and expand private-sector employment is facing a crisis with the resignation of several of its members alarming senior military officials, who view the group's job-creation efforts as an important component of the overall US counterinsurgency mission.

As the United States struggles with its Af-Pak policy, India needs to be acutely aware of the implications of the rapidly deteriorating security environment in its neighbourhood. America's diminishing capacity to come to terms with the challenges in Afghanistan will have long-term implications for regional security in South Asia. New Delhi will have to fashion a pro-active foreign policy response that relies less on Washington in crafting an appropriate response to the changing dynamic in Af-Pak. Whether a Government mired in corruption scandals can step up to the plate remains an open question. (INAV)









Finally, the US has succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden,the Al-Qaida leader on top of the American list of wanted terrorists. The US forces had been tracking him since Osama's men destroyed the World Trade Centre's twin towers in New York and attacked the Pentagon complex in Washington DC on September 11, 2001. Nobody was, however, sure where the man who perfected the ideology of terror, misusing the fair name of Islam, was during these nearly 10 long years. There was also speculation that he might have been killed during the carpet bombing by the US-led allied forces in Tora Bora and other areas in Afghanistan after 9/11. The theory of Osama's demise during the Afghan operation was, perhaps, floated by Pakistan's ISI to suit its own interests. The world at large was, however, of the view that the Al-Qaida supremo was hiding somewhere in Pakistan, most probably in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. It is stunning to learn that Osama has been killed in Abbottabad, which has a prestigious military academy.


President Obama was given an intelligence brief last August about Osama's presence in Abbottabad, but very few in the US administration were told about it. That information has ultimately proved to be true. Pakistan, which has been denying that the Al-Qaida leader was leading a comfortable life in Pakistani territory, will find it difficult to face the world today. It must have known about his whereabouts. The US admission that the success in eliminating Osama bin Laden has been achieved with cooperation from Pakistani agencies confirms the belief that the authorities in Islamabad knew where Osama was. Now Islamabad may have to pay for misleading the world.


The killing of Osama will obviously boost the chances of President Obama getting a second term to occupy the US White House after the 2012 elections. It is a major foreign policy achievement for the Obama Administration. But this does not mean that the war on terror has ended. The ideology of terror that Osama came up with is very much alive. There may be very few people who believe in it, but their number can grow if the dangerous ideology is not made ineffective with the help of Islamic experts whose words are taken with utmost seriousness by the followers of Islam.









The All-India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) is one of the most prestigious and keenly contested – with over 12 lakh taking it. If the question paper of even such an examination gets leaked, one's faith in the education system tends to get shaken. That is what happened on Sunday, with reports from Uttar Pradesh saying that the paper was being sold for Rs 6 lakh. While that is an alarming matter, it is some solace for the CBSE and the police that they not only managed to arrest the culprits but also succeeded in conducting the examination on the same day, with just a few hours' delay. This could be possible only because of advance planning, under which the board kept extra sets of questions ready at secret locations and managed to send a new question paper to examination centres as soon as the leak was discovered. However, the postponement of examinations did cause a lot of trouble to students, since many of them came to the venues from far-off places. What compounded their difficulties was the fact that the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) examination was also scheduled for the same day.

An AIEEE question paper was leaked in 2003 also. It means that a determined mafia is in operation and it needs to be exposed and weeded out thoroughly. This time, the culprits are learnt to belong to Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Bihar. What needs to be investigated is whether they had links with some board officials also.

And this is not the only examination which has been thus compromised. The papers of IIT, CAT and Common Law Admission Test have also been leaked out in the past. Apparently, there are enough unscrupulous persons who want to clear the tests by hook or crook and an equal number of those who want to help them out for pecuniary considerations. Perhaps some leakages in the past went unnoticed. Anybody who managed to get admission on the basis of leaked question papers can be depended on to have decidedly inferior morals later in life. Educationists and administrators need to put their heads together to nip this evil forcefully.









The failure of search operations to trace the Pawan Hans helicopter that went missing on Saturday morning with Arunachal Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others on board following the snapping of links with ground control 20 minutes after it took off from the Tawang helipad in Arunachal Pradesh is both sad and puzzling. That this was the third aircraft to have ostensibly crashed in the Northeast in the last fortnight should set the aviation authorities thinking why this area is so accident-prone and whether the necessary safeguards are taken in flying there. Also, the airworthiness of our helicopters needs to be examined threadbare. The aviation authorities say that if Mr Khandu's helicopter had crashed, the emergency locator transmitter should have been beeping continuously which it has not being doing. But if it did not crash, where has it gone? Besides, it is strange that the pilots had not called for the mandatory weather briefing if the statement made by the Guwahati airport-based Regional Meteorological Centre is any indication.

The spate of incidents in that region bordering Tibet in China is itself a major puzzle. On April 19, a Pawan Hans crashed at Tawang heliport killing 17 people. On April 21 an IAF chopper crashed near Gangtok killing four personnel on board. Even earlier, there have been many such mishaps. On November 19 last year, 11 Air Force personnel and an Army Lieutenant-Colonel were killed when an Air Force MI-17 helicopter crashed near the China frontier. In 2009, an IAF AN-32 aircraft crashed at Mechunka killing all 13 defence personnel. In May 2001, Arunachal education minister Dera Natung and five others were killed when their Pawan Hans craft crashed near Tawang and in November 1997, minister of state for defence NVN Somu, Major-General Ramesh Nagpal and two others died when their Cheetah helicopter hit a 1,300 feet peak near Tawang.

One can only hope that the search operations which have been hampered by inclement weather would bear fruit soon. It would then be incumbent on all concerned to get to the root of this and take corrective action.








In many ways India and China are running parallel growth stories. India's exports were $246 billion in March and China's were close to $1.5 trillion. India clocked average GDP growth of 8.5 per cent this fiscal year and China experienced 9.7 per cent growth. China is the second most important economy in the world and is so powerful that even the US is constantly worried about its next move. In particular, the Americans are worried about the huge trade surplus China has with the US, and the fact that the yuan remains undervalued giving the Chinese a distinct cost advantage. China's dollar reserves grew to $3.05 trillion in April 2011 and it is the largest holder of US government bonds. The Chinese on their part do not think it is their responsibility alone to correct world imbalances and do not want to talk about the revaluation of the yuan and disallowed any discussion about its exchange rate in the recent BRICS meeting in China.


Yet, surprisingly, whenever you meet Chinese officials and academics they always call China a developing nation. One wonders why high economic growth has not gone to their heads. According to the official view, China is still not a rich country because there are social disparities and there still are a large number of poor there. China may have economic clout that the world fears, but it is still not happy with its own development pattern, especially in terms of the well-being of each citizen and the growing inequalities. In terms of per capita income, it lags behind many developed countries. But in terms of infrastructure, it is ahead of many OECD countries. In its 12th Plan (2011-2015), China wants its growth to be "well-being-oriented" and home market-oriented and also wishes to have a low carbon model.


China's exponential export growth has benefited industrialized big cities, and the jobs are also there in these cities. Restrictions on migration and land sales have not allowed the prosperity to spread to the countryside. One does indeed come across primitive living conditions in villages in the interior of China where in terms of housing, sanitation, school facilities and health care, these are comparable to the situation in India in the poorer states. The decentralized political structure is also not helping in alleviating poverty in some of the poorer provinces which are not able to spend as much as the richer provinces do on social welfare, and there is a shortage of service sector providers in terms of medicines, education and finance and banking in poorer provinces. China, however, was able to bring about a rapid decline in poverty during the last 30 years and now only 6 per cent of its population remains poor.


Recently, the Government of India in the latest blueprint for the 12th Plan ( 2012 to 2017) talked of 9 to 9.5 per cent growth and poverty reduction. The official data, however, reveals that health and education received only 60 per cent of the projected allocation in the 11th Plan. But we get an optimistic poverty estimate and the Planning Commission has declared that there was a decrease in poverty in the 11th Five Year Plan by 5 per cent.


This means that only 32 per cent of the population in India is poor— down from the officially accepted Tendulkar Committee estimate of poverty of 37 per cent of the population. There are, however, sharp differences in poverty estimates by other committees appointed by the government in the past. It depends on the benchmark income that is adopted for calculating poverty. If it is taken to be Rs 20 and Rs 11 a day per person for urban and rural income, respectively, naturally there will be fewer poor than the actual numbers. The Supreme Court rightly pointed this out recently.


Interestingly, the Supreme Court has also raised an important question as to why there are starvation deaths in certain pockets of the country. Justice Dalveer Bhandari has asked, "When you have godowns full and people are starving, what is the benefit? You cannot have two Indias."


This talk of "two Indias" has raised some urgent issues that need to be focused upon. In the 12th Plan, the states in which there is rampant malnourishment, high maternal mortality, disease and chronic poverty should be given special attention. While it has been announced by the government that the planned spending on health is supposed to be doubled from around 1.3 per cent of the GDP (one of the lowest in the South Asian region) to 2.25 per cent by the end of the next Plan, more spending should be allowed in the backward states.


Unfortunately, we seem to be talking mainly of the achievable high GDP growth, fiscal consolidation, double digit (11 per cent) industrial growth and not on the reasons for the slow progress in achieving inclusive growth. It has now been admitted by the government that India will not be able to meet the Millennium Goals as far as the eradication of malnourishment is concerned. India has the largest number of malnourished children in the world. Just like China is concerned with growth that is "well-being-oriented", India should also be concerned with inclusiveness in a more meaningful way.


Much more than China, India needs cheap housing, eradication of malnourishment and 100 per cent adult literacy. But as everyone knows, whatever money is allocated is not always spent in the right direction, and implementation is faulty.


The Indian government should at least admit that faster poverty reduction, eradication of malnourishment and high maternal mortality are the main problems in this country, and poverty and lack of jobs are the root cause for the social unrest that India is facing. People without jobs will always become restless and violent. There would have to be more jobs in the villages and in the manufacturing sector, otherwise there cannot be a reduction in poverty. Encouraging local talent through training and access to credit can lead to more jobs in handicrafts and handloom production, especially for women. Skill training of youth has to be emphasised and agricultural productivity has to be increased. And like China, for India, the home market-oriented production will be important in the future for sustainable growth and in lowering India's carbon footprint.


There are many good things about India, specially the freedom of speech, movement and protest that we enjoy as compared to the Chinese. But they seem to be taking stock of what has not been achieved by their high GDP growth and we should also be more concerned with the well-being, health and education of all Indians for a more harmonious society.









Everyone who enters into service of the Government of India retires one day. This truth is absolute. And yet, there are unprepared fools who approach retirement with growing panic and term it as the 'Male Menopause'.


For the past several years, I had been assuring my wife that I would find many ways of staying busy after my retirement. There would be many parties to attend, books to read and books to write. As a last resort, I could always sit under the Neem tree that we can see from our flat and read a newspaper there from morning till evening.


Immediately after my retirement, I attended a series of parties. It was after a particularly boisterous celebration, when I returned very late, that the wife exercised her veto power. "No more parties from tomorrow," she said. "Learn to stay at home like a respectable elderly person!"


In silent protest, I stationed myself in the balcony from early next morning and kept reading and rereading the newspaper. There was little to see from the balcony. Kids playing in the streets, a dog watering the Neem tree, housewives hanging out the wash, one listless cow. Monotonous.


At around noon, I called out, "Darling, could you make a cup of tea for me, please?"


"Do you think you are sitting in your office?" my darling yelled back.


After lunch, I again stationed myself in the balcony. In stony silence.


The next five or six days passed in the same sullen manner.


On the seventh day, the wife was clearly agitated when she returned after purchasing vegetables. "You lecherous good-for-nothing! Now I know why you sit in the balcony! Mrs Khanna complained that you keep peeping at her from behind your newspaper!"


"Who is Mrs Khanna?" I asked with righteous indignation.


"Aha! You pretend you do not even know the woman you have been ogling! Now onwards, you will not go out to the balcony!"


For the next 10 days of detente, I did not budge out of our living room.


But trouble was brewing.


And one day, the maid said to the wife, "Madam, I will not come to work from tomorrow. I can't work in a house where a retired man sits around the whole day long."


"What is the problem with a retired man in the house?" asked the wife, genuinely perplexed.


"Retired men have nothing to do. They keep staring at the maids."


The wife looked at me. My look of injured innocence counted for nothing against the spectre of stacks of dirty dishes in a maid-less home.


"You dirty old man!" she hissed, "Get out of the house and stay out!" And quite summarily, I was pushed out of my home. The door slammed shut behind me.


Outside, I met Mrs. Singh, our next door neighbour, who was returning after fetching her young son from school.


"Uncle", she said in a treacly voice, "Why don't you help us by bringing Munna back from school every day? The school is just a kilometre away and the walk will be so good for your health."


I resisted a strong temptation to tell Mr. Singh what she could do with her suggestions regarding my health and carried on downstairs. To the Neem tree. Under which I now sit, reading a newspaper.


I have had no difficulty in getting used to my retirement. If only the rest of the world could also get used to it soon!









Monika Deb (name changed) is a sex worker in the red light area of Kalabagen, Shamsherganj block of Murshidabad, close to the Bangladesh border. Her clients include cross border smugglers, medical representatives, senior school students and those guarding India's frontiers. Over the years she has learnt to live and cope with the sleaze and filth of commercial sex work. However, a month ago even she was rattled when sexual overtures were made to her 10-year-old daughter.


At two well kept rooms in a hut on the Jalangi roadside leading to Farrakka, Amona Bibi, just 35, runs a thriving flesh trade business. Her clients include the lower ranks of those guarding the borders as well as the truck drivers ferrying goods to Bangladesh. She makes anything from Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 a day. A mother of three, she supplies young girls to her clients. Girls, on their way to school or, on their way back, come with a set of clothes which they change into and provide service, for which she pays them Rs 1000. If a school going girl gets pregnant, abortion services are provided by Amona Bibi and its back to business as usual.


These were just two of the many horrendous stories on the insecurity of adolescents living on the border villages, shared with a group of NGOs, researchers and journalists who travelled the 151 kms Indian border to Bangladesh in Murshidabad District.


There is extensive use of children for smuggling and sex work on the India/Bangladesh border. Young Bangladeshi girls are also trafficked into India with promise of jobs. Men posing as businessmen, entrepreneurs from India live in the villages of Bangladesh and after winning the confidence of the villagers 'marry' girls and bring them to India --then sell them in Mumbai, Delhi and other places.


Bangladeshi girls replace their Nepali counterparts


NGOs like the Kolkata-based Sanjog working on cross border as well as intra country sex trafficking have seen a decline in the number of girls from Nepal in the brothels of Mumbai. However, there is an increase in Bangladeshi women in sex work. Roop Sen, secretary of Sanjog, says, there are no accurate estimates of the number of adolescents/ women being trafficked into India or from different parts of India to the brothels of Mumbai. However, he says 500 girls are rescued every year from Mumbai and Delhi and sent to shelter homes or reunited with their families. But rehabilitating these youngsters remains a challenge. They may be engaged in rolling bidis, making gamchhas (hand woven light towels) or in agricultural work, but the returns are not good enough for young people who have seen more money in the destinations to which they were trafficked. An estimated 20 percent are re-trafficked or migrate again for work.


India's border with Bangladesh is well populated and largely porous despite the large tracks of thickly fenced areas guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) on either side. It's an active border with smuggling by children and trafficking of women and children in disturbing proportions. The Central Law Commission report on the Foreigners Amendment Bill 2000 estimated the clandestine cross border trade between the two countries at $ 5 billion. Sanjog's research looks at issues of the rural adolescent in poverty, affected by the rapid political and economic changes in South Asia.


Rehabilitation blues


Adolescents and older children of sex workers in Murshidabad have approached the CWC (child welfare committee) as well as SPMUS (Suprava Panchashila Mahila Uddyog Samity), an NGO which has been working for protection, prevention and empowerment of women and children in red light areas in Murshidabad district since 1993, to run a separate home for them so that they don't have to struggle with the stigma of being children of prostitutes.


A high, seasonal drop out of children attending the school is observed so that they can be engaged in smuggling. In fact SPMUS did a study in 2007 showing 300 children of 8 to 14 years smuggling from six spots of the border—Jalangi, Sheikhpara, Sagarpara, Bhagwan Gola, Lal Gola and Shamsherganj.


Children, who have traditionally herded cattle, used to take the animals through one of the illegal ghats or border crossings in the hope that the security forces would be kinder to them. But as the fences came up and the vigilance on the border increased, the number of cattle being smuggle dropped substantially.


At Farrakka, Sheikh (26) from Bangladesh said till two years ago he was smuggling cattle. Purchasing four to 10 cows from the haat in India he would take them through Dhuliyan into Bangladesh. After bribing various people for his illegal operation he made a profit of Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 on each cow. Now he is in the sex trade which is more lucrative and rouses less suspicion.


Juveniles used as smugglers


What is more disturbing is the use of children to smuggle phensedyl, a cough syrup used as a narcotic drug and banned in Bangladesh. Quite clearly it is with the tacit support of parents for some of it is put in their school bags. Women smuggle it across in pockets stitched into their petticoats and undergarments. A bottle of phensedyl that costs Rs 75 in India, sells for Rs 700 in Bangladesh. At Fulbari, where there is a 12.5 kms barbed wire fencing and the BSF jawans work in six hour shifts- patrolling on cycles, village women are asked to search suspected female carriers. A woman had 10 bottles of phensedyl on her. At night families living on the Indian side of the fence use mobiles to alert relatives on the other side of the fence and literally chuck bottles of the banned drug to them when the jawan on patrol is some distance from them. Some 200 metres further is the actual border with a BDR outpost. Till women constables are inducted into the BSF, search of adolescent girls and women carriers is a problem.


The smuggling of rice, which costs Rs 17 a kg in India and is sold across the border at Rs 40, is rampant. Old women and children can be seen lugging huge bundles of rice across the sandy river beds, past ferry ghat to Bangladesh. Before walking or swimming (depending on the season) with their bags, the rice is weighed in shacks that have come up close to the ghats. SPMUS study shows that smuggling is at its peak in the four months of the monsoon. This is also the time when school dropout rate is maximum.


Children caught smuggling are produced by the BSF before the Juvenile Justice Board in Murshidabad.


Day-care centres for children


While many of the sex workers have been able to segregate their children—leave them with parents or send them to residential schools, there are umpteen others living with their mothers, exposed to sexual innuendos. Since 2007 SPMUS has been running two day- care cum night shelters for children of sex workers at Shamsherganj and Behrampore. These efforts have paid dividends. SPMUS tries to wean the children from the trauma of living in a red light area and counsels them but many mothers want to be with their children when not with clients.


At Shamsherganj red light area, where there is a strong committee of sex workers, no girl below 19 is allowed to practice.


The inevitable pimp


Babus- glorified pimps who live with the sex workers and get clients for them could also be potential threats to children of sex workers. The women depend on them for their emotional and economic needs and trust them completely. Some of them cook, look after their children and get medical aid when the women fall sick.


All the 300 odd women working in the red light area of Shamsherganj have babus who live on their earnings, though they may do sundry other jobs. The sex worker has to pay the babu as well as the owner of the hut on the roadside that she brings her clients to, so she has to earn enough for her upkeep, food, education of children and the babu.


(The writer is an eminent development journalist)



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The killing of Osama bin Laden, the leader of the global terror network Al-Qaeda, marks a turning point in the so-called "war on terror". However, it would be premature to imagine that what has come to be called "jihadi terrorism" would lose legitimacy as a political weapon in the eyes of radical Islamic elements. Winning that war, especially in the hearts and minds of ordinary people who are drawn to the ideology of jihadism for whatever reason, must remain the key objective of all democratic and pluralist societies. But, getting bin Laden was an important step in that direction and the United States armed forces, intelligence agencies and civil administration deserve praise from across the globe for a job well done. US President Barack Obama has redeemed himself with just this one action and can now look forward to a second term in office.

The impressive action carried out by US special forces has once again put Pakistan on the spot. It has drawn global attention to the fact that Pakistan is, in fact, the "epicentre" of jihadi terrorism. It is true, as many Pakistanis plead, that Pakistan is as much a victim as it is a safe haven for jihadi terrorism. The sooner Pakistan recognises that it must work with all those who value freedom and pluralism to fight all manner of terrorists, without making a distinction between "good" terrorists and "bad" ones, the better it is for that country. After all, bin Laden and Al-Qaeda have their origins in the joint US-Pakistan campaign against the now defunct Soviet Union. If they could come to bite the hand that fed them, so will those who are supported by elements in the ruling establishment in Pakistan to target India. Pakistan has as much to lose from the politics of destruction that jihadi terrorism has come to symbolise as any other nation. It would be dangerously misleading for Pakistan to imagine that it would remain immune to the consequences of the rise of such extremism. The war against terrorism is indivisible. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once famously said, "Terrorism anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere."


Pakistan has much to answer for its role in the war on terror and India has every reason to demand these answers. Pakistan has not done enough to punish the perpetrators of terror attacks against India and it will come to regret such inaction. The international community must also work harder to force Pakistan's political and military leadership to do more to defeat extremist forces who target free societies around the world — from the US and UK to India and Indonesia. However, even as terrorist leaders and organisers of terror attacks are hunted down and brought to justice, one must remember that there is no military solution to the threat of ideological extremism. The challenge at home in India is also one of defeating the forces of religious and political extremism and strengthening the foundations of pluralism, secularism and democracy.






India has decided to join a global consensus to end the production and use of endosulfan after being allowed 11 years to phase it out and promised financial assistance. This decision is not irreversible since India has to ratify its own decision. An absolutely final position can be adopted after the results of more elaborate studies on extensive use are available since a causal link between the health hazards in Kerala and endosulfan is disputed. However, it is clear which way the world is going. The Europeans lead in rejecting it and not only have over 60 countries banned its use, the US has also decided to phase it out by 2016. The US Environmental Protection Agency has determined that it can pose unacceptable health risks to agricultural workers and wildlife. According to a World Health Organisation study, the general population does not appear to be at risk from residue in food, but in the general environment it is highly toxic for some aquatic species, particularly fish.

Endosulfan is extensively used in India and China – both are emerging economies with large numbers of poor farmers engaged in low-cost agriculture – because it is a cheap and relatively harmless generic pesticide. In an ideal world, earlier-generation chemicals with greater downside should give way to more recent products that are safer. These exist but are under patent and come at a price. Those voicing the interests of Indian farmers and the endosulfan industry have alleged that the hue and cry against it is the handiwork of NGOs funded by European patent holders of newer chemicals. Even if that was the case, the deciding factor should be whether the stuff is harmful or not. Since newer and safer chemicals are costlier, India has negotiated financial assistance in return for a phase-out. What really matters is how endosulfan is applied. Excessive and indiscriminate use appears to have been the culprit in Kerala, where it was aerial-sprayed, not hand-sprayed. Careful and well-directed use will obviously lessen the risk to ambient non-farm populations. But who can guarantee or ensure that Indian farmers will not be careless and indiscriminate in usage? A few clear lessons follow from the way the endosulfan issue has panned out. If you want a key decision to be made then try to get politicians involved in it, particularly before an election. This is what happened in Kerala, where Congress leaders sought quick action from the Centre to counter the Left making an election issue of it. There will be lobbies for and against every issue but the truth must be ferreted out on the basis of scientific studies that are not compromised owing to funding from vested interests. Finally, if a patented product is necessary for food security, public health and environmental safety, all that the government needs to do is allow its manufacture under compulsory licensing, ensuring royalty payment commensurate with the status of the economy and users' ability to pay. Politicians and officials who are susceptible to multinational lobbying have been reluctant to use this weapon, which can aid people and the environment without favouring industry at home or abroad.






Using purchasing power parity estimates narrows the differences between the two economies, says Arvind Subramanian

The world's two economic superpowers, the United States of America and the People's Republic of China, will meet soon for the third installment of their Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Beyond the specifics, the real issue for the US and the world is really about China's looming economic dominance. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address after President Hu Jintao's visit to the US in January 2011 showed the level of anxiety that policy makers feel about China as a potential rival and perhaps a threat, with growing economic, military and political power, including its bankrolling of American debt. But judging from the reaction to the president's speech, that threat is not viewed as imminent. The same was said, some pointed out, of the rise of Russia and Japan, 20 and 40 years ago, respectively, and those threats turned out to be false alarms.


 But what if the threat is actually greater than policy makers suppose?

According to the International Monetary Fund, for example, total US gross domestic product in 2010 was $14.7 trillion, more than twice China's $5.8 trillion, making the average American about 11 times more affluent as the average Chinese. Goldman Sachs does not forecast the Chinese economy overtaking that of the US until 2025 at the earliest. Americans also draw satisfaction from their unmatched strengths of an open society, an entrepreneurial culture, and world-class universities and research institutions.

But these beliefs may be overly sanguine. The underlying numbers that contribute to them are a little misleading because they are based on converting the value of goods and services around the world into dollars at market exchange rates.

It has long been recognised that using the market exchange rate to value goods and services misleads about the real costs of living in different countries. Several goods and services that are not traded across borders (medical care, retail services, construction and so on) are cheaper in poorer countries because labour is abundant. Using the market exchange rate to compare living standards across countries understates the benefits that citizens in poor countries enjoy from having access to these goods and services. Estimates of purchasing power parity take account of these differing costs and are an alternative, and for some purposes a better, way of computing and comparing standards of living and economic output across countries.

My calculations (explained in greater detail on the Peterson Institute website) show that the Chinese economy in 2010, adjusted for purchasing power, was worth about $14.8 trillion, surpassing that of the US. And, on this basis, the average American is "only" four times as wealthy as the average Chinese, not 11 times as rich, as the conventional numbers suggest.

The different approaches to valuing economic output and resources are not just of theoretical interest. They have real-world significance, especially in the balance of power and economic dominance. The conventional numbers would suggest that the US has three times the capability of China to mobilise real military resources in the event of a conflict. The numbers based on purchasing power parity suggest that conventional estimates considerably exaggerate US capability. To the extent that the service of soldiers and other domestically produced goods and services constitute real military resources, the purchasing power parity numbers must also be taken into account.

The economic advantage China is gaining will only widen in the future because China's gross domestic product growth rate will be substantially and consistently greater than that of the US in the near future. By 2030, I expect the Chinese economy to be twice as large as that of the US (in purchasing power parity dollars).

Moreover, China's lead will not be confined to gross domestic product. China is already the world's largest exporter of goods. By 2030, China's trade volume will be twice that of the US. And, of course, China is also a net creditor to the US.

The combination of economic size, trade and creditor status will confer on China a kind of economic dominance that the US enjoyed for about five to six decades after World War II and that Britain enjoyed at the peak of the empire in the late nineteenth century.

This will matter in two important ways. America's ability to influence China will be seriously diminished, which is already evident in China's unwillingness to change its exchange rate policy despite US urging. And the open trading and financial system that the US fashioned after World War II will be increasingly China's to sustain or undermine.

The new numbers, the underlying realities they represent and the future they portend must serve as a wake-up call for America to get its fiscal house in order and quickly find new sources of economic dynamism if it is not to cede its pre-eminence to a rising, perhaps already risen, China.

The author is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute and Centre for Global Development, Washington DC.
He is the author of a forthcoming book on China's economic dominance






After years of not knowing whether Osama bin Laden was alive or dead, he was briefly resurrected through the announcement of his killing in a US special forces operation near Abbottabad, Pakistan. For me, bin Laden's death feels strangely personal. I moved into his house in Kabul just a couple of days after he vacated it in November 2001. Soon afterwards, at the cave complex of Tora Bora near Jalalabad, I was amongst the journalists who watched from about a kilometre away as US Air Force B-52 bombers pulverised the cave mouths. And then, one morning, we learned that bin Laden and his inner coterie had escaped the previous evening, a small group trekking across the Safed Koh mountain range into the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.


And it was there, almost a decade later, in what Pakistan now calls Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that America's long arm caught up with bin Laden. President Barack Obama divulged today that US intelligence had been busy since August tracking the lead that eventually led to bin Laden. Last week, the US president gave this operation the thumbs-up. Early this morning, in what Mr Obama suggested and US officials confirmed was an all-American strike, US special forces went in and shot dead bin Laden, one of his sons and three guards. Six other sons and three wives were arrested.

This has raised, especially in India, a clamour of questions about whether Pakistani security agencies housed and protected bin Laden, and whether top Pakistani leaders and officials lied through their teeth in consistently rubbishing suggestions that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. Sceptics ask whether it was possible for such a well-known fugitive (even in the photograph taken after the encounter, bin Laden's bloodied face is instantly recognisable) to hide without official collaboration in Pakistan's heartland at the doorstep of its officer training school – the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul – just a kilometre away.

Besides these inconvenient questions, Islamabad is caught in another cleft stick. Accepting Pakistani involvement in bin Laden's death would invite criticism from the right wing (which would include a large majority of all Pakistanis!) for partnering the hated Yankees in killing the admired Sheikh Osama. Denying involvement, on the other hand, would make everyone ask how US forces can operate deep inside Pakistan without the government knowing or being able to stop them.

Pakistan's spy chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has issued an ambiguous statement that mutters about a "joint operation" but does not elaborate on the role that the Pakistani establishment played. It was widely reported that Pasha visited the US on April 13 to demand that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) cut down its operations inside Pakistan. Given that this request came just as US intelligence was closing the noose around bin Laden, sceptics wonder whether this was a last-ditch attempt by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to get bin Laden out of the trap that he was in.

The truth will not remain hidden forever, but some educated guesswork is already possible. America is hardly likely to have shared its August tip-off with Pakistani intelligence, given what it knows about the ISI's enduring links with terrorist organisations and the consequent danger of tipping off bin Laden. Instead, US intelligence would have called upon its technical resources – satellite surveillance and communications monitoring – and also physical surveillance with highly paid informants, to confirm bin Laden's presence and for planning the operation to kill him.

That actual strike, however, could never have been executed without Pakistan's knowledge and, at least, acquiescence. Given that at least three US helicopters were used in the operation, flying through airspace that is carefully guarded by the Pakistani air defence network (the Kahuta nuclear establishment is close by), the complicity of the Pakistani air defence agencies was essential. It is this that General Pasha probably refers to in calling bin Laden's killing a joint operation.

From the American viewpoint, Pakistan's role in any such operation would be circumscribed by the lessons of Tora Bora. At the cave complex in 2001, Afghan militias closing in on bin Laden struck a deal with him, allowing him to escape into Pakistan just ahead of the handful of British and American special force operatives that were close behind. This time round, the US forces would have guarded against such a possibility by keeping Pakistani forces at a distance.

In evaluating Pakistani motives and actions, New Delhi must consider another possibility: that Islamabad and Rawalpindi decided to sacrifice bin Laden to the Americans to provide Mr Obama with an honourable exit from Afghanistan, leaving the field to Pakistan. Listening to Mr Obama's announcement of bin Laden's death, I was struck by how much it sounded like the first speech of his re-election campaign and its resemblance to a victory speech. It might well be that bin Laden's killing could hasten the US drawdown from Afghanistan. If this conspiracy theory holds water, General Pasha's demand in April to pare down the CIA presence in Pakistan was only the cover; perhaps his visit was to fine-tune the details of "Operation Osama".

What will bin Laden's killing do for the war on terror? Nothing really. The amorphous ideology of radical Islam and its evolving operational structures adapt quickly to leadership vacuums. Bin Laden became operationally irrelevant during his years in hiding; if he were to enter the field today, he would hardly know how to handle the complex interplay between the multiple actors in the anti-western array: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Punjabi jihadis…. Bin Laden would be shaking his head in disbelief. And so, just as Saddam's capture did nothing to blunt the Iraqi resistance, bin Laden's killing is unlikely to diminish terrorism and militancy in the Af-Pak region.








Police and paramilitary personnel may tread cautiously in Naxal-infested districts, but agricultural scientists roam here freely, dispensing technology for farm development. They are, in fact, welcomed by local people and extremists alike. This has been the experience of most scientists of the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs or farm science centres) located in districts like Bhumbla in Jharkhand and Gondia, Sonbhadhra and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. These scientists show resource-poor people how to increase their incomes from their tiny farms and help wean rural youth off extremism.


State governments' agricultural extension workers and input suppliers tend to overlook remote areas. Farmers in these areas are, thus, denied access to modern agricultural know-how and technology as well as yield-enhancing inputs, such as good seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, improved tools and the like.

However, KVKs, wholly funded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), though run by agricultural universities and other R&D organisations, are mandated to work among farmers from such areas to offer them situation-specific technology that is within their capacity to adopt. "KVK scientists are now concentrating on maximising income per unit of land so that the youth, who are losing interest in farming because of the lack of profitability, are wooed back," according to ICAR deputy director-general (extension) K D Kokate, in-charge of the KVKs.

With most landholding in India being small and unirrigated, the mantra for income enhancement is secondary agriculture, involving ventures like bee-keeping, backyard poultry, goat rearing and vermiculture (earthworm compost making), among other things.

KVKs conceive and recommend different modules of farming systems to farmers to let them earn extra income. Indeed, the original KVK concept was to impart vocational training to farmers and rural youth, and link them with input suppliers and marketers. But their role has evolved, depending on the changing agro-economic situations.

KVKs source technologies relevant to their regions from institutions in which these are available and pass them on to farmers — but only after trying them out at their own farms and refining and fine-tuning them to suit local conditions. The objective, apparently, is to enable farmers access technologies that fit their resource-framework and can, thus, be gainfully utilised for products that have market demand.

However, the KVK mandate has now been modified to transform them into "knowledge and resource centres" which, apart from providing technology and guidance, can also offer support services, such as soil and water testing laboratories and plant clinics to diagnose crop diseases and pests and suggest cure for them. "Today, farmers' priorities are a sound production system and connection with agri-business and other partners. Knowledge empowerment is, therefore, becoming more important. KVKs seek to meet this need," Kokate points out.

For this, KVKs are being provided e-connectivity so that these are not only in touch with each other and the ICAR but can also disseminate farm know-how and information speedily. In a novel move, text messages are being sent to farmers through mobile phones to guide them on day-to-day farm operations. "Alerts" are issued through such text messages on topics like the weather forecast, plant diseases and other contingencies along with advisories on how to cope with them.

"Farmers first" is the latest motto for the KVKs' scientists and subject matter experts to ensure that they are in constant touch with farmers. This enables a two-way flow of information — knowledge from scientists to farmers and direct feedback from the farmers to the scientists.

Thanks to their record, KVKs, which now number nearly 588 covering most districts, have attracted global attention as a unique model of agricultural extension. In fact, many African nations have been in touch with the ICAR seeking assistance in replicating the KVK model. The ICAR is working with these countries and hopefully these KVKs will serve as catalysts of change there as well.







We pray that you do not take these statements out of turn or consider them to step outside the bounds of etiquette." In 1994, the words of the late Osama bin Laden were measured, almost diffident, as he began to articulate his sense that the Muslim world was under siege.

Just two years later, in 1996, bin Laden had found his voice, as Steve Coll records in Ghost Wars. In August, he issued his declaration of jihad on America, and accompanied this with a poem to the US Secretary of Defence, William Perry: "O William, tomorrow you will be informed/ As to which young man will face your swaggering brother/ A youngster enters the midst of battle smiling, and/ Retreats with his spearhead stained with blood."


On Monday, news spread of the assassination of bin Laden in the quiet Pakistani town of Abbottabad. Looking back at the two decades the world's most wanted man shaped and defined, is it possible now to understand the forces that created and shaped him? The profusion of books on bin Laden included several cut-and-paste biographies, collections of quotes and speeches and other detritus. There were interesting asides — among the books bin Laden was said to have enjoyed were John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, for instance. But these are the books about bin Laden, and the perspectives, that have lasted.

Steve Coll, The Ghost Wars (2004): Ahmed Rashid, no mean expert himself, said of Coll's magnum opus: "No one else I know of has been able to bring such a broad perspective to bear on the rise of bin Laden; the CIA itself would be hard put to beat his grasp of global events." It was Coll's insider knowledge, both of the workings of the US government and of the Af-Pak area, that made The Ghost Wars so good, as he explained the entwined connections between the CIA, Afghan warlords and Pakistani intelligence, and explored what made the region the perfect headquarters for bin Laden.

Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower (2006): Wright began his quest to understand Al-Qaeda and bin Laden in 1948, with the journey made by Sayyid Qutb, the man who inspired Al-Qaeda, "Western in so many ways". And yet, Qutb hated America, seeing Americans as "a reckless, deluded herd that only knows lust and money". Wright tracks the radicalisation of bin Laden and attempts to understand his interpretation and version of Islam — perhaps the most definitive book yet on the rise and philosophy of Al-Qaeda.

Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, Descent Into Chaos and Jihad: In November 2010, Rashid wrote a prescient article on the worsening relationship between the US and Pakistan, noting in parentheses that the Pakistan Army had not gone after Al- Qaeda in the country since 2006. And in 2006, Rashid had guessed that bin Laden was "probably just a few hours drive away" from Islamabad.

Rashid emerged as an early expert on the Taliban, and then Al-Qaeda as well as the US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan very early on, drawing from his own experience as a (disillusioned) revolutionary who attempted a failed rebellion against Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan. He has often been criticised by the likes of Tariq Ali for his hawkish stance — Tariq is a strong critic of the US military presence in Afghanistan, and his politics differ sharply from Rashid's perspective. (It should be noted that Rashid slams the incompetence, incoherence and indifference towards Af-Pak that the US and Europe have demonstrated, in Descent into Chaos.)

But it is impossible to understand the shifts in contemporary Islam and the global corporate politics that contributed to the rise of the Taliban, or that helped someone like bin Laden spin hatred into terrorism, without reading Rashid. If anyone could have predicted the plot twists in the bin Laden saga, it would have been Rashid; and if anyone understood how the son of a Saudi billionaire came to wage a religious war against the US, it would be Rashid, again.

Michael Scheuer, Osama bin Laden (2011): Scheuer is a former senior CIA operative who followed bin Laden's life and career for just over two decades, making this one of the most interesting and definitive of the bin Laden biographies. Setting aside Scheuer's biases, what comes into play is simply the unusual relationship, so to speak, between the spook and his assigned object of obsession.

He makes the case for the late bin Laden being the product of a sophisticated background, an education buttressed by immersion in the Wahhabi culture, which Scheuer marks as aggressive, misogynistic and intolerant in the Saudi Arabia of bin Laden's youth. In his version, bin Laden emerges less as the bogeyman of Western imagination and more as the sophisticated, often urbane and yet unpredictable adversary. This is a surprisingly intimate, if not always convincing, portrait; perhaps no one gets to know a terrorist better than a man whose objective is to bring about his destruction. 









