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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

EDITORIAL 04.05.11

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month april 04, edition 000823, csollected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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












  1. THE 1% POLICY




























  1. PARTY LIKE IT'S 2013































On the face of it, India's response to the slaying of the world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, the man who headed Al Qaeda and patronised a host of jihadi organisations, including the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, cannot be faulted. Ever since the days of Khalistani violence, India has been persistent in telling the world about perfidious Pakistan's policy of aiding, abetting and promoting cross-border terrorism, but since the West was not impacted, nobody bothered to take note of New Delhi's complaint. It required something as devastating and hideous as 9/11 for the truth to sink in, although even after that Western capitals, more so Washington, DC, have demonstrated a perverse bias towards Islamabad. The huge military and civilian aid doled out by America to Pakistan over the past decade bears testimony to this strange blindness. It is ironical that the US should have finally traced Osama bin Laden to his hideout not in the Tora Bora caves or the jihadi-infested Afghanistan-Pakistan border region but right in the heart of Abbottabad, a cantonment where life is monitored by the Army and no outsider can set up home without the ISI's knowledge if not permission. No less revealing is the fact that the specially constructed 'safe house' where Osama bin Laden was found hiding was constructed in 2005, which suggests he may have been living there for the past six years. So much for Pakistan's commitment towards fighting terrorism and America's anointment of a terror-sponsoring state as its 'frontline ally'. Monday's outburst of anger on Capitol Hill is understandable, but members of both the Congress and the Senate have only themselves to blame for believing the fiction peddled by Islamabad and being persuaded by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's ghost-written opeditorials in The Washington Posti proclaiming his country's innocence. It's a richly deserved comeuppance for the Americans.

But how do we explain our Prime Minister's astonishing refusal to speak the truth despite his senior Cabinet colleagues, the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Home Affairs, pointing out the obvious — that Pakistan now stands stripped of the fig leaf that it has clutched on to so desperately all these years while refuting charges of harbouring terrorists and sponsoring terrorism — and instead play down the complicit role of the Pakistani state? Osama bin Laden may have been a 'non-state actor', but those who provided him with shelter and looked after him all these years are very much a part of the Pakistani state; so are those who treat the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed as 'assets' and refuse to act against these terrorist organisations despite overwhelming evidence against them. The US, while plotting and executing the raid on Abbottabad to neutralise Osama bin Laden was taking care of its national interest, as it should. But what about India's national interest? Taking care of that is the mandate of the Government of India which, tragically, is headed by a person who cannot bring himself to separate his personal predilection from the affairs of state. Mr Manmohan Singh is welcome to his views on the need to pander to Pakistan and paint the perpetrator of repeated terrorist attacks on India as the victim, but he should desist from forcing that as foreign policy on the nation. For justice still eludes those killed by Pakistan's terrorists in India.







The final clearance given to the Posco project by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on Monday is much welcome not only because the $12 billion integrated steel plant is a major investment initiative but more importantly because the decision was based on the often ignored principles of cooperative federalism and serves to reinforce the importance of allowing States to choose their own path to development and economic growth. Seen in this context, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has done well to set aside the palli sabharesolutions passed by the village assemblies of Dhinkia and Gobindapur 'prohibiting' the diversion of forest land because the Government of Odisha had found that these were not "valid documents in terms of the mandatory provisions of law under the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act, 1964, and the Forest Rights Act, 2006." In other words, Mr Jairam Ramesh has upheld the principle of cooperative federalism which is crucial for the successful functioning of democracy that is framed within a federal structure while deciding whether or not to act upon the so-called village council resolutions that were clearly motivated and lacking in legitimacy. Earlier on April 14 he had asked the Odisha Government to look into the villages' claims, to which the State authorities had replied in a letter dated April 29 that "such resolutions can neither be relied nor acted upon".

Eventually, it was based on these observations that Mr Jairam Ramesh decided to put aside the reported claims and go with the State Government's views. "Beyond a point the bonafides of a democratically elected State Government cannot always be questioned by the Centre," explained Mr Jairam Ramesh, and rightly so. He emphasised that "faith and trust in... the State Government… is an essential pillar of co-operative federalism" and added that "the views of the State Government must prevail unless there is overwhelming and clinching evidence to the contrary". Had he spoken and acted to the contrary, it would have been grossly wrong and extremely unfair to Odisha which hopes the project will generate not only resources for the State Government but also create desperately needed jobs both at the factory and down the line. That said, two points need to be stressed. Factories cannot be set up by indiscriminately destroying forests or blindly converting farmland into industrial land. A balance has to be maintained. Second, Mr Jairam Ramesh would do a big service to the nation if he were to explain why clearances were given for the Posco project without looking into the environmental and related aspects. Whose decision was it to gloss over the loopholes that have now been plugged?









In the annals of special operations, the top secret US raid on Abbottabad to get Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden will be remembered as a milestone.

The President required surgery for a potentially incapacitating ailment, but didn't want to attract the attention of a nosy media and become the subject of political gossip. Instead of flying to a foreign hospital as was the wont in the country then, the President checked into a local city hospital. That was the tale of a former President of India in the recent past, and he was operated upon in Delhi's Army Hospital (Research & Referral) — R&R in common parlance. Why he chose the premier military hospital in the country becomes plain to the eye from the dramatic events that have unfolded in Thanda Chuha, Abbottabad, home to the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.

The military is trained to maintain secrecy against all odds and suppress the human instinct of gossiping. Even the South Asian militaries have been able to maintain commendable degrees of secrecy, going totally against the grains of their societies. So the President of India checked himself into R&R, went through a highly technical surgery, and was out in a matter of days without the nosy media getting a whiff of his absence from work. The Indian Army, which runs R&R, maintained the dignity of the President and a silence that is quite at odds with national trends. Its sibling separated at birth managed to do quite the same thing, for a longer period of time, albeit for a dodgy person wanted dead or alive worldwide.

A six-foot-four-inch Arab man, with flowing robes and a beard to match, evaded all the eyes in the skies and on the ground aimed at him since over a decade. And this despite suffering from a kidney ailment that reportedly required dialysis. Osama bin Laden evaded all those hunting him only because he had the protection of the most secretive institution in the region, the Pakistani Army. The only hospitals that could cater to his frequent needs, and maintain silence, would thus have to be those run by the Pakistani Army.

Civilian medical establishments would have been no-go areas for their vulnerability to penetration, and swirling crowds. Exactly the areas to avoid when there is a $25 million bounty on one's head. So, for over a decade on the run, Osama bin Laden avoided detection because his movements were restricted, and his medical care was provided in secrecy. Which logically means that life would obviously have to be lived within, or near, military cantonments. Any analysis of his decade-long escape and evasion exercise must begin from this most basic of live facts. All else will then fall into place.

It is also a certainty that the Government of Pakistan, as well as its military and intelligence assets, were not in the loop when the United States of America began preparations to launch a military operation to neutralise Osama bin Laden. Just as the Pakistani Army maintained extremely strict secrecy in providing cover for Osama bin Laden, the US Administration reciprocated in kind. It isn't a matter of trust, simply an operational requirement and a mandatory one at that.

No military operation, especially not one of this nature, can be planned and launched without keeping the barest minimum people in the loop. Even the US Ambassador to Pakistan, the point person for the most crucial contemporary relationship globally, was not in the loop. In the world of intrigue and operations this phenomenon is called 'need-to-know', and there was no need for more than the barest minimum number of people to know. So when Pakistani officialdom makes claims to the contrary, they are aiming at perceptions within the country. For that is where the next big showdown is expected to happen.

There are three theories about Pakistan's role in the operation to get Osama bin Laden. All three rule out Pakistan having played an active role in the operation. And all three options suggest Pakistan will suffer serious consequences. Pakistan, for starters, could not have helped for the simple reason it was not in the loop of the operation. Elements within the state who knew the whereabouts of the dialysis-requiring fugitive wouldn't have participated in the operation since they wanted him to remain alive or, at worst, be nabbed outside Pakistan. They think logically, and in none of their scenarios does an Osama bin Laden caught in Pakistan suit their agenda.

So, if Pakistan has helped, it will suffer the consequences from homegrown Al Qaeda clones. On the other hand, if it hasn't helped, it will still suffer, but from the wrath of its ally flush with success of an operation gone well. The US now has evidence to confirm Pakistan has been pulling wool over its eyes. Despite knowing Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, the fact that Pakistan didn't share the information inspires serious penalties from the US.

The third is about Pakistan betraying its guest. Had the Pakistani state known about the operation, which it would if it were betraying Osama bin Laden, someone would have leaked the plans. For this is exactly what happened with the cruise missile attacks on Khost in 1998 in retaliation for the attacks on American Embassies in East Africa. The US obviously learnt a lesson from informing the Pakistani state beforehand, for Osama bin Laden is known to have escaped minutes before the missiles struck. Most important of all is the fact that the consequences of betrayal are far worse than helping or not helping. None of the scenarios, therefore, suggests Pakistan's involvement in the plot, not from a mile.

What this episode does for the people of Pakistan is that it unequivocally demonstrates to them the duplicity of their Army and the ISI. Fed on a policy of denial ever since his escape from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's residence in Thanda Chuha, Abbottabad, is the most damning piece of evidence possible. What it does is to further lower the image of the Army as a provider of stability in a country habituated to political upheavals. The baton has to be picked up by political parties in Pakistan, but India, and Indians, can do their bit by not gloating.

In the annals of special operations Thanda Chuha will be remembered as a milestone. It is the most outstanding since September 1943 when Lt Col Otto Skorzeny rescued Benito Mussolini from his mountain-top prison during 'Operation Oak'. From planning to launch to completion, the operation to get Osama bin Laden was kept to within textbook standards. It involved only one strike force, SEALs Team Six; used transport from one source, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade's Task Force Raptor that moved to Ghazi Air Force Base for flood relief operations last September; and, on completion of the raid, the team exited using a different route from the one taken to target. All common sense, the most important tool needed to win a war.







US President Barack Obama appeared in a hastily arranged televised address the night of May 1 to inform the world that US counter-terrorism forces had located and killed Osama bin Laden. The operation, which reportedly happened in the early hours of May 2 local time, targetted a compound in Abbottabad, a city located some 31 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. The nighttime raid resulted in a brief firefight that left Osama bin Laden and several others dead. A US helicopter reportedly was damaged in the raid and later destroyed by US forces. Mr Obama reported that no US personnel were lost in the operation. After a brief search of the compound, the US forces left with Osama bin Laden's body and presumably anything else that appeared to have intelligence value. From Mr Obama's carefully scripted speech, it would appear that the US conducted the operation unilaterally with no Pakistani assistance — or even knowledge.

As evidenced by the spontaneous celebrations that erupted in Washington, New York and across the US, the killing of Osama bin Laden has struck a chord with many Americans. This was true not only of those who lost family members as a result of the attack, but of those who were vicariously terrorised and still vividly recall the deep sense of fear they felt the morning of September 11, 2001, as they watched aircraft strike the World Trade Center towers and saw those towers collapse on live television, and then heard reports of the Pentagon being struck by a third aircraft and of a fourth aircraft prevented from being used in another attack when it crashed in rural Pennsylvania. As that fear turned to anger, a deep-seated thirst for vengeance led the US to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 and to declare a 'global war on terrorism'.

Because of this sense of fulfilled vengeance, the death of Osama bin Laden will certainly be one of those events that people will remember, like the 9/11 attacks themselves. In spite of the sense of justice and closure the killing of Osama bin Laden brings, however, his death will likely have very little practical impact on the jihadi movement. More important will be the reaction of the Pakistani Government to the operation and the impact it has on US-Pakistan relations.

To understand the impact of Osama bin Laden's death on the global jihadi movement, we must first remember that the phenomenon of jihadism is far wider than just the Al Qaeda core leadership of Osama bin Laden and his closest followers. Rather than a monolithic entity based on the Al Qaeda group, jihadism has devolved into a far more diffuse network composed of many different parts. These parts include the core Al Qaeda group formerly headed by Osama bin Laden; a network of various regional franchise groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; and last, a broad array of grassroots operatives who are adherents to the jihadi ideology but who are not formally affiliated with the Al Qaeda core or one of the regional franchises.

The Al Qaeda core always has been a fairly small and elite vanguard. Since 9/11, intense pressure has been placed upon this core organisation by the US Government and its allies. This pressure has resulted in the death or capture of many Al Qaeda cadres and has served to keep the group small due to overriding operational security concerns. This insular group has laid low in Pakistan, and this isolation has significantly degraded its ability to conduct attacks. All of this has caused the Al Qaeda core to become primarily an organisation that produces propaganda and provides guidance and inspiration to the other jihadi elements rather than an organisation focussed on conducting operations. While Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda core have received a great deal of media attention, the core group comprises only a very small portion of the larger jihadi movement.

As STRATFOR has analysed the war between the jihadi movement and the rest of the world, we have come to view the battlefield as being divided into two distinct parts, the physical battlefield and the ideological battlefield. The post-9/11 assault on the Al Qaeda core group hindered its ability to act upon the physical battlefield. For the past several years, they have been limited to fighting on the ideological battlefield, waging a war of propaganda and attempting to promote the ideology of jihadism in an effort to radicalise Muslims and prompt them to act. The danger has always existed that if pressure were taken off this core, it could regroup and return to the physical struggle. But the pressure has been relentless and the group has been unable to return to its pre-9/11 level of operational capability. This has resulted in the grassroots and franchise groups like AQAP taking the lead on the physical battlefield.

As we noted in our annual forecast of the jihadi movement, the Al Qaeda core group not only has been eclipsed on the physical battlefield, over the past few years it has been overshadowed on the ideological battlefield as well. Groups such as AQAP have begun setting the tone on the ideological realm — as in its call for Muslims to assume the leaderless resistance model rather than travelling to join groups — and we have seen the Al Qaeda core follow the lead of AQAP rather than set the tone themselves. We believe this deference to AQAP is a sign of the Al Qaeda core's weakness, and of its struggle to remain relevant on the ideological battlefield. There also have been many disagreements among various actors in the jihadi movement over doctrinal issues such as targeting foreigners over local security forces and attacks that kill Muslims.

While the Al Qaeda core has been marginalised recently, it has practiced good operational security and has been able to protect its apex leadership for nearly 10 years from one of the most intense manhunts in human history. It clearly foresaw the possibility that one of its apex leaders could be taken out and planned accordingly. This means keeping Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Egyptian physician Ayman al-Zawahiri, in different locations and having a succession plan. There is also very little question that al-Zawahiri is firmly in command of the core group. Even prior to Osama bin Laden's death, many analysts considered al-Zawahiri to be the man in charge of most of the operational aspects of the Al Qaeda group — the 'chief executive officer,' with Osama bin Laden being more of a figurehead or 'chairman of the board'. That said, the intelligence collected during the operation against Osama bin Laden could provide leads to track down other leaders, and this may make them nervous in spite of their efforts to practice good operational security.

Certainly, Osama bin Laden was an important person who was able to raise much funding and who became an international icon following 9/11; because of this, it will be hard to replace him. At the same time, the jihadi movement has weathered the loss of a number of influential individuals, from the assassination of Abdullah Azzam to the arrests of the Blind Sheikh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Yet in spite of these losses, the ideology has continued, new members have been recruited and new leaders have stepped up to fill the void. Ideologies are far harder to kill than individuals, especially ideologies that encourage their followers to embrace martyrdom whether their leaders are dead or alive. This means that we do not believe the death of Osama bin Laden will result in the death of the global jihadi movement: A man is dead but the ideology lives on.

The survival of the ideology of jihadism means the threat of terrorist attacks remains. The good news is that as one moves down the jihadi pyramid from the Al Qaeda core to the regional franchises to the grassroots, the level of terrorist tradecraft these individuals possess diminishes and the threat they pose is not as severe. Certainly, grassroots terrorists can and will continue to kill people, but they lack the ability to conduct dramatic, strategic attacks. Thus, though the threat becomes more widespread and harder to guard against, at the same time it becomes less severe.

There obviously will be some concerns regarding some sort of major attack in retribution for Osama bin Laden's death. Indeed, jihadis have long threatened to conduct attacks over the arrests and deaths of key figures. Analytically, however, the idea that Al Qaeda or one of its regional franchise groups has some sort of superattack on standby for activation upon Osama bin Laden's death is simply not logical. First, the Al Qaeda core group has attempted to conduct many attacks against the US homeland following 9/11, as have franchise groups like AQAP. While these plots did not succeed, it was not for lack of trying. Jihadis have also made many empty threats regarding a follow-on to the 9/11 attacks — only to be embarrassed by their inability to follow through. Third, so many plots have been thwarted over the past decade that if the core Al Qaeda group or a franchise group had a plan primed and ready to go, it would not sit on it and run the risk of its being discovered and compromised. Instead, it would execute such an attack as soon as it was ready. Furthermore, jihadis — especially those at the grassroots and regional franchise levels — have not demonstrated the sophisticated apparatus required to conduct off-the-shelf planning exhibited by groups like Hizbullah. They generally tend to work on attack plans from scratch and execute those plans when ready.

Undoubtedly, there were jihadis planning attacks on the US before the death of Osama bin Laden, and there are jihadis planning attacks today. However, these individuals probably would have carried out this planning and any eventual attack — if possible — regardless of Osama bin Laden's fate. Will groups conducting future attacks claim they were acting in retribution for Osama bin Laden? Probably. Would they have attempted such an attack if he were still alive? Probably.

The potential for low-level impulsive retribution attacks by unprepared individuals or groups directed at American or other Western targets does exist, however. This type of impromptu attack would be more likely a shooting rather than an attack using an explosive device, so there is good reason for the US Government to increase security measures around the globe.

The result of all this is that the threat from the global jihadi movement will continue in the short term with no real change. This means that pressure needs to be maintained on the Al Qaeda core so it will not have the chance to recover, retool and return to attacking the US. Pressure also needs to be maintained on the jihadi franchise groups so they cannot mature operationally to the point where they become transnational, strategic threats. Finally, efforts must continue to identify grassroots jihadis before they can launch attacks against soft targets. But these same imperatives also were valid last week; nothing has really changed at the tactical level.

Where the big change may be happening is at the political level. That Osama bin Laden was located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province) did not come as a surprise — STRATFOR has discussed this likelihood since 2005. We have also discussed the distrust and suspicion between the US and Pakistan — which was clearly evidenced by the unilateral US action in this case. The significant thing to watch for is the reaction of the Pakistani Government and public to the raid. In the past, the Pakistani Government has found creative ways of displaying its displeasure with the actions of the US Government — like manipulating the Pakistani public into the November 1979 sacking and destruction of the US Embassy in Islamabad. While the average Pakistani may not care too much about Osama bin Laden, public sentiment is running very high against US operations in Pakistan, and this operation could serve to inflame such sentiments. These two elements mean that the coming weeks could be a very tense time for US diplomatic and commercial interests in that country.

-- Bin Laden's Death and the Implications for Jihadism is republished with permission of STRATFOR.






Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Osama bin Laden, the author of the 9/11 atrocity in the United States and various lesser terrorist outrages elsewhere, has been killed by American troops in his hide-out in northern Pakistan. At last, the world can breathe more easily. But not many people were holding their breaths anyway.

President Barack Obama issued the usual warning when he announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed by American troops in a compound in the city of Abbottabad: "The death of Osama 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." But that wasn't quite right either.

No doubt attacks will continue to be made in the Arab world in the name of Al Qaeda, but the original organisation created by Osama bin Laden has been moribund for years. Outside the Arab world, there have been no major terrorist assaults for about five years now, and Osama bin Laden's death is unlikely to change that. The whole enterprise was never what it seemed.

Osama bin Laden was a revolutionary before he was a terrorist. His goal was to overthrow existing Arab Governments and replace them with regimes that imposed an extreme form of the Salafi (Islamist) doctrine on the people instead.

Once all the Muslims had accepted that doctrine, Osama bin Laden believed, they would benefit from god's active support and triumph over the outside forces that held them back. Poverty would be vanquished, the humiliations would end, and the infidels ('the Zionist-Crusader alliance') would be defeated. It was essentially a form of magical thinking, but his strategic thinking was severely rational.

Successful revolutions bringing Salafi regimes to power were the key to success, but for the revolutions to succeed they must win mass support among Arab and other Muslim populations. Unfortunately, only a very small proportion of Muslims accepted Salafi ideas, so some way must be found to win them over. That's where the terrorism came in.

Terrorism is a classic technique for revolutionaries trying to build popular support. The objective is to trick the enemy Government, local or foreign, into behaving so badly that it alienates the population and drives people into the arms of the revolutionaries. Then, with mass popular support, the revolutionaries overthrow the Government and take power.

This kind of terrorism has been used so often, and the strategy behind it is so transparently obvious, that no 21st Century Government should ever fall for it. But if the terrorist attacks kill enough people, it is very hard for the Government being attacked not to overreact, even if that plays into the terrorists' hands. The pressure at home for the Government to 'do something' is almost irresistible.

The Bush Administration duly over-reacted to 9/11 and invaded two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, on a futile quest to 'stamp out terrorism' — which was, of course, exactly what Osama bin Laden and his colleagues wanted the United States to do.

However, almost 10 years after 9/11, it is clear that Osama bin Laden's strategy has failed even though the United States fell into the trap he had set for it. Muslims everywhere were appalled by the suffering inflicted on Afghans and Iraqis, and many condemned the United States for its actions, but they didn't turn to the Salafis instead.

When popular revolutions finally did begin to happen in the Arab world five months ago, they were non-violent affairs seeking the same democracy that secular countries in the West and elsewhere already enjoy. The Salafis have become virtually irrelevant. Which is not to say that there will never be another terrorist attack on the US. Osama bin Laden had not been in operational control of Al Qaeda for many years, because regular communication with the outside world would have allowed US forces to track him down long ago: The compound in Abbottabad had neither telephone nor internet connections. The real planners and actors are still out there somewhere.

The question is: What can the Salafis possibly do now that would put their project back on track? And the answer — the only answer — is to goad the United States into further violence against Muslims, in retaliation for some new terrorist atrocity against Americans.

There have been no major attempts by Al Qaeda to attack the United States in the past 10 years because it was already doing what the terrorists wanted. Why risk discrediting President George W Bush by carrying out another successful terrorist attack, even if they had the resources to do so?

But the probability of a serious Salafi attempt to hit the US again has been rising ever since American troops began to pull out of Iraq, and President Obama's obvious desire to get out of Afghanistan raises it even further. Osama bin Laden's strategy has not delivered the goods for the Salafis, but they have no alternative strategy.

Osama bin Laden's death would provide a useful justification for another attempt to hit the US, but it wouldn't really be the reason for it — and it probably wouldn't succeed, either. Osama bin Laden's hopes died long before he did.

-- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.***************************************








Osama bin Laden's killing "deep inside Pakistan" would appear to lend credence to those voicing scepticism about the prospect of India-Pakistan rapprochement. They could understandably point to the presence of not just al-Qaida but overtly anti-India elements on Pakistani soil.

However, the event should not be allowed to derail resumption of the dialogue process announced recently. True, several outstanding issues exist between the two countries. But these can't be resolved through hostility. The Indian government has shown perseverance by initiating re-engagement with our neighbour; care must be taken to ensure there is no loss of momentum. Given the hard lessons of past conflict, both sides must know dialogue is the only way forward.

Nonetheless, Pakistan must now appreciate that terrorism is a key concern for India just as it is with the US and has to be an important component of talks. Constructive bilateral relations will require that the Pakistani authorities come out of denial mode. Islamabad can no longer refute that terrorist elements of various hues have sheltered within its territory. Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, has said that had there been intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts, authorities in his country would have surely acted. Unfortunately, Pakistan's track record in such matters hasn't inspired confidence, despite the billions in US aid received over the last decade for the war against terror.

Bin Laden represented an ideology of violence that continues to inspire India-focussed terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed. Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed roams free in Pakistan, facing no constraints when openly making hate speeches against India. The Pakistani handlers and operational masterminds behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack continue to evade justice in Pakistani courts due to poor prosecution. Above all, Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorism, having lost countless innocent lives at the hands of these criminal organisations. Thousands more have lost their homes and had their lives disrupted. According to Pakistan's own 2009-10 economic survey report, terrorism cost the country 6% of GDP that year. If the menace continues, massive amounts of development spending will have to be diverted towards security needs. Pakistan can't afford the opportunity cost.

Islamabad must haul up its security establishment for not doing enough to nail terror elements. The country has enough on its plate, with the economy in poor shape and sectarian strife raising its head ever so often. It's in both Pakistan's and India's interest to use strong ties to foster growth and stability in the region. Greater synergy in trade and enhanced people-to-people contact will help in this effort. As will Pakistan's demonstrated resolve in taking concerted action against violent extremism. Failure in this regard would further hurt its image, which has been hit by the US strike against bin Laden.







The RBI had a tough call. Inflation was at a discomfiting 9% at March-end. But expectation of a ninth round of interest rate increases also deepened concern about dampened growth. Two sets of data released on the eve of RBI's credit policy review showed good core sector and manufacturing growth. But statistical comfort here can't serve to rationalise the latest hikes of RBI's lending and borrowing rates, which are more hawkish than usual.

For one thing, RBI goes by the official index of industrial production, which hit a low 3.6% in February. For another, some forecasts temper expectations on GDP growth. RBI's own peg at 8% this fiscal is less than the government's projected 9%. Why then were rates lifted sharply? Clearly, RBI wants to prevent persisting high inflation - translating into prohibitive input costs and fiscal deficits - from seriously choking future growth. Manageably less growth in the short run is the trade-off.

Insofar as tight monetary policy sends a strong anti-inflationary signal, there's a point there. As a balance, the cash reserve ratio - part of deposits banks must park with RBI - is untouched to keep some liquidity in the system. Nonetheless, if the price of fuel and manufactured goods has risen, inflation hasn't just been demand-led.

While generalised inflation's now attracting more attention than food inflation, the latter's still at a needling 8.76%, impacting the poor and exposing official apathy. Besides, food demand can only go up in fast-growing India, mandating far-sighted measures to ensure productivity keeps pace. As RBI notes, the monsoon's trajectory will shape inflationary expectations ahead.

We need to begin overhauling agriculture, via marketing and retail reform to ensure capital flow to farm-to-fork capacity-building, tech-aided farming that's less rain-dependent and R&D. But the government's yet to display reformist zeal about stopping supply side crises from recurring. That's where the anti-inflation fight falls short.









In the wake of the dramatic US operation at Abbottabad, which ended in Osama bin Laden's death, some fantasists here have begun to wonder whether India has the 'capabilities' to carry out such strikes. The question can and should be quickly answered.

Given the experience of 26/11 in Mumbai and the quality of responses witnessed there, as well as in a host of earlier operations, and knowledge of 'capacity building' thereafter, it should be abundantly clear that India does not have the necessary capabilities to carry out such operations even on its own soil, leave alone deep inside hostile territory.

This unfortunate circumstance is the cumulative result of a systematic neglect and weakening of India's security apparatus, and the dismantling of covert capabilities by successive administrations over decades. This does not, of course, mean that such capabilities cannot be restored. Such an outcome would, however, require a measure of strategic acuity, resilience and determination on the part of our political leaders, which they give no evidence of possessing.

It is, indeed, difficult to imagine any of India's present crop of leaders - from the Left, the Centre or the Right of the political spectrum - doing what President Barack Obama did on April 29, 2011: sitting with national security advisers to evaluate intelligence and then signing, on record, an executive order authorising an operation to execute a terrorist leader on foreign soil.

The Abbottabad operation, and the very long road that led to it, should demonstrate, even to India's blind leadership, the necessity of creating capacities for covert operations and surgical - including deniable - strikes in hostile territory, within the context of the long war that the country is currently engaged in with terrorists and their state sponsors. What is little noticed in the frenzied commentary on the bin Laden killing is the fact that it is the culmination of sustained efforts of three successive presidencies, and two presidents at ideological poles, one from the other; and further, that it arises out of the imperatives of a clearly stated counterterrorism policy which declares unambiguously:

"When terrorists wanted for violation of US law are at large overseas, their return for prosecution shall be a matter of the highest priority and shall be a continuing central issue in bilateral relations with any state that harbours or assists them...If we do not receive adequate cooperation from a state that harbours a terrorist whose extradition we are seeking, we shall take appropriate measures to induce cooperation. Return of suspects by force may be effected without the cooperation of the host government..."

Billions of dollars, tremendous diplomatic arm-twisting, and a relentless commitment to their policy goals have enabled the Americans to secure this limited victory, even as Obama concedes, "His death does not mark the end of our effort."

India's policy flip flops in the wake of repeated Pakistan-backed terrorist outrages; the constant swing of the pendulum between the fruitless alternatives of 'talks' and 'no talks' with Pakistan; New Delhi's importunate appeals to the Pakistani leadership to abandon its visible support to terrorism and to other countries to do what we are unwilling or unable to do ourselves, contrast embarrassingly with American resolution in this case. Of course, US policy has its own contradictions and vulnerabilities in other areas, particularly on the broader AfPak front. It is important to note, however, that the US continues to engage with regimes in Pakistan, in full awareness of their role in supporting anti-US terrorism, particularly in the AfPak region, without altogether abandoning its own core interests or limiting its strategic and tactical options.

Bin Laden's death will have little impact on the organisational and operational capabilities of al-Qaida and its affiliates, including groups operating in India, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammed and Harkatul Mujahiddeen, among others.

Nevertheless, a complex dynamic has been unleashed by this event, and the circumstances of its occurrence. It is inevitable, given bin Laden's safe house in the heart of a garrison town and in close proximity to major military establishments, that Pakistan's role in supporting and sponsoring terrorism will come under microscopic scrutiny from this point on, and this may impose even greater constraints on that country's adventurism than currently exist. The killing, moreover, will have an inevitably dampening effect on Islamist extremist terrorism worldwide, in the medium term. This is particularly the case since it occurs against a backdrop of a rising wave of rebellions - including peaceful uprisings - at once, against authoritarian rule and theocratic oppression, across wide areas of the 'Muslim world'.

There is, however, a residual and great danger. Orchestrating a major or catastrophic terrorist strike has now become a survival imperative for al-Qaida and its many affiliates. Only such an attack, or a series of such attacks, can help restore the 'global jihad', win back weakening support, and stem the progressive fragmentation of these groups under the onslaught of repeated reverses (crucially, bin Laden was only the most prominent and most recent of a string of al-Qaida-affiliated leaders who have been neutralised - arrested or killed - over the past decade). This creates an imminent threat worldwide, and certainly in India as well. Tremendous vigilance will be needed from overstretched intelligence and security forces in the coming weeks and months to ensure that such risks are not realised.

More significantly, however, it is a long-term imperative for democracies to develop systems and capacities to protect themselves against ruthless enemies who recognise no limits to their violence, and to contest the ideologies of hate that are, today, vigorously propagated even within liberal cultures.

The writer is executive director, Institute for Conflict Management and South Asia Terrorism Portal.







Salman Rushdie reveals he is leaving the chairmanship of the PEN World Voices Festival - a part of the world's oldest international literary and human rights organisation - and that he's writing his memoirs in an interview with Sujeet Rajan :

What do you have to say about Siddhartha Mukherjee winning the Pulitzer (for The Emperor of all Maladies - A Biography of Cancer)?

Yes, you know, he's a friend of mine and i think it's a wonderful book, and it's completely well deserved, for a surprise. I think it's very difficult to take a subject like that and you must not only be authoritative, but also be very engrossing. I think it's actually an incredibly readable book apart from anything else. He has a wealth of knowledge on the subject. He's a great guy. I'm very happy for him and proud of him.

What are your thoughts on the PEN World Voices Festival?

For me, it's a point of great pride. I started this festival. It's my baby and it's now in its seventh year, and it's got bigger and bigger every year. This year we've like 100 writers coming in from all over the world, including Nobel laureates like Wole Soyinka and so on and then, some new, young, interesting writers. The great difference this year is we have managed to get the festival a permanent home. It's based in Standard Hotel. I think that gives it a real focus and identity which it needs, so i think it would take it to the next level. For me, it's also kind of a swan song. I think, i've done it and seven years is long enough. So i think after this year, i'll hand over the chairmanship to somebody else. I think fresh blood is good. No one should be president for life.

What are you working on right now?

I'm writing my memoir, which i'm supposed to deliver by the end of the year, that'll come out next year. Then, i've sold an idea of a 60-minute drama series to Show Time network. I'll start work on that the moment i'm finished with the memoir. Meanwhile, there is a movie on Midnight's Children that'll be in the theatres next year as well. We're making it right now and by the time we finish with it, it'll be next year.

Are you satisfied with the writing that is coming out of India?

Yes, India and Pakistan. It used to be all India and no Pakistan. And what's interesting in this generation, in the younger generation, is a number of talented Pakistani writers. And, now i kind of think that they're giving Indians a run for their money. But you know, the thing i like about what has happened with literature in English is that it has become very diverse. On the one hand, you've very literary work: people like Amit Chaudhary and so on. And on the other hand, you've much more popular fiction, like a whole spectrum. I think that's what healthy literature needs. It needs to have every kind of writing.


Are expatriate writers going to focus more on India now?

I think that writers' careers don't go in a straight line, they go in loops. You go back and forth. I've written books about India and then not about India. Then, everybody said you stopped writing about India and then the next book was about India. Then, people said, Oh, you are going to write about India all the time, and the book after it wasn't about it. So you know writers' imagination goes backward and forth and doesn't stick at one place.








Is he more dangerous dead than alive? That's the question that looms over the celebrations at the reported death of a man billed by the US and its allies over the past 10 years as Public Enemy No.1, target of the biggest - and at an estimated 1.3 trillion dollars, the costliest - manhunt in history. They've finally got him. And it's over. Or has it just begun?

In the Hollywood film El Cid, named after the nationalist hero of medieval Spain, the Spanish troops despair when their leader is killed in battle. Who will now lead them to victory? The generals strap El Cid's body onto his warhorse and send it galloping towards the enemy lines. Morale restored by the 'miracle' of their dead hero leading them into battle, the Spaniards win the day. The message of the climactic scene in the film is simple: You can kill a man; you can't kill a man transformed into legend.

The covert nature of the US operation that took out Osama, and some 20-odd associates, with near-surgical precision and then disposed of the bodies at sea - to obviate his burial place becoming a shrine for would-be jihadis - has already started the rumour mills buzzing. Like Saddam Hussein - who was finally hanged - Osama was said to have many 'body doubles', look-alikes whose role was to confuse and confound assassins. What proof - sceptics are asking - is there that the man killed in the raid was really Osama? It is out of such small seeds of doubt - or of faith, depending on your viewpoint - that imperishable myths are born.

Even if it's proved beyond all doubt that the world's most wanted terrorist is really and indisputably dead he'll be embalmed in martyrdom. Already, the Taliban has hailed him as a shaheed, a slain hero who inspires others to follow in his path. Political and commercial establishments with American connections all over the world ave been put on high alert.

While this is a necessary precaution, it remains to be seen what effect Osama's elimination will have on the functioning of his organisation, al-Qaida, and its implications for the US-led campaign against global terrorism, a scourge that has claimed innocent victims among all nationalities and creeds. Reportedly, bin Laden had long ceased being in operational charge of his terrorist network, having assumed the larger stature of an inspirational icon. Death - especially a violent and mysterious death such as Osama's - cannot diminish such stature but only enhance it. Many idolised images testify to this, from Che Guevara to Netaji Subhas Bose, whose diehard adherents believe that he lives on, though by now well over a hundred years old. In any case, organisations like al-Qaida don't have a centralised command structure but operate by way of autonomous 'cells' so that even if one cell is wiped out the others remain intact. A martyred Osama is likely to prove a better recruiting agent for al-Qaida than when he was alive.

President Obama who has taken personal credit for Osama's death - and by doing so probably assured himself of a second term in the White House - is likely to pull thousands of American troops out of Afghanistan in view of the lowered 'threat perception' following the successful US raid in Abbottabad. But instead of taking his troops back home to America, the president might consider transferring them to Pakistan. That Osama was 'hiding' in plain sight, virtually under Islamabad's nose, shows the duplicitous role Pakistan has long played as Washington's ally in the anti-terrorist operations, a role repeatedly questioned by New Delhi. If the Pakistani military and intelligence establishments were playing host to Osama, how many terrorist training camps are enjoying similar hospitality? That's what the White House needs to ask itself.

The emotional upheaval among his worshippers caused by their hero's death can only ensure that those breeding grounds of terror are more active and productive than ever. Osama is dead. Long live Osama?









It has long been open knowledge that Pakistan made a careful distinction between the terrorists that it could use to further its own foreign policy goals and those which it could not. It has also been assumed that it was, at times, willing to tolerate the latter if it was useful to maintaining the support of the former. India has complained incessantly about Isla-mabad's double-talk on terrorism — largely to a sympathetic but passive audience of the international community. The shock of Osama bin Laden living in Abbottabad has at least shown up the consequences of this two-faced Pakistani approach in a way that no amount of rhetoric and dossiers from New Delhi could ever have done. Even within Pakistan there seems to have been a certain degree of shock that its culture of terrorist tolerance has reached such a point that bin Laden could live for years in its heartland without any hindrance or problem.

The question is whether this will make any real difference to this Pakistani distinction of "my terrorists versus the other terrorists". The answer, sadly, is probably no. The fundamental reason for Islamabad's support for this policy remains intact. Namely, that allowing various militant groups to flourish on its soil is a useful handle against India and its only leverage over Kashmir. If anything, Pakistan has discovered even more reasons to provide support for such groups. It now carries out a similar policy, through the Haqqani network of the Taliban, to put pressure on the government of Hamid Karzai. It also uses such groups to keep the western coalition forces in Afghanistan off balance. If anything, Pakistan's addiction to the State sponsorship of terrorism has merely grown. We will hopefully find out over the next few months as to how bin Lad-en was able to live so comfortably inside Pakistan. There is a strong likelihood that he was able to do so because of supporters within the Pakistani establishment, military or otherwise.

This raises the real question that Pakistanis need to ask themselves. Islamicist militant groups have an agenda that only partially overlaps with that of the Pakistani state. And part of their agenda is to make Pakistani society follow their own theocratic norms and to work together in support of each other's political goals. This extra-governmental agenda is enlarging their sphere of influence at the cost of Pakistani society and state as a whole. Islamabad must ask whether their strategy is worth potentially losing control of their own nation. Bin Laden's years in Abbottabad are a warning that someone of his ilk may not have to live as covertly in the future.




Here is a case of how lack of curiosity killed the cat. If people in Abbottabad had, like most subcontinental people, been consumed with curiosity, Osama bin Laden would have had to flee this safehouse long ago and thereby save his skin. But no, it never seemed to bother anyone that a gigantic mansion surrounded by high walls seemingly had no occupants or that the garbage was burnt on the premises. Had it been here, by now nosy neighbours would have popped in for a cup of sugar, found out how many children the occupant had, what his qualifications were and whether he planned to add to his family.

A journey on an Indian train is proof, if any were needed, of our insatiable desire for an information overload from the stranger next to us. The ploy is quite cunning. You will offer the victim a bit of your food. She may or may not accept, but either way you have got your foot in through the door. A barrage of questions later, the hapless traveller has told you everything about herself and a few generations before. Those of us who happen to live in apartments have to develop Navy Seal-like skills to evade our neighbours. But the exception to this penchant of being in the know clearly is on the wane in Pakistan where people seem quite nonchalant about others walking around with ticking bombs and building safe houses in busy localities.

Of course, some of this is rubbing off on its ally, the US. What else explains the singular lack of alarm at Mallika Sherawat turning up a White House correspondents' dinner. Does she write under a nom de plume? Is she actually JK Rowling with a tan? Could her minimal clothing be designed to lull American security into complacency? Come on folks, ask a few questions here. If she had turned up at Pratibha Patil's at-home here, we would have had her antecedents right up to the mustard fields of Haryana by now. So clearly, our brand of nosiness could be useful in saving the world one fine day. We can see a tall bearded man in the corridor, do excuse us while we go and check on him.







The news of Osama bin Laden' s death comes on the heels of the Wall Street Journal report (April 27) that Pakistan, America's key partner in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, is lobbying Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai against building a long-term strategic partnership with the US — instead urging Karzai to look to Pakistan for help in reaching a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan.

It was Mohammad Ali Jinnah who had first sought American engagement in an interview with Life in September 1947, a month after the new nation was carved out of British India, claiming, "America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America." In fact, to gain American ties, Pakistan even faked a Soviet invasion of Pakistan in the 1950s.

Consequently, Pakistan quickly joined the American alliances of Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (Seato) and Central Treaty Organisation (Cento). But the two nations have had a troubled relationship, reflected in General Ayub Khan's Friends not Masters, his autobiography and the basis of the terms on which every Pakistani leader has sought an American alliance and General Pervez Musharraf' s polemical autobiography In the Line of Fire.

The reason for the troubled relationship between the two nations lies in their divergent interests. Pakistan's interest in America was, and remains, pecuniary and for support against India; America's interest in Pakistan was, and remains, geopolitical. Successive American admirations came to view Pakistan as a key to the defence of West Asia. But they were never sure how it would contribute to the larger objective.

The two times the US and Pakistan engaged in strategic partnerships, there was a general in power in Islamabad. In 1979, America was responding to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan when General Zia-ul-Haq was in control; in 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan in response to 9/11 when General Pervez Musharraf was in power. But both times Pakistanis responded violently to American intervention in the region, attacking the American embassy, properties, and personnel.

According to the latest Pew report, 68% of Pakistanis disapprove of the US, 61% disliked Americans, and 65% want the US and Nato forces to pull out from Afghanistan. And thanks to the expanded drone attacks, President Barack Obama scored the lowest among world leaders polled in Pakistan in 2010, lower than the 10% approval rating of George W Bush. Asif Ali Zardari is viewed negatively by 76% of the Pakistanis, whereas the military is viewed favourably by 84%. Tellingly, Pakistanis are now — compared to how they were in 2009 — less worried about extremists taking over the nation. In 2009, 73% viewed the Taliban as a serious threat; now only 54% see them as dangerous. Those who viewed the Taliban and al-Qaeda favourably have increased (5% and 9%, respectively, since 2009).

The US has provided over $20 billion in aid (military and civilian) to Pakistan between 2002 and 2010, not counting the liberal debt restructuring. Pakistan, however, feels that not all the American economic assistance can be termed as aid since Pakistani troops are fighting American wars. And that is the rub: Pakistan doesn't see the Islamist threat as a challenge to itself; it views the 'war on terror' as having to kill co-religionists on American orders, and Pakistanis view the Zardari government as America's 'mistress'.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, general Hameed Gul, the former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), said, "We knew all along that it (the war on terror) would eventually come to Pakistan," adding, "If America carried the operation without the cooperation of ISI, then it will definitely be seen as a direct attack on Pakistan' s integrity and its sovereignty." Regardless of the rhetoric in Islamabad and Washington, and notwithstanding Pakistan proving to be a reluctant and doubtful ally, the fact remains that the US needs Pakistan, as the latter alone can defeat terrorist plots in that country and help the US pull out of Afghanistan.

Ravi Kalia is professor of history at The City College of New York and, editor, Pakistan From the Rhetoric of Democracy to the Rise of Militancy (Routledge, 2011).

The views expressed by the author are personal





Our electoral kaleidoscope often configures colourfully bizarre patterns. Among these is the Bengal anti-Left opposition's apparent invocation of the Walrus in Alice in Wonderland (Chapter IV, Through the Looking-Glass). The Walrus while leading the oysters only to devour them, says: "The time has come,/To talk of many things./Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax,/And cabbages and kings./And why the sea is boiling hot,/And whether pigs have wings."

Indeed many things are being said. The Congress president, perhaps recollecting Rajiv Gandhi who described the City of Joy, Kolkata, as a 'dying city', said that the people of Bengal have been fooled continuously by the Left Front for the last 35 years! The pm attacking the CM said, "They (Left) don't have a policy of development." Sounds incredulous, as this very PM a few years ago praised the CM and "greatly admired his wit and wisdom, his qualities of head and heart, his courage of conviction and his passionate commitment to the cause of the working people of India and in particular, to the people of Bengal". Clearly, praise or condemnation is conditioned by the political allies required to continue in office — UPA 1 needed the Left support, UPA 2 needs the Trinamool Congress. We shall return to something more interesting that the PM said later.

The home minister went further saying that "West Bengal is the worst governed state in the country", stating that the Left was "turning the state into a killing field". Even before this sound and fury settled, came the alleged revelation of Kim Davy, mastermind of the diabolical Purulia arms-drop in December 1995. Clearly, this is an international conspiracy with people from at least six countries involved. It is a grave threat to India's security. The allegation is that these arms were to feed Anandmarg's incendiary anti-communism, whose delivery was facilitated by the then central government that sought to destabilise the duly-elected Left Front government by engineering violence.

How did a plane carrying such a huge cache of arms enter Indian air space? If it was a lapse, then it is serious. If, as alleged, this was due to connivance, then it is more serious. Any effort by the Centre to destabilise an elected state government negates the Constitution. Further, where have these arms gone? According to the submission of the Central Bureau of Investigation to the special sessions court, Kolkata (February 2000), of the dropped 500 AK-47's only 87 have been recovered, and of the 15 lakh rounds of ammunition and other deadly weapons only a fraction has been recovered. Are these un-recovered arms responsible for the 'killing fields' of the home minister's variety? In the interests of the country's security, these questions need answers.

It is essential to know how Davy was allowed to escape. It is also essential to know how the BJP-led NDA government, which included the Trinamool Congress recommended a presidential pardon for Peter Bleach, sentenced for life imprisonment by the Indian courts. This can best be done through an independent judicial inquiry that must be immediately constituted.

Let us return to the PM's remark: "They (Left) don't have a dream to offer to the youth." Dreams are an extremely

complex phenomenon that have engaged the attention of the most creative of human minds from times immemorial. More often, however, they serve as an escape into imaginary worlds leaving behind the burdens of the real world. The Left loathes such escapism into illusory worlds. It, instead, puts forward a vision that seeks to change the existing realities to create a better world.

Dream merchants, on the contrary, spread illusions benumbing the faculties of the youth rendering them more status quoists than agents of change. Take for instance this dream of 'Shining India', aggressively pedalled by the NDA and silently pursued by the UPA 2. This 'dream' has resulted only in the creation of two India's that are far removed from each other — 69 dollar billionaires have an asset value equivalent to one-third of our GDP, while out of the rest of the 121 crore Indians, over 80 crore struggle to survive on less than R20 a day!

This 'dream' also has set in motion policies of economic liberalisation, which engender crony capitalism of the worst kind. The consequent mega scams are depriving India of realising its true potential. The National Advisory Council estimates an annual expenditure of R88,000 crore for its food security bill with an inadequate but forward moving provision for 35 kg of food grains (R3/kg) for all families (APL and BPL). The National University for Education Planning and Administration estimates an expenditure of R1.75 lakh crore over a period of five years to put every single child in school for free and compulsory education. The amounts looted in these scams are many times more than these numbers. These scams are depriving India from becoming hunger-free and fully-educated. This is the story of 'dreams' pedalled by such dream merchants who end up as merchants of misery and death.

India can ill-afford the Hamlet's dilemma: "To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come..."

Dreams that lull our youth must be discarded in favour of a vision that will shape a much better future for India. In the final analysis, it is the battle of visions that has created India as we know of today. It is the outcome of the battle among three visions — Left, neo-liberalism and communalism — that will shape India's future. It is this battle of visions that is reflected in the electoral battle in Bengal.

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP

The views expressed by the author are personal






`I ' t ve seen countless fragile little skeleons, sitting and lying under a tree, waiting to be fed. I will never be able to forget their eyes. For many it is too late...
but for many, many more, we can still be in time," said the Unicef ambassador Audrey Hepburn, wiping her tears, at a press conference after her visit to Somalia in 1992. For cinema connoisseurs, Hepburn whose birth anniversary it is today was a star in celluloid heaven, but for the starving children of Somalia, she was a harbinger of love and care.

A life magnificently lived for 63 years and a career that spanned four decades, Hepburn, as a woman and an actress showed the world what a great lady she was -perseverance, compassionate and graceful, with an innocent ignorance of her own splendid beauty.

It was in the 1950's in Hollywood, the screen was being ruled by ethereal czarinas -Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. Hepburn drove the scooter in Roman Holiday to her first and only Academy Award for Best Actress in 1954. Even though she didn't belong to any aristocracy, Hepburn beamed sophistication, making her one of the most recognised women around the world.

Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born today in 1929 in Belgium. She grew up in a wartorn Nazi-occupied Arnhem, the Netherlands. She gave ballet performances to earn money, which she clandestinely contributed to help Dutch soldiers fighting the Germans.
The end of World War II brought misery to Arnhem's families, including Hepburn's, as she witnessed the food supply crisis and deaths, something that explained her anger at the causes of African children's conditions.

Hepburn's strong persona and gritty demeanour came from her childhood situations. Popular costume designer Edith Head sketched her look and "camouflaged her flaws". The designer Hubert de Givenchy took over as her fashion adviser, becoming a close friend and later her business partner.
He designed her famous looks in Funny Face and Sabrina. Hepburn always thought she was too thin, pale and awkward to be called beautiful. But today, she is the biggest style icon cinema has ever produced -her Holly Golightly little black dress was auctioned for more than $900,000 -the highest price ever for a movie costume.

Undoubtedly, the best known Hepburn movie is Breakfast at Tiffany's. Through Truman Capote's confused call-girl Golightly, Hepburn proved her versatility as an actress and a singer, as she sang `Moon River'. Her singing, though, didn't impress the producers of the film version of popular Broadway musical My Fair Lady. Directed by George Cukor, the film had Audrey's singing, which later was dubbed by a lesser known Marni Nixon.
Hepburn worked very hard to achieve the right diction, expressions and mannerism of a cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. The Academy did not buy it and snubbed Audrey from even a nomination in the `Best Actress' (1965) category thanks to the dubbing.
Hepburn presented a bouquet of bubblegum roles in Charade, How To Steal A Million and Two For The Road and the thriller Wait Until Dark. Certainly, she could do it all.