The terrorist has been killed. The American forces and their political leadership deserve to be commended for achieving a long-standing goal. Osama bin Laden was the most potent symbol of the ideology of terror in the name of Islam, and its destruction is, indeed, a severe setback for the movement. However, the ideology of terror he championed lives on, in multiple organisations and individuals, in different parts of the world; and, in an attempt to prove that a symbol's fall does not mean defeat of what it stood for, Al-Qaeda and its ideological affiliates are likely to stage reprisal attacks around the world. If India needs to be vigilant, Pakistan has to be doubly vigilant. The Pakistani establishment finds itself not just discredited, but in double jeopardy. It is improbable that Osama bin Laden could have sheltered himself in a huge mansion with barbed-wiremounted 17-ft walls in one of Islamabad's poshest suburbs without the Pak authorities' knowledge and consent. This makes the Pak establishment — the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence, more than the civilian government — deeply complicit in the eyes of all those fighting terror. Complicity is what terrorists now suspect the Pak establishment of, too, in the American attack that killed Bin Laden, despite express American and Pak denials. After losing the trust of terrorism's foes and facing the fury of betrayed terror groups, Islamabad will come under pressure to abandon the strategy of using terror for added strategic reach. Its only hope out of a spiralling descent into chaos is genuine democracy, in which real power is transferred from the armed forces to genuine representatives of the people, not a handful of elite families who assume a congenital right to rule.
Islamic radicalism was inspired as much by the absence of democracy in the core Islamic countries led by Saudi Arabia, and of peaceful yet meaningful protest, as by anything else. Success of the ongoing movements for democracy in the Arab world is the only way to disarm and deflate the ideology of jihad. And that would include a democratic Saudi Arabia and a sovereign Palestine that secures the safety of Israel as well.








The continuing turbulence at Air India, scuppering a concerted attempt to regain lost market share through lower fares, calls for drastic action. It must address issues ranging from an unviable capital structure, a merger that has made no progress in harmonising internal disparities even after nearly four years, unrealistic pay and perks, wangled by unions through political manipulation, and constant backseat driving by the government, undermining professional management. The way ahead is to convert a large part of Air India's . 40,000 crore debt into equity, so that banks become majority owners rather than the government, insulating the company from day-to-day political interference. Simultaneously, revenue would no longer be used up just to pay off interest. The company should sack all its present staff, offering whatever statutory dues a company with . 13,000 crore debt can offer and rehire staff at current market wages and salaries. Integrated human resources needs to be watchword, for synergy and cost savings. It would also make sense to rope in private-equity investors, who would leverage managerial skills and pay top dollar to buy stake at a premium, given the growth potential of Indian aviation.

The striking pilots are those from the erstwhile Indian Airlines and want compensation similar to that for their counterparts in the erstwhile Air India with its international focus. As the article alongside by former Air India chairman and managing director V Thulasidas points out, flying relatively small, short-haul aircraft for domestic operations is not on par with flying long-haul, wide-bodied planes, which calls for higher levels of flying experience and skills. The point is not to grant parity to all pilots, but to create a flexible career path and duty allocation structure that allows all pilots the chance to operate in the more demanding and better paying sectors. The crippling strike at a time when a committee is examining parity issues only helps the private sector competition. The airline can most certainly do without such loyalty and such loyalists.






So far, political correctness has been a mode of self-governed restraint whose enforcement power stemmed from the weight of public opinion. Over the years, though, its influence has extended far beyond taboos on racist, casteist, sexist and other slurs to include genderist, ageist, weightist, heightist and many other markers of distinctness. It was only a matter of time, therefore, before the PC brigade turned its attention to the animal kingdom. It is difficult, however, to discern how a new academic publication called J o u r n al o f A n i m al E t h i c sarrived at the PC conclusion that the word 'pet' is insulting and should be replaced by the term "companion animal". Did Rex and Moti write to them conveying that they want a term that sounded more professional? Pet, after all, does imply a cloying, non-purposeful existence that could be damaging to furry and feathered self-esteem. Was a referendum conducted among the usual 'pets', dogs, cats, etc, on what they preferred to be called? Were snooty poodles, sybaritic Siamese cats and regal macaws asked whether they want their human pets (we cannot disregard the possibility that they regard us as such) to be given the rather plebian designation of 'human carers' as the journal proposes? Were all the other species that also inhabit the earth polled too, considering the term 'wildlife' has been deemed equally derogatory? The journal considers the prospect of alternative terms such as 'free-living', 'free-ranging' or 'free-roaming' — with their popular allusions to bohemians, chickens and mobile phones — not going down well with the animal world. Of course, that would mean presuming animals are as concerned about political correctness as we are. In which case, why can we not just call them all human, doing away with that most basic discrimination?





India's inflationary concerns began to take hold back in March 2010 when headline inflation had surged to 10.2% from less than 1% a few months earlier. A year, a normal monsoon, a record harvest, and eight policy rate hikes later, where are we? This March inflation will be at 10% once the final numbers are out, exactly where we started a year back. Except worse. Non-food manufacturing inflation was at 3% a year ago; today it's 7% on a yearon-year basis, running at over 11% on a quarterly basis. And all this without the increase in retail petroleum products that appear imminent after the current round of state elections.

More ominously, core inflation seems poised to accelerate further. With inflationary expectations hardening by the month, sustained increases in input prices yet to be fully reflected in output prices, crude prices continuing to stay elevated, and leading indicators such as the PMI output price index suggesting that manufacturing prices are likely to head higher, core and headline inflation is unlikely to come down any time soon.
So, where did we go wrong? I think largely in misunderstanding the drivers of the current inflation cycle. It wasn't caused by a series of supply shocks made worse by strong demand pressures. Rather, it was caused by loose fiscal and monetary policy stretching demand beyond the economy's capacity, a situation exacerbated by supply shocks. But having decided very early that the inflation was just a result of supply shocks, both the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) assured us, over the last 12 months, that all this would go away soon enough.

The RBI did raise rates, in fact eight times, but with none of the urgency or aggression that was warranted. Secure in the same belief, the government went on pumping even more fiscal stimulus into the economy. With every passing month as the data unerringly surprised expectations on the upside and the authorities kept raising their inflation targets, the assurances sounded just a little less convincing and unreal. Meanwhile, expectations hardened, sparking a wage inflation that has now ignited a doubledigit generalised inflation.

So, what needs to be done? Just the obvious. The RBI's calibrated approach of 25 basis points hikes was predicated on the assumption that the inflationary process was dominated by supply shocks and with better food supplies, March inflation would moderate to 5.5% (as forecasted in December 2010). Instead, this forecast was revised up to 7% in January, and then to 8% in mid-March. When a central bank has to revise its forecast by 250 bps in three months, and still ends up underestimating the initial print by 100 basis points and the likely final print by 200 basis points, surely it much question whatever it had believed were the underlying drivers of inflation and change its extant strategy. And so, the central bank in the May 3 policy review needs to reassess the current inflation dynamics and course change to raising rates by 50 basis points, and prepare the public for further rate hikes. Sometimes, doing the obvious is also doing the right thing.

    In this connection, much has been made about the notion that more rate hikes would stifle an already languishing investment cycle. There are many reasons why the investment cycle has stumbled. High interest rate isn't one of them. Rather, with inflation relentlessly rising, investment is being continually postponed on fears of a coming hard landing. Quelling inflationary pressures and restoring macroeconomic stability is critical to jumpstarting the investment cycle. More generally, some have argued that tightening too much could cripple growth, citing the proverbial growth-inflation trade-off. Nothing could be a more disingenuous reading of either the theory or of the data. We know, at least since Bob Lucas' seminal 1972 paper that the growth-inflation trade-off only makes sense if inflationary expectations are stable, not when they are rising, as is the case now, or falling as was the case in Japan in the 1990s. Empirically we know, at least since the late 1980s (Stan Fisher's paper), such trade-offs exist only at low inflation rates. Not when the quarterly rate of core inflation is over 11%. Instead, at these levels bringing down inflation is essential to safeguard future growth by sacrificing near term growth. It's called soft landing the economy.

(Views are personal)








Second Coming

After he captured the political limelight as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi has become an object of jealousy for his BJP colleagues and a headache for his Congress rivals. The same BJP colleagues who had been running a whispering campaign against Joshi, accusing him of displaying "politically incorrect over-enthusiasm in the PAC", are now been forced to sing his praises. As Dr Joshi has virtually become the face of the BJP's fight against UPA, party leaders had no choice but to renominate him as the PAC head. But, more importantly, this second coming of Joshi — who is known to nurse a grudge for not getting a second term as BJP president — has prompted some of his supporters to argue that when Nitin Gadkari's term as party chief ends next year, Joshi, as a party veteran — especially as a UP Brahmin and RSS favourite — could be the best bet to lead the saffron party to the 2014 polls. On the other hand, the Congress camp fears the needling from Joshi on the 2G spectrum will get sharper in the future since he has acquired exclusive access to sensitive information and documents relating to the telecom scam. Certainly, this 'swadesi' doctor of physics is the man to watch for now.

Yours Faithfully

Just when Dr Murli Manohar Joshi was giving anxious moments to the Congress, another man had been using the same occasion to try and come out of political limbo. Buta Singh, the once-influential Congress leader who is now on the margins of the party, was quick to reach AICC headquarters, offering his services to the Congress in fighting the BJP. The latter, while demanding that Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar accept Joshi's contentious PAC report, had cited "a precedence" in former Speaker Manohar Joshi accepting another contentious PAC report on the coffin scam submitted by the then PAC chief Buta Singh despite opposition from the then ruling BJP members in the panel. Buta Singh promptly reached 24, Akbar Road to tell the Congress leaders and reporters that the BJP was wrong in comparing the two reports. Buta argued that in the case of his PAC report, there was no revolt within the panel or a rejection — through a majority vote. His draft report, Buta further pointed out, was formally cleared by the PAC by recording the proceedings in the agenda before he submitted it to the Speaker. Will Buta's show of loyalty be rewarded by the powers that be?
Rail Bhavan Update

With the West Bengal assembly poll results less than a fortnight away, a major guessing game in the Congress and Trinamool Congress is on as to whom Mamata Banerjee will hand over the railway ministry if she has to take command of Writers Building. Among her party MPs, Sudip Bandopadhyay is the one with a political profile of his own, which has become, ironically, a sort of burden for him as Didi never even bothered to make him a Trinamool junior minister in UPA-II. The fact that Sudip had once revolted against her has also made his equations with Mamata tricky. Along with Sudip, the other two names being mentioned are MoS for health Dinesh Trivedi, the pushy non-Bengali who has made his way as Mamata's trusted back-room player and Kalyan Banerjee, the man whom Mamata entrusted the task of leading the Trinamool counter-attack on Left members in the Lok Sabha. While many Trinamool MPs are praying to be Didi's choice to man Rail Bhavan, the Congress camp is wondering whether Mamata will make her ministry a bargaining point for the post-poll powersharing talks in Kolkata!


Since the demand for a ban on endosulfan has become an emotional political and social issue in Kerala, the LDF's high-profile political agitation against the UPA has triggered political cross-firing both in the Left and Opposition UDF camps. When CM V S Achuthanandan branded the 'anti-ban' Sharad Pawar as 'pro-rich and anti-poor', the NCP representative in the LDF has had to swallow the embarrassment. Similarly, when senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran said environment minister Jairam Ram "should resign on moral grounds", many other Congress leaders privately wondered why the 'very influential' A K Antony has failed to convince the UPA/ Congress high command to accept the Kerala demand. When VS staged a day-long hunger strike on the endosulfan issue, his in-house rival Pinarayi Vijayan failed to turn up. After the success of VS' agitation, Pinarayi, as state CPI-M boss, gave a separate call for a hartal — demanding the same thing!








There ismore than one dimension to the current strike by Air India pilots belonging to the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA). First, there is no justification for a strike that is causing immense difficulties to passengers. The last time someone spoke to me, most pilots were on strike, including executive pilots who are not members of the union, barring co-pilots who are yet to be confirmed in their jobs. One can imagine the number of flights, mostly domestic, that are getting cancelled.

Media reports indicate that the private airlines have increased their fares, exploiting the hapless passenger. So, the strike by the ICPA is helping private airlines to milk more money, a fault they have attributed to the airline management so far.
The airline that is hoping for better days can ill afford something like this. Air India is incurring huge losses. The strike and the consequent loss of revenue can only exacerbate its financial difficulties. The loss of faith on the part of the passengers in the national carrier can only make matters worse.

There is another side to this strike. These pilots belong to the erstwhile Indian Airlines, and not to the old Air India. Reports say they are demanding parity in wages with the pilots of Air India for doing the same job. On the face of it, there is merit in the argument, though a strike causing large-scale disruption of the airline's services is not the way to ensure wage parity.

But are they doing the same job? Are their working conditions the same? For example, a pilot operating an Airbus 321 that can carry 165 passengers on the Delhi-Mumbai route cannot be said to be doing the same job as one who flies a 425-seater Boeing 747-400 or a 350-seater Boeing 777-300 ER on the Delhi-New York sector. However, the wages of pilots flying more or less similar routes on somewhat similar aircraft in the two wings need to be compared first before taking a stand on this.

This, however, cannot mean that some pilots of the company will always operate smaller aircraft on shorter routes and get lower salaries and others will get higher salaries as they operate larger aircraft on longhaul routes. The old Air India itself had larger aircraft like 747 flying on long-haul routes and Airbus 310s deployed on medium-haul routes, like Delhi-Singapore. There was a system by which the pilots could move from one aircraft to another and, as such, senior commanders on 747 getting larger pay did not cause a heartburn among others; they could look forward to commanding 747s and receiving higher paypackets one day.
If the merger of the two airlines gave visions of such career progression to the old India Airlines pilots, they cannot be blamed. After all, the merger was a clean one, a total one; it was not like the two wings working separately under a common holding company. In such a clean merger, the employees expected to be made part of a common cadre, with uniform working conditions and common compensation packages. It was not a matter of expectations — the merger provided for such unification of working conditions, salaries and common seniority criteria. As I recall, pilots would have been the last of the categories of employees to be unified, as the exercise was likely to be complex in their case. But all categories of employees were to be unified in about 18- 24 months after the legal merger. The legal merger took place by August 2007 and the key issue of people integration ought to have been given the highest priority. After all, a company is its people, not the gleaming machines.

Why the merger has remained a mere legal one so far? Isn't it true that the integration of the two wings has not really happened, even after four years now? Why did the government decide to merge the airlines if there was no will to complete the process? The only sign of a merger that we have seen, after the initial few months, is the announcement of a single IATA code. But that happened only around February 2011, not by 2008-end as planned.

Is the merger of two airlines such a difficult and unique task that we have to re-invent the wheel here? In the global airline business, mergers are commonplace. In the US, airlines that are several times the size of Air India have merged, and are merging.

This is not to downplay the difficulties and complexities in such a merger. But the roadmap had been prepared in great detail and had been approved by the government. Every single aspect of the integration process had been worked out by Accenture, the consultants. It had not done this in a vacuum. The exercise had been carried out by working groups of airline officials with the help of the consultant.

The pilot strike gives the airline and the government a chance to give a serious thought to these issues. The striking pilots have to realise that their chosen path cannot help them or their airline. The government and the airline, on their part, need to negotiate with them to work out a plan to address their grievances.

(The author is former chairman &MD, Air India)








The American people may have wanted Osama bin Laden's head but they want jobs even more.

The hunting down and killing of Osama bin Laden, founder and leader of al-Qaeda, close to the Pakistani Capital, has been greeted with emotions ranging from glee in the US to trepidation elsewhere. Those who think international terrorism will receive a serious setback are cheering; those who think it will see an increase, at least for a while, are looking glum. Osama may have started out as a mastermind but it is fair to say, he has been reduced, in recent years, to that of a mere icon with terrorism having acquired an institutional framework, an operational capability that transcends charismatic individuals. An increase or decrease in terrorism is however not really the issue because such waxing and waning has been going on ever since the Palestine Liberation Organisation first hijacked an airliner four decades ago. The real issue is what Osama bin laden was doing in Pakistan and what Pakistan was doing about it. In that sense, the first reaction of Mr P. Chidambaram, India's Home Minister, was spot on. He said it proves that the Pakistani state is the epicentre of terrorism. India has never been in any doubt over this. Nor has the West and in particular, the US. It will be interesting to see how the US nuances its approach to Pakistan now. So far it has held Pakistan in its lap as a favoured but wayward child. Will it push it away now? Indeed, given how these things work, it will probably reward Pakistan for having assisted it or at least agreed to an American operation. In time, the IMF too may be persuaded to open up its coffers for rolling over some of its existing debt that had been stalled of late. And, certainly, Pakistan would be remiss in not demanding a reward.

For the US, the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden was in the nature of an honour killing. After what he had done to American pride and people on September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden's life had become forfeit. It was only a matter of time before he was killed or captured, provided of course he did not die of natural causes earlier. After all, the US has made it a part of its overall policy to kill or otherwise dispose of persons who damage US interests. From Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran in 1953 who was overthrown to President Manuel Noriega of Panama in 1989 who was kidnapped and jailed to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq who was first toppled and then hanged in 2007, it has been a long list.

The US President, Mr Barack Obama's popularity ratings, which have been dipping, will improve. But will they hold till November 2012 when the next presidential election is due? That remains to be seen because much as the American people may have wanted Osama bin Laden's head, they want jobs even more.







Policies on industry, trade, competition, investments, and state-owned enterprises are linked, and it is their combination that determines the real level of competition in a country. FREDERIC JENNY, CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE ON COMPETITION LAW AND POLICY, OECD, PARIS.

Mr Frederic Jenny is an economist-turned Judge of the Supreme Court of France. A globally renowned scholar on competition laws, Mr Jenny started off as an economist interested in the functioning of the markets and competition. Later, he was convinced that the results of economic activities are dependent on the quality of the legal system. For example, he says, with a good contract law, speedy bankruptcy proceedings and well-protected property rights, a country can get much more investment and economic activity than it would otherwise. But this aspect is too often ignored by economists as they don't focus much on the legal system, he says. "So I became more interested in the interface between law and economics and that is how I became a judge," says Mr Jenny, who is also the Chairman of the Committee on Competition Law and Policy, OECD, Paris.

Mr Jenny, who was recently in Delhi to attend a conference on regulation organised by the NGO CUTS, talked to Business Line on aspects of competition law and the merits of including competition clauses in the India-European Union Free Trade Agreement. Excerpts from the interview:

What is your experience with the implementation of competition laws?

Enforcing competition laws brings economic democracy, which goes together with political democracy. Competition law ensures there will not be barriers preventing people from moving into certain markets. It also makes sure there will be no exploitation of consumers by firms tempted to abuse their market power.

But if you don't have a liberalised international trade policy, or if you have corporatist regulations which prevent competition, then in many countries there may be very little competition even if you have good competition laws. So, policies on industry, trade, competition, investments, and state-owned enterprises are linked, and it is their combination that determines the real level of competition in a country.

How can competition authorities ensure that laws in their respective countries, especially developed ones, do not discriminate against foreign companies?

Both in the US and in the EU, competition laws apply equally to all firms irrespective of their nationality. The same is true in most countries. However, in some cases there may be other laws or regulations besides the competition law, sectoral laws, which create barriers to entry for foreign firms or even restrict competition between domestic players.

There are examples of such laws in the banking and financial sector, in various service sectors, in public procurements etc.

The competition authorities don't have the power to change other laws. But on finding that some laws are against the principle of competition, they can give an opinion to the Government, the press and the general public saying those laws are not consistent with the principles of fair and non-discriminatory competition.

Then the Government or Parliament should think whether such inconsistency is an oversight, or whether there are other ways to reach social and political goals without destroying competition. This advocacy function of competition authorities is very important and has led to numerous legal reforms in many countries opening up markets to international players and to more competition.

There are reports of the EU insisting on competition clauses in the India-EU Free Trade Agreements. Will this be disadvantageous for a developing country like India?

FTA negotiations will succeed only when each side feels it has gotten enough that is worth for it to enter into the agreement. FTAs eliminate or reduce governmental barriers to trade, for example, by lowering custom duties. But one has to ensure that strategic barriers created by firms do not replace governmental barriers. Otherwise the purpose of the FTA will be defeated.

India and the EU have competition laws. If EU firms manoeuvre to create barriers to the entry for Indian products or services, then the competition law will apply and Indian companies will be able to complain and gain effective access to the European markets.

It is understandable that the EU would also want to be sure that Indian firms will not create artificial barriers to entry on the Indian market and that competition prevails.

Is there a need to exclude the banking sector, which is sensitive due to its systemic issues, from competition laws?

In many countries, the banking sector is not excluded from competition laws. We don't want to eliminate competition in the sector because competition between banks is absolutely necessary to promote financial innovation and cheaper credit.

But we also acknowledge that the banking sector is one with systemic issues and that prudential regulation is necessary. So what we need is the proper combination of competition and regulation often achieved through cooperation between the sectoral regulator and the competition authority.

How can competition authorities assess and award damages?

There are very few countries where competition authorities directly award damages.

In some countries, competition authorities have to establish the existence of a violation, for example a cartel. Then those hurt by the cartel can go to a civil court, cite the competition authorities' finding, and seek damages. In other countries, victims of an anti-competitive violation directly go to civil courts.

To assess damages, one way is to compare a cartelised market with a similar market that is not cartelised in another country or in another region of the same country, or, with a different period before the cartel started or after the cartel finished.

This will show the difference between the price of the cartelised product or service and the price if there had been no cartel. This will establish the amount of overcharge due to the cartel which is the damage suffered by customers who bought the product.

There is another category of people who are hurt because they were not able to buy the product as its price was higher than what it should have been. Usually courts are reluctant to award damages to this category of plaintiffs because they find it difficult to establish with certainty that these plaintiffs would have bought the product if its price had been lower.

Is there a need to arrive at damages that will act as a deterrent for companies?

If it is very expensive to engage in an anti-competitive practice, a firm will think twice before doing it considering the risks involved. The costs for the firm include the administrative or civil or criminal fine. If in addition to the fine, the firm has to compensate the consumers for the overcharge due to the anti-competitive practice, this will make it even more expensive for the firm to engage in an anti-competitive practice and this will increase the deterrence.

How can competition law act on 'duopolies', like in the case of Boeing and Airbus in the aviation industry, also backed by their respective Governments?

Airbus and Boeing probably compete fairly intensely on innovation and prices. So a duopoly does not necessarily mean that there is no competition. Also, there are other countries which are coming into the game such as India, China and Brazil.

But they also benefit from state aid. The market mechanism is distorted if you are able to outcompete your competitors because you have been aided by a Government rather than because you are more efficient than your competitors.

Both companies have taken each other to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body where it was found that both companies were Government-subsidised. Though the WTO discipline on state aids needs to be stronger, at least it exists and there is an enforcement mechanism.

Can a cooperation agreement between the competition authorities in the concerned countries help?

There are anti-competitive situations in a particular country because of actions of firms from other countries. In such cases, the competition authority in the 'victim' country may not have the means to investigate in the parent country of the firm engaged in the anti-competitive practices.

But if there is a cooperation agreement between competition authorities in both the countries, the competition authority in the 'victim' country can ask the other authority to gather proof against the firm so that the domestic law of the 'victim' country can be used to punish such firms.

What about sectors where there is a Government monopoly, like Railways?

In sectors like railways there are at least two reasons for Government to intervene. First, having a developed communication network generates positive externalities.

Second, some forms of competition, particularly the provision of competing infrastructure such as railway lines could be wasteful.

But competition in the provision of railway services, for example competition in the operation of freight or passenger trains, can be quite useful to improve the quality of the service and lower its cost.

In Europe, public railway companies have been forced to allow private companies to run trains competitively with them on the railway line network. So there is competition in services.






As the RBI study on State finances points out, the way forward is to move to GST, augment non-tax revenues and rationalise expenditure

The RBI study on State Finances released on March 30, 2011, is the only source of state-wise data and analysis. The study is a must-read for all Budget officers. Budget-making has become a challenge, as India seeks to reconcile high growth with macro-economic stability.


The most important conclusion of the RBI study is that the rule-based fiscal policy adopted by States improved fiscal discipline. Therefore, the challenge before State governments is to revert to fiscal consolidation.

The RBI study suggests that the higher devolutions recommended by the Thirteenth Finance Commission (FC) will benefit State finances. Factors likely to have significant implications for fiscal consolidation at the States' level include implementation of GST, States' own efforts towards mobilising non-tax revenues and prioritisation and rationalisation of expenditure.

The Study further states that for credible progress towards fiscal consolidation, States need to amend their FRBM Acts. They also need to review their tariff policies, especially those relating to the power and irrigation sectors. For successful implementation of GST, the Centre and the States need to agree on certain issues and equip themselves with administrative capacity and IT infrastructure.

Better allocation of expenditure along with improved transparency and accountability through strict audit procedures is also necessary to ensure improved fiscal management.

States need to put in place an effective forecasting and monitoring mechanism for cash inflows and outflows so that a need-based approach is followed for market borrowings and the interest cost of cash surpluses is minimised. The strengthening of State Finance Commissions is essential to ensure the allocation of resources to local bodies, keeping in view their developmental role for the purpose of inclusive growth.


Budget makers have to prepare a credible fiscal roadmap on the lines recommended by the Thirteenth FC, which include (i) the overall macroeconomic performance of States (ii) devolutions from the Centre and (iii) the efforts by States to mobilise own revenues effectively and compress least productive revenue expenditure.

In addition, efforts are to be made to improve non-tax revenues. States need to examine the commercial viability of certain services, such as power and irrigation, in a medium to long-term perspective. The cost recovery (measured as revenue receipts as a ratio to non-Plan revenue expenditure) in power and irrigation sectors remains a medium term challenge.

With regard to GST the challenges before the budget maker are issues like its dual structure and the dispute resolution mechanism. While the Constitutional Amendment Bill for GST introduced on March 22, 2011, will address thorny issues, Budget-makers needs to be proactive in their approach towards GST.

The Budget-maker is required to identify unwarranted items of revenue expenditure which have low growth and welfare implications. .

The challenges for better expenditure management lie in the creation of local body ombudspersons, fiscal councils and independent evaluation organisations in the medium term.


The Budget maker should realise that the accumulation of cash beyond a level reflects inefficiency, leading to an avoidable interest burden. The Budget maker may consider using their surplus cash balances for bullet repayments of market borrowings raised for debt swaps during the period 2002-2005, which are likely to become due from 2011-12 .They need to have an effective forecasting and monitoring mechanism for cash inflows and outflows

Disclosure and Dissemination in State Budgets: Budget-makers should publish information on outstanding liabilities, contingent liabilities and off-budget borrowings. The data on wages and salaries and 'operations and maintenance' are spread over a number of heads in the State budgets, such as administrative services, economic services and social services. These items may be given as a memo item in the 'Budget at a Glance'.


The study on State Finance was released in March, after the presentation of the Budget. The RBI should consider publishing the study before the next year's budget-making process starts, ideally in September. This will help the budget makers ascertain the strengths and weaknesses relative to a benchmark.

The RBI may consider providing an analytical presentation of financing the fiscal deficit with a break-up of Consolidated Fund borrowing and public account borrowing. The head 'small savings and provident fund' may be looked into and could be changed to only provident fund on account of changes in Small Savings treatment.

(The author is a professor of Economics at K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research.)








Hey India!" We heard someone call behind us. We paid no heed. Four of us were roaming the street shops near Khan-al Khalili mosque in Cairo, Egypt last week when we heard a more earnest voice behind us shout again, "Hey Amitabh Bachchan, blue shirt!"


With new eyes, we looked at our 5'4" height colleague in blue and unanimously decided to scoff at the preposterous suggestion from the shopkeeper to whom the voice belonged. That is when I heard a yell right next to my ear, "Hey Kareena Kapoor in pink!" Of course, I turned. Either it was because of the "sincerity" in the voice or an instant bursting forth of reverence within for the nearprecise observation, I am almost certain my pink clothes were turning red with the excessive blushing. My respect for these shopkeepers suddenly knew no bounds, and I ended up buying six papyrus paintings, two phaanoos (lanterns) and ordered silver lockets for my kids with their names carved in hieroglyphs within 15 minutes flat!


The ancient Egyptian civilisation was one of the four oldest civilisations of the world. And what a civilisation it must have been in its full glory. Looking at the majestic Pyramids at Giza, I marvelled at how 3 million stones, 15 tonnes or more apiece, could fit so perfectly into each other in one of the most stable geometrical shapes, and endure wind, weather and time with so much ease! The visit to the Cairo Museum which houses the mummies and artefacts discovered from the tomb of Tutankhamen left me wondering whether the designers of presentday jewellery, furniture and other art objects needed to travel back in time to 1300-1400 BC. No, not just for a dekko, but instead to imbibe the astounding creativity and intricacy in full measure.


The Egyptians wear their rich heritage with a sense of casual pride. As an Indian, if you happen to exhibit awe for their inheritance, they gently pat your arm and tell you, "We cannot compare with the richness and variety of your legacy." One is struck by their humility and generosity. It probably stems from their proximity to the Nile. Egypt is the largest country of Africa and though its area is over 1 million sq km, majority of its 80 million population lives in 40 per cent of the landmass on both shores of the Nile. They are by nature like the flow of the river, gentle yet strong. This happy realisation strengthened when I visited Tahrir Square (Tahrir means liberation). The country is peaceful now but this square, which is actually a circle, would witness some form of silent protest or march every other day even while I was there.


"Why are you gathered here today?"


"We are protesting against treatment meted out to peaceful protestors in Libya". And today? "We are supporting the youth of Yemen."


Passersby would join them for a few minutes, protest in silence and then move on. One youngster there told me that they had a four-pronged strategy to ensure the government remains informed of the pulse of the people. He said, "We trust that if we believe in God, Tahrir, protest and peace, nothing can stop us from getting justice." I felt he was mature beyond his age and perhaps he represented majority of Egyptian youth. I loved the way some of them would try to bridge the 'small' communication gap with foreigners like us. "Do you speak English?" "Small English madame." "How far is the hotel from here?" "Small from here." "What is the price of this painting?" "Small price." "Can I have half a plate of that?" "Madam small food, so small size." "You are great country, great people." "No. Egypt small, India not small!" Well, Egypt, not just I but the entire world today believes you are not small. They know that you are very tall!








The carefully plotted killing of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in a firefight inside a mansion in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, not far from Islamabad, on Sunday night is a historical event whose practical implications will be sought to be grasped for some time to come. Bin Laden had not only created Al Qaeda, but he also funnelled and helped coalesce the forces that would eventually attack the American mainland on September 11, 2001, a horrific event that set the stage for the unleashing of US military power in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and in sharpening the capabilities of a vast military machine in the Gulf with the aim of arresting the spread of Al Qaeda in Arab lands, with which America's political, economic and military policy has been intertwined since the end of World War II. These developments came to be drawn together under the rubric of the "global war on terror". Ironically, the demise of the terrorist leader cannot automatically signify the rollback of the US military machine from these areas, although it is possible some political openings may be created to help accelerate processes that would lead to a US withdrawal from Af-Pak and elsewhere. If a rough parallel were sought to be drawn with the death of Adolf Hilter on April 30, 1945, it will be noticed that when Nazi Germany's leader took his own life, his Third Reich was disintegrating, German forces were surrounded by its enemies (tasting defeat on all fronts), and the end of World War II was near. The opposite is the case with the irregular military detachments (like the Taliban and some others) which found inspiration from Bin Laden. Their end is not in sight, and bringing this about will take some doing. The rise of democratic sentiment in North Africa and some Gulf states, leading to widespread public demonstrations against dictatorships — rather than a lurch towards extremism on a significant scale — does not negate the dynamics of Al Qaeda's affiliates like the Taliban. This was implicitly recognised by US President Barack Obama in his short speech, in which he announced Osama bin Laden's death. His killing marked "the most significant achievement to date" in the US attempt to defeat Al Qaeda, Mr Obama noted. But he also said: "Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There is no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us". The official reaction in India is little more than a tepid — and elliptical — version of the US President's short address. External affairs minister S.M. Krishna said on Monday: "The world must not let down its united effort to overcome terrorism and eliminate the safe havens and sanctuaries that have been provided to terrorists in our own neighbourhood. The struggle must continue unabated." Contrast this with the US President's directness: "And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against Al Qaeda and its associates." This appears to be more an instruction than an appeal, although the Americans are fully aware that the Pakistan government and its military leadership will pretend to their people that they had no contribution to make in the US enterprise of killing Bin Laden. (This due to widespread lurking sympathies for extremism and terrorism in Pakistan). It would be dreadful if India simply sat back and watched what the Americans and the Pakistanis now do with regard to Afghanistan, not to say cleaning up of Taliban sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Indeed, it is time to project a muscular Indian diplomacy in the wake of Bin Laden's death in order to work for an outcome that is consistent with our regional perspectives.