In the age of champagne socialites and baby-shopping celebrities, Audrey Hepburn's name shines like a beacon, far away from any blemish. Today, she stays as a point of reference for any actress, fashion designer and anyone who wants to selflessly do something for the underprivileged.
Like her character in Roman Holiday, Hepburn chose duty over everything else.
What stays one step ahead of her mesmerising doe-eyes, lovely smile and plethora of talent is her commitment to humanity which she will always be remembered for. She was the last of the princesses from Hollywood who smiled her way into the hearts of billions.

Rohit Sharma is an entertainment and broadcasting industry analyst The views expressed by the author are personal




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






RBI Governor D. Subbarao has announced a sharp change in monetary policy, to tightening, with a clear anti-inflationary stance. This is welcome in an environment where the inflation rate has been persistently moderately high, without showing signs of going down on its own. Two years ago when inflation started rising in India, in contrast to the rest of the world, there was confusion on how to deal with it. Today, for the first time, in a clear and firm voice the RBI has announced its commitment to fight inflation. The stance of monetary policy is not defined merely by a change in the repo rate, but also by the increase in the savings deposits rate, the increase in provisioning and the reduction in the expected GDP growth rate.

This change has been long overdue and perhaps has come too late to impact inflation quickly and decisively. In that case the RBI has indicated that it will continue to fight inflation, which means we are likely to see rate hikes. The governor held that a low and stable inflation rate was necessary to create certainty about the investment environment and is needed to see greater capacity-building. Since India has seen little addition to capacity after 2008, today growth will come not by increasing short-term demand, but by higher investment. The change in the monetary policy framework to a 200 basis point corridor in which banks can borrow from the RBI and lend to the RBI; the move to a single instrument, the reverse repo rate; and to a single intermediate target in the liquidity market, the weighted call money overnight rate, will improve the working of monetary policy.

The next change the RBI needs to make is to move away from the WPI to the CPI as the measure of inflation on which it focuses. Since the CPI is the rate that affects the lives of people, it is what matters, especially in creating wage-price spirals and inflationary expectations. The RBI's policy is a clear and welcome step in the right direction. After denying the role of monetary policy in inflation (depending on what is causing inflation) the present communication strategy suggests that regardless of what is the cause, controlling inflation will be the guiding objective of the RBI. If the RBI continues to give this strong message, inflationary expectations should hopefully come down — and as monetary policy transmission takes place over the next two years, we will see lower inflation.






Posco, the South Korea-based steel giant, can finally go ahead with its $12-billion plant in Orissa, six years after it signed an agreement with the state government. On Monday, the ministry of environment and forests cleared the "diversion" of 1,253 hectares of forest land in Jagatsinhpur district, saying it had "faith and trust" that the state government's assurances that forest laws were not being broken were true. The world's third-largest steelmaker is supposed to produce 12 million tonnes of steel a year at the location, in what is generally estimated to be the biggest single piece of foreign direct investment in India. The two conditions attached to the final clearance are not onerous, and also show, in their commitment to ensuring captive mines are not misused and to scientific reforestation, a long overdue change of mood from the Centre. Hopefully, now that the project has finally been given the go-ahead, the lack of investor confidence engendered by months of poor communication has been given the chance to dissipate.

The clearances were first handed out in January this year — but after a committee appointed by the ministry asked that all the clearances be revoked. They were then delayed further when the ministry took note of petitions forwarded by activists working in the area, asking the state to respond; the Orissa government says it submitted evidence that the supposed gram sabha resolutions were illegal. This back-and-forth gave rise to many concerns of high-handedness and of political game-playing, an impression hardly commensurate with India's status as a mature democracy. The environment and the law should not be seen to be used as counters in Centre-state politics.

What lessons should we learn from this episode? The most important is that when the government engages with investors and with stakeholders, it must be transparent and consistent. Another is that atmospherics matter. Evaluatory committees should be genuinely independent. And hold-ups should be defensible against charges of being politically motivated. India's growth and its environment deserve no less. Let's learn these lessons, and move forward.







Terrorism," the former ISI chief, Lt General Asad Durrani, wrote last week, "is a technique of war, and therefore an instrument of policy." Unlike Lt General Hamid Gul, another former ISI chief, Durrani is not bombastic; he is quite precise with words.

Durrani is upfront in asserting that the ISI has no reason to be apologetic about using violent extremism in the pursuit of the Pakistan army's strategic objectives in Afghanistan and India.

But a week is a long time in politics. After the US Special Forces swooped down on Osama bin Laden's safe haven in Abbottabad and killed him under the very nose of the ISI, and in brazen violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, it is reasonable to wonder whether the ISI might show a bit of contrition, or at least simulate it for the moment.

Durrani's sharp summation of the Pakistan army's terror doctrine a few days ago came in response to WikiLeaks report that Washington had put the ISI on an internal list of terrorist organisations.

Durrani's contemptuous "so-what" self-assurance is built on the ISI's vast experience over the last three decades of creating, nurturing and deploying extremist groups in the region and beyond.

It is also borne out of the belief that the ISI and the Pakistan army — the media across the Radcliffe Line often refers to them as the "Deep State" — had played a stellar role in bringing down the Soviet Union. It reflects the confidence, at least until Sunday night, that the ISI could bleed Washington in Afghanistan if it wanted to.

Given the catch-me-if-you-can swagger of the ISI, few in New Delhi would want to bet on potential reformation in the ISI and the Pakistan army after being caught red-handed hosting Osama bin Laden. After all, institutions, especially in the security sector, are not easy to reform. Nor is it possible for a large and powerful organisation to discard a work culture acquired over decades.

Delhi's cynics would argue that it will be a matter of time before the ISI will revert to form — of pretending to cooperate with the international community in the war against terror while continuing to invest in terror outfits that can promote its perceived interests.

Moderates in South Block might say that the Pakistan army is bound to come under intense pressure from Washington in the coming weeks to act against the remnants of al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the western borderlands of Pakistan.

Until now, the US has had little success in persuading the Pakistan army to confront the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. Forget taking on the Haqqani brothers, General Ashfaq Kayani wants to insert them into the power structures in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

The coming weeks will reveal whether the US can overcome this fundamental contradiction between its objectives and the Pakistan army's interests in Afghanistan. What happens to Haqqani and the so-called Quetta Shura of the Taliban will reveal whether Washington's leverage vis a vis Rawalpindi has improved after Obama struck at Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan.

India has no reasons to underestimate US power and political resolve after Sunday night's raid on Abbottabad.

Delhi's moderates will also say that greater cooperation between the Pakistan army and the US after the execution of bin Laden does not necessarily mean Rawalpindi would dump the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has served as the sword arm against India over the years.

Delhi's realists would also be right in pointing to another factor. If the ISI could string along the US on bin Laden for nearly a decade, why would it want to make nice to India on LeT? Unlike the US, which has been Pakistan's benefactor for decades, India is seen as a rival by Pakistan.

This realist appreciation is not a justification for a policy of oscillating between "I told you so" about the Pakistan army's embrace of violent extremism and sulking about the lack of progress on the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai.

Given the location of bin Laden in Pakistan and his execution, Delhi should have no illusions that it can sustain the renewed peace process with Islamabad on the expectation that the Pakistan army can be persuaded to end its support to cross-border violence.

The American experience with the Pakistan army is instructive. So long as Washington relied on the Pakistan army to deliver bin Laden, it got nowhere. It is only after it chose to short-circuit Rawalpindi that Washington could get at bin Laden.

The success of India's anti-terror efforts, then, depends on altering the internal balance of power in Pakistan away from the army. So long as the Pakistan army towers over the civilian leaders, controls the national security policy and feeds the terror machine, there will be no real change in the structure of Indo-Pak relations.

Is it too ambitious for India to think of reordering the civil-military relations in Pakistan? On its own, India does not have the power to engineer Pakistan's internal transformation. But acting in coalition with others, India might have a chance, slim though it might be.

The people of Pakistan, the international community and India have all been victims of the extended dalliance between Pakistan's deep state and the forces of violent extremism. If India wants to dismantle the terror machine across our western border, it will need to contribute to the liberation of Pakistani civil society from the clutches of the deep state.

Even if it is a long shot, India must work towards civilian primacy in Pakistan and the construction of a credible international coalition that can undermine the ISI's deeply held conviction that terrorism is a mere instrument of policy.

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








Behind the ugly reality there's poetic justice. Osama bin Laden was finally bearded in the world's most happening terror den: Pakistan. Osama is no more but who does not know that the cult of violence that he practised and preached in Islam's name is alive and kicking in Pakistan like nowhere else. This column, however, is about Osama's unintended gift to post-9/11 Islam.

Step back just a decade and you'd think that Muslims engaged with the paradigm of "Islam and Modernity" were few and far between. The dominant voices in the world of 20th century Islam, especially the latter half, were those of Syed Abu Ala Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the subcontinent; Syed Qutb, leading theologian of the Muslim Brotherhood; and Mohammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who gave birth to Wahhabism, the rigid, intolerant Islam of Saudi Arabia.

Born and bred as a devout Wahhabi in Saudi Arabia, it was easy for Osama to embrace the shared belief of Maududi and Qutb that all man-made ideas and systems — pan-Arabism, democracy, socialism, communism — were bankrupt; that only Shariah law ruthlessly enforced by an Islamic state could restore divine order in the world. Thanks to an intermix of Wahhabism, Qutbism and Maududiat, what would otherwise have been an Afghan national liberation movement against the occupying Soviet forces in the 1980s turned into a laboratory of violent, global jihad. Osama was the most lethal product of this cross-fertilisation. And then there was 9/11, al-Qaeda's own welcome message to the 21st century and the new millennium.

Call it Hegelian dialectics: thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Some among Muslims rejoiced over this "humiliation" of the only global superpower (so soon after the mujahids had facilitated the demise of the rival superpower). Others insisted 9/11 was a mean CIA-Mossad conspiracy to fan Islamophobia. But saner members of the Ummah were horrified that such a monstrosity could be committed in the name of a faith that literally means peace. The poison that Osama and al-Qaeda injected into Islam found its antidote within

Islam. Thank you, Hegel.

"Islam was hijacked on 9/11," declared the American convert Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. The UK-based Ziauddin Sardar was as prompt in issuing "My fatwa on the fanatics." With such opening salvo, the last decade saw an ever growing number of Muslim voices eager not only to reclaim their faith from the extremists, but also, in the words of Sardar, to "rebuild Islam, brick-by-brick".

Though Osama has now been rendered inactive, the terror machine is yet to be dismantled, the theology of violent jihad yet to be pushed out of the marketplace of ideas. But there are reasons to nurture hope. You can today build a small personal library for yourself just with books titled Seeds of Terror, The Nuclear Jihadist, Terror in the Name of God, Sacred Rage, Talibanisation of Pakistan, Descent into Chaos and so on. But should you feel so inclined, you'll need to multiply shelf-space several times over to add books and videos infused with the spirit of New Age Islam.

A decade ago, the theologians of a tolerant, plural, gender-just, rights- and freedom-friendly, pro-democracy Islam were few in number. Today, not only is the tribe of their followers growing rapidly, but an ever-increasing number of Muslim men and women are also reading and interpreting the Quran and the Tradition of the Prophet in sync with modern sensibilities.

Sadly, we aren't yet familiar with them in India. But they are important, influential names across much of the world. The US-based Shaikh Khaled Abou El Fadl, for example, is a strong proponent of human rights, a staunch advocate of gender equality and is amongst the most critical and powerful voices against puritan and Wahhabi Islam today. Then there is Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College, Berkeley, US. Jordan's Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre places him on its list of the top 50 most influential Muslims in the world. The magazine Egypt Today described him as a kind of theological rock star, "the Elvis Presley of western Muslims".

Or, take Tariq Ramadan, the UK-based author of Radical

Reform. An online poll by Foreign Policy magazine in 2009 placed Ramadan on the 49th spot on a list of the world's top 100 contemporary intellectuals. And let's not forget Amina Wadud, Islamic feminist, imam, and author of Inside the Gender Jihad. In March 1995, she stirred up quite a storm in the Muslim world after leading a Friday prayer of over 100 male and female Muslims in New York.

In the first year of the 21st century, Osama stretched the dominant Islamic thought of the 20th century to its extreme. A decade later, there is a growing body of books, lectures and pages of the World Wide Web propounding an Islam that is at home with the modern world and vice versa. And in the last few months, such intellectuals and scholars have struck common ground with the masses on the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain. Osama must have had many nightmares in his last days of hiding.

The writer is general secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy







Ten years after the trauma of 9/11, the chief perpetrator of the crime, and its angel of death, has finally met his own ignominious end. But the fear spawned by his vision of death and violence is not so easy to dispel. His American enemies took no chances. He was shot dead because alive, and on trial, he may have continued to inspire fundamentalist violence across the world. He could not be consigned into an earthly grave, which could become a symbol of martyrdom. So he has been swiftly consigned to the sea, to leave no trace on land.

The United States and President Obama, in particular, will enjoy a political and psychological high for some time. There may be a sense of closure for those traumatised by the 9/11 attacks. The success of the commando operation, and the professionalism with which it was executed, will restore some of the sheen to US military capabilities, battered lately by stalemates both in Iraq and Afghanistan. There has been a surge of feel-good sentiment and patriotic emotion across the US which will undoubtedly strengthen Obama's image and his political fortunes. How he will utilise this unexpected political capital remains to be seen. It can and probably will dissipate fairly quickly if bad news continues to follow on the economic front. At the end of the day, the outcome of the 2012 presidential elections will be mostly determined by how Obama performs in delivering faster economic recovery to the United States.

The country that is likely to be most impacted by this latest turn of events is, of course, Pakistan. The fact that Osama bin Laden was able to live for some years undisturbed in a huge compound in the middle of Abbottabad, close to a military base, has shattered the country's remaining shreds of credibility as a partner in the war against terrorism. Pakistan is at the frontline of the war on terror, but as an adversary, not as ally. Its public reaction so far reflects its acute discomfort, claiming that the operation was carried out "in accordance with declared US policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated... wherever found in the world", and that the death of Osama is a "setback to terrorist organisations around the world". The fact that the US did not trust Pakistan with the intelligence it had gathered on the target and did not, as in several other high profile cases, carry out a joint operation, speaks volumes by itself. If the so-called declared US policy involved independent US commando operations in the heart of Pakistan, what does this say about Pakistan safeguarding the country's sovereignty? The protests about drone attacks in the tribal regions seem somewhat pathetic in the face of guilty acquiescence to this much greater assault on the country's territorial integrity. Were not Pakistan's nuclear

jewels supposed to deter just such attacks?

The latest developments underscore the fact that US and Pakistani interests in Afghanistan and in the broader war against terrorism have never been aligned. Pakistan was forced to become a reluctant ally in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda after 9/11, in order to avoid a national catastrophe, delivered by an angry and vengeful America. Whether under Musharraf or under Zardari/Kayani, Pakistan has never wavered in its objective to see the backs of US troops in Afghanistan and to re-establish a Pakistan-dominated dispensation in that country. The myth that Pakistan may be supportive of the Taliban but opposed to al-Qaeda has now been busted. Both have been instruments in Pakistan's Afghan strategy.

What the sanctuary to Osama and al-Qaeda elements in Pakistan also proves is that the war against terrorism cannot be segmented. The various terrorist groups nurtured by Pakistan and some tolerated by its establishment, are all interlinked in an unholy network, with each component assisting and supporting the other. The war against al-Qaeda will not succeed without targeting the likes of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed or the different incarnations of the Taliban.

Pakistan has been playing a dangerous and high-stakes game in recent years, comfortable in the notion that its strategic location, its pivotal role in the world of Islam and its status as a nuclear weapon state gives it the space to pursue its perceived security interests vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. The Chinese alliance has provided a further shield and the lack of reaction from Beijing is significant. What remains to be seen is whether the latest setback will lead to a serious rethink in Pakistan about the continued validity of the current strategy or whether there will be its obstinate pursuit regardless. Much will depend upon whether the US and the world are finally prepared to confront the reality which has been staring us all in the face for a long time, that is, a Pakistani state which considers the use of terrorism as a legitimate tool of state policy. The indulgence shown to Pakistan on different occasions, for example, in Pakistan's clandestine acquisition of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles; the peddling of the bizarre myth that Pakistan's proliferation of nuclear weapons technology and materials to Iran and Libya, was the handiwork of a "private supermarket" led by A.Q. Khan; that Pakistan was an unfortunate victim of terror, and only its reluctant sanctuary; and that much of Pakistan's unfortunate behaviour could be explained by its fixation on the threat from India, which the latter was not helping to dispel, must be finally abandoned.

The key to how the situation will evolve post-Osama lies in the hands of the United States. There may be a temptation in Washington to use this latest example of Pakistani perfidy to extract its unwilling but unavoidable collaboration in the US exit strategy for Afghanistan. Pakistan may have to cut its links with the Taliban elements in its north-west tribal territory and carry out operations against its allies in that region. It may be forced to give up other assets which have targeted the Americans in Afghanistan. This may enable an uneasy peace to descend in the country and with Osama dead, the original mission in Afghanistan may be declared to have been accomplished. However, once the US withdraws its forces, mayhem is likely to return to Afghanistan, which will be a huge challenge for its neighbours, including India. If, on the other hand, the US uses this opportunity to truly address the dilemma both our countries confront in Pakistan, the situation may evolve differently. The heart of this strategy would be not to make short-term tactical gains in managing US withdrawal from Afghanistan, but to use the leverage it has gained to insist on a change of course in Pakistan, away from using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

If progress is made in this regard, a different environment may emerge in which a manageable, if not friendly, India-Pakistan relationship may become a reality. And only then will there be a realistic prospect of winning the global war against terrorism.

The writer is a former foreign secretary






To give the devil his awful due, Osama bin Laden was the greatest terrorist of the modern age. He took what had been disparate, disorganised terrorist groups and reshaped them into a disciplined and immensely ambitious organisation, al-Qaeda, with the singular goal of waging jihad on the West.

Now that bin Laden is dead, the most pressing question we need to ask is: Will his death make a difference? Is the world today 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 hardline theocracy favoured by al-Qaeda. What they yearn for instead is freedom and democracy.

Lawrence Wright, the author of The Looming Tower, a Pulitzer-Prize winning book about al-Qaeda, is 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. 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 defence official who now teaches at 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 US 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. 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 — ostensibly a close ally — told me that the Turkish media were united in their virulent opposition to NATO's actions in Libya. "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.







To the al-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 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 honour of dead fighters. Bin Laden's deputies will try to energise 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 fundraiser, but no one in the organisation 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 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 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 realise that bin Laden had no long-term political programme aside from nihilism and death. The Arab Spring proved that, contrary to al-Qaeda's narrative, hated rulers could be toppled peacefully without attacking America.

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.

Ali H. Soufan, an FBI special agent from 1997 to 2005, interrogated al-Qaeda detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere







Back at you

The remarks of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram against the Left Front in West Bengal and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have raised the CPM's hackles, and the party has hit back.

The editorial in party weekly People's Democracy recalls that Singh had, in 2005, called Bhattacharjee dynamic and later rated him as one of the best CMs. "Irrespective of the merit of the issues involved, it is clear that praise or condemnation by the prime minister is based on the political alliances that he requires."

Attacking Chidambaram, who had observed that Bengal is the worst-governed state in India, it says he appeared to be supportive of the Maoist- Trinamool collaboration, incontrovertible evidence of which has been provided not only by the CPM, but also by sitting Trinamool MPs and some Maoist leaders. "The Union home minister will have to answer if he agrees with the PM's repeated assertion that Maoist violence poses the gravest threat to India's internal security... If so, how can he share power in an alliance with the Trinamool Congress that is in open collaboration with the Maoists?" it asks.

Forest to market

An article in People's Democracy analyses environment minister Jairam Ramesh's recent suggestions on the pricing of minor forest produce. Ramesh has suggested that state governments should notify minimum support prices for the 12 major non-timber forest products and that the fixing of the MSP should be done by a Central committee. Besides, he has sought the removal of monopolies of "any kind (including state agencies)" on the purchase of all forest produce and suggested that state agencies should not only purchase "profitable" forest produce but all other forest produce directly from the gatherers.

The article says that although the suggestions echo some of the concerns raised by the Left, and adopts some solutions recommended by the joint committee on the Forest Rights Act, if the suggestions of Ramesh and that of the committee are implemented, they will have far-reaching consequences for the way in which forest dependent people are integrated into markets.

It argues the proposed policy will denationalise some of the commercially important forest produces notified by different state governments. "This means that it will remove the distinction between nationalised and other produce and introduce competition into the forest produce market... Private traders and industry will be able to buy produce directly from the gatherer. As a consequence, the influence of the market on the determination of prices will be considerably enhanced," it says.

It says this proposal means that a "bureaucratic and arbitrary central committee" will replace a much sought after forest produce price commission. Given the varied regional and local patterns of forest produce production, harvesting and use, it says it is appropriate that state governments are mandated to have their own lists of essential produce and determine the MSPs of this produce.

Speaking up

The editorial in CPI's New Age says that Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's affidavit in the Supreme Court has unmasked the real face of Narendra Modi. It claims that at least two police officers have earlier said that the conspiracy to unleash a state-wide "anti-Muslim pogrom" was hatched at Modi's residence, and he and his "cohorts personally supervised the mass killing and destruction of properties in Muslim localities."

It argues that police officers who wanted to perform their duty were clearly told by Modi to allow Hindus to vent their anger, and those who did not fall in line were punished by being dumped in inconsequential posts.

The editorial claims that it is not just top police officers who are emerging from the climate of fear created by Modi, the people are also speaking out. "Despite the deployment of the entire state cabinet and hundreds of BJP leaders from all over the state, the BJP has lost the first-ever election for the newly created Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation.... Now Modi has to face the wrath of the people when the state goes to the polls next year," it says.







The credit policy for the year may go down as being a 1% policy—all targets have been adjusted by 1%. Growth in deposits is down to 17% from 18% last year. Non-food credit target for the year has been brought down from 20% to 19%, year-end inflation from 7% to 6% and GDP from 9% (Government of India) to 8%. All talk has been centred on inflation being the major risk and the stance is that RBI will do everything to bring this number down. What does that mean? First, growth will be compromised if need be, which means that RBI has accepted this tradeoff. It has still pitched for 8% number that will give the Government and Planning Commission a hard time. The Budget was based on 9% growth while the 11th and 12th Plans had other numbers in mind. With growth being low and investment lacklustre, how will future growth numbers be realised? Second, there will be more rate hikes during the first half of the year as RBI believes that inflation will stay in the 9% region during this period. What is puzzling, however, is how RBI expects overheating to come down when there are few signs of the same? Its economic round-up, released one day prior to the policy, talks of capacity utilisation rates being lower than that of last year. The risks pointed out are directed at global commodity prices and their stubborn nature. While this is true, the question to be posed is that since India is a price-taker in most cases, higher interest rates will not bring them down. What it will do is slow down spending (investment and consumption), which will reduce demand—RBI itself admits to order books slowing. Choking growth to contain inflation is a tough choice, and RBI has evidently preferred this to inaction. But, the fact that Mint Street believes it will come down through higher interest rates is indicative of future action in the same direction—so if inflation doesn't get controlled, more growth will be sacrificed.

RBI has been talking of making the transmission mechanism more effective and has started this off with the hike in savings rate. Combine this with the higher provisioning requirements and borrowing at the repo or Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate, banks will see their profit lines under pressure. One anomaly that remains, given that RBI is now talking of singling the repo rate for policy, is the retention of the concept of bank rate at 6%. Now, with the repo and MSF being there, how does the bank rate fit in? Also, even from the point of view of theory, shouldn't this rate be higher than the others, as it is the emergency lending window that logically should have the highest and not lowest cost. Something to think about.





On the face of things, there is no relationship between the final forest clearance given to Posco's 12 mntpa plant and the 50 bps hike in policy rates by RBI. Yet, there is a deep relation. The main reason for RBI's rate hike is runaway inflation, moving now to even manufactured products—as this newspaper has been arguing for months, manufactured inflation is largely a function of capacity; raise capacity and it slows, keep capacity constrained and it rises. In the case of Posco, yesterday's final clearance from the Centre (the project still has to acquire the land!) comes just under six years after Posco and the Orissa government first signed the MoU in 2005. Had clearances been granted in time, 4-8 mn tonnes of capacity would already be on stream today. Add to Posco's delays, the delays in a host of other projects, and you see this is an important reason for why manufactured inflation is rising the way it is—as FE's Oped columnist Mahesh Vyas pointed out yesterday, the average value of new investments announcement in the past three quarters, at R3 trillion per quarter, is nearly half the R5.8 trillion per quarter average in the preceding three quarters. Today's clearance, like the one given in January, does have some riders—it says no ore should be exported from India—but they are largely cosmetic. In even the earlier plan, Posco wasn't exporting ore, it was swapping some exports for better quality imported ore—this is now redundant with Posco deciding to change its technology, which will ensure the plant can now use the higher aluminium content ore from India.

While we welcome yesterday's clearance, the manner in which clearances are allowed to get derailed is worrying. In October, one set of experts talked of "about 70% area of the forest land is covered with various kinds of forest and trees" and cited the presence of STs whose interests were being compromised. This derailed permissions and the ministry didn't pay attention to the report of the other expert, a former environment secretary, which said the area was not one where STs were traditionally found and that the forest was "mainly sandy waste, with some scrub forest". In January, the environment ministry admitted the first set of experts were biased when it said "the Posco project site is not part of a Fifth Schedule Area (where tribals are found)". The project then got held up as the ministry was told the claims of two villages had not been settled. While giving the final forest clearance, environment minister Jairam Ramesh has recorded what the Orissa government had been saying all along, that the resolutions of the gram panchayat were fake—the facts, Jairam has written, "are too obvious to require any further enquiry or verification". And yet the project, and many others, keep getting derailed on one pretext or another.








It was relegated to the Q&A session, rather than featured prominently in the opening statement, at last week's first-ever press conference of US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke. It is an issue that too many in Washington, DC, are willing to dismiss as 'transitory', despite visible evidence to the contrary. It is extremely vulnerable to high oil and food prices. And it undermines the operational assumptions that underpin the long-standing characterisation of the US economy as vibrant and responsive.

The issue is the scope and composition of unemployment in America—a problem that is yet to be sufficiently recognised for its increasingly detrimental impact on the country's social fabric, its economic potential, and its already-fragile fiscal position and debt dynamics.

Let us start with the facts:

l At 8.8%, almost three years after the onset of the global financial crisis, America's unemployment rate remains stubbornly (and unusually) high;

l Rather than reflecting job creation, much of the improvement in recent months (from 9.8% in November last year) is due to workers exiting the labour force, thus driving workforce participation to a multi-year low of 64.2%;

l If part-time workers eager to work full time are included, almost one in six workers in America are either under- or unemployed;

l More than six million workers have been unemployed for more than six months, and four million for over a year;

l Unemployment among 16-19 year olds is at a staggering 24%;

l With virtually no earned income and dwindling savings, the unemployed are least able to manage the current surge in gasoline and food prices, they are effectively shut off from credit, and many have mortgage debt that exceed the value of their homes.

These and many other facts speak to an unpleasant and unusual reality for the US. The country now has an unemployment problem that is large in magnitude and increasingly structural in nature. The consequences are multifaceted, involving immediate personal anguish, rising social and political tensions, economic losses, and budgetary pressures.

This is much more than a problem for the here and now. High and intractable unemployment has serious negative long-term consequences that threaten to become exponentially worse. This is a crisis.

Substantial international research shows that the longer one is unemployed, the harder it is to get a job. This erodes an economy's skills base and saps its long-term productive capacities. And, if unemployment is particularly acute among the young, as is the case today, too many of the unemployed risk becoming unemployable.

Undoubtedly, the Great Recession triggered by the global financial crisis has contributed to this worrisome situation. Unfortunately, the problem is much deeper, as it was long in the making.

At its root, America's jobs crisis is the result of many years of under-investment in human resources and the social sectors. The education system has lagged the progress made in other countries. Job retraining initiatives have been woefully inadequate. Labour mobility has been declining. And insufficient attention has been devoted to maintaining an adequate social safety net.

These realities were masked by the craziness that characterised America's pre-2008 'Golden Age' of leverage, credit and debt entitlement, which fuelled a gigantic but unsustainable boom in construction, housing, leisure and retail. The resulting job creation, though temporary, lulled policymakers into complacency about what was really going on in the labour market. As the boom turned into a prolonged bust, the longer-term inadequacies of the job situation have become visible to all who care to look; and they are alarming.

Left to its own devices, America's unemployment problem will deepen. This will widen the already-large gap between the country's haves and have-nots. It will undermine labour's skills and productivity. It will accentuate the burden imposed on the gradually declining number of people who remain in the labour force and have jobs. And it will make it even harder to find a medium-term solution to America's worsening public-debt and deficit dynamics.

The US government has little time to waste if it is to avoid an even more protracted and entrenched unemployment problem. It must move to address the problem's sources through multi-year programmes that range from educational restructuring and worker retraining to productivity enhancement and housing-sector reform. And it must do so while better protecting the long-term unemployed, many of whom bear little responsibility for their current, once unthinkable and unfortunately long-lasting predicament.

It is past time for the US to wake up and confront in a holistic fashion its unemployment crisis. As everyone who has ever had an unpalatable job knows, shutting off the alarm and pulling the blanket over one's head is not a solution.

The author is CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, one of the world's largest investment companies, with approximately $1.2 trillion of assets under management. He is also the author of 'When Markets Collide'.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.






The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (Aera)'s arrival has been announced with a bang. In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court has upheld that the Airport Development Fee (ADF) has to be fixed by the regulator.

With the birth of the regulator, clear lines have been drawn between the various roles that the government once played, whose role is now confined to the domain of policy. Tariff and related matters, including ADF, will be in the exclusive domain of Aera. There is a clear separation of 'Go' and 'No Go' areas. The signal sent out by this judgment is of utmost significance for the effectiveness and longevity of regulators charges, fees etc (any levy) can only be fixed under the authority of law, which lies with the regulator. The objective was that in arriving at a decision, the regulator would be insulated from political interference that would, in turn, ensure the integrity of the decision making process.

The Aera Act, strengthened by the ruling of the Supreme Court, will empower it and make the regulatory process tinker proof.

With the lessons learnt from the telecom sector, where there were flip-flops in policy—changed at the whims and fancies of a single minister/ministry—the time has come to strengthen policy and clothe it with statutory force. This has been done under the Electricity Act, 2003, where the national electric policy is a statutory policy, which allows the rights under the policy (both of service providers and investors) to be legally enforced. This will bring stability and certainty, which augurs well for the development of the sector and gives investors confidence. It will prevent constant changes in policy since this will require prior parliamentary sanction. Convergence (rather than divergence) between policy and regulation is vital for the orderly growth of the airport sector.

Like with the birth of every other regulator, the government was reluctant to yield its turf and fiefdom, having been used to doling out largesse as they fancied. Herein lies the tale—regulatory bodies must be independent and statutory powers exercised by them cannot be usurped by any other agency. At the same time, they must be made accountable to Parliament.

The growth of every sector requires development. Development in the infrastructure sector means large investments and huge capital expenditure. Private operators or developers will make the investment when they are assured of recovering cost and getting a reasonable return on their investment.

Whether it is telecom, electricity or airports, large investments have been made by the private sector, after these sectors were privatised. They have to be compensated in accordance with the mandate of the Aera Act, 2008.

The airport sector follows the public-private partnership model, and private operators along with the government (Airport Authority) set up a joint venture company. The case in point is development fees. These fees are levied for modernisation expansion and upgradation of airports. The proof is there for all to see, be it Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad or Mumbai—complete image makeovers, with world-class airports.

Building airports, though, comes at a price and entitles the operators to development fees. This has to be approved by the regulator for which operators have to submit data material and cost to justify the fees. This can be done by exercising statutory powers. Parliament has given this power (to fix rates) to Aera under the Aera Act, 2008. After the regulator has taken over, the role of the government comes to an end. This is the clear message in the recent judgment of the Supreme Court, which upheld the development fee in the case of Delhi Airport as the government order was 'blessed' by the regulator; but did not do so in the case of the Mumbai airport where regulatory sanction had not been obtained.

Equally, the court did not disturb the development fees collected by operators since this has gone into upgrading airports, increasing their capacity and making them modern day wonders. This sends right signals to private operators and investors that they would be entitled to development fees from passengers but the kind of fee levied will be determined solely by the regulator. This is a landmark judgment since it respects the interests of competing stakeholders while upholding the sovereignty and independence of the regulator.

This story must be replicated in other sectors where a turf war has been fought between the government and a regulator, in the telecom sector and to some extent in electricity, for instance. Obedience to the regulatory architecture is an essential sine qua non for the orderly growth of any sector. Unless the government takes a lead on this, it will continue to set a bad example.

The jugalbandi between policy and regulation augurs well for speedy, effective and efficient modernisation and upgradation of airports across India (and infrastructure, in general).

Regulators, in turn, should be made accountable to Parliament. This will ensure the right checks and balances that lie at the heart of the parliamentary system. The wheel would have indeed turned a full circle as the ultimate faith of the people lies in Parliament.

The author is advocate, Supreme Court







The decision of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants to include the pesticide endosulfan in the list of chemicals scheduled for elimination at the global level is a positive step. For the controversial insecticide to be replaced with benign alternatives, though, it is critical that official policy makes the development of low cost substitutes a priority. India has done well to reiterate its commitment to the phasing out of pollutants, which includes polychlorinated biphenyls, under the Convention. It has come up with a National Implementation Plan to cleanse the environment, while admitting that POPs have been found in human and animal blood and tissues, in the environment, and in foods. Given the evidence linking such chemicals to cancer, birth defects, diminished intelligence, and reduced immunity, there is a strong case to adopt the precautionary principle on the use of endosulfan. It is indeed significant that the World Health Organisation has classified this organochlorine insecticide as "moderately hazardous" and the POP Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention recommended its elimination on the ground that it could have adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Under the terms of its accession to the Stockholm Convention, India has the option to ratify the decision on endosulfan whenever it chooses. But, given the strong public sentiment against its use, especially in Kerala where aerial spraying of crops by the Plantation Corporation is seen as the cause for a rise in mental retardation, birth defects, infertility, and growth abnormalities, the central government should take a view sooner rather than later. A window of 11 years is available to replace endosulfan with safer alternatives based on the exemption provisions of the Convention and the date of implementation, but that is unacceptably long. Moreover, if the harmful effects of the insecticide are indeed true, as several studies suggest, there has to be urgent action at the national level. Equally important is the need to fully rehabilitate the people of Kasaragod in Kerala who have been affected by the indiscriminate use of the insecticide in cashew cultivation. The wider effects on the environment in the affected region, as recorded by the Salim Ali Foundation, underscore the need for a good remediation plan. Containing the pollution requires a systematic study of the soil, air, and water quality. Recovery of the regional ecology would be aided in no small measure by sparing further chemical stresses, and wherever feasible, by switching to organic methods. India has stopped the use of DDT in agriculture and, with sufficient will, can do the same with endosulfan.





A Reserve Bank of India discussion paper has come out in favour of deregulating the interest rate on savings deposit, the only deposit interest rate that is still administered by the RBI; it has remained unchanged at 3.5 per cent since March 2003. Every other kind of deposit stands deregulated, the process, which started in the early 1990s, having been largely completed by October 1997. Now, banks have the freedom to set the interest rates on those deposits and loans. Deregulation has spurred competition in the financial sector, imparted greater efficiency in resources allocation, and strengthened the transmission mechanism of monetary policy. If the SB rate has not been deregulated so far, it is because of a belief that the regulator would take better care of the interests of these depositors, who are mostly from low income households in rural and semi-urban areas. This argument has lost its edge today because a wide range of investment and deposit options have been made available for all types of customers. In fact, if banks are allowed to fix their own rates on SB deposits, they might choose to reward all their depositors with higher rates. Innovation will also get a boost in a decontrolled environment. All these are extremely relevant in the context of the current policy thrust towards financial inclusion.

The other major argument against freeing the SB interest rate comes from the banks. Savings bank deposits constitute more than a fifth of the total deposits and more than 84 per cent of them are from households. Although these accounts are used for transactions, empirical evidence suggests that a significant proportion remains as savings. Over time, many public sector banks have come to depend on the stable core of savings deposits to bridge the asset-liability mismatch in their balance sheets. In a decontrolled scenario, this cannot be taken for granted as it would be unrealistic to expect SB depositors to stay on if their bank does not match the interest rate or the quality of service offered by others. Yet the view that there will be unhealthy competition among banks leading to a reckless bidding for savings deposits is not valid. After all, term deposit interest rates have been freed for a while now and, barring isolated instances, the deposit rates tend to converge within a narrow range. Considering the generally high rates of inflation, the SB interest rate has yielded negative real returns over a fairly long period. For the common man, the SB deposit account is the first, and often the only, point of contact with the banking system. It is time that a major disincentive in the form of low, administered deposit rate is removed.







Last week, when Barack Obama released his birth certificate to silence those who had questioned his American identity, he explained that he did not normally respond to such nonsense because "you know, I've got other things to do." Now we know that those "other things" included meticulous planning for an event that could well transform his presidency, reshaping both the way he is seen and the foreign policy he pursues.

That Mr. Obama was able to announce the death of Osama bin Laden so soon after he had crushed the absurd charge that he was a foreign (maybe Kenyan, maybe Indonesian, maybe both!) usurper of the White House felt oddly appropriate. For the success of the operation in Abbottabad makes Mr. Obama's rivals look small indeed, Lilliputians chasing wild fantasies while Gulliver deals with the things that matter. He has rendered even more laughable Donald Trump's declaration that "I feel proud of myself" for flushing out the proof of Mr. Obama's Hawaiian birth. The President has shown what a true achievement looks like.

For, like it or not, no trophy mattered more to American public opinion. As the perpetrator of the most lethal terrorist attack on U.S. soil, bin Laden was a national hate figure, viscerally loathed. That's why his death brought spontaneous midnight crowds to Times Square and Pennsylvania Avenue. One U.S. commentator described Sunday night (May 1) as feeling like VE Day. It will take a special kind of stupidity for Republicans to question Mr. Obama's patriotism now.

The killing in Pakistan will bury another criticism, rarely articulated explicitly: the suggestion that Mr. Obama was somehow insufficiently tough, insufficiently macho, to be commander-in-chief. It was there in the mockery of his taste for "arugula," the descriptions of him as "professorial." A former speechwriter for Mario Cuomo, the hardball ex-governor of New York, once told me: "There is a subtext of male violence that runs through American politics." He reckoned male voters especially want to believe the President could take a guy out, that he is capable of aggression. This partly explains the rapturous response that greeted Mr. Obama's merciless slapdown of Trump during his stand-up at the White House correspondents' dinner on Saturday night. Americans need to know their President has steel. Crude though it may be, Mr. Obama just passed that test with flying colours of red, white and blue.

He did it, though, his own way. The tenor of his televised announcement was revealing. Yes, he was keen to take full credit: speaking of his own involvement and decision-making over several long months, lest anyone think this was the work of underlings or a drone that got lucky. But he avoided the crass cowboy talk that was a hallmark of the previous administration: the official statement of Saddam Hussein's capture began with the words "We got him." Mr. Obama's style was, by contrast, measured and steady, recalling 9/11 and speaking movingly of the images of "that September day" that the world did not see, starting with "The empty seat at the dinner table."

From now on, Mr. Obama will be viewed slightly differently at home and abroad, his coolness understood to be unflappable and poker-faced, rather than chilly and professorial. One former Foreign Minister who has seen the President up close believes that bin Laden's scalp will lead other world leaders to conclude that, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, "Obama may speak softly — but he carries a big stick." Expect the comparisons with Jimmy Carter — whose own raid to rescue U.S. hostages in Tehran famously failed — to dry up pretty quickly.

All this augurs well for Mr. Obama's re-election prospects in 2012, though 18 months is a long time in anybody's politics. If there should be another spectacular attack on a U.S. target, conducted to avenge bin Laden's death, then the euphoria will melt away. Besides, next year's campaign is likely to hinge on the economy rather than security. But, for now, the killing of the world's most wanted man presents the President with an important opportunity.

Mr. Obama's greatest non-domestic headache remains the war in Afghanistan. One well-informed source says that, until Sunday, Mr. Obama was "hemmed in," especially by a military brass reluctant to walk away with anything that did not look like victory. The immediate argument in Washington centred on the number of troops scheduled for withdrawal starting July 1, the military speaking only of a "symbolic" figure, the White House wanting more.

In that dispute, Mr. Obama's hand is now strengthened, with public opinion likely to shift decisively his way. That's because, for a lot of Americans, the purpose of the U.S. war in Afghanistan remains inseparably linked to its initial cause: 9/11. Now that the arch-perpetrator of that crime has been removed, why, many will ask, do we need to stay? Mr. Obama could, however, do more than simply insist on greater numbers of U.S. troops coming home. He could use bin Laden's death to shift towards a full exit strategy, seeking what is surely the only credible solution: a peace settlement that holds both inside Afghanistan, necessarily including the Taliban, and outside, necessarily including Pakistan, whose own role in harbouring bin Laden — unwitting or not — will cause many Americans to wonder if that country is actually friend or foe in the war against al-Qaeda.

There are risks for Mr. Obama. If he does not act quickly, he could find public opinion gets ahead of him — as impatience over the decade-long Afghan war turns into impatience with the President for not winding it down.

For now, he has scored a valuable victory, one that lifts his own standing but also arrests the gloomy, declinist mood that has gripped some in his country, convinced that American power is on the slide. He has done in two years what his predecessor failed to do in eight. But Mr. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" banner should stay in the White House basement: the al-Qaeda remains, the war in Afghanistan is not over, and there is still so much more work to do. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011









(Continued from front page)

Years before the September 11 attacks transformed Osama bin Laden into the world's most feared terrorist, the CIA had begun compiling a detailed dossier about the major players inside his global terror network.

It wasn't until after 2002, when the agency began rounding up al-Qaeda operatives and subjecting them to hours of brutal interrogation sessions in secret overseas prisons that they finally began filling in the gaps about the foot soldiers, couriers and money men bin Laden relied on.

Prisoners in U.S. custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man's pseudonym past two top-level detainees the chief planner of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; and al-Qaeda's operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi, the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.

As the hunt for bin Laden continued, the spy agency was being buffeted on other fronts: the botched intelligence assessments about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the Iraq War, and the intense criticism for using waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods that critics said amounted to torture.

By 2005, many inside the CIA had reached the conclusion that the bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency's top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency's counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more CIA case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan. With more agents in the field, the CIA finally got the courier's family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools. The National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and email messages between the man's family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.

Last July, Pakistani agents working for the CIA spotted him driving his vehicle near Peshawar. When, after weeks of surveillance, he drove to the sprawling compound in Abbottabad, U.S. intelligence operatives felt they were on to something big, perhaps even bin Laden himself. It was hardly the spartan cave in the mountains that many had envisioned as his hiding place. Rather, it was a three-story house ringed by 12-foot-high concrete walls, topped with barbed wire and protected by two security fences.

He was, said John O. Brennan, the White House official, "hiding in plain sight."

Back in Washington, Leon E. Panetta met with Barack Obama and his most senior national security aides, including Mr. Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates. The meeting was considered so secret that White House officials didn't even list the topic in their alerts to each other.

That day, Mr. Panetta spoke at length about bin Laden and his presumed hiding place. "It was electric," an administration official who attended the meeting said. "For so long, we'd been trying to get a handle on this guy. And all of a sudden, it was like, wow, there he is."

Still, there was guesswork about whether bin Laden was indeed inside the house. What followed were weeks of tense meetings between Mr. Panetta and his subordinates about what to do next.

While Mr. Panetta advocated an aggressive strategy, to confirm bin Laden's presence, some CIA clandestine officers worried that the most promising lead in years might be blown if bodyguards suspected the compound was being watched and spirited the al-Qaeda leader out of the area.

For weeks last fall, spy satellites took detailed photographs, and the NSA worked to scoop up any communications coming from the house. It wasn't easy: the compound had neither a phone line nor internet access. Those inside were so concerned about security that they burned their trash rather than put it on the street for collection.

In February, Mr. Panetta called Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, to CIA headquarters in Langley, to give him details about the compound and to begin planning a military strike.

Vice Adm. McRaven, a veteran of the covert world who had written a book on U.S. Special Operations, spent weeks working with the CIA on the operation, and came up with three options: a helicopter assault using U.S. commandos, a strike with B-2 bombers that would obliterate the compound, or a joint raid with Pakistani intelligence operatives who would be told about the mission hours before the launch.

Weighing the options

On March 14, Mr. Panetta brought the options to the White House. CIA officials had been taking satellite photos, establishing what Mr. Panetta described as the habits of people living at the compound. By now, evidence was mounting that bin Laden was there.

The discussions about what to do took place as U.S. relations with Pakistan were severely strained over the arrest of Raymond A. Davis, the CIA contractor imprisoned for shooting two Pakistanis on a crowded street in Lahore in January. Some of Mr. Obama's top aides worried that any military assault to capture or kill bin Laden might provoke an angry response from Pakistan's government, and that Davis could end up dead in his jail cell. Davis was ultimately released on March 16, giving a freer hand to his colleagues.

On March 22, the President asked his advisers their opinion on the options. Mr. Gates was sceptical about a helicopter assault, calling it risky, and instructed military officials to look into aerial bombardment using smart bombs. But a few days later, the officials returned with the news that it would take some 32 bombs of 2,000 pounds each. And how could the U.S. officials be certain that they had killed bin Laden?

"It would have created a giant crater, and it wouldn't have given us a body," said one U.S. intelligence official.

Favoured option

A helicopter assault emerged as the favoured option. The Navy Seals team that would hit the ground began holding dry runs at training facilities on both U.S. coasts, which were made up to resemble the compound. But they were not told who their target might be until later.

Last Thursday, the day after the President released his long-form birth certificate such "silliness," he told reporters, was distracting the country from more important things. Mr. Obama met again with his top national security officials.

Mr. Panetta told the group that the CIA had "red-teamed" the case, shared their intelligence with other analysts who weren't involved to see if they agreed that bin Laden was probably in Abbottabad. They did. It was time to decide.

Around the table, the group went over and over the negative scenarios. There were long periods of silence, one aide said. And then, finally, Mr. Obama spoke: "I'm not going to tell you what my decision is now I'm going to go back and think about it some more." But he added, "I'm going to make a decision soon."

Sixteen hours later, he had made up his mind. Early the next morning, four top aides were summoned to the White House Diplomatic Room. Before they could brief the President, he cut them off. "It's a go," he said.

The earliest the operation could take place was Saturday, but officials cautioned that cloud cover in the area meant that Sunday was much more likely.

The next day, Mr. Obama took a break from rehearsing for the White House Correspondents Dinner that night to telephone Vice Adm. McRaven to wish him luck.

On Sunday, White House officials cancelled all West Wing tours so that unsuspecting tourists and visiting celebrities wouldn't accidentally run into all the high level national security officials holed up in the Situation Room all afternoon monitoring the feeds they were getting from Mr. Panetta. A staffer went to Costco and came back with a mix of provisions — turkey pita wraps, cold shrimp, potato chips, soda.

At 2:05 p.m., Mr. Panetta sketched out the operation to the group for a final time. Within an hour, the CIA director began his narration, via video from Langley. "They've crossed into Pakistan," he said.

Across the border

The commando team had raced into the Pakistani night from a base in Jalalabad, just across the border in Afghanistan. The goal was to get in and get out before Pakistani authorities detected the breach of their territory by what were to them unknown forces and reacted with possibly violent results.

In Pakistan, it was just past midnight on Monday morning, and the Americans were counting on the element of surprise. As the first of the helicopters swooped in at low altitudes, neighbours heard a loud blast and gunshots. A woman who lives two miles away said she thought it was a terrorist attack on a Pakistani military installation. Her husband said no one had any clue bin Laden was hiding in the quiet, affluent area. "It's the closest you can be to Britain," he said of their neighbourhood.

The Seal team stormed into the compound and the raid awakened the group inside, a U.S. intelligence official said, and a firefight broke out. One man held an unidentified woman living there as a shield while firing at the Americans. Both were killed.

Two more men died as well, and two women were wounded. U.S. authorities later determined that one of the slain men was bin Laden's son, Hamza, and the other two were the courier and his brother.

The commandos found bin Laden on the third floor, wearing the outfit known as a shalwar kameez, and officials said he resisted before he was shot above the left eye near the end of the 40-minute raid.

The U.S. government gave few details about his final moments. "Whether or not he got off any rounds, I frankly don't know," said Mr. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief. But a senior Pentagon official, briefing on the condition of anonymity, said it was clear bin Laden "was killed by U.S. bullets."

U.S. officials insisted they would have taken bin Laden into custody if he did not resist, although they considered that likelihood remote. "If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn't present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that," Mr. Brennan said.

One of bin Laden's wives identified his body, U.S. officials said. A picture taken by a Seal commando and processed through facial recognition software suggested a 95 per cent certainty that it was bin Laden. Later, DNA tests comparing samples with relatives found a 99.9 per cent match.

But the Americans faced other problems. One of their helicopters stalled and could not take off, officials said. Rather than let it fall into the wrong hands, the commandos moved the women and children to a secure area and blew up the malfunctioning helicopter.

By that point, though, the Pakistani military was scrambling forces in response to the incursion into Pakistani territory. "They had no idea about who might have been on there," Mr. Brennan said. "Thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces."

As they took off at 1:10 a.m. local time, taking a trove of documents and computer hard drives from the house, the Americans left behind the women and children. A Pakistani official said nine children, from 2 to 12 years old, are now in Pakistani custody.

The Obama administration had already determined it would follow Islamic tradition of burial within 24 hours to avoid offending devout Muslims, yet concluded bin Laden would have to be buried at sea, since no country would be willing to take the body. Moreover, they did not want to create a shrine for his followers.

So the al-Qaeda leader's body was washed and placed in a white sheet in keeping with tradition. On the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, it was placed in a weighted bag as an officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker, according to the senior Pentagon official.

The body then was placed on a prepared flat board and eased into the sea. Only a small group of people watching from one of the large elevator platforms that move aircraft up to the flight deck were witness to the end of America's most wanted fugitive.

(Reporting was contributed by Elisabeth Bumiller, Charlie Savage and Steven Lee Myers from Washington, Adam Ellick from New York, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.) — New York Times News Service








We shed no tears for Osama bin Laden. The most outrageous act of terrorism in modern times has led to the most gigantic manhunt and most costly tit-for-tat war. America's joy, as much of relief as of delight, is understandable. But the thesis must now be put to the test, whether an idea is more potent when its creator has died for it than when he was alive. Killing bin Laden removes bin Laden, but not al-Qaeda or its cause. It will not end his franchise on jihadism. We must assume a furious bout of retaliation from those prepared to die in his name.

The challenge now is not for the Muslim world but for the West. Can the clock be stopped on the "wars of 9/11"? Can time be called on this rerun of the medieval crusades, America's (and Britain's) massive retaliation? Can the craving for revenge that fuelled the U.S.'s astonishing 10 years of war against weak but curiously potent foes at last abate? I recall the Afghan diplomat who told me in the weeks between 9/11 and the assault on Kabul of October 2001 that, provided the West did not go to war against Afghanistan, "Bin Laden is dead." A Pashtun loya jirga in Kandahar that September had come near to demanding that Mullah Omar expel bin Laden and his Arabs. The view of observers was that opinion was moving against Omar's indulgence of them.

Above all, al-Qaeda's murder of the Tajik hero Ahmad Shah Massoud two days before 9/11, meant that every loyal Tajik wanted bin Laden's blood. He and his hated Arabs had become "unwelcome guests" in Afghanistan, and had now undermined a mild Taliban rapprochement with its old friends in Washington's CIA. Leave Kabul alone, my informant said, raise the blood money and bin Laden's days were numbered. Above all, make sure the Taliban are not driven into the arms of al-Qaeda, or bin Laden the reckless menace will become bin Laden the saint.

Hysteria of revenge

This advice was widely disseminated, but gained no hearing. The hysteria of revenge was overwhelming and the drums of war deafening. Who knows how many tens of thousands of Afghans died, and are still dying, to avenge bin Laden? There can be no computation of the billions of dollars blown on the project, nearly bankrupting the U.S. government. The Taliban were duly punished and the West trapped in ill-conceived "nation-building" in Afghanistan. American and British governments were so besotted by terrorism that they persuaded themselves of a new and fanciful threat from a wholly unrelated Muslim state, Iraq. Yet more thousands of Muslims died and billions were spent in the process.

The West thus entered the 21st century massively ignoring Eisenhower's warning of what happens when too much power is vested in the military-industrial complex. Soldiers demanded "surges" and politicians capitulated. The continued drone bombing of Pakistani villages — starkly counter-productive, say the WikiLeaks revelations — shows there is nothing more lethal to peace than a general out of control with a new piece of kit.

To what end? A few nasty guys have gone, in a world awash with them, and the West has lost its peace dividend. Britain, the U.S. and western values in general have not emerged from a decade of conflict with their reputations enhanced, quite the reverse. A new centre of regional instability has been created in Pakistan, where it is clear that the military was sheltering bin Laden. There is no "conquest" of the Taliban to be had, as there never has been in history. There is only a deal between the tribes and warlords of this troubled land, under the aegis of the neighbouring Pakistani state. It is America that has been al-Qaeda's recruiting sergeant in the region.

There are many well-meaning people in Britain who supported the Afghan war. They felt, out of some vague post-imperial guilt, that it was the West's "manifest destiny" to punish wrong-doing wherever it could, and to aid political and economic progress in the Muslim world. Even they must now wonder whether the game was worth the candle, whether the resources expended on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq might have achieved their goals more peaceably.

Westerners cannot begin to comprehend the devastation their armies and bombers have inflicted on poor people who have the flimsiest of political and economic structures to survive them.

The idea that the Afghan people can sensibly "choose" between the west and the Taliban is nonsense. All they want is peace, and all the West has brought them is war. It will take decades for the wounds to heal, and they will never be healed by western arms.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011





French investigators on May 3 recovered the cockpit voice recorder from an Air France flight that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean almost two years ago, killing all 228 people on board.

The machine that records cockpit conversations was located on May 2 and raised from the ocean depths on May 3, according to BEA, the French agency that probes air accidents.

The plane's flight data recorder was pulled out on May 1, meaning both pieces critical to determining the cause of the June 1, 2009 crash have now been found. The memory unit was found by a submarine probing (12,800 feet) 3,900 meters below the ocean's surface.

Experts have said without the two recorders there would be almost no chance of determining what caused the worst disaster in Air France's history. Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris slammed into the Atlantic northeast of Brazil after running into an intense high-altitude thunderstorm.

The condition of the instruments was not immediately clear. BEA officials have warned that the recordings may yet prove unusable, considering the pressure they were subjected to for nearly two years at such ocean depths.

"We can't say in advance that we're going to be able to read it until it's been opened," a BEA spokeswoman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She did not give her name in accordance with her agency's policy.

Automatic messages sent by the Airbus 330's computers showed the aircraft was receiving false air speed readings from sensors known as pitot tubes. Investigators have said the crash, in a remote and deep area of the Atlantic, was likely caused by a series of problems and not just sensor error.

Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon called the find "yet another decisive step forward in the inquiry."

"It is my heartfelt hope that the data contained in these flight recorders may be used and provide answers to questions that relatives of the victims, Air France and the entire airline industry have been asking for nearly two years about why this tragic accident occurred," Gourgeon said in a statement.

The flight recorders were recovered during a fourth search for bodies and aircraft debris. Investigators targeted an area 3,900 square miles (10,000, several hundred miles off Brazil's north-eastern coast.

In early April, French officials said the operation had found most of the Airbus jet, including its motors and more bodies of crash victims.

Determining the cause of the crash took on new importance in March, when a French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France and planemaker Airbus.

Air France and Airbus are financing the estimated $12.5 million cost of the latest search effort, but the French government is paying for the recovery of anything that is found. About $28 million has already been spent on the three previous searches.— AP







Most people who follow such matters have felt for some time that Osama bin Laden was hiding somewhere in Pakistan, probably in the rocky, inaccessible tribal areas of the country that border Afghanistan. No one could imagine the Al Qaeda founder — who was killed by US Special Forces in Abbottabad in a mansion right next to the Pakistan Military Academy on May 2 — would be provided a safe haven by the Pakistani security establishment in the heart of a famous Pakistani garrison area. In hindsight, there couldn't have been a safer hiding place, provided by the Pakistanis, for the world's most wanted terrorist as the Pakistan Army and the ISI made a habit of glibly denying they had any idea of Bin Laden's whereabouts. Senator Joseph Lieberman, an influential voice in American politics, has demanded that Pakistan give proof that it did not know Bin Laden was living (in some comfort, and style) in Abbottabad under the nose of the Pakistan Army. Other key US senators have also begun to raise questions about the value of treating Pakistan as a strategic ally in the "war against terror" and throwing money its way — several billion dollars a year for the past decade — to help capture the likes of Bin Laden. The writer Salman Rushdie has even said it's high time for Pakistan to be declared a "terrorist state".

All this is adding up to a certain kind of political discourse. Pakistan's stock answer over the years has been to present a self-portrayal of victimhood, as though it had no role in nurturing, protecting and bankrolling terrorists — and not just against India and Afghanistan. It would be nice to know what its larger gameplan is. A study of materials found at the compound that Bin Laden inhabited before his death can perhaps fill some of the gaps in our understanding of the Pakistani state and its compulsive relationship with international terrorism. It does need to be considered that Bin Laden wasn't alone among the world's most prominent terrorists to be found in Pakistan, cosseted by the ISI. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and several others, like Osama, were not found in the rough tribal country but inside major Pakistani cities, looked after reasonably well. The same can be said of the entire Taliban top leadership. And, of course, the likes of Dawood Ibrahim — in whom India has a direct interest.

For any of this to have sufficient meaning for us we have to construct a paradigm of security politics that countries of our region and the wider world will find both reasonable and compelling. Regrettably, so far, there is little to suggest that the Indian government has communicated with Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States on the first contours of post-Bin Laden implications. Indeed, this should have been accorded some priority. It is also time to start dispatching specialists to hold consultations with their counterparts with a view to opening channels of politics that can be fruitfully pursued in the near future. Pakistan-inspired terrorism against India long predates the arrival of Osama bin Laden on the scene, and is unlikely to end with the terror mastermind gone. But in today's circumstances, our questions will have greater resonance. America, we may be quite certain, will continue to pursue the broad line of two-track politics that it has with Pakistan — in which punish and placate go side by side. The ingenuity of our diplomacy, and the capabilities of our national leadership, must now be put in the service of invoking urgency to address long-standing issues of concern to us. Pointed questions need to be asked rather than raising general concerns on applying closure to 26/11 on the lines of 9/11.






"We're telling the Americans: you have to trust the ISI or you don't. There's nothing in between"
— ISI to American media in Washington (New York Times, April 12, 2011)

So, did the Americans finally trust the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), at least at some level, for the coup de grace which eliminated Osama bin Laden on May 2? Given the steadily worsening state of US-Pakistan relations, this would seem highly improbable at first sight, but how else to explain what appears to be a flawlessly-executed American heliborne operation at Abbottabad, a historic garrison town deep inside the Pakistani heartland, and home to the Frontier Force Regiment of the Pakistan Army? What explanations, amongst others, can be offered for the total lack of reaction from the local Pakistani garrison even as a noisy heliborne intrusion, followed by an hour-long firefight got under way at a compound which must have been designated as a super-sensitive, specially-protected target? Or did the local garrison receive instructions to see nothing, hear nothing and do nothing even as the attack unfolded before their eyes and ears?
Bin Laden was an enemy of India, so no tears need be shed over his demise, in this country at least. In fact, it can be speculated that with his diminishing operational utility, Bin Laden might well have become a suitable pawn of sufficient symbolic significance to be offered to the Americans as quid pro quo for their withdrawal from Afghanistan, a country which Pakistan considers to be within its sphere of influence, region of strategic depth, and gateway to Central Asia.
US President Barack Obama, too, due for re-election in 2012, wishes desperately to pull America out of Afghanistan before the body-bag count brings out larger numbers of anti-war protesters and tilts the anti-incumbency scales further against him. Bin Laden's demise has created a win-win situation for both, the US as well as Pakistan. Mr Obama can now claim, with a substantial degree of justification, that 9/11 has finally been avenged on his watch, an achievement which will undoubtedly pay handsome dividends to the Democrats in the forthcoming presidential campaigns.
The watershed moment signalled by the Pasha-Panetta talks in Washington on April 11, between ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and Leon Panetta, current grey eminence in the Central Intelligence Agency (and by all accounts the next defence secretary of the United States), has come full circle. Pakistan had, in effect, announced at this meeting that it was taking over the steering wheel in the war in Afghanistan, taking charge of the end game to shape it to its own interest when the Americans depart.
Discussions between intelligence agencies never find their way into the public domain, but the agenda here was leaked extensively by the ISI, with the aim of making it clear that it would henceforth place its own agenda first, and operate on its own terms and priorities, whether in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Pakistan had demanded that the future scope of the CIA-ISI activities must be formally defined and the CIA drastically reduce its activities in the country, particularly its drone operations, except with prior concurrence of the Pakistan Army. In addition, over 300 CIA operatives functioning inside Pakistan (allegedly 40 per cent of the strength) were to be withdrawn. The ISI tries hard to control America's Af-Pak policy, giving very limited leverage to the United States with the Pakistani power centres in the ISI and military establishment. So when Pakistan's demand for cessation of drone strikes against militants was rejected by the US, especially in respect of North Waziristan, Pakistan turned the screws in retaliation, by almost summarily expelling CIA personnel from airfields at Shamshi, Jacobabad and Pasni in Balochistan, which had been made available earlier by President Pervez Musharraf's government as operational bases for the CIA's force of Predator drones. Drone operations from Pakistani territory, a key component in the American strategy against Taliban, are likely to be severely affected as a result, if not terminated altogether.
The elimination of Bin Laden has to a great extent restored America's position as senior partner in the US-Pakistan relationship. If necessary, the US can now publicly wash its hands off the whole process, pick up its marbles and go home with a justified sense of victory.
India on its part must now very carefully examine how the fallout from the Washington meeting will square off against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's effusive bonhomie towards Pakistan. The Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11 are being pushed into oblivion, and it remains to be seen how India's latest gambit of cricket diplomacy will reconcile with the revelations made in a Chicago court by Tahawwur Hussain Rana and Daud Gilani, aka David Coleman Headley.
There is a strong revival of radical Islam in Pakistan, and any surface calm brought about by Dr Singh's unilateral initiatives is superficial, even deceptive. The currents of fanaticism and hatred towards India run deep in Pakistan, even amongst the common people, most recently seen in the mass demonstrations in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard and assassin of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was murdered on January 4 this year. This was followed by the murder of the minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti on March 2 by assassins who still remain untraced.
India on its part must never be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the elimination of Bin Laden. There should be no doubt that India will continue to remain the primary long-term target of the ISI regardless of the latter's current preoccupations in Afghanistan. The ISI is confident it can handle both.

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament






May the 2nd dawned with the successful, covert US operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to eliminate Osama bin Laden. Electronic media in India went into high-drive, reeling in experts from India, Pakistan and the West, to debate, analyse, even quarrel. Bertrand Russell once quipped that no one argues with someone who says two plus two is five. Wars are fought when both sides are half right.
While the operation was flawless, its contours remain fuzzy. A Pakistani tweeting genius inadvertently gave a fix on the arrival of choppers and five explosions. The crucial question, however, remained debatable: Were the Pakistanis in the loop? If so, then from which stage of the operation? The usually glib masters of half truth at the Inter Services Public Relations were mute. Pakistan was clearly in a conundrum. To concede knowledge would be tantamount to complicity; denial looked like incompetence of the defenders of the realm in protecting the nation's sovereignty. There was clearly concern over the likely ire of Bin Laden fans ranging from tacit admirers to hard-core adherents to his cause. John Brennan, White House counter-terrorism adviser, in a midnight (Washington time) briefing, maintained that Pakistan was only informed after the extraction was complete. Some media reports quote locals as saying that immediately before the action soldiers in uniform were warning the neighbours to remain indoors.
A day later the following is inferable. Firstly, Pakistan needs to explain how Bin Laden could be in a garrison town, a stone's throw from an Army training facility, in close proximity to Islamabad and in an ostentatiously large complex and not be sighted. Mr Brennan said that the US too was seeking an answer to that question. Secondly, Bin Laden had support from influential segments in Pakistan. Did those extend to the higher echelons of the Pakistani Army, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)? Thirdly, it is known that the interests of Bin Laden and the Pakistani military diverged post 9/11 as Pakistan wanted the Taliban to hand over the Al Qaeda leadership to satisfy the US and thus avoid an attack on Afghanistan. Mullah Omar spurned the request despite it being made in person by the then ISI director-general and a Saudi prince. Did this change sometime after 2005, when the Abbottabad complex was made? It is possible that Pakistani Army may have cut a deal with Mullah Omar that they would protect Bin Laden provided the canny Mullah allowed the Quetta Shura/Taliban to join the reconciliation process under way in Afghanistan?
As a back-drop to this passion play, there was already a churning in Pakistan's domestic politics. The ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was approaching the Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid and Muttahida Qaumi Movement to reduce dependence on the Sharif brothers and their Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Separately, the ISI had reportedly taken Imran Khan, the charismatic cricketing hero, under their wing to position him as a new right of centre pole. He demonstrated his new-found muscle by disrupting the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force's supply line to Afghanistan by a Peshawar rally against the drone attacks.
Externally, Prime Minister Y.R. Gilani's Kabul visit, accompanied by Army chief Kayani and ISI chief Lt. Gen. A.S. Pasha, led to speculation that Pakistan was advocating a realignment of forces in a post-US scenario, whereby their brawn and the Chinese economic muscle could be the new consortium to guide Afghanistan in partnership, naturally, with Pakistani allies like the Haqqanis, Hekmatyar and pro-Pakistani elements of the Taliban. Pakistan was concerned perhaps over reports that the US was negotiating an agreement with the Karzai government for the presence of some US forces even beyond 2014, in semi-permanent cantonments, to continue their counter-terrorism activities, having by then handed over counter-insurgency work to Afghan security forces.
The US too had announced personnel changes, moving Gen. Petraeus from the Afghan theatre to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Pakistan's discomfort with Gen. Petraeus is widely known and thus their gain in bidding him farewell in Afghanistan is neutralised by his future leadership of the CIA which oversees the counter-terror programme globally, with a focus on the Af-Pak region. The Taliban too had already commenced their spring offensive a couple of days earlier by a teenager's suicide bombing.
Bin Laden's killing complicates this regional scenario. Retaliatory strikes by Al Qaeda and affiliates are likely; Taliban have already announced so. Pakistan-sponsored terror, which the Indian government wanted to side-step to recommence the bilateral dialogue, is back on the table. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, flying back from Kazakhstan a week ago, opined that he would consider his "job well done" only if Indo-Pak relations are normalised.
US national security adviser McGeorge Bundy, at a US National Security Council meeting on October 6, 1965, following the Indo-Pak war, recounted his advice to US President Lyndon Johnson to desist from peace-making in South Asia as "Kashmir fixers are a plentiful and dangerous commodity". With Bin Laden's ghost now haunting the Pakistani Army, the Prime Minister too must hitch his legacy to less risky fare than relations with Pakistan.

The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry









Corps Commander 15th Corps has issued warning for the second time that PoK-based ultras to the tune of a thousand well-armed and equipped are concentrated along the LoC waiting for a suitable opportunity to infiltrate into our side of LoC for perpetuating terrorist attacks. Nobody should take the warning of the General lightly especially when he is an important member of high powered security committee. He has assured the nation that the army is well prepared to meet the challenge as it has been doing in the past. We have no doubts, whatsoever, that the Indian army will rise to the occasion and give a befitting reply to the enemy who is trying to raise his ugly head time and again. There has been a heavy snowfall this late winter over the passes and hills and that has delayed the infiltration of the ultras for some time. Now that the weather has stabilized and the melting of snow has begun, it renders passage through clandestine routes and passes easier for the terrorists. This time the entire continuum of infiltration that has been going on since 1990, needs to be visited from different angles. First, Pakistan Prime Minister assured our PM in Kathmandu, Moscow and in Mohali, besides at other occasions, that his government would not allow terrorists to use Pakistani soil for attacks on India. The Indian Prime Minister took him on face value and agreed to continue composite talks for resolution of all outstanding issues between the two countries. But the ground situation does not support the contention of Pakistan, and Islamabad is not only unwilling to translate its commitment into practice but has not halted supply of arms and provision of training in terror to the ultras either from Kashmir valley or from PoK or from other parts of Pakistan. The simple inference once can draw from this double speak is that either the civilian government in Islamabad is playing to the galleries or that the Army there would not allow the civilian government interfere with its agenda on Kashmir or Afghanistan. In this backdrop the question arises does it boot that India should continue comprehensive talks with a party that is uncertain if its word has any weight back home? Secondly, India must apprise the world community that despite repeated promises Pakistan continues her overt and covert support to terrorism on its soil. This has twin purpose. One is to cut Pakistan to its size on international fora, and the second is to pave the way for any retaliatory action our policy planners might contemplate. Along with this, there is the need of speeding up the disposal of the cases of such terrorists as have been arrested by our security troops and are facing prosecution under law. The law of the land must be given free flow so that the terrorists do not think that they can make light of things. Unless we have deterrents, the miscreants may take us for a ride. Afzal Guru, Kasab and others have not an iota of concern that the law will take its course. They know that the week-kneed governments in New Delhi do very often succumb to intimidation and threats. They are also aware of political constraints of some of the mainstream political parties in the country and their negative role that helps them find reprieve. As long as this syndrome is in place, infiltration and terrorist activities within the State or in other places of the country cannot be stopped. This also should open up the issue of return and rehabilitation of Kashmir militants from PoK and other parts of Pakistan where they had gone for training in arms and terrorism to return to the valley and let loose a reign of terror and mayhem. Nobody rejects the humanitarian element in this sordid affair but at the same time security concerns of the nation have also to be taken into account. We have innumerable examples of renegades returning to militancy. We have also many examples of some of our police personnel abandoning their posts and joining the rank and file of militants and becoming their guides and informers. As such, the decision of welcoming the returning militants and rehabilitating them as a blanket rule may not work. It has to be revisited and careful scrutiny has to be made on the basis of established criteria about who should be entitled to return and rehabilitate and who should not. The political alliance in power may want to widen and strengthen their vote constituencies by adopting a blanket formula of rehabilitation of the militants, but in the long run it is going to do more harm than good to the state and the nation.






The good news is that the government has, at long last, put its foot down and ordered that idle buses would be removed from the present bus stand and shifted outside the peripheries of the town. Now the government must not waver and ensure that within the stipulated time the job is done. Jammu city is getting choked by heavy vehicular traffic, emission of carbon leading to pollution of the air and environs and, besides all this, traffic congestion is highly hazardous for pedestrians who are perpetually in the throes of danger to their life owing to rash driving. We have heard of fake flying licenses manipulated by pilots of Indian Air Lines. If a scrutiny on the same level is conducted in the case of drivers of buses and trucks in Jammu, we are sure anything to the tune of half of them will be possessing fake driving licenses. It is because of a big nexus between the traffic police and the aspirants for a driving license. In one of our previous editorials we had said that re-location of the general bus stand had been the declared policy of the state government but it was stalled because of political pressures and related corrupt practices. There is no justification whatsoever to retain such a busy bus stand in the heart of the city and thus clog the traffic on the main highway at very critical points. It looks ridiculous. Along with the crowding at the bus station, a new phenomenon of Srinagar, Anantnag, and Baramulla, Sopor and Kupwara-bound mini buses and Somos etc. have also converted the sidelines of the highway into a mini bus stand thereby making congestion much worse and confounded. It is satisfying that the traffic department has risen to the occasion and things will change if the department sticks to its new policy.








Corruption in its wider connotation means a dishonest approach and "corruption in cash" is one aspect of it. It cannot be taken in isolation but is the result of wide range of diabolical activities of the persons affecting almost the entire spectrum of the society. I think a unifocal attempt to address this singular aspect of corruption will lose its vigour in the long run without lasting results. It may hit some targets but not the menace to its roots like the pain killer which can simply subside the pain but not the disease.
This country has got number of laws, institutions and commissions established since independence to check corruption, but I think corruption too has also increased manifold with the pace of enactments of laws. Now it looks to be quite rampant, ubiquitous and in its fullglare. It is here the critiques of deterrent theory of punishment have an edge and suggests some thing more than deterrence. The deterrence loses its significance when minds get corrupt and conscience dies. Same is true about corruption. There is a tacit approval of some section of the society to the corruption and it has particularly affected the Govt. mechanism from top to bottom. Had the laws only worked, then how many convictions we find under corruption laws in the courts. Every day we read in newspapers about some small or high profile Govt. officer being caught in graft case and innumerable going scot free. And even those who get trapped ultimately skip the law and the punishment prescribed. Reason is obvious i.e. lack of honesty and integrity at the part of the those who have to implement and ensure the law to take its own course. Remember, all the institutions, Commissions or even the proposed Lokpal will not work wonders by magic wand or should not be expected to be manned by angels from the sky, but persons like me and you will be there and unless we are non-cimmittal to the cause of eradication of corruption, there can not be any breakthrough in such endeavours. Corruption, therefore, to be curbed has a linkage with conscience and not commissions and it is the conscience of the individual that needs to be awakened. When someone by his conviction abhors corruption and in principle rejects it inspite of all allurements and even when he can easily skip the law, is the ideal standard for which the civil society as a whole should work and come forward.
India the land of different cultures, religions and race, is a heterogeneous nation, but its heterogeneity nowhere reflects diversity in the common standard of morality and values. The moorings of the nation well built and well knit are now losing the grip in the mad race of materialism, so called modernity, accumulation of wealth, power, greed, lust, status, unhealthy competition and so on so forth. Gandhi ji was absolutely right when he said, "This world has enough for every one's need but not for any one's greed." All these negativities in the mind and approach of the person can not be lessened by laws and Lokpals but only by a sense of commitment and condemnation in one's conscience which can be generated only by revival of rich traditions, culture, values, and above all by the religious teachings. It is here we need a fresh look. It though appears to be a time taking process but its result will be far emphatic and lasting than that of any cosmetic approach. In this context, the menace has to be addressed at various levels collectively. This process begins from home - the family where the child is born, is being brought up and imitates closely every act of his parents. Studies reveal that in his teenage parents are the only ideal persons for a child and he wants to be like that of. What you have taught your child by express and implied means will guide him throughout his life. Then comes the role of a school and the teacher. He has to revive his sacred role which unfortunately has gone in slumbers. It is well said and I quote, "Those who educate children are more to be honoured than the ones who produce them, for the later gives them the life, while the former gives them the art of living well." I leave it to the teacher community to realize themselves whether this great service is being done by them. If honestly they feel 'No', they must rise to the occasion. Educational institutions, infact, are the laboratories and factories of the human beings where they are being tested and trained for the challenges of the life. To confine them for only a certificate giving process as we see today will be a dis-service to the nation and a gross injustice with the concept of education as has been given in its most popular definition i.e. the modification of behaviour.
Then comes the role of society. An individual is influenced by the general conduct of the society. Man is a social animal. He has to interact and transact with the people and in this process he gets the impressions of the societal behavior and responds accordingly. The more rich in values a society is, the richer will be the conduct of his people. And an important limb of our present day society is the media. With the wonderful advancement in the field of technology, the media has got powerful place in the society and it has gained immense capacity to influence deeply almost all walks of life. Unfortunately, we are not using this modern day advantage for the betterment of the society and if I am not exaggerating, some sections of media have really played havoc with the society. I am unable to understand the role of Censor Board meant to define the limits of the media wherein the immorality is being show cased with impunity. Not only it is polluting the minds but reflects how much we have stooped in our cultural, ethical and moral values.
The religious institution and religious preachers have a pivotal role to play in this sacred mission of corruption free society. Please do not be cynical and do some thing more than rituals. India is known as the land of religions but the religious institutions seem to be losing the battle against all sorts of immorality. You can't be silent spectator. Your role is highly indispensable and has always been taken in high esteem. Do not under estimate your self and do your duty as is enjoined upon you. Remember on the day of judgement as we believe in, you will be held more accountable for your actions than that of a common man.
At the same time, there is a need of a national consensus for bringing reforms in the Govt mechanism and its functioning quite in line with the spirit of our cultural ethos and rich values. The bigger institutions of the country like parliamentary democracy, electioneering, judiciary executive, crime and policing and Educational system needs to be addressed on priority. They need to be revamped and rejuvenated quite inline with our ethical values and goal. And in the crusade for corruption free and crime free society, the Govt. and the representatives of the civil society have to move intandem. The blame game and mud slinging on each other will be disastrous for the country and the cause.
India may have developed as a nation as Barrack Obama said on his visit to this country, but the moral strength of the countrymen is going down. It may prove catastrophic, if not checked and of course is the greatest challenge India has in twenty first century.
(The author is a lawyer in J&K High Court, Jammu)







Keeping secrecy of bank account holders, unless under the compulsions of law, has been a trusted premise of Banker customer relationship but by any measure, it cannot be treated as a Bank's financial product as has been observed in the Indian black money stashed with Swiss Banks. A minimum of one hundred thousand dollars has to be deposited to have an account of the nature under reference with known Swiss Banks with no maximum limit with such banks, whose main product is secrecy and who use the element of secrecy to the hilt and as the main allurement to offer their banking services as a burrow of the ill gotten money. Hence the concept and the premise of privacy or secrecy of the banks are brazenly abused. In turn, they are charging heavy fees to keep such accounts to keep on increasingly swell their earnings or profits.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had earlier said that there was no instant solution to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks and that information with government could not be made public due to treaty obligations while Defence Minister
A.K.Antony had in January this year, announced that there would be "no cover up " in disclosing names of people who had Swiss Bank accounts as the Government was committed to bring back all the money stashed abroad but even after three months, there is no progress on the ground despite the observations of the country's apex court that it was pure and simple theft of the national money. The Hon'ble court had observed," We are talking about mind boggling crime.
In an exclusive interview very recently given to an Indian TV Channel, more beans about the matter have been spilled by Julian Assange, the founder of the Wiki Leaks who has made certain disturbing disclosures. He says that efforts were made to spread misconceptions about the authenticity of the leaks in which the state department of the United States played a leading part and that he fully stood by what was revealed in the leaks and that the Indian Government played a very negative part by aping the US as Hillary Clinton coached Indian government how to deal with the Wiki leaks. Attempts to pass on Wikileaks as fake were unsuccessful . The question that the leaks were nowhere questioned and there have had been prosecutions instead, amply proves about their authenticity. He further claims that the whistle blower, former Swiss Bank employee Rudolf Elmer who had handed over to Julian, the concerned information had been "held hostage" by (his erstwhile employers). He said that it was not one particular Bank but a system of structures, he had worked for major Banks and the banks and the account holders know that the money was being secreted away for tax evasion purposes and other things like money laundering. He claims to be in possession of two discs containing the data of the details of the Indian account holders around the world, who hold their secret accounts in Swiss Banks . They must be worried now, claims Assange, and must be finding ways so that the discs never leak on Wikileaks websites. He also revealed that he was given an offer in turn not to leak out the list. He also appeared to assuage the people of India "not to lose hope".
He contests the argument of not acting very fast by the government under the obligations of double taxation treaty as the money stashed is nothing but assets hiding. It is worth noting that in August 2010, India and Switzerland signed a protocol to the Double Taxation Avoidance agreement that would enable the government get information in respect of some of the wealth illegally stashed away in Swiss Banks. This information from Switzerland could be obtained in cases where there are evasions. The agreement was signed by the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy Rey. Under the agreement, it becomes mandatory for Switzerland to remove the lid from its confidentiality driven banking system after adopting the standards of transparency of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This agreement will not facilitate a fishing expedition as per the Swiss Foreign Minister. The investigators can access information relating to not just tax fraud but evasion as well. What about the money of kick backs, corruption, scams etc? Assange said that he had information that more Indians were having accounts of such nature with the Swiss Banks than people of any other nationality. It is learnt that after India at the top followed by Russia , China stood at 5th position.
There is a considered view that if the Indian government declares the money in the Swiss accounts as our national property Swiss banks have to return that money as a policy matter. If this is so, then one wonders what contains Indian government from doing so. We should emulate the policy of Germany to be aggressive in trailing and going after the list of such account holders. India is losing per capita tax money more than Germany. German Government is the dominant power within Europe and as per Assange, these German attitudes are seeping into Europe as a whole.
The hard veil of secrecy on the list of Indians who stashed black money in foreign banks was shortly going to be lifted by the Wikileaks as told by Assange in the interview with the TV Channel. It would be prudent, therefore, for the Government to do it before Assange does it, so that at the outset , those are identified who could by all accounts be called traitors who have had been looting national wealth and sending it offshore thereby doing incalculable damage to the national economy and in most of the cases, even debasing the Rupee by first sending rupees off shore, purchasing Swiss francs and then selling the same for Rupees at a premium. Assange hopes that the media can push the issue and get the government come out with the names of the amassers of black money in Swiss banks. Let the countrymen know how much they have looted their country and made black money swell. Further delays might result in withdrawal of money by such account holders to land that money in other tax havens. We must shame these people as early as possible.








Official circles in Pakistan took their time to react on the US helicopter attack on the hideout of Osama bin Laden culminating in his killing. A meaningless controversy has been blown up in and outside Pakistan about the complicity or not of Pakistan in the lightening operation conducted by the US commandos on Sunday night.
Everybody knows that being a strong ally of the US in war on terror Pakistan had endorsed US' pledge to eliminate Ben Laden wherever he was. There should be no doubt in anybody's mind that this sensitive operation could not have been accomplished without weeks and months of preparation and without the full cooperation of Pakistan.
The episode of Raymond Davis is part of the entire blue print of American Commando strike. The two ISI moles tracking Davis in Lahore had to be eliminated because they had sniffed that Davis carried extraordinarily sensitive input.
Returning to Pakistan's formal reaction to the commando adventure, close reading of the official statement of Pakistan issued in connection with the operation will show that it is trying to play hide and seek game. The statement starts with outright denial of having any previous knowledge of the impending strike on Osama bin Laden's den or taking any part in the actual operations. In doing so, the statement creates an impression, and for the consumption of Pakistani people, that the operation was entirely conceived, planned and executed by the Americans and that Pakistani army or air force had no role in it whatsoever.
But as the official statement proceeds, the tone and tenor changes gradually, and subtle justification for joint Pak-US operation in eliminating the source of world terrorism emerges from carefully chosen words and phrases. What are the subtleties of the statement? In the first place, the statement nowhere disapproves or resents US copter-born commandos violating Pakistan's airspace and conducting military action in a sovereign state without its consent and permission. On the contrary, we learn that all sensitive and powerful radars monitoring incoming air planes into Pakistan's airspace were switched off when the American helicopters came.
Secondly, the statement says: that the al-Qaeda chief's death "illustrates the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan to fight and eliminate sources of violence." This is clear reiteration of Pakistan's endorsement of US' policy towards Al Qaeda, the top most source of violence. And obviously, the statement has double meaning: it is to reassure the US of Pakistan cooperating with her in all acts aimed at eradiating terrorism, and at the same time, it is to assuage the otherwise hurt feelings of Pakistani public by telling them that the regime wants no innocent Pakistani to get killed at the hands of extremists,
Thereafter follows the crucial assertion in Pakistan's official statement. It says: "It is Pakistan's stated policy that it will not allow its soil to be used in militant attacks against any country. Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and the whole nation are fully united in their resolve to eliminate the scourge." Look at the contradiction. Pakistan "will not allow its soil to be used in militant …….."
But at the same time, Osama and his entourage remained encapsulated in a secure house close to the Pakistan's Military Academy in Abbotabd on Pakistani soil for a long time. This secured residential complex was raised for the founder of Al Qaeda terrorist chief way back in 2005.
Let us move further. In the next sentence, the statement makes the assertion that not only the government but all the vital components of the Pakistani State became involved in the operation that eliminated Osama menace. This means that even the opposition in the parliament which constitute the leaders of hardcore radical Islamists as well, have been party to the operation.
The aim of this part of the statement is to neutralize the reaction likely to emerge from Pakistani regime lending outright support to the Americans in anti-Osama strike. At the same time, it is again a commitment to the Americans that Pakistan is with them in war on terror.
Finally casting aside diplomatic nuances, the Pakistani official spokesperson came out with clear confession that "Al-Qaeda had declared war on Pakistan. Scores of Al-Qaeda sponsored attacks resulted in deaths of thousands of innocent Pakistani men, women and children. Almost 30,000 Pakistani civilians lost their lives in militant attacks in the last few years,"
This leaves no doubt that the operation was carried out with full knowledge, support and assistance of Pakistan.
The real questions that need to be answered are two: one, what is the deal between Pakistan and the US for Pakistan providing all logistical support leading to the elimination of Osama? Does it enfold Afghanistan, the region, which the US has agreed to let go into Pakistan's exclusive sphere of influence once she withdraws from there? Is there a deal on Af-Pak and NWFP region to put an end to fighting there and float a massive reconstruction programme for the tribal people? Is there a deal on Kashmir to speed up the Track II diplomacy that is already underway? Pakistan would not have agreed to compromise her sovereignty without her pound of flesh.
The second question is whether Pakistan will be able to withstand the backlash of the killing of Osama and smashing of his hideout as humiliation of the jihadis or whether this incident unfolds the beginning of the dismemberment of Pakistan. These questions ential a serious debate and we may taken it up next time.










Pakistan's Janus-faced position in the "war on terrorism" was untenable all along and has become all the more so after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in an American operation in Abbottabad. Extremely embarrassing questions are bound to be asked. Was the imposing, fortified building where Osama had been staying for so many years an ISI safehouse? If not, was it not the height of incompetence that the city housing a military academy and three different regiments did not know that the world's most wanted terrorist was hiding within shouting distance? Ironically, it was in Abbottabad itself that Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had boasted only recently that his country had managed to break the back of terrorism. Well, the back may or may not have been broken but the hale and hearty head was definitely positioned just a few metres away mocking at him.


Equally ambivalent is the Pakistani stand whether it was in the know loop about the Navy Seal midnight operation that the US launched or not. The Pakistani government has been maintaining an embarrassed silence, knowing full well that if it tries to take credit for the precision strike, it would become a target of terrorist reprisals. There are radicals galore in Pakistan itself who have found this US action on Pakistani soil as highly objectionable. What is odd is that so many helicopters zeroed in on Abbotabad and the radars and anti-aircraft guns installed in the military town did not get a whiff of that.


Pakistan's goose is cooked either way. It is damned if it says it went along with the US, and it is damned if it says it was not aware of what the Americans were doing. Of late, American criticism of its overt and covert support to terrorists had been growing more and more explicit. Circumstantial evidence about its exact role will be available soon enough. It was getting billions of dollars ostensibly for helping the US in the war on terrorism. If the pinpoint intelligence about Osama was not provided by it, that largesse might very well dry up. Not a small price to pay for its two-timing.









US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is right in declaring after the death of Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden that the war on terror is not over. The battle against the syndicate of terror has to be continued to ensure that the world remains free from terrorist attacks. But this is not so easy. In fact, the killing of Osama was easier than eliminating Al-Qaida and the ideology it represents. The remaining part of the anti-terrorism drive is more difficult because the most dangerous terrorist outfit of the world has been functioning through smaller outfits allied to it and its offshoots like Al-Qaida in Arabia with its headquarters in Yemen and Al-Qaida in Iraq. In the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, it has been functioning through the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and some other such organisations. These hardcore associates of Al-Qaida may become more active in taking revenge for Osama's killing as their key leaders like Ayman Al-Zawahri, Mullah Omar and Hafiz Saeed are very much active with a vast network of their own.


There are, no doubt, any number of Muslims who have nothing to do with what Osama has been preaching and what his terrorist ideology stands for. In the opinion of such people, both Islam and Muslims have suffered considerably because of the activities of Osama and, therefore, his end is a relieving development. But the reactions of some people in the Arab world, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir in India tell a different story. The followers of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam in Pakistan holding a rally to condemn the killing of Osama at the hands of US forces and hardcore Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani describing the killed terrorist mastermind a "martyr" indicate that Al-Qaida can sustain itself unless a concerted drive is launched to destroy it ideologically.


There is the danger of anti-Americanism getting strengthened in areas where this sentiment has been there for a

long time. US President Barack Obama has done well to highlight the point that America would never be against Islam and that Osama was a "mass murderer" and not a "Muslim leader". He will now have to concentrate on issues like the cause of Palestinian homeland and quick US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent Al-Qaida and its affiliates from exploiting the situation.











THE immediate fallout of the RBI's annual credit policy review on Tuesday may be that people planning to take auto and home loans may have to pay higher interest rates while the senior citizens living off interest income may get slightly better returns. The savings account holders will get a 50 basis point hike in interest on their deposits. But before they cheer up, it may be pointed out that given the inflation rate of 9 per cent (in March), all those getting lower-than-9-per cent interest rates on their bank deposits actually stand to lose as high prices erode their purchasing power.


Thanks to the salary and DA hikes, good returns from share markets and investments in gold, higher minimum support prices for farmers and higher rural incomes with programmes like Bharat Nirmaan and the national rural employment guarantee scheme, Indians are buying more goods than the factories and fields can produce. Too much money is chasing limited goods. Hoarders then profit from shortages. The RBI has decided to take away more money from the system by luring people to park surplus cash in banks and discouraging others to spend by raising interest rates. As a consequence, economic growth will take a hit.


Though the RBI rate hikes were on the cards, the sharper-than-expected increase has led shocked investors to dump equities (the BSE Sensex fell 463 points on Tuesday) as growth prospects turn less rosy. And the trend is to continue until prices come down significantly. This may not be possible as the global oil prices are moving up as West Asia simmers and the government is set to raise the petrol prices after the assembly elections. A normal monsoon promises a good supply of cereals, fruits and vegetables. High prices are leading to higher interest rates in fast-growing emerging economies, while the US and Europe are almost out of trouble. The Osama killing provides them some relief, though reprisals could send oil prices shooting up.









POLITICIANS often make loaded remarks to convey what they have in mind without spelling it out explicitly. However, when a country's Prime Minister takes to such an exercise, it means he wants to say something specific but does not like to face the storm it might evoke.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said at Kolkata that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has given more jobs to Muslims than the Left Front government in West Bengal. He may be factually correct. But does this lessen Mr Modi's crime of planning and executing the killing of Muslims in 2002? Roughly 3,000 Muslims were killed and many more thousands looted and ousted from their homes and lands.


If Mr Modi has given some jobs to Muslims, he has not in any way made amends for his diabolical scheme of ethnic cleansing. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister should commend Mr Modi at a crucial state election campaign. In a way, he has tried to cover up the biggest mass murder after Independence.


This uncalled for praise of Mr Modi is ominous in many ways. The Supreme Court has appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to reopen the cases of fake encounters and other crimes. The Gujarat government and, more so, Mr Modi is in the dock. Do the Prime Minister's remarks reflect in any way the Central government's thinking on the judgment? The verdict is yet to be delivered. Mr Modi has already started preparing the ground for criticising the judgment.


Some 14 policemen, who are being prosecuted, have said that they have no faith in the SIT inquiry. Another disclosure has tumbled out of the state's cupboard. This time the state Inspector-General of Police Sanjeev Bhatt has spilled the beans. He has said in an affidavit that Mr Modi wanted the police to let Hindus "ventilate their feelings" and "teach a lesson to the Muslims". The police officer was referring to a top-level meeting on February 27 after the Godhara incident when a train compartment was set on fire in which some Hindu "kar sevaks" were burnt to death.


I have had no doubt about Mr Modi's involvement from day one. When I visited Ahmedabad two days after the killings and talked to men and women in refugee camps, I could reconstruct a story of a pre-meditated murder of Muslims in the entire Gujarat state and their forcible eviction from their homes and hearths. It was a familiar pattern of killing and looting, with the police staying at a distance.


At that time, I was a Member of Parliament and wielded some authority. The present chief secretary held this post when the killings took place. I admonished him for not taking action against the mob with swords and even guns. He explained to me that it was the failure of the law and order machinery. Little did I know at that time that the law and order machinery was part of a pogrom that was carried out. Subsequent disclosures made it clear that the government was an active participant.


Looking back, it is apparent that India's secular polity did little even after knowing Mr Modi's culpability. Seven years ago the Supreme Court took notice of the fake encounters for the first time. It appointed the SIT under its own supervision. Even though late, the entire conspiracy is being peeled out like the skin of an onion. The SIT has submitted its report to the Supreme Court with the finding on whether Mr Modi had actually ordered police officers to take no action against rioters.


One person who could have taken action against Mr Modi was Bharatiya Janata Party's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during whose tenure the massacre took place. I believe that he wanted to dismiss Mr Modi. But the RSS, the BJP's mentor, and leaders like Mr L.K. Advani did not allow the Prime Minister to act. On his own, Mr Vajpayee did not have the political support to take on the RSS and Mr Advani at the same time.


However, lack of action does not change the fact of Mr Modi's involvement. A police official has said that Mr Bhatt was not present at the meeting where Mr Modi had given the instructions. But Mr Bhatt's driver has told the media that he drove his boss to Mr Modi's bungalow for the meeting. Strange, the entire campaign of the government is directed at denying Mr Bhatt's presence at the meeting. More important is his affidavit which leaves no doubt about Mr Modi's guilt.


All eyes are focused on the Supreme Court, although there are allegations that the SIT has been selective in admitting evidence. Mr Bhatt's affidavit was not even considered when he submitted it for the first time. Whether his fresh affidavit was taken into account before the SIT gave its report is not known.


The question which the Government of India has to answer is whether it would take any action at all. If it were a matter of moral responsibility, the Chief Minister should have quit long ago. Instead, Mr Modi has built a campaign to show how Gujarat has achieved 12 per cent growth rate and how his tight administration was an example for the rest of the country. In fact, top industrialists had been taken in by this propaganda when they met at Ahmedabad two years ago to declare Mr Modi as the best person to be the country's Prime Minister. These things hardly matter against what Mr Modi did in 2002.


Ultimately, the Centre will have to decide how to punish Mr Modi. I do not think that the Manmohan Singh government or, for that matter, the Sonia Gandhi-headed Congress has the gumption to do anything even if the Supreme Court passes strictures against Mr Modi, without directly blaming the Chief Minister. The Prime Minister's remark at Kolkata indicates his attitude.


What the nation has to worry about is that one Modi has distorted India's ethos of pluralism. That he has brainwashed most Gujaratis is a dangerous development. He won the state election even after "ordering" the massacre. The very ideology of secularism is endangered if Mr Modi gets away with what he did. This is the reason why the Constitution makers had laid down that the Centre could impose President's rule if there was the breakdown of law and order in a state. Political considerations came in the way of what should have been done nine years ago. His government should have been dismissed. Should the Centre be dependent on political exigencies?


It would be a tragedy if such planned killings as happened in Gujarat are decided in a way where the main culprit gets the benefit of doubt. Mr Modi's is a test case for the entire nation, particularly the minorities. Neither the court nor the Centre can afford to play with India's democratic and secular polity.









IF you ever watched ads on Willow TV (online cricket broadcaster in the US) you would think that NRIs live rather insipid lives. First they try finding a life partner on websites such as Then after 'settling down', they shop for life insurance and then spend the rest of their spare time happily sending money to India using every wire transfer service under the sun.


With a little chagrin, I have to admit that on most days, these stereotypes wouldn't be completely off the mark. However, the recent tour de force, the cricket World Cup Final, impacted the lives of some of us Chicago Indians in a deeply inspiring way.


Fifty zealous University of Chicago MBA students were cloistered in a media room for 8 hours starting at the wee hour of 4 am shivering in the North American chill. Some of us were still recovering from the hangover of the Indo-Pak semi-final match, which we had the privilege of watching with our Pakistani classmates. It was an incredible opportunity to share great cricketing moments with friends from the opposing team - something one doesn't get to experience very often in India.


So, for the finals clash, we invited our 'token' Sri Lankan classmate, Ruba, to join us. The combination of morning coffee and samosas was so potent that when Dhoni hit the winning six, the room exploded with a burst of energy that even Ruba couldn't resist cheering!


In spite of the distance, we were wired to our country, ball by ball, on this historic event. When Ravi Shastri shouted out to the two billion cricket viewers all over the world, his voice was heard by each one of us. Our eyes moistened when Team India cried tears of joy. We felt uplifted beyond words by the courage, honour and humility demonstrated by both sides.


A ton of emotions were wire transferred to the Wankhede Stadium that day, but something even bigger had stirred within us. At some level, the Indian captain's cool-headed, courageous leadership and the younger team members' self-assurance under extreme pressure marked the beginning of a new era of Indian individuality for the rest of the world to witness.


The moments after the awards ceremony were a manic blur. In our hearts, we were dancing on the streets of 'Mumbai' while we were actually jumping with ecstasy on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, much to the bewilderment of unknowing American bystanders. The celebrations continued with a big buffet at our favourite Indian restaurant where Ruba was granted honorary 'desi-hood' after she agreed to complete the arduous rite of passage of gobbling an entire mango kulfi.


In Yuvi's words, it was indeed a 'good night', even for the Chicago Indians. By the next morning, the bolt of adrenaline had finally worn off; but sobriety was nowhere to be found. The mantle of 'World Champions' is something we might just have to get used to.








ONE hot evening in late June 1996, the telephone on my desk in Beirut rang with one of the more extraordinary messages I was to receive as a foreign correspondent. "Mr Robert, a friend you met in Sudan wants to see you," said a voice in English but with an Arabic accent. At first I thought he meant another man, whose name I suggested. "No, no, Mr Robert, I mean the man you interviewed. Do you understand?" Yes, I understood. And where could I meet this man? "The place where he is now," came the reply. I knew that Bin Laden was rumoured to have returned to Afghanistan but there was no confirmation of this. So how do I reach him? I asked. "Go to Jalalabad - you will be contacted."

A month later, someone was banging a set of car keys against the window of my room in the Spinghar Hotel. "Misssster Robert," a voice whispered urgently. "Misssster Robert." He hissed the word "Mister." Yes, yes, I'm here. "Please come downstairs, there is someone to see you." It registered only slowly that the man must have climbed the ancient fire escape to reach the window of my room. I dressed, grabbed a coat - I had a feeling we might travel in the night - and almost forgot my old Nikon. I walked as calmly as I could past the reception desk and out into the early afternoon heat. He said his name was Mohamed, he was my guide. "To see the Sheikh?" I asked. He smiled but said nothing.


I followed Mohamed all the way through the dust of Jalalabad's main street until we arrived next to a group of gunmen in a pick-up truck in the ruins of an old Soviet army base, a place of broken armoured vehicles with a rusting red star on a shattered gateway. There were three men in Afghan hats in the back of the pick-up. One held a Kalashnikov rifle, another clutched a grenade-launcher along with six rockets tied together with Scotch tape. The third nursed a machine gun on his lap, complete with tripod and a belt of ammunition. "Mr Robert, these are our guards," the driver said quietly, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to set off across the wilds of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province under a white-hot afternoon sun with three bearded guerrillas. By dusk, we had reached a series of cramped earthen villages, old men burning charcoal fires by the track, the shadow of women cowled in the Afghan burka standing in the alleyways.