The killing of Osama bin Laden is significant on two counts. It marks the end of a 10-year hunt for the mastermind of the horrendous 9/11 tragedy — the death of some 3,000 people in New York's Twin Towers, in the Pentagon in Washington and on remote fields as another plane went down after it was wrestled down by passengers. Second, the scene of the firefight, so close to Pakistan's capital Islamabad and the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, is symptomatic of the American problem in the war on terror: Pakistan's importance in the operations and its complicity in the web of terrorism woven around Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Osama's death, in a sense, represents a closure of the deep wounds inflicted on the American psyche by the greatest peace-time attack on American soil. It also signified the new form of terror in that a group of dedicated men relying on a terrorism network halfway around the globe could make missiles of passenger planes to bring down two of New York's symbols of economic power and a portion of the Pentagon representing American military might. But of greater interest to America and the world will be the long-term implications of Osama's death on the future of US troops in Afghanistan and the unravelling or otherwise of the US-Pakistan relationship. In one respect, it makes plans for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan easier. Former US President George W. Bush's much-derided call, after the American Wild West fashion, for Osama to be delivered "dead or alive" has finally been answered. But US policymakers are still wrestling with how and when to leave Afghanistan and what kind of a post-withdrawal military presence it should maintain. Second, Pakistan's frantic efforts to put in place an alternative policy in league with Afghanistan, and possibly China, reveal an impatience with a scheme of things in which the Pakistan Army believes it might be short-changed. What it also reveals is the mutual lack of trust between the US and Pakistan — like a quarrelling couple threatening to divorce and shying away from it, neither party seems to reach the breaking point. For US President Barack Obama, Osama's death is a welcome development for his re-election campaign, besieged as he has been by a sea of problems in the economic and political spheres. But he has to be ready for a backlash by supporters of Osama who would naturally try to seek revenge for the killing of their iconic leader. In Pakistan, there will be some soul-searching on where the Army goes from here. Perhaps, Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will take it as an indication that his own plans for Afghanistan should be speeded up in a changing environment. It is no longer news to the United States, India or the rest of the world that Pakistan has thus far been successfully running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. The crucial point is what happens next. President Obama cannot simply fold up his tent and leave Afghanistan, as the US did once before. On the other hand, Pakistan still remains important for the US, given its geographical location, the terrorist web it is part of even as it has also become its victim and its aim of seeking to build a privileged relationship with Afghanistan. Washington does not believe that it is in its interest to abandon the billions of dollars it has been giving the country in military and economic aid and say goodbye. Yet there are valid reasons to believe that the US-Pakistan relationship will take a new turn now that the inspiration and financier of Al Qaeda is gone. In Washington, this will trigger moves for seeking greater accountability for Islamabad's actions, particularly in relation to its funding and support for elements of the Taliban leadership. Besides, there will be increasing efforts to get Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to come clean on his future plans. Reports of Islamabad offering him a deal to change his alliance with the US for a pact with China and Pakistan have inevitably raised many eyebrows. It remains to be seen how the absence of Osama will impact Al Qaeda. As America has discovered, Al Qaeda has, over the years, become something of a franchise operation, seeking inspiration from one source but autonomous in its operations and funding in countries in which it operates. But it would be difficult to over-emphasise Osama's role as the lodestar for the ranks of terrorist outfits. Neither his accepted No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, nor anyone else can be a substitute. Osama's own story is well-known. He used his share of his family's fortune for the cause of jihad after his baptism under American benediction to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, returned to Saudi Arabia after the Soviet withdrawal to agitate for the withdrawal of US troops, went to Sudan and thence back to Afghanistan, then under the control of the Taliban. The rest, as they say, is history. In the end, the future scenario of Afghanistan will determine, to an extent, how Al Qaeda develops in the absence of Osama. The Arab world is in ferment, with two Presidents already toppled, a third on the way to being removed and turmoil in other countries signalling a rare moment of hope. The fact that these breathtaking events can take place through methods other than those adopted by Al Qaeda and its offshoots should dent the appeal of extremist violence for the disenfranchised young. In part, it will of course depend on how the American establishment pursues its national interests. After the relatively smooth changes in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya has muddied the waters and the geopolitical interests of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni world have, for the moment, triumphed over the wishes of the majority in Bahrain. But it will be difficult to stem the changes lit by the spark in Tunisia last December. American perseverance has paid off in finally getting its quarry. Now it is up to the US establishment to convert its success into the proverbial peace dividend.   *S. Nihal Singh can be contacted at







For months after 9/11, people watched planes. They watched skyscrapers. They looked over their shoulders in crowded places — at baseball games, college graduations, New Year's celebrations. They eyed bearded men on planes and trains, glanced nervously at suspicious packages in shopping malls, and listened for the lilt of Arabic in airports and bus stations. They profiled relentlessly and shamelessly, and waited for the next attack to come. I moved to Washington, D.C., a year after the Twin Towers fell, and there was a touch of London during the blitz in the way that people carried themselves in those days. My friends and neighbours rode the Metro with stiff upper lips, kept calm and carried on as they headed to work at the Pentagon or the us state department (or a minor thinktank or political magazine, for that matter), and generally behaved as if even the most everyday activities were taking place in the valley of the shadow of death. We felt as if we were living with targets on our backs. We assumed that it was only a matter of time until Al Qaeda struck again. Ten years later, we're still waiting. There have been many plots, certainly, foiled by good intelligence work or good police work or simple grace and luck. There have been shoe bombers and there have been underwear bombers and Times Square bombers — and others still, presumably, that were cut short before they reached the headlines. But the wave of further violence that seemed inevitable in those fraught months after 9/11 never materialised within our borders. And what seemed like the horrifying opening offensive in a new and terrifying war stands instead as an isolated case — a passing moment when Al Qaeda seemed to rival fascism and Communism as a potential threat to our civilisation, and when Osama bin Laden inspired far more fear and trembling than his actual capabilities deserved. Now the man is dead. This is a triumph for the United States of America, for our soldiers and intelligence operatives, and for the President as well. But it is not quite the triumph that it would have seemed if Bin Laden had been captured a decade ago, because those 10 years have taught us that we didn't need to fear him and his rabble as much as we did, temporarily but intensely, in the weeks when Ground Zero still smoked. They've taught us, instead, that whatever blunders we make (and we have made many), however many advantages we squander (and there has been much squandering), and whatever quagmires we find ourselves lured into, our civilisation is not fundamentally threatened by the utopian fantasy politics embodied by groups like Al Qaeda, or the mix of thugs, fools and pseudo intellectuals who rally around their banner. They can strike us, they can wound us, they can kill us. They can goad us into tactical errors and strategic blunders. But they are not, and never will be, an existential threat. This was not clear immediately after 9/11. On that day, they took us by surprise. They took advantage of our society's great strength — its openness and freedom, the welcome it gives to immigrants and the presumption of innocence it extends. And in the wake of their attack, we did not know what they were capable of, or how they might follow up their victory. Now we know. We know because Bin Laden is finally dead and gone, but in a sense we knew already. We learned the lesson in every day that passed without an attack, in every year that turned, and in the way our eyes turned, gradually but permanently, from the skies and the skyscrapers back to the ordinary things of life. We learned when the planes landed safely, when the malls stayed open, when the commencements came and went, when one baseball season gave way to another. Day after day, hour after hour, we learned that we were strong and they were weak. One of Bin Laden's most famous quotations (there were not many in his oeuvre) compared the United States and Al Qaeda to racing horses. "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse", he told his acolytes over table talk, "by nature, they will like the strong horse". In his cracked vision, America was the weak nag, and Al Qaeda the strong destrier. But the last 10 years have taught us differently: In life as well as death, Osama bin Laden was always the weak horse. *By arrangement with The New York Times







Editorials and comments from newspapers and experts from across the world: Osama Bin Laden's greatest success was to make his particular interpretation of radical Islamism globally known. There were other strands of militant thinking and strategy around in the late 1990s, but 20 years of "propaganda by deed" made Bin Laden's the dominant one. A thriving "jihadi" subculture has emerged. Al Qaeda has become, in many ways, a social movement. Bin Laden's death means the removal of the iconic figure at the centre of this construct. This is undoubtedly important... The most likely scenario in the future is continuing low level violence and threat shifting around the periphery of the Islamic world depending on local circumstances and the emergence of new leaders. *Jason Burke, South Asia correspondent, the Guardian, UK Bin Laden's death will not end terrorism, do away with Al Qaeda or conclude the global war that began after 9/11 because too many people in too many nations accept his delusion that the United States is implacably at odds with the values of Islam. But they are wrong to see America as their foe, and wrong to see Bin Laden as their hero. Bin Laden's death will create new tensions in US diplomacy. Pakistan reportedly assisted in locating Bin Laden and thus in assassinating him. But relations with Pakistan are badly strained, and now the threat of retribution to that regime is real. Obama recognised it in his speech, and he must follow through with protection for those who helped protect US interests and values. ...Fireworks sparkled in Los Angeles. It is difficult to join in a parade for an assassination, but Bin Laden deliberately established himself as a specific and particular enemy of this nation… The world is better and safer for his death. *Editorial in Los Angeles Times, US Given that the Pakistani involvement in the months' long preparation and ultimate hunt down of Bin Laden in proximity of Pakistan's political capital Islamabad was almost insignificant, questions can be asked about the nature of US-Pak counter-terrorism cooperation. In spite of the public posturing regarding the cooperation between the two countries by leaders of respective countries, there were clear elements of distrust and US chose to carry out operations on its own. The Inter-Services Intelligence was kept out of the entire operation, possibly to avoid any leakage of sensitive information. As is clearly established now, this was the right way of going about achieving the task. Bin Laden has certainly been Al Qaeda's symbol and face. But he was also a terrorist on the run and hiding for survival, for the past several years. It is not clear to what extent he led Al Qaeda's operational aspects all these years. Was he an irreplaceable leader without whom the outfit will fall apart? Is the Al Qaeda capable of staging a comeback? Will it survive the setback? These are questions, the coming days and months will answer. In spite of these preliminary and important questions, fact remains that terrorism, all these years, needed a big setback. That's arrived. *Bibhu Prasad Routray & Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, security experts on The capture of Bin Laden is not a turning point. Unlike many analysts would have us believe, Al Qaeda, the Taliban etc are not a homogeneous whole. Nor are they franchise movements. Jihadist groups the world over may claim their names, but in truth they are disparate groups struggling for their own agendas and ideals. They do not receive their instructions from Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri or Mullah Omar. The danger lurks not in a single shadowy terror movement — but in the jihadist ideology that has currently gripped the Muslim world and which spawns the violence and terror that has become such a threat to the international community. The battle may be won but the real war will continue. In all of this, far more significant than the death of Bin Laden has been the revelation that he was residing in a compound in one of the major urban centers in Pakistan. Abbottabad is not a murky village in Pakistan's tribal belt, or an obscure network of caves in the Hindu Kush, but one of the largest cities in the country with a population in excess of one-hundred thousand people. It is home to some of the country's best private schools and Pakistan's main military training institution, the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul. Serious questions need to be asked of the Pakistani government and intelligence services, which have a long history of supporting jihadists, most recently their support of the Haqqani network, as to how the world's most wanted criminal was so easily able to sneak into such a metropolis and live there in apparent peace and seclusion. These questions may be raised, but it would be foolish to expect any coherent answers. Osama may no longer be with us, but the ideology he so fervently stood for is stronger than ever. Usman Ahmad, a freelance writer, *The Express Tribune, Pakistan So what does this mean? First, it is good for the United States reputation, power and influence that we finally got bin Laden. Bin Laden's ability to escape from the U.S., and his apparent impunity, fed an image in some Islamist quarters of America as a paper tiger — and that encouraged extremists... Moreover, this sends a message that you mess with America at your peril, and that there will be consequences for a terror attack on the United States. That said, killing bin Laden does not end Al Qaeda. Ayman al-Zawahri, the Egyptian No. 2, has long played a crucial role as Al Qaeda's COO. And Al Qaeda is more of a loose network than a tightly structured organisation, and that has become even more true in recent years. AQIM, the version of Al Qaeda in North Africa, is a real threat in countries like Mali and Mauritania, and killing bin Laden will probably have negligible consequences there. The AQIM terrorists may admire Osama and be inspired by him, but they also are believed to be largely independent of him. And Anwar al-Awlaki, the Qaeda-linked terrorist in Yemen, likewise won't be deterred by bin Laden's killing. *Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, US







Kristen Breitweiser, 9/11 widow and activist The news of the death of Osama bin Laden gives me a sense of long-awaited, meaningful closure. Ten years since the senseless, heartless murder of my husband and 3,000 innocent others, final justice has been meted out — though not swift it is certainly sweet. My 12-year-old daughter will wake tomorrow to a safer world, hopefully a more peaceful world. And that brings me a rare sense of relief. And I am enormously grateful for the tireless effort and incredible courage and bravery of our counter-terrorism agents who for ten long years remained focused and undeterred in their mission to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. Hari Kunzru, British-Indian novelist and journalist in The Guardian, UK Some time around 10.30 pm I was sitting over dinner at a friend's place on the Upper West Side. I got a new phone yesterday, and was (rudely) fooling around with it under the table. That was when I saw a tweet saying that Osama bin Laden was dead. When I told my friends, they assumed I was joking. We switched on the TV and waited for a while as broadcast news failed to tell us anything and Twitter seethed with rumours. A mansion. A drone attack. Afghanistan, Pakistan. After President Obama's speech confirmed the news, we got in a cab and headed down to Ground Zero. I remember being there in October of 2001, standing on a corner late at night, watching the jagged shards of the World Trade Center towers being dismantled under giant spotlights. I remember being there again on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2008, watching a physical fight breaking out between flag-waving mourners and placard-carrying 9/11 "truthers". The fear of 2001 and the ugliness of 2008 were replaced tonight by an atmosphere that veered between celebration and frank relief. The crowd was mostly of college age, young enough to have grown up with the myth of Osama bin Laden. Many of them had tumbled out of downtown bars. There were a lot of black and brown faces. They waved flags and chanted "USA! USA!" They made victory signs and blew horns and sung patriotic songs. There was, surprisingly, little of the raw aggression I was expecting. More than anything it was reminiscent of the atmosphere on Obama's election night — perhaps crossed with spring break. Obama was clearly the big winner tonight. Hastily drawn signs read "Thank you Obama" and "Obama 1, Osama 0..." Nadeem F. Paracha, Columnist for Dawn newspaper, Pakistan As CNN and BBC were showing thousands of Americans gathering outside the White House, cheering the news, the sounds and sights coming from Pakistani channels are at best bizarre. As news anchors shoot away reading the fast unfolding news, they seem unsure whether to describe Osama's reported death as "wo marey ja chukey hein" or "mara ja chukka hai" — both mean "Osama has been killed", but the first sentence uses words like "chukey hein" that in Urdu and Hindi is used to give respect to someone older. So, as Pakistani newscasters (especially on the ever-animated hyperbolic private channels), continue to zigzag between "chuka" and "chukey", it was only a matter of time before we began seeing what is called the ghairat brigade, or the pride brigade, take their seats in front of the camera. Pakistan's private TV channels are brimming with the most gung-ho characters of this brigade — talk show hosts with an addiction for anything conspiratorial and rhetorical, and never far from using sheer jingoism to give weight to the shenanigans of the Pakistani right-wing, especially regarding the rightists' blinding hatred for the US, the West, India... an hour after the news about Osama's death poured in, the usual suspects were up and running, questioning the validity of the report. ...Whereas now it is becoming more than clear that Pakistani security agencies and the Pakistani government did have an inkling at least as to what the Americans were planning to do, instead of asking the question "what Osama was doing hiding in a compound situated in an area where there is sufficient presence of the Pakistan Army and ISI", these TV men were quick to suggest that the man killed may not be Osama. In fact, one of them confidently announced that according "his sources" the man killed was not Osama... Ethan Casey, Author of Alive and Well in Pakistan and Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip in Dawn newspaper, Pakistan Exuberant crowds have gathered at Ground Zero and the White House, belligerently chanting "USA! USA!" and singing the national anthem... It bodes ill. As I watch over and over the mobs in New York and Washington, I fear two things. One is that too many Pakistanis are too traumatised to lay aside their anger and frustration. "WE HATE AMERICANS!!!" a Pakistani I don't know personally told me on Facebook, just as I was finishing this piece. When I pointed out that I'm American and asked if he hated me, he replied, "I hate all of u!!" The other thing I fear is that too few Americans appreciate the difference between global war and a giant football game. Football players have no more individuality than cogs in a machine, and the role of the crowd in a football stadium is to channel the emotions of vindictive triumphalism and hatred. That's what I'm seeing on US television as I write this. The legendary populist politician Huey Long is reputed to have said, prophetically, "When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the American flag". Or, as CNN quoted someone as asking pithily if pathetically on Twitter, "If Osama bin Laden is dead, can we please have our rights back?"







THE message is clear. Muammar Gaddafi was the target of Sunday night's second Nato air attack on Tripoli's Bab al-Aziziya. It was yet another attempt to target the embattled leader 24 hours after Nato rejected Gaddafi's offer for "ceasefire and negotiations". Altogether, it has been a grave strategic mistake, one that at once implies a major setback to the Nato offensive in Libya and could well arouse a degree of sympathy for the Gaddafi regime. Beyond his immediate family, the blitz has killed civilians, a disaster that signals a critical phase in the turmoil. It will not be easy for Western powers to dispel the impression that the killings were targeted.  To claim in the manner of Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, the Canadian commander who ordered the attack, that the complex was the nerve-centre of Gaddafi's "command and control operations" will cut no ice; equally has it been the home to civilians, a  segment of the populace whose protection now ranks mortally low in Nato's order of priorities. The strikes were anything but surgical. It is sheer coincidence that Gaddafi himself was in the complex at the time of the attack, but has emerged unscathed. It is quite obvious that the Libyan leader was the objective of a targeted assassination, a strategic option that the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has denied. Having suffered a personal tragedy, the beleaguered regime in Tripoli is bound to step up the propaganda offensive against Nato powers.

That propaganda victory could well be Gaddafi's though it will no longer be easy to portray himself as the "defender of Libya" against foreign aggressors. It bears recall that the propaganda offensive was fairly effective in 1986 when US air strikes in Tripoli ~  in response to suspected Libyan involvement in the bombing of a Berlin disco ~ had killed Gaddafi's adopted daughter. The killing of civilians, veritable victims of international policing, lends a new dimension to the relentless turmoil. The aerial strike has boomeranged if Sunday's mob attacks on UN buildings and the British embassy are any indication. The popular mood, profoundly anti-Gaddafi, is today anti-Nato no less. This, in sum, is the tragedy of Libya. While the Nato offensive may have the backing of the UN, the world body also stipulates the protection of civilians who have perished in the misadventure. International law has been breached. Nato is purportedly on the side of the rebels against the regime, not against civilians.




ON the surface, there are two extraordinary features of the election of 43-year-old Lobsang Sangay as the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile. The first is the fielding of non-religious contestants associated with either the world's leading universities or international entities, instead of members of the monastic order. Sangay, with roots in Darjeeling, is today a Research Fellow at Harvard Law School; Tethong Tenzing Namgyal, who ranks second in the contest, is a Stanford scholar; and Tashi Wangdi, the third contender, is the Dalai Lama's representative to the European Union. The other critical aspect is that Sangay's election marks a generational shift; at 43, he has won on the strength of votes from exiled Tibetans in India, but no less crucially in the USA, Europe, Bhutan, Nepal, Russia and Japan. He will head the Tibetan government-in-exile at a profoundly critical juncture ~ a month after the Dalai Lama's retirement in March, though he will remain the religious head. By current indications, Sangay, with 55 per cent of the votes to his credit, will be called upon to play a political role; and overall it is the younger generation that will now be expected to take over the struggle of the Tibetans. The task ahead becomes still more crucial in the aftermath of the Dalai Lama relinquishing his political functions.
Scheduled to  assume charge on 15 August, Sangay is generally expected to press for the release of political leaders in China and reinforce what has come to be known as the Dalai Lama's  "middle path" ~ the proposal to grant greater automony to the Tibetans in China. Sangay is expressly concerned over the Chinese crackdown, and in the hour of victory he has barred celebrations in Dhramsala or anywhere else. A profound sense of realism marks his immediate response in the aftermath of the triumph. "The result of this election is not an individual loss or victory but rather a mandate to shoulder the aspirations of six million Tibetans... The Tibetans are being killed and arrested by the Chinese government." As the leader of the exiles, he has signalled his intent to continue the struggle. He needs the support of not merely the Tibetans who have voted for him from across the world, but of the comity of nations no less.




THE collapse of the pedestrian over-bridge at the Nehru Stadium days ahead of the Commonwealth Games was not a trivial glitch as those in authority sought to underplay it ~ it was symptomatic. Apprehensions that the contrived delays and the corners cut to meet deadlines for Games-related projects had implications more grave than looting the exchequer have now been confirmed. Grim indeed are findings of sub-standard construction in works undertaken by the local government's PWD, the DDA, the MCD and NDMC for they suggest that several of the flyovers etc now catering to heavy traffic are not as strong as required: in short, the lives of the travelling public are at risk. This is despicable, unacceptable, criminal. Indeed decidedly worse than anything Suresh Kalmadi & Co have done. For the failure of the concrete cubes of many projects to meet quality standards will not be "compensated for" by registering corruption cases against engineers, contractors etc: there is an element of culpable homicide to what has been perpetrated in the guise of making Delhi a world-class city. Since confidence in agencies of both local and national government has long crumbled, action at the highest level is imperative. Immediately must a non-official expert team of structural engineers, architects etc, be entrusted with a safety audit of all flyovers, stadiums etc and tasked with recommending measures to retro-reinforce them. Simultaneously must there be a crackdown on all those involved in that life-threatening activity. It is so disturbing that even without studying the report of the Central Vigilance Commission's chief technical examiner, chief minister Sheila Dikshit should gloss over its findings. She had taken the same line, perhaps in even more strident manner, over the Shunglu panel's indictments.

What prevents the Prime Minister from directing her and the lieutenant-governor to step down? And what about the urban development minister of the day ~ is he not also guilty of dereliction of duty, as was the sports minister who allowed Kalmadi to run riot? Perhaps an answer to the "what prevents…" query is to be found in the preoccupation of Dr Manmohan Singh and his ministerial think-tank (aka the dirty tricks department) in coming up with devious ways of undermining Constitutional authorities, parliamentary committees and other institutions of democracy to protect the coterie that calls the shots in corruption-riddled UPA-II. So what if a flyover collapses under the weight of heavy traffic? As long as there are no political heavyweights using it at that moment in time…







"CHINA is the developing country with the strongest potential, but is still lagging behind the US, the EU and Japan in terms of soft power, including the maturity of economy, technology, education and culture. [China] is an important Asian player with global interests and impact, but is still unable to take a leadership role in the region. [China] is a socialist country with unique governing and value systems, but is experiencing deep reforms and awaiting territorial unification as well as threatened by national separatism and social unrest."
Thus spoke Wang Jisi, the Dean of the School of International Studies in Beijing University, and also a member of President Hu Jintao's personal think-tank. Wang's message was clear: China will continue to stick to a 'peaceful rise'. Wang, who expressed himself in the very official Global Times, even disapproved of some Chinese analysts who, in 2010, made provocative statements extending China's 'core interests' to the South China Sea.

Soon after Dr Manmohan Singh returned from his trip to the island of Hainan (to attend the third summit of BRICS nations), Willy Lam, the veteran China watcher wrote in "Call it damage-control diplomacy. Since President Hu Jintao's American visit in January, Chinese diplomats and 'official' academics have been trying to reassure the world of Beijing's non-aggressive, 'peaceful development' diplomatic posture."
The Indian press also noted a thaw and immediately rejoiced over the renewed possibility of the recurrent friendship between India and China. But there is another side to the 'peaceful' coin.
When the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo ~ he had initiated the Charter 08 which calls for the introduction of democratic reforms in China ~ Beijing went wild. It enraged Beijing so much that a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson described the award as 'obscene'.

Though Lui's demands were rather mild, he was jailed for daring to speak about 'reforms'. Since February, when the Arab world began to ask for 'reforms', Beijing started trembling. The regime became nervous. Already in late January, an article entitled "Major Social Unrest Every Five Days in 2010" appeared, quoting a report published by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University on social unrest in China. It affirmed that in 2010, there has been a major incident of social unrest in the Middle Kingdom every five days. This represented a 20 per cent increase over 2009. While 60 major incidents of social unrest were reported in 2009, it climbed to 72 in 2010: "Social unrest had spread throughout 29 provinces and cities (over 90 per cent), with most occurring in Henan, Beijing, and Guangdong."

The unexpected upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya did not amuse the leadership in Beijing. According to The People's Daily, in February Wu Banguo, a member of the all-powerful Standing Committee Politburo of the CCP stated: "Based on China's national conditions, [we] solemnly declare that we will not engage in a multi-party political system or in diversity of the guiding ideology. We will not pursue the 'separation of powers' and the bicameral system, or engage in federalism or privatization of property."
Beijing's response was extremely tough when an online campaign called for weekly rallies all around China.


The Sydney Morning Herald reported that during one of these rallies: "Hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police smothered Beijing's designated rally site on the Wangfujing shopping street, aggressively pushing away foreign reporters with cameras and briefly detaining several."

Soon after the meeting, Zhou Yongkang, the member in charge of national and public security, confirmed that a national database containing basic information on the different strata of the population would soon be set up. He also announced that an early warning system will be put in place to alert the authorities in case of social grievances to defuse possible incidents before they happen. Then Ai Weiwei was arrested. The artist-activist is famous in China for having worked as the artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. His mistake was probably to have questioned the government on corruption, particularly about the construction of schools which collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
In China, many had thought that Weiwei was 'untouchable'. But even when several foreign governments and human rights groups called for the artist's release, Beijing officials did not move, except to say that he was accused of 'economic crimes'.
Nicholas Bequelin who works for Human Rights Watch, believes that his arrest was calculated to send the message that no one would be immune; in Chinese terms, 'you kill the chicken to scare the monkey'.
The green light for the operation probably came from the top leadership. The Guardian analysed: "Chinese authorities have made their biggest move against dissidents and activists for years, including artist Ai Weiwei. The crackdown followed an anonymous online call for protests inspired by Middle Eastern uprisings, although it is unclear if any of those held or missing were connected to the appeal."
We are far from the 'peaceful rise' trumpeted by Wang Jisi and other academics.
Wei Jingsheng, the exiled 'father' of the democratic movement in China commented: "Since this happened to one of China's most well-known cultural figures, it has prompted many to remember the opening shots of the Cultural Revolution, when the Maoist regime removed ideologically inconvenient artists, writers and intellectuals from the scene at will without even any pretence to legal procedures".
More ironically, a 31-foot-high statue of Confucius erected three months earlier with great pomp in front of the National Museum (formerly The Museum of the Revolution, but the word 'revolution' is taboo in China today) near the famous portrait of Mao on Tiananmen Square, was suddenly removed on 22 April. Where did the statue mysteriously go? Nobody seems to know. But as Wei Jingsheng wrote: "No one in China is safe from the whims and anxieties of those [officials] in power". Not even Confucius, said a commentator.
Even more brutal, on 16 March this year, the self-immolation of Phuntsok, a Tibetan monk belonging to Ngaba Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province triggered violent protests by several thousand monks in Eastern Tibet.
According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy: "Chinese security forces have cordoned the monastery and additional contingents of armed security forces (estimated to be around 800) have been brought in on 9 April 2011 to reinforce security clampdown in Ngaba County. The movement of the monks is totally restricted with no one being allowed to go in or come out of the monastery."
Since then, more depressing news have circulated, particularly the increased presence of Chinese security forces in all Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan. According to other information, Chinese Communist cadres are roaming around villages "and talking about harmony and patriotism".
After some 300 monks of Kirti monastery were trucked away by Chinese police to an unknown destination on 21 April, some Tibetan prefectures of Eastern Tibet have been closed to foreign tourists. The latest reports affirm that the situation is extremely tense in the entire region.
The present leaders in Beijing may be less corrupt than the Gaddafis or the Mubaraks, but the repression of the ordinary people's aspirations is the same in China, in Libya or in Tunisia. Of course, the West is too scared of China and will not intervene or even condem the happenings there, but ultimately Beijing's attitude does not lead to stability and peace and its recognition as a responsible power.

The writer is an expert on China-Tibet relations and author of the Fate of Tibet






 The striking pilots of Air-India appear willing to fight to the finish. The strike may be unpopular with the general public. But it would be a serious mistake to assume that the pilots are protesting only because of low wages. The issue is much bigger. It concerns us all. And the solution to the crisis that suggests itself to this scribe is also much bigger. It could liberate this nation from the unholy relationship that has evolved between big government and big business that is depriving the nation of its assets through unabashed corruption.
Consider the plight of Air-India. In 2005-2006, the airline posted a profit of Rs 75 crore. By 2010, it was losing annually Rs 8,500 crore! It has already been subsidised by the tax payer's money to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore. It has slipped to the fourth position among airlines and has a market share of only 15 per cent. Yet, it boasts of the largest fleet of aircraft ~ 165 planes. "The only solution to this never ending problem is to privatise the airline," one former civil aviation minister who did not wish to be named has been quoted by the media.
No wonder he did not wish to be named. Privatisation was the name of the game, wasn't it? Deliberately mismanage and ruin the airline so that it could be sold to private interests! That sale could rake in huge bribes to government officials. The A-I pilots union alleges that the government is deliberately ruining the airline in order to justify its privatisation. But by a strike that will paralyse the airline is not the union playing into the government's hands? The union has a strong case. But it must put its muscle where its mouth is. It should throw a challenge to the government which takes the issue to the people. How might that be done?
Quite simply, the union should offer to take over the airline in the name of all its employees and run the airline itself. The controlling share of the company's equity may be given to the workers in adjustment against their bonus spread over the years. Air-India in that event would be run as a cooperative or as Mahatma Gandhi's concept of trusteeship or as the Workers' Sector that was proposed by this scribe in 1982. May one remind readers that in 1982, the Ekatrit Kamgar Tabdili Andolan (Ekta) had been formed to propagate the Workers' Sector of industry to radicalise the system?
The Ekta approach paper proposed a share of the ownership, profit and floor level participation in the management by all workers. In the event, strikes would become superfluous. The CEO would be elected democratically by the workers. Investment would be raised by the unit like any private corporation from all available sources domestic and foreign. The Workers' Sector unit would compete with its private business counterparts. This concept allows market economy to continue at the macro level but also allows units in the open market to establish direct ownership by workers at the micro level. Big business and Workers' Sector would compete in the open market.
While this scribe was the convener of Ekta, its distinguished committee members who signed approval of its approach paper comprised of Atal Behari Vajpayee, Chandrashekhar, Madhu Dandavate, Devraj Urs, George Fernandes, Karpuri Thakur, Dr Bhai Mahavir and LK Advani. Alas, these leaders lacked sufficient commitment. The proposal fell by the wayside. Now the A-I crisis offers a new opportunity. Worldly wise experts dismiss the proposal as being impractical. Workers are incapable of running business, they say. Why not test the proposal? Why are the government, big business and India's elite scared of the competition? Let the market decide which model prevails. Freedom to set up both models should always remain. After seeing how Amul and Mother Dairy have performed, this scribe is confident of the result. Will the A-I pilots display a similar confidence? If they do, they could blaze a new ideological trail for India.     

The writer is a veteran journalist
and cartoonist






Osama bin Laden has been killed. The operation took place sixty miles from Islamabad , the capital of Pakistan. US officials describe it as the closure of a chapter. It is also the start of a new chapter. The event will help President Obama in his re-election. But how will it affect the future of Pakistan ? The focus of unfolding events will most likely be Pakistan. The death of Osama could be a defining moment. Certain broad facts indicate what might now happen in Pakistan.
For years, America alleged that Osama was hiding in Pakistan. For years, the Pakistan authorities denied this and even claimed that Osama was dead. Now that lie has been exposed. For years, the Pakistan army was accused of shielding terrorists and Osama bin Laden. The Pakistan army denied it. Now that lie has been exposed. For years, the Pakistan army rode two horses. They rode with America in the war on terror, with terrorists in for their so-called jihad. As a result, the Pakistan army and the Pakistan ruling establishment were divided and co-existed in a fragile arrangement.
Now, all that will change. The mask has been ripped off. The action against Osama was conducted by the US military inside Pakistan. The Pakistan army cooperated with the US to furnish information about Osama and allow its military to enter and kill Osama in the heart of Pakistan.
All claims that the Pakistan army was not in the loop may be taken with buckets of salt. Helicopters carrying US soldiers descended just a short distance from the Pakistan Military Academy to conduct the ambush.
How will hardcore supporters of terrorism in Pakistan that included elements of the Pakistan army react? The Raymond Davies affair appears very minor in comparison. Obtaining billions of US dollars from the USA by its spurious commitment to the war on terror may have justified the Pakistan army's conduct in the eyes of the fundamentalists up till now. It will no longer do so. The Pakistan government and army have got off the fence and joined America. But has the entire Pakistan establishment got off the fence or only a part? If just one part, how will the residual part now react?
That is what will become clear in the days to come. It should not surprise if the division inside Pakistan escalates to the level of a civil war.

rajinder puri







The Indian Air Force (IAF) prevailed over political intent in turning down the US bid for the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMCA) despite intense lobbying by the US government and its defence multinationals. Sources said the IAF made it clear to the UPA government that the American offer fell short of its requirements, and that the Eurofighter and Dassault Rafale were more in tune with its long-term expansion plans.
The intense fight between the final contenders for this Rs 42,000 crore project has ensured the exit of US Ambassador to India Mr Timothy Roemer. Despite denials by both governments, military sources remain of the view that rejection of the bids made by top US multinationals Lockheed Martin and Boeing constituted a major defeat for Mr Roemer who was left with no choice but to leave.
An indication of the importance of this deal for the US comes in a publication of the Carnegie Endowment authored by Mr Ashley J. Tellis, well known for his role in securing the India-US civilian nuclear agreement. Dogfight is devoted to the MMCA deal with Mr Ashley making a strong pitch for the US companies. He has gone into a long analysis and comparison between the IAF and the Pakistan air force to buttress his argument that the IAF would do well to close in on the US offers. Mr Tellis says that "this procurement bid has been incandescent because it involves geopolitics, the economic fortunes of major aerospace companies, complex transitions in combat aviation technology and the evolving character of the IAF itself".
He goes on to admit that the competition is tough and after devoting 132 pages to unabashedly promoting the US aircraft, he goes on to emphasise that they are "the best buys". However, he does point out in what was probably a factor behind Mr Roemer's resignation that Washington needs to do more to secure the deal and that the intervention by the department of defense has not been "only the minimum necessary" and the Obama administration "needs to do more to help one of them win."
The Indian Air Force has harboured reservations about the American aircraft from the very beginning, and despite the high velocity publicity drive by Lockheed and Boeing in India, these were clearly not ironed out. The reservations arose from what sources described as a "deep distrust" of the US as a weapons supplier, largely because of its poor record in technology transfer.
The other reason cited by the IAF was that these were unfamiliar aircraft and would require phenomenal expense in setting up the support systems from scratch. The argument that sources claimed won the day finally was the fact that Pakistan also uses the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the IAF had serious concerns about using the same aircraft type.
 The USA has not taken this rejection kindly, but the sources said that the IAF was not willing to compromise its long-term plans with a deal it has concerns about. The Russian Mig-55 and Saab JAS-39 have been rejected as well.
The race has thus narrowed to France's Rafaele and the EADS/BAE Eurofighter Typhoon that seems to have an edge at the moment. This is being now supported by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain through an aggressive diplomatic drive, more so as the contract is big enough to revive defence industries in the home countries by creating "thousands" of jobs. If Dassault clinches the deal, the 126-aircraft contract would constitute its first major export order, if EADS wins, it will be its second major export after Saudi Arabia.

The writer is Consulting Editor,
The Statesman









The death of Al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in a secret US operation in Pakistan will be widely welcomed all over the world. It is a significant victory in the fight against terrorism and should boost the morale and confidence of all those who want to root out the scourge of terrorism. Osama, who is guilty of causing the death of thousands of people and had planned and guided many terrorist attacks apart from 26/11, has evaded justice for close to a decade. While the US and Nato forces have been after him all these years, it has always been clear that he could not have found a safe haven without help and protection from powerful forces.  This has been proved beyond doubt by the location where he was spotted and attacked by US  forces on Monday morning.

Osama was killed in a mansion close to Pakistani military establishments in Abbottabad, just 65 km away from Islamabad. He could only have been living there with the knowledge and connivance of Pakistan's ISI. Pakistan has always denied that Osama was in its territory but its duplicity in the fight against terrorism has frequently been borne out by its conduct and actions.  President Obama, in his announcement of the death of Osama, has revealed that the US had information about the Al Qaeda leader's hideout since August last year. No one would believe that the ISI was unaware of it. No usual excuses trotted out by Pakistan would clear Islamabad of complicity in Osama's crimes and support for terrorism. The US has also recognised this as it is now known that it considers the ISI itself a terrorist organisation. India's long-held position that Pakistan has encouraged terrorism by giving shelter and protection to terrorists and aiding and abetting their activities has also been vindicated now.

It would be wrong to consider that the death of Osama marks the end of the terrorist threat. In recent years he had become more a symbol than an actual perpetrator of terrorist actions. Al Qaeda does not have a hierarchical and centralised organisational structure and its diffused network may still be capable of strikes. There will also be attempts to give Osama a martyr's halo. The world and India will have to be alert against possible acts of revenge. The war against the Al Qaeda network and the political fight against terrorism will have to continue with renewed vigour.







The utter chaos that reigned at examination centres across the country following the leakage of question papers for the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) on Sunday lays bare the insensitivity of educational authorities. Taking an entrance examination, especially those to the keenly contested engineering degree programmes, puts students under severe stress at the best of times. On Sunday, this stress was ratcheted up several notches when the examination was postponed and correct information not communicated to the students. In some examination centres, where students had started answering the questions, papers were suddenly snatched away from them. In others, they were told that the exam was delayed by a few hours. But that clashed with the AFMC entrance exam, forcing students to make a difficult choice. After much confusion, AIEEE went ahead in the afternoon and another examination has been scheduled for May 8 for those who missed it on account of the AFMC entrance exam. But the new date poses problems for those who want to appear for the Comed-K examination.

Leakage of question papers, postponement of exams and destruction of answer scripts are almost routine in this country. Question papers to bank entrance exams, the LIC, even the IAS are regularly leaked. In November 2009, the Common Admission Test to the IIMs, which was conducted online for the first time ever, was completely botched up. A virus attack and technical glitches were blamed for thousands of applicants not being able to log on to answer the examination. A fortnight ago, thousands of SSLC examination answer scripts were destroyed in an 'accidental fire' in Mysore. No doubt re-examinations are held. But why should students have to go through stress repeatedly for no fault of theirs?

Students put in much effort to prepare for examinations. The poor organisation and planning that goes into conducting examinations, securing question papers and answer scripts bares testimony to the utter lack of respect that educational authorities have for the scholarship and hard work of students. Fixing accountability and stern punishment to those who reduce examinations to a farce will reduce the frequency of botched examinations. It is not just those who leaked the AIEEE papers who should be taken to task. Those at the helm who failed to communicate information to the students efficiently should be hauled over the coals.





The Libyan war is not going the intended way. Gadhafi has shown that he is no push over and the US now wants to eliminate him.

The so-called Guantanamo File of 700 diplomatic papers dated between 2002 and 2009 published by WikiLeaks makes grim reading. The other leaked papers relate to American political and diplomatic assessments of men, nations, opportunities. The Guantanamo File, however, is a record of shame: of torture, illegal detention, violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Human Rights Charter that the US has practiced and condoned on foreign soil where such infractions do not attract American domestic law which would not tolerate such vicious processes. Hence also the wretched story of 'renditions' when those suspected to be inimical to US interests were sent to countries where un-American practices would not attract legal consequences or which were prepared to assist for a consideration.

 A dragnet was used to trawl suspects with al Qaeda or other terrorist links post-9/11. Once in, there was no simple out. Proven innocence itself sometimes became a problem as there was often no easy way to return these 'suspects' to liberty. There were protests at home and abroad but these were muffled by the louder and more insistent refrain that such measures were required for US homeland security. Many of those incarcerated suffered mental and psychological breakdowns and others later became terrorists in search of vengeance against the US.

 Despite internal 'reviews' and international protests, the Guantanamo 'facility' survives. Some 600 prisoners have been transferred to other countries and still others released after so-called rehabilitation and supervision. Yet, despite Obama's pledge to shut down the place, 172 detainees remain incarcerated in that hell-hole.  Among those released are a Sudanese al Jazeera cameraman who was interrogated about this network's training programme, equipment and news gathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

 According to a Guardian of London analyst, the argument seemed to be "that it was necessary for democratic states to excuse themselves from the rule of law in order to save it"!  This sounds like the infamous US response in Vietnam that a certain village had to be destroyed in order to save it ! In officially protesting the publication of documents 'illegally obtained' by WikiLeaks, the US administration blandly seeks to hide the very illegality and inhumanity of the entire Guntanamo prison operation.

 Nor is this the first time. We heard the same story of macho illegality in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (napalm bombs against civilians, massive defoliation and unexploded ordnance that continues to take a grim toll of life and limb). In Iraq, the lying, deception and brazenness were singularly blatant. Then Afghanistan, where the US encouraged the mujahadeen, the 'good Muslim,' to wage jihad against the atheist Evil Empire and financed Pakistan to officer, train, direct, mentor and protect the Taliban – a monster that is now devouring that country.

 And now Libya, where an ex-Guantanamo prisoner is among the 'rebels' fighting Gadhafi with Nato assistance. The Security Council resolved, with India, China. Russia and Brazil abstaining, to permit UN intervention to declare  no-fly zones and impose sanctions to compel Gaddafi to desist from targeting civilians demonstrating against his regime. Britain and France are in the lead here with US support in what has become a Nato operation that seems scarcely, if at all, accountable to the UN. 

The Libyan war is not going the intended way. Gadhafi has shown that he is no push over, given the limitations of air and sea power. Now efforts are under way to eliminate him and secure a regime change. Hence the bombing of one of his palaces in central Tripoli, a repeat action that has evoked strong backing from the US senate. There were 45 civilian casualties reported on this occasion. And so it goes. The goal posts are shifting under the cover, as always, of mounting humbug. 

 Even as this drama unfolds, Saudi forces have quietly entered Bahrain to prop up the minority Sunni monarchy against his restive Shia subjects who feel they are second class citizens. Pakistani Sunni mercenaries and military are reinforcing all the threatened Arab monarchies. Iran is disturbed and a  new Sunni-Shia confrontation could be in the making. 

 And now comes a WikiLeak paper that shows that the US officially categorises Pakistan's ISI as a terrorist outfit and that Guantanamo Bay officials were so notified for purposes of interrogation. And this is America's close frontline ally whom they denounce periodically – Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, Mike Mullen – and immediately thereafter offer yet another generous dollop of military aid. What is one to make of this bizarre love-hate tango that has gone on for decades, with 'collateral damage' to India which has been the prime target of much of the military aid and fight-the-Taliban charade.

 The Americans need to do much better. The US is not inappropriately called a Great Society but a Dangerous State.

Nearer home, after the supreme court declared khap panchayats illegal and barbaric in their enthusiasm for 'honour killings' the khaps have moved a review petition. These feudal relics and odious customs like the 'two tumbler system' of caste oppression must be firmly stamped out. 

 In another seminal ruling in the Binayak Sen case, the supreme court has laughed away the charge of 'sedition' levelled against him and for which Arundhati Roy and Ahmed Shah Geelani of the Hurriyat are still being arraigned. It is time to move into the 21st century.








The problem with defining the BPL population is politics surrounding the delivery of schemes.
According to preliminary estimates by the Planning Commission, Indian poverty has declined to 32 per cent in 2009-10 from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05. This estimate conforms to the Suresh Tendulkar committee report on poverty by seeking to measure it in terms of a broad-based consumption basket rather than calorie intake in which, the minimum income required to rise above the poverty line, apart from food, would also depend on expenditure on education and health.

 Any news of poverty reduction is welcome, though the supreme court recently took serious exception to the growing instance of starvation deaths in the country and to the existence of "two Indias" divided between the elite and the poor and called for not merely scaling down the poverty but its eradication. At the turn of the century the United nations General Assembly agreed on a set of development goals, the supreme one being the eradication of poverty. It is not trivial that world leaders as well use the language of 'eradication' instead of 'relieving.'

 We could have brushed aside the apex court's concern as righteous noise but in July last year, the supreme court used strong language to question the basis of India's claim of being a successful nation economically. Delivering their judgment on the case concerning the acquisition of tribal land by Mahanadi Coalfields Limited in Orissa, in which the displaced had not received any compensation for 23 years, the learned judges wondered how, as the second fastest growing economy in the world, India is placed 134th among 182 countries in the Human Development Report of 2009.

 The BPL survey conducted by the union government – three conducted so far in 1992, 1997 and 2002 with one forthcoming this year – has evoked controversy within policy circles about the accuracy of the identification system, which, according to noted economist Jean Dreze is 'divisive and open to manipulation.'   The BPL census devised a scoring scheme where households are judged based on 13 indicators (and then eliminated by how high they score) that cover characteristics of households ranging from ownership of items (pressure cookers, motor transport) to features of their house (concrete foundations and covered bathrooms). We are yet to see if these exclusion criteria which are clearly arbitrary and unfair are pushed to reform in the 2011 BPL census.

 If the apex court is cynical, it cannot be faulted because any reform without social sector nurturing is doomed to failure. Due to shortfall in the areas related to labour reform, for instance, the informal sector perpetually breeds workers' insecurity while there is shrinkage in the number of jobs in the organized sector. However much we talk about the poor plight of the agricultural labour, there is little systemic effort to upgrade it into more remunerative non-agricultural jobs. India's record on generating factory employment fares poorly compared to east Asian economies.  Could there be any scope to learn from the high and low points of other nations fighting poverty? Could we move away from capital and skill-intensive industries and services to focus on more labour-intensive manufacturing like China did? Could we shore up our microfinance institutions by freeing the poor people from the moneylenders' grip as one of the many crushing burdens for India's poor bear is debt. Could we universalize medical insurance for the poor and the elderly?

 So when poverty is at issue, it would be very useful if we could establish poverty lines for different domains – countries, sectors (urban and rural), social groups, geographical regions, and over time to have a comparative understanding how India is faring, compared to, say, China, the US and other east Asian nations. Raising the threshold level grossly impacted India by hiking up its poverty figures and subsidy bills.

 Thus, methods of estimations by themselves cannot be an answer to correction of poverty indices when there exist measurement errors. Indian poverty has systemically been either overestimated or underestimated. Besides, following the 'multidimensional poverty index' developed at Oxford that put 410 million Indians in poverty recounting that there are more poor people in eight Indian states than in all of sub-Saharan Africa, the claims that distribution of the wealth generated by India's rapid economic growth is deeply unequal were reinforced.







All roads lead to the jewellery shoowrooms as Akshaya Tritiya is round the corner.
The great gold rush has commenced. Everyone is armed to the hilt. The glint in the eye is  unmistakable. The stride is purposeful. The target must be reached before the adversary gets there. Must get the hands on that yellow metal, however miniscule the quantity may be. That celestial damsel going by various names beckons. She's Kanchana here. Suvarna there.Hema hither. Swarna thither.

That bewitching beauty is fickleness personified.  Here now. Gone the next moment.  All the more reason to embrace her tightly and try not to let her escape. Welcome her home reverentially, worship her, circumambulate her, and prostrate before her, all the while beseeching her to stay on, procreate and bring forth more of her tribe.

That's right. Akshaya Tritiya is round the corner. All roads lead to the jewellery showrooms. To buy that cherished metal, for it is believed that buying it on this auspicious day will herald the change in fortunes of the buyer, be it in the form of more  gold or increased all round prosperity. Whether it actually happens or not, the belief is so deeply entrenched in peoples minds that there is not a single jewellery shop that is not crowded in the fortnight or so preceding this occasion.

  'No making charges' proclaims one advertisement. 'No wastage' says another. 'Gram for gram, gold of the utmost purity'  screams that hoarding. And how the crowds get mesmerised!  The shops open early in the morning and work till late in the night, with some even remaining open throughout the night on the penultimate day.  Unable to cater to the demand, the business savvy shopkeepers have started the system of advance bookings. Pay the advance and collect your prize on the specified date. 

The great gold rush of the wild west in America and our own home grown gold rush make for a study in contrasts. If it was for the raw ore there, it is for the refined and converted form here. If bravehearts struggled amidst the untamed terrain there, it's the slick, well fed urbanite here. If sawn-off shotguns and horses ruled there, here it's the elbow and muscle mass to make it to the counter to select that glitzy thing.

If it was Clint Eastwood with his rugged looks there, charming models smile from the billboards here. If  the heat and cold did not deter the fortune hunters there, the airconditioned ambience of the showrooms entices the buyer here.  But the goal is the same. Gold!









The value of yesterday's assassination of Osama bin Laden is more symbolic than practical. The Al-Qaida leader has influenced events around the world more than anyone else in the past decade. He ordered the attacks of September 11, 2001, which led to the American military intervention in Afghanistan and indirectly led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

But bin Laden-style terrorism has changed shape over the years. Its headquarters and training bases are still in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, but its terror cells exist independently, or in loose alliance with distant terror networks. The death of the spiritual leader of Al-Qaida terrorists won't extinguish the zealotry surging through their murderous activities against Western targets, including Israeli and Jewish ones, in their attempt to impose Islam on the entire world.

All the same, even symbols can have practical ramifications. First and foremost, bin Laden's assassination will have an effect on U.S. domestic politics. The Republican critics of President Barack Obama will find it harder to carp at him than in the past. While they were wrapping themselves in the national flag, he was taking action - convening secret security meetings, weighing intelligence information and diplomatic angles, making a decision and carrying it out.

It's true that years of effort are needed to build up the ability to surround an isolated compound, and that the president himself wasn't the one on the ground or in a helicopter above the compound, but the political risk falls on the one who makes the decision. Obama dared, and won.

This doesn't assure Obama a victory at the polls in 2012 - George H.W. Bush came out of the first Gulf War victorious, but lost to Bill Clinton a year and a half later - but it's enough for Obama to deter potential candidates by giving them the impression that it would be a lost cause for them to jump into the race. On the foreign affairs and security front, bin Laden's assassination will make it easier for Obama to gradually pull out of Afghanistan, as a follow-up to its reduced presence in Iraq, and to cut the Pentagon's budget.

For Israel, which is in Al-Qaida's sights, news of bin Laden's death offers some encouragement. If Obama becomes stronger domestically, that could - and should - drive his administration to make a more aggressive effort to bring peace to the Middle East. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have yet to internalize that, it would be best for them to hear it directly from Obama.







Ever since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip four years ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) has been parading, not naked, but half-clothed. At best, he could speak only for the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria. For the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip spoke the Hamas leadership.

But nobody seemed to notice, or they acted as if they did not notice. In world capitals and at the United Nations he was greeted as the representative of the Palestinian people. For Israeli governments - under Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu - he was the negotiating partner for reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. Since Barack Obama was elected U.S. president, Israel has been pressured to make concessions to him.

The line taken by the United States was followed by most of the countries of Western Europe. Also, the Israeli parliamentary opposition under the leadership of Tzipi Livni has for the past two years castigated Netanyahu for not agreeing to Abu Mazen's demands. The entire Israeli "peace camp" supported that position.

Yet everyone knew that with Hamas ruling Gaza, Abu Mazen may have been in a position to make demands of Israel, but he was in no position to make concessions in the name of the Palestinians, to commit himself to an agreement in the name of the Palestinians, or to implement any agreement he might sign. Anyone who occasionally pointed this out was considered someone who was simply looking for excuses for not meeting Abu Mazen's demands, or for not coming out with a "courageous" Israeli initiative that would involve Israeli concessions to Abu Mazen.

But Abu Mazen knew. That explains why he, despite U.S. pressure, stubbornly refused to engage in direct negotiations with Netanyahu. And that explains why he decided to bypass negotiations with Israel and reach out to the United Nations with a request that it recognize a nonexistent Palestinian state within "the 1967 borders." These "borders," as he well knows, are nothing but the lines agreed to between Israel and Jordan in the April 1949 armistice agreement, an agreement that was subsequently violated by Jordan.

And Palestinians in Ramallah and Gaza knew that Abu Mazen was half-naked, and some of them have been demonstrating recently, calling for unity between Fatah and Hamas. Those who seek the establishment of a Palestinian state know they need a Palestinian leadership that represents all, not just half the Palestinians. So they called out: This emperor is not fully clothed!

The weakened regime of Bashar Assad in Syria and the friendly attitude to Hamas by the new Egyptian military regime did the rest. Abu Mazen signed an agreement with Hamas, and now, fully clothed, dressed in the mantle of unity, he feels he can speak for the whole Palestinian people. But watch out - that new Hamas garment he has wrapped around himself has terror written all over it.

Operation Defensive Shield routed the terrorists in Judea and Samaria. But it did a great deal more - it convinced Abu Mazen and his associates that the Palestinians would gain nothing by the use of violence. Here again the Israel Defense Forces made a great contribution to the peace process. It is by now generally recognized that there can be no progress toward peace as long as Palestinian terrorists continue to kill Israeli civilians.

Abu Mazen, who in the past supported terrorist actions, came to accept that, and a necessary condition for moving the peace process with the Palestinians forward was met. But Hamas never accepted it. Not recognizing Israel, and not striving for peace with Israel, they continue to carry out rocket terror attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians. And it was only the presence of the IDF in Judea and Samaria that has prevented Hamas terror attacks from Judea and Samaria.

Now that Fatah and Hamas have reconciled, Abu Mazen is in effect retracting his previous rejection of terrorism. It is a heavy price to pay for his new garment, and it deals a heavy blow to the peace process. The Israeli "peace camp," which seems to be jubilant about the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, will shortly learn that the peace that all of us seek is now receding.







April 30, 1975 was a clear and bitter day at the special-forces base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was a fine day for parachute jumps and training in the expanses of meadows and woodlands, but also a day of defeat and humiliation as the television broadcasts from Saigon showed the city falling to the North Vietnamese as helicopters evacuated to aircraft carriers the last Americans from the embassy roof. It was also the 30th anniversary of Hitler's suicide in his Berlin bunker, but nothing remained of that feeling of elation of the end of World War II - the victory over the ultimate evil and the death of the man whose hated visage personified it.

America climbed out of that deep pit yesterday, at least for a moment, to recapture that old feeling of completing a mission and settling a score; that feeling had last been experienced on the day the war in Europe ended. On the way, the United States was forced to get used to a demanding situation.

The special forces of the 1960s and the start of the '70s were narrow-minded tough guys who showed off to an Israeli guest their training exercises for combat medics. Twelve combat soldiers, led by an officer, lived in the forest for three weeks with a goat, got to know him as a comrade-in-arms, anesthetized him, shot him in the kneecap and then had to take care of the poor animal, carrying him on a stretcher on their shoulders like a wounded comrade. (The film "The Men Who Stare at Goats" derived its inspiration from this heartwarming method. )

In the 21st century, the special forces seek to attract and train recruits, inculcating a combination of operational skills and technological sophistication, while taking full advantage of intelligence, all at a cost of $80 billion a year.

The American system is cumbersome, clumsy and subservient to regulations; a global superpower with a population of 310 million, hundreds of thousands of them in uniform, cannot conduct itself otherwise. But it has also learned from its failures and seeks to improve. John F. Kennedy was a patron of the special forces. After he was assassinated, the army took revenge on his favorites and sent them to make friends with goats. Only after Vietnam, and more so as a lesson of the failure to free the hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in April 1980, were the special operational capabilities rehabilitated; for example, via cooperation with parallel units in the Israel Defense Forces.

The American system knows how to sink its teeth into its prey, or its predator, and hold on. That is what happened with Saddam Hussein in 2003, with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and finally with Osama bin Laden. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was appointed two years ago as commander of the forces in Afghanistan, based on his secret successes in Iraq, to kill bin Laden. President Barack Obama fired him last year after reading disparaging remarks attributed to him or his officers.

Two months after the dismissal, information came in that led last weekend to the end of the hunt for bin Laden. Meanwhile, a probe by the Pentagon's inspector general discovered that the quotes that had led to McChrystal's dismissal were inaccurate. The dismissal cannot be reversed and Obama did not concede his mistake, but McChrystal has once again earned a respectable place in the establishment, working alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and the vice president's wife, Jill Biden, for the families of soldiers at the front.

The assassination of the most wanted man in the world, coming on the heels of the bombing of Muammar Gadhafi's headquarters, is a lethal message to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, to Hamas' military chief in Gaza, Ahmed Jabari, and to Qassem Suleimani of the Iranian Quds Force, which cherishes the memory of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyeh. It is an achievement of the system, not of a single individual; of continuity, investment and persistence.

When Obama yesterday called former President George W. Bush to inform him of the end of the decade of the exhausting hunt, both knew that without Bush's wars in Asia, Obama would not have been elected president, and that after being elected, he continued on his predecessor's path in fighting terror and interrogating prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He used the same secretary of defense, Robert Gates, and the same commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

But since everything is personal and everything is a matter of timing, Commander in Chief Obama will get all the glory and will hope that Petraeus doesn't give in to Republican wooing to retire from the military and run against Obama. To judge by the outburst of public enthusiasm, bin Laden's end has put to rest doubts about Obama's devotion to his homeland and to concerns that he is soft and sympathizes with Islam. More than his birth certificate, his speech in which he waved bin Laden's scalp has crowned Obama head of the American tribe.







A long, long night is coming to an end. We are waking to a new day for the world. We are waking to a new day for America.

For the entire lifetimes of our young, terrorism - gratuitous, faceless horror - has been a close, unshakable shadow, the fear of monsters made all too real. For the people of the United States, attacked, frustrated, enraged, despairing, lashing out at others and each other, no phrase has become more fraught than "Proud to be an American."

This day, thousands of miles from the country of my birth, I don't care how it sounds, how it may be misinterpreted, how it may be deconstructed or demeaned: I am proud to be an American.

America looks different from a distance. Terrorism looks different from close up, from its home in the Middle East. Americans who live abroad can often feel conflicted, and with good reason, over how Washington does things. Faced with evil, Americans often take too long in understanding how to react. In reaction to evil, they are often accused, and with reason, of doing evil themselves. In the end, however, they get it right. Because at heart they recognize evil for what it is. And because in the end there is no one else to get it done.

A long, long night is coming to an end. Here in Israel, it is Yom Hashoah Vehagvurah, the annual memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust. Here in this household it is a day of direct mourning, a day of grief for members of family killed by gratuitous, faceless, unreasoning horror.

But this Yom Hashoah is different. Americans, as they did once, long ago, have liberated a camp. As they did once, they have put an end to a man who befouled humankind, who ruined the lives of multitudes, who all but destroyed the light and the hope and the essential goodness in what we once called the American way.

Terrorism has changed America as no other force. Terrorism has changed the world as no other force. Terrorism has changed and befouled democracy itself. Terrorism has changed us, all of us. It is evil metastasized. It is the worst of us. It rips societies apart, to not one beneficial end. It has no beneficial end. It is the worst that humanity has to offer. And its most successful proponent in history is now dead.

This is a transformative moment. It is a challenge to Americans to carry this step home, to begin to work together to heal the wounds which have deepened over these years into a new American way of life.

God bless this country America. God bless this country which, because it is made of humans, often has trouble figuring out what to do, how to fight the good fight. God bless this country which, in the end, does the right thing. God bless this country for which the world has no substitute.







Just don't say the Israeli government is insensitive to the country's workers. Why, this week it decided to give them a nice gift for May Day - it raised gasoline prices to a record NIS 7.62 per liter.

This is a way to improve the workers' health. They will be forced to sell their gas-guzzling cars for cash, and because we have no decent public transportation, they will have to get to work on foot or by bicycle - and sports are good for your health. They will also be able to enjoy calm weekends at home, without unnecessary trips. This will make their lives quieter, safer and more enjoyable thanks to the kind and beneficent government that has raised gas prices sky high.

So it's not clear why on Sunday dozens of drivers joined a long protest convoy that made its way from Tel Aviv to Haifa's oil refineries, carrying signs denouncing "the insane gas tax." What's the matter, don't they understand they have the privilege of being the cash cows of Benjamin Netanyahu and his finance minister, Yuval Steinitz?

Why can't they understand that the issue is foreign to Steinitz, Netanyahu and senior treasury officials? After all, they don't know how much a liter of gas costs. They have cars at their disposal 24 hours a day and the state pays for the gas. Why should they care that Mrs. Cohen from Hadera is shrinking under the burden and selling her little car?

It's also quite annoying to hear the Finance Ministry's lame excuses for the latest price hike of May 1 - 23 agorot. Libya is to blame; it's that awful Gadhafi who is causing the unrest that is jacking up oil prices. It's also Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau's fault. He didn't lower the gasoline retailers' profit margins. And who isn't to blame at all? Steinitz and the ministry's budget director, Udi Nissan. They have nothing at all to do with it.

Let's bring up some forgotten facts. In July 2008 the price of a barrel of oil reached a record $148. As a result, the price of a liter of gasoline reached a record NIS 6.96. The current price of a barrel of oil is $112. But the price of a liter of gas is NIS 7.62. How did this reversal come about?

The explanation stems from Steinitz and Nissan's economic policy. Instead of presenting a responsible, restrained budget to the Knesset, the two submitted in 2009 a broad, two-year budget with unnecessary spending increases. The largest government in the state's history was set up, and the atmosphere was one of abundance.

It's okay to be the good guys and increase spending, but in the end it's time to pay the bill; that is, to raise taxes. So the two were forced to raise several taxes of every kind, including the excise tax on gasoline, which was inflated with the help of VAT. Consequently, the gas tax soared to 52 percent of the price, while in July 2008 it was only 47 percent. This is the main reason for the high gas prices - crazy taxation intended to finance a wasteful budget.

So now, every time you pump a liter of gas into your car, you're paying NIS 3.65 per liter (including marketing expenses ), but you also pay the treasury NIS 3.97. This is highway robbery. It's more expensive than in most European countries, though their standard of living is higher and public transportation is far superior.

It's irritating to hear the Finance Ministry's explanations - that driving a car has "negative external effects," so it should be taxed highly because this reduces the number of times we use our cars, thus contributing to cleaner air. The truth is, the treasury is largely concerned with filling its empty coffers.

The argument of "negative external effects" is even more exasperating in view of the situation in that undeveloped country called the United States. There the government levies a mere 14 percent tax on gasoline (compared with 52 percent in Israel ). There a liter of gas costs NIS 3.5 - less than half the price in Israel.

Don't they care about clean air over there? They do, and how. But they also care about the people and make sure they can live and enjoy themselves. They wouldn't dare charge 52 percent tax in the United States, because it's simply plunder. But what do they know? They don't have a kind, beneficent finance minister who takes care of the masses on May Day.



                                    THE NEWYORK TIMES





The news that Osama bin Laden had been tracked and killed by American forces filled us, and all Americans, with a great sense of relief. But our reaction was strongly tinged with sadness. Nearly a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the horror has not faded, nor has the knowledge of how profoundly our lives were changed.


Even as we now breathe a bit more easily, we must also remember that the fight against extremists is far from over. Al Qaeda may strike back, or other groups may try to assert their rising power. The reports of how Bin Laden's lair in Pakistan was discovered and breached, the years of intelligence-gathering and the intensive planning for this raid, are all a reminder of just how hard this work is and how much vigilance and persistence matter.


Leadership matters enormously, and President Obama has shown that he is a strong and measured leader. His declaration on Sunday nightthat "justice has been done" was devoid of triumphalism. His vow that the country will "remain vigilant at home and abroad" was an important reminder that the danger has not passed. His affirmation that the "United States is not and never will be at war with Islam" sent an essential message to the Muslim world, where hopes for democracy are rising but old hatreds, and leaders who exploit them, are still powerful.


Mr. Obama rightly affirmed that this country will be "relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies" — but "true to the values that make us who we are." Maintaining that balance is never easy, and this administration has strayed, but not as often or as damagingly as the Bush team did. Much will be made of the fact that the original tip came from detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There is no evidence that good intelligence like this was the result of secret detentions or abuse and torture. Everything suggests the opposite.


The full story has yet to be told, but a few things struck us from the early reporting. The president's decision to order a raid on the compound — the only way to gather proof of Bin Laden's death — rather than destroying it from the air, showed guts. The memory of President Jimmy Carter's failed hostage rescue mission in Iran had to have been on the mind of everyone in the White House.

On Sunday night, Mr. Obama gave Pakistan faint praise for some unspecified cooperation, but the facts are damning: The most hunted man in the world was living in a $1 million compound, an hour's drive from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, and close to both a military training academy and a large military base.


On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was doing the diplomatic thing, we suppose, by talking about how the United States is committed to its partnership with Pakistan. We hope that she and the president are a lot tougher in private with Pakistani officials and doing some very hard thinking about how they will manage this relationship.


After this, how can anyone keep a straight face — or keep from screaming — when Pakistani officials claim they have no idea where the Taliban's Mullah Muhammad Omar or dozens of other extremist leaders are hiding?


Mr. Obama made only passing mention of the war in Afghanistan, which was ordered to root out Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts. After President George W. Bush turned his sights on Iraq, the effort faltered badly. President Obama's "surge" is showing some progress. The Taliban have been pushed back from Kandahar, but they are not close to being defeated. Afghans are alienated and disgusted by the Karzai government's corruption and incompetence.


Bin Laden's death should be a warning to Taliban leaders and fighters that the United States is not giving up. The Obama administration should capitalize on that message of strength and seriously explore whether there is a political deal to be cut with the Taliban: one that doesn't send Afghan women and girls back to the Dark Ages or reopen the country to Al Qaeda. But also one that helps bring a decade of American fighting closer to an end.


Bin Laden's death is an extraordinary moment for Americans and all who have lost loved ones in horrifying, pointless acts of terrorism. As fresh as those wounds still are, though, we were struck by how irrelevant Bin Laden has become in the streets of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and Syria, where people are struggling for freedom.


Mr. Obama should use this moment to clearly state American support for all in the Muslim world who are yearning for peaceful, democratic change. Their victory will be the true defeat of Bin Laden.







The federal government's financing of embryonic stem cell research got a boost Friday when an appeals court panel ruled that the work could go on while a lower-court judge ponders its legality. More uncertainty awaits as opponents try to derail this promising field of research.


Scientists hope these cells can be used some day to replace and repair damaged tissues and organs and possibly cure such devastating ailments as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's and diabetes. Federal law bans spending public money on research in which embryos are destroyed, as happens when stem cells are extracted. The Obama administration ruled that if the cells are derived with private money, the government could pay for the research.


That distinction was challenged by two scientists, and Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia concluded they had a "strong likelihood" of winning and would be irreparably harmed right now if their own research had to compete for grants with embryonic stem cell projects. His preliminary injunction on all federal financing was a huge overreach that would have shut down more than 30 promising projects.


Now the majority opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has looked at the same evidence and found that the two scientists who raised the objections are "unlikely to prevail" because the language of the law is ambiguous and the National Institutes of Health has reached a reasonable conclusion as to what it can support. It also concluded that a preliminary injunction would cause far more immediate harm to embryonic stem cell researchers whose work would be stopped than to the scientists who sued.


Congress ought to resolve the issue with legislation making it unambiguous that the federal government can support research on stem cells derived from human embryos. That seems highly unlikely. So it is up to the courts. The case is now back to Judge Lamberth, who has already tipped his hat in the plaintiff's direction. We hope he will reconsider based on the majority opinion.







The bureaucratic logjam for veterans pursuing benefit claims has gotten so huge that judges — in Dickensian fashion — are having to work nights and weekends as they decide more than 600 cases each annually. The little-noticed court for appealing rejected claims is about to be even more overwhelmed by the caseloads from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.


For all that, three court vacancies have gone unfilled by the Obama administration and Congress while six judges scramble mightily to handle the appeals, according to a report by The Washington Post. The court docket involves disability and health care claims rejected by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Challenges before the veterans agency can take years, then more years in the appeals pipeline — an intolerable process lawyers have dubbed "the hamster wheel."


The court's current jam is mainly caused by appeals dating from the first gulf war. But the rate of initial claims from veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is climbing fast. A heavy appeals court surge is certain from the hundreds of thousands filing for benefits for the more complex troubles of modern warfare.


The White House should delay no longer, and the Senate must expedite nominees. Partisan standoffs bedeviling other judiciary branches have no place before veterans' needs. "It's not like we're trying to put someone on the Supreme Court," said Glenn Bergmann, the president of the bar group that represents the veterans.







Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, made a strong argument for good early childhood care. In a speech in New York City, he argued that the value can be especially high for disadvantaged children with a strong payoff for the economy. These programs can increase high school graduation rates, and graduates earn more, pay more taxes, and rely less on state-provided health care.


We hope Mayor Michael Bloomberg was listening. At present, the city subsidizes child care for 98,000 children. His new budget would end that support for 16,500 of them in September, for a savings of $95 million in the city's $65.6 billion budget.


Families receiving public assistance or welfare will not be affected. Those losing the subsidies are deemed working poor — with an income of less than 200 percent of the poverty level or $36,620 for a family of three. They pay from $5 to $100 a week for city-sponsored child care. Few will be able to pay the full cost on their own, and, without a safe and educational place for their children, many won't be able to keep working. Their only option will be welfare.


The Independent Budget Office of New York City has suggested several better ways to save or raise money. Cutting transportation for private school students would save $37 million a year. A 6 cent tax on every plastic bag provided at stores would raise $94 million, almost exactly what is needed to maintain current child care subsidies. Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council talk about budgeting for the future. Cutting child care is not the way to do it.








TO the Qaeda members I interrogated at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere in the aftermath of 9/11, Osama bin Laden was never just the founder and leader of the group, but also an idea. He embodied the belief that their version of Islam was correct, that terrorism was the right weapon, and that they would ultimately be victorious. Bin Laden's death on Sunday did not kill that idea, but did deal it a mortal blow.


The immediate reaction of Al Qaeda members to Bin Laden's death will be to celebrate his martyrdom. The group's ideology champions death for the cause: Songs are composed, videos made and training camps named in honor of dead fighters. Bin Laden's deputies will try to energize people by turning him into a Che Guevara-like figure for Al Qaeda — a more effective propaganda tool dead than alive.


But it won't take long for Al Qaeda to begin wishing that Bin Laden wasn't dead. He not only was the embodiment of Al Qaeda's ideology, but also was central to the group's fund-raising and recruiting successes. Without him, Al Qaeda will find itself short on cash — and members.


Bin Laden's fund-raising (especially through his connections to fellow wealthy Saudis) and his personal story (his decision to give up a life of luxury and ease to fight in a holy war) had brought him to prominence during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and later secured his position as Al Qaeda's leader.


He further cultivated that image by trying to model his ascetic life on that of the Prophet Muhammad — by dressing similarly and encouraging his followers to ascribe divine powers to him. Bin Laden regularly hinted at this when discussing Al Qaeda's strikes against America and his ability to withstand Washington's wrath.


Not only has Al Qaeda lost its best recruiter and fund-raiser, but no one in the organization can come close to filling that void. Bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, who will probably try to take over, is a divisive figure. His personality and leadership style alienate many, he lacks Bin Laden's charisma and connections and his Egyptian nationality is a major mark against him.


Indeed, one of the earliest things I discovered from interrogating Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Yemen as well as Guantánamo was the group's internal divisions; the most severe is the rivalry between the Egyptians and members hailing from the Arabian Peninsula. (Even soccer games pit Egyptians against Persian Gulf Arabs.) While Egyptians typically travel to the Gulf to work for Arabs there, in Al Qaeda, Egyptians have traditionally held most of the senior positions.


It was only the knowledge that they were ultimately following Bin Laden — a Saudi of Yemeni origin, and therefore one of their own — that kept non-Egyptian members in line. Now, unless a non-Egyptian takes over, the group is likely to splinter into subgroups. Someone like Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American who is a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a likely rival to Mr. Zawahri.


Bin Laden was adept at convincing smaller, regional terrorist groups that allying with Al Qaeda and focusing on America were the best ways to topple corrupt regimes at home. But many of his supporters grew increasingly distressed by Al Qaeda's attacks in the last few years —which have killed mostly Muslims — and came to realize that Bin Laden had no long-term political program aside from nihilism and death.


The Arab Spring, during which ordinary people in countries like Tunisia and Egypt overthrew their governments, proved that contrary to Al Qaeda's narrative, hated rulers could be toppled peacefully without attacking America. Indeed, protesters in many cases saw Washington supporting their efforts, further undermining Al Qaeda's claims.


But we cannot rest on our laurels. Most of Al Qaeda's leadership council members are still at large, and they command their own followers. They will try to carry out operations to prove Al Qaeda's continuing relevance. And with Al Qaeda on the decline, regional groups that had aligned themselves with the network may return to operating independently, making them harder to monitor and hence deadlier.


Investigations, intelligence and military successes are only half the battle. The other half is in the arena of ideas, and countering the rhetoric and methods that extremists use to recruit. We can keep killing and arresting terrorists, but if new ones are recruited, our war will never end.


Our greatest tool, we must remember, is America itself. We have suffered a great deal at the hands of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and we will never forget those killed in attacks like the 1998 bombings on United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer Cole, 9/11 and the service members killed since then in the war against Al Qaeda.


Many terrorists whom I interrogated told me they expected America to ultimately fold. What they didn't understand is that as powerful as the Bin Laden idea was to them, America's values and liberties are even greater to us. Effectively conveying this will bury the Bin Laden idea with him.


Ali H. Soufan, an F.B.I. special agent from 1997 to 2005, interrogated Qaeda detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere.








Osama Bin Laden's mother was about 15 at the time of his birth. Nicknamed "The Slave" inside the family, she was soon discarded and sent off to be married to a middle manager in the Bin Laden construction firm.


Osama revered the father he rarely got to see and adored his mother. As a teenager, he "would lie at her feet and caress her," a family friend told Steve Coll, for his definitive biography "The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century."


Like many people who go on to alter history, for good and evil, Bin Laden lost his father when he was about 9. The family patriarch was killed in a plane crash caused by an American pilot in the Saudi province of Asir. (Five of the Sept. 11 hijackers would come from that province. His brother was later killed in a plane crash on American soil.)


Osama was an extremely shy child, Coll writes. He was an outsider in his new family but also the golden goose. His allowance and inheritance was the source of his family's wealth.


He lived a suburban existence and was sent to an elite school, wearing a blue blazer and being taught by European teachers. As a boy he watched "Bonanza" and became infatuated by another American show called "Fury," about a troubled orphaned boy who goes off to a ranch and tames wild horses. He was a mediocre student but religiously devout. He made it to university, but didn't last long. He married his first cousin when she was 14 and went into the family business.


I repeat these personal facts because we have a tendency to see history as driven by deep historical forces. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it is driven by completely inexplicable individuals, who combine qualities you would think could never go together, who lead in ways that violate every rule of leadership, who are able to perpetrate enormous evils even though they themselves seem completely pathetic.


Analysts spend their lives trying to anticipate future threats and understand underlying forces. But nobody could have possibly anticipated Bin Laden's life and the giant effect it would have. The whole episode makes you despair about making predictions.


As a family man, Bin Laden was interested in sex, cars and work but was otherwise devout. He did not permit photography in his presence. He banned "Sesame Street," Tabasco sauce and straws from his home. He covered his eyes if an unveiled woman entered the room. He liked to watch the news, but he had his children stand by the set and turn down the volume whenever music came on.


As Coll emphasized in an interview on Monday, this sort of devoutness, while not everybody's cup of tea, was utterly orthodox in his society. He was not a rebel as a young man.


After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, he organized jihadi tourism: helping young, idealistic Arab fighters who wanted to spend some time fighting the invaders. He was not a fighter himself, more of a courier and organizer, though after he survived one Soviet bombardment, he began to fashion a self-glorifying mythology.


He was still painfully shy but returned with an enormous sense of entitlement. In 1990, he wanted to run the Saudi response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He also thought he should run the family business. After he was shot down for both roles, the radicalism grew.


We think of terrorism leaders as hard and intimidating. Bin Laden was gentle and soft, with a flaccid handshake. Yet his soldiers have told researchers such as Peter Bergen, the author of "The Longest War," that meeting him was a deeply spiritual experience. They would tell stories of his ability to avoid giving offense and forgive transgressors.


We think of terrorists as trying to build cells and organizations, but Bin Laden created an anti-organization — an open-source set of networks with some top-down control but much decentralization and a willingness to embrace all recruits, regardless of race, sect or nationality.


We think of war fighters as using violence to seize property and power, but Bin Laden seemed to regard murder as a subdivision of brand management. It was a way to inspire the fund-raising networks, dominate the news and manipulate meaning.


In short, Osama Bin Laden seemed to live in an ethereal, postmodern world of symbols and signifiers and also a cruel murderous world of rage and humiliation. Even the most brilliant intelligence analyst could not anticipate such an odd premodern and postglobalized creature, or could imagine that such a creature would gain such power.


I just wish there were a democratic Bin Laden, that amid all the Arab hunger for dignity and freedom there was another inexplicable person with the ability to frame narratives and propel action — for good, not evil.








To give the devil his awful due, Osama bin Laden was the greatest terrorist of the modern age. He took what had been disparate, disorganized terrorist groups and reshaped them into a disciplined and immensely ambitious organization, Al Qaeda, with the singular goal of waging jihad on the West in general and the United States in particular. Its terrorist prowess was never more evident than on that horrible day of Sept. 11, 2001.


Now that Bin Laden is dead, the most pressing question we need to ask is: Will his death make a difference? It is, of course, symbolically important that the United States hunted down the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And it will have political ramifications for President Obama, which I leave to others to debate.


But the thing that matters most right now is whether the world today is safer than it was on Sunday, when Bin Laden was still among the living. Though it is not an easy question to answer, it seems to me that there are four areas where it ought to be asked:


THE ARAB SPRING The commentariat was quick to note the delicious irony that Bin Laden's death coincided with the citizen uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere. The Arab Spring has shown that millions of Muslims have zero interest in the hard-line theocracy favored by Al Qaeda. What they yearn for instead is freedom and democracy. Bin Laden's death merely put an exclamation point on the fact that his influence in the region had diminished considerably in the decade since 9/11.


But Lawrence Wright, the author of "The Looming Tower," a Pulitzer-Prize winning book about Al Qaeda, goes a step further. He's convinced that Bin Laden's death could help prevent the Arab Spring from sputtering out.


"As long as he was around, he created an alternative narrative," said Wright. "When the moment comes that the democratic movement falters — and there always is such a moment — Al Qaeda could say: We told you so. The fact that he is gone makes it more likely for the Arab Spring to complete its reformation cycle."


THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN Ever since he came into office, President Obama has insisted that our presence in Afghanistan was directly related to the ongoing threat from Al Qaeda. Ten years in, though, the war has no end in sight and dwindling public support. Liberal groups like the Brave New Foundation are already saying that Bin Laden's death has "ended the rationale" for the war.


It's not just liberals, either. James Lindsay, a senior vice president of that establishment bulwark Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that the president could use Bin Laden's death to say that America's "goal has been achieved" — and use it as an excuse to wind down the war. Whether the president will take such a step is unclear. But it's now at least feasible.


TERRORISM ITSELF Michael Nacht, a former Defense Department official who now teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that Bin Laden's death will diminish the terrorist threat to the United States. Nacht compared terrorism in the Bin Laden era to a "fatal disease." Now, he says, it's more like a chronic illness: "It can still cause you trouble, but it's not a mortal theat."


But this may turn out to be wishful thinking. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that at the time of the 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda had maybe 200 members; today, it is vaster and "more far-reaching than before the U.S. sought to take it down." Independent offshoots have sprung up in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. New terrorist leaders include Nasir al-Wahishi, who leads Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who has been involved in several terrorist plots, including the attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas Day in 2009. Although America does a much better job of rooting out planned attacks, the threat remains very real, with or without Bin Laden.


RELATIONS WITH THE MUSLIM WORLD Let's face it: Much of the Muslim world today is deeply distrustful of anything America does. For this, certainly, a good portion of the blame goes to the misguided invasion of Iraq and its aftermath — which, in turn, was a response to 9/11 and Bin Laden. In that sense, America played right into Bin Laden's hands.


The clock can't be turned back just because he's dead. The distrust remains strong. A friend who recently returned from Turkey — a Muslim country that is ostensibly a close ally — told me that the Turkish media were united in their virulent opposition to NATO's actions in Libya, even though those actions were intended to prevent a cruel dictator from killing his own people.


"The image of Westerners dropping bombs on Muslims is very hard for Muslims to accept," he said.


One hopes that this is not Bin Laden's enduring legacy. But that's something only we can fix.








The terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, by al-Qaeda was a dramatic change to the nature of war. To use passenger planes as spears stabbed at the heart of the United States opened a new page in the bloody history of warfare; an era of headquarters without borders, armies without flags, actions without limitations. Neither Sun Tzu, nor Clausewitz could have predicted it.

That was the start of global guerrilla warfare.

After 9/11, al-Qaeda hit many critical cities around the world from Bali to London, from Istanbul to Madrid.

A high-ranking official in Turkey's National Intelligence Service, or MİT, told a group of reporters right after the attacks on Istanbul in 2003 that the Western security apparatus had never seen such an organization before and actually there were no centrally organized bodies. And since they were ready to sacrifice themselves in attacks, it was useless to try to deter them. They were avoiding any kind of electronics, so it was difficult to track them down. They had known each other personally for a long time, so it was difficult to infiltrate their structure.

Yet, before commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. war machine was able to spot Osama bin Laden, the charismatic leader of al-Qaeda, and kill him, as U.S. President Barack Obama announced with pride.

The U.S. operation in Pakistan showed us we can now talk about a global counter-guerrilla war as well.

It may not be the end of guerrilla warfare, but it should be acknowledged that it is a big blow to not only terrorism, but also to fringe Islamist groups that do not hesitate to use violence to abuse religious sentiments.

Perhaps that is the reason why Obama had to say the fight was not against Islam and why the Turkish President Abdullah Gül was among the first leaders to welcome Obama's statement.

After the elimination of the symbol of radical Islamism, can we now talk about the rise of Islamic democrats, taking the opportunity of the ongoing Arab Spring? That is the question to ask now.