Mohamed beckoned me to follow him and we skirted a small river and jumped across a stream until, in the insect-filled darkness ahead, we could see a sputtering paraffin lamp. Beside it sat a tall, bearded man in Saudi robes. Osama bin Laden stood up, his two teenage sons, Omar and Saad, beside him. "Welcome to Afghanistan," he said.

He was now 40 but looked much older than at our last meeting in the Sudanese desert late in 1993. Walking towards me, he towered over his companions, tall, slim, with new wrinkles around those narrow eyes. Leaner, his beard longer but slightly flecked with grey, he had a black waistcoat over his white robe and a red-chequered kuffiah on his head, and he seemed tired. When he asked after my health, I told him I had come a long way for this meeting. "So have I," he muttered. There was also an isolation about him, a detachment I had not noticed before, as if he had been inspecting his anger, examining the nature of his resentment; when he smiled, his gaze would move towards his 16-year-old son Omar - round eyes with dark brows and his own kuffiah - and then off into the hot darkness where his armed men were patrolling the fields.

Just 10 days before, a truck bomb had torn down part of the US Air Force housing complex at al-Khobar in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and we were speaking in the shadow of the deaths of the 19 US soldiers killed there. And Bin Laden knew what he wanted to say. "Not long ago, I gave advice to the Americans to withdraw their troops from Saudi Arabia. Now let us give some advice to the governments of Britain and France to take their troops out - because what happened in Riyadh and al-Khobar showed that the people who did this have a deep understanding in choosing their targets. They hit their main enemy, which is the Americans. They killed no secondary enemies, nor their brothers in the army or the police in Saudi Arabia... I give this advice to the government of Britain." He said the Americans must leave Saudi Arabia, must leave the Gulf. The "evils" of the Middle East arose from America's attempt to take over the region and from its support for Israel. Saudi Arabia had been turned into "an American colony".

Bin Laden was speaking slowly and with precision, an Egyptian taking notes in a large exercise book by the lamplight like a Middle Ages scribe. "This doesn't mean declaring war against the West and Western people - but against the American regime which is against every American." I interrupted Bin Laden. Unlike Arab regimes, I said, the people of the United States elected their government. They would say that their government represents them. He disregarded my comment. I hope he did. For in the years to come, his war would embrace the deaths of thousands of American civilians. "The explosion in al-Khobar did not come as a direct reaction to the American occupation," he said, "but as a result of American behaviour against Muslims, its support of Jews in Palestine and of the massacres of Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon - of Sabra and Chatila and Qana - and of the Sharm el-Sheikh conference."

But what Bin Laden really wanted to talk about was Saudi Arabia. Since our last meeting in Sudan, he said, the situation in the kingdom had grown worse. The ulema, the religious leaders, had declared in the mosques that the presence of American troops was not acceptable and the government took action against these ulema "on the advice of the Americans". For Bin Laden, the betrayal of the Saudi people began 24 years before his birth, when Abdul Aziz al-Saud proclaimed his kingdom in 1932. "The regime started under the flag of applying Islamic law and under this banner all the people of Saudi Arabia came to help the Saud family take power. But Abdul Aziz did not apply Islamic law; the country was set up for his family. Then after the discovery of petroleum, the Saudi regime found another support - the money to make people rich and to give them the services and life they wanted and to make them satisfied." Bin Laden was picking away at his teeth with that familiar twig of mishwak wood, but history - or his version of it - was the basis of almost all his remarks.Bin Laden sometimes stopped speaking for all of 60 seconds in order to reflect on his words.Bin Laden had asked me - a routine of every Palestinian under occupation - if Europeans did not resist occupation during the Second World War. I told him no Europeans would accept this argument over Saudi Arabia - because the Nazis killed millions of Europeans yet the Americans had never murdered a single Saudi. Such a parallel was historically and morally wrong. Bin Laden did not agree. "We as Muslims have a strong feeling that binds us together... We feel for our brothers in Palestine and Lebanon... When 60 Jews are killed inside Palestine" - he was talking about Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel - "all the world gathers within seven days to criticise this action, while the deaths of 600,000 Iraqi children did not receive the same reaction." It was Bin Laden's first reference to Iraq and to the United Nations sanctions that were to result, according to UN officials themselves, in the death of more than half a million children. For some time, there had been a steadily growing thunderstorm to the east of Bin Laden's camp and we could see the bright orange flash of lightning over the mountains on the Pakistan border. But Bin Laden thought this might be artillery fire, the continuation of the inter-mujahedin battles that had damaged his spirit after the anti-Soviet war. He was growing uneasy. He broke off his conversation to pray. Then, on the straw mat, several young and armed men served dinner - plates of yoghurt and cheese and Afghan naan bread and more tea. Bin Laden sat between his sons, silent, eyes on his food.

I said to Bin Laden that Afghanistan was the only country left to him after his exile in Sudan. He agreed. "The safest place in the world for me is Afghanistan." It was the only place, I repeated, in which he could campaign against the Saudi government. Bin Laden and several of his Arab fighters burst into laughter. "There are other places," he replied. "There are several places where we have friends and close brothers - we can find refuge and safety in them." I told Bin Laden he was already a hunted man. "Danger is a part of our life," he snapped back.

He began talking to his men about amniya, security, and repeatedly looked towards those flashes in the sky. Now the thunder did sound like gunfire. I tried to ask one more question. What kind of Islamic state would Bin Laden wish to see? Would thieves and murderers still have their hands or heads cut off in his Islamic sharia state, just as they do in Saudi Arabia today? There came an unsatisfactory reply. "Islam is a complete religion for every detail of life. If a man is a real Muslim and commits a crime, he can only be happy if he is justly punished. This is not cruelty. The origin of these punishments comes from God through the Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him." Dissident Osama bin Laden may be, but moderate never. I asked permission to take his photograph, and while he debated this with his companions I scribbled into my notebook the words I would use in the last paragraph of my report on our meeting: "Osama bin Laden believes he now represents the most formidable enemy of the Saudi regime and of the American presence in the Gulf. Both are probably right to regard him as such." I was underestimating the man.

Yes, he said, I could take his picture. I opened my camera and allowed his armed guards to watch me as I threaded a film into the spool. Without warning, Bin Laden moved his head back and the faintest smile moved over his face, along with that self-conviction and that ghost of vanity which I found so disturbing. He called his sons Omar and Saad and they sat beside him as I took more pictures and Bin Laden turned into the proud father, the family man, the Arab at home.

Then his anxiety returned. The thunder was continuous now and it was mixed with the patter of rifle fire. I should go, he urged, and I realised that what he meant was that he must go, that it was time for him to return to the fastness of Afghanistan. When we shook hands, he was already looking for the guards who would take him away.

— The Independent

This is an edited extract from 'The Great War For Civilisation', by Robert Fisk, published by Harper Perennial (£13.99)

My deadliest moment with the world's most dangerous men

19 March 1997. There was a sudden scratching of voices outside the tent, thin and urgent like the soundtrack of an old movie. Then the flap snapped up and Bin Laden walked in, dressed in a turban and green robes. I stood up, half bent under the canvas, and we shook hands, both of us forced by the tarpaulin that touched our heads to greet each other like Ottoman pashas, bowed and looking up into the other's face. Again, he looked tired, and I had noticed a slight limp when he walked into the tent. His beard was greyer, his face thinner than I remembered it. Yet he was all smiles, almost jovial, placing the rifle which he had carried into the tent on the mattress to his left, insisting on more tea for his guest. For several seconds he looked at the ground. Then he looked at me with an even bigger smile, beneficent and, I thought at once, very disturbing.

"Mr Robert," he began, and he looked around at the other men in combat jackets and soft brown hats who had crowded into the tent. "Mr Robert, one of our brothers had a dream. He dreamed that you came to us one day on a horse, that you had a beard and that you were a spiritual person. You wore a robe like us. This means you are a true Muslim." This was terrifying. It was one of the most fearful moments of my life. I understood Bin Laden's meaning a split second in front of each of his words. Dream. Horse. Beard. Spiritual. Robe. Muslim. The other men in the tent were all nodding and looking at me, some smiling, others silently staring at the Englishman who had appeared in the dream of the "brother". I was appalled. It was both a trap and an invitation, and the most dangerous moment to be among the most dangerous men in the world. I could not reject the "dream" lest I suggest Bin Laden was lying. Yet I could not accept its meaning without myself lying, without suggesting that what was clearly intended of me - that I should accept this "dream" as a prophecy and a divine instruction - might be fulfilled. For this man to trust me, a foreigner, to come to them without prejudice, that was one thing. But to imagine that I would join them in their struggle, that I would become one with them, was beyond any possibility. The coven was waiting for a reply.

Was I imagining this? Could this not be just an elaborate, rhetorical way of expressing traditional respect towards a visitor? Was this not merely the attempt of a Muslim to gain an adherent to the faith? Was Bin Laden really trying - let us be frank - to recruit me? I feared he was. And I immediately understood what this might mean. A Westerner, a white man from England, a journalist on a respectable newspaper - not a British convert to Islam of Arab or Asian origin - would be a catch indeed. He would go unsuspected, he could become a government official, join an army, even - as I would contemplate just over four years later - learn to fly an airliner. I had to get out of this, quickly, and I was trying to find an intellectual escape tunnel, working so hard in digging it that my brain was on fire.

"Sheikh Osama," I began, even before I had decided on my next words. "Sheikh Osama, I am not a Muslim." There was silence in the tent. "I am a journalist." No one could dispute that. "And the job of a journalist is to tell the truth." No one would want to dispute that. "And that is what I intend to do in my life - to tell the truth." Bin Laden was watching me like a hawk. And he understood. I was declining the offer. In front of his men, it was now Bin Laden's turn to withdraw, to cover his retreat gracefully. "If you tell the truth, that means you are a good Muslim," he said. The men in the tent in their combat jackets and beards all nodded at this sagacity. Bin Laden smiled. I was saved.


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Through its monetary policy statement and the consequent policy action, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sought to redefine the parameters for macroeconomic policy this fiscal. Instead of trimming its sails and going with the flow, the central bank has charted a new course and expects the government to follow suit. The RBI is right to assert that high inflation is inimical to sustained growth and that current inflation and expectations pose a significant risk to future growth. In opting to lower its growth expectation, in order to bring down inflationary expectations, the RBI has queered the pitch for mid-term fiscal correction by the Union finance ministry. India's economic growth forecast for fiscal 2011-12 has been adjusted downwards to a range of 7.5 to 8.5 per cent and monetary policy action is based on the premise that unless inflationary expectations are fundamentally altered and the rate of inflation is anchored in shallower monetary waters, the medium-term growth outlook would, in fact, be worse than the short-term deceleration of growth that is now expected. Rather than the growth-inflation ratio of 9:5 underlying this year's budgetary calculations, the RBI has now posited a ratio of 8:6 with a downward bias on growth and an upward bias on inflation. Hence, the 50 basis point (bp) increase in key policy rates.

If the RBI's monetary policy strategy has to succeed, it will need supportive policy action from the finance ministry in terms of a paring down of subsidies and other spending targets. While the finance minister has his fiscal task cut out, industry must also do its bit to ensure that cost-push inflation does not add to the pressure of demand-pull inflation. The RBI expects a weakening of pricing power and hopes this will break the wage-price spiral. The spanner in the works would be exogenous factors like a further firming-up of oil prices or a bad monsoon. It is precisely because neither the central bank nor the government has any control on such exogenous factors that the RBI has obviously decided to act purposefully at least in respect of the one variable it controls, namely the policy rate.


The May policy statement is significant because it has also reset the parameters of monetary policy with a new operating procedure that includes a new overnight call money rate, an innovation called marginal standing facility and a new fixed relationship between the repo and reverse repo rates, with the former defined as the single policy rate to which all other rates have to adjust in a predictable manner. The move towards a single rate regime, recommended by an expert committee, will help reduce volatility in money markets and improve transmission of policy signals. Finally, the RBI has done its bit for middle-class India by raising the savings deposit rate by 50 bps, while keeping the issue of deregulation of savings rate open for future action. All in all, Governor Subbarao's policy statement this week marks a turning point in macroeconomic policy-making, whose impact – positive or negative – will be felt only in months to come.








The trade talks between the commerce secretaries of India and Pakistan have laid the foundation for expanded bilateral trade, and the legitimacy of existing unreported trade. The ringing endorsement for the talks in the media and trade circles of both countries clearly demonstrates the presence of constituencies in both countries that favour greater engagement in trade and commerce. This positive energy should not be allowed to dissipate as has happened so often in the past. The two biggest positives at the meeting were: Pakistan's decision to finally seek to move forward on extending the standard "most-favoured nation" (MFN) status to India (this remains an irritant if not a substantial trade barrier, and has been blocked by political prejudice in Pakistan rather than economic reason); and an agreement to delink progress in trade and commerce from "pending bilateral" issues (a euphemism for Kashmir). More to the point, the MFN status to India will be granted in a time-bound manner, even though the exact date has not been specified. Moving to a negative list-based tariff line approach will mean the focus would be on items that cannot be traded. In cases where this model has been followed, the incentive has been to reduce the size of the negative list, bringing it closer to the free trade ideal.

Both sides also agreed to expand rail and road links to boost trade, evaluate the feasibility of a South Asia electricity grid (India has already entered into agreements with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, over and above existing arrangements with Nepal and Bhutan), resume export of petroleum products to Pakistan and so on. Issues of financing, harmonising of regulatory arrangements, fuel linkages and pricing will have to be meticulously worked out before a feasible power-sharing arrangement is in place. The decision to allow the export of Bt cotton seeds to Pakistan reflects both magnanimity and confidence on India's part. As is well known, the introduction of Bt cotton has hugely boosted productivity and output in India, resulting in India's emergence as the world's second-largest cotton producer, only marginally behind China. In allowing their export, India's textile industry is signalling its coming of age, whereby it can withstand competition from its Pakistani counterpart, which is bound to benefit from lower input costs, thanks to the greater availability of domestic cotton.







Indian economy watchers (including this paper) have advised Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor D Subbarao to do some straight talking. Instead of obsessing about the need to return to the "old normal" of a 5 per cent inflation rate, he has been counselled to prepare markets for a "new normal" in which the inflation rate will remain considerably higher than 5 per cent owing to a bunch of local and global factors. That, however, does not imply that the RBI can afford to wash its hands off inflation. Even if the new normal were to prevail, the RBI needs to give its best shot to lower inflation from the double-digit level to which it threatens to climb by the middle of the year to a more "reasonable" level of 7 or 8 per cent. In short, greater monetary tightening is warranted. The corollary, going by simple economic principles, should be lower growth. Thus, an integral part of the new normal is the acceptance of a lower rate of growth perhaps for a couple of years.

The risks and challenges for the RBI on the domestic front are now well known. High crude prices have meant that under-recoveries on diesel and petrol now stand at roughly Rs 16 and Rs 7 a litre, respectively, and a fairly hefty increase in their prices seems overdue. Given the political economy of how these things work in India, one could safely assume that these increases will be announced after the state election results are announced in mid May. That is likely to add quite a few basis points to headline inflation. A whole bunch of other commodities is putting pressure on inflation. Input price inflation (going by some estimates) was a whopping 11.5 per cent in March while output price inflation was a relatively meagre 5 per cent.


The risk is that if domestic demand conditions remain somewhat robust, manufacturers will try and pass these on to consumers as higher final product prices in a bid to protect their margins. Thus, the prospect of an inflationary spiral that feeds off rising input costs and then nourishes output prices looms large. The only policy action that could work at this stage is to try to stifle demand and curb pricing power.

While these forces and factors will play out in the domestic economy, their roots lie in international markets and economy. For one, commodity prices are riding on a combination of supply disruption (or fears of supply disruption) and surplus liquidity created by western central banks which continue to grapple with the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. While the supply dynamic of these commodities are difficult to understand and predict (who knows, for instance, how things in West Asia will pan out), the liquidity cycle is a little more predictable.

In fact, a major change in the global liquidity regime is due in June when the US Fed finishes with the last tranche of its quantitative easing programme (QE2). For the uninitiated, under this programme, the central bank was to buy back $600 billion of bonds from the markets between November 2010 and June 2011, releasing cheap dollars in the process. The question then is: Will the end of this massive liquidity infusion lead to a reversal in commodity prices and make life easier for the RBI and other emerging market central banks that are battling inflation somewhat unsuccessfully?

My sense is that it might be somewhat naïve to depend on this excessively to cure commodity price inflation. For one, as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke emphasised in a recent press conference, the event is well anticipated. Markets tend to "price in" the impact of an expected event well ahead of its actual occurrence. The fact that commodity prices haven't cracked yet suggests that prices will not fall off a cliff in July. It is useful to remember that the actual commencement of the QE2 was a bit of a damp squib. Its effects were priced a good couple of months before the actual event and the prices of an array of so-called risky assets – commodities, emerging market stocks and bonds, and so on – ramped up in anticipation. When the bond buy-backs physically started in November, these asset prices hardly moved. One could expect a similar phenomenon when the scheme winds down.

Besides, the US economy is not quite out of the woods yet. Growth rate for the first quarter slumped to 1.8 per cent and both labour and housing markets remain sluggish. The Fed seems to be going out of its way to assure the markets that though QE2 will technically end, the easy money regime will continue. One way to ensure this is for the Fed to keep reinvesting the maturing debt proceeds to keep the size of its balance sheet constant. The central bank is also likely to keep policy rates on hold at least until the first quarter of 2012. To cut a long story short, the impact of the end of QE2 on financial markets could be extremely muted.

The other event that could put the brakes on commodity prices would be a sovereign crisis in Europe. This would increase risk aversion and could trigger a sell-off in so-called risky assets. Again, the probability of that happening is low. Two things have been happening on this front. First, markets have learned to digest periodic news of fiscal or banking system stress in the smaller economies on the eurozone periphery like Portugal or Greece. Second, the risk of a large economy like Spain defaulting on its debt seems to have abated with major reserve-holders like China splurging on Spanish government bonds.

The global odds seem to be stacked against the RBI and a sharp sell-off in commodities doesn't seem quite likely. There are two things that could tilt the balance. One would be a comprehensive resolution of the crisis in West Asia and North Africa. The other, and the more long-winded, process through which commodity prices could correct is when high prices (and the resultant high interest rates) themselves set off a palpable slowdown in emerging economies like India and China which constitute the bulk of global demand for energy and materials. Until then, the RBI will have to continue to raise rates.

The author is chief economist, HDFC Bank





It is difficult to say who is the bigger loser in last week's unseemly battle over the 2G scam report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) — the Bharatiya Janata Party and particularly its leader Murli Manohar Joshi or the Congress leadership.

To begin with, Mr Joshi failed to act as a responsible chairperson of a Parliamentary committee. As someone heading the PAC, he had sufficient advance information that the Congress members were opposed to the contents of the draft report. Yet, he went ahead with its circulation. In all Parliamentary committees, where consensus is the preferred method to adopt reports, it is the chairperson's primary responsibility to ensure that all members endorse the report's findings, and if necessary, after suitable amendments and modifications.


Mr Joshi failed to get that organised. One of the reasons could be that he was in a hurry as the tenure of the committee was to end by April 30. However, that does not absolve him from the charge that he failed to get a consensus on the report. Worse, he allowed his secretariat to circulate the draft report among the members before ensuring such a consensus. That decision also meant that the contents of the draft report, otherwise treated as confidential, became public through leaks to the media.

It is true that with such a media exposure Mr Joshi and the BJP leadership did appear to have scored a political point against the Congress. The leaked report brought out embarrassing details of how the prime minister tried to distance his office from the controversial decisions his communications minister was taking to award phone licences and spectrum and how different arms of the government failed to prevent the telecom scam. Indeed, the report was instrumental in temporarily uniting the different factions within the BJP leadership.

However, in that excitement, the BJP leaders lost sight of the long-term political gain they would have made if they could have convinced the Congress members to agree to even a diluted version of the draft report. After all, they had access to several documents, which after their inclusion in the report would have become a major political embarrassment for the Congress. Such embarrassment would have been damaging even if Mr Joshi had agreed to modify some of the observations the draft report had made. The important thing for Mr Joshi was to get the Congress members agree to the report even with diluted comments, but with all the relevant documents as annexes.

What happened instead was an ugly confrontation between members of the BJP and Congress including its alliance partners at the meeting to consider the draft PAC report. Mr Joshi adjourned the meeting and stormed out of the room. Once Mr Joshi and the BJP members were out of the room, the Congress leaders present at the meeting decided to reject the draft report. The stalemate continued and after some thought Mr Joshi decided to present the same draft report to the Lok Sabha Speaker on the last day of the PAC's term.

For the Congress, too, the behaviour of its leaders was counterproductive. It was clear for all to see that the Congress members of the PAC were using all tricks in the book to thwart the finalisation of that report. Such behaviour did not enhance their credibility. Instead, it only confirmed the party's ambivalent approach to dealing with corruption in public life.

In the final analysis, the stalemate over the PAC report shows that the BJP may be a bigger loser than the Congress. The Congress leaders failed to rise to the occasion and break the deadlock. They were somehow trying to obstruct the acceptance of the report. That the PAC's term was ending on April 30 helped their cause. However, if the BJP had agreed to take on board the Congress leaders' objections to the observations and conclusions of the draft report of the Committee, the outcome could have been different. That would have exposed the Congress strategy.

Remember what happened with the Joint Parliamentary Committee's report on the securities scam in the 1990s. The draft report had made some critical remarks against Manmohan Singh, who was then the finance minister. The Congress was furious with those comments that attacked Dr Singh for his inaction to prevent the securities scam. What did the Opposition members of that committee, headed by Ram Niwas Mirdha, do? They held a series of meetings with the Congress members and agreed to dilute the observations that suggested that Dr Singh was a "sleeping finance minister" while the scam took place. The dilution was accepted, but the findings of that committee with documentary evidence were such that Dr Singh had to offer his resignation, which of course was not accepted.

Did the BJP then lose an opportunity last week?






Politicians and bureaucrats cry foul when the judiciary crosses constitutional borders in pursuit of the corrupt and dishonest among them. But when Parliament and the executive nibble at the powers of the judiciary, the latter has to suffer in silence or defend itself alone.

The 1970s saw the most formidable siege and assault on the judiciary by Parliament, which passed a series of constitutional amendments to dilute judicial powers. The judiciary came out unscathed, thanks more to luck than pluck. The intrusion of the executive into judicial territory is more subtle. It burrows into this domain. Bureaucrats create quasi-judicial posts for themselves and even elbow out those with a judicial background.


Two such instances unfolded in the Supreme Court in recent weeks. In one case, Amrik Singh vs Union of India, the Supreme Court asserted the role of the courts in adjudicating disputes. The issue involved was the constitutional validity of Section 347D of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957. There are similar provisions in the New Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994. According to this rule, a citizen can appeal against the orders of the zonal engineer to a tribunal presided over by an additional sessions judge. However, if he is still dissatisfied with the judge's decision, the next appeal lies to the Administrator of the national capital territory — the Lt Governor. This, said the petitioner, was a violation of the doctrines of the judicial review and independence of the judiciary enshrined in the Constitution.

It is obvious that the proceedings before the appellate tribunal are judicial in nature. It is presided over by a judge. According to several procedural laws, the tribunal is treated as a civil court. But the Delhi law gave primacy to the Administrator, as appeals against the decision of the judge must go to him.

The Supreme Court has denounced such violations of the rule of law in earlier judgments. In its 1987 decision in the case, P Sambamurthy vs State of Andhra Pradesh, the court declared a constitutional amendment ultra vires in similar circumstances. Article 371D provided for an administrative tribunal for the state. But its decision was made subject to the approval of the state government. This, said the Constitution bench of the court, was "shocking and clearly subversive of the principles of justice."

The reason is that invariably the state government would be a party in every service dispute brought before the administrative tribunal. The government was conferred the ultimate power to uphold or reject the claims of public servants who approach the tribunal.

The Supreme Court said: "Now if the exercise of the power of judicial review can be set at naught by the state government by overriding the decision given against it, it would sound the death knell of the rule of law. The rule of law would cease to have any meaning, because then it would be open to the state government to defy the law and yet to get away with it."

There are several other judgments that uphold the independence of the judiciary in similar circumstances. The establishment of administrative tribunals, company law tribunal and the Competition Commission was delayed for years because of the issue of the separation of powers under the Constitution. The laws had to be amended to bring them in line with the principle of independence of the judiciary.

Relying on judgments in those disputes, the court stated in the present case (Amrik Singh) that because judicial review has been considered an intrinsic part of constitutionalism, any statutory provision that provides for administrative review of a decision taken by a judicial or a quasi-judicial body is unconstitutional.

Striking down the Delhi rules, the court stated that appeals against the judge's orders will hereafter go to the district courts, and not to the Lt Governor. Surprisingly, the rule has been in the statute book since 1957 and it took a journalist to move the Supreme Court to point out its unconstitutionality in a public interest litigation.

Another case pending before the court shows how judicial forums, even after they are established, can be rendered unworkable by the authorities, who hold the purse to finance these institutions (Union of India vs Debt Recovery Bar Association). Debt recovery tribunals are deprived of basic infrastructure (paper and stationery, let alone a decent building) to function. Appointments are either not made or are not on time, unless the babu gets his share in the judicial pie. Though these tribunals deal with non-performing assets, a serious problem bedevilling the economy, they are made dysfunctional by the authorities. More and more tribunals are being set up but most of them suffer from such intense deprivation.




Diluting the PM's authority will lead to instability, but a system is needed to address allegations of corruption against a PM

J S Verma

Former Chief Justice of India


However efficient a Lok Pal might be, any inquiry will take time and instability in the country for even a short duration is detrimental

According to the scheme in the Indian Constitution, there is a provision for president's rule to prevent the failure of the constitutional machinery in the states. Article 356 allows the president to dismiss a state government if he is satisfied with the report of the governor, or otherwise, that the government of the state cannot be carried out according to the provisions of the Constitution. The consequence is president's rule in the state.

But there is no provision for president's rule for the Union government. There can, thus, be no situation that may cause instability at the national level, which may even have international repercussions. The prime minister's authority being diluted in any manner cannot be envisaged in the national interest. Because of this factor alone the office of the prime minister has to be treated differently, and it cannot be equated with that of the chief minister of a state. The prime minister's accountability has to be enforced only through the political process while he holds that office. It is not as if the prime minister is immune from accountability, but the mechanism for his accountability while in office is through the political process in Parliament.

In this respect the prime minister's office cannot be equated even with that of the Chief Justice of India. If the prime minister goes, the entire cabinet goes with him or her. The consequence is not the same if the chief justice is under a cloud or has to go. The tenure of the puisne judges or the working of the court is not disrupted if the chief justice is rendered dysfunctional because at least an acting chief justice can be appointed under Article 126 of the Constitution, and each other judge holds office in his/her own right by virtue of a direct appointment. Every judge has equal and independent judicial powers and the chief justice is only the first among equals in that respect.

A parliamentary form of government cannot function with a lame-duck prime minister. Any situation in which the prime minister's authority or power is eroded, which is bound to happen if he is under the purview of the Lok Pal, during an inquiry against him will turn him/er into a lame-duck prime minister causing instability in the country. However efficient a Lok Pal might be, any inquiry will take time and instability in the country for even a short duration is detrimental to national interest.

The prime minister's position in a cabinet form of government is unique. In the words of a British constitutional expert, the cabinet is "the hyphen that joins and the buckle that fastens the legislature with the executive." And who controls the cabinet? The prime minister!

Besides, in our Constitution, every aberration or fault is not meant to be corrected only by the judicial process or something akin to it. Some are meant to be corrected politically. Enforcing the prime minister's accountability while in that office falls under the latter category.

The Lok Pal cannot take over the entire governance, overriding all other constitutional institutions. The remedy is to strengthen national institutions and to restore their credibility and not to supplant them all with the Lok Pal. The Lok Pal must supplement and not supplant the institutions created by the Constitution, maintaining the essence of separation of powers consistent with the basic structure of the Constitution.

The prime minister is privy to a lot of sensitive information in national interest. That secrecy cannot be compromised. Any situation in which he has to reveal such information to defend himself before the Lok Pal could be extremely dangerous.

India does not suffer from a dearth of laws. The real problem is of their faithful implementation. The need is to address this issue simultaneously. The jurisdiction of the Lok Pal must be very carefully addressed without being swayed by emotions. The justified public anger against corruption must be channelled fruitfully. Let there not be another institution that becomes ineffective because of the unbearable burden it takes. It should bite only as much as it can chew!

Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator, Access to Information, CHRI*

Since the PM's office coordinates the activities of all ministries the PM cannot escape the blame for corruption

The proposed Jan Lok Pal Bill is addressing the task of ensuring that accusations of corruption against any public servant are investigated. The prime minister is also a public servant so there must be a procedure for dealing with credible complaints against the prime minister too. There are no choices; the options are about how the prime minister should be dealt with under the Bill. Being head of the government his position carries prestige, he is bound by responsibilities to Parliament and as an MP he has privileges. For instance, he cannot be picked up for interrogation by an investigating officer like any ordinary citizen. There are more restrictions imposed by MPs' privileges when Parliament is in session.

It has been argued that the prime minister only heads the government while other ministers handle the day-to-day functioning of ministries. So he cannot be held responsible for corruption in those ministries. This argument ignores two major points. First, as head of government the prime minister has the prerogative of selecting individuals to form the government. He is not only first among equals, he is virtually the leader who gives the final go-ahead on all government policies. Since the prime minister's office has the primary duty of coordinating the activities of all ministries the prime minister cannot escape the blame for corruption that may occur in one or more of them. We are not talking about petty corruption but high-level scams, like the one on 2G spectrum, that may involve senior bureaucrats and even ministers. No such big-ticket item escapes the notice of the prime minister's office when it comes to making the initial decisions. Many such decisions have to go through cabinet. It is a principle of the cabinet form of government that ministers are individually and collectively responsible to Parliament.

Second, the prime minister is also in charge of the day-to-day affairs of several departments like atomic energy, space, administrative reforms, to name a few. It is nobody's case that corruption will never occur in such departments. The question to be asked is how far the jurisdiction of the Lok Pal should extend when it comes to the prime minister not only as head of government but also as the minister in charge of specific departments.

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission under Veerappa Moily had said there is a parliamentary procedure for removing the prime minister the (vote of no confidence) and any further restrictions would be unconstitutional. Does that mean that no one should inquire into allegations of corruption against the prime minister? The prime minister is covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act and under it the courts can try the prime minister with the sanction of the president. But how will the president have access to the material that will inform him adequately to make a decision on whether or not to provide such a sanction? Under Article 74 of the Constitution the president will be aided and assisted by the prime minister and the council of ministers. Will the Union Cabinet with the prime minister presiding over its meeting approve a proposal to investigate or prosecute the prime minister himself? This is why we need to create an independent and empowered body to investigate complaints of corruption against the prime minister and to advise the president on these.

In the US, President Bill Clinton was prosecuted and nearly impeached but it has the Special Public Prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General's office to investigate the accusations against the president. This process went all the way to the US Congress.

We do not have such a system in India yet. The Lok Pal can, therefore, collect evidence and do everything short of interrogating the prime minister. It can place all evidence it collects before Parliament. A parliamentary panel can take charge of the case and decide the fate of the prime minister. After all, the prime minister should be accountable to the people through his peers between elections.

*Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative






Inflation still looms large for reasons beyond the central bank's control.

True to form, the Reserve Bank of India's Monetary Policy Statement for fiscal 2011-12, like its predecessors, documents the economy's trajectory thus far, complete with all its warts and moles. Where it may have erred is in the prescriptive treatment of a fresh dose of tightening up of credit that leaves something to be desired. What makes it all the more unfortunate is that the RBI had in its possession far superior data than was available to the Government at the time of presentation of the Budget or the Economic Survey.

The RBI has quite rightly identified that inflation, this time around, is stoked by a boom in global commodity prices. It has talked of a growing "pricing power" of producers that stems from a demand situation that is "strong enough to allow significant pass-through of input price increases." Equally, the RBI also acknowledges that this is happening despite "visible signs of moderating growth…" — of all the places, in capital goods production and investment spending, for which the central bank immodestly pats itself on the back. To take credit for tightening interest rates to the point that investment spending and the capital goods sector decline is to admit to stifling the engines of capacity creation in core sectors of the economy. This is at a time when the sector is in need of additional funding to shore up capacity and secure higher output in the process. Yet the RBI has raised the repo rate significantly higher, by 50 basis points, whereas so far it had routinely raised it by half that number. The problem doesn't seem to lie in just the core sectors alone. The policy also tells us that its own two surveys, on industrial outlook and on order-books and inventories, in other words, a far broader spectrum of the economy, point to a far more pessimistic view than earlier. Amidst such overwhelming evidence it has chosen to do what it has on the ground that inflation has to be tackled. This is, of course, an old defence for tightening, even though it has little impact on overall inflation. A tighter monetary regime might have released some speculative pressure in the real estate market but overall, inflation still looms large for reasons beyond the central bank's control. The RBI has nevertheless been cautious in its tightening and left the Bank Rate untouched. It has also introduced a new window for banks with the Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) at which banks can borrow overnight funds up to 1 per cent of their Net Demand and Time Liabilities. By creating an additional window, albeit a small one, of liquidity, the RBI must be hoping that banks' ability to lend to critical sectors will not be constrained by any shortage of resources

The treatment the RBI dishes out for the economy's ills — moderating growth and persistent inflation — may prove ineffective. But its diagnosis of slowing investment spending should provide New Delhi food for thought.






The RBI has tried to steer a course between low inflation and sustainable economic growth .

The Annual Monetary Policy clearly indicates that inflation control has become a key priority area for the central bank in order to contain risks to future growth. Hence, the Reserve Bank of India has raised the key policy rates by 50 basis points (bps) each and made an attempt to keep a tight lid on monetary expansion during 2011-12.

The policy move has been facilitated by strong growth numbers in the form of improved rabi crop of 2010-11, improved core industrial output and PMI for the recent months, spiralling exports and a high topline growth for companies on the back of good demand conditions.

However, the RBI expects real GDP growth to settle closer to 8 per cent given the headwinds in the form of high domestic input prices, rising global commodity prices and some impact of past monetary policy actions.

Similarly, it has placed the headline inflation around 6 per cent (with an upward bias) on the back of domestic demand-supply mismatches, trends in global commodity prices and the likely demand scenario.

Price stability

Consistent with the broader objective of price stability, it has pegged the banking industry's aggregate deposits and non-food credit growth around 17 per cent and 19.0 per cent respectively. Besides, the RBI has warned against several downside risks to its economic outlook such as intensification of sovereign debt crisis in Euro area, high commodity prices, especially oil, abrupt increases in the long-term interest rates of advanced economies with implications for their fiscal paths and accentuation of inflationary pressures in emerging market economies.

The RBI has also taken several measures to improve the monetary policy transmission such as an increase in the savings bank deposit rates from 3.5 per cent to 4.0 per cent, increase in the provisioning requirements on certain categories of non-performing and restructured advances, restricting banks' investments in liquid schemes of debt oriented mutual funds and creation of a marginal standing facility (MSF).

To reduce the haziness around the policy signals, the RBI has made a shift to a single rate regime , which will be the Repo rate.

To address the liquidity issue, it has instituted facility whereby banks can borrow overnight from the MSF up to 1.0 per cent of their respective net demand and time liabilities.

Three concrete steps

To promote inclusive growth, the RBI has advised banks to reserve at least 25 per cent of the new branches to be opened during 2011-12 to tier 5 and tier 6 centres. It has warned the banks that they can classify their loans to micro financial institutions as priority sector advances if, and only if, they conform to the regulatory norms.

To improve the functioning of financial markets, the RBI has taken three concrete steps. First, it is going to shortly issue the final guidelines on credit-default swaps.

Second, it has decided to extend the period of short sale in government securities from the existing five days to a maximum of three months.

Third, it has given permission to foreign institutional investors to cancel and rebook up to 10 per cent of the market value of the portfolio as at the beginning of the financial year. The RBI has tried to steer a course between low inflation and sustainable economic growth by focusing equally on both short-term demand management issues and medium-term issues of financial deepening and inclusive growth.

(The author, Chairman and Managing Director, Bank of Baroda, is Chairman of Indian Banks Association.)









The RBI has announced welcome changes in its operating procedures and technical analysis, while moving to the repo rate as the single policy rate.

The run-up to Reserve Bank of India (RBI)'s Annual Policy statement for the year 2011-12 has been relatively quiet this time in terms of developments in the economy and markets.

Growth is back on track, banking indicators have shown improvement, there is no sign of unease in the external sector — but, of course, taming inflation has remained elusive. Policy decisions such as raising repo rate under liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 50 basis points to 7.25 per cent, are in alignment with market expectations. But the noteworthy improvements include modification in the operating procedure, as per the Mohanty Working Group's recommendations, and in some technical analysis.

Removing some of the earlier confusions, it is explicitly stated that weighted average call rate will be the operating target of monetary policy and Repo rate under LAF will be the single policy rate. Bank Rate remains a separate policy rate without any significance in the Statement, contrary to the Working Group recommendation to activate it by linking to the Repo rate. These moves mark a significant shift.


Moving away from exclusive reliance on monetary aggregates for the conduct of monetary policy, the RBI has adopted the 'multiple indicators approach' since 1998-99.

Under this approach, it has been using a host of macroeconomic variables in addition to monetary aggregates as policy indicators to draw a policy perspective. GDP growth and inflation, growth in broad money (M3), bank deposits and credit are used as indicative projections. As regards inflation, actual outcomes remained within the targets (usually inflation projections are set below a particular rate) on eight out of 10 ten occasions since 1999-2000.

However, as regards GDP growth, projections underestimated growth during upwards swings and overestimated the same during an economic slowdown. The present Statement improves the credibility of the growth projection by assigning 90 per cent probability within the range of 7.4 per cent to 8.5 per cent.


While difficulties in economic forecasts are understandable, misalignment in actual projections for growth in M3 and bank credit reflects technical errors. For example, while GDP growth and inflation projections were hiked from 6 per cent and 4 per cent in 2009-10, respectively, to 8 per cent and 5.5 per cent, in 2010-11, indicative projections for M3 growth and bank credit were kept unchanged.

On this aspect too, the present Statement is a technical improvement, lowering M3 and credit projections consistent with a lower inflation objective. Moreover, the analysis is quite comprehensive and convincing.

(The author is Reader, Department of Economics, Pondicherry University.)








By siphoning out the excess liquidity, the Monetary Policy has reined in demand to ensure price stability.

Having projected a lower base line GDP growth of 8 per cent with a possible downward bias and a higher base line projection of head line inflation at 6 per cent with an upward bias in 2011-12, the Monetary Policy seeks to siphon out the excess liquidity with a stiff 50 basis point increase in the repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) so as to rein in demand to ensure price stability.

Particularly, in the light of the impending revision in fuel prices and growing uncertainties in global commodities outlook.

However, the cash reserve ratio (CRR) has been left unchanged at 6 per cent so as not to chock off funds flow to the productive private sector to sustain growth in the medium term.

The indicative growth in non-food credit in 2011-12 is given as 19 per cent.

Interest Rates

As the envisaged interest rate environment for the current year is one that moderates inflation and anchors inflation expectations, there is bound to be an upward bias in bank lending rates.

Pending deregulation, the savings bank rate has been hiked by 50 basis points as immediate compensation to inflation-hit household savers. This will push up banks' cost of deposits by 12-15 basis points, depending on the individual bank's share of such deposits.

The banks will factor this in while revising the lending rates. Funds of short-term maturities may also migrate to savings bank accounts adding to the cost.

The conventional objective of rate hike is not to deny productive credit but to deter unproductive demand. But there is a risk that high rates may negatively impact manufacturing and SME sectors, which are already reeling under growth deceleration.

There is a further risk that higher rates may not deter credit expansion as evident in past cycles of rate hikes.

The current loan growth is being driven by domestic demand and exports, both of which are likely to stay strong in the near future.

Non-food bank credit grew by 20.6 per cent during 2010-11 compared with 16.8 per cent during 2009-10. Credit to the services sector grew by 23.9 per cent during 2010-11 compared with 12.5 per cent in the previous year.

Personal loans grew significantly by 17.0 per cent during 2010-11 compared with 4.1 per cent during the previous year.


The short-term money market rates will continue to maintain upward bias and bond yields are expected to move up from the present levels.

The 10-year yield would inch up to 8.25 per cent and might even go up more up to 8.4 per cent.

However, the liquidity management has been made easy with a single indicative rate and the liquidity situation is expected to remain within the comfort zone at least in the first half of the year.

Banks can now park their excess liquidity with the RBI at 6.25 per cent or borrow from the RBI to meet liquidity shortfalls at 7.25 per cent.

In case of further requirement, banks can avail of the new Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) up to 1 per cent of NDTL at 8.25 per cent.

NPA Provision

The enhanced provisioning requirements on certain categories of non-performing advances and restructured advances will add to the cost, which has to be factored in by banks while re-pricing loan products.

The sub-target given under financial inclusion to cover Tier-5 and Tier-6 centres will lead to wider dispersal of new branches in the unbanked and under-banked centres.

(The author is CMD, Indian Overseas Bank.)








Sustained high rate of inflation is inimical to growth as it harms investment.

The Monetary Policy seems to have made a departure from the "calibrated tightening" stance of the central bank last year. Different economic conditions necessitate different monetary policy actions.

The key premise of the policy seems to be that over the long run, a sustained high rate of inflation is inimical to sustained growth as it harms investment.

Hence, even at the cost of moderating growth in the short run, containing the spectre of elevated inflationary expectation and pressures takes precedence. Further upside risks to inflation due to increases in prices of several industrial raw materials, upward pressure on wages and uncertain crude oil prices remain.

The current hike of 50 basis points factors in the persistence of elevated inflation over the next few months, including the impact of any impending fuel price revisions. It is important to note that despite the 8.5-9 per cent average inflation over the last 24 months, the policy aims to bring down expectations within the 4-4.5 per cent range. The RBI is thus not accepting a new normal for inflation and sticking to a tight target.

Growth guidance

The central bank has acknowledged that its cumulative monetary actions are beginning to have an impact on demand. Its FY-12 projection for GDP growth at 8 per cent factors in the moderation in economic growth. The 8 per cent guidance assumes oil at $110/bbl (as against $125/bbl at present) and a normal monsoon.

Going ahead, we expect the RBI will take further monetary steps to contain inflationary expectations even at the cost of short-term growth. However, with the current round of the 50 bps hike, we believe that RBI has front-ended the rate hike cycle of the current fiscal year.

Another hike likely

We expect liquidity conditions to quicken policy transmission, keeping short-term rates elevated. Another 25-50 basis points hike, post-this policy, doesn't seem unlikely during the remainder of the fiscal year.

However, the role of sustained consolidation in fiscal deficit levels is a crucial parallel parameter that also needs to be achieved to sustain aggregate private demand.

(The author is Chief Executive, Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group.)







The current set of measures is by no means the end of the rate hike cycle.

The repo rate hike of 50 basis points (bps) has clearly been higher than market expectations. The policy stance also remains markedly hawkish, with the Reserve Bank of India staying almost exclusively focussed on containing inflation. The rate hike alone will not be able to tame down inflation meaningfully.

But, the RBI clearly wants to stay ultra-cautious — trying to quash perceptions of "falling behind the curve" to the extent possible. Missing the 2010-11 inflation projection by an unusually wide margin, even after frequent revisions, has possibly turned the central bank all the more vigilant. Along with the policy rate hikes, the RBI also announced a new operating procedure of monetary policy with overnight call rate as the operating target; Repo rate being the single "independently varying policy rate".

Accordingly, the RBI is set to keep liquidity on a tight leash as well in the coming months so that the call rate remains aligned with the repo rate. The savings rate has been increased 50 bps to 4 per cent. All these moves cumulatively point towards further upward pressures on banks' funding costs and interest rate spectrum in general.

Distant priority

The central bank recognises that policy rate hikes at the current level of systemic pressure on liquidity and interest rates are no longer "costless" for growth. But, currently that consideration is nothing more than a distant second priority for the RBI. The RBI's FY11-12 GDP growth projection of 8 per cent is distinctly lower than that of the government's 9 per cent.

Indeed, while consumption can still provide a stable base for growth, high inflation, tight liquidity, high borrowing costs, alleged high-level corruption, and global uncertainties do not augur well for investment demand in 2011-12. Manufacturing and construction activities can be impacted the most.

More hikes likely

However, while one can observe a decent long-term correlation between industrial activity and core inflation in India, this relationship is turning markedly weaker in recent months.

Thus, while the trend in industrial production growth is in a unidirectional downward drift, it will not necessarily offer any respite for inflation. Rather, domestic prices continue to face the threat of second-round effects of rising input costs and energy prices. The current set of measures is, thus, by no means, the end of the rate hike cycle either.

The author is Chief India Economist, Barclays Capital.)







The savings rate is set to become competitive and market-determined though banks' margin may be hit.

The RBI has continued to tighten the benchmark rate in its bid to contain inflation which has been on the rise. Substantial inflationary pressures exist on account of high crude prices, contingency of monsoons, high global food prices and demand-supply imbalance.

However, the policy expects inflation to moderate in the second half of the fiscal year and projects inflation at 6 per cent by year-end which seems a slightly optimistic figure. The tightening policy stance also acknowledges that there are downside risks to growth on this account.

The central bank has projected the baseline growth to be at 8 per cent for FY 12. The regulator has also stressed that fiscal policy has to be in tandem with monetary policy and has its limits on macro prudential management in case of a disconnect.

Concern over fiscal gap

The policy raises concern that achieving target fiscal deficit levels for 2012 will be a challenge due to subsidy burdens.

The adoption of the Deepak Mohanty committee recommendations are welcome as it imparts greater transparency and focus by having a single benchmark rate linked to the overnight call money rate.

The creation of a new instrument — Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) — for overnight borrowing will help contain volatility in the inter-bank market. Monetary policy tools will now be more sensitive to call money rate.

The regulator also raised the savings bank rate, indicating that the deregulation is a matter of time and that savings rate should be a function of economic conditions.

This will lead to a rise in banks' cost of funds, especially for banks with larger CASA deposits but will also be a fairer deal for the customers.

Banks' margins might be hit in the medium- to long-term as the savings rate becomes competitive and market-determined.

MFI rate cap

The RBI also made significant announcements accepting the Malegam committee recommendations and this will have significant impact on banks and MFIs.

Given the government thrust on financial inclusion, political connotations and the objective to provide timely and cheap credit to the disadvantaged population, a sharper look at what constitutes priority sector lending was required.

Banks lending to MFIs and NBFCs working as MFIs will constitute priority sector lending and loans to other NBFCs will be excluded.

Those loans which qualify should also adhere to qualification and pricing. The proposed interest rate cap of 26 per cent is still high, but the journey from exorbitant 48-50 per cent rates to 26 per cent has been fairly eventful and quick.

Financial inclusion

Financial inclusion will get a further boost from allocation limit of branches in tier 5 and 6 cities and leveraging the presence of urban cooperative banks (UCBs) in the rural areas and smaller towns.

Allowing foreign institutional investors to cancel and rebook a larger part of the portfolio hedge will allow greater leeway to FIIs to manage exchange rate risks of the portfolio better.

Significant announcements on the developments on new banking licences, foreign banks and bank holding company were expected, but these might take a while now.

(The author is Partner and National Leader, Global Financial Services, Ernst & Young.)







No war can be won without sacrifice. The war against inflation, says the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its annual monetary policy for 2011-12, demands some sacrifice of short-term growth, so that long-term growth can be sustained. With non-food prices having now turned distinctly upwardly mobile, and the economy absorbing significantly more goods and services than it produces — the current account deficit of 2.5% of GDP offers a measure — there is little else that the central bank can do. Hence the 50% hike in the repo rate, now crowned the sole policy rate, and tougher provisioning norms. However, the RBI is targeting a 16% growth in broad money over the year, higher than the nominal growth rate projected for GDP. However, the RBI's real growth forecast of 8% seems unduly pessimistic. A tough anti-inflationary stance on the part of the central bank, even if belated in the eyes of many observers, is necessary to break inflationary expectations. It is equally important for the government to keep up its part of the promise, to hold the fiscal deficit down to the stated target. The RBI expects the average price of crude this fiscal year to be $110 per barrel. The fiscal deficit can stay within limits if and only if the government stops subsidising petro-fuels. The government can soften the blow a bit by allowing diesel prices to go up and removing superfluous duties on petrol, bringing its price lower and closer to diesel's. The earlier the government does this, the better it would rein in inflationary expectations. While the RBI factors in a short-term spurt in inflation as a result of fuel price correction, it expects inflation to moderate to 6% by the end of the fiscal year. The RBI is relatively complacent on food inflation, but the government has to be proactive in devising policy to meet the structural shift in food demand — that is also absolutely necessary to stabilise inflation expectations.

Medium and small enterprises and the rural poor are likely to be forced evermore into the hands of moneylenders and non-banks, thanks to tougher regulations on their formal lenders. This would be at odds with financial inclusion, a stated goal.