It is unlikely that the killing of Osama bin Laden will put an end to terrorism conducted in the name of Islam. No doubt there are many who would like to take his place as the leader of al-Qaeda.

Whether this will lead to a power struggle within the group and thus weaken it as an outfit remains to be seen. It may very well be that the possibility of bin Laden's death was factored into the groups strategic planning, thus making the transition to a new leadership a relatively painless one.

Having said this it is still clear the world is generally pleased with the elimination of a man who had the blood of thousands on his hand, even if many know the threat posed by this group will live on. It is highly significant in this context that President Abdullah Gül should have been among the first to express his satisfaction at the news of bin Laden's killing.

Speaking prior to his departure to Vienna on Monday, Gül said "this shows terrorists and the heads of terrorist organizations are apprehended dead or alive in the end." He went on to add "the fact the head of the most dangerous and sophisticated terrorist group was caught in this way is a lesson for everyone."

Gül ended his remarks by expressing his "great pleasure" over the news concerning Bin Laden's death. This was an extremely important statement given that Turkey is a country awash in anti-Western rhetoric and conspiracy theories, and where it is very likely bin Laden was seen in a favorable light in fundamentalist quarters.

Unlike Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had not commented on the killing of bin Laden by the time this article was being concluded on Monday afternoon. Why no statement was immediately forthcoming from the Prime Ministry when a wide variety of countries from Russia and India to Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan made their views known without delay is not clear.

In the meantime Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, while expressing support for the killing of bin Laden in a roundabout manner, nevertheless, could not hold himself back from uttering remarks that will add grist to the mill of Turkish conspiracy theorists.

"Seeing as there is a claim September 11 is connected to the al-Qaeda organization, it is a matter of public debate why this organization was tolerated for 10 years, or why a blind eye was turned to it," Arınç said in a loaded way.

The United States and other Western nations are obviously bracing themselves against retaliatory attacks now from al-Qaeda as it tries to prove it is still standing and effective, despite the death of its leader. It should, of course, be taken for granted that al-Qaeda and groups working under its franchise will want to make their presence felt after such a blow.

Having conducted successful security operations against al-Qaeda cells in Turkey over the past weeks and months, Ankara is undoubtedly also on red alert in this respect, although it is more circumspect in its security measures. Turkish security officials have not forgotten the al-Qaeda related attack in Istanbul in 2003 which left over 60 people dead, and scores injured.

Retaliatory strikes in Western capitals are only one possible outcome of the killing of bin Laden. The present turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa also provides the group with new opportunities for wreaking havoc, with a view to destabilize the region in order to make it ripe for a takeover by fundamentalist Islamic forces.

Likely countries to be targeted in this respect include Syria, Bahrain, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia where many observers believe al-Qaeda is already trying to start a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis. Egypt will also continue to provide targets of choice as groups acting in the name of al-Qaeda try to kick-start a civil war between Muslims and Christians there.

Given developments in Syria, however, this is one country that might turn out to be the most propitious in this respect for terrorist groups acting in the name of Islam, and under an al-Qaeda franchise. There is, after all, still vengeance to be wreaked in that country by fundamentalist Sunnis for the massacres perpetrated by the Assad regime in 1982 against members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

There is also the possibility to ignite a sectarian war in Syria, given that this is a country where a minority Alawite administration and its Baathist lackeys have placed themselves in a privileged position against a majority Sunni population. As matters stand, the Islamic Brotherhood in Syria called for a public uprising against the Assad regime last Friday, thus injecting a radical dimension into what is already a highly volatile situation.

But Syria also provides justification to the contention that no outside group could destabilize a country if that country had relative stability, security and democracy at home. At the end of the day, the degree that radical and fundamentalist groups are successful in the Islamic world is relative to the oppression and the dispossession felt by the masses under undemocratic regimes and leaders.

This is why the transition to a period of relative stability in the region that enables the laying of democratic infrastructures is very important. However the brutal manner in which Moammar Gadhafi and Bashar al-Assad are trying to hang on to power does not portend well in this respect. There is no doubt that their obstinacy is "fertilizing" the social environment as far as groups like al-Qaeda are concerned.

The bottom line here is that bin Laden may be dead, and this is good for American's in the post 9/11 world seeking "closure," which is a fancy and clinical word they have in the U.S. for "vengeance." The simple fact is however the threat posed by bin Laden's ideas is not dead yet. In other words he could be just as dangerous dead as he was alive and perhaps even more dangerous now he is a martyr to be followed for terrorists acting in the name of Islam.

The killing of Osama bin Laden is likely to turn out to be merely an episode in the struggle against terrorists who operated under the name of Islam and not something that has dealt these terrorists a final blow.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden is likely to turn out to be merely an episode in the struggle against terrorists who operated under the name of Islam.






Washington DC - The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be "World Press Freedom Day" in 1993 following a call made by the UNESCO in 1991.

The objective of "May 3" claimed by all journalists and relevant associations around the world is to promote the concept of freedom of the press and its fundamental principles, to discuss press freedom, to defend independence of media and to commemorate journalists who have been killed, or died, on duty.

The Freedom to Journalists Platform, or GÖP, formed in Turkey with the participation of 93 occupational organizations holds a congress on press freedom in Istanbul on May 3. This is an international activity.

It's a long list. Representatives of the International Press Institute, or IPI, European Federation of Journalists, or EFJ, the World Association of Press Councils, or WPAC, the Word Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, or WAN-IFRA, Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, and the Southeast Europe Media Organization, or SEEMO will attend the meeting and deliver speeches on the situation about freedom of the press both in Turkey and around the world.

What else could be more natural than such bodies carrying the issue to an international platform and pay attention to the condition in Turkey?

The situation in this country has been rapidly and steadily deteriorating for some time. Statistical proof is also evident. According to the invitation letter from the GÖP, there were 29 journalists in prison during the January-April 2009 period. The number increased to 35 in May-August of the same year, to 44 in the following four months, to 58 by the end of 2010. The figure reached 68 as of today.

What makes this deterioration more visible to the world is the arrests of journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, and police raids to wipe off copies of an unpublished book saved on hard discs.

I should have been in Istanbul for the "Press Freedom Congress" being held today. But I am in Washington for the very same reason: The World Press Freedom Day.

The United States for the first time this year is hosting celebrations of the World Press Freedom Day organized by UNESCO. And I have been invited by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. capital to an activity on the occasion. The event will continue in New York later on.

I have been told the U.S. State Department is to invite one journalist from each of "some countries" and I am the one from Turkey.

There is nothing surprising here. I keep saying on every occasion the deterioration in press freedom suffocates Turkish democracy, and that freedom of the press is vital for fair and democratic manifestation of people's political choices.

If I had been invited as a person who does not utter any of these, then it could have been surprising. Or if the invitation for the "World Press Freedom Day" had been sent to journalists who are tied to the government in their hearts and minds, it could have been surprising equally.

I am happy to be here as a "journalist coming from Turkey."

But as a journalist who was invited from Turkey for such a program, I am not happy at all for my country.

You will see the list of guest countries below. Please do read and see why I am not happy for my country:

Turkey, Burma, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, East Timor, Angola, Cameron, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, St. Lucia, Surinam, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine…

All of these countries are troubled with the press freedom to varying degrees.

It is not important which political willpower has prepared this list. As Turkey is a country with the highest number of journalists in prison, can anyone come forward and say "But this has been unfair to Turkey?"

This is the gravity you have created. You should have thought of this before sending Şener and Şık to the prison.

*Kadri Gürsel is a columnist of daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.






The revenge against Osama bin Laden came about 10 years after the Americans lost their first chance to get rid of al-Qaeda's notorious leader.

In Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan and near the border with Pakistan in December 2001, United States forces squeezed bin Laden, with the Air Force strongly pounding the mountainous area. But he narrowly escaped the attack, reportedly on the back of a mule, to find a safe haven in Pakistan.

The 9/11 attacks had a traumatic effect on the American society, which earlier believed that in its isolated location from the rest of the world, the country was safe and immune against any such aggression. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Muslims in the U.S. society, including Turks, were segregated for a long time.

The public response to bin Laden's killing, the happy demonstrations in front of the White House and at the Times Square in New York, reflect the strength of the feelings of hatred and fear 10 years after 9/11.

Bin Laden's extermination eliminates several of President Barack Obama's concerns. First, the death means the fulfillment of a public requirement for revenge. Obama and former president George W. Bush qualified the successful American attack by saying "justice has been served."

Having eliminated bin Laden, Obama proved his credibility in fighting terrorism. Obama at this point is far ahead of his potential Republican rivals, one of whom he will face in the next presidential elections in November 2012.

He also proved America does not forget and does not forgive old foes. This is a strong show of determination which likely will be rewarded by Americans.

But again it is too early to say that America has defeated terrorism. Al-Qaeda has been in decline throughout the world in recent years. Until a couple of days ago, bin Laden managed to escape the inevitable revenge, but after what seems to be a likely sell-out by the Pakistani intelligence, bin Laden is over. But other than that, al-Qaeda remained a fractious group. Now this could play well for the terrorists.

Since al-Qaeda is very much cellular and modular, the ability of terrorism for some cells seems to remain in place. They do not need instructions or orders from a central decision-making mechanism. Thinking it is capable; any of those cells could move to retaliate against bin Laden's killing by attacking U.S. personnel and assets around the world without collaboration with other cells.

Turkey responded to the killing in a sober and clear-minded way. President Abdullah Gül said this is the type of end that awaits terrorist leaders, also openly welcoming bin Laden's elimination.

Bin Laden is gone after 10 years and the Islamic world today is involved in a new paradigm amid the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Today's world is a reflection of the Arab awakening. What bin Laden did with his relentless terrorism belongs to the past.






Those examining the recent history of the Turkish Republic will in the future write that the country's greatest problem has been the Kurdish issue and the greatest steps in this regard were taken by the ruling party's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Especially in the first years of his term he proved his braveness like no one else before him and identified the disease. He did not suffice with that and took extremely brave steps to help citizens in the Southeast.

The state of emergency was been lifted, Kurdish television channels were admitted, some of the restriction on language and name issues were removed. And with the 2008-2009 "democratic initiative," excitement was at its peak.

Each of these decisions was like a revolution.

Until nationalistic reactions were exhibited the day after a group entered through Habur border gate.

Their own staff as well as other segments of the society showed severe reactions.

This situation scared the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and all initiatives stopped.

Now, especially with little time left until elections, the prime minister has adopted a new attitude.

"There is no Kurdish issue… There are only some issues of my Kurdish citizens," he said.

Very briefly, "We are meeting needs of our citizens and will support them. But outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK's, and pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP's, agendas are different. They have excessive demands in order to spoil our unity and cooperation. Especially requesting Kurdish as the mother tongue or refusing to pray behind the state imam is separatism, igniting the foundation of this country," said Erdoğan.

This statement reminds of the "There are no Kurds, only mountain Turks" period of the 90s.

I am one of those believing Erdoğan will not adopt the military jargon. The artificiality of this statement is obvious. Especially if compared to the prime minister's former attitude and statements it loses its credibility all together.

Ali Kırca's question Sunday night was very appropriate.

So why then do state authorities continue negotiations with PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan?

Isn't that a dilemma?

The prime minister says these negotiations have been effective and thus terror events have decreased right before elections.

Of course, minds get confused even further.

I don't think the prime minister will adopt this statement and continue with it after elections. In fact, I don't want to believe it. For, we have lost 30 years with this statement and look at where we have arrived. And it is for sure that there will even be more blood shed if we go back.

I expect Erdoğan's attitude and statement to change after elections.

This statement does not befit him.

U.S. proves its superiority

No matter what anyone says, the United States proved how great a power it is.

For years, it did not stop chasing Osama bin Laden.

It finally found the responsible for the September 11 attacks in New York killing thousands of innocent Americans.

Bin Laden is a terrorist.

He is a killer who harmed Islam, setting equal Islam with terror and beheading people. A person who is reasonable won't accept transforming young people into suicide bombers killing innocent people in the name of Islam.

Some of us elevate bin Laden to the status of a divinity. For those who do, I advise them to read President Abdullah Gül's statement of yesterday in order not to push their luck.

Eliminating bin Laden this way may evoke new terror deeds. But we should also expect al-Qaeda to split and lose its influence over time.

U.S. President Barack Obama is the one who benefited the most.

Possible without prohibitions

We have been scared for years with the boogeyman; terror organizations who they said would fill Istanbul's Taksim square creating bad deeds shedding blood.

But there was neither been any boogeyman nor any blood shedding provocateur. 

Now don't go saying, "But there have been three years ago and this year we took precautions they couldn't even take a move."

If you were to take precautions you should have taken them back then.

Let us not turn back to old pages.

Let's focus on today.

On Sunday Taksim reminded of a fiesta.

How joyous and happy everybody was.

Of course, there were some who played rough but they have infiltrated all parts of society so no one cared about them.

But Taksim celebrations have proved that by lifting prohibitions, tension and fights can be prevented. 

The latest May Day celebration was the greatest messenger signaling the end of the old period.






Presidents, prime ministers and ministers were issuing congratulatory messages yesterday and celebrating the skill and bravery of the American special squad that killed the most notorious terrorist chieftain of the world, Osama bin Laden, a product of the Afghanistan front of what used to be the all out anti-communism fight of the American Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA.

Remember those propaganda tainted Hollywood films showing special American agents, in collaboration with the local Islamist resistance, hunting tanks, choppers and troops of the mighty Red Army in the Afghani deserts. The American Rambos were very happy with the Islamist resistance blocking the advance of the Reds and in those films, not only the Rambos were being glorified but the Islamist resistance elements – most of who were raised at the camps in nearby American-ally Pakistani territory.

That is, for some time and at some place terrorists might be used as a weapon against an enemy or for the protection of some national or international interest. However, it must be always remembered there is a limit for those "good terrorists" as well and when and if such elements feel their expiry date has come, they may start harming their former owner and try to carve out a reason for their existence.

Was Osama and his deadly terrorism network al-Qaeda a product of 9/11 or was al-Qaeda in existence for many years as a deadly crime machine hiding itself behind Islam and trying to punish its former boss who abandoned it and indeed ordered its extermination because the Soviets left Afghanistan. The mission was accomplished and thus the expiry date had come.

Obviously simplistic analysis and conclusions must be avoided in trying to understand what al-Qaeda is and represented in the larger Muslim world. Even though many politicians, including Turkey's absolute ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, would be enraged with the "Islamist terrorism" description, it was that Islamist terrorism which was once glorified by the American propaganda machine in the fight against communism. It has now for the improvised masses in the largely backward Muslim societies and particularly for the Palestinian people deprived of their homeland and inalienable rights by an American-abetted Israel, has become a sword for revenge.

Wrong? Yes, absolutely. Deplorable? Definitely. But, the very fact Osama bin Laden was killed at a mansion in a town hosting some important military installations and home to many retired officers, just 60 kilometers away from Islamabad underscores the reality that while without Pakistani intelligence help it would be impossible to hunt and kill him for the Americans, obviously there has been some intimate relations between the Pakistani security apparatus and al-Qaeda. Worse, the development demonstrates the overwhelming popular support Islamist activists or political-paramilitary elements, not necessarily terrorists, enjoy in the Pakistani population.

Karzai's opportunism

Afghani President Hamid Karzai was quick to rush to the rostrum and try to explain the world with a rather cute face that it was not his country that should be considered as a "free ground for terrorists" but it was Pakistan, as the killing of Osama there must have underscored, that has become the place of terrorism. Rightly, he used the opportunity to stress "If the international troops are the true allies of Afghans, now they should come out and say that the killing of Afghans, women, children and elders was not a good idea in the many years it was happening on a daily basis" because it was not Afghanis but the Pakistanis collaborating with the Islamist terrorists. Tragicomedy, is it not?

The killing of Osama by an American special squad, and wisely his body being allegedly dumped in sea and thus his burial place avoided becoming some sort of a shrine, is of course a very big victory in the fight against terrorism, but neither the Afghanistan problem, nor the spread of Islamist terrorism in Pakistan are going to end anytime soon. On the contrary, as long as Israeli oppression and aggression on Palestinians continue, as long as the Western hypocrisy towards Islam societies persists, there will unfortunately be more than sufficient reasons for Islamist terrorism to continue.

Worse, al-Qaeda must have several blueprints regarding probable retaliatory moves to be taken in case Osama was killed. It was a wise move for the Americans to heighten security measures for United States missions and Americans abroad. Particularly in countries like Turkey where the gang staged some deadly attacks in the past, security forces must be placed on highest alert, additional security measures must be taken around sensitive places.

To come back to the question in the headline, unfortunately the death of Osama has not made the world a safer place.






Professor Walt Whitman Rostow, in his famous book titled "The Stages of Economic Growth" published in 1960, advocates the idea that the beginning of rapid economic growth of a nation looks like the "take-off" of a plane from a runway. In a short while, this "take-off" concept became more famous than the book. Especially after 1960, most of the studies on the economic growth of developing nations widely used that concept.

Rostow, just before his death in 2003, when he was busy traveling to different countries to deliver conferences on his new research that aimed to explain the origin of the industrial revolution, also visited Istanbul to give a speach. He was trying to solve the mystery of why the industrial revolution began in England instead of France, where the conditions were more suitable for such a revolution.

This "take-off" concept naturally opened fierce debate among professional economists and also among some politicians. Is it a smooth beginning of a safe travel or a threshold that must be jumped over to begin sustainable rapid growth? Is this threshold a mixture of certain social, political and economic conditions, or simply a per capita income level that secretly contains those necessary conditions? Now there are some studies that prefer "simply" to take different per capita income levels for different nations both as the necessary condition of a "take-off" for a more rapid growth and also as a threshold that could be an obstacle in front of reaching higher national wealth.

Almost all developing countries begin with a rapid economic growth for several reasons. First of all, they can easily import and use advanced technologies that were already developed in rich countries. Secondly, the migration from rural areas to big industrial towns for finding a job in the newly established manufacturing sector initially increases productivity rapidly. Another advantage of developing countries is their newly constructed infrastructure, whereas in rich and already developed countries, infrastructure is generally obsolete.

Again, during the beginning of rapid growth, when per capita income increases with the same pace, domestic savings and as a result investments increase rapidly. However, after a period of time, a kind of "growth weariness" begins as importable new technologies become scarce and expensive, infrastructure becomes obsolete and labor productivity loses its initial pace. This results in slower growth, a slower increase in savings and investments. In the new economic development literature, this situation is called the "middle income trap."

Rich and developed countries experienced the same thing and lost their rapid growth appetite that they had during the last two centuries. However, although they have so many problems today, their per capita income levels reached to such levels that even small increases in their growth rates might seem satisfactory. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the newly emerging countries of today. They might be stuck in their development process with comparatively modest per capita income levels, which cannot encourage further rapid increases in savings and investments.

Is this a vicious cycle for developing nations of today, or is it a threshold that obstructs a real take-off?

There are, of course, ways to overcome these problems. Solutions are not easy but not impossible. First of all, developing countries must try hard to develop their own new technologies instead of importing already obsolete or very expensive ones from rich countries. This depends on bringing a new understanding first to internal politics in order to change old political and social approaches of the ruling elite. Without full-scale freedom and human rights, it is impossible to develop an education system that is necessary to reach advanced scientific and technological levels in order to raise productivity again.

After the Second World War, Latin American countries faced growth stoppages several times. Turkey's economy experienced fluctuated growth rates during the same period and in international conferences it was called a "roller-coaster economy." These examples make Western countries' policy makers nervous as they imagine another "middle income trap" for Asian tigers before the fight is done against depression, unemployment, debt and deficit problems in the West. Everybody is aware of the reliance of the troubled world economy on the economic performances of emerging countries now. It is a different story what may happen after almost all serious economic problems of the Western countries are solved. This story was witnessed several times in the past. If emerging countries cannot or do not want to remember that past, then it will be their biggest mistake.






For many in Turkey today, under the current political circumstances in particular, history serves as a means of justification for events and actions. This is especially true when it comes to controversial political issues such as democratization or reconciliation with the past.

One such issue is the political tradition alleged to have been created in Turkish politics by the Committee of Union and Progress, or CUP, a political organization that in 1908 helped topple Sultan Abdülhamid II and became the only ruling force after the military coup it initiated in 1912.

Turkey's liberal-minded intellectuals, as well as democratic and conservative political actors, love to assert at every available opportunity that the CUP's adventurism in the realm of foreign policy and anti-democratic means of governance in domestic politics are the two main historical patterns that have determined the course of political developments in this country. The latest examples of this mindset were pieces last week by certain columnists on the deportation of Armenians.

The CUP's record in internal politics was indeed not promising. Nevertheless, as it was maintained in some articles last week, to claim that it, the "Three Pashas" (Enver, Talat and Cemal) in particular, were "German puppets," whose "adventurism" cost this country the loss of an empire, or to hold it solely responsible for the wrong-headed understanding that the Turks "are circled by enemies," are nothing more than empty clichés.

I criticize Turkish paranoia in that regard, but I must admit that the Ottomans were indeed encircled by enemies in those years. In fact, one of the main reasons behind the outbreak of World War I was the race to carve up Ottoman territories among competing imperial powers of Europe. The members of the CUP knew that war would be the fatal blow to the Ottoman Empire and their chief concern was Russia.

To balance this traditional menace from the north, the Ottomans thus set out to engage Britain and France. Cemal Pasha, during his visit to France in July 1914, repeated the Turkish proposal for an alliance between the two countries. Cavid Bey, Ottoman minister for finance and a figure close to Britain, contacted the British for the same purpose. An Ottoman delegation headed by Talat Pasha even visited Nicholas II in May 1914 in Livadia, in the summer palace of Russian czars in the Crimea. Yet they all were rejected. Due to entangling alliances, neither France nor Britain was willing to risk Russia, a powerful ally against German expansion, for the sake of a disintegrating empire. Russia, on the other hand, did not want to lose "the Turkish cake," as they put it.

Indeed, secret engagements of the Entente powers (namely Russia, Britain and France), which can be traced to the Reval meeting between Edward VII and Nicholas II in the summer of 1908, made it impossible for the Ottomans to remain outside the war. The only alternative alliance then left was Germany. Finally, the Sultan, on July 12, 1914, authorized the Grand Vizier to carry out negotiations with Berlin that intended to secure the Empire from a Russian aggression. The subsequent Treaty of Alignment signed Aug. 2, 1914, was formally directed against Russia alone.

On a fait accompli of Enver Pasha, who was very impressed by the German victory in Tannenberg and did not want to miss that opportunity, the Ottomans entered the war on the side of the Germans. Ottoman relations with Germany, however, were far from a honeymoon. For instance, in spite of the treaty with Germany, even Enver Pasha initiated talks with the Russian military attaché in Istanbul for an alignment of the Ottoman Empire with the Entente. After the Bolshevik coup of 1917 in Russia, the relations between the two allies would deteriorate further. During the advance on Baku, Ottoman and German troops would even clash in the Caucasus.

Actually, the way in which the Ottomans or the CUP viewed Germany is precisely exemplified in the words of Talat Pasha, as related in Ambassador Henry Morgenthau's memoirs. After underscoring that they did not want to put the country at the feet of Germany, he wrote: "We shall use Germany to help us reconstruct and defend the country until we are able to govern ourselves with our own strength. When that day comes, we can say goodbye to the Germans within 24 hours."

The goal of the piece I have written here is to simply remind my beloved compatriots I mentioned above of a simple but basic rule in historiography: In analyzing history you may use Marxist, liberal or other paradigms, but you must not interpret historical events in such a way as to fit your ideology. This will not at all help Turkey reconcile with its past. For everyone the key in any kind of examination must be first and foremost honesty as well as integrity.

Message understood?








After beginning its tenure in alliance with the PML-N, the PPP, in a move orchestrated by President Zardari, has linked up with the PML-Q. The PPP hopes that the alliance with another faction of the Muslim League will enable it to both strengthen its own hold on power, bolstering its fragile position in parliament, while also delivering a blow to the PML-N by cutting into its support base in Punjab. As the 10 new 'Q' ministers take oath, there is also talk of creating Seraiki and Hazara provinces, a move that will potentially add to the damage suffered by the PML-N – a party that is clearly not delighted over the recent developments.

But perhaps the president has not taken full note of the fact that, even within his own party, not everyone is smiling. The sense of unease appears to begin with the PM. Mr Yusuf Raza Gilani's displeasure over the idea of a deputy prime minister and his pointing out of the fact that there is no constitutional provision for such a post may have led to the decision that Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi will initially take oath as senior minister, though it is possible he may later be elevated. Whether or not this happens, Elahi and his party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain will obviously be delighted to suddenly find themselves promoted from the back of the political line-up. How people react to this development may be key to what the future holds. Supporters of the PPP may not be delighted to see their party allied with a force which they consider an arch-enemy and which some believe is linked to the murder of Benazir Bhutto. It is ironic that a man she identified as being linked to a plot against her is taking over as senior minister. How the move pans out for President Zardari remains to be seen as political events take another sharp turn, adding to a general uncertainty surrounding the future.







The death of Osama bin Laden ends the story of a man who had, over the last decade, dominated much of the news around the world, even after he disappeared from the public eye – presumably into the mountains of the Pak-Afghan frontier – following the 9/11 attacks. A hero to some and a villain to many, Bin Laden remained, till his last moments, the symbolic leader of Al-Qaeda, even if there is some doubt as to how much actual command he wielded in terms of the day-to-day running of the world's most feared terrorist outfit. The delighted reaction over his death in a US operation that has poured in from many parts of the world is thus expected. While Washington has led the chorus, the rest of the West has chimed in. Not unexpectedly, India and Afghanistan have wasted no time in repeating their allegations of Pakistan harbouring terrorists. Within Pakistan though, except amongst the extremist outfits, there will be relief that a man whose operatives claimed lives in cities everywhere is no more.

Certainly, the astonishing manner in which the operation that resulted in Bin Laden's death – the news of what had happened broke first on Geo TV – leaves us all gasping in astonishment. Bin Laden, and it appears that at least two other persons including a woman, were killed in what the US says was a gun-fight, as helicopters swooped towards the palatial house where he, his guards and some family members apparently lived. This estate stood not in some remote, mountain valley but in a peaceful Abbotabad suburb, only kilometres away from the Kakul Military Academy. The failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of the world's most wanted man here is shocking – though there is still a lack of clarity as to what role, if any, our security and intelligence apparatus played in the whole affair. It is hard to believe that foreign aircraft could have flown so deep into our territory undetected and unanticipated. Delay in any kind of official response only added to the initial confusion, with a Foreign Office spokesperson finally issuing a statement after an emergency meeting at the presidency that the action against Bin Laden had been carried out in line with US policy to go after him anywhere in the world. President Obama has meanwhile spoken of Pakistani cooperation and discussion with President Zardari regarding the operation, and Prime Minister Gilani has described Bin Laden's death as a victory.

Many questions still hang in the air. We may find answers to some of these questions in the near future. Other questions may remain a mystery for far longer. For Islamabad, the whole business is something of an embarrassment. Despite years of fervent denial, Bin Laden has been found on Pakistani soil. And now that the brazen US action in Abbotabad has happened, there may be other attempts to go after key militant figures in different urban centres. The thought is not a comforting one, considered in light of its implications for national sovereignty. Security has been stepped up at US consular buildings and in all cities. There have been reports of sporadic protests – but it is not known if these will expand. A lot may depend on how the operation and Pakistan's role in it are perceived. The Western jubilation we are seeing on our television screens should not distract us from the fact that militancy will continue. It has not died with Bin Laden. Al-Qaeda has, over the years, splintered, and given rise to many other groups. These will continue with their actions; revenge may be attempted – and the dangers we face are, tragically, far from over, even if the killing of Bin Laden delivers a demoralising blow to militants everywhere.









To no nation has fate been more malignant than to Pakistan. Born at midnight as a sovereign, independent, democratic country, today it is not just a "rentier state," or a client state – but a slave state, ill-led, ill-governed by a corrupt, power-hungry junta imposed by Washington. No wonder, the Pakistan dream has morphed into a nightmare. Sad, but true. Our political and military leadership bear collective guilt for the loss of our sovereignty, the loss of our independence, and the dismal fate that hangs over our people.

Today, Pakistan is in total disarray. It looks frozen, with apathy below and paralysis above. Weighed down by abject poverty, income inequality, social injustice, crooked politicians, a carousal of corruption scandals involving the elite, and both the president and the prime minister corrupt to the core, Pakistan has nothing to smile about.

What with drone attacks and the cold-blooded murder of two innocent Pakistanis in Lahore by a CIA agent (now safely back home), we are indeed walking through the Valley of Humiliation. Underlying and aggravating the anxiety generated by such ills is a deep sense of impotence.

Pakistan has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military-installed dictators, political illiterates and carpet-baggers. Today, Pakistan is a nation of teahouse politicians, with no commitment to principles and no values. Here we have pocketbook liberals, pseudo- democrats and orthodox religious leaders concerned only with short-term profit and only too eager to do business with the military. A chasm separates them from most Pakistanis who see them as a predatory group, self-enriching and engaged in perpetual intrigue while the country collapses.

When societies fail to solve the urgent problems that confront them, a terrible package of ills – breakdown of law and order, famine, epidemic, and collapse of state institutions – begins to afflict them, turning stagnation into decline. And when these are joined by centrifugal forces of disruption, decline can turn into the collapse and demise of the state.

One thing is clear. Our corrupt leadership is trapped in a time warp sustained by US power and dollars. Pakistan, an America colony in all but name, is at the beginning of the end and resembles a fading star. A terrible explosion could happen any moment. Food prices are rising; the value of the rupee is dropping sharply; dollars are disappearing from currency exchange shops. It is not a recession, not a depression – it is a mess.

Against the backdrop of such terrible events, the Hayatabad dharna led by Imran Khan against American drone attacks on our soil, offered a respite from the pervasive sense of gloom and doom. Otto Von Bismarck once famously said that political genius entailed hearing the hoof beat of history and then rising to catch the galloping horseman by the coattails. This is exactly what Khan did from April 23-24, to the surprise of friends and foes alike.

At a time when most of our leaders, scared of their own people, are either bunkered or in self-exile abroad, Khan, with an uncanny sense of what the national psyche needs, and against the advice of government and security agencies, announced a two-day open air dharna in Hayatabad against American drone attacks.

He mobilised the people and galvanised them into action. Thousands of people, young and old, men and women from all over KPK and Fata, including some from Punjab, rallied to his call. The atmosphere was celebratory. Exposed to the blazing sun for two days, he spent the night, unarmed and unprotected, on the Khyber road under a starry sky. What impressed the Pakhtuns most was his boundless courage and his readiness to take risks for a good cause. By this simple act of courage, he won the hearts and minds of Pakhtuns all over KPK and beyond.

In contrast with the aging profile of the current political leadership, Khan's supporters are all young. There was something very moving about the young men and women I met at the dharna – so full of fire, curiosity and promise. Khan electrified them. He spoke with buoyancy and hope. His message: No drone attacks. Our aim: A sovereign, independent, corruption-free Pakistan. A wind of change has begun to buffet Pakistan. Change is in the air but little will change until this corrupt regime falls.

There is a generation of young students coming of age in Pakistan that is educated, hard working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also disillusioned, betrayed, defeated and disengaged. We have a responsibility to help them believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future and the future of their country. Can Khan alone can inspire them? Does he have that passion burning within him that will unleash youth power and set the nation alight? He will lance the poisoned carbuncle and clean the country of all the mess? That is for sure.

One thing is clear – youth anger is on the rise in Pakistan. Young people have slender prospects of finding jobs, or building a prosperous future for themselves. Unemployment rates even among the educated are as high as 80 percent in some areas. Few can travel. Emigration is a frustrating dream. Things are made worse by cronyism and corruption. Frustration is brimming over.

In these harsh and difficult political times, the question of character is at the centre of our national concerns. Of late, in Pakistan, the question of leadership has come to the fore and the quality of governance has been held up to ridicule. What is the secret to long-term success? For a person, party or nation, the element essential to success is character. "Fame is a vapour, popularity an accident," wrote Horace Greeley, "riches take wing, and only character endures."

If a president or a prime minister has credibility and integrity and if he is believable, nothing else matters. But, as is the case in our country today, if he has no credibility and no integrity and there is a gap between what he says and what he does, nothing else matters and he cannot govern.

We live in a profoundly precarious country. The current course of events is unacceptable. But the good news is, we are finally uniting and beginning to channel this anxiety into action. If young people in particular, take to the streets – as they have in other countries and as they have in the past in this country, in defence of our core institutions, things will change. The status quo will shift, corrupt rulers will crumble, and people will once again believe in the power of the powerless. The long nightmare will be over. It will be morning once again in Pakistan.

The political momentum now rests entirely with the people. They can smell the march of their own power. At last, people have found their life mission, something to fight for, something to die for: fighting dictatorship, military or civilian. They have also found the tool to achieve this mammoth task – street demonstrations and dharnas. It is time now for our men and women to assert themselves. Tomorrow will be too late.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:,






The killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is indeed a triumph in the global war against terrorism, but for Pakistan its implications should be more a cause for concern than relief. The mere fact that Bin Laden was holed inside a luxury compound in Abbottabad not very far from the Pakistan Military Academy should be seen as a massive security lapse.

For how long had Bin Laden and his aides been using this plush compound, surrounded by 18-feet high walls and barbed wire, as a hiding place? Why did such a big compound, which was without a telephone or internet connection, not raise suspicion within the ranks of our intelligence agencies? Who were the Pakistani collaborators of Bin Laden and his gang and how did they manage to secure this property? Why was it the US and not the Pakistani security forces which conducted the raid? And, most importantly, why did the world's most dreaded terrorist gravitate to Pakistan and manage to find a foothold here?

Although details about Bin Laden's last hideout, his final moments, his life in Abbottabad and the raid remain sketchy so far, in the era of Wikileaks and an aggressive media, these facts and the gloss over them are likely to hit us sooner than later.

US president Barrack Obama has certainly talked about Pakistani cooperation in efforts to fight terrorism while announcing the death of America's number one enemy, but Al-Qaeda leader's killing on our soil has given Islamabad's opponents and critics a brush to paint Pakistan black.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already said that the war against terrorism should not be fought in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. New Delhi has expressed concern over the presence in Pakistan of safe havens for terrorists. There are strong lobbies in the West, especially the United States, which have been carrying out a sustained propaganda campaign against the Pakistani armed forces, and the Inter Services Intelligence, accusing them of doublespeak and double games.

It is indeed ironic that Pakistan, which suffered and sacrificed the most because of terrorism, including the deaths of more 30,000 civilians and 5,000 security officials in recent years, is seen as providing sanctuaries to terrorists.

Bin Laden's killing will increase pressure on the country both on the international and domestic fronts. On the international front, there will be an increased pressure now on the civil and military leadership to pursue and strike the local and the Taliban terror network, especially in the country's northern rugged mountainous region, more decisively now. The focus of the war on terror will be on Pakistan more than Afghanistan, which is being portrayed by the Afghan leadership as a victim of militants coming from across the porous frontier.

Both the covert and overt demands of Washington and its allies from Pakistan to do more against militants are all set to become more loud and pressing now.

There also remains a possibility of an increase in US drone attacks and operations against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants following Bin Laden's death, which is likely to create problems for the civil and military leadership.

On the domestic front, there is a huge possibility that Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their shadowy Pakistani sympathisers will try to hit back – just to prove that they still matter and remain a force to reckon with, even without Bin Laden.

Members of the local terror network, which remains intertwined with Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban militants, have the potential to carry out assaults with more vengeance now. To create mayhem and terror, they are likely to go for soft targets more aggressively now, along with selective attacks on the security forces and government officials whom they see as collaborators of the West. In an era of ideological confusion in which sacred Islamic teachings have been misinterpreted, the concept of jihad, or holy war, is distorted by religious fanatics and extremists, and there isn't a dearth of willing recruits.

Legal religious parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and the major factions of the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam, which have a history of keeping mum over the spate of terror attacks within the country, need to show maturity and come out openly to condemn and disown terrorism. This is not the time to ignite emotions but to help the security agencies in getting rid of extremism and terrorism in the country.

The killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan is a big blow to those religious parties and their likeminded politicians who opposed Pakistan's cooperation with the international community in its bid to defeat terrorism. Living in a state of self-denial is not going to help Pakistan's cause. The world is justified in its demand that Pakistani soil should not be used for terrorism against any country or provide shelter to the extremists. This is also the stated policy of successive Pakistani governments. In the country's own enlightened self-interest, there is need to ensure that the state's writ is established across the country and all terror havens are abolished. Our failure to do so will prompt others to go for terrorists as in the case of Bin Laden. This is necessary if Pakistan wants to keep pace with the international community in the 21st century.

Bin Laden's killing on Pakistani soil is indeed a test case for both our civilian and military leadership as to how they handle the pressure and turn this incident into an opportunity to get rid of the twin monsters of terrorism and extremism that have bled Pakistan more than the United States. It is time not just for a more decisive, resolute and determined action against these monster groups on our own but to increase our collaboration with the international community to defeat these groups. It is time to seize the moment.

The writer is business editor, The News. Email:








In my article on April 26, I put forward several recommendations for the forthcoming federal budget. These included shifting the federal budget date from May 28 to June 11, treating expenditure instead of revenue as residual to minimise budgetary slippages, setting next year's revenue target for the FBR between Rs1,765-1,775 billion based on actual collection of Rs1,530 billion this year, bringing agricultural income under direct tax net, implementing RGST, improving withholding tax regime and declaring the forthcoming budget as reform-oriented budget.

In this article, I shall give some more recommendations on taxes and expenditure sides of the budget. Pakistan's petroleum sector is heavily taxed. The Shaukat Tarin effect (depreciation of the exchange rate) has further compounded the difficulties for the people of Pakistan. In the last fiscal year (2009-10), the government collected Rs351 billion from the petroleum sector which amounted to 26.5 percent of total FBR revenue. Such a heavy reliance for taxes on petroleum products is not only damaging the economy but also putting extraordinary strain on the common man.

The oil prices are expected to rise further and with the base of taxation grossly inflated as a result of the Shaukat Tarin effect, the domestic price of petroleum products will go beyond the reach of even the middle class. The government must set up a committee of experts to review the entire taxation structure of the petroleum products. The issues that need to be reviewed include the number of taxes on petroleum products, the rates of taxation, tax on tax, the various commissions and charges. The objective of the reform should be to reduce the burden of taxation on petroleum sector and compensate the loss in revenue by bringing other sectors into tax net. The reform should be the part of tax reform of the next budget.