It is welcome that the Posco project has got final clearance from the ministry of environment and forests, from the point of view of materialising India's biggest FDI project to date, in an industrially backward state that is poor despite its mineral wealth. Yet, the ministry's clearance does not settle the issue of fair compensation of the project-affected for loss of livelihood and displacement. To avoid confrontation with the people and a possible, protracted legal battle, Posco should implement a credible and generous rehabilitation package that takes into account the claims of all those dependent on the land to be diverted. Compensation must address the need for an attractive mark-up on the going rates, which tend to be under-reported. Next, it must factor in appreciation of land value. And third, what is warranted is payment for loss of traditional livelihood and the sheer bother of finding alternative work. The company must engage directly with those who stand to be ousted by the project, rather than rely on powerbrokers of the political and administrative leadership. That a would-be foreign investor would thus be forced to innovate policy and compensation packages, exercising its imagination as much as its business acumen, reflects a sad deficit of policy in this regard. A revamped and up-todate land acquisition Act and a policy on rehabilitation that converts landlosers into stakeholders in what comes up on their land can no longer remain on the policy backburner. This message is underlined by the fact that the go-ahead has come, belatedly, after many months of street protests, claims and counter-claims. The norms for coagulating resources like land and capital for large industrial projects remain thoroughly wanting, and hugely contested. Those who oppose the project in two villages, Dhinkia and Gobindpur, would be well advised to focus their protest on adequate, viable compensation and not on rejection of industrialisation.
The ban on iron ore export asked for by the ministry underlines the distortion captive mining creates in the market for ore. This, too, needs to be rationalised.








With the Prime Minister inaugurating last Friday the new headquarters of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and exhorting it to function fearlessly especially while tackling high-profile cases, the question could also be asked whether a change of name could tone up its performance. There is a Tamil movie where Rajnikanth pretends to be an anti-corruption cop and inadvertently refers to himself as an ABC official instead of a CBI one. Being at the top of the alphabet, ABC could spur on the country's premier investigative agency to try harder to be No. 1, and not just in the country but Asia and the world. Alternately, the agency could be renamed as FBI, with the first letter standing for not Federal as in America but for Fearless in tune with the PM's exhortation that it function bravely while tackling high-profile cases.

A switch from CBI to FBI would even be easier to remember since only the first letter has to be changed. Fearless Bureau of Investigation sounds better than the other first-letter alternatives of ABI (A for Analytical), BBI (B for Brave), DBI (D for Determined), EBI (E for Energetic), GBI (G for Greatest), HBI (H for Honest), IBI (I for Intelligent), JBI (J for Judicious), KBI (K for Knowledgeable), MBI (M for Meticulous), NBI (N for National), OBI (O for Omniscient), VBI (V for Vigilant) and WBI (W for Watchful). In any case, RBI (R for Reliable) and SBI (S for Supreme) could be confused with the Reserve Bank of India and the State Bank of India. Of course, even without a change of name, the CBI could function so independently and effectively in future that even its worst critics would no longer dare to refer to it as the Congress Bureau of Investigation! But that calls for a change more radical than a change of nomenclature.







    In 1980, it was the Hunt brothers. In 1998, it was Warren Buffett. And in 2011? For those unversed in the history of silver market, those dates refer to market squeezes that caused massive surges in the metal's price.
Silver prices shot up 24% in April 2011 alone, as retail investors rode on the coattails and pros moved en masse into silver futures and options pits. During the last 12 months, the price of silver has risen 154%, outpacing gold (32%), wheat (65%), oil (45%) and, indeed, any investment class.
Healthy markets don't go up in a straight line. The move in silver has been parabolic and any panic could trigger a steep and swift correction.
In Quantum Mechanics in physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that an act of locating a particle in space tends to change its momentum and an act of measuring the momentum of the particle tends to change its location.
Silver has rallied moving exponentially while gold is moving linear. The metric of $1,600 gold and $50 silver may signal profit-taking opportunity. It is hard to see the same real-world factors driving silver's rise as we have seen with oil and grain. The silver market remains in substantial physical surplus.
One table-pounding silver bull was heard touting silver's use in solar energy panels. Is this time different once again? Silver appears to be in classic mania. While prices of silver have soared, large silver-mining stocks have gone down lately, indicating buyer exhaustion.
Silver's rally needs to be put into perspective. At almost 150% over seven months, it is stunning, but far short of the spectacular 400% in five months managed during the Hunt brothers episode. Put against gold, silver does look distinctly racy. The ratio of gold to silver prices is at its lowest since 1980, and has plunged from 46 in January this year to 33.
The last time the ratio fell even close to this level was in 1998, when Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway quietly accumulated a huge position in silver, driving prices up 90% in a few months to what was then a 10-year high of $7.90.
As silver is thinly traded, exchanges need to raise margin requirements or run the risk of a record-setting crash in silver. Correction in silver prices will not occur in a vacuum, especially since commodities have been trending up as a group, i.e., same hedge funds and banks are trading all the risk-on commodities as well such as gold, copper, crude oil, wheat, etc.
The reason for contagion risk is that while gold is going up 0.5-1%, silver is logging in 3.5% days routinely. Such buying panic invariably leads to mean reversion. In other words, if silver gets a 10% down day, rest of commodities pack will be forced to overshoot on the downside in sympathy.
Does the 8% fall in silver on April 26 and May 2 indicate market 'sticker shock' — the jittery trading that surrounds big round numbers ($50)? Or is it indicative of end of a frothy, speculative rally?
When the market fell through the 20- and 10-day moving averages on April 26, a 'lot of weak longs in silver' were forced to cut gross longs by 3,131 contracts (they added 2,282 gross shorts), thus lowering their net longs to 25,791 — lowest since February 1.
On May 2, silver's sell-off occurred before official announcement of Osama bin Laden's death. It wasn't the cause of the sell-off, but added fuel to the fire. It took very little time to decline from $48 to $42.50. Socalled 'weak' positions chose to exit quickly than put up additional money to meet margin calls.
Undoubtedly, there is genuine end-user interest: Indian consumers, priced out by the rally in gold, are increasingly turning to silver.
    In the US, sales of silver coins have rocketed since the financial crisis. Some of this is linked to fear of damage to dollar from Fed's ultraloose monetary policy. Ongoing political tensions across the Arab world and eurozone sovereign risk will continue to keep investors on edge.
Yet, the huge silver sell-off on April 26 was accompanied with massive volumes, confirming a bearish 'buying exhaustion tail' had occurred on the daily bar chart.
When adjusted for inflation, gold and silver prices still have a long way to go. Gold rose to $825.50 per ounce on January 21, 1980, which is $2,238.74 in today's dollars. Meanwhile, silver's inflation-adjusted price peaks at $136.55 per ounce in today's dollars. Along the way, 15-25% short-term pullbacks are not unlikely.
As the US dollar approaches its 2008 nominal low, a temporary technical bounce is possible as volatility looks unsustainably low and real interest rates in US cannot fall lower. The most likely cause of a serious dollar rally, though, is investor panic and flight to supposed safety of US bonds. This could cause the 'buy gold and silver, sell US dollar' trade to reverse.
Again, history may be informative. After the Hunt brothers' squeeze in 1980, the silver price collapsed 80% in four months; the Hunts were sanctioned for market manipulation and went bankrupt. And following Warren Buffett's silver play in 1998, the metal's price dropped 40% and Berkshire Hathaway recorded its worst annual results on record, relative to S&P 500, in 1999.
An easing in global inflationary pressures and a return to positive real interest rates in US could see investors lose their appetite for silver. Both gold and silver trades are currently overcrowded.
At elevated levels, if new production emerges and silver remains industrial-driven, we could see silver fallback to around 32/troy oz. Gold could similarly retrace to around $1,300/troy oz.
Diwali 2011, rather than Akshaya Tritiya, would be better time to make fresh and incremental investments in gold and silver.








K R KAMATH CMD, PUNJAB NATIONAL BANK Would Help Savers, But Hurt Borrowers
The savings bank interest rate is keenly watched by households that account for nearly 84% of this portfolio in the country. A decision on its deregulation will impact their savings portfolio, especially in non-metro areas. Although saving rate deregulation is a logical step in the financial reforms process, leaving the same to be determined by market forces would necessitate maturity on the part of market players and the saving community. Deregulation is likely to result in making the rate more favourable for savers by factoring in inflation impact. Savings bank rate serves as anchor rate for fixing interest rate for term deposits.
Freeing this anchor rate may lead to frequent volatility in term deposit rates. The net result would be an increase in the cost of deposits for banks that would ultimately get passed on to borrowers through higher lending rates. Hence, the crucial point is the 'timing' along with the extent of flexibility to the banks so that such a move does not play havoc in the market.


Savings rate deregulation per se is not the issue, rather it should be deregulation of 'savings product' in totality. To mitigate higher costs arising out of deregulation, banks need to introduce product innovations based on operational flexibility, degree of liquidity offered, number of permitted transactions, etc, to bring differentiation in the products offered.
Currently, banks incur heavy investments towards furthering their inclusion efforts without immediate commensurate returns. Thus, it is necessary that deregulated savings rate is accompanied with enough flexibility to banks with regard to their service charges and regulated interest rates on the assets side.
Deregulation may also lead to unhealthy competition among banks to shore up current and savings account (Casa) deposits. However, further steps like deregulation may be initiated in a phased manner to provide enough headroom to banks to adjust to the market-driven environment. The RBI has initiated the process by hiking the savings rate from 3.5% to 4% in the annual policy for 2011-12. Banks would have to improve their operational efficiency to factor in the rising cost of their savings portfolio.


ASHISH DAS PROFESSOR, IIT-MUMBAI It would Help Tame Inflation too

The interest rate on savings bank (SB) was decreased in 2003 when inflation was around 3%. In 2010-11, after the RBI changed the method of calculating interest on SB accounts, depositors saw an increase in their returns on savings. However, inflation has been very high in recent years. The SB deposits are the major source of savings (investment) for many depositors, including pensioners, small savers and senior citizens. Not having the ability to be good money managers, such persons are getting high negative returns on their hard-earned monies. The regulated SB interest rate remained downward sticky even when the market conditions were favourable for an increase. As a consequence, banks gained considerably through unwarranted high net interest margins (NIMs) and RBI governor Subbarao has been coaxing the banks to decrease their NIMs.
RBI was so far taking baby steps to hiking policy rates resulting in persistence of inflation at a very high level for very long. A hike in SB rate will increase the cost of funds for the banks and thereby increase their lending rates, leading to contracted demand and softer inflation. This will additionally bring a two-pronged relief to the people: an increase in returns on their savings and lower inflation.
It is felt that deregulation will lead to an increase in SB rates. Based on data from 12 private sector banks, accounting for 86% of the deposits of that sector, it is observed that the sector's average share of Casa deposits to total deposits is 31%, with bigger players like HDFC Bank (52%) and ICICI Bank (42%) having bigger share. In contrast, smaller banks like Yes Bank have smaller Casa share (about 10%). Thus, such banks may like to exploit the deregulation of SB interest to attract more Casa deposits by hiking their SB rate, benefiting the depositors.
Pending a final decision on deregulation, the RBI has judiciously increased the SB rate by 50 basis points.
Thus, it is time to deregulate the SB rate by fixing the floor rate at 4%, thereby protecting bulk of depositors, including households in rural and semi-urban areas. The RBI should monitor the floor rate and change it as per market scenario.







As the world trots back to normalcy after the financial crisis, consolidation and expansion through inorganic growth would be the norm. In such a scenario, policies and regulatory procedures need to create an atmosphere conducive to entrepreneurial activities.

Merger regulation under the Competition Act, 2001, will be effective from June 1, 2011. Unfortunately, in its current form, the process of merger review proposed by the Competition Commission of India has the potential of dampening the country's buoyant economy and is redolent of a regime of licence and control — an anachronism in the new economic order. Regulatory and procedural obstacles may cause the country's growth trajectory to get affected, thus, it is imperative that the merger review regulations are finalised after adequate consultation with industry. Regulating all acquisitions including those of failing enterprises would deny industry an opportunity to revive and rehabilitate sick enterprises.

While the government and the regulator have thoughtfully raised the value of assets and turnover by 50%, narrowed the ambit of group, proposed pre-merger consultation process and committed to reduce the review time, the merger regime process still falls short of addressing industry's concerns.

Indian industry's concerns remain over what would appear to be an unduly long 210-day period statutorily available to the commission to review mergers, even though it would endeavour to do so in 180 days. M&A transactions run a very tight deadline for regulatory as well as commercial reasons. Without being adequately manned, the turnaround time at the commission could go up to 210 days in some cases, leading to a situation where the Indian regulator is holding up a worldwide transaction. Further, as per the draft regulation, any person aggrieved can file an appeal against the order of the Competition Commission of India, thereby causing further delay and uncertainty. While thresholds with respect to the target enterprise's turnover and assets have been provided, which were originally missed in the Act, the local nexus test has been overlooked. In case where both transacting parties are foreign, two-firm domestic nexus should be provided so that the notification requirement is triggered only when each one of the parties has some Indian presence. If that is done, then foreign-to-foreign transactions not having impact here will not be covered. So, overseas global transactions should be liable to scrutiny only where both parties have some territorial nexus. The transaction thresholds have not been considered. Every other jurisdiction has the size of transaction test, which is revised regularly based on the price index. Since no asset transaction thresholds have been prescribed as of now, every asset — current or fixed — acquired after June 1, 2011, would have to be notified to the commission. Acquisition of bonus and rights shares or even stock or stock-in trade in the ordinary course of business would have to wait for the commission's approval. While this may be unintentional, the requirement of notification remains irrespective of the fact that controlling stake is not being acquired. This would not only conflict with the provisions of the Sebi's Takeover Code and preferential allotment guidelines but also burden the Competition Commission of India with large chunks of unnecessary technical filings of transactions that do not raise a competition law concern.

In the earlier draft of the regulations (2009), the commission had sought to exempt certain transactions from filing requirements. However, since the exemptions cannot be provided through regulation, as they must come through their statute itself, the requirement of filing has been continued. This is unreasonable — a business acquires a stake that is not enough to lead to a real influence over the target but nevertheless the requirement of notification remains! Since these transactions do not amount to combinations, this would transgress the statutory requirement of Section 5 and render the regulation open to legal challenges.
The Competition Act was drafted originally for a voluntary regime, requiring corporates to approach the competition commission only if it was felt that a particular transaction would attract or have an adverse effect on competition in India. Since the change from voluntary to mandatory regime was made, based on the Parliamentary Standing Committee report, without addressing other inconsistencies in the Act, what is required is an amendment to the Act to alter the definition of group, providing de minimustransaction size, exempt certain transactions, etc.
CII hopes that the ministry would give favourable consideration to industry's views in this respect and support the Competition Commission of India for an uncomplicated, fair and efficient implementation of competition law in the country.
(The author is director general, CII)








Iwas lecturing a group of peachy keen students at a Mumbai college last week, and happened to ask them what they thought was the worst film they'd seen recently. The usual suspects popped up, of course – Game featuring rather high up on the list – until one young lady chimed in with "that Saat Khoon Maaf, oh my gawd," a suggestion that instantly found a chorus of echoes. I hastened to quell this apparent unanimity, trying to tell them about craft and originality and proffering more immediately dismissible options like, say, Thank You. But the chord had been struck.


I do not, for even a second, believe that Vishal Bhardwaj's most hamhanded outing is anything more than a recent misstep from our finest cinematic maestro, and even as a slip-up there is, I pointed out frantically to the relative tots, much to see: an audacious premise, some great visuals, a killer soundtrack, and a few lines of dialogue too smart for the rest of the industry's filmmakers to even attempt. And yet the students loathed it more than everyday Bollywood idiocy, simply because it left them stone-cold, apathetic, dry and uncaring. It bored them.


This is a reminder of something we, as critics, frequently forget. That cinema – despite how sublime the treatment can be and how enthralling the right background score can make a moment – is really all about the story, and everything else is, in the final reckoning, just window-dressing. It's potentially phenomenal window-dressing, of course, and whole films can piggyback simply on style, but if a film fails to engage, then it has failed on the most fundamental level. And while it certainly can engage using visual and aural finesse, the basic tool for the job is the story.


It seems obvious, but it's easy to forget the simplest truths when drowning in a sea of unoriginal cinema, cinema that, for the most part, sadly relies on anything but story. Most of the weakest films in the last few years, and certainly the most disappointing efforts by major filmmakers, are films that have treated the storytelling almost as incidental, while making sure they get the right cinematographer and an appropriate heroine. Or creating enough drama – but drama alone does not story make.


Mani Ratnam's Raavan, for example, comes tragically to mind. Ram Gopal Varma, a onetime stunner who has notoriously been rallying against the very need for story, is today making films mostly watched only by their editor while they're being cut into shape. It is no great revelation that Anurag Kashyap, current posterboy of the Indian indie cinema and a director with immense stylistic flair, has only achieved real success while masterfully adapting a true story and then an old classic. These are all directors who know what they are doing, and even in their most awkwardly fumbled attempts can we find moments of redemption. We see passion and we see skill, and even in films that squander it all, we seek salvation in gorgeous visuals, bravely written characters, stray performances and subversive lines of dialogue.


Not so for the audience. The casual viewer looks at a film like I do a painting: without knowledge or care for the process or the torturous journey undertaken by the creator, but merely thumbs up or thumbs down. I don't care how elaborate the brushstrokes are and how hard it is to get that kind of a shadow effect with charcoal on canvas, but all that matters to me at the time is whether I'd like to look at it or not.


And there's nothing worse than leaving an audience cold. No matter how much the critic applauds.





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Most people who follow such matters have felt for some time that Osama bin Laden was hiding somewhere in Pakistan, probably in the rocky, inaccessible tribal areas of the country that border Afghanistan. No one could imagine the Al Qaeda founder — who was killed by US Special Forces in Abbottabad in a mansion right next to the Pakistan Military Academy on May 2 — would be provided a safe haven by the Pakistani security establishment in the heart of a famous Pakistani garrison area. In hindsight, there couldn't have been a safer hiding place, provided by the Pakistanis, for the world's most wanted terrorist as the Pakistan Army and the ISI made a habit of glibly denying they had any idea of Bin Laden's whereabouts. Senator Joseph Lieberman, an influential voice in American politics, has demanded that Pakistan give proof that it did not know Bin Laden was living (in some comfort, and style) in Abbottabad under the nose of the Pakistan Army. Other key US senators have also begun to raise questions about the value of treating Pakistan as a strategic ally in the "war against terror" and throwing money its way — several billion dollars a year for the past decade — to help capture the likes of Bin Laden. The writer Salman Rushdie has even said it's high time for Pakistan to be declared a "terrorist state". All this is adding up to a certain kind of political discourse. Pakistan's stock answer over the years has been to present a self-portrayal of victimhood, as though it had no role in nurturing, protecting and bankrolling terrorists — and not just against India and Afghanistan. It would be nice to know what its larger gameplan is. A study of materials found at the compound that Bin Laden inhabited before his death can perhaps fill some of the gaps in our understanding of the Pakistani state and its compulsive relationship with international terrorism. It does need to be considered that Bin Laden wasn't alone among the world's most prominent terrorists to be found in Pakistan, cosseted by the ISI. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and several others, like Osama, were not found in the rough tribal country but inside major Pakistani cities, looked after reasonably well. The same can be said of the entire Taliban top leadership. And, of course, the likes of Dawood Ibrahim — in whom India has a direct interest. For any of this to have sufficient meaning for us we have to construct a paradigm of security politics that countries of our region and the wider world will find both reasonable and compelling. Regrettably, so far, there is little to suggest that the Indian government has communicated with Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States on the first contours of post-Bin Laden implications. Indeed, this should have been accorded some priority. It is also time to start dispatching specialists to hold consultations with their counterparts with a view to opening channels of politics that can be fruitfully pursued in the near future. Pakistan-inspired terrorism against India long predates the arrival of Osama bin Laden on the scene, and is unlikely to end with the terror mastermind gone. But in today's circumstances, our questions will have greater resonance. America, we may be quite certain, will continue to pursue the broad line of two-track politics that it has with Pakistan — in which punish and placate go side by side. The ingenuity of our diplomacy, and the capabilities of our national leadership, must now be put in the service of invoking urgency to address long-standing issues of concern to us. Pointed questions need to be asked rather than raising general concerns on applying closure to 26/11 on the lines of 9/11.








"We're telling the Americans: you have to trust the ISI or you don't. There's nothing in between" — ISI to American media in Washington (New York Times, April 12, 2011) So, did the Americans finally trust the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), at least at some level, for the coup de grace which eliminated Osama bin Laden on May 2? Given the steadily worsening state of US-Pakistan relations, this would seem highly improbable at first sight, but how else to explain what appears to be a flawlessly-executed American heliborne operation at Abbottabad, a historic garrison town deep inside the Pakistani heartland, and home to the Frontier Force Regiment of the Pakistan Army? What explanations, amongst others, can be offered for the total lack of reaction from the local Pakistani garrison even as a noisy heliborne intrusion, followed by an hour-long firefight got under way at a compound which must have been designated as a super-sensitive, specially-protected target? Or did the local garrison receive instructions to see nothing, hear nothing and do nothing even as the attack unfolded before their eyes and ears? Bin Laden was an enemy of India, so no tears need be shed over his demise, in this country at least. In fact, it can be speculated that with his diminishing operational utility, Bin Laden might well have become a suitable pawn of sufficient symbolic significance to be offered to the Americans as quid pro quo for their withdrawal from Afghanistan, a country which Pakistan considers to be within its sphere of influence, region of strategic depth, and gateway to Central Asia. US President Barack Obama, too, due for re-election in 2012, wishes desperately to pull America out of Afghanistan before the body-bag count brings out larger numbers of anti-war protesters and tilts the anti-incumbency scales further against him. Bin Laden's demise has created a win-win situation for both, the US as well as Pakistan. Mr Obama can now claim, with a substantial degree of justification, that 9/11 has finally been avenged on his watch, an achievement which will undoubtedly pay handsome dividends to the Democrats in the forthcoming presidential campaigns. The watershed moment signalled by the Pasha-Panetta talks in Washington on April 11, between ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and Leon Panetta, current grey eminence in the Central Intelligence Agency (and by all accounts the next defence secretary of the United States), has come full circle. Pakistan had, in effect, announced at this meeting that it was taking over the steering wheel in the war in Afghanistan, taking charge of the end game to shape it to its own interest when the Americans depart. Discussions between intelligence agencies never find their way into the public domain, but the agenda here was leaked extensively by the ISI, with the aim of making it clear that it would henceforth place its own agenda first, and operate on its own terms and priorities, whether in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Pakistan had demanded that the future scope of the CIA-ISI activities must be formally defined and the CIA drastically reduce its activities in the country, particularly its drone operations, except with prior concurrence of the Pakistan Army. In addition, over 300 CIA operatives functioning inside Pakistan (allegedly 40 per cent of the strength) were to be withdrawn. The ISI tries hard to control America's Af-Pak policy, giving very limited leverage to the United States with the Pakistani power centres in the ISI and military establishment. So when Pakistan's demand for cessation of drone strikes against militants was rejected by the US, especially in respect of North Waziristan, Pakistan turned the screws in retaliation, by almost summarily expelling CIA personnel from airfields at Shamshi, Jacobabad and Pasni in Balochistan, which had been made available earlier by President Pervez Musharraf's government as operational bases for the CIA's force of Predator drones. Drone operations from Pakistani territory, a key component in the American strategy against Taliban, are likely to be severely affected as a result, if not terminated altogether. The elimination of Bin Laden has to a great extent restored America's position as senior partner in the US-Pakistan relationship. If necessary, the US can now publicly wash its hands off the whole process, pick up its marbles and go home with a justified sense of victory. India on its part must now very carefully examine how the fallout from the Washington meeting will square off against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's effusive bonhomie towards Pakistan. The Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11 are being pushed into oblivion, and it remains to be seen how India's latest gambit of cricket diplomacy will reconcile with the revelations made in a Chicago court by Tahawwur Hussain Rana and Daud Gilani, aka David Coleman Headley. There is a strong revival of radical Islam in Pakistan, and any surface calm brought about by Dr Singh's unilateral initiatives is superficial, even deceptive. The currents of fanaticism and hatred towards India run deep in Pakistan, even amongst the common people, most recently seen in the mass demonstrations in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard and assassin of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was murdered on January 4 this year. This was followed by the murder of the minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti on March 2 by assassins who still remain untraced. India on its part must never be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the elimination of Bin Laden. There should be no doubt that India will continue to remain the primary long-term target of the ISI regardless of the latter's current preoccupations in Afghanistan. The ISI is confident it can handle both. Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament






So then, Osama bin Laden has been killed by American Navy Seals in Abbottabad Cantonment, Pakistan, in an operation directed and run by the Americans themselves in a helicopter-borne assault from Afghanistan. Whilst we will ask where the ghairat of the "Ghairat Brigades" was when four foreign helicopters crossed our border and after flying for an hour over our "sovereign" territory, swooped onto Abbottabad; whilst we will definitely ask where our "self-respect" is; now that the Americans have done what they said they would do if they had the intelligence — go after who they consider their enemies no matter where they are holed up — it is more important to ask why our much-vaunted Deep State didn't know Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad Cantonment all these years? And to ask why everyone and Charlie's aunt in the security establishment went blue and red with anger when told that Bin Laden and his close advisers were hiding in Pakistan? Why, yours truly has been called a traitor deserving of death when I suggested that only given what the establishment itself told us about Bin Laden's failing kidneys and need for regular dialysis there was no way he was living in a cave on some remote mountain. Why indeed, did the Commando (Gen. Pervez Musharraf) puff out his chest and glare at Hamid Karzai when the Afghan President suggested that Al Qaeda's top leadership was hiding in Pakistan? Why the stout denial all these years? We already knew that Bin Laden was living with his youngest wife and some other members of his family and tens of armed guards in a house eight times bigger than all the other houses in the area: walls 12-feet high; no telephone connection; no cellphone signals emitting from the house, et al. I mention this because the quite preposterous house should have stuck out like a sore thumb and been the subject of some suspicion on the part of the Mother of All Agencies — Inter-Services Intelligence — which routinely bugs people's telephones and has the equipment to pinpoint a cellphone within 10 metres. However, we are being told to believe that no one in Pakistan, not the Hazara police, not the Intelligence Bureau, not the Inter-Services Intelligence, not Military Intelligence had the slightest idea just who lived in that absurd house located not far from the Pakistan Military Academy where officer cadets, the future leaders of the Pakistan Army, are trained. (Incidentally, where, not a week ago, the Chief of Army Staff asserted that the army had broken the back of the terrorists!) Indeed, one should have thought that a cantonment with not only this academy but three regimental centres which train, recruit and turn them into soldiers should have been a most sensitive station. I can only say that if they didn't know, why didn't they know? The truth will be out one day. The American government denies that our security state was aware of this operation and that our intelligence agents were part of it, and the Pakistan government has confirmed the US stance. Indeed, US President Barack Obama's statement clearly said that he was briefed in August, almost nine months ago, that Bin Laden's trail was getting hotter and that it was on last Friday night that he was told Bin Laden had been positively tracked down to a location in Abbottabad in Pakistan, at which point the Mr Obama ordered the operation. According to Mr Obama, he telephoned President Zardari with the news of the operation after he had been informed of its success. I just hope that what we are being told is not another lie. The endgame is here, sirs, and will now quicken with Bin Laden's elimination. Calls for withdrawal from Afghanistan before 2014 will increase in tenor and frequency. However, the Americans will simply not leave Afghanistan to the wolves: for fear of strengthening the cousins, the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban. But they will ask for more co-operation from us because they will simply not take more casualties inflicted on their troops from terrorists from our side of the border travelling by way of Parachinar and other routes. We should be aware that Bin Laden being run to ground in Abbottabad will heighten American suspicions of us, regardless of what we might say. We should also take very serious note of what American leaders are saying about us. While some people might be right in characterising congressman Dana Rohrabacher's saying we have been playing the Americans for suckers as the view of just one conservative, we must recall Hillary Clinton saying: "I'm not saying that they're at the highest levels, but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Bin Laden and Al Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more co-operation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked us on 9/11". Truth will be out, only this time it will bring great peril to us if we don't shape up.







A group of US commandos landed on top of the residence of Osama bin Laden and avenged the killings of innocent people in America on September 11, 2001. Right or wrong I cannot say, as the Bhagvad Gita tells you not to judge but be impassionate and detached from all actions. America has been but an instrument in what is the fruit of Bin Laden's karma. Nevertheless, the perseverance of American soldiers is a fine example of courage, grit and determination against the butchers of humanity. Their efforts towards ending terror must be appreciated, but does that justify glorifying the death of an individual? The death of Osama bin Laden is not the death of terrorism... rather it is the death of only one individual. The war still wages between those who terrorise and those who are terrorised. The media is adding fuel to the fire, and in the process recruiting more on each side — more terrorists and hence more terrorised. Newspapers are filled with stories and pictures of people all across the United States rejoicing over the death of Bin Laden. Terrorists who will attribute this rejoicing to the death of Muslims. Uneducated, unaware people will believe and more terrorists will be born on the graves of those who died in this 10-year-long battle to terminate one terrorist. Instead of rejoicing and celebrating, Americans need to act with maturity and responsibility. This is not a personal victory; it is just one milestone in the war against terrorism. Such childish behaviour will only breed hatred. There is a long road ahead, and the only way forward is detachment. This time it was Bin Laden, a Muslim. But the story doesn't end here. There are many more patrons of terror across regions and religions, roaming about freely and inflicting fear. Terrorism did not start with Bin Laden, it was triggered by acquisition of the rights of the weak by use of power. But it can only end with a ceasefire, when there is no more war and shanti prevails. Mayaivaite nihatah purvam eva nimitta-matram bhava savya-sacin In this verse from the Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishna urges his shishya Arjun to be a detached instrument while engaging in the battle, for those who will die have already been killed by Krishna as per their karma. "So just carry out your duty if you have the capacity, leave the end result to me", says Krishna. Bin Laden has not been killed now, he died a decade ago, when he killed the unarmed men, vulnerable women and innocent children. What happened on May 2, 2011, has merely put seal to what was ordained long ago. Those who kill the innocent and unarmed deserve the death penalty. But valour lies in fighting a battle where both sides have weapons. Killing unarmed men, women and children is no bravery and no religion validates this. It is cowardice. Defending the weak is an inherent part of dharma. The US government should take steps to complete the battle... not just start it. Only that would make the world a better place to live in and dharma will eventually be restored. — Yogi Ashwini is the guiding light of the Dhyan Foundation.








May the 2nd dawned with the successful, covert US operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to eliminate Osama bin Laden. Electronic media in India went into high-drive, reeling in experts from India, Pakistan and the West, to debate, analyse, even quarrel. Bertrand Russell once quipped that no one argues with someone who says two plus two is five. Wars are fought when both sides are half right. While the operation was flawless, its contours remain fuzzy. A Pakistani tweeting genius inadvertently gave a fix on the arrival of choppers and five explosions. The crucial question, however, remained debatable: Were the Pakistanis in the loop? If so, then from which stage of the operation? The usually glib masters of half truth at the Inter Services Public Relations were mute. Pakistan was clearly in a conundrum. To concede knowledge would be tantamount to complicity; denial looked like incompetence of the defenders of the realm in protecting the nation's sovereignty. There was clearly concern over the likely ire of Bin Laden fans ranging from tacit admirers to hard-core adherents to his cause. John Brennan, White House counter-terrorism adviser, in a midnight (Washington time) briefing, maintained that Pakistan was only informed after the extraction was complete. Some media reports quote locals as saying that immediately before the action soldiers in uniform were warning the neighbours to remain indoors. A day later the following is inferable. Firstly, Pakistan needs to explain how Bin Laden could be in a garrison town, a stone's throw from an Army training facility, in close proximity to Islamabad and in an ostentatiously large complex and not be sighted. Mr Brennan said that the US too was seeking an answer to that question. Secondly, Bin Laden had support from influential segments in Pakistan. Did those extend to the higher echelons of the Pakistani Army, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)? Thirdly, it is known that the interests of Bin Laden and the Pakistani military diverged post 9/11 as Pakistan wanted the Taliban to hand over the Al Qaeda leadership to satisfy the US and thus avoid an attack on Afghanistan. Mullah Omar spurned the request despite it being made in person by the then ISI director-general and a Saudi prince. Did this change sometime after 2005, when the Abbottabad complex was made? It is possible that Pakistani Army may have cut a deal with Mullah Omar that they would protect Bin Laden provided the canny Mullah allowed the Quetta Shura/Taliban to join the reconciliation process under way in Afghanistan? As a back-drop to this passion play, there was already a churning in Pakistan's domestic politics. The ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was approaching the Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid and Muttahida Qaumi Movement to reduce dependence on the Sharif brothers and their Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Separately, the ISI had reportedly taken Imran Khan, the charismatic cricketing hero, under their wing to position him as a new right of centre pole. He demonstrated his new-found muscle by disrupting the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force's supply line to Afghanistan by a Peshawar rally against the drone attacks. Externally, Prime Minister Y.R. Gilani's Kabul visit, accompanied by Army chief Kayani and ISI chief Lt. Gen. A.S. Pasha, led to speculation that Pakistan was advocating a realignment of forces in a post-US scenario, whereby their brawn and the Chinese economic muscle could be the new consortium to guide Afghanistan in partnership, naturally, with Pakistani allies like the Haqqanis, Hekmatyar and pro-Pakistani elements of the Taliban. Pakistan was concerned perhaps over reports that the US was negotiating an agreement with the Karzai government for the presence of some US forces even beyond 2014, in semi-permanent cantonments, to continue their counter-terrorism activities, having by then handed over counter-insurgency work to Afghan security forces. The US too had announced personnel changes, moving Gen. Petraeus from the Afghan theatre to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Pakistan's discomfort with Gen. Petraeus is widely known and thus their gain in bidding him farewell in Afghanistan is neutralised by his future leadership of the CIA which oversees the counter-terror programme globally, with a focus on the Af-Pak region. The Taliban too had already commenced their spring offensive a couple of days earlier by a teenager's suicide bombing. Bin Laden's killing complicates this regional scenario. Retaliatory strikes by Al Qaeda and affiliates are likely; Taliban have already announced so. Pakistan-sponsored terror, which the Indian government wanted to side-step to recommence the bilateral dialogue, is back on the table. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, flying back from Kazakhstan a week ago, opined that he would consider his "job well done" only if Indo-Pak relations are normalised. US national security adviser McGeorge Bundy, at a US National Security Council meeting on October 6, 1965, following the Indo-Pak war, recounted his advice to US President Lyndon Johnson to desist from peace-making in South Asia as "Kashmir fixers are a plentiful and dangerous commodity". With Bin Laden's ghost now haunting the Pakistani Army, the Prime Minister too must hitch his legacy to less risky fare than relations with Pakistan. *The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry







To the Al 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 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 honour of dead fighters. Bin Laden's deputies will try to energise 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 was not only the embodiment of Al Qaeda's ideology, but was also 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 organisation 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 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 realise 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 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 FBI special agent from 1997 to 2005, interrogated Qaeda detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere. *By arrangement with The New York Times










HOURS keep passing without much indication of whether the physical elimination of Osama bin Laden will have the salutary impact that people around the world ~ as distinct from America ~ desire, deserve. Reprisals are to be expected, they will have to be taken in stride. But whether  neutralising the world's most wanted terrorist will prove a setback to Al Qaida and other jihadi organisations, or will actually reinvigorate them is the key issue. The charisma of Bin Laden might prove devastating after his death, since despite what President Obama said after reporting "success" large sections of the global Islamic populace do not accept that the war on terror is not war against Islam. The NATO operations in Libya serve as the latest fuel for that fire. And the controversial disposal of Bin Laden's corpse would, again, point to western insensitivity. But even before the American drones began to have devastating impact on the mountainous Afghan-Pak frontier it was evident that Bin Laden had inspired jihadi outfits across a huge swathe of the planet. As the saying goes, only time will tell.
Sure the Americans have every reason to be overjoyed, as the mood across the country indicated. Whether "justice has been done" is open to question, certainly the victims of 9/11 ~ and several other jihadi terror strikes ~ will feel somewhat avenged. For no one had been as effective as Bin Laden in triggering anti-American passions, led to so many American lives being snuffed out, and sucking that country into debilitating conflicts far from its shores. From a "military" perspective, a classic has been written. Painstaking collection and collation of intelligence, an operation so immensely more successful than the botched helicopter mission in Iran some decades back, ability to keep a secret for months and then mount a covert operation is unquestionably professionalism at its best. And full marks to Obama for taking that tough call. Maybe he does merit a second term in the Oval office. Pakistan is squirming: not one authentic statement has been issued by Islamabad because it has painted itself into a corner. Obama was "political" enough not to state what every American strategic commentator was saying ~ Pakistan was kept out of the loop lest the mission be compromised. This reconfirms that the US military leadership is convinced of Pak duplicity on the terrorism front. That nexus stands exposed, the location of Bin Laden's haven sufficed for the Americans to blatantly ignore Pakistani sovereignty by mounting a mission deep into its territory: were air defence systems electronically "blinded" as the US choppers went in, and out? Pakistan's claims of itself being a victim of terror ring hollow. Those who sup with the devil… What will prove a determining factor is how the US now re-calibrates the Pak component of its Af-Pak policy; and will it take the "mission accomplished" line and accelerate its departure from the region? The US' purpose may appear to have been served; does it really care about leaving others vulnerable to terror?

And so on to India. Yes, there was cause for some satisfaction that Pakistan stands exposed. But was the Chidambaram-churned gloating warranted? As was to be expected the "blinkered" experts went ballistic, the "Mohali spirit" dissipated in the downwash of the US helicopters over Abbottobad. What was simultaneously exposed was an inferiority complex ~ perhaps a reflection of extremely limited operational capability ~ that expected the Americans to bat for India. They never will, nor will anyone else. For the Indian nation that is the stark reality of the Bin Laden "take out" ~ it will have to fight its  war on terror on its own.



DESPITE Sri Lankan foreign minister GL Peiris warning UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon against releasing the war crimes report compiled by a panel of experts which inquired into abuse of human rights and crimes against humanity during the final days of the 26-year genocidal war in the island nation, it was released last week and the reaction was along expected lines. Colombo has accused Ban of causing irreparable damage to the reconciliation efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa; the Sri Lankan leader showed his displeasure by organising the largest-ever demonstration on May Day to protest against the report. While the government of Rajapaksa is at the crest of popularity among the Sinhala masses, Sunday's mobilisation only shows his paranoia. The report has captured the last phase of the war in vivid detail without bias, in which about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed. The report is based on eye-witness accounts and representations made by NGOs. It is now the responsibility of Ban and the international community to act on the recommendations of the panel to investigate and prosecute the culprits. Last year, the Permanent People's Tribunal, an international body independent of any State authority, after examining evidence and hearing eye-witness accounts in Dublin, concluded the Sri Lanka government committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Though the UN panel did not use the word 'genocide' to avoid anyone asking why it was not stopped as required under Article 1 of the Genocide Convention, the acts of crime against humanity listed in the report appear to have been committed on racial and political grounds against the Tamil population of the Vanni region of Sri Lanka. The murder of 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, according to the International Court of Justice judgment of 26 February 2007, constituted genocide. The court observed, "You do not need six million exterminated people in order to constitute genocide." The Sri Lankan government inexplicably expelled the International Committee of Red Cross from the Vanni, set up No Fire Zones to lure civilians there and treacherously opened artillery fire on them.

Both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE committed war crimes. The LTTE was liquidated and its entire leadership was wiped out in the closing days of the war. Government records show that 430,000 people were living in the Vanni in 2008. After the final days of the war, the government moved civilians into camps which held 290,000 people, according to UN statistics.  The killings accounted for 40,000 people. The whereabouts of the remaining 100,000 are still not known except that a large number of people picked up in white vans simply disappeared without a trace. It is heartening that strong voices have been raised against the Sri Lankan government in capitals across the world; but not in Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi. The permanent representative of the USA to the UN said the report was a valuable contribution towards establishing justice, accountability, human rights and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. "We strongly support the Secretary-General's call for the Sri Lankan authorities to respond constructively to the report and underscore our belief that accountability and reconciliation are inextricably linked," it said. Rajapaksa had said on many occasions that he was fighting India's war against the LTTE. Without the active support and clandestine participation of India, Sri Lanka could not have wiped out the LTTE the way it did. Vishnu Prakash, spokesman of India's external affairs ministry, said, "We intend to engage with the government of Sri Lanka on the issues contained in the report." Whatever that might mean, India cannot absolve itself a degree of complicity.








FROM Cairo to Kolkata, exasperation with authority is embodied in the slogan ~ "change".  Bengal is swinging behind an election just as Britain was swinging behind the royal nuptials last week. Halfway through the hustings and with gloating celebrations in suspended animation, one side is palpably half-crazed by the red carpet (aka Writers' Buildings). At another remove, a regime, that appeared rock-solid exactly five years ago, appears to be teetering. And in terms of historical periodisation, it takes approximately three decades for a throne to rust, whether in the dictatorial Afro-Arab world or Bengal of the social democrats (once again, aka CPI-M).

Whichever party comes through with flying colours on 13 May, the nub of governance is that the state is groggily floundering in the midst of one of the worst economic crisis. There seldom has been an election where the campaign on both sides of the divide has so befuddled the electorate. It was outrageous to have engaged in a bout of electioneering in the language of the red light area, let alone the subsequent antediluvian barb against a spinster. There is scarcely any reference to the why and wherefore of the fiscal straits in the public presentations of the CPI-M and the Trinamul Congress. Market borrowings, grudgingly approved by the Centre, might clear the salaries for April. This is but one facet of the issue; in the larger context, the state can't be run through bouts of borrowing and lending.

Beyond the still nebulous term, paribartan, is the stark reality that the next dispensation will succeed to a direly depleted inheritance. The manifesto is the most whimsical element in any election. And as a signal of intent, both the CPI-M and Trinamul have failed the electorate. With a Rs 1.62-lakh crore debt and a stuttering economy, a Trinamul government will rank as free India's most efficient if it can fulfil the 19 pledges in the first 200 days! The party, much like its rival, doesn't have a clue on how to address the sub-regional jingoism in Darjeeling. There is spurious comfort though in the self-deceptive thought that the simmering Hills can yet be transformed to another Switzerland, the infantile piffle mirrored in the pledge to transform Kolkata to London. Nor for that matter can the 17 other saccharine pledges materialise in a state of virtual bankruptcy. In the climate of change, countered by Leftist cries of continuity, neither side has evinced a semblance of anxiety to shore up the economy. The central issue has been overshadowed by the electoral bluster. Politically, Trinamul's alliance with the Congress has been so brittle as to spark dissent and Independent candidatures. The source of campaign funding remains enigmatic, a hot potato that the Election Commission has referred to the Central Board of Direct Taxes for what they call "specialised investigation". Public memory being proverbially short, the matter may well be airbrushed in the fullness of time.

The manifesto of the world's longest-running Communist government says little and promises less, not to mention how it proposes to address a crisis of its own creation or numerical jugglery. It is a measure of the overwhelming despond that the purported statement of intent is marked by the political atrophy of a party that has seemingly thrown in the towel. After 34 years in power, the fineprint of the document ~ released without the minimum of customary fanfare ~ must make one wonder whether it is a signal of intent or electoral rhetoric. For a manifesto, there was no call to labour the obvious that the "difficult and tough challenge" is an individual (ekjon). This is essentially pre-election banter, far removed from a statement on "what is to be done", to summon Communist terminology. Even the Trinamul Congress will concede that the party is a one-person show. Considerable space has been devoted to ranting at the Opposition, in particular its links with the Maoists and its tendency to bring about "anarchy''. This might have been suitable for an election-eve booklet, certainly not for an election charter. The manifesto is in the main a political statement. In terms of content, the CPI-M will have to acknowledge that the crafting of the document has been rather uncharacteristically below par. Could this be an index of the general disinterest?

The contrived focus on industry chimes oddly with the pursuit of a spectacle of fantasy and the fiascoes and foibles that had marked the effort in Singur and Nandigram. The plan to provide rice at Rs 2 a kg to the BPL category sounds reassuring on the face of it not least because of the Centre's continued failure to introduce the food security legislation. Equally, the manifesto should at least have spelt out how the PDS can be freed of irregularities and worse. In an attempt to emulate the Nitish Kumar experiment, bicycles are to be provided to girl students. And given the fiscal straits and the pace of implementation, the manifesto could have stopped short of such airy-fairy promises as four-lane national highways, a deep sea port and welfare handouts for the backward classes. The rehabilitation package for Maoists and tribals is yet to materialise. And land acquisition has all too often impeded the construction of roads and flyovers. The prerequisites are not in place and the next government may yet be at a loose end. The manifesto is aware of the inherent shortcomings. Hence the feeble attempt at tinkering, let alone the robust assertion that had marked every Left Front manifesto in the preceding seven elections.

Between the "pinks" and the "greens" are the Left radicals who have emerged as a bundle of contradictions. Having called for a boycott of the polls ~ setting their face against  both the CPI-M and Trinamul ~ the Maoists are not averse to campaigns in Junglemahal. Compared to the early Seventies' generation of Naxalites, double-think runs wild 40 years later. Whereas the boycott was once embedded in profound contempt for the legislature ~ "Parliament is a pig's sty" ~ today's Maoists seem intent on playing off one party against another in the hotbed of their activity. Unlike the previous generation, there is no ideological aversion to the electoral engagement.

The outcome may be a fairly settled fact, but no election in post-colonial India has been marked by a degree of confusion so overwhelming. Brand Middleton has overawed Britain; Brand Mamata is still an unknown quantity in terms of governance. It often happens that a leader's lust for power is fed by his/her acolytes. Trinamul must move move beyond knee-jerk opposition to ideas and themes of its own. Meanwhile, let's just have a drink and enjoy the spectacle as the weekend begins on 13 May evening. We must all be happy and let the next government know it. The Left must be missing the charming Communist who had led the party to victory in every election since June 1977.

The writer is a Senior Editor, The Statesman







The founding fathers of Independent India gave the country a secular Constitution not only because partition left a sizable Muslim minority inside its borders but also because there was a large minority of Dalits in a Hindu-majority state ~ not to mention Sikhs, Christians and others. Dalit leader Dr BR Ambedkar, a leading opponent of Gandhi, was chosen to pilot the first Constitution. The intention behind this secular effort was to integrate various communities peacefully into a democratic nation-state.

Since then, there have been several significant attempts to violate the Constitution, beginning with Indira Gandhi's attack on the Golden temple at Amritsar. She was killed afterwards by a Sikh guard who was enraged over the desecration of his religious centre. A massacre of Sikhs followed in revenge for her murder, a criminal reprisal backed even by some Congress parliamentarians. Several thousand Sikhs were killed right under the nose of the Central government in Delhi.

The Babari mosque was destroyed in 1992 by a mob cynically led by one of the major political parties of the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was ruling Uttar Pradesh when the mosque was demolished in the presence of electronic, print and the foreign media. They clearly wanted their violent sectarian message sent everywhere. A decade later, the complicit government of Mr Narendra Modi in Gujarat helped to engineer the killing of 3,000 Muslims and the destruction of their properties. This fortunately was not the tale all over the expanse of India. Most provinces remained peaceful. Elsewhere some sporadic attacks on Christians and Muslims took place but were largely contained. With the exception of the BJP, all other political parties avoided using the communal card and tried sincerely to follow the secular law.

Social conditions in India are hardly perfect but the law compels courts to decide cases impartially and higher courts are, for the most part, and with some obvious exceptions, careful in this regard. During the past 63 years, the Supreme Court of India has established its reputation as an independent body. A strong section of civil society keeps watch and reminds the institutions of their occasional failures and shortfalls. Muslim institutions such Jamia Millia, Aligarh University and Deoband continue to flourish through financial assistance from the government of India. The story of educational development in the south is even better. There, Muslims are running major medical and technical colleges.

The Muslim community suffered a great disadvantage for the first 20 years after Independence because they were solely blamed for the partition of the country, which many educated Indians now know is unfair. One of the best examples of a secular democracy at work today is Uttar Pradesh where for the fourth time, a Dalit woman is the chief minister. Her hero is Dr Ambedkar who piloted the Constitution Bill and whose statues she has installed all over Lucknow.

For 40 years, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a secular nationalist who fought for Hindu-Muslim unity and a constitutional guarantee for the safeguard and rights of Indian Muslims. It is ironic that Gandhi used reactionary Muslim forces both at the time of the Khilafat movement and later at the Calcutta meeting ~ where proposals were discussed to bring Hindus and Muslims together ~ to ease Jinnah out of the nationalist camp. So Jinnah deduced that the only way forward for Muslims was separation, although he kept the door open till the last moment. Even when separation took place, he immediately returned to his nationalist past and adhered to his secular democratic ways.

When, under the chairmanship of Jinnah, the Delhi proposals were formulated, one proposal was for the separation of Sindh. Jinnah told Sarojini Naidu that he was attracted to this idea after listening to Annie Besant who said that India had 23 per cent Muslims while Sindh had the same percentage of Hindus, and was a place where Muslims believed in Sufi traditions of brotherhood. According to Besant, if the minority problem could be solved in Sindh, it would be solved in India too. Jinnah told Naidu: "I want Sindh for that definite purpose. I am determined to deserve the title you have conferred on me as 'ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity . . .''

Before Partition, Jinnah described his public vision of a South Asian state in the course of an interview in New Delhi with Reuters correspondent Don Campbell. Jinnah said that the new state must be a modern democratic state, with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless of religion, caste or creed. When Pakistan finally appeared on the map, he pointedly appointed Dalit leader Jogender Nath Mandal as the first President even before his own election.
Jinnah's address to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August, 1947 was a strong resolution to guide the future Constitution of Pakistan. He stipulated in this address, which covered most aspects of governance, that every Pakistani be equal no matter what religion or creed he or she belonged to. Jinnah died a year later, but he always had urged a secular democratic Constitution for Pakistan. The fates willed otherwise.