The provincial tax efforts have been on a regular decline for over two decades. The recent NFC Award has made the provinces even more complacent as they are not pushed to mobilise more resources. Improving provincial tax effort is essential to achieving overall fiscal consolidation. The provincial governments can raise their own resources by improving property tax and stamp duties regime, for which, the valuation tables need to be updated for both urban and rural property transactions. Motor vehicle tax is yet another source of provincial revenue along with the implementation of RGST on services.

Irrational allocation of resources between provincial and federal governments under the new NFC Award has sowed the seeds of perpetual macroeconomic crisis in the country. In the larger interest of maintaining fiscal discipline and saving the new NFC Award, it is absolutely essential that a consensus must be reached on some binding constraints for provinces to generate surpluses before finalising the budget.

Let me turn to the expenditure side. The federal government has very little room for reduction in expenditure. Interest payments (thanks to the unprecedented surge in public debt) and security-related expenditure would consume 75 percent of the FBR revenue. It is therefore essential to review the state of the rotten public-sector enterprises (PSEs). Can we afford to pay over Rs300 billion of taxpayers' money to keep the PSEs afloat, and for how long? Restructuring and changing the board of the PSEs have not worked and will not work going forward. Time has come to offload these institutions even if we get Rs1.0 for each PSE. The government will save Rs300 billion, which can be spent on the voiceless masses of this country.

Circular debt is emerging as a major expenditure item of the budget as well as one of the factors responsible for increased load-shedding in the country. The government has been trying to address this issue with a one-track mind, that is, keep on raising the power tariff. Raising power tariff alone has not worked over the last 13 years and will not work in the future.

How should this issue be addressed? Firstly, the government must stop giving free electricity to Wapda/Pepco employees. Secondly, some of the Wapda's and IPP's plants have become fuel guzzlers. Energy audit of these plants needs to be undertaken to identify inefficient plants with a view to making targeted investment. Thirdly, the CEOs of all the DISCOs must be given line losses targets and their performance must be monitored by a parliamentary committee. Fourthly, Wapda's finance department is weak and its accounts are highly fragile. The recent news about the overcharging of consumers simply suggests that not all is well in Wapda's finance department. Besides auditing Wapda's accounts, the government needs to strengthen its finance department by hiring professionals at market salary. Fifthly, the government must earmark PDL to eliminate circular debt.

The overall budget deficit target for the next year should not be more than 4 percent of GDP. The federal government must not finance any provincial development project, new or on-going, as the provinces will be receiving enormous resources under the NFC Award. The quality of expenditure must be improved by allocating resources towards physical infrastructure and higher education, as health and education (primary and secondary) have been devolved to the provinces.

These reforms are sufficient to transform the forthcoming budget into a reform-oriented budget. What can go wrong in Budget 2011-12? The government does not appear to be ready to implement tax and expenditure reforms as described above. The FBR is not operationally ready to collect income tax from agriculture if it is asked by the provinces to do so. Is the FBR ready to collect the RGST? Has the FBR devised any mechanism to improve withholding tax regime? My information is in the negative. If the FBR's tax collection target is set at Rs1,952 billion, this will simply confirm the non-serious attitude of the finance team. Slippages in the budget will be built-in from day one. All budgetary targets will then become moving targets. I hope and pray that sense will prevail.

The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad.








The American operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed has several implications for the global counterterrorism campaign, Afghanistan and Pakistan. While a significant boost for Obama and his Western allies and a setback for Bin Laden's followers, it is unlikely to deter continuing attacks from his ideological adherents regionally and beyond. It could facilitate America's quasi-withdrawal from Afghanistan and negotiations with all sides, including the Taliban.

There will inevitably be criticism from Afghanistan, India and the Western media as to how Bin Laden was able to install himself undetected in a medium-sized city. That he was able to do this demonstrated Pakistan's failure to counterterrorism. It was perhaps unsurprising that Bin Laden chose to hide not in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he was being sought, but in a city, following Poe's famous maxim that a public hiding space is often the best.

Such criticism is largely unfounded. Pakistan's intelligence cooperation with the United States and the deeply unpopular facilities and access provided constituted the foundation for the intelligence gathering behind this and many previous operations to capture high-level Al Qaeda targets.

On one flank of Pakistan, India rides high on its economic buoyancy and American alliance and loses no opportunity to pressure Pakistan, to the extent of projecting a threatening military capacity even under the nuclear threshold that has kept the peace until now. Despite the resumption of talks, in real terms relations have never been worse. On the other flank Afghanistan's occupation has alienated Pakistan's Pakhtuns who outnumber those in Afghanistan, and fuelled extremism and terrorism in Pakistan, causing multiple attacks against civilians and military throughout the country. Thirty thousand civilians have been killed. One hundred and fifty thousand Pakistani troops are engaged in counterterrorism operations on the Afghan border, more than all the Western troops in Afghanistan. Over 5,000 Pakistani troops and security forces have laid down their lives and more have been wounded. The $85 billion cost to the economy does not provide fiscal space to regroup.

In Pakistan it is a time for reflection. There are many reasons to explain and understand Pakistan's limitations in comparison with its successes. But there is a need to reassess and draw strategic and operational lessons from this current event capturing global imagination. It should lead to internal intelligence restructuring. Pakistan has a number of intelligence agencies and police investigation units but these must work better together. Terrorists, criminals and kidnappers which are increasingly operating across Pakistan must be targeted.

Road checks cannot be effective when colour photocopied IDs are accepted; these must be outlawed. Each checkpoint must be equipped with handheld scanners connected by Wifi to the central national database for verification.

The fact that American helicopters could fly deep into Pakistan from Afghanistan without apparent detection, despite admitted US military stealth and jamming technology, should worry air defence officials and military planners protecting the country's nuclear assets.

Resources have been wasted in setting up additional infrastructure to create counterterrorism strategies. In reality, everyone knows what must be done: overcoming weaknesses in implementation is the key.

When Muslim countries are subjected to internal injustice or external humiliation there is a call to return to the classical and pristine era of Islam. Today in Pakistan the Taliban claim they stand for equity and quick justice which they compare to the state's inefficient delivery, law-and-order breakdown, lack of respect for the rule of law, and impunity of those with power and resources.

With governance shortfalls and stagnating economic activity, such extremist appeals will continue to attract an increasingly marginalised and impatient population. The only option for Pakistan is to improve governance, particularly law and order, and concentrate on education and infrastructural projects, which will generate job opportunities. A mindset change is needed without damaging national security.

On the Afghan border it's time to fence it despite its length, the terrain, and Afghan objections. Afghanistan can't have it both ways, decrying cross-border infiltration yet opposing normal border controls. With India, Pakistan must make it plain that it can tackle terrorism more effectively if India follows up with action on its political protestations of wanting better relations and a stable and prosperous South Asia.

Internally Pakistan needs to work for progressively reducing its military and economic reliance on the United States to counter what will now be increasing US demands for more drone strikes, American intelligence presence, and cross-border operations.

Pakistan can come out of this stronger if it takes the right steps.

The writer is a retired Pakistani diplomat.







The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

Faced with a stalemate in negotiations for a treaty banning the production of bomb making nuclear material, Western nations led by the United States are now contemplating taking these talks outside the Conference on Disarmament (CD). This would be a risky course to take and with little guarantee of success.

The United Nation's CD in Geneva is the world's sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament and it is in this 65-nation forum where discussions on major treaties including the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty were successfully concluded.

The latest indication of such a move has come from a well-informed New York Times editorial titled 'Time for Plan B'. The 21 April editorial lamented that the effort to negotiate a Fissile Material Control Treaty (FMCT) in the CD was getting nowhere due to Pakistan's opposition and urged the need for 'a new approach'. It pointed to discussions the Obama Administration had started with Britain, France and others on negotiating a ban outside the CD. Citing the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions and the 1997 Landmine Treaty as precedents to take talks out of the conference, it endorsed following a similar course for a fissile material ban.

This is not the first signpost to consideration of such plans. In her speech to the CD in late February, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton warned that if the deadlock continued "then the US is determined to pursue other options". This was followed by the UN Secretary General's statement that any negotiations outside the UN would undermine the CD and its objectives. But that doesn't rule out such actions in the future.

Modest efforts to test the ground in this regard have been taken by Ban ki Moon himself. Last year he convened a high level meeting on the FMCT in New York to mobilise a consensus outside the CD. This did not make much headway.

Then in February this year Australia and Japan convened an 'Experts Side Event on FMCT Definitions' in Geneva to initiate informal discussions on aspects of the treaty. China and several other countries stayed away on the grounds that the event lacked wider, more relevant participation. Pakistan did not participate and criticised the event as an initiative to "undermine the CD", while other countries including India and Iran made it clear they regarded the proceedings as non-binding and as neither a negotiation nor a pre-negotiation.

The outcome of these decidedly more modest efforts says something about the viability of a Plan B on the FMCT. Whether the thinly veiled threats to take negotiations 'elsewhere' is a way to intensify pressure on Pakistan and try to isolate it or an alternative path that is being explored, it represents a deeply flawed approach that will be counter-functional to Washington's own objectives.

This is so for many reasons. First, the so-called precedent of negotiations on Cluster Munitions, Landmines or an Arms Trade Treaty – concluded outside the UN – is misleading, even spurious. These negotiations entailed groups of like-minded nations coming together to curb the kind of armaments that most countries can easily manufacture. So assembling the largest number of countries made sense even if the US, Russia and China are still not a party to these agreements.

The aim of the FMCT is to end fissile material production by the nuclear weapon states. The treaty would be meaningful only if all eight nuclear weapon powers (P5 plus the three non-NPT countries) are a part of it. Nations that have signed on to the NPT are already committed to the FMCT in practical terms. But if Pakistan or any of the other non-NPT nuclear states stay out of negotiations the very objective of an FMCT is defeated. This is also because the US, France, Britain and Russia have already suspended fissile material production while China has an undeclared moratorium.

Without Pakistan, India and Israel may also stay away from any parallel process. This will increase the likelihood of China and Russia also keeping out and if Iran and North Korea don't join either, the negotiations will turn out to be worthless.

Shifting negotiations to another venue would also set a precedent for taking other CD core agenda items outside the UN. Apart from the FMCT, the CD's present agenda includes a Nuclear Disarmament Convention, Negative Security Assurances for non-nuclear states and Prevention of an Arm Race in Outer Space. The US and its allies are blocking serious talks on all three issues in the CD. Threats to bypass the CD on the FMCT can also lead to efforts by other nations to take any of these core agenda items to parallel forums.

Moreover any attempt to transfer the FMCT negotiations to another forum would leave the UN's disarmament machinery permanently damaged, quite apart from denuding that effort of the legitimacy and credibility that only a UN process confers.

Behind the rhetoric of pursuing 'other options' lurk many uncertainties. The US and its allies cannot be sure they will be able to control the proceedings in a parallel process that will not have the consensus rule to protect their interests. Open-ended discussions in an alternative venue might become difficult to manage. Nor is there, as yet, any clarity or agreement on what mechanism would be a viable alternative to the CD. For these reasons, efforts to find 'other options' have fizzled out before.

The answer to the present impasse in the CD is not to circumvent the established and legitimate multilateral disarmament process but insure that the FMCT negotiations take into account the security concerns of all states and not just the priorities of the powerful few. The problem does not lie in the CD's rule of consensus that is being singled out for criticism by some Western nations. It lies squarely in the ongoing effort to push through a proposed treaty that undermines the security of a member state – Pakistan.

Whether negotiations proceed inside the CD or outside, in its present form the FMCT is unacceptable to Pakistan, which will continue to press its objections against what it sees as a discriminatory instrument. Since talks on the FMCT resumed in 2009, Pakistan's envoy to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, has vigorously articulated the country's reservations about a treaty that aims only at prohibiting future fissile material production.

Without the treaty taking into account the asymmetry in existing fissile material stocks the imbalance between Pakistan and India would be frozen, leaving Pakistan at a permanent strategic disadvantage. As currently envisaged the FMCT obliges Pakistan to accept a limit on its deterrent capability, which does not apply to India because of the preferential treatment it has received.

As a series of meetings of Pakistan's National Command Authority have signalled, the West's nuclear exceptionalism for India and the special treatment it has been accorded by the Nuclear Supplies Group will further accentuate the asymmetry in fissile material stockpiles to the detriment of Pakistan's security interests.

With India having been provided the means to escape the ban on additions to fissile material stocks – by the assured supply of civilian nuclear fuel that frees up its domestic production to be diverted for weapons use – the treaty as currently configured would place Pakistan at an enduring strategic disadvantage.

Unless Pakistan's legitimate security concerns are addressed and a level nuclear playing field created any expectation that Islamabad will yield to pressure or efforts at diplomatic isolation will not materialise. Countries sign up to international agreements when their fundamental interests are accommodated and treaties accord non-discriminatory treatment to its signatories. This is the ineluctable principle that forms the basis of all arms control or disarmament instruments and that guides the negotiating behaviour of states, big or small, strong or vulnerable.

Pakistan is likely to agree only to a treaty predicated on the principle of equal and undiminished security of all states.







Described by some as the 'world's most wanted man' Osama bin Laden died of a bullet to the head during a firefight with US Navy SEALS at the compound he occupied in Abbottabad. He was killed less than a thousand yards from one of our premier military academies and in a town that is militarised almost like no other in the country.

Four American helicopters ferried in the troops that carried out the raid, one was destroyed on the ground by its crew because of technical failure and there are no reports of American casualties. One of Bin Laden's sons were killed as was a woman said to be used as a human shield during the fight. He is reported to have been buried at sea in order to conceal his last resting place and prevent it becoming a place of pilgrimage.

The BBC reports that the Saudi Arabians were asked to take his body but that they refused – hardly surprising given the antipathy between Bin Laden and the Saudis. These are the bare facts as we know them, and the detail will emerge in coming days. Is this interesting? Undoubtedly. But is it important in the wider scheme of the conflicts now playing out? Almost certainly not.

For the American people this will bring a sense of closure. The killing or capture of Osama bin Laden has been high in the mind of just about every American since 9/11. This was in every sense personal for the Americans and many will doubtless rejoice as the crowds that quickly gathered at the White House and Ground Zero in New York are testimony to. But Osama bin Laden had ceased to have any operational role with al-Qaeda years ago, he commanded no forces in the field and his organisation had been reduced – locally – to a shadow of its former self. Al-Qaeda has become a global terror franchise, and its various arms have long since lost physical connection with ObL. However, he was the ideological backbone that has spawned a patchwork of terrorist units in a number of countries and it remains to be seen if his death will affect their ability to operate – but it is doubtful.

What the operation does raise is a host of questions for our government, which apart from an ambiguous statement from the foreign office has been largely silent. A careful reading of the FO statement indicates that we were told about the raid after it happened and that we seem to have had little or no foreknowledge of it. The statement also suggests that the Americans acted unilaterally in accordance with their policy of hunting and striking against ObL wherever he was in the world.

That he was living in the heart of the military and intelligence establishment of a country that has denied any possibility of him being within its borders almost as often as the accusation is made; practically beggars belief. Unsurprisingly, the Afghan President Karzai was almost gloating in his comments about the incident, with a finger-wagging 'I told you so' feel to it. Is the world a safer place now that he is gone? No. The conflicts that he was midwife to will continue, perhaps for many years; including here in Pakistan. But what his death may do is provide the Americans with a sense of 'job done' in Afghanistan and in the wider game hasten their regional exit. History is never going to forget Osama bin Laden. He has no obvious successor and we can but hope we never see his like again.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:








IN a dramatic announcement early Monday morning, US President announced that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in Pakistan in a firefight with United States forces. The most significant development of the year establishes once again that the sole super power has all the resources and capabilities to take revenge whenever it so decide. It is rightly said about the US that it has memory of an elephant and as President Obama stated that it was his direction to the CIA when he took the office to keep the arrest of Osama live or dead as top most priority.

A most confident looking Obama from the appearance of his body language disclosed that American military and CIA operatives had finally killed Osama bin Laden in a targeted operation declaring that justice has been done. Bin Laden, the scion of a wealthy Saudi family, was an enemy of the United States long before 9/11. He was believed to have directed the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Dar-us-Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya and the attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000. He was also accused of involvement in other attacks, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, failed plots to kill President Clinton and the Pope, and attacks on American troops in Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

According to the US President a small team of Americans forces had killed bin Laden and took custody of his body. He disclosed that the original intelligence about his whereabouts had been provided to him last August and that he had authorised the operation last week. His wording and mention of Leon Panetta, the CIA director, strongly suggested that CIA operatives, possibly working with US Special Forces troops, crossed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and killed the al-Qaeda leader in Hollywood movies style. Bin Laden was killed in a compound deep in Abbotabad along with other family members after actionable intelligence about his whereabouts was received. The killing of OBL will further break the back of Al-Qaeda as already scores of its operatives were either killed or arrested in Pakistan and the latest development will bring the war on terrorism to an end and the process of US exit from Afghan will also hasten. Mr Obama thanked Pakistan for its assistance in the operation as earlier the US President spoke to President Asif Ali Zardari who agreed with the operation. This, we fear, will add fuel to the fire because those in Pakistan who are extremely critical of Government's role in war on terror and the followers of OBL not only in Pakistan but in the Muslim countries will also go for revenge and the country will further suffer if there is increase in acts of terrorism. Anyhow the next 48 hours will set the direction for the months and years to come. Therefore we would suggest the Pakistani Government to put on red alert our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to ward off any violent reaction from the militants.






AS different quarters are viewing joining of the hands by PPP and PML (Q) through their own political microscope, the fact remains that if the arrangement succeeds the real beneficiary will be the democratic system itself and would be a tribute to the sagacity of the leadership of the two parties. Therefore, we hope both PPP and PML (Q) would focus on implementation of the deal in letter and in spirit so that they are able to deliver in the remaining two years.

Details that have so far emerged of the PPP-Q League deal speak of the five points on which the two parties have agreed, which are apparently aimed at improving the governance and putting the economy back on track, but PML (N) leader Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has pointed out that the partnership between the two parties was unlikely to benefit the people as it is motivated by personal and party interests. Some other quarters too have criticised it describing the deal as an unprincipled alliance aimed at immunising leadership of the PPP and PML (Q) against corruption. In our view, reconciliation has been the buzzword in the politics of Pakistan during the last three years and PPP's alliances with PML (N), MQM, ANP and JUI (F) were efforts directed by the desire to take all stakeholders along so as to ensure continuity of the system. Therefore, the latest move to enlist support of the PML (Q) is in line with that policy and would surely help strengthen the democratic process. Otherwise too, even PML (N) which is the real and genuine opposition, is not so far willing to demand any snap polls. PPP-Q handshake once again highlights the fact that the political parties of the countries are now behaving maturely and distancing themselves from the politics of 90s that were marked by agitations, long and short marches and shouting matches in assemblies. It is good that almost everyone wants the government to complete its constitutionally mandated five years but we would emphasise the fact that democracy itself is not the goal. Democracy means a system that responds to the aspirations of the people, which unfortunately has not yet happened in Pakistan and therefore, we expect that with the joining of the government by experienced stalwarts of PML (Q) authorities would be able to concentrate on resolution of the problems of the people and economic challenges confronting the country.







THOUGH initially NATO leadership made loud claims that targeting Libyan leader Moammer Kadhafi or toppling of his government was not their mandate and that their operation in that country was restricted to enforcement of no-fly zone as mandated by the UN but no one believed their hollow claims and Sunday's gruesome murder of Kadhafi's youngest son and three grandchildren in air strike has exposed real intentions of the aggressors.

The strike apparently aimed at killing the Libyan leader is the worst example of misuse of the authority manoeuvred from UN and state-sponsored terrorism. Enforcement of no-fly zone doesn't mean sanction to drop bombs on the leadership and people and systematic destruction of infrastructure of the country. In fact, this is in line with the stated US policy of regime change and also reminds the world community of 1986 bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi by US Air Force in which Hanna, daughter of Col Kadhafi, was also martyred. This is the conduct of those who champion the cause of human rights and we agree to the analysis of the Libyan Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim that the incident was manifestation of law of jungle that the US-led NATO is enforcing on smaller and weaker nations. In fact, countries with colonial background and mindset achieved progress and prosperity through loot and plunder of wealth of third world countries and they are unable to digest the reality of independent and sovereign states and are once again on a campaign to control their natural resources. It is also astonishing that UN and human rights organisations are maintaining criminal silence over brutal conduct of NATO forces, which amounts to overstepping their mandate.









Addressing the second Yaum-e-Shuhada ceremony in General Headquarters Rawalpindi, the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani asserted that Pakistan was destined to move towards prosperity but the nation's honor and integrity will not be compromised to achieve this objectives. He was candid in stating that "Pakistan was today going through the most tumultuous times in its history but we should not let ourselves overcome by frustration and pessimism". His firm resolve would frustrate those who, day in and day out, try to create fear in the minds of the people that if America and the IMF stop their aid and loans, Pakistan could default bringing the economy to grinding halt. But the collapse is not imminent as is being projected by them. With foreign exchange reserves more than $17 billion, and remittances from expatriate Pakistanis to the tune of $10 billion in a year, Pakistan does not need IMF loan, and in fact Pakistan should politely say no to the IMF. Of course, Pakistan will face problems when the repayment of IMF installment would start.

Pakistanis very well remember that America always ditched Pakistan after achieving its objectives. In May 1988, the USSR started withdrawing from Afghanistan, and in October 1990 as soon as the Soviet forces' withdrawal was completed, U.S. cut off aid to Pakistan under Pressler Amendment because of its nuclear weapons program. Earlier, aid flowed in because the US president used to certify, under Section 620-E (e) of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of Pressler Amendment which was made in August 1985, that Pakistan did not possess nuclear device. In February 1996, the US President signed into law the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, which included provisions that relax restrictions on economic assistance to Pakistan and permitted a one-time release of $368 million in military hardware ordered by Pakistan prior to the aid cutoff. After Pakistan's detonation of nuclear devices in May 1998, the US stopped all economic and military aid to Pakistan. But Pakistan could manage its economy and complete development of nuclear device after the US slapped sanctions under Pressler law in 1990.

Pakistan indeed has the resilience, capacity and resources to face such challenges, and the elected government, armed forces and the people of Pakistan are ready to sacrifice anything to defend its sovereignty and honour. It is only the matter of setting the priorities right and taking remedial measures. For example, Pakistan's ration of tax to GDP is 9 per cent which is even less than many African countries. Therefore, Pakistan has to tax the rich and control the tax evasion of more than Rs. 500 billion in addition to the losses around Rs. 400 billion incurred by government-owned enterprises like Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan Airlines etc. Political leadership has taken steps for austerity and it is hoped that it will control corruption and wastages, which will help reduce the fiscal deficit. Trade deficit could be reduced through banning the import of luxury items and plugging in revenue theft due to smuggling. Pakistan should not rely on the US and so-called Friends of Pakistan (FoP), who had pledged US$5.28 bn for cash-strapped Pakistan in Tokyo ministerial meeting, and did not honour their commitments.

According to conservative estimates, Pakistan has suffered a loss of $46 billion directly and indirectly since its joining the war on terror. And there is a perception that Pakistan is in dire economic straits only because it became a frontline state during Afghan war in 1980s in the first place. It was mainly due to Pakistan's cooperation and help that Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the Soviet Union disintegrated and the US emerged as a sole super power. It was indeed the responsibility of the international community to help Pakistan overcome the financial crunch to enable it to effectively fight militants and terrorists and also ensure safe route for supplies to US and NATO forces. One does not understand that why the IMF was brought in for monitoring Friends of Pakistan's loans or grants. Ahead of the conference the International Monetary Fund IMF had said: "Pakistan must focus on reforming its tax system and lowering inflation to restore its economy, but political instability is a key risk to growth". But the perception of political uncertainty was not correct, as the elected government was in place.

Anyhow, Pakistan and the IMF had signed $7.6 billion loan in November 2008, which was increased to $11.3 billion. The IMF had then said: "The regular monitoring of the economy will show how the macroeconomic objectives set by the government are being met and whether they need to be adjusted in the light of changing circumstances". The package was aimed at restoring the confidence of domestic and foreign investors with a tightening of fiscal and monetary policies, while maintaining social stability through targeted spending. Anyhow, the reduction in fiscal deficit was somewhat achieved primarily by phasing out energy subsidies, better-prioritising development spending and implementing tax policy and tax administration reforms suggested by the IMF. The conditionalities are hurting Pakistan, as increase in interest rate by the State Bank of Pakistan and enhancing electricity tariff has resulted into cost-push inflation, adversely impacting the people and also making Pakistani exports uncompetitive in the world market.

There is news of some sinister being played around Pakistan. Having failed in achieving any of its objectives in Afghanistan, the US administration is appointing former Director Leon Panetta as Defence Secretary replacing Robert Gates. Commander in Afghanistan General David Patraeus will be taking over as chief of the CIA. Already, there are stories in American media that David Patreaus will fight a third war in Pakistan after Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a war of attrition also. But COAS Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has already made his intent known that Pakistan will not buckle under any pressure to do America's bidding, and all decisions would be taken keeping in view the interest of the nation. Of course, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have understood the American game plan. Therefore, our civil and military leadership seems to be on the same page. And General Kayani's views expressed at the ceremony of second Yaum-i-Shauhada reflect entire nation's views. This is the time that the government needs stability and armed forces need the backing of the people to meet the challenges.

However, PML-N leaders like Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Saad Rafiq and even Sharifs have been accusing military and the ISI for interfering in politics. On the basis of rumours that technocrats' set up is being considered, they started shooting from the hip. Now, they are blaming the military and ISI for the reconciliation between the PPP and the PML-Q. In fact, it is injudicious and flawed policies of the PML-N leaders that they stand isolated today. Kamran Khan a leading anchorperson said the other day that he talked to Mian Nawaz Sharif, who told him that he would not like to be at the helm if he is not allowed to take decisions on foreign policy and security matters. Mian Sahib is having an illusion that after Quaid-e-Azam he is the most respected leader in Pakistan. The situation today is that the PML-N is nowhere in Balochistan and even Sindh, and only insignificant presence in NWFP. The problem is that the PML-N leaders consider themselves as self-righteous and the rest as cheats and fraud. The result is they all hate them.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.







Landscape of Balochistan has absorbing peculiarities. Province is spread over more than 45 percent of Pakistan's total area, and is inhabited y by less than 5 percent of Pakistan's population. Roughly half of the population is ethnic Baluch; remaining half comprises Pukhtuns and settlers from other provinces. Means to travel are meagre, deficient infrastructure distorts the time and space conception. Water is a scarce commodity. Population is concentrated in urban centres and secluded rural clusters, leaving large stretches of land uninhabited. Media access is limited; hence information vacuum is promptly filled by rumour mongers. People of Baluchistan are one of the poorest communities of Pakistan with lowest Human Resource Development indicators like literacy, employment rates, life expectancy etc. Political process follows an interesting profile. Tribal Chieftains (Sardars) share the economic and political spoils in a musical chair pattern; those left out of power grabbing spree make it a point to shout foul. Political appeasement is order of the day. Generally all members of the provincial assembly are ministers. Out of 92 Sardars in Baluchistan, only three have been persistently anti-establishment. To reinforce their position of authority in respective fiefdoms, majority of Chieftains block literacy, health and infrastructure related development projects; generally they make it a precondition for their cooperation with the establishment; more often then not they are obliged.

Baluchistan has a long history of political unrest bordering armed resistance; overwhelming majority of ethnic Baluch groups advocate greater autonomy and a handful of dissidents wish cession. A series of incidents and broken pledges have eroded Baluchistan's trust in the federal government. In November 2009, federal government attempted to address Baluch grievances about economic and political deprivation by coming forth with a package of laws: "Aghaz-e-Huqooq-i-Baluchistan" (Beginning of Restoration of Rights of Baluchistan). However, implementation has been rather slow. Likewise, measures like 7th National Finance Commission Award and 18th Constitutional Amendment are pertinent corrective steps, but are lacking requisite speed for follow-up actions.

Amnesty international has recently called upon the government of Pakistan to immediately account for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Baluchistan attributed to government forces in recent months. Relatives of victims and dissident groups blame the "kill and dump" incidents on Pakistani security forces, particularly the Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies. Security forces deny the charges, claiming that these deaths are a result of intra-tribe and inter-tribe rivalries as well as competitive struggle amongst various militant groups and feuds arising out of sectarian prejudices. Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Director said, "Baluch armed groups must also avoid endangering civilians…The apparent targeting of civilians, teachers and government officials by Baluch groups, has forced many of them to flee the province, which only worsens conditions for the already poorly-served Baluch people." Baluch armed groups have claimed responsibility for a series of bombings on gas infrastructure, causing an acute shortage of fuel for cooking and heating throughout the province during the previous winters.

Baluchistan holds the largest single source of domestic energy reserves in Pakistan, but Baluch groups argue these resources disproportionately benefit other provinces and ethnic communities. Primacy of right of the Baluch people over native natural resources should be accepted and respected. Ineffective governance and corruption in various development projects is a major cause of trust deficit. The real issue is how to ensure efficient and transparent implementation of development and political initiatives. Baluch people are development friendly, they yearn for peace. Even small scale projects like installations of water hand pumps, digging of tube wells, addressing problem of sanitation and health etc can help calm the tempers.

State of affairs of education facilities in Baluch-majority areas is worrisome; Pushtuns and settlers are far ahead in education. Recent conversion of a military cantonment in Sui into a college, Chamalang Education Programme, and Gwadar Institutes of Technical Education, are initiatives in the right course, provided these do not get bogged down. Representatives of Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Lushker-e-Baluchistan (LeB) have stepped up their overseas liaison activities in London, including meetings with British officials as well as American and Indian diplomats. Recently a group of anti-Pakistan Baluch and Sindhi elements gathered in front of the US embassy in London and demanded foreign intervention in Baluchistan.

'Human Rights Watch' has recently stated that covert hands support insurgency in Baluchistan through safe havens provided to the militants in different countries to destabilize Pakistan. Government of Baluchistan in exile has it's headquarter in Jerusalem; Baluchistan Legal fund (BLF) is Washington based. America considers Baluchistan as a vital ingredient of her covert strategy of getting control of Asia for obtaining access in Central Asian region, encircling Iran, containing China and restraining Pakistan from developing Gwadar port. While the US is broadly committed to the general 'stabilization' of Pakistan, it does have a vested interest in delaying projects that would establish a Chinese strategic presence in the region. Thus the US seeks to keep Baluchistan perpetually destabilized through low grade, violence.

Besides America, there are other countries which provide platforms to anti-Pakistan Baluch elements. Baluch activists and rebellious leaders are being liberally granted asylums in the UK; facilities of Indian visa are always forthcoming to the dissident leaders. Khan of Kalat and Harbayar Marri operate from Britain and America, Brahamdagh is pegged in Switzerland. Indian consulates on Afghan territory, bordering Baluchistan, are operating in a high gear in the context of training, arming and financing the separatist elements. A networking of CIA-RAW can be discerned in most of the clandestine operations in Baluchistan. Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), and Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi organise seminars and conferences in which select dissident Baluch leaders are invited to malign Pakistan. Some of these gatherings are a closed door activity, headed by former high ranking officails from RAW and Indian military.

Covert Indian subversive activities against Pakistan and Iran have been going-on since long, through Afghan territory. Map of Greater Baluchistan includes Iran's Baluchstan-Sistan province as well. Similarly Afghan areas adjoining Pakistani border are also envisaged as part of Greater Baluchistan. Islamabad, Tehran and Kabul need to put their act together to thwart such developments. Situation in Baluchistan is being grossly over-projected by the dissidents from the platforms provided to them by foreign countries. Though wide spread, Baluch insurgency does not present an existential threat to Pakistan's integrity. Low population density and poor communication infrastructure make Baluchistan an unsuitable territory for waging a victorious insurgency; however, by same token, effective counterinsurgency campaign is also a nightmare. Pinprick stalemate is the likely outcome.

Nevertheless, ensuing suffering of a common man in Baluchistan is a serious dimension warranting immediate attention. Solution to the Baluchistan problem has to be a political one, comprehensive enough to cover all the aspects of the issue. Piecemeal appeasement will not lead to sustainable calm; rather it may embolden the separatists. Prompt defogging of the mystery surrounding the issue of missing persons would trigger enormous Baluch good will towards military and political leadership.

—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.








The creation of independent arbitration courts under Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Bill is a step backward not "a giant leap forward" as spun by the government. It is going to protect foreign investors at the cost of public and national interests. Pakistan runs according to its Constitution not international bodies. Even in America, the state supreme courts and federal courts have commercial divisions dealing with commerce and trade issues. Why should Pakistan be having arbitration courts separated from judiciary for settling disputes between the states and nationals of other countries? In view of the media reports that state supreme courts in America are protecting big business, Pakistan's Supreme Court needs review the bill in national and public interests

The Bill was peddled on the pretext that since Islamabad had already signed and ratified the international convention on settlement of investment disputes between the states and foreigners therefore separate courts are necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pakistan's judiciary is fully qualified to discharge all kinds of judicial matters including arbitration of FDI cases. A large number of local lawyers and judges have requisite experience and foreign qualifications. Our existing courts can undertake the task within the existing system and to avoid problems concerned ministries may run short courses for all concerned to handle foreign investors' disputes.

The establishment of such "fast courts" outside country's judicial system is unworkable on multiple counts. The refusal of MD of foreign owned electric company to appear before concerned Senate committee is case in point. The foreigners will circumvent accountability to the lawmakers and in turn taxpayers and the public. Since business infrastructure has been developed with public's tax money, therefore foreign and local investors must follow existing judicial system starting with magistrate. Since, arbitration courts bypass magistrate system therefore they violate country's Constitution and render the bill illegal despite passage from both houses. Furthermore, exclusive courts for foreign and local investors tantamount to a parallel judicial system, which is another violation of the Constitution. Foreign and local investors and the public should be accountable to the same judicial system.

The failure of NAB is a case in point. On pretext of "quick justice", NAB was separated from the so called corrupt judiciary. Once NAB was created it has been left redundant on different pretexts and in the process there is no accountability of the the politicians despite the fact the country's courts are working. Like the NAB, the investors' arbitration courts will also be turned into farce overtime. The fact of the matter is functioning of courts is protected by the Constitution as part of "checks and balance" to keep check on the government of the day. The creation of setups like NAB and arbitration courts outside the administrative controls of judiciary undermines constitution, judicial system and accountability to the public.Unions and workers right to bargain are protected by our Constitution but Capitalism, globalization and multinational companies don't recognized them. The worker wages are stagnant in Europe and America for the last two decades. Permanent jobs have been replaced with contracts to avoid paying pensions and healthcare costs. The employers are using fixed wage system to pay low wages to workers and pocket huge profits and bonuses. Today, the employers are getting 398 times more salary as compared to the workers with no bargain rights. Following a suit filed by the Republicans against Two New Deals in 1930s and US Supreme Court's decision, Roosevelt fixed 7:1 wage ratio of employer and the worker.

It was announced that the liberal incentives package for foreign & local investors and privatization would prove instrumental in attracting FDI and further promote investment climate in the country. It is a flawed policy. Look at England, Germany, Poland, Ireland, India and America itself. The multinational companies have destroyed more jobs than creating them The individual pocket profits and "socialize" losses and leave the states to deal with resultant unemployment, scrapping of pensions and maintenance of aging infrastructure. UK's privatized healthcare system has collapsed, states are unable to pay pension, salaries, jobs, education and healthcare funds. Taxes are being increased and retired and aged people are left without state medical services. Islamabad is already calling for privatization of major healthcare centers, leaving education to public-private partnerships, and primed to impose more taxes. Thus, arbitration courts are a step to facilitate privatization which in turn will increase cost of utilities and add to the already soaring unemployment. The privatization of PTCL and KESC are cases in point. In stark contrast, China's top legislature is planning to increase personal income tax limit of 2000 Yuan per month to 3,000 Yuan. The per capita incomes of China and Pakistan are $4382 and $1050 respectively. Reportedly, 96 percent of China's roads are toll free. Beijing's balanced FDI policy has resulted in huge investments and foreign reserves. China kept its strategic assets including energy, communication, banking, health care and education sectors under state control. Beijing also kept a close eye on the source of FDI. It didn't allow countries and companies with corruption money and poor human rights record to invest in China.

Finally, Pakistan will not prosper with the FDI, leasing of agri-land and privatization of national assets. Instead, Islamabad needs to decrease taxes, nationalize energy sector, introduce land reforms and adopt renewable energy to start domestic consumption based economy. It will promote, expand and sustain small and medium enterprises, which form backbone of national economy. A single rupee circulated in local economy generates sixteen rupees and its removal leaves millions unemployed, destroys national economy and infrastructure. Courts, State Bank and Federal regulators need to end flight of capital from the country to fight corruption, reduce inflation, kick start economy and help end privatization. It would be unwise to expect handful of arbitration courts to change fate of our economy. For that Islamabad will have rely on its people not FDI and the flawed Bill that merits to be scrapped.






Pakistan is a country, where discriminatory laws and violence against the minorities are a major concern, according to Human Rights Watch's (HRW) 21st Annual World Report. The religious demographic of Pakistan is based on a majority of Muslims, who constitute 95% - 97% of the population. The other 3% - 5% consists of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. Recently, there has been an alarming increase in the targeting of these minorities, spread throughout the country. As various nefarious elements incite religious sentiments against these communities, the incidents which could have been considered once to be sporadic, have now turned into a humanitarian crisis. These targeting of minorities by extremist elements, has not been a new concept, but throughout the history of Pakistan there have been numerable instances when these elements, with the help of ignorant masses, have unleashed their wrath on these communities.

Islam is a religion of peace and espouses values of tolerance and coexistence, within the community and with other beliefs. The evident example of this is the Holy Prophet (PBUH.) life in Medina. Medinatul Munawwara which was previously known as Yasrab, was an amalgamation of different faiths, which included Jews and Christians. One of the earliest courses of action of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) was the treaty among the Muslims, non-Muslims and Jews of Medina, to facilitate and encourage peace, unity and coexistence. The accord was in writing and stated, ""Whosoever among the Jews follows us shall have help and equality; they shall not be injured nor shall any enemy be aided against them. The Jews shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs." Through this accord the rights of each community were protected and guaranteed, resulting in a peaceful coexistence of Muslims with other beliefs.