Liaqat Ali Khan promoted a new objectives resolution which sidestepped Jinnah's recommendations. In 1953, a commission headed by Mr Justice M Munir investigated large-scale riots against the Ahmadya sect in Pakistan. According to the Munir report, when the question was asked, the Ulemas were not clear what an Islamic state exactly was and where it had existed historically. In the report, it is freely admitted that this resolution, though grandiloquent in phrases and clauses, is nothing but a hoax. Not only does it not contain even a semblance of the embryo of an Islamic state but its provisions, particularly those relating to civil rights, are directly opposed to the principles of a fundamentalist state. Thus the objectives resolution negated the wishes of Jinnah and at the same time, according to the Munir report, failed to convince the Ulemas. The report succeeded in sowing confusion for future attempts to revise the constitution.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul-haq, for their own self-serving reasons, also steered Pakistan farther away from a secular constitution. Because of the absence of a secular and plural society, dozens of groups and sects have cropped up in the country, and mosques and shrines are bombed. Even the sanctity of  funerals is not respected. Judges are afraid for their lives and cases in which religion is involved are not decided. All these facts further prove that Jinnah was right and that Pakistan should go back to him. The minorities, who are now completely marginalised, will be restored to full citizenship and reassured. The other option is that the Ulemas of various viewpoints should sit together and agree on a pluralist Islam, which certainly existed when we were fighting for Independence. But this did not happen in the past when we had the opportunity and it is not happening now. Until Pakistan moves toward this goal, people will keep on killing each other and the interpretation of laws will remain in the hands of those who never read law or couldn't care less about it even if they had.

The writer is a Karachi-based political commentator






The Left Front may still consider itself the ultimate defender of the rights of the working class but its history of systematic de-industralisation of West Bengal no longer sits well with Haymarket sensibilities. The resolution adopted in the first Calcutta congress of the CPI-M in 1964 at Tyagraj Hall was supersaturated with revolutionary jargons. The exception was Clause 112 wherein participating in parliamentary democratic process was permitted under certain "unavoidable conditions". Thanks to it, the CPI-M found itself governing West Bengal as part of a Left coalition for 34 years. Its clarion call of "Duniyar mazdoor ek hao (workers of the world, unite)!" had seemed an extremely appropriate slogan for a party that projected itself as a crusader for classless society. 

But the CPI-M's true colours with regard to worker welfare was apparent as far back as 1967 after the fall of the United Front government when five workers of Eastern Paper Mill near Dakhshindwari were savagely murdered with nails driven to their heads. After the Left Front came to power, police atrocity claimed lives of labourers employed by Gauri Shankar Jute Mill, the Kolkata port, Fly Ash Factory and Jayashri Chemicals, to name a few. The mysterious disappearance of jute mill worker Bhikhari Paswan still intrigues many. But more than the physical elimination of workers, what's terrifying is the deployment of an invisible machinery that seems bent on wiping out the entire class of workers from Bengal.  More than 60,000 factories have been closed down in the state and the LF government has made little or no effort to revive even a single unit. On the contrary, the sprawling compounds of the closed factories are being converted to shopping malls and luxurious high-rises. Factories are the incubators of the working class but the unmitigated rise of the property mafia has seen to it that it is undermined like never before. The Hind Motor land sale is a case in point. While the state's key automobile manufacturing unit is struggling for its existence, a large slice of the land on which is stands has been sold off to realtors for promoting a housing project. Industrial units lining either banks of the Hooghly used to be the pride of Bengal. But, clearly, the LF government had never been keen on changing things for the better. West Bengal currently has as many as 1,13,846 sick units ~ 46.6% of such units across India. Also, approximately 1 crore 90 lakh unorganised sector workers in the state don't receive minimum wage as stipulated by the LF government. The list is never ending.

Also, workers are owed Rs 500 crore in Provident Fund dues, Rs 230 crore in ESI benefits with the jute industry alone having defaulted on paying as much as Rs 250 crore by way of gratuity.

The hammer and sickle no longer inspire thoughts of solidarity with society's lowest-paid stratum. In Bengal, after more than three decades of LF rule, they have come to represent nothing else but instruments of repression. The communists of the state must drop the pretense now and stop observing May Day.

The writer is a freelance contributor







They say, justice delayed is justice denied. But what does one make of justice delayed for nearly a decade and then a verdict which makes a mockery of every woman's dignity and self-respect? Maybe a reading of the judgment of the Pakistan Supreme Court, which acquitted five of the six men accused of gang-raping Mukhtar Mai in 2002, could throw light on this. Perhaps, Pakistani judges could share with victims why they think gang-rape is not really a crime and perhaps they could also clear the air on whether lack of a woman's social standing and her economic backwardness had anything to do with denying justice to her.  Mukhtar Mai needs no introduction. Ever since 2002, when her case first made headlines across the globe, she has come to symbolise the way women are treated in certain parts of the world. She was gangraped in 2002 on the orders of a village council after her younger brother ~ then barely 12 ~ was wrongly accused of having relations with a woman from a rival clan. It was nothing else but her gender that invited that kind of punishment. And, it was meted out with a quiet confidence that she would probably commit suicide in shame after the incident. The council was also positive that if she tried to get justice, it would be in vain. Well, it was right in that. Mukhtar Mai has tried very hard but justice has remained elusive. Despite the fact that her case has garnered support and sympathy from almost every corner of the world, the latest verdict exposes Pakistan's notorious lack of commitment to empowerment of women despite the country having woman ministers and a woman as a Prime Minister twice.  
It would be a mistake, though, to look at Benazir Bhutto's election to the Prime Minister's post twice as an undisputed sign of emancipation of women. She ran on a platform of lineage ~ the Bhutto name ~ and won. It is a sad paradox but in many parts of the world, allegiance to a family name easily overpowers notions of sexism.
Mukhtar Mai's case also needs to be understood in the geo-political context to which it belongs. The Aurat Foundation, a Pakistani organisation, found that in the first 10 months of 2007 ~ five years after Mukhtar's gang-rape ~ in the province of Sindh alone, honour killing had claimed 183 women and 104 men. One can't blame this on the growing Talibanisation of Pakistan since statistics go back to the time before the Taliban had taken over Swat Valley where it banned education of women and their unescorted movement.
General Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, has admitted on his blog to having out restrictions on Mukhtar Mai's movements in 2005, as he feared that her work and the publicity it was getting across the globe, could hurt Pakistan's global image. Mukhtar Mai who today runs the Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organisation (MMWWO) with the help of donations that she receives. Her aim is to help women in her community through education and other projects. The sad reality is that while the General currently leads a life of luxury in "exile" in London, for Mukhtar Mai, justice and restoration of her dignity still remain elusive.
So what does Mukhtar Mai stand for? From New York to New Delhi she represents a reality we most often wish to avoid. By demanding justice for herself, she has demanded justice for every wronged woman of the world. We have to stand by her because Mukhtar Mai's fight is every woman's fight.

The writer is The Statesman's Foreign Editor







Mohandas Pai's departure from the chairmanship of Infosys was well publicized; it has brought Infosys the kind of notoriety it could have done without. In the heat of the moment, Mr Pai in effect blamed his exit on the old guard running the iconic information technology company, although later he became more diplomatic. The accusation sounded strange, since Mr Pai was neither a baby nor an outsider. He had spent 17 years in the company, and held senior posts. He may not have been a member of the inner group during those years, but he worked comfortably with the coterie for all that time; it was only when he was elevated to the top that he was irked by it. This does not disprove its existence or influence. Indians are by nature worshippers of tradition and obsequious to elders. When it was started thirty years ago, it was a pretty parochial outfit, as were all the little firms of bright young people that took the plunge around that time. But as it grew, the growth of numbers forced Infosys and all big IT firms to adopt more standardized, objective recruitment and promotion policies. A company that employs 60,000 people in 20 countries and turns over at least 10,000 a year cannot operate like a family.

Its high growth rate has made the information industry call for high management skills; delivering high-quality services with a youthful staff of thousands, 10 or 20 per cent of whom leave and join in a year, is not a business in which management can relax. The geeks who started the firms were not always great managers. So they have from early on recruited professional managers to run their firms. Mr Pai was one of them; he was a finance manager. Nandan Nilekani left for the browner pastures of Delhi, but Narayana Murthy does loom large as "mentor" in the Bangalore campus.

Whatever the internal ruptures in the top direction of Infosys may be, there must be a theme to them; the theme of the moment is very likely its financial condition. Its net revenue fell by 15 per cent in the past financial year; for an IT firm, this is virtually inconceivable. The company's price-earnings ratio at 21.3 is less than half of the industry's ratio; this suggests that financial astrologers foresee a none-too-bright future for it. It may be afflicted by its own maladies. But it is important to remember that the Indian IT industry is no longer young and dashing. Its advantage lay in cheap programmers; they are much less cheap today. They are valued and recruited by companies all over the world. And the IT industry is not the only one where young Indians look to make a fortune. The economy has been booming for a decade now; there are opportunities galore. Infosys has to compete with the economy if it is to continue growing.







The government of India's ambiguous stand on the use of endosulfan as a pesticide has once again occasioned a judicial intervention into a matter which, ideally, should fall within the purview of the legislature. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and the states to clarify their stand with respect to the proposed ban on the controversial pesticide. This could have been avoided had the government's dragging of feet not raised apprehensions that it is reluctant to stop the use of a chemical that has been found to be dangerous enough to be banned by 81 countries and is reported to have caused devastation in several regions within India. Even in the face of studies, some conducted by government agencies as early as 2002, which point to the harmful effects of the chemical, the government insists on the elimination of the pesticide in phases instead of a one-time ban. At the recently-concluded Stockholm convention of the review committee on persistent organic pollutants, India pushed for exemptions of the ban on several pests and crops and insisted on financial and technical assistance to develop alternatives before ratifying the convention's proposals. In the face of rising protests within the country, the government has pleaded the lack of cheap alternatives for the continued use of endosulfan and the lack of convincing proof to impose a ban on the chemical.

It is evident that for a country that produces 70 per cent of the chemical and is also its largest consumer, a complete ban on the manufacture and use of the pesticide and its associated chemicals is a difficult choice. It is also natural for the powerful pesticide lobby to fight the proposed ban tooth and nail. Irrespective of the compulsions, many of which are undoubtedly political, the government has to weigh its decision in light of what is in the best interests of its people. It can neither afford to play to the gallery nor delay a decision perpetually for the lack of consensus.







Since Amartya Sen has popularized the term "Kerala model" to refer to the extensive welfare measures adopted in the state, I am constrained to use a different term, "strategy", for yet another unique aspect of the Kerala story, namely, its development policy. The standard view on development policy at the state level is as follows: if a state is to develop then there must be substantial investment within it; since state government resources are limited, such investment must come from private investors who must be attracted to the state through suitable inducements; and since all states must do this they must compete against each other to be attractive for private, especially corporate, capital. What is unique about Kerala under the recent Left Democratic Front rule is that it did not follow this policy.

It did not join this competitive struggle with other states to make itself attractive for private corporate capital, for which it was much criticized by personages from the prime minister downwards as being "anti-development". Not that it frowned upon or discouraged private investment, but such investment was welcomed within a policy framework, which offered no competitive concession for attracting it, which insisted upon a degree of government supervision (for example, 26 per cent equity in the setting up of information technology parks), and which eschewed coercion in land acquisition, to a point where projects often got delayed or even aborted for absence of land. (By the same token when projects did come up it was not uncommon for those on whose lands they were located to participate in the inaugural functions.) Kerala, not surprisingly, did not acquire fame like Gujarat as a destination for private capital, to the chagrin of many pundits sympathetic to the state.

What the government did do, however, was a substantial step-up in its own outlay. The plan size, which had been less than Rs 6,000 crore in 2006-07, almost doubled to over Rs 11,000 crore in 2011-12. And a fair proportion of this increase went for education, health, revival of foodgrain production, income support for traditional sector workers, a health insurance scheme covering half the population of the state for which the state government paid the premium, an equally ambitious housing scheme, and subsidies for providing essential commodities at controlled prices through state-run shops. Since many of these are not even capital account items, conventional wisdom of recent vintage would accuse the LDF government of "frittering away precious resources on populist schemes, to the detriment of economic growth".

Remarkably, however, Kerala in the recent past has shown a slightly higher growth rate than the Indian economy as a whole, and only a slightly lower growth rate than Gujarat with which it is always compared unfavourably as a destination for private capital. The gross domestic product at factor cost in constant (2004-5) prices in 2009-10 was 25 per cent higher than in 2006-07 for the country as a whole; for Kerala the gross state domestic product was 28 per cent higher and for Gujarat 31 per cent higher. Growth rate, though much advertised these days by Central government spokesmen, is an utterly inadequate index for judging economic progress. Even by this criterion, however, Kerala, despite not joining the rat race for attracting capital, has performed quite creditably.

Some may argue that Kerala would have done even better if it had also exerted itself to be hospitable to private capital; but that is erroneous. A state cannot both expand welfare expenditure significantly and be generous in providing inducements to private capital. State government resources being limited, a strategy of providing inducements to private capital takes up so much of these resources that little is left for increasing welfare expenditures noticeably. According to a report in The Hindu, for instance, the Gujarat government promised to give out Rs 31,000 crore, no doubt spread over several years, to induce the Tatas to shift their Nano plant to that state. With such largesse, clearly the scope for increasing welfare expenditure gets severely constricted.

Putting it differently, we have here two alternative development strategies, which cannot really be combined. One uses the public exchequer to induce capitalists to invest in the state in the belief that this investment will generate growth. The other uses the exchequer to increase government expenditure on a variety of schemes, in particular welfare schemes, in the belief that this will not only directly benefit the people, but also, as a consequence, enlarge the domestic market, to cater to which there will be an automatic increase in investment, not necessarily of big capitalists but of a range of small entrepreneurs.

The point of this second strategy is that it directly benefits the people. Even if it did not give rise to much growth, people would still be better off as a consequence of it; and if it did generate growth, as it has done in the case of Kerala and as it would normally be expected to do, then it would kill two birds with one stone. The advantage of achieving growth in this manner is that, with growth, the revenue of the state government would also grow, permitting an even larger increase in welfare expenditure and in state plan outlay, as has happened in the case of Kerala. We would thus get on to a virtuous cycle with the second strategy.

Besides, by calling forth investment from a dispersed group of relatively small entrepreneurs, including cooperatives and women's self-help groups (Kudumbasree) rather than relying exclusively on big ticket projects, this strategy is both more employment-intensive and less power-concentrating.

By contrast, the first strategy, if successful, can generate growth, but little of its benefits will "trickle down" to the people. Some may think that even if "trickle down" does not occur immediately or automatically, with a high rate of growth, the state government's revenue will grow rapidly, making it possible for the government to spend more on welfare schemes at a later date. But typically big-ticket projects generate little employment, so that much of the revenue they earn accrues as surplus or as incomes for a small number of well-paid professionals. The demand generated by such incomes is for "sophisticated goods" not already available in the economy. The pressure is to start the production of such goods, for which fresh investment has to be attracted to the state and fresh concessions given to big capitalists to entice them to the state. In other words, the process of attracting investors to the state with blandishments is a never-ending process. Hence, even though high growth may lead to a rapid increase in the state government's revenue, the drain on this revenue for providing "incentives" to the capitalists is a perennial one, which leaves little scope for undertaking welfare schemes even at a later date. The people at large never get the opportunity to reap the rewards of high growth. The instant when at last the benefits of high growth can be made to accrue to the ordinary people (they never "trickle down" automatically) never comes with this first strategy. The superiority of the Kerala-style welfarist strategy remains indubitable.

But then is there not a clash of interests between the people at large and the emerging middle class whose interests are better served with the first strategy? Saying this amounts to putting the cart before the horse: the first strategy actually spawns the self-seeking middle class that then begins to demand it. In a relatively egalitarian society, before the middle class has split itself off from the rest, welfare measures also benefit the "uncles" and "aunts" and "poor cousins" of the middle class itself. This and also the fact that big-ticket projects inevitably spawn corruption which the middle class abhors, imply that a constituency for the second strategy can always be found in the middle class. Of course if it cannot be, then so be it. But it is never too unwise to embark upon a Kerala-style strategy.

The author is a former professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi Top ***************************************





As Anna Hazare took sips of water, flanked by supporters, many in the political circle were relieved. An immediate political crisis had been averted. It seemed like a story with a perfect ending. But even as I watched the anti-corruption campaign unfold, I thought of Irom Sharmila.

I wish that her exemplary courage and grit would be honoured. For over 10 years, Sharmila, a Manipuri woman, has been on fast demanding the repeal of the repressive Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. But no one seems to be moved. In fact, she has been arrested several times by the police, and force-fed. In 2006, Sharmila had also protested at Jantar Mantar. Needless to say, this received almost no media coverage.

The indifference towards Sharmila and her struggle is symptomatic of the brutal crackdown by the authorities on any form of dissent in the Northeast, in Chhattisgarh, Kashmir and elsewhere. The AFSPA impedes accountability for serious human rights violations, and provides immunity to the security forces. The army has often been found to misuse the extraordinary powers vested in it.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights estimates that as many as 1,184 persons have died in India as a result of custodial torture between April 2001 and March 2009. The actual numbers could be higher. In addition, many survivors of torture and inhuman treatment have described the coercive interrogation methods used against them in custody: handcuffing, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse, incessant beating and electrocution. The office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture had sought the permission of the Indian government as far back as in 1993 for conducting a fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of torture in India. Eighteen years and several reminders later, the request of the Rapporteur is still pending. Why is there so little public outcry on these issues?

Urgent measures

The overwhelming public support to Anna Hazare's protest against corruption — which some claim was grossly exaggerated — and the silence over Sharmila's crusade remind us that not all struggles for justice attract the moral outrage they deserve. But the uncanny similarity between the non-violent, Gandhian means of protest employed by both Hazare and Sharmila means that parallels would inevitably be drawn with regard to the responses to each of these.

Why are we indifferent to the important issues that Sharmila is raising? Is it because they involve uncomfortable questions? Is it because Hazare's cause is linked to the middle class's dislike of corruption in politics, while Sharmila's cause seems important only to those who have to suffer the consequences of the draconian laws? While there is substantial tolerance towards a people's movement against corruption, even if it criticizes the entire political and bureaucratic class of the country, the minute the issue of impunity of the security forces is raised, allegations of sedition and of war against the State overshadow the principal debate on democratic rights.

But as Sharmila's protest underscores, urgent measures are required to challenge the existing culture of impunity. These include the repeal of the repressive AFSPA, facilitating the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, redrafting the prevention of torture bill, and holding perpetrators accountable. Moreover, India needs to promote accountability for human rights violations not only at home but also in its neighbourhood.

Only when we respect Sharmila's struggle can we claim the moral high ground as a regional power. Otherwise, serious human rights violations and the use of coercive interrogation methods would continue. So would our collective culpability in looking away from Irom Sharmila and what she represents.






******************************************************************************************DECCAN HERALD




The death of Osama bin Laden has created new uncertainties and opened up some possibilities in politics and international relations. It is not frequent that the death of a person who is not in power stimulates important changes. Just as the power of individuals to influence events can be exaggerated or underrated, the consequences of their disappearance are also difficult to judge. In the case of Osama, the locus of his ideology and activities was at once political and religious, with both elements reinforcing each other. Based on them, Osama was able to create, rally and mobilise political forces which disrupted an existing order. His death may not mean the elimination of those forces, especially because a number of groups and affiliates drew inspiration from him. They are all disparate and may continue with their activities even in his absence.

But it is likely that there may be an immediate impact on the Afghanistan-Pakistan situation. The claimed rationale for the US military action in Afghanistan was the presence of Al Qaeda there. Now that the most visible symbol of Al Qaeda is gone there will be pressure on the US to scale down its engagement and exit even before the deadlines set by president Obama himself. There are already demands for it.  The Afghan war is not popular in the US and Obama will have to face these pressures internally too. But the US cannot quit without leaving a political agreement and arrangement behind. The shape and nature of that agreement, presumably with moderate sections of the Taliban, will have implications for India too. In spite of the dubious conduct of Pakistan, the US may not be able to reach any agreement in Afghanistan without Islamabad's co-operation.  Pakistan, which considers Afghanistan as its backyard, has high stakes there and would not like to have any role for India there. This will pose a serious challenge for Indian diplomacy in the coming months.

An obvious consequence of Osama's exit would be the strengthening of Obama's image at home and his international profile. It is going to help him much in his re-election bid, as he can effectively counter the Republican contention that he is a weak president unable to fight terrorism and secure American interests at home and abroad. But America's follow-up of the death of Osama through its policy and actions in Afghanistan will also be equally important.







The final clearance given by the Union ministry of environment and forests for the South Korean company Posco's Rs 54,000 crore integrated steel plant in Orissa should cheer the industry and boost the climate of investment in the country. The biggest foreign investment project in the country has for years been mired in controversy and has suffered many setbacks. While the state government was obviously keen on the project, it had invited strong opposition from many quarters, mainly for environmental reasons. The main point of objection was about using 1,253 hectares of forest land to locate the project. The argument was that the Orissa government by agreeing to locate the steel plant there, had violated the Forest Rights Act and denied tribals and forest dwellers their legal and legitimate land rights.  Though the ministry had granted environmental clearance for the project in January with some riders, fresh issues concerning land rights had come up  since. 

These have also been cleared now with the ministry finding that these objections are not valid and could perhaps have been based on fake documents or inspired by the strong anti-Posco lobby. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has chosen to accept the state government's version. The ministry has also imposed certain conditions on the company  which were not mentioned earlier. These include a ban on iron ore export and a commitment on the part of the company to bear the cost of regeneration of an equivalent amount of degraded forest land. The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti  (PPSS), which has actively and consistently opposed the project, is obviously not happy and has vowed to continue its fight. But it seems the way has been finally cleared for the project.

The debate on Posco and the campaign against it has helped in creating a better understanding of the implications of such projects. The long resistance and the points raised therein enabled the government to incorporate a number of safeguards in the project in order to protect the environment and livelihoods of people. These lessons will be relevant and useful for future projects. The Posco agreement was signed in 2005 and it took six years to reach the stage of final clearance. The agreement  expired last year and has to be renewed now. The Posco experience may help to avoid such long delays in future.







For the Pakistani military leadership, what counts most is the endgame of the Afghan war. Pakistan wants to realise its objective there.

A full account or precise details of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, may never get known but available indications suggest that the operation was a joint Pakistan-United States operation.

Starting from the abrupt visit by US commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus to Rawalpindi to the GHQ of the Pakistani army on April 25 and the unscheduled meeting of the Pakistan corps commanders the next day, there are tell-tale signs to show 'something was up,' as the Pakistani daily, 'Dawn' pointed out. Abbottabad is a brigade headquarters of the second division of the northern army corps of the Pakistani military and a comprehensive air defence system guards the strategic city which is the gateway to Karakoram Highway leading to China.

The operation was apparently mounted from a nearby Pakistani base and not from across the Afghan border. The big question, therefore, is why the Pakistani military leadership finally decided to turn in bin Laden – and the timing of it. Everything hinges on the answer to that question. Osama bin Laden has always been the 'trump card' that Pakistani military was expected to play at an appropriate time. Pakistani military and intelligence has always been adept at modulating its working relationship with the Americans.

The American public opinion was increasingly dissatisfied with Obama's handling of the war. And bin Laden has been an emotive issue. Obama will now be riding a wave of patriotic fervour and that can have interesting fallouts for his re-election bid in 2012.

For the Pakistani military leadership, what counts most is the endgame of the Afghan war. Pakistan has never been so close to realising its objective of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan. But, lately, tensions had arisen in the equations between the US and Pakistani military and intelligence. The killing of bin Laden comes as the ultimate litmus test of the Pakistani military's credential as an ally. The Pakistani military leadership will expect a quid pro quo from Obama.

Evidently, Pakistani military leadership, which is traditionally cautious, has carefully weighed the pros and cons and came to a decision that it has the wherewithal to weather the storm of domestic opinion. At the end of the day, Islamic parties in Pakistan are beholden to the military establishment and are highly vulnerable to political blackmail. Again, rhetoric apart, Pakistani elites always hankered for American support and would not cross swords with the military over an existential question.

Obama's statement underscores that he appreciates the criticality of a great working relationship with the Pakistani military in the tricky period ahead. What does this sort of a US-Pakistan condominium mean for regional security? Three things must be noted. First, Obama now has a relatively free hand to work out his Afghan strategy.

Essentially, US and Pakistan both want the Afghan war to end. Obama's priority is to establish a long-term military presence by the US and Nato in the Hindu Kush, which is integral to the US regional strategies. Pakistan looks for the reintegration of the Taliban. These are actually reconcilable objectives. The US and Pakistan can now be expected to go all out to reach an Afghan settlement that accommodates the legitimate needs and interests of both sides. The Afghan war is definitely moving to its concluding phase.

Second, Obama's foreign policy priorities are turning to the West Asia, which is pivotal to the US global strategies. Pakistan as a Sunni country with a huge standing army can play a big role in safeguarding the security of the 'pro-west' regimes of the Persian Gulf region. That is to say, US would increasingly view Pakistan, once freed of the preoccupations of the al-Qaeda problem and the Afghan war, as a 'provider' of security for its Persian Gulf allies. Conceivably, Saudi Arabia played its part in persuading Pakistan to eliminate bin Laden.

Third, the killing of bin Laden is a vindication of the 'war on terror.' On the pretext of fighting the forces of terrorism, US embarked on a policy of unilateralist intervention in sovereign countries and whatever limitations the war-weary US public opinion put on the establishment in its imperial march would also now dissipate in the mood of jingoism in America. As the economic crisis deepens in the capitalist world, the propensity will always be there to wage wars abroad. The right-wing opinion within the US will gain ascendancy in the emergent climate and it is already clamouring for more robust military interventions abroad.

Therefore, the prospect of a protracted military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq aside, the eruption of military conflict involving Iran becomes a high probability. Equally, the regimes in Syria and Iran will come under immense pressure. The US desperately seeks to mitigate Israel's regional isolation amidst the upheaval in the west Asia. The so-called Arab Spring threatens to trigger revolutions like in Egypt where the successor regime, heeding public opinion, is already steadily turning its back on the pro-US, pro-Israel policies.

It suits US and its Arab allies to polarise the Muslim West Asia along sectarian lines – portraying as if 'Salafism' is under threat from resurgent Shi'ism. In sum, the elimination of bin Laden at this critical juncture frees US from the morass of the Afghan war and sets the arena for the epochal struggle for the making of the 'new West Asia.' Its timing could not have been more propitious.

(The writer is a former diplomat)








In spite of bin Laden's martyrdom, al-Qaeda is no more likely to win over the worldwide Muslims.
The death of Osama bin Laden will not mean the end of al-Qaeda. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri is expected to take command of the remnants of his organisation and the networks formed by affiliates and groups inspired by al-Qaeda, which was always more of an idea than a movement.

Zawahiri is certain to call upon al-Qaeda linked and inspired groups to exact vengeance on the west, particularly the US, for killing bin Laden who was elevated to the status of martyr as soon as his death was announced by US president Barack Obama. India, seen by radical Muslims as a US ally, could very well be targeted by Pakistani and other jihadis primarily motivated by the struggle over Kashmir.

Osama bin Laden made his name as the world's arch terrorist by, according to the US, masterminding the spectacular September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. He forced countries round the globe to impose stringent security controls at airports and public buildings and prompted then US president George W Bush to wage his disastrous 'war on terror' and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq.

Destructive operations

But bin Laden was never a major player in the politics of West Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Africa, Europe or the US. The only regime he brought down was the Muslim fundamentalist Afghan Taliban, his host. Furthermore, al-Qaeda's bloody and destructive operations remained side-shows on the international scene because al-Qaeda and its allies have always been small, conspiratorial organisations which have never attracted mass support or gone mainstream.


In spite of bin Laden's martyrdom, al-Qaeda and its allies are no more likely to win over the worldwide Muslim community, the Umma, than when he was alive. His ideology has never attracted a large numbers of adherents. He called for the liberation of the Umma; the imposition of Sharia, Muslim religious law; and the re-establishment of a caliphate, the rule over the entire Umma by a righteous figure.  But his ideology is particularly anachronistic at a time Muslims the world over are demanding democracy. Now that the hated Tunisian and Egyptian regimes have fallen and other undemocratic rulers are on the brink of ouster, Muslims are less likely than ever to embrace an autocratic theocratic caliph as ruler of the Umma. Muslims want democracy in national states to which they are accustomed and owe allegiance. Pan-Islamic fervour has given way to acceptance of existing nation states.

Although they have sown terror in many countries, al-Qaeda and its affiliates and allies have always operated on the margins. His Arab fighters played a minor role in the campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He failed to achieve liberation in the two countries he particularly sought to free:, Saudi Arabia from the pro-western monarchy and Palestine from Israeli occupation.

Having deployed thousands of Sunni Arab fighters in Iraq after the US occupation in 2003, al-Qaeda did not drive US forces from Iraq or free that country from domination by pro-Iranian fundamentalist Shia parties. Instead, Sunni Iraqis who were fighting the US occupation of Iraq in cooperation with al-Qaeda turned against it and helped US and Iraqi Shia forces contain al-Qaeda.  

While its adherents continue to bomb targets in Iraq, al-Qaeda has been sidelined in Iraq. The Saudi branch of al-Qaeda — the most important for bin Laden — was expelled to Yemen which is now gripped by a largely secular rebellion against president Ali Abdullah Saleh. His overthrow is unlikely to be followed by Yemen's transformation into a caliphate which would ultimately rule the Umma. Al-Qaeda branches and affiliates, however, are a threat outside the Arab region.  Al-Shabab, the radical Muslim movement seeking to ouster the government of Somalia has al-Qaeda connections.

Radical groupings and individuals inspired by al-Qaeda are springing up in many places but they do not amount to a serious challenge because they have in the past six months been marginalised by the secular democratic Arab uprisings that are awakening Muslims everywhere.

If, however, Arab and Muslim democratic ambitions are frustrated al-Qaeda and its allies could make a come back and wreak fresh havoc against the people and powers which obstruct Arab and Muslim liberation. 







Wonder whether today's children are missing out on that sublime fun.

The other day, as I was waiting for a friend at a shopping mall, I couldn't help overhearing the prattle of two kiddies, around ten years age. The first one, flashing his high-end mobile, was expatiating on its various features. The second one tried interjecting him, to rhapsodise on his newly acquired play-station. Soon first one began eulogising on his swanky bicycle. It was apparent that each one was trying to outshine the other, by talking of their snazzy-jazzy possessions.

Truly it was amazing to behold how this modern day's unhealthy competition of being always in the 'numero uno' slot in life's every arena, had percolated even into children's inchoate minds. Suddenly my brain was bombarded by those times, redolent of childhood memories. Man! How we, as children, always revelled in rollicking moments, enjoying rip-roaring fun, just by playing such simple games, especially in summer vacations. 'Hide n' seek' was one of our favourites (which we called it as 'ice spice' instead of 'I spy'!) I still remember the mélange of emotions, experienced by that gal, espied first, by the other gal counting numbers till hundred, with her peepers closed. There would be that trepidation, interspersed with excitement and angst in that 'first caught' girl, as she'd wait for her buddies to come and rescue her from the ordeal of counting numbers and hunting the others.

Then we played 'hop-scotch', which proffered us ineffable joy, in its own unique way. We teetered sporting ill-fitting footwear. And at times, even with bleeding nicks on our legs, we hobbled and weaved our way to victory, as if we had come up trumps, in accomplishing some stupendous task. Then there was that 'help-help' game, where we, forming human-chains, tried catching those, who weren't cleaved to the other. The fun was tantamount to roller-coaster ride thrill, which had in it, a cocktail of mirth and merriment. One can never forget those strident shrieks, stentorian-toned squabbles, aftermath face sulks, raucous laughter, and of course, blubbering sessions at home, after being thwacked on our backs by mom, for over-stretching the play-time.   

Not to discount, our juvenile attempts in staging English plays in the noons, in a rather low-key fashion. Ah! Those terrible accents, badly delivered dialogues, grotesque costumes, scary histrionics, our dreary hamming skills…Yes, despite all these, we exuded high-level confidence on our makeshift stages! And at nights, the moment our heads touched the pillows, we'd instantly slip into blissful slumber. Indeed our life was totally shorn of all worries and mental tensions.

Really I wonder whether today's children are missing out on that sublime and singular fun that we basked in. Or did we miss out the joys today's children are having with these sleek gizmos and gadgets? Well, I'm not sure!








During his visit to Washington in less than three weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet an American administration which is credited by the free world with the killing of the arch terrorist Osama bin Laden.

On Barack Obama's watch, the U.S. armed forces managed to kill the murderer of thousands of American citizens who had managed to evade punishment for more than nine years.

The successful operation made the president popular among Americans and dampened his image as a soft leader, an image of him encouraged by his rivals on the right.

During his Cairo speech in June 2009 Obama presented the challenge of the struggle against terrorism, alongside reconciliation with the Muslim world and ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In the coming weeks Obama will enjoy broad support on the international scene in general, and in the Middle East in particular. It makes sense that the president will seek to use this credit to advance the strategic interests of the U.S. in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, and put an end to the killing of civilians in Libya and Syria by their rulers.

Hopefully, Obama will also take advantage of the opportunity to resume the negotiations on a permanent status settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The killing of bin Laden, like the possibility for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, is having no influence on Israel's urgent need for a political agreement.

The foolish statements by the Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, condemning the killing of bin Laden, stress the importance of nurturing relations with the Palestinian camp headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, who reiterates his opposition to the use of violence and terrorism.

In his address before Congress, after congratulating President Obama on his important achievement against terrorism, Netanyahu must present a serious and credible Israeli peace initiative.

This would render unnecessary the initiative at the UN to recognize a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and prevent another round of violence in the territories and regional tension. Moving toward a settlement with the Palestinian peace camp remains the only recipe for the existence of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and secure state.







Why won't writer Emile Habibi, an Israeli Prize laureate, appear on one of the banknotes bearing the likenesses of writers, asked Salman Masalha ("Shekels as tools of the regime," April 24 ). He was immediately attacked by belligerent commenters, sending him off to Gaza and swearing in the name of the Jewish state.

But there's nothing wrong with that proposal, nor does it contradict the Jewish nature of the state. The system of official Israeli symbols, including the portraits on the banknotes, should faithfully reflect the fact that Israel is a country that grants national independence to the Jewish people. But who said that that is the only thing it should reflect? In principle there is no reason why it shouldn't also reflect the existence and the culture of the country's Arab minority, among other things.

The symbol of the state is a menorah surrounded by two olive branches, based on the verse in Zechariah: "A gold candelabrum with two olives trees." The olive is one of the symbols of the country, and it's an important symbol of Israeli Arabs. The two branches could be turned into two olive trees to the right and left of the menorah. That's still a menorah "with two olive trees." If this step is accompanied by a clear statement that its purpose is to give the Arab public a part in the system of official symbols, which is supposed to represent it - such a modest change is likely to be of positive significance; not in the eyes of Arab chauvinists, who won't be placated by anything, but in the eyes of those who really want to feel that the state is theirs too.

And why doesn't such a proposal have a chance of being accepted in the foreseeable future? Partly because of those same commenters who are ready to send to Gaza an Arab citizen who wants to feel at home in the State of Israel of all places - and the politicians who represent them. But no less because of the leadership of the Arab public and most of its spokesmen in the Israeli media, whose main cause has become the rejection of the Jewish people's right to a state. In such an atmosphere, a change of the type suggested here will be regarded by the Jewish public not as a step toward justice for the Arabs, but as a step towards injustice for the Jews. There is no chance that this community, or any community in the world in similar circumstances, will agree to that.

Salman Masalha, in his fascinating articles, often belittles Jewish nationalism. In his favor, it should be noted that he belittles Arab nationalism equally. I do not share this attitude, but I greatly admire his courage and his consistency. Although I disagree with him, he believes that he is fighting for equality.

But what we hear from the Arab leadership and elite in such documents as "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel" is a very different voice. This voice is saying to the Jewish public: Yes, there are two nations in this country; our nation has a right to a state, whereas your nation has no such right. We are by no means trying to turn the Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel into the members of one civic nation - an Israeli nation. Our Arab-Palestinian nationality is very important to us; we have our nation and you have yours, and your nation has no right to a state. That is why we reject the Jewish state in Israel and favor an Arab state alongside Israel.

This discourse of the Arab leadership - not necessarily of the Arab public, whose viewpoint, according to the surveys, is far more complex and more moderate - is trampling on equality in the guise of defending it. This makes no positive contribution to the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.








Barack Obama has promised to give a speech on his Middle East policies in the coming weeks and present his updated approach to an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The assassination of Osama bin Laden gives Obama new credibility and increases expectations of him at a time when positions in the Middle East are becoming more extreme. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is reconciling with Hamas, the Israeli right is removing the mask of political correctness and is calling for the annexation of the West Bank to Israel. The parties are raising the stakes, challenging the new gun-slinger Obama to decide between them.

So the president will give a speech, but what will he say? Ardent leftists will see an opportunity here to fulfill their dream. They will call on Obama to present Israel with an ultimatum: Get out of the territories or be punished with the end of the "special relationship" with the United States, with the severing of aid and an international boycott. The man who unflinchingly took out the leader of Al-Qaida is now supposed to take on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: to call him to the White House, present him with an American ultimatum and make clear that there is no room for discussion or objections; to get Netanyahu to say either yes or no and bear the consequences.

That is a fine fantasy, but it is cut off from political reality. Netanyahu cannot be subdued with a 40-minute commando raid, but only with a long-term political confrontation. Obama, who is running for a second term, has no patience for Israel and its supporters. Even if the president dreams about getting Israel out of the territories and establishing Palestine on the ruins of the settlements in the West Bank, he cannot make his dream come true by threatening Netanyahu. Not now.

The "peace industry" people have suggested another approach to Obama, straight from the warehouse of cliches of the endless peace process: Present a detailed peace plan that will solve all the problems. Jerusalem? Refugees? Borders? Security? Don't worry, Barack has the answer. Pack up a few settlements here, move a few refugees there, invent a way to control the Temple Mount, throw a few security bones to Israel, and you'll have justified the Nobel Peace Prize you received as a down payment before there was anything to show for it.

There are two problems with this approach. The public gets bogged down in the details, and the leaders depend on them to kill the idea with answers of "yes, but." That is how the Clinton and Saudi plans were neutralized over the past decade. That is what will happen to Obama, too.

Instead of falling into these traps, Obama needs to focus on what he does best: Marketing complicated messages in easy-to-understand packages.That is how he won the presidency with the message of "change," which everyone could understand.

He should now hone in on a new message: "freedom." Freedom from tyranny, freedom from occupation and freedom from terror. The aspiration to freedom links protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square with Palestinians waiting endlessly at checkpoints and with Israelis afraid of rockets falling on their homes and suicide bombers in their streets. Freedom represents the essence of America, the vision of its founders and its foreign policy. And more than any other president, Obama, in his personality and his biography, expresses that message. When he talks about freedom, people will believe him.

Instead of giving tasks to Netanyahu and Abbas, who will just run away from responsibility and blame each other, Obama should make clear to the people of the Middle East what the values are that America represents. Concentrated in one word, simply, "freedom." That is the only way he will be able to mobilize public opinion for change and generate it from below. The Arabs need to be convinced that Obama will give them human rights, dignity and freedom from oppression. The Israelis need to believe that Obama will stand by them in the face of determined enemies like Iran, in the same resolute way he did with bin Laden.

So far, Obama has had difficulty in persuading the people on both sides to trust him. He is perceived as a weak politician who is hesitant and distant and has mainly made wrong decisions. The assassination near Islamabad has given him a new opportunity to reboot his Middle East policy. It would be a pity to miss it because of political fantasies that can never come true, or theoretical models created by diplomats and lawyers that have repeatedly failed in the past.

Freedom is the message. If he focuses closely on it, he will look like a leader and may even succeed where his predecessors failed, by trapping public enemy number 1, who slipped out of their hands.








The large number of candidates for the leadership of the Labor Party is beginning to be embarrassing. After Erel Margalit announced his intention of running, Shlomo Buchbut and Amram Mitzna are apparently also planning to announce their candidacy. In that case the upcoming primaries will become the most crowded in the history of the party. The candidates are like a flock of birds gathered on a shaky branch of a nearly-uprooted tree. One more enthusiastic bird, and the entire tree will collapse. And the worse the condition of the battered party, the more each one of them promises, dramatically and faithfully, that he, and only he, will save it.

There is no question that the multiplicity of candidates is an indication of the party's increasing disintegration. Not only on the personal plane, which is problematic in itself (how is it possible that in such a shrunken political party, so many people aren't on speaking terms, and almost every candidate fervently despises three others? ), but even more strongly on the ideological plane. The differences between the candidates do not justify a split - certainly not to that degree.

Are there any genuine ideological disagreements among the candidates? After all, in terms of politics, Amir Peretz, Amram Mitzna, Isaac Herzog and Erel Margalit are all on the same square; in the socioeconomic sphere Peretz, Shelly Yachimovich, Margalit, Mitzna and even Herzog have similar views. If Buchbut joins the chorus, he will certainly sing the very same tune, maybe adding some small stylistic changes.

So where is the real split? On the same point that has weakened the Labor movement for generations, and in recent years has become a real plague: vagueness. Labor has always included pure white doves alongside hawks, declared socialists alongside people on the economic right, and even outright neo-liberals (such as Yossi Beilin, who invented the baseless concept "socio-liberalism" ) and others, who enjoyed rubbing shoulders with "the leaders of the economy," meaning people with private capital. They always made sure to create a deliberate vagueness regarding their views in areas where they feared losing popularity, and to separate the "political" from the "socio-economic," as though the two are not the inseparable components of the leftist worldview all over the world.

This separation enabled all of them to avoid commitment, and in effect to evade describing themselves as left. In that spirit Herzog is now trying to emphasize his humane liberalism, and to convince everyone that he did not privatize welfare and did not serve as the patron of the charitable associations, but simply "transferred powers to the third sector."

Yachimovich, for her part, prefers not to adopt a political position, explaining that in any case nothing is happening now, and that the left lost the support of the public because it spoke only about peace. This consistent stance, as controversial as it may be, is explained with much greater clarity than is her strong alliance with Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar of the Likud.

Such vagueness has weakened the party over the years, but at present, when Israeli democracy is in danger and the need for an unequivocal political statement is crucial it is destructive and unethical. Given the combinations of center-right and center-center, Peretz is the only one who represents a coherent and complete left-wing viewpoint. But the proliferation of hazy positions also threatens to engulf his viewpoint in a fog. Another factor working against him is the veteran population of Labor voters, which tends, at least according to the surveys, to support Herzog or Mitzna for reasons that can be tactfully described as "socio-cultural."

The upcoming contest will succeed in fomenting change only if it rids itself of these obstacles of the past. If Labor reverts to being what it was, it will become a pale shadow of Kadima and will become extinct. But if enough people who want to take part in rehabilitating the left register for the party, and support candidates who speak clearly in favor of a just economy and a policy of peace, and against racism, it will have a chance to survive. And if these candidates are able to work together rather than tripping each other up, it may also have an influence.







The slogan that brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power was "making a secure peace." That is no accident. "Peace" has maintained the right-wing government to a much greater extent than the right-wing government has maintained peace.

The reason for this is simple. When "peace" is at issue, the domestic debate is diverted to the image of the "other," the one with whom peace should or should not be made. From there, the road is short in Israel to governmental scorn for the weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and for assertions, like those of Netanyahu, that Hamas is a continuation of the Nazis.

But the cyclical Israeli calendar, which moves from "Holocaust" to "Independence," reminds us of what ought to have been self-evident. There is one question that must precede the question of "peace" - a question that constitutes the essence of independence and formed the basis of the Zionist revolution: What does Israel want?

Not for nothing is that question ignored by the government. For when you ask what Israel wants, the requisite answer is clear: a state based on the borders in which it achieved independence, known today as the 1967 borders; a democratic state in which all are equal, as described in the Declaration of Independence.

This answer is dangerous to the right, because most Israelis still support it and it is also accepted internationally. Moreover, it has potency in any situation, even when all eyes are made to look outward, on relations between Fatah and Hamas. If Defense Minister Ehud Barak is right that Hamas capitulated to Fatah, the way is open for a successful implementation of a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines. And if the opposite is true, an Israel that has chosen a democratic state in the 1967 borders has a wealth of available options that would enable it to look out for itself with widespread international support.

But the question of what Israel wants has a second possible answer: Israel wants a racist messianic state, one in which Jews are citizens and non-Jews are subjects. This second answer is not fantastic. In essence, this has been the Israeli reality for 44 years already. In the territories, and also in Jerusalem, Jews are citizens and non-Jews aren't. Just this week, the science minister (! ) presented an award to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu at a ceremony in which the latter advocated cleansing Safed of Arabs.

Barak, an adherent of the method of verbal misdirection used to enable special-forces operations, dragged "the Third Way" out of storage to be the platform of his Atzmaut party. But Barak knows better than anyone that there is no third way. In special operations, in business and in policy alike, the decision is simple and clear: yes or no. Either Israel wants a state based on the promises of its Declaration of Independence, or it doesn't.

To flee this simple truth, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (Likud ) invented what his staffers termed the "teaspoon" policy at the 1991 Madrid Conference: endless negotiating sessions at which mountains of sugar would be stirred into oceans of tea and coffee, but no agreement would ever be reached. Netanyahu has perfected this method, which enables him to keep stirring sugar into the negotiators' cups forever instead of answering the question of what Israel wants.

But the time for teaspoons has ended. September 2011 is imminent. U.S. President Barack Obama, who came to power on the wings of domestic opposition to racism, has now just scored a victory over racism and messianism abroad. Regardless of whether or not he is personally a fan of Zionism, America's interests and international developments have granted him the ability to help distance Israel from racism and restore its independence.

To do this, it is necessary to end the witch's brew of peace, teaspoons and ambiguity, and bring Netanyahu face to face, both at home and abroad, with this simple, clear-cut question: Do you want a democratic state based on the 1967 borders, or not? There is no other question. But the requisite answer is not a facile breath of air. It requires dismantling the settlements outside Israel's borders, bursting the racist-messianic bubble that is taking over Israel's educational and legal systems, and putting rabbis like Eliyahu on trial instead of granting them awards.

Now is the time to answer that one question, the one that founded Israel 63 years ago: What does Israel want?



******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are having a campaign fund-raiser this week.


Starting on Wednesday, the committee's majority is expected to pass bills to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of the most important innovations in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.


The bureau has one purpose: to shield consumers from unfair, misleading and deceptive lending. The purpose of the Republican bills is twofold. One is to deprive the agency of the power to fulfill its mission. Another is to attract campaign money. As long as the Senate and White House are controlled by Democrats, the bills are unlikely to become law. But by advancing them in the House, Republicans can demonstrate how thoroughly they would dismantle reform if they controlled Washington and, in the process, rake in Wall Street donations.


What do the banks want in exchange? For starters, they want even stricter constraints on the agency than those that were written into the law last year — and that were expressly included to address banks' objections to the agency.


Under the law, a two-thirds majority of a panel of other financial regulators can veto rules by the consumer bureau — a constraint faced by no other government agency. One of the Republican bills would allow a simple majority of other regulators to veto bureau rules.


Worse, the bill would lower the standard for exercising a veto. Under current law, a veto is allowed if other regulators deem consumer bureau rules a threat to systemwide stability — a high hurdle. Under the bill, a veto would require only that other regulators find the bureau rules "inconsistent" with safety and soundness. In other words, if a rule might cause banks to be less profitable, say, by curbing tricky and excessive fees, it could be vetoed by bank-friendly regulators.


Another of the Republican bills would rewrite the Dodd-Frank law so that the bureau would be managed by a five-member, bipartisan board, rather than one director — a recipe for delay and division. Yet another would block the agency from wielding its full powers until a director is confirmed by the Senate. That's a way to hold up the agency indefinitely.


President Obama and other White House officials have been aloof in the face of Republican rhetoric and bills that call for the demise of the consumer agency. The strategy seems to be to downplay the effort by ignoring it. That doesn't generally work.


In the battle to pass a budget earlier this year, the White House agreed to Republican demands for government and private-sector audits of the consumer bureau. It also agreed to a government study of financial regulation that is clearly intended to emphasize the cost — not the benefits — of regulation. Such audits and studies might seem to be mere annoyances, but as part of a larger effort to derail the consumer agency, they are dangerous steps.


Unless the administration offers a quick, full-throated defense, the agency may never fulfill its promise. And the process by which Congress is bought and sold — and consumers and taxpayers are hung out to dry — will be, once again, on full display.








President Obama's display of leadership in directing the killing of Osama bin Laden raises the prospect that American politics can move away from mindless debates over the president's loyalties and fortitude. Perhaps the 2012 campaign might even shift to real issues, like the economy and the major parties' competing visions of government's role.


The baseless critique of Mr. Obama as a frightened lamb among the world's wolves was started in the 2008 campaign when Senators John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton derided his ability to manage world affairs. "It's got to do with experience, knowledge and judgment," Mr. McCain said, "none of which Senator Obama has."



The myth that he was a naïve hand-wringer persisted, despite his decisions to reduce troops in Iraq, strengthen them in Afghanistan and join a coalition to halt the Qaddafi regime's bloodshed in Libya. His administration took too long to find its footing on Egypt's transition and in Libya, but it was not because, as the popular conservative blog RedState said, he is a "trainee president."


The blog accused Mr. Obama of basing his foreign policy on an "effete, pampered background" and a delight in consensus, and Republican presidential candidates quickly got the idea. Tim Pawlenty said in March that Mr. Obama was more worried about his international popularity than keeping the nation secure. And just a few weeks ago, Mitt Romney accused him of being timid, tentative, and apologetic, all qualities stemming from "his fundamental disbelief in American exceptionalism."


One of the subtexts to this argument is that Mr. Obama is not a true American, a thread soaked in the politics of fear and racial intolerance that runs through so much of the anti-Obama right. Donald Trump's nativist claim that the president is not a citizen had its foreign-policy equivalent last year in Newt Gingrich's repellent remark that Mr. Obama exhibits "Kenyan, anticolonial behavior."


But just as releasing a birth certificate marginalized one falsehood, Mr. Obama's risky and audacious decision to attack the Bin Laden compound in Pakistan has demolished the notion that he cannot make tough decisions or cares primarily about the nation's image abroad.


One clear sign of Republican unease is that some, like Rick Santorum, are trying to claim that Bin Laden's killing was an isolated event that proves nothing. That argument sounds hollow and desperate, and most Republicans are giving the president the credit he deserves.


There is still plenty of room for them to make politically coded attacks on Mr. Obama's domestic policies that have nothing to do with real substance — saying he is a socialist who is trying to redistribute wealth, for example. But if — oh, if — they now make the 2012 race about issues that really matter, such as rebuilding the economy and the future of the government safety net, the nation will get the campaign it needs.







Given ample chance during a 13-day trial to offer an argument apart from prejudice, proponents of Proposition 8, the prohibition against same-sex marriage in California, found no evidence. Now they are trying to disqualify Vaughn Walker, the now-retired Federal District Court judge who ruled that the measure was unconstitutional.


After the trial, Judge Walker said he is gay and involved in a long-term relationship. Last week, Proposition 8's lawyers argued that the ruling should be tossed out because he had had a duty to recuse himself, or at least disclose the relationship at the start of the case.


The claim is bogus. It is well established that personal characteristics, like race, sex, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, do not by themselves invoke the rule that judges must step aside if their "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."


Our justice system relies on trusting members of the nation's diverse bench to put aside their personal characteristics and abide by their duty of even-handedness. Any other approach would invite foolish and unacceptable results — female judges being kept from hearing rape or sexual discrimination cases, or black judges from hearing cases involving racial bias or civil rights.


Indeed, following the open-ended logic of Proposition 8's lawyers, it is hard to think who, if anyone, is qualified to rule on this case. Certainly not wedded heterosexual judges whose marriages stand to be somehow diminished, according to the antimarriage crowd, if Judge Walker's ruling survives appeal in federal circuit court.


Some ethics experts say the ruling might have triggered credible conflict-of-interest concerns if Judge Walker were intending to marry in California. But that is misguided, too. There is no basis to think Judge Walker's personal relationship played a role in his ruling on the evidence and on whether a constitutional reason exists to limit anyone's freedom to marry.


The idea that a seasoned, Republican-appointed jurist was unfit to hear the case, and that his decision should be set aside on flimsy ethics grounds, is preposterous.








How long is a year? Ask most people, and they'd say 365 days and not nearly long enough. The year, of course, is the time it takes the Earth to orbit around the Sun, a rate that is slowing fractionally each century. For many reasons, scientists need a more precise definition of the year than its length in days, yet the only unit of time defined in the International System of Units is the second, which is measured in oscillations of cesium atoms.


Recently, a task force of geologists and chemists proposed a new unit of measure called the annus — the Latin word for year — which would use the length of time between one equinox or solstice and the same equinox or solstice a year later. Because the Earth's orbit varies in temporal length, the annus is keyed to the year 2000, which was 31,556,925.445 seconds long.


Astronomers prefer to use the Julian year — which is 31,557,600 seconds long — and they, like some scientific journals, are not likely to adopt the annus. Many working geologists are objecting to the proposed abbreviation for annus, which is "a." To the task force, the symbol Ma means mega-annus, or million years. But to geologists, Ma means "million years ago," and 90 Ma, for instance, means a specific point in the Cretaceous period.


However this is resolved, we are left meditating on a remark made by a pair of geologists who note that a geological date like 90 Ma, or 90 million years ago, implies "before present." Unfortunately, these geologists write, the present "is not well defined." We know the feeling. We also know that whatever you call it, the year gets shorter and shorter the older you get.










No wonder the president's top generals call him "a Cool Hand Luke."


After giving the order for members of a Navy Seals team to execute a fantastically daring plan to, let's be honest, execute Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama put on a tuxedo and gave a comedy speech Saturday night in a Washington ballroom of tippling journalists and Hollywood stars.


If we could have seen everything unfolding in real time, it would have had the same dramatic effect as the intercutting in the president's favorite movie, "The Godfather," when Michael Corleone calmly acts as godfather at his nephew's baptism at church, even as his lieutenants carry out the gory hits he has ordered on rival mobsters.


Just substitute "Leave the copter, take the corpse" for "Leave the gun, take the cannoli."



The president's studied cool and unreadable mien have sometimes distanced him from the public at moments of boiling crisis. But in the long-delayed showdown with Public Enemy No. 1, these qualities served him perfectly.


The timing was good, blunting the infelicitous  remarks made recently to The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza by an Obama adviser, who described the president as the un-John Wayne ushering a reviled and chastened America away from the head of the global table. The unnamed adviser described the Obama doctrine on display in Libya as "leading from behind," which sounds rather pathetic.


But now the president has shown he can lead straight-on and that, unlike Jimmy Carter, he knows how to order up that all-important backup helicopter. He has said that those who call him a wimp are mistaken, that there is often muscular purpose beneath his diffident surface.


Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin, who was so tacky that she didn't mention Obama's name in her congratulations, tried to draw credit to the Bush administration.


But there can be no doubt that justice for the families of the 9/11 victims was agonizingly delayed because the Bush team took a megalomaniacal detour to Baghdad.


A pigheaded Donald Rumsfeld, overly obsessed with a light footprint, didn't have the forces needed at Tora Bora to capture Osama after the invasion of Afghanistan. To justify the switch to Saddam and the redeployment of troops to Iraq, W. and his circle stopped mentioning Osama's name and downplayed his importance. When the White House ceases to concentrate on something, so does the C.I.A. 


The hunt got so cold by 2005 that the Bin Laden unit at the C.I.A. was disbanded and overhauled. Four years after the monster felled the twin towers, the Bush team finally put more officers on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


In his East Room address Sunday night, President Obama made it clear that he had shooed away the distracting Oedipal ghosts.


"Shortly after taking office," he said, "I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., to make the killing or capture of  Bin Laden the top priority of our war against Al Qaeda."


Many famous invaders throughout history, from Genghis Khan to Tamerlane to Babur, have marched along the same route the Navy Seals took on their moonless flight, going from Kabul to Jalalabad to Peshawar.


The mesmerizing narrative stitched together by The Times's Mark Mazzetti, Helene Cooper and Peter Baker begins with C.I.A. agents getting the license plate of Bin Laden's most trusted courier in Peshawar. Peshawar is the ultimate mystery town, famous for secrets and falsehoods. It's known for its bazaars, especially the Story Tellers Bazaar.


And that is exactly where President Obama now finds himself. He will now have to sort through the bazaar of Pakistan's deceptive stories and deal with lawmakers angry about giving $20 billion since 9/11 to a country where Osama was comfortably ensconced. For years, top Pakistanis have said that Osama was dead or in Afghanistan.


Even Condi Rice proclaimed she was shocked to find "Geronimo" settled in Abbottabad for six years, living in plain sight in a million-dollar house in an affluent suburb near a military base and the Pakistani version of West Point. As one of Osama's neighbors put it: "It's the closest you can be to Britain."


 At a House homeland security subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Representative Patrick Meehan asked the question about Pakistan that is ricocheting through Washington: "Does it reflect to some extent some kind of divided loyalty or complicity in some part, or incompetence or both?"


Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation, who used to advise the U.S. military in Afghanistan on Al Qaeda, replied with equal bluntness: "Whether there was complicity, or incompetence, at the very least there has not been a high priority in targeting the senior Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Based on the threat streams coming from this area, those interests have to change."









There is only one good thing about the fact that Osama bin Laden survived for nearly 10 years after the mass murder at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that he organized. And that is that he lived long enough to see so many young Arabs repudiate his ideology. He lived long enough to see Arabs from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to Syria rise up peacefully to gain the dignity, justice and self-rule that Bin Laden claimed could be obtained only by murderous violence and a return to puritanical Islam.


We did our part. We killed Bin Laden with a bullet. Now the Arab and Muslim people have a chance to do their part — kill Bin Ladenism with a ballot — that is, with real elections, with real constitutions, real political parties and real progressive politics.


Yes, the bad guys have been dealt a blow across the Arab world in the last few months — not only Al Qaeda, but the whole rogues' gallery of dictators, whose soft bigotry of low expectations for their people had kept the Arab world behind. The question now, though, is: Can the forces of decency get organized, elected and start building a different Arab future? That is the most important question. Everything else is noise.


To understand that challenge, we need to recall, again, where Bin Ladenism came from. It emerged from a devil's bargain between oil-consuming countries and Arab dictators. We all — Europe, America, India, China — treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations, and all of us sent the same basic message to the petro-dictators: Keep the oil flowing, the prices low and don't bother Israel too much and you can treat your people however you like, out back, where we won't look. Bin Laden and his followers were a product of all the pathologies that were allowed to grow in the dark out back — crippling deficits of freedom, women's empowerment and education across the Arab world.


These deficits nurtured a profound sense of humiliation among Arabs at how far behind they had fallen, a profound hunger to control their own futures and a pervasive sense of injustice in their daily lives. That is what is most striking about the Arab uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in particular. They were almost apolitical. They were not about any ideology. They were propelled by the most basic human longings for dignity, justice and to control one's own life. Remember, one of the first things Egyptians did was attack their own police stations — the instruments of regime injustice. And since millions of Arabs share these longings for dignity, justice and freedom, these revolutions are not going to go away.


For decades, though, the Arab leaders were very adept at taking all that anger brewing out back and redirecting it onto the United States and Israel. Yes, Israel's own behavior at times fed the Arab sense of humiliation and powerlessness, but it was not the primary cause. No matter. While the Chinese autocrats said to their people, "We'll take away your freedom and, in return, we'll give you a steadily rising education and standard of living," the Arab autocrats said, "We'll take away your freedom and give you the Arab-Israel conflict."


This was the toxic "out back" from which Bin Laden emerged. A twisted psychopath and false messiah, he preached that only through violence — only by destroying these Arab regimes and their American backers — could the Arab people end their humiliation, restore justice and build some mythical uncorrupted caliphate.


Very few Arabs actively supported Bin Laden, but he initially drew significant passive support for his fist in the face of America, the Arab regimes and Israel. But as Al Qaeda was put on the run, and spent most of its energies killing other Muslims who didn't toe its line, even its passive support melted away (except for the demented leadership of Hamas).


]In that void, with no hope of anyone else riding to their rescue, it seems — in the totally unpredictable way these things happen — that the Arab publics in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere shucked off their fears and decided that they themselves would change what was going on out back by taking over what was going on out front.


And, most impressively, they decided to do it under the banner of one word that you hear most often today among Syrian rebels: "Silmiyyah." It means peaceful. "We will do this peacefully." It is just the opposite of Bin Ladenism. It is Arabs saying in their own way: We don't want to be martyrs for Bin Laden or pawns for Mubarak, Assad, Gaddafi, Ben Ali and all the rest. We want to be "citizens." Not all do, of course. Some prefer more religious identities and sectarian ones. This is where the struggle will be.


We cannot predict the outcome. All we can hope for is that this time there really will be a struggle of ideas — that in a region where extremists go all the way and moderates tend to just go away, this time will be different. The moderates will be as passionate and committed as the extremists. If that happens, both Bin Laden and Bin Ladenism will be resting at the bottom of the ocean.








"AFTER someone has been murdered, their family members often feel peace when the murderer has been executed," a friend called to tell me on Monday. "Do you feel peace?" Another friend asked, "Are you going to dance in the streets now and celebrate?" 


On Sept. 11, 2001, my sister Karen died while working at the World Trade Center.   


In the weeks that followed, my family and I held a memorial service for her, and emptied and sold her apartment. Then, my body gave out. For weeks, I couldn't get out of bed. I lost all interest in watching TV, listening to music or reading. 


I thought I had the flu, but friends told me my symptoms were all due to grief. I had trained as a psychiatrist, but grief and the sense of dread I experienced were far more physical than I would have ever expected. Over the months that followed, I began to feel better. My friends asked periodically if I'd had closure. But I did not fully. I still felt haunted. My remaining family spent more time together, feeling closer than we had since my sisters and I were children. Every year since, we have gone on long family vacations, and come to appreciate one another more.  We have managed to move on with our lives — though Karen will always remain with us in some way. Then, out of the blue, we learned that Osama bin Laden had died. We were surprised at the large numbers of phone calls and e-mails we received, asking how we felt. We phoned one another. How did we feel?


Decidedly mixed. "It's anti-climactic," one of my two surviving sisters said.


Yes, the body of the man who, more than anyone else, had caused my sister's death 10 years ago was now at the bottom of the sea. I was glad for that, and that Americans were the ones who had found him and ended his life, and that years of planning had finally succeeded. But the news of his death still feels surreal. I realize now how much our loss is both personal and political. I suppose people who ask us about our reactions are often uncertain how to react themselves — how much to celebrate or still fear. But we do not want to be simply emblems of grieving family members. 


Still, I understand that in the chaos of any act of destruction, people need something tangible to hold onto, an embodiment, a story. They need to know who is responsible, and they want to know the responses of those most affected: Have the deaths of 9/11 now been sufficiently avenged? Is it over?


Bin Laden's death was cathartic — his terrorist attacks traumatized all of us — but in large part it is only a symbolic victory. Al Qaeda may even have more cells and members than it did 10 years ago, though no one knows. Certainly, Islamic extremists are vowing to avenge his death. "An eye for an eye" perpetuates a never-ending cycle of destruction. Dangers continue.   


My family has struggled to adapt and move forward, and so, too, has everyone else. In the past decade, the world has, of course, drastically changed. As a result of the deaths of my sister and the thousands of others at the trade center and Pentagon, George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan, and then under false pretenses invaded Iraq. Thousands of American and foreign soldiers and untold thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded. Politicians have exploited the deaths on 9/11 for their own ends.


When the members of Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11, Americans wondered, "Why do they hate us so much?" Many here believe they dislike us for our "freedom," but I think otherwise. 


There are lessons we have not yet learned. I feel Karen would share my concerns that underlying forces of greed and hate persevere. American imperialism, corporate avarice, abuses of our power abroad and our historical support of corrupt dictators like Hosni Mubarak have created an abhorrence of us that, unfortunately, persists. We need to recognize how the rest of the world sees us, and figure out how to change that. Until we do that, more Osama bin Ladens will arise, and more innocent people like my sister will die.  


  I hope that the death of Bin Laden will bring closure and peace. I am relieved that this chapter is over, somewhat, for me. But I fear the war will not end.


Robert Klitzman is a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia and the author of "When Doctors Become Patients."









In an ocean of commentaries, analyses and even feature stories surrounding the killing by American forces of Osama bin Laden, there is probably not much to say. And I am not going to say much… other than congratulating both sides of the war: this, really, is a win-win situation, which should make everyone in the world happy.

Peaceful souls should be happy because an enemy of peace has died. And Islamist terrorists, whom Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims do not exist, and their Islamist sympathizers should also be happy because their hero became what he always wanted to become; a martyr. For a more peaceful world, may the best wishes of all Islamist terrorists come true; martyrdom.

But let's mind our own business here in the realm of Crescent and Star:

"The author identified the book with an undisciplined, anti-social, sex-addict character who does not respect any system of values. The novel lacks unity in its subject matter. It is incompliant with narrative unity. The book uses slang and colloquial terms and the application of a fragmented narrative style. The novel contains unrealistic interpretations that were neither personal nor objective by giving examples from the lifestyles of historical and mythological figures. It does not constitute a literary piece of work in its current condition. Nor does it add anything new to the reader's reservoir of knowledge. From a criminological viewpoint, the book develops attitudes that were permissive to crime by concentrating on the banal, vulgar and weak attributes of humanity."

This great literary review was written by the Prime Ministry's Council for Protecting Minors from Explicit Publications. The book "reviewed" is William Burroughs' "The Soft Machine," first published half a century ago. Acting on this "expert report," an Istanbul prosecutor launched a probe into "The Soft Machine" and its Turkish publishers.

As I entered a cafe at the weekend and ran into a western diplomat friend, I noticed a copy of "The Soft Machine" on the table. "At this moment you are committing a crime and risk being declared persona non grata in this country," I said as I greeted her. Not having heard of the investigation into the book she was reading, she looked puzzled.

After my little briefing, she screamed a big "Nooooo!" and then, as if confirming the cliche image about the naivety of her countrymen, she rushed to hide the book in her bag. She hesitated for a moment, smiled back and, with the confidence of a discovery, accused me of making a bad joke. I tended to believe that really was a naive nation.

Having noticed she already had finished two-thirds of the book, I wisely rejected her offer to join her for wine, suspecting she may already have developed criminal habits. And, besides, what was the point of drinking an immoral beverage with someone who has no respect for our moral values?

As I wished her good day she kept on murmuring "But this is shocking." There really was something shocking, but it was not the news about "The Soft Machine." From my viewpoint, the fact western diplomats could still be "shocked" at book probing or banning in Turkey was shocking. This is the Turkish Hard Machine.

Anyone who is "shocked" about the probe into The Soft Machine should refresh their memories and try to recall what happened half a year ago. In November, conservative Turkish writers, uninvited Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul from a gathering of the European Writers Parliament in Istanbul because they believed his work had "insulted Islam."

I am pretty certain the publishers of Mr. Burroughs' book will not be put in jail. The Turkish Hard Machine is seldom that much hard. All the same, even if the charges are to be dropped, it simply does not change the fact about the inevitable clash between Turkey's westernism (the publication of The Soft Machine) and its conservative easternism (the prime ministry's expert report).

But please, no more shocks… It's the Turkish Hard Machine.






The death of bin Laden was comforting news for the billions around the world who saw him as the mastermind of terror. Especially the Americans, some of whom lost their loved ones to the indiscriminate killing of al-Qaeda, were understandably cheerful. But not everybody shared the same feelings and thoughts. News from Pakistan and Afghanistan in fact indicate quite a few people in those countries mourn for the man, which they regarded as a hero who bravely stood up against "the imperialists."

This amazing gap in perception reminded me of the arrest of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the separatist terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. In 1999 Öcalan was arrested in Kenya, where he was on the run and the overwhelming majority of the Turkish society, who saw him as evil incarnate, was delighted. This was the man, after all, who ordered the killing of their sons. But a particular segment of Turkey, the Kurds who sympathize with the PKK, probably some 5 percent of our population, felt quite different. They saw the PKK leader as a hero who bravely stood up against "the Turkish imperialists." A few of Öcalan's fans even burnt themselves alive to protest his capturing.

Enter 'understanding'

For the majority of the Turks, it is still impossible to understand how anybody could feel positive about Öcalan. So, some of these Turks decided not only the man but also his followers are evil incarnate. But others try to understand why the PKK has such popular support. The organization certainly has a fanatic, extremist ideology. But it also has a political context: many Kurds have felt suppressed and humiliated by the policies of the Turkish State, and is the reason why they sympathize with the insurgency against it.

Now, please note such an effort to "understand" terrorism doesn't mean justifying it. There are certainly some who make that mistake, but it is also possible to both understand and condemn terrorism at the same time.

My take on both the PKK and al-Qaeda, and other organizations, and states, which intentionally shed innocent blood, is based on that latter approach: I univocally condemn their crimes, but also try to figure out what makes them commit them.

As for al-Qaeda, a superficial rhetoric has developed in the West, and especially the United States, which only focuses on the ideology of the organization. In fact, the term "ideology" often becomes a euphemism, and some more blunt voices directly put the whole blame on al-Qaeda's particular interpretation of Islam, if not directly on Islam itself. In this narrative, there are simply mad or evil people in the Muslim word who hate America "for its freedoms." The only reason these extremists kill, the narrative goes, is due to a doctrine of jihad in Islam.

But al-Qaeda's reality is much less theological. It is true they identity themselves as jihadist, but their main driving force is not what is written in a medieval Muslim text, but the political realities of the current age. As Thomas Hegghammer, a specialist in the study of violent Islamism, rightly noted a few years ago:

"Osama bin Laden's central theme is the suffering and humiliation of the Muslim nation, or "umma," at the hands of non-Muslims. He conveys a pan-Islamic nationalist worldview according to which, the umma is facing an existential threat from outside forces led by the U.S.. Bin Laden's principal rhetorical device is the enumeration of symbols of suffering, examples of situations where Muslims have been humiliated or oppressed by non-Muslims, such as in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir. The only way to defend against this onslaught, he argues, is to confront America militarily."

Islam under attack

In other words, al-Qaeda is a political reaction rather than a religious movement. No wonder people don't have to be too religious to sympathize with the organization. "Even young Arab girls in tight jeans," reminds American scholar Henry Munson, "praise bin Laden as an anti-imperialist hero." And even Carlos the Jackal, the longtime atheist, expressed his support for al-Qaeda, and its war against "the world system," in his prison cell in France.

This means the best way to render al-Qaeda ineffective would be to reduce the political tensions between "the world system" and the world of Islam. In other words, it would be only a disaster if America decides to broaden its "war on terror," by bombing or occupying Muslim lands, or by unrestrainedly supporting countries that do so, such as Israel. That will only heighten the feeling, "the umma is under attack," and thus create new recruits for jihad. If you want to prevent the rise of such militants, then you should make their base safe and respected, not threatened and humiliated.

In Turkey, it took us almost three decades to get that lesson. It was not rocket science, actually, but as Hegghammer notes, "societies touched by terrorism are always the least well placed to understand their enemies." Recently, America has been not-so-well-placed to understand its jihadist enemies as well. I hope it will become a bit more nuanced after the death of Osama bin Laden.







Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Osama bin Laden, the author of the 9/11 atrocity in the United States and various lesser terrorist outrages elsewhere, has been killed by American troops in his hide-out in northern Pakistan. At last, the world can breathe more easily. But not many people were holding their breaths anyway.

President Barack Obama issued the usual warning when he announced bin Laden had been killed by American troops in a compound in the city of Abbottabad: "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 is no doubt that al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us." But that wasn't quite right either.

No doubt attacks will continue to be made in the Arab world in the name of al-Qaeda, but the original organization created by bin Laden has been moribund for years. Outside the Arab world, there have been no major terrorist assaults for about five years now, and bin Laden's death is unlikely to change that. The whole enterprise was never what it seemed.

Bin Laden was a revolutionary before he was a terrorist. His goal was to overthrow existing Arab governments and replace them with regimes that imposed an extreme form of the Salafist (Islamist) doctrine on the people instead.

Once all the Muslims accepted that doctrine, bin Laden believed, they would benefit from God's active support and triumph over the outside forces holding them back. Poverty would be vanquished, the humiliations would end, and the infidels, "the Zionist-Crusader alliance," would be defeated. It was essentially a form of magical thinking, but his strategic thinking was severely rational.

Successful revolutions bringing Salafist regimes to power were the key to success, but for the revolutions to succeed they must win mass support among Arab and other Muslim populations. Unfortunately, only a very small proportion of Muslims accepted Salafist ideas, so some way must be found to win them over. That's where the terrorism came in.

 Terrorism is a classic technique for revolutionaries trying to build popular support. The objective is to trick the enemy government, local or foreign, into behaving so badly that it alienates the population and drives people into the arms of the revolutionaries. Then, with mass popular support, the revolutionaries overthrow the government and take power.

This kind of terrorism has been used so often, and the strategy behind it is so transparently obvious, that no 21st-century government should ever fall for it. But if the terrorist attacks kill enough people, it is very hard for the government being attacked not to over-react, even if that plays into the terrorists' hands. The pressure at home for the government to "do something" is almost irresistible.

 The Bush administration duly over-reacted to 9/11 and invaded two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, on a futile quest to "stamp out terrorism," which was, of course, exactly what bin Laden and his colleagues wanted the U.S. to do.

 However, almost 10 years after 9/11, it is clear that bin Laden's strategy failed even though the U.S. fell into the trap he had set for it. Muslims everywhere were appalled by the suffering inflicted on Afghans and Iraqis, and many condemned the U.S. for its actions, but they didn't turn to the Salafists instead.

 When popular revolutions finally did begin to happen in the Arab world five months ago, they were non-violent affairs seeking the same democracy that secular countries in the West and elsewhere already enjoy. The Salafists have become virtually irrelevant.

This is not to say that there will never be another terrorist attack on the U.S.. Bin Laden had not been in operational control of al-Qaeda for many years, because regular communication with the outside world would have allowed U.S. forces to track him down long ago. The compound in Abbottabad had neither telephone nor internet connections. The real planners and actors are still out there somewhere.

 The question is; what can the Salafists possibly do now that would put their project back on track? And the answer, the only answer, is to goad the United States into further violence against Muslims, in retaliation for some new terrorist atrocity against Americans.

 There have been no major attempts by al-Qaeda to attack the U.S. in the past 10 years because it was already doing what the terrorists wanted. Why risk discrediting President George W. Bush by carrying out another successful terrorist attack, even if they had the resources to do so?

 But the probability of a serious Salafist attempt to hit the U.S. again has been rising ever since American troops began to pull out of Iraq, and President Obama's obvious desire to get out of Afghanistan raises it even further. Bin Laden's strategy has not delivered the goods for the Salafists, but they have no alternative strategy.

Bin Laden's death would provide a useful justification for another attempt to hit the U.S., but it wouldn't really be the reason for it, and it probably wouldn't succeed, either. Bin Laden's hopes died long before he did.







Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his speech yesterday made a basic change in Libyan politics. Until now he tried being as indifferent as he could.

On one side he sends a message to Moammar Gadhafi saying, "don't fire at your folks," on the other side he does not support the opposition. He tries to get by with both sides.

The result is obvious.

He couldn't make up to both sides.

Gadhafi started to view Turkey as an enemy and the opposition calls Turkey a "traitor." Ankara got stuck in between so much so it was forced to clear the embassy in order to protect the lives of its diplomats.

The prime minister with his speech yesterday chose his side. He turned his back on Gadhafi and winked at the opposition. He is only one step away from officially acknowledging the opposing front. And this will be done soon.

I also feel like the speech will bring about the possibility of a military movement by the NATO.

Turkey's change in politics with respect to the above is extremely vital. It may be perceived as a signal from the West showing the willingness of entirely sacrificing Gadhafi.

Cry out for the EU

Those who support Turkey's most important target to join the European Union as a Muslim country should slowly get ready to revolt, rebel and cry out.

The reason is very simple.

The situation today serves to the purposes of both sovereign powers in Turkey and some of the countries in Europe.

Where do we stand today?

We pretend conducting negotiations without the essence of negotiations.

Then we blame each other.

Ankara blames the EU, saying promises are not kept. Brussels says Turkey has not made necessary reforms, slowing down the process. To tell the truth, both sides are right and wrong.

They continue playing this game.

This serves to the purpose of Ankara because the European target is not as attractive as before and the international conjuncture fills Turkey's pockets. Beside, Erdoğan's heart, contrary to President Abdullah Gül's heart, does not beat for the EU.  

It also serves the purposes of Brussels because aftershocks of the financial crisis continue and no one wants to expand with a new member joining the union, especially not a giant country like Turkey.

This is the kind of congestion we are experiencing right now.

Maybe these days no one is bothered by this congestion. But after a while it will become chronic and standard. But there is an intersection ahead of us.

The EU will announce its 7-year-budget in 2014. If this budget does not include Turkey it means Turkey won't be able to become a member until 2021.

We have a very concrete date here.

That is why it is time to cry out loud and revolt to make our voices heard.

Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, president for Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges, or TOBB started this revolt last week.

Together with the Economic Development Foundation and Turkey Europe Foundation they cried out. They gathered about 100 nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, and signaled a revolt.

They called out to Ankara saying, "We are at a point of congestion. The EU is about to fall off the agenda. But we can't back off this target. The reform process needs to revive and a new strategy found."

I liked their slogan, "Think about future generations not future elections."

The same warning was made to Europe.

"Europe needs to keep its promises and change its attitude. European leaders need to calculate their loss resulting from an exclusion of Turkey," they said.

If the revolt is limited to the NGOs initiative it won't do any good. 

If the government in the upcoming general elections reaches the desired vote percentage and receives the majority of votes easily then it will be difficult to move them from their place.

Europe's problems don't seem to go away that easily.

That is why after elections a real campaign is needed.

Not only NGOs but also foremost the private sector and media, institutions and organizations need to rebel and knock on Ankara's doors.







Osama bin Laden was murdered. With his murder the world has become a much safer, freer and merciful place. The fundamental problem between the West and the East, or between the Muslim World and the Christian World, that is the crusade mentality and the accompanying strong distrust, absence of confidence, seeing "the other" in each other has come to an end. The Israeli satellite state will no longer be able to master its master the United States, and Washington will start pursuing a policy vis a vis the Palestinian issue more in tune with the bitter reality on the land. The European societies, who for so long tried to soothe, at the expense of Palestinian Muslim Arabs, their bleeding conscience for what they did to the Jews all through the history but most recently in the World War II, will wake up from their more than 50 years of hibernation and see the bitter reality of what they have done in the Middle East since the 1940s.

Washington, realizing once again the tragic consequences of opportunistic and short-sighted strategic designs, and perhaps in full awareness of the medium-term and long-term impacts on both the U.S. and its "strategic partners," will perhaps see the need of taking a policy decision never ever to use again terrorist elements, nourish radical groups or go to bed with bloodthirsty ruthless dictators just for the sake of some imminent and rather palliative American interests.

The U.S. president will perhaps no longer feel the need to visit mosques and "assure" Muslim people that the U.S. was not in a war with Islam, a crusade of any sort against Islam in this age cannot be product of a sane mentality.

And, of course, in such a "new world" no one in the Muslim world talk will speak of Western hypocrisy against Islam societies as no longer the U.S.-led Western "coalition of the willing" will be occupying Iraqs, Afghanistans, or semi-occupying Pakistans. Nor will thousands of people confined to neo-concentration camps with the pretext of fight against terrorism as terrorism has come to an end with the death of the chieftain of terrorism.

No longer there is any threat to the life style or the values and norms of the West from the Islamist or non-Islamist but radical elements of terrorism as the master of terrorism is killed.

Come on… Let's be realistic. Sanity is required.

With a firm political will behind them, the U.S. intelligence and special squads did something great. It was an outstanding success. A notorious terrorist leader who has been considered responsible for the 9/11, 2001 and many other heinous acts, including the Istanbul, London and Madrid bombings was netted, killed and his body is dumped in cold waters of the Arabian gulf – if you like, you may call it the Persian gulf, as name is not important at all. It was shown to all terrorists, irrespective of suffixes and prefixes describing who they are or what they are aiming for, that even though it might take 10 years justice will eventually be done and wherever they might escape and whatever capabilities they might possess, criminals cannot escape for ever… provided the terrorists in question hurt the U.S. or U.S. interests.

That section starting with "provided" is indeed the problematic part of the previous sentence. Why should there be a difference between terrorists hurting Americans or American interests and terrorists traumatizing, let's say Turkey? Or, why Libyan madman Moammar Gadhafi murdering civilian Libyans is a crime that merits an international response but Israel murdering civilians in the Gaza Strip deserves only a shy call for restraint? However, is it not the continued Palestinian problem the one main element providing a fertile ground for terrorists?

There is of course a need to fight terrorism of all sorts without discrimination. As much as the U.S. people deserve to live in security, it is the prime responsibility of all governments to ensure life security of its citizens, and thus to take adequate measures to enforce law and order, of course within limits of law and without compromising from democracy. I can imagine the eyebrows raised and words pouring out of mouths reminding this writer of Turkey's not so bright record in fighting separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorism or how it went out of the limits of law and compromised from democracy. Villages evacuated and burned and such sad events, thank God, have become history and this country has been in efforts to compensate the victims of such terrible oddities of the recent past. Problems are not unfortunately fully over, but slowly, with some pain but in determination Turkey is progressing to achieve that.

Continued PKK terrorism, however, has been an impediment to Turkey's efforts and unfortunately headed by the U.S. and West Europe Turkey is given very marginal, often nothing further than lip service, support in this fight.








Osama bin Laden is dead but all kinds of uncertainties remain, especially those pertaining to the nature of Pakistan's role in the affair. There are all kinds of contradictory statements coming in. President Zardari speaks of past cooperation and intelligence-sharing with the US. Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, stresses an inquiry into the failure to detect Osama's presence in a sprawling mansion in the heart of a garrison town. Prime Minister Gilani talks with a beaming smile of a significant victory. The smile may soon vanish from Gilani's face and Zardari too may find that he needs to do some explaining to his friends in the US. There are predictions that these 'friends' may just turn distinctly more hostile. Western analysts point out that the operation in Abbottabad goes to prove that Pakistan is not doing enough to combat militancy – an assertion Washington has made again and again. Reports cropping up in the US media suggest that Pakistan's old bogey, the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, may have been protecting Osama. We do not know if this is true, but from the way things have looked over the past few months, the US may use any excuse to heighten pressure on Pakistan – especially as it marks the Osama annihilation operation as a major triumph. Whether this is strictly accurate is something to think about – given that Osama may, for years, have been nothing more than a symbolic leader.

As security goes on red alert in many places, Islamabad must also combat the threat of retaliatory attacks. Some reports suggest such threats have already been made by the Taliban. The paucity of comment from politicians, even those who love appearing on air, betrays a sense of fear and a feeling of uncertainty over what the future holds for us. It is true that the death of Osama may be good news – but the issue of how Pakistan has played its cards in the matter leaves us staring into a huge hole, down which we could possibly tumble. Some clarity is required. We need to come up with a common stance rather than a string of statements that sound like a discordant opera. The matter of how we deal with the militants must be tackled and the intelligence failure that seems to have occurred must be discussed before the heat we could quite possibly face turns our way and leaves us scrambling for cover.






The people of Karachi are now accustomed to a life of peril. Over the last year violence has shaken the city again and again and left life in a state of shambles. Even so, the degree of chaos seen on Monday, following the death of an MQM leader was nothing short of nightmarish. The ambush and gunning down of Farooq Baig was most definitely a tragedy. We have no idea who the culprits are and, as also is the case with past killings, this adds to the anger of people who have seen ethnic, political, sectarian and criminal violence too often in the city. As unfortunate as Baig's murder was the rampage that followed with vehicles being torched and markets and petrol stations being forced to close as fear flooded the streets. At least 27 vehicles were torched and life virtually paralysed as a result of the anarchy – with the police able, in most cases, only to watch helplessly.

The underlying problem is the failure to make any significant progress in sorting out what is happening in Karachi. Despite many promises from Interior Minister Rehman Malik, bitter rivalries between groups have led again and again to eruptions of violence. This failure has serious implications. It means violence can erupt anywhere and at any time, affecting ordinary people the most. These people have no political role to play or gains to make. They seek only the peace that has remained elusive for a long time in our largest metropolis.







Reports of inefficiency in the government departments tasked to work for the uplift of minority communities have surfaced. The Sindh Assembly Standing Committee on Minorities has severely criticised the minorities' minister for failing to utilise his budget, a majority of which remains unspent at the end of the financial year. The committee learned that there were only four employees in the department and that there was not a single proposal submitted for funding in the coming FY. Although the budget is not huge at Rs100 million, to fail to spend it is little short of scandalous.

In part it appears that the staffing deficit is linked to a dispute about the appointment of 'favourites' rather than making merit-based appointments. But there appears to be a long-standing problem in that the budget is getting 'lapsed' year on year. In its defence, the representative of the minorities department said that its requests for funding for community buildings and the recruitment of up to a hundred more staff had been refused by the Finance Department on the grounds of a 'financial crunch'. Whatever the ins and outs of the matter may be, it is clear that there is a serious problem with the Minorities Ministry in Sindh that is composed of partly departmental infighting, partly disputes about nepotism and plain old-fashioned inefficiency. If we are to take the plight of the minorities seriously – and it is plain that much of the rest of the world thinks that we do not – then allowing such inefficiencies to persist unchecked does little either for the minorities or the image we have elsewhere. It is also clear that some of the responsibility for this lies at the doors of members of minority groups themselves. They cannot expect to cry 'foul' and expect a positive response if they have not themselves played by the book. All sides in Sindh need to look to themselves, stop the finger-pointing and get on with the task of supporting the minorities.








 Although Barrack Obama, when elected president, had no experience of foreign or military policy-making, he seemed, unlike the insular George W Bush, cosmopolitan in outlook and a keen student of history. For many of us, that was some consolation. It was only later that I read that being a keen student of history is dangerous for aspiring statesmen because like most people who have studied history, all they learn from the mistakes of the past, is how to make new ones.

And sure enough, Obama's first mistake – a howler – was to entrust the war in Afghanistan to his generals. Another 33,000 men, they told him, would do the trick in Afghanistan, and Obama fell for it. Not only this, he also surrounded himself with generals. His director of national intelligence is a retired air force general; the top intelligence adviser is another army general; the new CIA head will be a four star general and so is the present US ambassador in Afghanistan. Obama defers to his generals although they scoff at him privately (one such public outburst cost Gen McCrystal, Petraeus' predecessor, his job).

What is it that Obama's generals tell him? That the Afghan war can be won and must be fought till it is won; that Pakistan's tribal badlands must be 'droned' free of the Taliban and if the Pakistanis cannot do the job, to let the much vaunted US Special Forces do it. And, if the Pakistani nation revolts? Well, to take them on too from the air, of course, and selectively on the ground. And if the situation gets too dangerous, to destroy their nuclear capability with the aid, if need be, of its new strategic partner, India.

From the looks of it, Obama has signed on to such advice because the recent reshuffle of the national security team with CIA chief Panetta and ISAF head General Petraeus swapping jobs only makes sense in light of such a plan. The CIA and the Pentagon are the two most involved institutions in the American war effort in Afghanistan and the reshuffle holds out the prospect of a high degree of coordination between them. In fact, it is now difficult to distinguish between the CIA and the Pentagon. Their relationship has never been as incestuous.

"The Petraeus appointment suggests that Obama places little value on getting the straight scoop on key war-related issues. If he did want the kind of intelligence analysis that could challenge the military, why is he giving the CIA job to a general with a huge incentive to gild the lily regarding the 'progress' made under his command," asks one experienced analyst, and goes on to note that Panetta has "hastened the transformation of the spy agency into a paramilitary organisation, overseeing a sharp escalation of the CIA's bombing campaign in Pakistan... and an increase in the number of secret bases and covert operatives in ..." war zones.

Another ominous turn in US policies was the appointment of Lt Gen John Allen replacing Petraeus in Afghanistan. With Allen in Afghanistan and Petraeus calling the shots from Langley and conveniently on hand to stifle any feeble resistance that Obama and others may put up to the military's plans of expanding the war to Pakistan, we will have two 'heroes' from the Iraq war directly involved in the Af-Pak theatre. One is a 'hero' for his success in the 'surge' strategy and the other for his counter insurgency role, especially in the emergence of the 'Sunni Awakening' – that is turning the Sunnis against Al Qaeda. No doubt the 'surge' worked in some measure due to the 'Sunni Awakening'. But who does John Allen expect to bring under the anti-Taliban awakening among the Pashtuns? Local Pashtun tribesmen will never support it at the risk of their lives and Pakistan will resist it.

Besides, even if the July date for American withdrawal under Petraeus' influence is mothballed current American force levels are insufficient to do the job. Nor can it be done with the support of the weak, thinly deployed and notoriously irresponsible Afghan police or the preponderantly Tajik officered and manned Afghan army which is considered as alien a force by the Pashtuns as any foreign force. Petraeus' plans for Afghanistan are as disastrous as were those of William Westmoreland for Vietnam.

The crux of the problem lies in Washington and specifically in the presidency. Obama is inherently a weak president. Although he is personally popular, his administrative and management skills are woefully poor. And, as Bob Woodward revealed in his account of Obama's handling of the Afghan war, he shirks from confronting his generals. In any case, Obama will soon be preoccupied by electioneering and dealing with what ails America's limping economy. Hence, for all practical purposes, control of the war will pass to the cabal of generals led by Petraeus with a Panetta nodding in agreement.

Petraeus whose unflattering assessment of his commander-in-chief is common knowledge is a vain and stubborn man although popular with the American media. Given his political ambitions – it's no secret that he wants a shot at the presidency in 2016 and possibly earlier if Obama stumbles – he will go to any extent to ensure that his reputation which is inextricably linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are judged to be successes.

Politically savvy, as his eagerness to keep on the right side of the American Jewish lobby has demonstrated, Petraeus can be counted on to take full advantage of Obama's weakness and distractions. He will play hard ball with Obama on key issues concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan, among which getting tough with Pakistan is among the foremost. Hence, there are good chances that Petraeus will ensure during the four months he has left in Afghanistan and thereafter as the CIA chief, that he and Panetta can perform their duo gig in Af-Pak as they see it.

Hence issues which have led to tensions between the US and Pakistan, such as the use of drones and Special Operations forays, will intensify leading to skirmishes between the two forces, as in fact, happened the other day. If Pakistan continues to resist undertaking the North Waziristan operation the next stage of the US military escalation – forays by ISAF into Pakistan on the pretext of hot pursuit – will kick in.

Perhaps, at some point, Obama and Petraeus may have their 'Macarthur' moment, when a president fires an over-assertive, recalcitrant, war mongering general, but by then Pakistan may be in open revolt. Nor is Obama a Harry Truman. While Truman rejected Macarthur's proposal to cross the Yalu to wage war on China and sacked him, Obama doesn't seem to have the spunk to resist Petraeus' suggestion to cross the Durand Line and wage war on Pakistan to help America obtain that elusive success which both crave for their own personal political reasons.

Stormy conditions lie ahead for the US-Pakistan relationship as Obama's Af-Pak policy gets more tightly tethered to his overbearing generals and Obama's weaknesses as a president take a heavier toll on his time and energy as he himself becomes increasingly tethered to his re-election bid. The pity is that at a time such as this, we have a government in Pakistan wholly absorbed in a shameful game of political chess at home. And, if truth be told, a military reeling from the psychological blows cast by the circumstances of Osama's discovery and death and the insults being heaped on it from all quarters.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:







 'Living is easy with eyes closed' so runs a line from the song 'Strawberry fields forever' by John Lennon. A read of the rest of the lyrics suggests that this is a song about unreality, about a different state of consciousness which is perhaps the result of chemical alteration but may just be a song about a daydream. The easy living that goes with eyes closed serves as a telling metaphor for the world we inhabit in Pakistan where nothing is real; and because nothing is real or if it is it cannot be seen, then it is always deniable. In this fairyland almost everybody owns nothing, and those that own something are quick to tell us that they don't. From the MNAs who are apparently homeless and without a car and who live under a tree near Parliament House and walk to work when they are not begging on Constitution Avenue; to the tragically jobless whose income is a pittance and therefore untaxable but who by a mystery impenetrable to all manage not to own a 3000 acre farm in south Punjab – nobody owns anything.

Moving to the even less tangible aspects of ownership we come into the world of Rumsfeldian known unknowns and the unknowns that we don't know we don't know but which are there – we just don't know about them. These are far easier to deny than immovable assets and have the advantage of being genuinely invisible to ordinary mortals. One such tangible intangible met its end in the bedroom of a house in Abbottabad on 1st May. The death of Osama bin Laden will now become the subject of a feature film (there are reports of a script already in preparation by the same team that produced the Oscar-winning 'The Hurt Locker') and is already the centrepiece of a proliferation of conspiracy theories. Many of these have denial as their theme and in doing so they have good company.

The denial of there being any possibility that Osama bin Laden was living here in Pakistan had become stock-in-trade for our ambassadors, the interior ministry, the military and anybody else who held an official position that allowed them to speak on the record and in public. Last October a Nato official had the temerity to suggest that Osama bin Laden was living 'somewhere in northwestern Pakistan'. Oh no he isn't said Ambassador Haqqani speaking to CNN on October 10th, 2010... "If anybody who thinks that Pakistan or any other state, for that matter, has any interest in protecting Bin Laden, who has brought nothing but mayhem to the world, is smoking something they shouldn't be smoking." Then we have President Zardari speaking to reporters on April 28th, 2009..."The Americans tell me they don't know, and they are much more equipped than us to trace him. And our own intelligence services obviously think that he does not exist any more, that he is dead.... The question is whether he is alive or dead. There is no trace of him." So that's alright then – the Americans don't know so obviously we could not possibly know either."

Prime Minister Gilani was in full denial mode during a press conference with the then PM of the UK Gordon Brown on December 3rd, 2009. "I doubt that the information you are giving me is correct because I don't think Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan" he said in response to a reporter's suggestion that he was. He was, but that was perhaps a known unknown that Mr Gilani could not possibly comment on.

The arch-confuser Rehman Malik finds himself quoted in a Wikileaks cable of September 7th, 2009. He was responding to questions from US Senator Giffords as to what he knew of the whereabouts of ObL. He said that he...'had no clue,' but added that he did not believe that Osama bin Laden is in the area. 'Bin Laden sent his family to Iran, so it makes sense that he might have gone there himself. Alternatively, he might be hiding in Saudi Arabia or Yemen, or perhaps he is already dead' he added. The lily of denial was further gilded later when he said...."I categorically deny the presence of Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, and even Mullah Omar in any part of Pakistan." It does not get much more categorical than that. Or, as it happens, more wrong at least in the case of Bin Laden.

All of these denials we tend to dismiss or view sceptically, but the possibility is that all those doing the denying really did not know that Osama bin Laden was playing with the wife and kids in a shabby villa nestled close to our equivalent of Sandhurst, and that he may have been thus ensconced for up to five years. They may not have known because the people who provided the support network for Osama bin Laden during his time as our guest had not told them. It is entirely possible that senior officers of state did not know that Osama bin Laden was here. They may have suspected. They may have heard the rumours that everybody else heard but they may not have been aware of an address or a monthly budget for the upkeep of the man a lot of people were looking for. They also may not have known because they chose not to ask those who might have told them, because if you don't ask you don't know and if you don't know denial is all the easier.

But somebody knew. And that somebody or somebodies were powerful enough to sustain a support network that included a house, food and water, computers even though there was no internet connection to the house and all the other bits and pieces that go to make up the fabric of a life hidden in plain view. Our leaders may with a degree of plausibility deny they knew anything of Osama bin Laden, and can smile cheerily to the world's media as they do. But if they really did not know about him the question they need to be asking themselves is...what else don't we know? Eat your heart out, Donald Rumsfeld.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:







Gen Musharraf could never have thought, not even for a second, that the smiling gentleman sitting across the table was silently reading his last rites. Who would have thought that Nawaz Sharif and the husband of slain Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto could become the best of friends? Who would have dared predict that the son of slain Zahoor Elahi would break political bread with the brother-in-law of the very man who ordered the kill? What about the man who was pointed out as a possible killer by none other than Benazir herself becoming a partner in her own party's government, and that too without a whimper from her legions of supporters? For a genuine jiyala, even such a thought would have been blasphemous, but then this has already happened.

Three critical stages in President Asif Ali Zardari's political ascendancy, three different players, but one thing remains common: it always starts with him initiating the rapprochement, then him quickly transforming the newly created, albeit small reservoir of new found trust, into the ambiguous and misleadingly comfortable fuzzy concept of 'friendship,' followed by his clinical execution of the desired objective. All trust and friendship, be damned. It's always signature Zardari initiative, all the way through.

None in Pakistan's politics is defter than Mr Zardari at exploiting acrimony amongst political stakeholders. Who can better encourage sworn enemies to fight out their battles to his own ultimate advantage. Does the ANP-MQM strife in Karachi ring any bells? And it has always been like that. Fully aware of the possible answer, according to a highly reliable insider, he had initially asked Nawaz Sharif his preference for what should come first: the revival of the apex judiciary or the departure of Musharraf? He then fully utilised Nawaz's political muscle and hatred for Musharraf to his own advantage, got rid of Mush, and calmly occupied the presidential office. With Nawaz having served his purpose, it was time to say adios. The judiciary would have to wait.

Now, once again, Zardari needed the PML-Q's support for a multitude of reasons. Consider this – in one stroke, he gets the numerical comfort to pass the federal budget and show a thumb to the ever insatiable MQM; gets an ally who is rearing to go for Nawaz's jugular in Punjab; split the traditional league vote bank; gets a possible back channel to the belligerent judiciary and also a reserve channel which could be used, if need be, for 'reliable' contact with the not so civilian side of the power establishment. It would be interesting to watch who turns who in the wind. The Chaudrys are not as pliable or naïve as Nawaz Sharif and are no strangers to byzantine intrigues either.

For starters, however, round one has gone to President Zardari. Even before the PML-Q lot took the oath, he had managed to get 'em off the high horse of deputy prime ministership and what not, and then packed them up in irrelevant ministries. To add to the joke, he even packed three of them – including the aspiring deputy prime minister – in one ministry with three different and almost equally insignificant titles. Barely had the oath had been administered to the PML-Q, that the erstwhile recalcitrant MQM too suddenly saw the light of day and should be coming back to the presidential flock any day. Not bad for a few days work wouldn't you agree? The marketing phrase of buy-one (PML-Q) get-one-free (MQM) has attained a whole new meaning under 'Zarnomics'.

Logic would suggest that once the budget is passed and done with, the Chaudrys will try pushing for a change in the Punjab government within the next six months but Zardari would like to delay it till the wrapping up of senate elections in 2012 where his party is expected to land a hefty 40 seats or so.

Timing aside, there is no difference of opinion between Zardari and Shujaat over the inevitability of bringing down the house of Sharifs and that the charge would be led by the Chaudrys, with Zardari's men playing the critical supportive role. So far so good, but were they to succeed in such an endeavour, then that could also be the possible beginning of the end of the PPP-PML-Q alliance. If the past is any indicator then, say a year down the road, the Chaudrys would have served their purpose. They would have greased the passing of the budget, helped rope back in the MQM (and possibly the JUI-F as well), given the PML-N a run for its money in Punjab and the next senate elections would have been taken care of with the PPP firmly in the senate saddle.