It is stated in Quran "There is no compulsion in religion, the path of guidance stands out clear from error" [2:256] and [60:8]. In a letter when Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) wrote a letter to the people of Scripture in Yemen, he said, "…and a Jew or a Christian who embraces Islam becomes one of the believers, having their rights and duties; and the one who remains Jewish or Christian should not be forced to disband his religion.." Ibn Kathir: Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyah, 5/146. He forbid clearly from committing any wrong doings against people belonging to other beliefs. He said, "Beware, if anyone wrongs a contracting man (a non-Muslim protected by the state or an agreement), or diminishes his right, or forces him to work beyond his capacity, or takes from him anything without his consent, I shall plead for him on the Day of Judgment." narrated by Abu-Dawud, chapter of Al-Kharaj (tribute) (3052). The above clearly shows how much rights and privileges Islam has given to the people, belonging to other beliefs. The most significant right in this regard is the freedom of belief, stated in Quran and Hadith.

Today in the prevailing social scenario of Pakistan, these values and teachings have been forgotten and replaced with hatred. Although Muhammad Ali Jinnah put it bluntly that, "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State." This message has been lost through time and the continuous conspiring of nefarious elements with vested interests, seems to have prevailed. After 64 years of independence, it is distressing to see that Jinnah's vision of Pakistan where all ethnic and religious groups coexist peacefully, striving to develop Pakistan, has been shattered. Instead, we find a country where there is intolerance among people of the same faith.

The massive influx of extremist influence into the society can be traced back to the 1980s, where the regime of General Zia ul Haq openly promoted religion as a political tool. It is evident that these elements were pouncing on opportunities to attain limelight, since the early 1950s. The communal riots in the 1950s and 1970s are evidence, to the presence of these elements, under the surface of the social fabric. The ignorance of people regarding, true Islamic teachings, has been exploited by these elements for their own political and personal interests. The situation has become extremely tense, after the start of the war on terror. Over the years, these extremist sections have become strong and are increasing their demands day by day. The section of society that has been in their crosshairs is the religious minority communities.

An initiative by every citizen of Pakistan is required, to stop the alienation of the religious minorities, taking place. The government will have to address the situation at a policy level and take steps to ensure the rights of these communities. Hate speech and exploitation of masses under the garb of religion, will also have to be stopped. A combined effort is required by everyone to bring these communities back into the mainstream Pakistani identity. Their apprehensions should be addressed and they should be treated as an equal citizen. This will not only represent Islam's message of coexistence and peace but will also form an exemplary social structure, for the whole world and fulfill the Quaid's dream of a prosperous and peaceful Pakistani state.









You are a father right, or maybe a mother, who reads this column today, are you providing right, for your family? Oh yes, you say, I earn well, I care well, so I provide well! Last week a friend called telling me the daughter he'd sent to the US was now shacking up with a married man, "How could she do that?" he cried, and I remembered a house where everyday the husband and wife fought over every trivial issue, "How couldn't she do that!" I asked myself quietly.

A lady bought a parrot to keep herself company, but she returned to the shop the next day saying, "This bird doesn't talk!" "Does he have a mirror in the cage?" asked the shop owner, "Parrots love mirrors!" The next day she returned. The bird still wasn't talking, "How about a ladder? Parrots love little ladders in their cage, a happy parrot is a talkative parrot!" said the shop owner and so the lady bought a ladder and took it home. But the next day she was back with the same complaint, and the shop owner this time recommended a swing, saying that parrots love to swing and once he was swinging away he would start talking.When she walked in the next day, her countenance had changed, "The parrot died!" she said quietly. The pet owner was shocked, "I am so sorry," he said, "tell me did he say anything before he died?" "Yes," said the woman, "In a very weak voice he said, 'don't they sell any food in that pet store?" "Yes," I feel like asking my friend, "Shouldn't you have been giving love to your child at home?"

Sometimes we forget what is really important for our loved ones, we get so caught up in giving them good toys, good holidays, a chauffeur driven car, a lot of pocket money, a motorbike, fancy clothes, computer games, the latest mobile phones, I-pods and I- pads, that we forget to feed them what they really need. What my friend should have given his child should have been a home where she saw love and affection, instead of hate and anger, fighting and daily quarrels.

Maybe some of you work late and come back tired, and day after day goes with hardly any personal contact with your children, what is lacking is not money, but love. Well you have to make a choice or you may one day hear something like what the bird said, before it died, " Don't they sell any food in your pet store?" Couldn't you give me love mother, instead of all those swings and ladders and mirrors? I hope you never hear those words..!








Almost 10 years ago, in a cataclysmic moment, the world changed for the worse.

Osama bin Laden's unimaginably evil vision for a faith-based global conflagration became a reality in the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001. With a clear-eyed perspective on those events and their consequences, The Australian unambiguously welcomes the elimination of bin Laden by American forces in Pakistan on Sunday. Bin Laden, the founder and leader of the terrorist group al-Qa'ida, was infamous primarily as the man who conceived those September attacks.

The world's worst terrorist assault, since known by the American shorthand for the date of 9/11, killed almost 3000 victims including 10 Australians. In an unspeakably sinister plot, inspired and bankrolled by bin Laden and masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qa'ida operatives overpowered and murdered the pilots and crew of four passenger airliners, flying the fully fuelled jets into both the World Trade Centre towers, triggering their collapse, and into the Pentagon building in Washington. Passengers on the fourth jet bravely struggled with the hijackers, forcing the plane to crash and preventing it hitting another target, probably the Capitol or the White House. None of the passengers or crew of any of the jets survived and, of the 2752 people killed at the World Trade Centre, 403 were police and firefighters who had rushed to the scene to rescue others.

The horror unleashed on 9/11 reverberated around the globe and stung an angry and united America into action. No one man in modern history, operating outside the apparatus of a nation state, has been able to inflict such widespread terror and harm upon civilisation. Bin Laden's twisted interpretation of Islamic jihad has fomented Islamic extremism in many countries, including our own. Hundreds of people in London, Madrid, Istanbul, Saudi Arabia and other nations have been killed in attacks attributable to al-Qa'ida or other groups linked to this rabid extremism. Closer to home, al-Qa'ida's regional franchise, Jemaah Islamiyah, executed the 2002 bombings in Bali which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

This scourge of terrorism unleashed and inspired by bin Laden has led to wars, forced dramatic revisions to security arrangements and even prompted changes in geo-political alignments. The al-Qa'ida leader was quickly identified as the instigator of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan was launched as a direct response because he was known to be using the Taliban regime as a haven. Bin Laden was seen as the prize target of US and Coalition operations in Afghanistan but managed to avoid being killed or captured. Until now. The Afghan war has cost tens of thousands of lives, including more than 2000 Coalition soldiers, 23 Australians among them, and bin Laden's elusiveness has been a constant frustration. His demise will provide a morale boost for Afghan and Coalition troops continuing that campaign. They will hope it also eventually helps to sap the resolve of the insurgents.

President Barack Obama has been keen to point out his own role in refocusing US intelligence and military efforts on bin Laden. He will receive an enormous political boost for bringing in the man his predecessor demanded "dead or alive" almost a decade earlier. Given George W. Bush said his greatest achievement as president was to prevent a follow-up terror attack on American soil, announcing bin Laden's killing must rank as a monumental achievement for Obama. It is an obvious comfort to his people and therefore must be seen as a significant boost to his 2012 re-election hopes.

By demonstrating on 9/11 the awful capabilities of this asymmetric global warfare, bin Laden not only triggered the Afghan war but set the pre-conditions for the Iraq conflict. At the time, Bush's security advisers decided they could no longer tolerate the risks presented by Saddam Hussein. They concluded a dictator who invaded two neighbours, fired rockets into Israel, funded anti-Israeli terrorists, launched gas attacks against his own people and was in breach of UN weapons inspection resolutions could no longer be left alone. The Iraq war was costly and its ramifications widespread but today it suffices to note that without 9/11, it might not have happened.

President Obama has been very careful in his comments about Pakistan. For many years there has been a widespread belief that bin Laden was using Pakistan as a haven and that Pakistani security forces could well be complicit. His eventual location so close to the capital in a military town only increases those suspicions. The presidents of both countries may well want to remain deliberately ambiguous about the degree of co-operation in this strike, in order to minimise the risk of an extremist backlash in Pakistan. But on the evidence so far it appears the Americans have tracked down bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan, despite the Pakistanis, not because of them. Given the crucial role Pakistan must play for the war on terror to succeed, this does not augur well. International pressure on Pakistan to eradicate extremist elements in its security services will now need to intensify.

Osama bin Laden's life story shows the extremist assault against the West had complex origins. He had a privileged upbringing as the son of a millionaire businessman in Saudi Arabia. Fuelled by Wahabist zeal, he deliberately sought out jihad, travelling to Afghanistan in 1979 to fight with the mujahideen against the Soviet invaders.

The US saw him as a security concern by the mid 1990s and in 1998 he orchestrated the bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, killing more than 200 people. This led then-President Bill Clinton to sign a CIA directive for him to be captured or killed. He fled back to Afghanistan and the US even launched missile attacks on his camp in vain attempts to kill him. That he survived this attention and went on to shock, terrorise and humiliate the world's only superpower goes some way to explaining why Americans have demonstrated such joy, pride and relief at his death. Certainly Americans have never forgotten the senseless slaughter of innocents on their home soil on 9/11 and neither should we.

It might be hard for us to recall now but, before 9/11, airport security was not so stringent. We didn't look askance at a backpack on a bus seat. We had no need to proclaim we were not at war with a religion. We didn't speculate about security threats at sporting events and cultural festivals. Our travel advisories were uncontentious and our troops seldom ventured further than East Timor. Now security is a way of life and we understand that as Australians we can be under threat for who we are and what we stand for. We know our troops fight and die in faraway lands and we live in the knowledge terror plots have been hatched on home soil.

And we understand that while old allegiances are important, our destiny is also reliant on our level of engagement and co-operation with our Muslim and democratic neighbour, Indonesia, and other Muslim nations near and far.

The world has changed for the worse but some of the co-operation and understanding that we have built in response to this has been for the better. President Obama struck the right note yesterday by stressing he and his predecessor were in concord that "our war is not against Islam". It has been said before that on 9/11 the terrorists hijacked not only four planes but a religion as well. This distinction between combating extremism and attacking a great faith requires constant attention. Bin Laden's death could well fuel reprisal attacks from extremists and certainly they will try to use it to fuel further hatred.

More optimistically, the difficult attempts to secure democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan have encouraged the aspirations of millions elsewhere to have a say in their destiny. The people's rebellions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and Syria are likely to draw sustenance from this landmark in the struggle for freedom over anarchy. Without being dewy-eyed about these struggles, there is some hope the end of bin Laden's symbolic and strategic leadership will bolster secular aspirations over extremism.

For all these reasons, the civilised world will welcome the death of bin Laden. To be sure, he was only one man and the horror of his ideology lives on. But his importance at the head of this monstrous collective should not be underestimated.

Additionally, along with the families and friends of thousands of the victims of terrorism around the world, we agree with President Obama when he said proudly and strongly: "Justice has been done."





CANBERRA is sending the wrong signals on asylum-seekers.

It's no laughing matter, but there is a bad joke doing the rounds in pubs as drinkers speculate whether they might get away with burning down the tax office if they first claimed refugee status. Unfortunately, the asylum-seekers who spent 11 days on the roof of Sydney's Villawood detention centre treated the Australian government as a joke, defying repeated orders and pleas to climb down. The Immigration Department, the Australian Federal Police and the operator of the centre, Serco, appeared helpless until Kurdish detainees Mehdi Darabi, 24, and Amir Morad, 22, climbed down on Saturday. The mishandling of the crisis sent a bad message to the nation and the world that Australia's handling of the issue is out of control.

Federal authorities have much to learn from NSW Police and Fire and Rescue officers who wasted no time in safely pulling three protesters off the roof of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen's Sydney electorate office on Friday. It's understood that Premier Barry O'Farrell would have happily sent in police with the expertise to handle the Villawood debacle, but it was not his jurisdiction. Serco staff have raised serious concerns with their union that their training is inadequate for the task they are being asked to perform. Until that shortcoming is rectified, the government needs to delegate the harder jobs to the AFP, the army or contract it out to services such as the NSW police. Instead, as it dithered, the rooftop protest, which followed a riot on April 20 in which nine buildings were set alight, causing millions of dollars damage, signalled to the world, including people-smugglers and would-be asylum-seekers, that Australia has lost control of the problem.

Mr Bowen is right to amend the character test to ensure that detainees who incur any criminal convictions fail the test so that those responsible for riots, violence and vandalism will have their quest for permanent residency rejected. While the Gillard government denies it is restoring Howard-style temporary protection visas, it is right in granting only temporary asylum to refugees who break the law.

Beyond handling of the crisis in overcrowded centres, the government must also stop the influx of boatpeople by resuming offshore processing at Nauru or Manus Island, and considering a form of temporary visas for all boat arrivals. It is time to retake control.






ONLY the despot's departure will end the bloodshed.

With the death of his youngest son and three grandchildren in a NATO airstrike, Muammar Gaddafi, even in his megalomaniacal madness, must now realise the game is up and he has no alternative but to go. Otherwise he faces not just further destruction of his country, something about which he has shown he cares little, but also more loss of life within his family circle.

Libyan government officials say Gaddafi and his wife were in the mansion when their son Saif al-Arab, 29, and three grandchildren were killed and other family members and friends injured. The despot and his wife, it is claimed, were unharmed in what his officials label an assassination attempt, something denied by NATO, which insists the attack hit one of the regime's command and control centres and individuals are not being targeted.

Loss of life in any conflict is always to be regretted, especially that of children. But the inescapable reality is that the bloodshed in Libya, wherever it is occurring, is the result of Gaddafi's murderous obduracy, and it will end only when he goes. The Libyan government's oleaginous spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, seeking to raise sympathy in the Islamic world, claims Saif al-Arab was martyred. That's hogwash. He died as a consequence of his father's murderous rampage against the Libyan people as they seek freedom and democracy after decades of tyranny, and NATO's determination, at the behest of the UN Security Council, to put an end to the bloodshed. Claims of martyrdom will inevitably find an echo in some parts of the world. So, too, will charges that Gaddafi and his family are being unreasonably targeted, something not provided for in UNSC resolution 1973. The coalition must not be deflected by such arguments, but should step up its drive to demonstrate that his situation is irredeemable.

While not specified by the Security Council, regime change is an inevitable consequence of seeking to end the bloodshed. It is also essential to serve notice on other loathsome dictators such as Syria's Bashar al-Assad that they face similar consequences if they continue their brutal suppression. NATO is right to reject Gaddafi's latest disingenuous plea for a ceasefire. The only thing that will end the killing is the despot's departure. The sooner he buckles, the fewer lives that will be lost.







For all the might of America deployed in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, his end came after a tenuous intelligence operation and then a pinpoint commando raid in which one wrong move or leak might have seen the target vanish again and the Americans left with another bungle.

That, after all, was the result when US troops besieged the al-Qaeda leader and his followers in the mountains of Tora Bora after they had helped drive his Taliban hosts from Kabul at the end of 2001. The recent flood of leaked interrogation reports on al-Qaeda and on terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay reinforced the impression of an American giant lashing out blindly at an elusive enemy protected by the harsh and alien cultures of the Afghanistan and Pakistan frontier.

Instead, the operation showed the doggedness of a lawman chasing an outlaw in a classic western. From the early details to emerge, it appears that a thread of information from suspects several months ago led back via a courier to the fortress-like compound on the fringes of Islamabad where bin Laden was hiding. A raid was authorised a week ago, and on Sunday a force of US commandos and intelligence operatives attacked by helicopter, killing bin Laden and some others before taking his body for verification of his identity.

The success has been a grim vindication for Americans, amid the mixed news out of Afghanistan nearly a decade after their forces intervened in reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington. In his finely crafted announcement, President Barack Obama presented it as an act of justice for the 3000 and more victims of those attacks and of earlier atrocities in East Africa, Aden, Bali and London inspired by bin Laden. There has been no muddled narrative, like the torture-sullied interrogation of his lieutenant, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of the planning of the September 11 attacks. Instead bin Laden has gone down in a gunfight. Most Americans will be glad to be spared a legal process that would have given him a further platform. Still, there has been a kind of martyrdom. Provided it can be spared the bone-headedness that is so often the face of military justice, a proper trial can help strip away the mystique of false prophets.

Beyond the primitive satisfaction of vengeance, the question now is whether the decapitation of al-Qaeda will end the terrorism wave it started. There are some reasons to think so. Messianistic movements of this kind draw heavily on the inspiration of their founding leader. Al-Qaeda might already have been starting to look a busted flush, with little progress towards its professed dream of a borderless caliphate of true believers. The uprisings across the Arab world this year have been motivated by secular democratic concerns so far, despite the appearance of some local veterans of jihad in Afghanistan.

There may be a rash of retributive attacks against Western targets. If al-Qaeda does have a nuclear or chemical weapon, as claimed by a prisoner interrogated at Guantanamo Bay, then we may soon know whether this is a fantasy. Over time we will see whether bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, can pick up his mantle as spiritual leader of al-Qaeda. Like bin Laden he is a worrying case of privilege turning to radical violence – in his case, grandson of a grand imam of Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, son of an eminent professor, and a brilliant medical graduate himself – providing a template for "home-grown" terrorists emerging from comfortable secular societies. But successors can quickly come to be seen as unworthy usurpers.

Another question is about Pakistan. The house in which bin Laden died was apparently purpose-built as his headquarters only five years ago, and is located just outside Pakistan's capital city in a satellite town much favoured by retired military officers – hardly the badlands of the North-West Frontier. Despite Obama's statement that "our counter-terrorism co-operation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden", US officials are reported to have briefed reporters that Pakistan officials were not told in advance of the raid and no Pakistani forces took part. That bin Laden found his safe house in the heart of Pakistan – just as Khalid Sheik Mohammed was found in the military cantonment city of Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad – will suggest he was tracked down despite, rather than with the help of, Pakistani "co-operation".

If US intelligence agencies could eventually locate bin Laden, and not, apparently, through technical intercepts but by human sources, why were their Pakistani counterparts unable to do it even sooner, unless they, or inside elements, were secretly helping him? The US intelligence coup must put more pressure on Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment to stop playing its ambiguous game, and perhaps help convince ordinary Pakistanis that the war inside their own country against extremism is real, not a US invention. If so, there might be more willingness to exert influence on the Taliban movement instigated by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, and call it back from a sick distortion of jihad, where 12-year-olds are sent as suicide bombers and roadside bombs replace fighting. It may be possible then to negotiate an end to the Afghan conflict, with a degree of honour all round and the hope of better security, freedom and progress for the population.

For the moment, America is walking tall back into town with the body of the outlaw thrown over the saddle.





Bin Laden's death offers closure of a sort, but not to the conflict he began.

THE world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, is dead. A decade has passed since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, but the United States got its man. This is a hugely symbolic moment, and President Barack Obama's late-night announcement drew a cheering crowd to the White House. As he said, ''the images of 9/11 are seared into our memories''.

People around the world were transfixed in horror before their televisions as hijacked aircraft were crashed into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, killing more than 3000 people. Bin Laden was the face of terrorism and his death draws a line under an era of fear he inspired. The attacks triggered the ''war on terror'', a phrase that lost its currency before the US managed to hit its prime target. President George Bush had said he wanted bin Laden ''dead or alive'' and the US offered a reward of up to $25 million, which was doubled in 2007. The failure to capture or kill the founder and leader of the group that triggered this war, al-Qaeda, dogged Mr Bush through two terms in office. Indeed, Mr Obama came to office accusing Mr Bush of having needlessly diverted resources by ordering the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The US-led coalition was, and is, still engaged in Afghanistan, where the Taliban had harboured bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership since 1996.

Mr Bush said tracking down bin Laden was a ''momentous achievement''. It will boost Mr Obama's stocks as President and commander-in-chief. He drew on that status in his speech, saying he had ordered the ''targeted operation'' by US special forces on a compound in Pakistan where bin Laden died in a firefight. Mr Obama described this as ''the most significant achievement to date in our nation's efforts to defeat al-Qaeda''.

However, the impact of bin Laden's death remains to be seen. While US officials believe that, even in hiding, bin Laden helped direct al-Qaeda's strategy, his main power was symbolic. The danger is that in death he could yet inspire more followers who see him as a martyr. Equally, though, bin Laden's success in eluding capture while issuing about 30 messages in video, audio or text form fed into his own extremist mythology as an Islamist leader who was able to defy the might of the West. The US commission on the September 11 attacks concluded that this worldwide appeal to wronged and repressed Muslims had won bin Laden ''thousands of followers and some degree of approval from millions more''.

That is why, even in the triumph of a moment for which Americans had waited almost 10 years, Mr Obama rightly took care to stress that ''our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.'' Some extremists will mourn bin Laden, and it is regrettable that he was not captured to stand trial for crimes for which he brazenly took credit. The reality is that he was a criminal, a mass murderer of people from many nations, ethnicities and religions. In addition to the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden was indicted as chief suspect in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people and wounded nearly 5000, most of them Africans. He was also implicated in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre, a 1995 car bombing in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, and a truck bomb that killed 19 US soldiers in a Saudi barracks.

These were terrible crimes, but none as terrible as the fallout from September 11, which poisons the world still. To some extent, bin Laden and al-Qaeda succeeded in derailing US and Western policy, altering the course of history for the worst. They triggered the war in Afghanistan and provided the Bush administration with political and emotional cover for invading Iraq under a false pretext. It is highly debatable whether these wars, whatever the intentions of the leaders who committed their nations to them, made the world a safer place.

It is true that al-Qaeda appears to have been on the retreat and has failed to mount a significant terrorist attack on the West since the 2005 London bombings. Yet, as security for the royal wedding showed, the world still feels the threat acutely. Certainly, too, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan has enjoyed the promised fruits of liberation. Instead, the West looks anxiously at revolts across the Arab world and wonders which may strengthen Islamist extremists.

As for Afghanistan, the US has more troops deployed there than at any time since the initial 2001 invasion. The conflict has had especially serious repercussions for neighbouring Pakistan, which is locked in an existential struggle with the very forces the Afghan mission was meant to defeat. Mr Obama cited Pakistani co-operation, but the fact that bin Laden was living close to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and not in some remote mountainous frontier, is alarming in itself.

The man who founded al-Qaeda more than 20 years ago may be dead, but the flames he lit still burn. Putting them out is likely to take decades of untiring military, political and diplomatic efforts.





IN JUNE 2007 the then chief minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, released the report Little Children Are Sacred, in which the authors, Rex Wild, QC, and an Alyawerre woman, Pat Anderson, detailed shocking child abuse in indigenous communities. The report portrayed many communities as near total breakdown, with alcohol, pornography, family violence and sexual assault combining to blight the lives of their youngest and most vulnerable members.

The revelations prompted the Howard government to begin the Northern Territory Emergency Response, which has since been known simply as the intervention. The government's action was controversial from the outset, receiving both strong support and bitter opposition from indigenous Territorians. Those divisions continue over the revised form of the intervention that has been maintained by the Rudd and Gillard governments.

The intervention's earliest critics were the authors of Little Children Are Sacred, who said that its measures were not what they had called for. Mr Wild said that the Howard government had ignored the report's first recommendation, which was that solutions not be imposed from above, without consultation. Ms Anderson complained that the intervention was a ''pre-election stunt'' that did not address ''any, not one, of the recommendations of our enquiry''. Four years later, opponents of the intervention argue that, in essence, little has changed, despite the restoration of the Racial Discrimination Act, which had been suspended to allow some of the intervention's tough measures, such as compulsory income management so that welfare payments can only be spent on food and household items, not on alcohol or pornography. This measure still applies, but cannot be directed at indigenous people only. In theory at least, it now applies to any Territorian on welfare.

Where there is a clear threat to the well-being of children, compulsory management of income to restrict the availability of alcohol and pornography can surely be justified. Many Territorians say that they sleep more securely because of it, and the families are no longer short of food. But the measure is no less paternalistic for that, and those directing any continuation of the intervention - an unhelpful term - could diminish its paternalist overtones if they heed the advice of Little Children Are Sacred's authors and consult communities first. The same applies to seizures of indigenous land, which, even though temporary, scarcely comply with the spirit of the Racial Discrimination Act.







Commentators, take a tip from the master, and keep both the volume and the word count Lowe

As often as not, contemporary sports coverage involves a hectoring earful of breathless banter about football. Sport's sole superpower is as shouty in the commentary box as on the terraces. Oh, for those fading voices that once reported on other parts of the sporting forest – the posh joshing of Brian Johnston, or the old-school sunniness (whatever the weather) of Dan Maskell at Wimbledon. Or, indeed, the whispering of snooker's Ted Lowe, who has left the earthly stage at the climax of the world championship. He traced his sotto voce delivery to subterranean postwar clubs without commentary boxes – he was required to stand just back from the action and explain proceedings without putting anyone off. The soft tones fitted naturally with the clinking balls in a hypnotic game that's oblivious to outside affairs, as was gloriously reaffirmed on Friday when the semi-finals ploughed on as normal through the royal wedding. Ted's trick was not merely talking quietly, but talking less – his "no-oo" as Steve Davis missed the fateful black in the 1985 final was the one and only word the situation required. When he collapsed during one broadcast, not one of the viewers accustomed to his taciturn ways complained during 15 minutes of silence. On the baize, the balls roll on, but the former stars who now commentate cannot resist blathering about the Jester from Leicester or the Wizard of Wishaw. They should take a tip from the master, and keep both the volume and the word count Lowe.







The March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused a big loss of lives and property. It also left a large amount of debris, creating a headache for local governments in the devastated region. An estimated 24.9 million tons of debris exist in the three most affected prefectures — 16 million tons in Miyagi, 6 million tons in Iwate and 2.9 million tons in Fukushima.

The amount in Miyagi Prefecture alone is estimated to be more than the 14 million tons of debris left by the 1995 Kobe earthquake; disposal of that debris took three years.

In addition, the tsunami washed away many cars and caused many boats to run aground. Roads and bridges were damaged. This debris hampers reconstruction efforts. Disposal is so slow that securing land for construction of fabricated houses and storing reconstruction materials is expected to be difficult.

Under government guidelines, destroyed houses can be removed without the owners' consent. Abandoned cars and ships are moved to storage sites and may be disposed of unless the owners indicate they want them back. However, it is extremely difficult to contact the owners. It isn't known which of the owners have died, and some owners may be staying in temporary evacuation shelters.

In Sendai alone, there are some 10,000 abandoned cars. Several hundreds of thousands of abandoned cars are thought to exist in the impacted region.

Another problem is that commercially valuable items such as precious metals as well as items of personal value to the owners, such as albums and Buddhist memorial tablets, must be kept for a certain period.

The government has requested that 42 prefectures share the burden of debris disposal. It is asking them what types of debris and how much they can accept. The problem has been complicated by the fact that some debris is feared to be contaminated with radioactive substances from the accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The government should immediately announce standards for classifying contaminated debris, how to dispose of each category of debris and how to protect residents from possible exposure to radiation. It should also work out an efficient transport plan to move debris out of the devastated areas to dumping places.






Many schools in areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami have started the new school year. Some schools, though, have no choice except to begin classes in early May because school buildings were damaged or were being used as temporary shelters for disaster survivors.

Good will has been pouring into schools in these areas. Some companies, universities and other organizations have offered to provide school supplies, books and items for physical education. Some local governments outside the impacted region are ready to dispatch teachers to schools in the affected areas.

At enrollment and opening ceremonies at schools in these areas, smiles were seen on the faces of children. But the horrifying experiences that many of them have undergone will not be forgotten soon. Some will need mental and emotional care.

It was their first time to have experienced tremors of this magnitude, and many had to flee a tsunami as it closed in. Not a few children lost their parents, other family members or friends. Many children additionally have gone through hardships at temporary shelters.

The loss of parents is the hardest experience for children. According to the health and welfare ministry, 110 children were reported to have lost both parents — 50 in Miyagi Prefecture, 44 in Iwate Prefecture and 16 in Fukushima Prefecture — as of April 19. This number may increase.

The loss of friends and teachers is also a hard experience. At Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, 74 children and 10 of the 13 teachers died or remain missing.

After the 1995 Kobe earthquake, more than 4,000 children were diagnosed as mentally unstable and needed some form of care, according to the Hyogo prefectural board of education. In July 1999, 4,105 children needed such care, only one less than in the previous year.

A survey even as late as 2004 showed that more than 1,300 of these children still showed signs of mental instability.

Psychological wounds do not heal in a short time. To prevent or alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder, local governments in northeastern Japan need to provide a sufficient number of teachers and experts so that each child can receive enough support for a long time to come.






LONDON — The tsunami in Japan and the earthquake in Haiti are among the world's most notorious recent natural disasters. Their fierce devastation claimed thousands of lives, destroyed vital infrastructure and crippled economies. The communities affected could not be more different from one another, yet the similarities in the responses are striking.

While the worldwide outpouring of support demonstrated what humanity is capable of at its best, it also highlights with disquieting clarity that the same level of empathy is more difficult to evoke when a crisis is chronic instead of sudden, unexpected and dramatic. One of the most devastating global health challenges on the planet is malaria, which claims more than 800,000 lives annually, primarily among young African children.

According to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, 2,000 children die of the disease each day. Unlike the aftermath of a natural disaster, there are no photos to capture the scope of this tragedy. The loss of life is every bit as devastating, but it is much easier to become indifferent to malaria's victims. That's why the United Nations, World Bank, Global Fund, Tony Blair Faith Foundation, African heads of state, and many other governments, organizations, and individuals have felt compelled to act.

In 2008, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon declared the goal of ensuring universal access to malaria-control interventions by the end of 2010 for all those at risk of the disease, with the ultimate goal of reaching near-zero malaria deaths by 2015. Since those goals were set, major progress has been made. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved, and the international community now is redoubling its efforts to reach the 2015 milestone.

Three years ago, when more than $3 billion in new money was committed to the malaria effort, mosquito nets and indoor spraying protected less than 20 percent of Africa's at-risk population. Today it's more than 90 percent.

These gains occurred only because of the commitment of leaders, agencies and individuals who realized that lessening the malaria burden is not only an opportunity, but also a responsibility. No organization better embodies the moral imperative of ending malaria deaths than the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA). Formed during the U.N. General Assembly in September 2009 under the leadership of President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, and supported by the African Union, the group has added government advocacy and accountability to the combined efforts being made to halt and reverse the spread of malaria on the continent.

Recognizing that the death of a child from a mosquito bite is unacceptable in the 21st century, ALMA leaders understand that the most effective way to ensure that recent gains are sustained is to assume leadership and ownership of the challenge. They are ensuring that essential malaria-control interventions are exempted from taxes and tariffs and that supplies are purchased in bulk.

Most powerful of all, perhaps, is an innovative "scorecard," which is being prepared to track progress in the struggle to end malaria deaths, and to "flag" problems that arise before they reach a critical stage. The scorecard will be open and accessible to all. While African political leaders have ultimate responsibility for protecting their citizens, faith communities share deeply in this commitment. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is conducting a global campaign, Faiths Act, which calls for greater engagement by faith communities in preventing malaria deaths. Supporters of every religion in 106 countries have answered the call. The World Health Organization estimates that faith communities provide, on average, 40 percent of total health-care services in sub-Saharan Africa.

What faith communities have working in their favor are networks, infrastructure, and influential leaders. In many instances, they can reach deep into inaccessible rural areas to deliver services. Faith leaders can adopt holistic approaches to major killer diseases and use their networks for immunization and combating pandemics.

In Nigeria, which accounts for one-quarter of the continent's malaria deaths, the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association has been effective in training religious leaders for health messaging against malaria and in the correct use of bed nets.

Sierra Leone, with its small population, excellent Muslim-Christian relations, and uphill struggle to improve health care after the depredations of civil war, has a long-standing relationship with Britain. Much progress has already been made.

As foreign aid stands to suffer from cutbacks around the world, we must remember that malaria is a "natural disaster" that is devastating communities every second of every day.

Tony Blair is founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Ray Chambers is the U.N. special envoy for malaria.
© 2011 Project Syndicate








Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — Last month's summit of the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China, now renamed BRICS with the addition of South Africa, announced with great fanfare that the group was determined to punch its new muscle on the world economic stage and no longer to be pushed around by the tired old powers. But you have to ask if it was worth the leaders making the long trek to China.

The BRICS account for 40 percent of the world population (though only 24 percent of global GDP), and have a legitimate complaint that the world has hitherto been dominated by a cozy club of rich countries with about 10 percent of the world's population. The communique called for "a comprehensive reform" of the United Nations, including the Security Council, "with a view to making it more effective, efficient and representative" so that it can meet growing global challenges.

One key challenge is the fragile state of the global economy, finely imbalanced with a whole range of potential disturbances, from current account and huge budget deficits in the United States and other Western countries, to the rising price of oil and other commodities. Problems are exacerbated by unhealthy dependence on the U.S. dollar as the world's effective reserve currency, something that Beijing has increasingly grumbled about with its huge but vulnerable $3 trillion pot of foreign exchange reserves.

BRICS' leaders duly called for a broader based international currency system. According to Chinese officials, they steered away from the question of the renminbi exchange rate, but did discuss the role of the special drawing right (SDR) in the international monetary system, including the composition of the SDR currency basket.

Was all this useless posturing or merely bad theater? On the wider question of making the U.N. and the Security Council more representative, China's opposition long stopped Japan from getting a permanent seat, and even at the Sanya summit, Beijing stopped short of giving its blessing to a seat for India.

On the vexed currency issue, China wants to have its cake and eat it. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, pointed out that the renminbi had ticked all of the boxes for inclusion in the basket of currencies that comprise the SDR, except one: It is not "marketable."

China is reluctant to surrender control which would be involved in convertibility or in letting its currency be part of the SDR basket (composed of 41.9 percent U.S. dollars, 37.4 percent euros, 11.3 percent pound sterling, and 9.4 percent yen).

Indeed, the preoccupation of China and the BRICS with the SDR is a distraction. The SDR is not a currency. It is a unit of account between the IMF and its 187 member countries and it cannot be used for international payments, even between IMF members. Changing the role of the SDR to make it a currency would be as messy as any of the leading issues that the IMF has yet to grapple with, including who will succeed Strauss-Kahn and what his or her revised job description should be.

China's obfuscation may have been an attempt to hide differences between the BRICS members, continents apart, with real political and economic arguments between them, not least on the damage that the renminbi exchange rate has done to Brazil and India. The BRICS ought to be thinking of using some practical mortar to build their dream economic house.

Meanwhile, at the wider world of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings, held at virtually the same time as the BRICS' summit, there was enough evidence that the world is facing a host of problems any one of which could tip it back into crisis.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, with a particular eye on rising food prices endangering the lives of hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people, warned that, "We are one shock away from a full-blown crisis."

High oil prices, encouraged by speculation on the political and economic uncertainty in the Middle East, are a constant threat to recovery in the West as well as to China's own economic miracle. Too many countries in the West got fat and lazy on easy credit and now have to find ways of paying for their extravagant parties without making unemployment worse.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's finance minister and chairman of the key IMF committee, summed up the economic situation, saying that "The recovery has gained headway, but there are significant vulnerabilities still in the global economic and financial system." He cited the poor quality of public sector balance sheets, the need for bank recapitalization and the legacy of an international monetary system still not in satisfactory shape. He listed Middle East uncertainty, disasters in Japan and rising commodity prices as new vulnerabilities, to which Strauss-Kahn added unemployment that the old formula of growth alone cannot solve.

The world economy could be held hostage to power play between the old and the new great powers. Political Washington, only a few blocks from the IMF, is increasingly acrimoniously split over how to tackle the U.S. deficits. Some American economists call the U.S. a banana republic without the bananas.

It is not only the BRICS that don't have a building plan, let alone bricks and mortar, to construct a modernized international economic order. When it comes to the IMF and World Bank, the preoccupation of the U.S. is to protect its veto, effectively 15 percent of the votes — it has more than 16 percent. The Europeans and Japan want to keep their seats at the top table, while China and the rising powers want more shout, more of their people in the top jobs.

The risk is both to the IMF and to the global system. The IMF has surveillance, reporting and monitoring roles involving the world economy that should be kept as professional as possible under the direction of the managing director. The board is the place for political decisions, such as arguments over shareholdings, whether the SDR should be turned into a currency, but IMF officials should be free to report on economies and currencies without worrying about whether they may upset Washington or Beijing or Timbuktu.

Dangers of politicization will increase when Strauss-Kahn steps down, possibly this year if he decides to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency. Although it has been agreed that the bosses of the IMF and World Bank should not be a European (IMF) and American (World Bank) preserve, and the fund is committed to "open and transparent" procedures, previous experience has been anything but. Expect a vicious struggle unless someone can persuade the U.S., China and Europe that internationalism, not nationalism, is what is needed.

Kevin Rafferty was managing editor at the World Bank 1997-99.







The world today seems rife with conflict and catastrophes, both natural and man-made, and governments and international institutions are rightly focused on people's needs caught in these events.

What we must grasp at this potentially historic time is that we can, and must, take steps right now to break the cycle of conflict and instability — or run the risk of even broader and longer-lasting unrest — which will lead to dire social and economic developmental impacts.

People living in areas affected by violence, for example, are three times more likely to be in poverty and twice as likely to have no access to schools, affecting women and children in particular, and hence the future.

The goals are straightforward and obvious to many of us. Provide more jobs to give people hope for the future, both for themselves and for the next generation.

Provide for their personal safety and security from crime and terrorism. Ensure that they can turn to a fair and effective justice system.

What is less obvious is how a country immersed in civil war or facing a daunting task of rebuilding after a natural disaster can achieve these objectives. The World Bank has created a global road map through the publication this month of its latest World Development Report, focusing on "conflict, security and development".

It stresses the roles that effective institutions need to play at local, national, regional and international levels. It highlights that the often courageous and determined reformers at the community level need to be able to rely on help from those inside and outside their country to improve citizen security, ensure justice and deliver jobs. And the help should be reasonably sustained.

The Report also points to past achievements to show what can be done, and Asia itself can be a showcase for those who want to break the cycle of joblessness, despair and conflict.

The necessary combination of local initiative, national and regional assistance and global support is evident in the restoration of stability in Timor Leste since the establishment of the peacekeeping mission there in 1999.

It has also been showcased in the responses to the horrific disaster that befell Aceh and to cyclone Nargis in Myanmar three years ago.

In all three instances, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN played a regional role that addressed cultural sensitivities, smoothing the path for outside assistance. We've seen exceptional commitment of ASEAN Member States in contributing to the response.

In Myanmar, talks between the government and ASEAN paved the way for international aid and technical assistance from the World Bank, among others, to reach devastated areas of the country that took the lives of over 130,000 men, women and children.

ASEAN also helped bring in technical assistance teams from the European Union to Aceh to help people begin rebuilding their lives.

ASEAN's experience also serves to reassure that regional groups like these are developing greater capacity with each experience of peacekeeping or disaster relief.

In Timor Leste, the peacekeeping mission was made possible by long years of joint training and exercises between the armed forces of ASEAN, particularly the Philippines and Thailand, financial support of Japan, and close cooperation with the greater region — in particular with South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

In its effort to help Myanmar after cyclone Nargis, ASEAN was able to draw on experienced personnel from ASEAN Member States.

What ASEAN's experience has shown, and what the 2011 World Development Report illustrates, is that an alliance of local, national, regional and global groups can help build the strong institutions that are essential to providing citizen security, justice and jobs.

We must be prepared to act quickly if we are to prevent new spirals of violence and conflict when they emerge, either because local institutions have been allowed to fail through poor governance or they have been weakened or even destroyed by natural disasters.

These three issues — security, justice and jobs — lie at the heart of the unrest we are now seeing most spectacularly in the Middle East and North Africa, regions with grim employment picture, particularly for youth and for women.

If we are to convince today's youth that there is a brighter future, then we need to help build the institutions that will educate them, help them find work, protect them from harm and provide them with the public services those in wealthier, more secure countries take for granted.

We have seen the results of failure. The use of child soldiers in Africa and Asia. The specter of terrorism taking seed in failed states. But we have also seen success that should make us all the more determined to break this cycle.

We see it in a lasting peace and reconstruction and reconciliation in Timor Leste. We see it in Myanmar where the door has been opened a little to outside help. And now the world has the chance to show it has learned from the past that we recognize the need to provide assistance to rebuild a country's judicial system or support jobs programs rather than provide arms and military might.

The World Development Report warns that real rebuilding can take almost a generation. Events today should make it clear that people living in war zones and disaster areas simply cannot wait.







The ethnic Chinese Indonesians were out in full force Saturday morning at Balai Kartini's Nusa Indah Theater to listen to PM Wen Jiabao deliver his policy speech.

But then so too were other curious Indonesians, ranging from government representatives, politicians, business people of all generations and students from six universities. Not to be left out, the diplomatic corps were also represented.

Joop Ave, the consummate diplomat, charming and gracious, as Indonesian Council on World Affairs (ICWA) chairman and the host of the public talk, remarked that this was the second time he had the opportunity to host a visiting prime minister from China.

The first time was more than 50 years ago at the Bandung Conference with PM Zhou Enlai's arrival. Today, as then, Indonesians wanted to know what the future holds with China's rise on the global stage.

With images of the Borobudur Temple and the Great Wall as a backdrop, symbols of our long history, PM Wen traced back the ties between our two civilizations to the time the Buddhist monk Faxian, who passed through Java on his way back to China from India in the 4th century.

The message that PM Wen wanted to convey is that China's policy toward Indonesia is, and always has been, based on friendship and mutual cooperation, culminating in the 2005 strategic partnership.

This must have been well received by the Indonesian businessmen in the audience, many of whom are ethnic Chinese.

One cannot help but feel some trepidation, however, sitting there among the Chinese businessmen, listening to PM Wen's speech and witnessing the warm audience response.

Indonesian Ambassador to China Imron Cotan mentions in an interview with The Jakarta Post that the overseas Chinese community in Indonesia is the largest in the world, adding that they formed a "solid bridge" between the two countries, especially with many of them still with family members in China.

Since the fall of Soeharto, we have come a long way in restoring the rights of the ethnic Chinese Indonesians. Beginning with B.J. Habibie's presidential instruction eliminating the use of pribumi-non-pribumi distinction in all officialdom to Abdurrahman Wahid's breakthrough revocation of the 1967 presidential instruction, which had stripped the ethnic Chinese of their heritage, followed by Megawati Soekarnoputri declaring Chinese New Year an official holiday and Yudhoyono's acknowledgement of the rights of Confucianists and the 2006 Citizenship Bill are all measures to accept the ethnic Chinese as part of our nation's social fabric and to acknowledge their contribution to our history.

We now have ethnic Chinese who are involved in politics, in government, in the creative arts, in education, in all walks of life and stereotypes are slowly being broken. Indonesia is a plural and diverse society, home to different ethnicities, practising different beliefs.

Although acknowledging the role that the ethnic Chinese diaspora can play is a sign of progress in the sense that finally the ethnic Chinese are acknowledged as a potentially positive force, one should at the same time be cautious in our expectations. We should not lazily rely on the ethnic-Chinese to act as our "middle-men" in our relations with China and afterward resent them for the benefits they gain from playing such a role.

In other words, the "bridge" between Indonesia and China should not just be built by the ethnic Chinese. Instead it should be built by all Indonesians, of whatever ethnicity.

Hence it is very important that in building closer ties with China we should not just focus on economic opportunities or security considerations, but simultaneously strengthen educational cooperation, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contact.

The establishment of Confucian Institutes, the sending of Chinese native speakers to schools around the country and the joint exhibition between our National Museum and the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities currently on show are all steps in the right direction in broadening our interaction with China.

It is also just as important for Indonesians to go to China, not just to study Mandarin and learn from the success of China's economic growth, but to also act as our informal ambassadors and dispel the notion that Indonesians are all anti-Chinese.

We need to make up for the lost ground caused by the knowledge blackout during the 23 years of frozen ties and also for the recent horrors of the 1998 May Riots, where those images are still vivid in the minds of the Chinese.

The more Indonesians of all backgrounds engage with China, the better. We need to continuously improve our knowledge about the complexities of China and the Chinese, while also keeping the Chinese abreast of the dynamism of a diverse and democratic Indonesia. Only then can we fully benefit from China's "peaceful rise".

The writer is the chairwoman of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Indonesia.






As World Press Freedom Day is celebrated today, people across the Southeast Asia region continue to be imprisoned for peacefully expressing opinions and ideas on the state institutions that govern over them.

This violates human rights commitments made by these states at the international level.

States' increasing engagement with regional and international human rights bodies offers the opportunity to highlight such violations which are common to the region and to develop ideas on how to address them at the national level.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has made important strides over recent years in transforming itself into an organization which is concerned with improving the human rights situation in the region, in addition to its traditional focus on economic development and national security.

This progress is illustrated by the two ASEAN bodies that are now up and running with mandates to promote and protect human rights.

States in Southeast Asia are also increasingly engaged with the UN's human rights bodies. For instance, all states will now have their human rights record reviewed by the Human Rights Council through a process called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

However, while these developments are encouraging, we should not lose sight of the fact that states need to take action at the national level to actually improve the human rights situation on the ground.

A litmus test for the current state of human rights in any region is the extent to which the people can exercise freedom of expression.

The freedom of people to express their opinions is fundamental to and inseparable from the existence of a healthy democracy that respects human rights.

By allowing people to express their views on the institutions and people that exercise power over their lives, they are able to play a role in shaping these institutions and the decisions that affect them.

Not only is the creation of an environment where people are free to express their views and opinions an end in itself, it is also a means of developing state institutions that place the interests of human beings at their center.

As in other regions, there are actions that are common to the Southeast Asia region that governments can collectively consider to improve the human rights situation on the ground.

Regarding freedom of expression, one such common action is a review of national criminal codes. States should not be imprisoning their own people for the peaceful expression of views and opinions on state institutions. Yet this is what is happening in Southeast Asia.

For instance, in Thailand last March, website administrator Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul was sentenced to 13 years in prison for expressing views that were critical of state institutions.

The imprisonment of people for the expression of views and opinions on the state occurs across the region.

In Myanmar, there are estimated to be over 2,100 political prisoners, including 14 journalists. And in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Singapore, national penal codes, including strict criminal defamation and security laws, have resulted in the imprisonment of people for criticizing state officials and institutions.

The right to freedom of expression is not absolute and carries with it special duties and responsibilities. Therefore, certain restrictions on the right are permitted which may relate either to the interests of other persons or to those of the community as a whole.

For instance, restrictions may be provided in law regarding the defamation of people or the incitement of hatred within our societies.

However, when states impose restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, these restrictions should not put in jeopardy the right itself.

Locking people up for peacefully expressing their views and opinions on matters of public concern does put in jeopardy the right to freedom of expression.

Not only do such actions violate the human rights of the individual concerned, but they also exert a chilling effect on freedom of expression within society at large.

States across the Southeast Asia region therefore need to instigate reform of national laws which penalize free expression.

The extent to which international and regional human rights bodies play a role in helping states achieve such reforms is itself a litmus test for their effectiveness and relevance.

The writer is Regional Representative, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for Southeast Asia.






Indonesia has thrived as a capitalist market economy since Soeharto's authoritarian regime collapsed amid the economic crisis of 1998, when it also moved to become the world's third-largest democracy and devolved its authorities to the regency/municipal level in a "big-bang" manner.

Despite the market capitalism, democracy and decentralization — all adopted with aspirations to improve social welfare (including non-economic welfare) — Indonesia has failed or at least has been struggling to become a civilized society. Is this surprising? Probably not.

But, there seems to be some misconceptions about the very meanings and aspirations of market-capitalism, democracy and decentralization, as well as about what they can and cannot do for us.

The first misconception is that capitalism does not need government intervention. Market-capitalism still needs governments to play roles in areas it does not cover, including public services in health, poverty-relief programs, natural disaster relief efforts and job creation.

These are called functional or neutral interventions when market failures exist. This type of intervention is to be distinguished from selective interventions to promote or prioritize certain economic activities such as high technology industries.

The second misconception is that self-interested behaviors will lead to optimality. Market capitalism and the "Invisible Hand" are generally understood to mean letting the market work without government intervention to reach optimality, and this is reached by the self-interested or profit-maximizing behaviors of market players following Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" model.

However, a rational market player is not completely selfish.

This definition of "rationality", which is often misconstrued as an all-selfish behavior, should be adjusted to include altruism and other factors.

Indonesia's efforts to fight bureaucratic corruption are often conducted by increasing economic incentives, although personal integrity plays a bigger role.

In other words, economic incentives are necessary, but not sufficient, and integrity should start from the very top leaders.

The third misconception is that market capitalism can excel without good governance, such as property rights and the rule of law.

Without good governance and rule of law, costs of market transactions and contracts become to too high, and investments cannot flourish (as argued by Basu in 2010).

This must also be supported by the value of trust between creditors and debtors, otherwise the lending market will not be optimal.

The absence of clear rule of law and property rights has increased the cost of transactions and hindered investment in Indonesia.

The country may be trapped as a middle-income country if it is unable move from relations-based institutions to rule-based institutions.

Similarly, democracy has been misunderstood by many laymen. The first misconception is the definition of democracy, and hence the aspiration of democracy.

The thinnest definition of democracy is people participating in regular, free and fair elections. This means that elected leaders are made accountable to voters.

However, as Larry Diamond argues (The Spirit of Democracy, 2008), any democracy should aspire to adopt the thick definition of democracy, called a liberal democracy.

At the moment, Indonesian democracy is simply an electoral democracy.

"Democracy means civilization," said J. Kristiadi, a senior political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "But, so far Indonesian democracy is procedural, and not yet civilized," he said.

The second misconception is that a strong leadership and democracy cannot coexist. An unstable coalition party system and the proliferation of new political parties, among other structural political issues, have made development messy.

The infighting within the ruling coalition, including over the Bank Century scandal in 2010 and the House right to investigate tax graft in 2011, are just a few examples.

A strong leadership is needed to manage these voices to get things done. Indonesia needs to think where it wants to go — and whether this presidential and multiparty parliamentary system can continue.

One of the aspirations of decentralization is to bring policies and public goods closer to people. But, there are growing indications that this aspiration may have completely failed, including the blossoming of new districts from 292 in 26 provinces in 1999, to around 524 in 33 provinces in March 2011.

The theory of decentralization often relies on intergovernmental competition (or "voting with one's feet") and democratic accountability.

However, because of striking heterogeneity among regions and immobility factors such as natural resources and labor, as well as intense local capture, this theory is inapplicable.

Under a regional autonomy regime where the central government does not have the power to discipline local governments any more, decentralization will only work if local participation and local accountability can discipline political leaders and local business elites so that local policies are not controlled by vote-buying and corruption.

One of the preconditions for this should be well-educated and politically informed citizens, which we still fail to see in many regions.

A strong civil society may be key to the success of decentralization. But, unfortunately, in regions with poor socioeconomic conditions to begin with, a vicious cycle may already exist.

Indonesia should aspire to become a free market economy in this globalized world economy, with democratic values to ensure people's representation, and with decentralized administration because of the current bureaucratic hodgepodge.

Unless these misconceptions are corrected and constraints are internalized, it is throwing the very values of market capitalism, democracy and decentralization away.

The writer is a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a lecturer at the University of Indonesia.






It really is a quite pertinent question as to why the US; which celebrates the death of Al Qaeda supreme Bin Laden moved to send a fleet of ships to rescue ruthless LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in the last days of war against terrorism in Sri Lanka. When that failed and the LTTE was annihilated the Obama administration bemoaned the death of the LTTE leader and his organization and pushed UN Secretary General to prepare grounds for a possible intervention.

A position in stark contrast to that adopted by successive American Presidents when faced with the scourge of terrorism on its own soil;  certainly, no one grudges the US and its allies the right to launch a war on terror, given the necessity to rid the world of the inhumanity that terrorism stands responsible for. The threat terrorism spreads through civilized nations can never be tolerated- be it in the US or in the tiny island, Sri Lanka. Unlike the US, Sri Lanka suffered heavily for over three decades, watched its economy crumble, its innocent civilians butchered by the madness that was the LTTE and ironically enjoy the empathy of countries like the US.

However addressing the American people President Barak Obama, justified his right to arrest the scourge and spoke of ordering the director of the CIA, 'to make the killing or capture of Bin Laden the top priority of our war against Al Qaeda'. Again, a necessity that we, as a people that has suffered under the LTTE can relate to. Yet, it is the principle behind the duplicity with which the administration deals with the terrorism in the US as opposed to that in Sri Lanka that must be condemned.

'As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.  We will be relentless in defence of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we are. Justice has been done,' he added.

No one grudges Washington the triumph of victory. While the death of a human being is not to be celebrated; the death of one who posed a threat to millions of innocent people cannot be. But it is sad that Mr. Obama's administration does not believe in granting the same privileges to countries like Sri Lanka; which too could not 'stand idly by' when it faced the same threat. Colombo too had to be 'relentless in the 'defence' of its citizens and ensure that 'justice' was done.

Just as Mr. Obama celebrate the 'professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve' his country, so must the Colombo administration.  The controversial UN report is a case in point. It is imperative that he understands as he vows never to 'waver' in his 'commitment' to do 'whatever it takes' to prevent another attack on his shores, so must the government here. These are responsibilities that governments cannot give up on- these are duties that bound Statesmen to their countries and their people.





"A very British coup" is a TV film by Mick Jackson based on a novel by Chris Mullin. It is about what happens when Harry Perkins, a third-generation socialist from a working class and trade unionist background, referred to as a communist by his detractors, is elected Britain's Prime Minister. He argues for nuclear disarmament and open government. US interests combine with the old boys' network to try and defeat Perkins with spies, tabloids and tapes; in other words all the ingredients that would make for a very British coup.

In the end, instead of resigning, as expected by the establishment, Perkins comes on television to announce that he is dissolving parliament. He admits without any hesitation that yes, he did have an affair with a woman, that  was short and memorable but that he believes that the people should decide who should rule them, someone who is upfront about what he wants for the people or those who would pull all kinds of strings and engage in back-door deals to retain their hold on people's lives and futures. In the final scene, Perkins is shown getting ready to go out and cast his vote, chirpy to the extreme. The result is left for the viewer to imagine.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is not a Harry Perkins, although there are certain similarities.  What is pertinent about the film script is the challenge Perkins throws at his people.  The relevance comes in the form of various external moves ostensibly seeking 'truth' about the military offensive against terrorism, viz the machinations that seek a mandate to investigate alleged 'war crimes', quite in contravention of the UN Charter and clearly prompted by malice.  The report so biased, so full of conjecture dressed up as fact, so intellectually dishonest, so morally reprehensible, so full of contradictions, so replete with ridiculous extrapolations and insane exaggerations and so dependent on the claims made by highly unreliable sources that 'truth' and 'reconciliation' appear to have only rhetorical value and nothing more. 

Kalana Senaratne ('Revisiting accountability' in 'The Island') and Bernard Goonetilleke (interview with have clearly pointed out the illegality, malice and limitations of both the panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.  

The US Ambassador, Patricia Butenis recently hosted a party, inviting several key apologists for the LTTE bearing unconcealed hatred for the regime and with a considerable curriculum vitae in matters pertaining to regime-change attempts as well as efforts to whitewash the LTTE of crimes against humanity and of course to save the top leadership in the final days of the conflict.    The agenda was simple: how to use the above 'report' to extract an outcome in Sri Lanka they can cheer about.  No mention at all of the obvious problems of the report (as outlined above).  It all points to malice and worse, the likelihood that the said document was either authored by these individuals under Butenis' supervision (Wikileaks has revealed how the lady desperately tried to get Tamil politicians to demand an international investigation) or that the entire group (headed/facilitated by Butenis) comprise the main sources for the report. 

All this adds up to two significant threats to democracy in Sri Lanka.  First of all, even if Mahinda Rajapaksa was the worst tyrant to ever walk this beautiful land, he needs to be removed by the people of Sri Lanka for the wellbeing of the nation, not by any external power and certainly not to serve their ends, be it strategic, economic or political interests or pure, to exact revenge for having had preferred outcome in the conflict thwarted or to boost egos.  Knowing well that it is a long road from here to the Haig and one with many ifs and buts to contend with, knowing well that a 'Libya' will be secured in Sri Lanka only with the greatest difficulty, these moves clearly seek to destabilize the country.  Image-tarnish can impact economy, as would sanctions.  The hope, probably, is that these will generate and boost dissent, cut into regime-popularity, pick up the opposition etc., and eventually effect political transformation. 

This is an error.  Sri Lanka does not have oil (as far as we can tell). Sri Lanka elects and elects-out leaders regularly or has the opportunity to do so.  For all the flaws of Sri Lanka's democracy, few will say that by and large the will of the people has not prevailed.  The opposition is extremely weak, not on account of repression, but its own errors, manifest buttressing of the LTTE, directly and indirectly at critical times and a marked and scandalous readiness to go along with the political machinations designed by people like Butenis and of course her predecessor Robert O Blake.  These are not booming times but no one is starving or suffering deprivations that might provoke food riots. 

This gives rise to the second threat to democracy.  The obvious and unadulterated malice on the part of these external actors and their principal local lackeys, all known to be pro-LTTE or virulently anti-Sinhala and anti-Buddhist not to mention engaged in all kinds of shady financial deals, rather than weakening the regime (as envisaged) in fact strengthens Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government.  Ousting Rajapaksa on account of failing to deliver on things such as transparency and accountability would be considered, rightly I believe, of secondary import to the need to block such meddling, interventionist moves.

All this is severely eroding the space to exercise citizenship.  Ki-moon, Pillai, Butenis, Susan Rice and others, will not lose any sleep over these matters. They have and will turn a blind eye to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by friends, will cheer military juntas, dictators and cruel monarchs as long as they happen to be on the right side of the political divide.  Sri Lanka can hang, along with or without Mahinda Rajapaksa for all they care.

The question is, do we care? They can live with Sri Lanka slipping into anarchy.  Can we, though?

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at msenevira@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Politicians never fail to seize such opportunities.  They will say 'country' when in fact they are aware that 'saving country' includes 'saving self'.  It only erases the political space to talk about good governance, accountability and transparency, not to mention the horrendous flaws of the overall system that cloud proper and meaningful representation.  People can and very well might rally around the President simply because they would feel that he alone is best equipped to ensure that we have a country with some semblance of sovereignty.  They would feel that the alternative is slavery to foreign agenda and loss of nation. Without nation, they might conclude, the whole gamut of issues pertaining to democracy (such as representation, accountability, transparency etc.) makes absolutely no sense. 





When the mighty fall, they fall hard and they fall sans grace. However, the due process of law dictates the dispensation of justice and the Egyptian law is advanced enough to ensure that even in the case of high crimes against former president Hosni Mubarak he will be innocent until proven guilty and be accorded the rights of the individual.

No one denies that the charges of ordering police firing on fellow countrymen are serious in the extreme degree and tantamount to an accusation of murder the first degree under domestic law. But under the provisions of global law and the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the charges could be heightened to that of deliberate genocide.

In the face of this possibility, the investigation into corruption becomes more a low level priority even though, ironically, it was the jump-starter for the revolution. Corruption in high places seems to come with the territory but pales against the deaths of over 800 citizens of Egypt who were massacred during the protests.

It has to be said that Egypt showed great maturity in the way the public handled itself and ended the 18 days of spontaneous and organised protest, never letting it get out of hand but showing an incredible resolve. One can only place on record that the same public power will touch the legal battle and maintain the grace and dignity of the legal institution.

Unless there is something in writing under his signature even evidence or a confession given by former Minister for the Interior Habib Al Adly that Mubarak directly ordered the firing into innocent civilians, it will be difficult to trace a judicial line of direct contact between the then president and the actual pressing of the trigger. What can be done is to prove it was a heinous act committed on his watch and by not doing anything to stop it he  gave it his official sanction.

Acts of commission and acts of omission are parts of the same coin. Egypt needs to move on and be the great country it is… too much energy and attention on a trial could slow down the move to restoring the systems of democracy and the rule of the people by the people.

Khaleej Times





The following is the transcript of President Barack Obama's address to the nation on the evening of Sunday, May 1, 2011.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together.  We offered our neighbours a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood.  We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.  On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice.  We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe.  And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counter-terrorism professionals, we've made great strides in that effort.  We've disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.  In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given him and al Qaeda safe haven and support.  And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan.  Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.  It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground.  I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.  And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.  No Americans were harmed.  They took care to avoid civilian casualties.  After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda's leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies.  The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.  There's no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.  We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam.  I've made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.  Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.  Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.  So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I've repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.  That is what we've done.  But it's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.  Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts.  They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations.  And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight.  It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.  After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.  These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who's been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war.  Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.  We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror:  Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who've worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.  The American people do not see their work, nor know their names.  But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.

 And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

The cause of securing our country is not complete.  But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to.  That is the story of our history, whether it's the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.




21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers

By Sumaiya Rizvi

The celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2011 includes a conference on "21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers", the Award ceremony of World Press Freedom Prize, and a special event in the UN premises to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration.

Every 3 May World Press Freedom Day represents an opportunity to commemorate the fundamental principles of press freedom around the globe and to pay solemn tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

World Press Freedom Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December, 1993, as an outgrowth of the Seminar on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press.

This Seminar took place in Windhoek, Namibia, from 29 April to 3 May 1991, and led to the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media. The Windhoek Declaration called for the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press and emphasized the importance of a free press to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development.

"Freedom of expression is conditioned by self-censorship"

President of National

Peace Council Dr. Jehan Perera

Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy.  This is well recognized internationally, though practised only in some parts.  In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution enshrined the freedom of expression which has been taken virtually as an absolute right and that has shaped the whole of American law.  Americans are justifiably proud of the First Amendment.  In Sri Lanka we too have the freedom of expression enshrined as a Fundamental Right in our Constitution.

Unfortunately there is a huge gap between words and deeds.  The media has become the happy hunting ground for those who want public opinion to go their way.  The case of Lanka E News website is an example.  Its owner has fled the country, its editor is on bail on a bizarre charge, the website itself is shut down temporarily pending another court case and one of its journalists has been made to disappear for over a year, and is presumed dead. 

This one example in post-war Sri Lanka is sufficient to make all media institutions and all journalists think twice before dissenting.  Freedom of expression is conditioned by self-censorship. This is not the way things should be if Sri Lanka is to be a true liberal democracy like the countries to which many of us would like to emigrate to if we could, or at least send our children to study.

"Right to information act will help to champion the interests of the public"

President of the Sri Lanka Muslim

Media Forum (SLMM) and Editor

of Navamani N. M. Ameen

It has been two years since the end of the war. Therefore it is a good opportunity to introduce the right to Information Act which is widely accepted and practised in other regional countries. The Government is requested to bring an act that is similar to the acts in countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is an important tool to media freedom. During President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga's time Minister Milinda Moragoda tried to pass it in parliament. During the war the Sri Lankan media reported responsibly and some times came under self-censorship and censorship therefore it should be rewarded by passing the Information Act. It is timely and will help to champion the interests of the public. People and the industry should come together and fight for the Act which will help fight corruption in the best way.


" Many journalists have sacrificed their lives"

Free Media Movement

secretary Sita Ranjanee

We are marking the press freedom day with a lot of problems at hand.  Many media personnel have sacrificed their lives in war reporting since 1981.  I did a research and found that more than 114 journalists and media workers perished since 1981 to now. Due to violence against media from 2007 to 2009 period 33 media workers and journalists were killed. In the past two and half years the assassination of the late Lasantha Wickramathunga and various attacks on media institutions remain a mystery although years have gone by and no justice served. Investigations have failed to bring the culprits to justice.


"A free press is at the very core of the right to free expression"

Chairman, Sri Lanka Press Institute,

Kumar Nadesan

Today May 3,  World Press Freedom Day is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of freedom of the press.  A free press is at the very core of the right to free expression. The public in any democratic country depends on a free press to protect and uphold their rights, and to provide credible information that will impact on their lives, and on which decisions will be made. Today we will also remember the journalists who lost their lives in course of carrying out their vocation.


"Opportunity to celebrate the limited success of the media community"

South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) Sri Lanka chapter President Lakshman Gunasekara

World press freedom day is an opportunity to celebrate the limited success of the media industry and professionals in the media community in contributing towards better understanding amongst our audiences about the intense challenges of national governance inter ethnic understanding and justice and the mounting threats to democracy.

The media industry over the past several years have responded to all these challenges by building its own training and standards setting infrastructure on one hand and supporting all those media personnel who have risked careers and their lives in bringing the facts of the country's problems to the audience.

It is also a moment to appreciate unity amongst media personnel in defending freedoms and capacities of the Sri Lankan media to fulfill its societal role.  On this press freedom day the Sri Lankan media as a whole both in the North and South continue to struggle to survive in a very hostile environment with intimidation and physical harassment from various political forces.


"Trade Unions are a rarity in the Sri Lankan media community."

Editor in Chief Ravaya Victor Ivan

The big issue with the community and most prevalent problem is the responsibility. This is also a problem tied with the new culture of journo- politicians. They cannot simply write or make comments.

The media people should not use their freedom for the wrong reasons like to write gossip stories etc. This should be discussed at large. Trade Unions are a rarity in the Sri Lankan media community. Why is that? If you look at India their TU's are a movement to be reckoned with. If only we were organized we could fight for an issue like the Right to Information Act. If not what can we do? In Sri Lanka we are able only to report general sittings of the parliament but in India the journalists are open to report on meetings at committee level while we are restricted to the general sittings.


"Media going with the flow rather than doing ground breaking reporting"

Presidents' Counsel and Institute for Constitutional

Studies Director Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne

Press freedom is part of our constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression. And it is also linked to one's freedom to receive information. Press has a duty to report matters of public interest without fear and fervour. Citizens need correct information but also differing views on various subjects to make their decision. And for them to make representations, protests and agitations to ensure freedom of press is a very important element to civil and political rights. It is also part of the International Covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR).

Unfortunately today one finds that media has come under severe pressure. Also we find many media organizations and persons are kind of taking their powers for granted and are simply going with the flow instead of doing groundbreaking investigative reporting. Sri Lankan media in reluctant to cover events taking place outside of Sri Lanka in places like Syria, Bahrain and the Arab world.

There isn't proper coverage since media organizations think that the government may disapprove of it. So they are in self imposed restraint in terms of reporting.


"A diversity or media views and ownership is a culture that encourages freedom"

Free Media Movement Convener Sunil Jayasekara

The media community of the country marks the  Press Freedom Day when the media community has come under tremendous pressure. This was the cause behind the deaths of many media personnel who came under attack.

Most of the media persons that were spared their life fled the country while the others are still reported missing. There is a huge threat to editorial freedom of media houses and persons. Especially the electronic media where many channels that received their licenses have been friends or allies of the governing few and their reporting meets the various political demands. Meanwhile editors of mainstream newspapers hold positions in the Government. Therefore the news is not served in the best interest of the public but the politician.

In this climate the problems of the common man is forgotten and self -ensorship is the rule of the day. A diversity or media views and ownership is a culture that we encourage which is inter linked to the freedom and rights ensured in the constitution.






The much publicized May Day has come and gone but even as the huge cut-outs that formed the scenario of the May Day celebrations of the present government are being dismantled  in a frenzy of activity, so too will the workers rights be erased.  Certain politicians may feel secure in believing that the workers will continue in their abject subjugation since according to their thinking, the workers were totally supportive of the war on terrorism and now with the much hyped opposition to the report of the panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, no patriotic worker will express dissent. But the war has long been over and the worker essentially now will not seriously consider that he must get involved in panel reports, after all that is a matter for the government to solve.

All their problems as workers, the escalating cost of living, the poor fixed wages they receive which are essentially unable to provide sustainable monthly meals for a small family of four, the lack of employment especially for the youth, the poverty level in marginalized villages did not appear that important to the government who spoke of their support in the war. A pension certainly is not going to help in keeping the home fires burning, instead it will mean another extra levy on their already limited incomes. The blue collared worker was certainly expecting that he will get some relief from the promises made so often but instead to him the pension appears to be another red herring gimmick, for he himself knows that both the fishermen's pension scheme and the farmers' pension scheme are as functional as water pouring down a ducks back!

In fact the workers tend to feel that they are been cheated; promises are made but when some situation to which they are not involved in at all takes place in international affairs such as the present scenario regarding the war, which must essentially be sorted at the level of diplomacy and governmental policy decisions take place the charisma of patriotic behaviour is superimposed so as to silence any dissent or opposition. Essentially patriotism must not become a word tool to create an atmosphere of fear but very often this appears to be happening. Press freedom to express dissenting views is often silenced by this spectre of fear for the  state of emergency that yet exists in the country coupled with the myth of patriotism as a silencing agent, often used to prevent any action by workers to obtain what they perceive are their rights.

With a coterie of ministers, deputies and even public servants all attempting to polish their badges and obtain the maximum number of perks they can by stating that a patriotic citizenship is the best to silence any dissenting views, it is no
wonder that the government feels that every act of theirs is made in the best intentions of the people. And as crowds are collected and cheer leaders placed it really requires a lot of self analysis to remember the fables of long years ago or
the story of the emperor who believed in his ministers until the voice of innocence reminded him of his situation.

As the Buddha said of leadership 'Your work is to discover your work
And then with all your heart

To give yourself to it

Do not live in the world,

In distraction and false dreams.

Outside the dharma.'


That is certainly hard in a world where the cacophony of praise accompanies every action that is done but then once again it is necessary to remove the chaff from the wheat. Perhaps once wiser counsels prevail it would be of value to consider the real grievances of the workers, not merely offer sops of pensions. The very fact that such an offer is viewed with suspicions is an indicator of the people's thinking, they are tired of airy fairy promises and would like to see definite action taken to relieve them at least of a quota of the problems they are facing without attempting to erase all dissent and opposition by bringing in a cover of patriotism to excuse the actualities that exist.







At the time of 9/11, nearly 10 years ago, America was not only immensely distressed and angry but it was surprised too. It couldn't - and still cannot - understand why anyone should be moved by such hatred against it. Inured from the rest of us by the isolationism of most of its political representatives and its media it had little idea of the currents swirling against it.

An event of 9/11's magnitude was not only unimagined, it was unimaginable. Yet long before George W Bush became president with his forceful in-your-face, take-it-or-leave-it attitude to the world outside on issues as diverse as global warming, the International Criminal Court and anti-missile defences, America had been turning in on itself, to the point of self-destructiveness. Thanks to President Barack Obama this has begun to change, though the Republicans in Congress hamper him at every turn.

America's most distinguished foreign affairs commentator, William Pfaff, wrote in his seminal book, Barbarian Sentiments that "America is a dangerous nation while remaining a righteous one". America's pre-eminent post-war diplomat, the late George Kennan, wrote: "I do not think that the US civilisation of these last 40-50 years is a successful civilisation. I think this country is destined to succumb to failures which cannot be other than tragic and enormous in their scope." And later added that for Americans "to see ourselves as the centre of political enlightenment and teachers to a great part of the rest of the world is unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable."

Americans had not learnt by 9/11 and in many ways many still haven't that action produces reaction and not for nothing is anti-American resentment so ingrained in much of the world. In Europe during the Bush administration there was some astonishment that the US ploughed ahead with its self-interested agenda as if no one else had a legitimate opinion or could perhaps view the same situation in a different light.

A Pentagon think tank issued a report that argued for America's need to use the special moment after the defeat of European communism and the break up of the Soviet Union to make sure that America remained militarily superior the world over and that no one, even its closest allies, should be in a position to tell it what to do.

The first law of holes is to stop digging - which is what Washington should have firmly told Israel when it started its foolish policy of building settlements on what everyone knew was Palestinian land. While Arab governments wrung their hands and young Palestinians fought one of the best trained armies in the world, there were the inevitable few attached to the Palestinian cause who were moved towards serious, even apocalyptic, violence. Bin Laden was one of these. As he often made clear the Israel/Palestine problem was the number one issue on his agenda.

But as Gandhi once said, to meet the enemy eye for eye and tooth for tooth is to make everyone blind. This goes not just for Israel but also for America's post 9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama today has his big chance to reverse the decisions made by Bush. At the time Bush made it clear that the US and its European allies were launching the war in Afghanistan in an attempt to kill Bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda. Nothing beyond that. They failed. He fled to Pakistan which at that time was considered a nervous and unreliable ally where, in effect, he had sanctuary since the US feared to rock the political boat.

The war in Afghanistan took on its own momentum. It was mission creep writ large. First came the urge to destroy the Taliban, the Muslim fundamentalist movement, quite popular in Afghanistan because it gave a measure of order in a disordered country, picking up the pieces after the Soviet invasion and occupation, and outlawing the growing of heroin-producing poppies. Then came the urge to implant democracy, improve the roads, build schools and clinics and to emancipate girls and women.

Imagine our forefathers' reaction if in the Middle Ages Martians had landed in Europe and told everyone they must be democratic, observe human rights, liberate the serfs, give everyone the vote and end women being subservient to men, otherwise they would bomb the hell out of them.

Afghanistan remains a predominantly feudal society. It has to find its own way in its own time, just as the West did. We can help it with aid and advice but not bomb it and try to kill off the fundamentalists.







It was thought that Osama bin Laden died many years ago in the Tora Bora caves and that only his legend lived on, but U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Sunday that the Al-Qaeda chief had been killed.

So, now, it appears both the man and the myth are dead.

In a pre-dawn attack in Abbottabad, 62km north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, U.S. operatives killed Bin Laden in the tourist resort of Pakistan after almost a decade since the United States launched a war on the people of Afghanistan on the pretext of capturing or killing Al-Qaeda mastermind, but the high-profile killing at this time has raised many questions.

Anyhow, let us first know what had actually happened on Monday morning in Pakistan and the importance of the place where the killing took place. Abbottabad is a small summer city surrounded by lush green hills and high-altitude mountain ranges of Kashmir. Near this city, Pakistan's biggest military academy, known as Kakul, is situated. Roughly 500 meters from the gates of this military academy, Bin Laden was living in a three-storey house having a fortified compound. The place is only at one hour drive from Islamabad, and at half-day's distance from the Afghan border, where previously he was thought to be hiding by the western security experts.

According to the Associated Press, CIA officials discovered the compound in August 2010 while monitoring an Al-Qaeda courier. The CIA had been hunting that courier for years, ever since detainees told interrogators that the messenger was so trusted by Bin Laden that he might very well be living with the Al-Qaeda leader.

Nestled in an affluent neighborhood, the compound was surrounded by walls as high as six meters (18 feet), topped with barbed wire. Two security gates guarded the only way in. A third-floor terrace was shielded by a 2.33-meter (seven-foot) privacy wall. No phone lines or Internet cables ran to the property. The residents burned their garbage rather than put it out for collection. The U.S. intelligence officials believed the million-dollar compound was built five years ago to protect a major terrorist figure. The question was, who?

The CIA asked itself again and again who might be living behind those walls. Each time, they concluded it was almost certainly Bin Laden.

The first question is: Why the CIA decided to assassinate Bin Laden now, and second, was Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) involved?

The answer to seconded question is, probably yes.

Last month, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha went to the U.S. and conducted a series of meetings with CIA Director Leon Panetta and other high-ranking officials in the Pentagon, in which, it seems, was decided to get rid of Bin Laden and end the conflict in Afghanistan.

It was a joint operation in which U.S. Blackhawk helicopters ferried about two dozen troops from Navy SEAL Team Six, a top military counter-terrorism unit into the compound while Pakistani security forces cordoned off the area and also provided the air-cover in which the Pakistanis lost a helicopter and its crew. Bin Laden was shot in the head after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault. After 40 minutes of fighting, Bin Laden and an adult son, Hamza, one unidentified woman and two men were dead.

The killing of Bin Laden at this time indicates that both Pakistan and the U.S. are now interested in ending the Afghan conflict. Pakistan wants to see U.S. out of Afghanistan as soon as possible and the Obama administration has have its hands full with this war that his predecessor George W. Bush started on the pretext of hunting down Al-Qaeda chief whom his administration accused for the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

However, not many bought Bush administration's argument that Bin Laden actually conducted history's most sophisticated terrorist operation on the U.S. soil.

Many people always knew that it was an inside job or fully facilitated by the CIA and Pentagon in order to launch new wars against the Islamic countries to achieve multiple targets, like destabilizing of the Islamic world by creating ethnic and sectarian divisions, territorial conflicts, and leaving a legacy of simmering disputes in the regions of Central Asia, Southwest Asia and North Africa. The wars were also meant to boost American economy by triggering Military Industrial Complex into action and then starting a process of rebuilding the war-torn countries.

Over more, the U.S. involvement in the energy-rich regions is also meant to curtail the rise of China by denying it easy flow of energy, and ultimately aiming to remove China and Russia from the Mediterranean.

Because of the United States' "war on terror", Pakistan has been engulfed in the flames of extremism and terrorism, and its economy and society suffered badly due to a decade-long reckless war on its borders. So the current administration has finally decided to eliminate the cassis belly, leaving the U.S. with no option but to leave the region.



EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.


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