The only thing that would remain by then would be the last nine yards to the next general elections. Now why would Zardari have one leg tied to the Chaudrys like in the good old sack race, and not run the last nine yards alone? So mid 2012 onwards, the Chaudrys would be well advised to watch their back, or to be more precise, watch their partner.

To understand Pakistan's confounding politics, it would help to 'attempt' to understand the man who is contributing the most to turning it into an unfathomable conundrum. How else do you describe his best of relations with Altaf Hussain but the simultaneous unleashing of another best friend Zulfiqar Mirza against the MQM (even now Mirza is kept lurking in the wings). In the warmest of his kodak moments with Nawaz Sharif, he made sure steel-cold Salmaan Taseer was there to continuously turn the screw on the Sharifs. He was, and remains, in love with Asfandyar Wali but still never gave Asfandyar the governor he really wanted. He openly stated that the 'third' force would have to take his dead body out of the presidency, then dragged his feet and allowed the suspense to reach maddening levels, only to quietly sanction critical service extensions. The most predictable part of President Zardari's character, is his unpredictability.

When a battle hardened politician like Javed Hashmi sarcastically alludes to requiring a PhD to understand Zardari's politics then it is not just a slight, but an implied admission of Mr Zardari's political shrewdness or should one say 'Zarpolitick'. You may love him or hate him, but to bring him down, you must first understand him. Something easier said than done. Just ask Rawalpindi!

The writer is editor The News, Islamabad






 So the world's most wanted terrorist is finally dead. Great news, isn't it? But is it good news for Pakistan as well? Osama Bin Laden's mysterious death in a Pakistani situated just north of the capital Islamabad – and that too a stone's throw from the Pakistan Military Academy – will prove to be catastrophic for this country, as well as for its army and its intelligent agencies.

The West will cast doubts on the capability of Pakistani intelligent agencies which could not track down the world's most-wanted terrorist who was living in a colossal 10-kanal mansion half-a-kilometre away from a military academy. The West can accuse Pakistan of "non-seriousness" despite that fact that this country has sacrificed thousands of lives in the "war on terror."

The second impact of this episode would be that the US would be able to insist on the efficacy of the drone attacks on the territory of Pakistan. Most recently, after the Raymond Davis incident, the Pakistani government and army had, on a number of occasions, tried to bring home to the US functionaries that these drone attacks are counter-productive, and are stoking terrorism instead of curtailing it. However, now these voices of sanity in Pakistan will be silenced, notwithstanding the fact that this operation in Abbottabad was carried out in grave violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity. Where are the clamours regarding the sovereignty of Pakistan?

The episode could mean increased suicide attacks in the country. There is almost no actionable intelligence in place in Pakistan and the law enforcement agencies are incapable. If the intelligent agencies had been capable, they would not have provided an excuse for the "help" the Americans provided in Abbottabad. The people of Pakistan will therefore feel more vulnerable to terrorism after this episode.

The first response of the Foreign Office's to the incident was shameful, to say the least. It declared this operation to be in accordance with "declared US policy." The government is supposed to watch and protect Pakistan's interests, not that of another country. But who has the audacity to confront the "big boss."

This ground operation by the US Special Forces is open violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan – a far greater violation than even the ever-increasing drone attacks. Under international law, there can be no justification whatsoever for violation of a country's territory, not even under the pretext of "hot pursuit."

The Foreign Office should have either issued a strong statement of protest or said that it was a joint operation by the two countries. After the response by the Foreign Office, who would believe the muted statement of Prime Minister Gilani that this operation was undertaken after intelligence-sharing between the two countries. Everyone by now knows that we were caught napping, as always. The people of Pakistan should be prepared for more cover-ups from the Pakistan government and the Foreign Office.

President Obama's statement that this operation was undertaken on his directions goes on to show that when it comes to US "national interests" no law, local or international, can stop America from their "protection." One does not need to go into the history of grave violations of international law by the United States, which is the sole superpower of the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since World War II, examples abound of US violating international law to impose its own "law." The most glaring example of this is the attack on Iraq, notwithstanding the failure of the United Nations Security Council to endorse it.

Why was Bin Laden's body "buried at sea"? Was there anything to hide in this respect? If the US had nothing to hide it should have shown Bin Laden's body to the media, firstly to prevent any conspiracy theories taking hold, and secondly to show to the remnants of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and other terrorist groups what lies ahead for them. Not long ago, Saddam Hussein was hanged publicly and his body was displayed afterwards, which made any conspiracy theories in this regard. Saddam Hussein could have been hanged privately and buried at sea. The same happens when any high-profile terrorist is caught alive or killed. Why is there a difference in the case of Bin Laden?

This has led many to believe that this whole operation may have been a farce, for Washington to achieve the United States' ulterior motives and to further malign the Pakistani military and intelligent agencies. One should not be surprised if another video of Bin Laden surfaces after a couple of months in which he threatens the West with dire consequences. There are reports that Bin Laden may already have been killed earlier, but an appropriate moment was being awaited when his death could be disclosed in order for the US government to maximise the benefits for the US. Perhaps that is why the body was "buried at sea."

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. Email:






On a day when the world was following the riveting story of Osama bin Laden's death in a secret US Special Forces operation in Pakistan, a group of Pakistani politicians, oblivious of the momentous event that had taken place some hours ago 71 kilometres away in Abbottabad, were making merry at the Presidency in Islamabad. President Asif Ali Zardari, in yet another political somersault in his career, was administering oaths to 14 ministers belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, a faction-ridden party that he had not long ago condemned as "Qatil League" (Killer League) for its alleged involvement in the assassination of his wife Benazir Bhutto.

This should explain the priorities of the set of politicians now ruling the country. The oath-taking was an effort to maintain the majority of the PPP-led coalition government in the parliament through the induction of the PML-Q nominees in the federal cabinet. The priority was to save the government and prolong its rule. Saving the country wasn't a concern, at least not for the time-being and not until the task of securing a stable majority in parliament's treasury benches was achieved.

Trust the politicians to justify anything and everything they do. This is what the Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Q leaders did as they made a largely unconvincing explanation to make a case for their new alliance, which is opportunistic without doubt.

Something unthinkable happened as the PPP and the PML-Q (not the whole lot but the Q-League's mainstream faction led by the Chaudhrys of Gujarat), joined hands to first ensure the passage of the coming budget in parliament and then jointly rule the country for the next two years before the next general election.

This unnatural alliance and the ones brokered before it by the PPP with the PML-N, the MQM, the ANP and the JUI-F have been grandly labelled as "national reconciliation." The PPP politicians never tire of arguing that the "national reconciliation" is being pursued in the national interest. They don't admit that, but the common people are certain that personal interest is the motivating factor for all these strange power-sharing arrangements.

Thanks to the television channels, viewers are now able to listen to what these unprincipled politicians were saying about each other in the recent past. Nasty things were being said and serious corruption charges were levelled against each other by the same persons who have now joined hands in the coalition government. The common man should not be blamed if he concludes that these foes of yesterday have become friends to plunder and misrule the country, violate merit and pave the way for winning the next general election.

The stress during the deal-making negotiations was on the cabinet positions that the PML-Q could get and the PPP would be able to give. It was give-and-take that was being discussed, and not some bright idea or innovative project that could bring improvement in the lives of the suffering masses or solve the serious problems that Pakistan is facing. In the end, the PML-Q managed to induct its 14 lawmakers in the cabinet, seven each as ministers and ministers of state. Two advisers and three special assistants were also appointed in what was described as the PML-Q quota, reducing cabinet-making into quotas.

As the PML-Q has suffered splits on account of the divergent, interest-driven agendas of its leaders, almost all its lawmakers and factional leaders will have to be accommodated in the power setup to keep it intact. Those not made ministers have the option of joining Nawaz Sharif's PML-N or cutting separate deals with the PPP. After three years of wait, PML-Q lawmakers are happy that they now have a number of tempting options before them.

Predictably, the PML-Q lawmakers lobbied and wrangled over the portfolios, with Riaz Hussain Pirzada refusing to become minister of state and in the end manoeuvring to win the status of full-fledged minister. Chaudhry Parvez Elahi became the senior minister with two portfolios and another member of the Chaudhry family, Wajahat Hussain, found a berth in the cabinet. Pervez Elahi was tipped to become deputy prime minister, but this needed a constitutional amendment. Mr Zardari, who did the deal-making negotiations with the PML-Q leaders at the Presidency in his capacity as PPP co-chairman and once more showed how partisan the country's president has become, played his cards well. He gave unimportant portfolios to the PML-Q ministers to send the message across that this is what they deserved.

After pocketing the PML-Q, he is now in a better position to lure more factions of the divided party to his side to strengthen the PPP-led federal government and put an end to the blackmailing tactics of the other coalition partners. The MQM, a demanding ally, is said to be considering a return to the federal cabinet, and this shouldn't come as a surprise considering the party's past record in making and breaking alliances.

The PPP and the PML-Q could also attempt a political change in Punjab, a province which has always been the big prize and is presently in the hands of the PML-N. Punjab could become the battleground for the PPP and the PML-N and their allies as the former would be keen to realise its ambition of capturing the "Takht-e-Lahore" after having failed in an earlier effort to oust the PML-N government in Punjab.

Once the PML-Q MNAs and Senators have been accommodated at the federal level, their colleagues in the provincial legislatures would also want to become part of the ruling coalitions. The lust for power appears to be intense in Punjab and one should expect the beginning of horse-trading in the province, sooner rather than later. In Balochistan, the PML-Q lawmakers are already part of the 51-member cabinet – in an assembly that has 65 MPAs. In fact, the PML-Q had the largest number of MPAs in Balochistan, but splits in the party meant that the lawmakers made their own deals with the PPP and enabled it to lead the provincial government. In Sindh, any PML-Q lawmaker still not part of the government could be easily accommodated.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the ANP will have to be persuaded to make room in the provincial cabinet for the PML-Q nominees if a decision is made to expand the coalition. Cabinet berths for PML-Q lawmakers in the provincial cabinet would likely come from the PPP quota as it has made the alliance with the PML-Q without involving the ANP in the equation. The PML-Q legislators may not refuse cabinet berths in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, unlike PML-N MPAs who declined to join the provincial government after the 2008 general elections when the relationship between the PML-N and the PPP was warm and friendly. However, the issue of creation of a Hazara province could become a hurdle in the induction of PML-Q lawmakers into the cabinet of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The PML-Q has been spearheading the campaign for separation of Hazara division from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and making it a province. The ANP isn't opposed to the idea publicly, but it would still want to keep the province intact and is keen to make administrative changes by creating two new divisions in Hazara and Malakand to weaken the demand for a separate Hazara province.

Keeping in view the ongoing and future political deal-making, it is obvious that the biggest concern of the ruling parties is to stay in power and not the critical security and economic issues confronting Pakistan. As things stand, the remaining two-year life of the parliament would be used by the ruling parties to prolong their rule instead of finding solutions to problems afflicting the country.







 The powerful Western media christened the recent political upsurge in the Arab world the "Arab Spring". It served the reductionist purpose of portraying it as the long-awaited quest for democracy and freedom, the raison d'être of Western interventionism. In reality, as often happens in revolutionary turmoil, its dynamics are already being re-shaped either by the entrenched power of Arab rulers or by external actors determined to control the process of change. I propose to address this interplay in two separate articles in this valued space.

A younger generation has provided the vanguard of movements that seek a new social, political and economic compact. Then, there is the unprecedented participation of Arab women in the protests reflecting a subliminal desire for greater womens' rights. The roots of Arab rage also go beyond this essential agenda and stretch to a deep sense of humiliation at the hands of Israel, the Arab failure to get justice for the Palestinians, and dissatisfaction with narrow local nationalisms with which the elite tried to wean away the "Arab street" from Nasserite pan-Arabism.

By now the primal innocence of this upsurge has given way to great complexity. The counter-revolution has struck back making the outcome uncertain. Arab rulers, especially with abundant oil money, have switched to a dual policy of limited reforms and big dole-outs while tightening the coercive apparatus of the state.

In the sensitive Gulf area where Iran is also a powerful actor, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has shifted to a strategic role to influence events in Bahrain and Yemen. The acceptance of the GCC plan, under which President Abdullah Ali Saleh may step down after 30 days, is a case in point.

Consider Bahrain. The opposition rejected reforms offered by the King as insufficient. Continued demonstrations sharpened focus on the sectarian divide and on the rivalry between Iran and the GCC states. The small Saudi-led GCC reinforcements for Bahrain were a message to the opposition to set its sights lower. When that did not happen, the government in Manama resorted to harsher measures. As Iran demanded withdrawal of the GCC contingent, its relations with the GCC states worsened.

When Western educated Bashar al-Asad succeeded his father 10 years ago, nobody imputed any dictatorial tendency to him. But the persistent American threat, especially in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, worked against liberal reforms. Confronted first by it and now by the gathering protests, the Syrian Ba'athist national security state has reasserted itself leading to unexpected suppression of the protest movement.

Dialectic tensions apart, the Arab world would never be the same again. Much depends on the answers that post-Mubarak Egypt finds to internal and external issues. The armed forces face the democratisation versus security and stability dilemma. Egypt has to come to terms with the Muslim Brotherhood which may seek to become more acceptable by looking at the peaceful model of Erdogan's party in Turkey.

Already, Egypt is showing a greater capacity for diplomatic manoeuvre as evidenced in its crucial role in bringing the tragic rift between Fatah and Hamas to an end. A great deal of water will flow down the Nile before the final shape of things appropriate to this great country crystallises.

The vital interests of Western powers in the Arab world are no longer a secondary factor. From the extreme case of Libya where Nato is fighting a war that exceeds the mandate given by the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to a new focus on Syria, the West is proactively engaged.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: katanvir@








AS per version of the US authorities and the world media, there is apparently undeniable proof that the operation carried out by American elite force in Abbottabad was quite successful and leader of Al-Qaeda Osama bin Ladin ultimately met his fate. Americans are taking sole credit for the whole operation, describing it as great victory and a strong message to both Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

Despite claims of the US Government, details are still sketchy and important links are missing in the story and that is why there is an element of disbelief in Osama's death with international community finding it hard to buy the US version on its face value. Obviously, local and foreign media would piece together more information in their follow up stories on the incident and a full picture might emerge in the days to come but presently people living in the vicinity of the area in Abbottabad and elsewhere in the world are expressing doubts that a highly enigmatic personality like that of Osama, who, according to reports in the past had met natural death or was killed in the mazy mountains of Tora Bora during heavy bombing by the US, has really been killed this time. Such suspicion gain grounds because of dubious manner with which body of the slain Al-Qaeda leader was thrown into sea without showing it to the world media or neutral figures. The hush hush style has helped strengthen the belief that the tricky CIA might have even hoodwinked President Obama, who made the announcement with fanfare. Americans could not break resolve of Taliban despite one month of intensive attacks on Kabul after 9/11 and achieved success only when meaningful information was shared by Pakistan with them. In this backdrop, no one would believe them when they say that they did it on their own without any cooperation from Pakistan, a stance that suits their objective of pressurizing and humiliating Pakistan. There are also several other questions including the one whether it is a crude attempt to create justification for shifting of the war on terror to Pakistan besides giving boost to President Obama ahead of presidential elections and providing adequate face-saving for beginning the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. Saner voices are also warning that it would be naïve to expect that the problem of terrorism would be addressed with the elimination of OBL and the United States and its allies will have to take steps to address root causes of the problem as mere use of force would breed more terrorism and extremism.








THE Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), representing over 180 foreign companies doing business in the country, has, in its 151st Annual General Meeting, elected Naveed A Khan, CEO of Faysal Bank, as its president and formed a new Managing Committee comprising known and experienced people to run its affairs. The new office-bearers, including the President and Vice President Humayun Bashir are high profile personalities having deeper insight into economic, business and industrial fields and have been managing reputed companies successfully.

It is worthwhile to point out that all of them have nothing to do with politics and are deeply committed to the economic growth and prosperity of the country. Being thorough professionals, we hope that their views would be heard with credence by their counterparts elsewhere in the world and they will be able to attract more investment for Pakistan in different fields. Though collectively the OICCI members contribute over 29% of the country's total GNP, 22% of tax receipts and provide direct employment to about one hundred and fifty thousand people but we are convinced that their share could go up significantly if the authorities concerned in the Government seek their input in the formulation of economic and industrial policies. We are sure that they could provide meaningful direction if the Government seeks their cooperation in this regard. Addressing the general meeting, the new office-bearers have already expressed their resolve to undertake some important initiatives, hoping that the new managing committee would take them forward and achieve new benchmarks. We are confident that the economic managers of the Government would interact with these towering personalities and create a favourable and equitable business environment in the country.







TARGETED killings and violence have become a routine affair in the commercial hub of the country with no signs of abating. On Monday another five people including a member of Organizing Committee of MQM were killed while 26 others were injured in violence that lasted for a long time paralysing normal life in Karachi.

The violence affected almost every district of the city with western and eastern parts of the metropolis bearing the brunt as report of the killing of MQM's Farooq Baig in Landhi locality spread like a wild fire. Panic gripped the city and the miscreants had a free hand setting on fire 26 vehicles and a bank branch while all kind of businesses went shut in fear of violence. Karachi which was once the city of lights has now been turned into a lawless jungle, facing myriad of problems which are adding to the frustration and despair of the citizens. Every day miscreants and criminals start firing in one part of the city or the other and the law enforcement agencies are clueless as to who is behind these incidents. In fact there is not only a single group involved in killings and violence but different mafias, criminal gangs and even armed groups of certain political parties are pitted against each other taking revenge and looting properties of the people. Life for the common citizens has become miserable who feel insecure while going out to earn livelihood for their families. The whole purpose behind this lawlessness and violence is to destabilize Karachi and the entire country. The Interior Minister Rehman Malik visits the city frequently as the law and order situation goes out of control and after meeting the leaders of political and religious parties, statements are made to cooperate but nothing is done in practical terms. Now that the Federal Cabinet has been expanded with induction of PML-Q Ministers and ANP and MQM are allies of the Government, we would suggest that the Government must convene a Round Table Conference (RTC) of all the Parties on deteriorating situation in Karachi and devise a strategy to deal with the law breakers with an iron hand and restore order.







There are two issues, which are the main cause of strained relations between Pakistan and the United States of America. One is, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), trying to reclaim its territory lost to CIA during the past regime and the second is the Taliban, who have won the war in Afghanistan, and are not prepared to talk, unless the occupation forces leave Afghanistan. Both the demands are related to "territorial sovereignty" of Pakistan and Afghanistan and there is no going back on it. It is upto the US therefore, to accept the reality and concede to the rightful demands and explore new approach to peace.

The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI): It were the ISI and CIA mainly, who supported the resistance against the Soviets during the period 1982-1989, joined by "40000 jehadees from Pakistan and over 60,000 from seventy countries of the world." Pakistan Army had no involvement, except General Ziaul Haq and a few of his close aids. The Pakhtuns living on both sides of the Durand Line, provided the hard-core base for the resistance against the Soviet occupation forces, who ultimately accepted defeat, in good grace and asked for a 'safe-exit', which was granted by the Afghan Mujahideen, and the Soviet troops exited unscathed.

The CIA which had worked hand-in-glove with the ISI, were awed by ISI's professional prowess, in defeating the Soviets - a super-power. The Americans therefore decided to demonise the Mujahideen and pressurized Pakistan to "clip the ISI wings". Pakistan government accepted the demand. The serving DGISI, Lt Gen Hamid Gul was replaced by Lt Gen Kallu, a retired officer and the purging of ISI started as early as 1989. The officers and the operatives having any kind of contact with the Afghan Mujahideen, were removed, so much so, that in 1994, when Taliban emerged, the ISI had no role in Afghanistan. In fact, by 2001, when Pakistan joined USA in their war on Afghanistan, ISI's role was reversed, as the enemy of Taliban.

In 2003, on the issue of involvement of Pakistani tribals in Afghanistan, Musharraf agreed to pull-out ISI from the border areas and allowed the CIA and the Marines to monitor the entire border belt from Swat to Balochistan. This was the time, when RAW had already established its spy network inside Afghanistan, and joined hands with the CIA, infesting Pakistan's entire border region with their 'agents and support groups' and by 2005, succeeded in turning the war on Pakistan. (See my article Global Conspiracies Against Pakistan, The Nation 14-8-2007). Since then Pakistan is fighting its own tribals (TPP) and terrorism, perpetrated by the enemy agents and provocateurs.

With the change of government in 2008, the ISI realized the threat to national security and gradually started reclaiming the lost territory. With the arrest of Raymond Davis, the Indo-US conspiracy was exploded and Pakistan demanded that all US spies and agents working in the border region and other areas of Pakistan must disengage and leave. Thus ISI now has extended its network in the border region, re-claiming the territory lost since 2004. And in so doing, they may have come into contract with the Haqqani Group, operating close to the Pakistani borders. And there is no going back on it. This development hurts USA badly as they need a safe exit from Afghanistan. Targeting ISI and calling it a terrorist organization, is counter productive and demonstrates American frustration at the changed situation, which they have failed to understand.

The Taliban

The Americans have tried several options to negotiate peace in Afghanistan on their terms - "A non-Talibanized peaceful Afghanistan." Pakistan too has endorsed the idea. Both are on the wrong track, because in this brutal contest, the Talibans have won and have the right, to lay down the terms for peace and not the American and the allies who have lost the war. In fact the Americans have to demonstrate 'diplomatic wisdom' to accept defeat, as the Soviets did in 1989 and asked for the 'safe exit'. In 1989 Pakistan helped the Soviets to withdraw, because Mujahideen were friendly, but now Pakistan has no such leverage over the Taliban. And the dilemma!

The Taliban of today are very different from the Mujahideen of 1989 - their elders. The hard-core of Taliban consists of the die-hard, 20-30 years old Afghans, who have grown under the shadows of war. They are hardened fighters, with life time experience of war. They are brutal and ruthless. They are guided by one single idea, that is, "to defeat the enemy and liberate the country." That is the single purpose, which is a matter of life and death for them. As early as 2002, they defined it in these words: "We have resolved to fight the occupation forces till they are routed. When we gain freedom, we would take decisions under a free environment. It is unthinkable for the Afghan nation to follow the American plans, as it was not in harmony with their national ethos and traditions. We will carry the war to its logical end, and Insha Allah we will triumph over the enemy and win our freedom". Word by word, they have done, exactly what they claimed.

Mullah Umar and the senior Taliban leadership do have a soft corner for Pakistan and USA, for helping the Afghans to defeat the Soviets, but the "hard-core Taliban" consider USA and their allies, including Turkey as their enemy. They consider the Pakistan Army and the ISI as their enemy, because they joined America's war on Afghanistan. Even Mullah Umar, who has full control over the movement, cannot take decisions against the wishes of the 'hard-core Taliban'. Therefore, for the Americans, their allies and the Pakistanis, the only course open is to negotiate with the Taliban, who are "prepared to engage with the Northern Alliance to work-out a new constitution for the future government in Afghanistan." Any other course to be adopted would lead to greater chaos.

As for the Taliban, they are at peace with themselves. They have fought and sacrificed for over thirty years and will continue to fight, because their faith and commitment to the cause, provides them the abiding strength and resilience to face the mightiest of the mighty. They already have won the contest and will wait for the time they will be asked to define the peace parameters. There is a rethink in Pakistan also to establish friendly relations with the Afghans – our neighbours. The ISI is in the process of re-claiming the lost territories. The Pakistan Army is in a different frame of mind, as it punished the NATO and Afghan Army, recently, for violating our territory opposite Parachinar, killing five NATO troops and several others. This change in mood and temper therefore, must be correctly understood, to explore new possibilities, in order to establish a meaningful relationship with Pakistan.

—The writer is former COAS, Pakistan.








High-level talks between the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan are going to be started on May 3, 2011. Earlier, the talks have been postponed due to the arrest of CIA's Spy Raymond Davis in a murder case of two Pakistani in January this year. However, Raymond Davis case left two conspicuous impacts on U.S. Pakistan ties. Firstly, it has increased the strain in Pakistan and U.S. relationship and secondly also uncovered the CIA nefarious activities in Balochistan and FATA (Pakistan). The tension between two supreme intelligence agencies (ISI & CIA) further aggravated when American top political and military brass instead paying tribute to Pakistani security forces in Global War on Terror (GWOT) started maligning ISI for providing shelter to Haqqani Group of Taliban. In this regard Moassad and RAW's financed Western and American media also launched a deliberate campaign against Pakistani security and Intelligence agencies. Pakistan has already condemned and rejected American political and military officials' statements regarding ISI and declared it a part of blame game against her security and Intelligence agencies.

Above all, CIA's activities in Balochistan have become now quite intolerable which also put a big question mark over U.S. growing interest in this region. In fact, Creation of "Greater Balochistan" is the top most agenda of U.S., India and Israel collaboration. Their obvious objectives are: (1) weakening Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, (2) establishing strong hold in Central Asian Region even after culmination of war on terror, (3) denting Chinese economic interests in African and Middle East while creating impediment in full scale operation of Gawader Port and the last is looking after Indian and Israeli interests in the region. Therefore, the American establishment has started supporting pro Independent Balochistan Movement, and anti Pakistan elements in Balochistan. In this connection, CIA supported elements are using America, UK, India and Afghanistan as their platforms for organizing, planning and operational bases for execution of the plan of Independent Balochistan. Moreover, some militarily supported political lobbies of America and Uk are facilitating anti Pakistan elements (so called liberators) to carryout nefarious activities against Pakistan. On April 28, 2011 US Ambassador Cameron Munter, visited first time Balochistan and attended a Pashtun tribal Jirga in Quetta. He went there on the invitation of convener of Pakhtun Ulas Qaumi Jirga Nawab Ayaz Jogezai. The jirga brought together 16 Pashtun tribal elders from Balochistan who discussed issues of mutual interest, including economic development in the province and matters pertaining to security. American interest can be very easily judged from her ambassador statement in which he mentioned that "Balochistan is a proud province with a rich history, wonderful people, who have strong traditions. I feel very fortunate to experience this firsthand by being included in this Pashtun tribal jirga," He further added that by meeting face to face interaction can address the difficult issues facing Balochistan , in a spirit of open communication and collaboration,". U.S. Ambassador meeting with Pakhtune leaders in Balochistan should not be taken as simple interaction and need to be monitored persistently since such type of meetings might create rift between three segments (Pakhtune, Balochis, and Punjabi).

In the last week of April 2011 Carnegie Endowment for Intl Peace has rented its space to the Balochistan Society, of North America (BSO - NA) to hold conference on Balochistan. Alongside this development, United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has also held an event "Turmoil in Balochistan. The participants of meeting were (1) jaz Haider (a journalist from Pak),(2) Shazadi Beg (member of Department of Justice UK),(3)Selig Harrison (a contentious journalist known for his critical views on Pak),94) Marvin Weinbaum (Middle East Institute). The speakers fomented venom against Pakistan very openly as directed by their masters.

On learning about first event, our Ambassador to USA Mr Haqqani has already written an unequivocal letter to the President of the Carnegie essentially arguing that Carnegie's renting of its space to the BSO – NA could potentially damage Pak – US relations; legitimise the activities of the BSO – NA who is an adjunct of a terrorist organisation BLA banned in Pak and urged the Carnegie Endowment to revoke its decision of renting space to the BSO – NA. Response has not yet been rendered by Carnegie Endowment and the meeting have been conducted in the manners as desired by CIA. The government of Pakistan is extremely concerned over USIP holding of an event "Turmoil in Balochistan" on an integral part of Pak, Balochistan. Since USIP is a congressionally funded body, one would presume that the event is being held under the patronage of Congress. Its implications on Pak – U.S. relations will be extremely negative. American leadership should think that it is not just academic freedom or analysis that is important, what the USIP must assess is also the impact on our bilateral relations of holding this event. It is time to help consolidate the democratically elected Government of Pakistan. It is obvious that arranging such events, which are ideologically or politically motivated, serve to undermine Pak's solidarity and its elected govt and defiantly causes hatter against U.S. character in Pakistani masses too. American supported political leadership tried to inflame public opinion in Pakistan and Balochistan.

The think tanks in U.S. are independent and completely autonomous in their policies. Despite the efforts made by our embassy at Washington, it is less likely that USIP will change its stance. In spite of the liberty accorded to think tanks, there always remains influence of state institutions. Therefore, the possibility of U.S. state authorities' involvement in this case cannot be ruled out. After analysing events of last decade and especially of last two years, we can conveniently derive that: - FATA has been focus of US attention for last few years in relation to GWOT. US always insist that Taliban are being provided sanctuaries / safe havens by Pak in FATA. Therefore, all the drone strikes and border violations have been taking place in this area. But mainly due to faulty U.S. policy, a worthwhile success is still not in sight in GWOT. When Gwadar Port started emerging as key project which could boost the economic activities of Pakistan, China and including Central Asia, many stake holders emerged on the scene incl Iran (Chah Bahar), UAE (Dubai) and India.

At the same time terrorist activities sped up in Balochistan and Nooristan (Iran). Nationalist elements in Balochistan have started voicing their concerns on Human Rights Violations and so called atrocities committed by Pakistani LEAs and demand for Independent Balochistan. Indian involvement in Balochistan is a major concern for Pakistan. There have been concrete evidences of Indian involvement in providing funds and weapons to dissident elements in Balochistan. The dissident Baloch leaders living in exile (Harbyar Marri in UK & Brahmdagh Bugti in Switzerland) were incited to raise their voice for Independence of Balochistan. Seeing the ripe situation, India with the connivance of CIA joined the cadres to destabilise Balochistan and ultimately Pakistan. Moreover, killing two birds with one stone, the Chinese interest in Balochistan is automatically countered if this province remains mired in unrest.

Due to convergence of interests, India and USA are pursuing this agenda jointly. To exert pressure on Pakistan to succumb to U.S. demands (for undertaking ops in North Waziristan against Hqqani and against Quetta Shura in Balochistan), the US is hosting activities of dissident Balochs in USA and Canada. Although the event (Rally "Save Balochistan Campaign" at Vancouver at Summary) could not attract a big number but remains a source of concern for Pak.

Anyhow, the trilateral talks have been rescheduled to review the progress on already set agenda of removing extremism and its related matters. The issue must be taken up in coming trilateral engagements with USA and bilateral talk with India. Thus it is suggested that Pakistan should make the American authorities realize that Balochistan is an integral part of Pakistan and discussion on an integral part of a sovereign country and is abrogation of international norms. The government should also exposed Indian involvement in Balochistan and it must be addressed in bilateral engagements at Sectary level talks b/w India and Pakistan. Government should also highlight the issue of harbouring Baloch dissidents in Pak–U.S.–Afghanistan Trilateral meeting, similarly Afghanistan should be asked to stop Indian to use her territory since, the Baloch youth is being trained and supplied with arms and ammo by Indians on Afghan soil. Afghanistan needs to provide assurance of closing these training camps and not to undertake such steps which could harm bilateral relations as well as destabilise Pakistan.American should also be asked to redefine drone attack policy and provide drone technology to Pakistan. At the same time The "Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan" package announced by Pakistan Government must be implemented in letter and in spirit to address the deprivations of Baloch people.

—The writer is a defence and IR analyst.








Make no mistake about it, democracy is 'in'. Even those, who can hardly be classed as 'democrats' by any standard, swear by it. Here in the Land of the Pure, 'democracy' has gone full cycle: from what was once 'the best revenge' to what is now 'a panacea' for all ills. The man in the street continues to look askance at this form of government, though. His main concern, i.e. to keep body and soul together, is still to be addressed. But then his feeble voice is engulfed by the ever rising clamour for democracy. Remember when the then US President, George W. Bush, announced in his message to the Iraqi people on the eve of the Iraq invasion that, "We are determined to bring democracy to your country"? "Democracy" has since become something of a sine qua non in all pronouncements emanating from the West, as well as from our own 'liberal' crowd. In effect, democracy is today a big thing; the thing to cherish and to propagate. By that token, any action by the 'baddies' is instantly projected as "an attack on democracy" and roundly condemned; and woe unto people who are on the receiving end! As Americans would say, it is either democracy or bust.

It is a different matter altogether what democracy brings in its wake. The frightful upheaval in occupied Palestine after the election victory of Hamas – and that in a free and fair election a la western prototype of democracy - is just one instance of democracy gone awry. One may well be justified in asking of the liberal West: either accept democracy, warts and all, or stop thrusting it on one and all. You cannot have it both ways. The western concept of democracy it would appear is founded on what can only be characterized as double standards. Our own herd of liberal intellectuals has been weaned on Western propaganda. 'Democracy', by that token, is bound to figure among the de rigueur words in their lexicon. In their estimation, any person wishing to be counted among those fit to be counted must needs be an admirer of the Western type of democracy, or else. There are no ifs and buts about it. It matters not the least whether or not the person in question has the slightest inkling of what democracy connotes or what, if anything, it is made up of. The name of the game is to hold forth on the subject; the more profound (read: complex) a person's dissertation, the more his or her market value in the globalization-obsessed world of today. Democracy, in a word, is 'in'.

What is one to make of democracy, then? Not that one would go to the good old dictionary for a definition, since that would be banal in the extreme. Everyone knows how the dictionary would define it: something akin to Lincoln's well-known description of it as "government of the people, by the people, for the people". All this, though, is easier said than done. Defining is the easy part; transplanting the definition on to the field – and a field as slippery as that of the Land of the Pure - is something else. Perhaps the most apt definition came from the pen of philosopher poet Muhammad Iqbal who defined democracy as a form of government based on the premise that "people are to be counted rather than appraised". The stress in the so-called democratic approach to government, in other words, is on quantity rather than quality.

People see democracy in different perspectives. Alan Coren once remarked –not inaptly – "Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear". G. K. Chesterton had adopted an altogether different approach, when he opined "Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated". Fisher Ames was somewhat ambivalent. He said, "Democracy is like a raft. It never sinks, but, damn it, your feet are always in the water'.

Democracy, of course, is a nice rounded word that rolls ever so lightly off the tongue. Perhaps it is because of this that fashionable and fashion-conscious persons frequently make use of this phrase in their casual conversation without even bothering to understand its precise connotation. In fact, if one were to hark back at recent history, one would discover that several people who were projected as having 'struggled for democracy' were, in themselves, never quite clear as to its true connotation. One example that can be cited is that of the well-known demonstration in Beijing's Tiananmen Square years ago, that was hailed by the 'free' Western press as a 'pro-democracy movement'. If any one had bothered to scratch the surface, it would have become abundantly clear that hardly anyone taking part in that particular demonstration had the slightest inkling about what 'democracy' was or, indeed, what it stood for.

The detractors often deride democracy as 'tyranny of the majority'. Yet it can also happen that a veritable minority can actually triumph in a democratic dispensation. The Westminster type of democracy has peculiarities all its own. The 'first-past-the-post' concept is, at best, deeply flawed. If one does one's sums diligently, it would not be far to seek that this system almost never ensures that the winning party would be the one that polled the most votes. As a matter of fact, it is theoretically possible for a party to win an overwhelming majority of the popular vote and yet end up with a minority of members in parliament! These deviations are enough to shake the purist's faith in democratic institutions, such as they are.

Democracy is at best an over-rated system of government. Hullabaloo about the 'virtues' of democracy appears to have been blown out of all proportion. The Western propaganda notwithstanding, there is hardly any doubt that a system of government can be only as good, or as bad, as those administering it. Come to think of it, what really matters in the long run is how well a people are governed. It is governance and the welfare of the common man that deserves top billing, rather than merely the form of government. Good governance, then, is what is - or at least should be - the ultimate touchstone.







All hell broke loose in Pakistan when early morning flashed the breaking news of the decade that Osama Bin Laden was finally killed in a military operation in Abbotabad, Pakistan. Report by Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich for The Independent UK dated 2nd May 2011 states,"Officials briefing in Washington told the Associated Press that a small team of special forces troops killed Bin Laden in a firefight on Sunday in the town of Abbottabad and took custody of his remains. American officials were quick to stress they were being handled in accordance with Islamic tradition. They are also performing DNA tests on his remains to confirm his identity". The report goes on to say, "President Obama said he ordered the operation after receiving undisclosed intelligence information. Senior administration officials said Bin Laden was found inside a custom-built compound with two security gates. They said it appeared to have been constructed to harbour one high-value target and that for undisclosed reasons, officials became convinced that it was that of Bin Laden".

The reaction in Pakistan is massive. There is general disbelief at the news. Some say this is in fact the justification to the drone policy by USA in Pakistan, killing thousands of innocent women, children and senior citizens in a desire to hit the target. Some state that with the up coming US elections the justification of continuing Bush policy by Obama stands vindicated and gives the Democrats a new lease of life. Others state that no body is shown on media, but a picture of the face of Osama Bin Laden is shown only, which may or may not be a fresh one. Washington Post reported that he has been "buried at sea". According to a US official, he was buried at sea because finding a country to accept the remains of the world's most wanted terrorist would have been difficult!

The fact of the matter is, with this declaration by USA, an increasingly embarrassing situation is emerging for Pakistan. The impression created by the news given out was that this was an operation conducted by the USA Military. If this is true, the ugly question that has already reared it's head, is how can Pakistan's own intelligence be sublimely unaware of the proposed operation? If they were not taken in confidence, it will effect relationships with the military and the security, still reeling under the impact of the Raymond Davis case. Assuming it was not unaware, how can the Government allow a foreign country to conduct operations within Pakistan's borders? Does this not mean, that similar like attacks may be conducted by a nation(s) fearing one hunted within the borders of Pakistan? Does acceptance of the action, pave way for future attacks too? Or, it is that the Government fears a huge backlash from Al-Qaeda were it to openly claim and admit playing a good part in nabbing the target? In either case, Pakistan is placed in a hugely volatile situation & a future bleak in terms of security.

Many other questions emerge, how could Osama have managed to live in quite a populated city in a compound where the Government is quite in control, for at least many months? This question is also asked by Declan Walsh in his report in The Guardian. He furthers goes on to state," In the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, one western diplomat described the news as a "game changer" – not just for al-Qaida, but also for US foreign policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a region embroiled in turmoil and violence since 2001."

The same sentiments are being reflected by the Pakistanis ever since the news broke out. Will the killing of Osama signify a "win" to the USA thereby paving the way to an exit strategy, eventually, from Afghanistan? Or conversely, it further entrenches USA in the region with a renewed vow to weed out other militants as "Al-Qaida will find it difficult after Osama's death to regroup" as is being claimed by USA?

Where as, David Swanson, writing for War is a in an article titled "Killing Resolves Nothing", states," Killing will lead only to more killing. There will be no review of bin Laden's alleged crimes, as a trial would have provided. There will be no review of earlier U.S. support for Bin Laden. There will be no review of U.S. failures to prevent the September 11th attacks. Instead, there will be bitterness, hatred, and more violence, with the message being communicated to all sides that might makes right and murder is the way in which someone is, in President Obama's words, brought to justice".

So far as the average Pakistani is concerned, the operation has dawned horrible implications for them. The question resounding off the walls is, how far has the CIA in cursed in their country? The statement that the Operation was "intelligence driven" and was "conducted by US forces in accordance with declared policy of US", has only resulted in creating panic in Pakistan. The common man wants to know, what is the understanding between the two countries, that allowed the USA Military to carry out the operation in "accordance with the declared policy".

Another question that surfaces is, how will this development impact the already strained relationship between Pakistan and USA? Should Pakistan continue being an "ally" in this war, where, at the end of the day, Pakistan gets a black name in the bargain?

—The writer is a lawyer, and teaches in a private university in Lahore. ***************************************






I remember walking down a side street in central Kabul in 1983 when I was approached by two young Afghan soldiers of the Soviet-trained Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) army. They thought I was an off-duty Soviet officer and greeted me warmly in Russian. I responded in Dari that I was American, not Russian, but I am not sure they believed me. They laughed and shouted, "America no good, Islam no good," and they spat on the ground. Smiling, they added proudly, "We are communists."

At the time, the Soviets were still winning their war in Afghanistan, but the US-backed mujaheddin insurgency was gaining ground. During my years there, between 1983 and 1985, the insurgents shelled Kabul indiscriminately almost every evening; bombings, gun battles and assassinations were common, and fierce battles raged in contested areas on the outskirts of the city. Throughout Afghanistan, Soviet forces routinely pummelled villages whose inhabitants were suspected of supporting the mujaheddin. But in spite of the vicious fighting and the atrocities committed by both sides, thousands of young Afghan men renounced Islam, became communists and joined the DRA army to fight the insurgency. Whether they were true believers in Marxism-Leninism is far from clear, but they were happy to be on the winning side — with a monthly salary, free mess hall food, new uniforms and an issued rifle. In their decade-long war, the Soviets rotated more than 115,000 troops in and out of Afghanistan each year, and spent billions of rubles training the DRA army and launching extensive nation-building efforts.

Today, the soldiers of the US-led International Assistance Security Force (ISAF) are in their 10th year of combat in Afghanistan. Much as the Soviets did, the ISAF has devoted enormous resources to training local forces, and it is pinning its hopes of scaling back its presence in the country on the ability of the ISAF-trained Afghan National Army (ANA) to eventually assume responsibility for security.

After the Soviet army retreated back across the Amu Darya in 1989, many DRA communist soldiers who had fought against their mujaheddin brothers fled the country, too. Many others discarded their DRA army uniforms and returned to their villages with their Soviet-supplied weapons to swear allegiance to their traditional warlords. Still others re-embraced Islam, and some joined the Taliban insurgency a few years later when the Taliban began winning the civil war. And some of these former soldiers are now wearing the uniform of the ISAF-trained Afghan National Army.

In early 2002, I was again in Kabul and again found myself talking to young Afghan soldiers, this time members of the ANA. Just months before, in November 2001, US-backed Northern Alliance fighters swept across the Shomali Plain into Kabul, driving out the last remnants of the Taliban regime and forcing its al-Qaeda allies to flee across the border into Pakistan. The soldiers I spoke with seemed proud and cocky. They were carrying new weapons, earning a monthly salary and eating free mess hall food. They saw hope for their future and gave me the thumbs up sign, saying in English: "America very good, Taliban no good, Osama bin Laden no good, too." They were on the winning side, and they loved the United States.

Now, the ISAF has been training the ANA for a nearly a decade, and whether they fight for the DRA, for the mujaheddin, for warlords against one another's tribes, for the ANA or for the Taliban, many Afghans fight if they believe they are on the winning side. Some join the Taliban because they remember that the Taliban recently ruled Afghanistan and they believe it will rule again. Some Talibs fight because they believe, wrongly, that the ISAF is a coalition of conquering Christian armies occupying their country and battling their religion and culture. And many Talibs fight because they are very poor and disenfranchised and have nothing to lose. Our men and women in uniform have performed heroically in Afghanistan, but it is now time for the ANA to be battle-tested on a large scale and to take the lead in fighting this war. Without major victories on the battlefield, and without seizing and holding battle space, the ANA will never attain the confidence and reliability it needs to be a viable force, and it will become more fearful of the al-Qaeda-assisted Taliban, less motivated to fight or even apathetic.

Regardless of whether a cease-fire is eventually realized with so-called moderate Taliban members and peace comes to Afghanistan in the short term, some hardened and irreconcilable elements of the Taliban are likely to fight on. It is likely that a lasting peace will be enforced only at the end of a gun barrel, and a large, empowered and professional ANA must be holding that gun.— Courtesy: The Washington Post








It says a lot about the ABC that on Monday, when one of the biggest news stories of the decade was breaking, its primary television station first continued to broadcast Monarch of the Glen and then, when it was the last network to go to coverage of Osama bin Laden's death, it switched to Qatar-based broadcaster, al-Jazeera. So much for an Australian perspective. We can only presume Ultimo was slow to realise the significance of the story, disorganised in how to cover it and uncertain whether its hosts could anchor the on-air coverage until President Barack Obama spoke.

Judged by the ABC's charter, which requires "innovative and comprehensive broadcasting", this was another epic failure. The ABC also neglected to go live to air with the dispatching of our Prime Minister last year, so despite all of its resources and annual taxpayer funding of $1.13 billion, the ABC bungles the major stories. The viewing public is entitled to believe this is not good enough. Defensively, ABC boss Mark Scott has pointed to coverage on the digital 24-hour news channel, but this has a tiny audience and is not even available to many viewers. TV's channel two and local AM radio are the mainstays of ABC audiences and should be treated as such. Mr Scott needs to get these right before spending all his time and our money tinkering with ever more channels, increasing the ABC's "platforms" and spruiking about how "tech savvy" it is.

Australians grew up expecting the national broadcaster to deliver reliable and timely news and current affairs. Now they must wonder about its priorities, with the managing director and many staff seemingly spending more time on Twitter than they do broadcasting. Clearly Mr Scott should spend more time on content and developing the news-focused, can-do attitude that seems to flourish in the commercial media. The ABC likes to deride commercial media but, yet again, its rivals showed better judgment and greater flexibility.

Given News Limited's corporate investment in the successful Sky News channel (which went to the bin Laden story 20 minutes before the ABC's 24-hour news channel) it would perhaps be in The Australian's commercial interests to leave the ABC to its lumbering ways. But we are fiercely concerned about the stewardship of taxpayers' money and the ABC's ability to perform its proper duty in the national interest.







Incoming Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu did all the pre-budget softening up, blaming his predecessor for blow-outs and black holes, but he has failed to follow through on his promised tough budget. Given his rhetoric and the reality of a state living beyond its means, the budget needed to demonstrate fiscal discipline. The economic and political reality demanded much of the hard work be done immediately, in the first year of a fixed four-year term.

Delivering popular election promises is one thing, digging taxpayers further into debt to pay for them is quite another. Treasurer Kim Wells says he will deliver a $140 million surplus next year, and ongoing surpluses averaging $164m, despite $5.1 billion of increased spending. He is paying for this through some welcome budget cuts totalling $2.2bn but, more worryingly, by nearly doubling state debt to more than $23bn, taking it to almost 6 per cent of gross state product.

The government claims to have cut the trajectory of expenditure growth from 8 per cent a year to an annual rate of 3.2 per cent. The trend is welcome, but it means government spending growth remains slightly higher than the forecast 3 per cent economic growth. Prudent management would see government shrinking as a share of the economy rather than expanding. Mr Wells makes a virtue of not cutting public sector jobs, but it is invariably through payroll numbers that governments lock in to spending growth.

The focus on police numbers and public transport security is understandable given Melbourne's particular crime problems, but efficiencies could have been found elsewhere. And stamp-duty cuts and utility concessions are all well and good, but only when states can afford them.

Medium-term threats remain for Victoria with diminishing payments from the federal government's GST revenue possibly eroding further as a result of Canberra's review of federal-state financial relations. By borrowing instead of cutting, the Baillieu government hasn't avoided a reckoning, merely forestalled it. If there is a dampening of national economic trends before the cuts are made, the difficulties will intensify and Victorians might be wishing their government had muscled up when it said it would.






Just as Osama bin Laden's odious attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, did not threaten the country's survival, his death does not mean the war on terror is at an end. This is not to underestimate the US achievement in killing him or its international impact. As the crowds congregating outside the White House and World Trade Centre construction site on the night it was announced understood, bin Laden's end illustrates their nation's global reach. As much as it is appropriate retribution for the thousands who died on September 11 at bin Laden's command, as well as all the other innocents murdered by his al-Qa'ida organisation, his death demonstrates that for the US appeasement is never on the agenda. This was the outcome George W. Bush promised and Barack Obama announced, in a speech which will lift his standing in the polls and his country's reputation all over the world.

But there is still much for the the US and their allies to do. It seems certain bin Laden no longer led the al-Qa'ida terror organisation, that his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri who remains at large, has long been in charge. This means the watch against terrorists on city streets and in airports all over the world must continue. The fight in Afghanistan against the heroin-exporting warlords who command the Taliban must also go on. To abandon the long-suffering Afghan people to men who protected bin Laden and claim Islam justifies their misogyny and feudalism would send a signal to ordinary Muslims that the US is cynically selective in defending human rights.

The Americans lost interest in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union was forced out a generation ago -- it must not make the same mistake again. And in Pakistan, leaders who take US aid while officers under their command talk to the Taliban must be called to account. If US intelligence could find bin Laden living near Pakistan's military academy, how could he have eluded the nation's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate?

The challenge for President Obama is to use bin Laden's death as a circuit-breaker in Pakistan, birthplace or spiritual home to terrorists responsible for attacks across the border in Afghanistan and across the world in Britain and the US. The country's armed forces have been preparing for war with India for 60 years, but have proved variously incapable and uninterested in protecting their country against terrorists. In 2009, the central government lost control of the famous Swat Valley to an Islamist militia. Last January, a provincial governor who campaigned against the country's blasphemy laws was murdered by a member of his military escort. We still do not know whether presidential candidate Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 for being too liberal, a woman or both. President Asif Ali Zardari, who appears a genuine opponent of terrorism, faces leading a failed state where the government cannot protect its citizens unless he imposes his will on zealots in his own ranks. That the US caught and killed bin Laden alone should shame Mr Zardari into stiffening his spine. And if he needs encouragement, Mr Obama need only spell out Pakistan's choice: stand with the world against terrorism or slide into the hatred that Osama bin Laden espoused.







BY NOW, from the example of countries such as Finland, we have learnt that the quality and status of teachers has a lot to do with educational outcomes. So there will be applause for the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday that next week's budget will lay the foundations for a teacher bonus system, even if the first payments will not start flowing for almost three years.

The idea is to pay bonuses of $5400 to $8100 to about 25,000 teachers in primary and secondary schools, about one in 10 of the profession. But how to choose the best teachers? That is still be to worked out, the Schools Education Minister, Peter Garrett, says, in consultation with educationists, school communities and non-government organisations. Then the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership will construct a ''teaching performance management and principles system''. But is this enough, and does the proposed system look feasible?

Worryingly, the doubters include some of our most authoritative educationists, not just the teachers' unionists who understandably see their goal as equitable rises across the profession. They look at the range of highly subjective factors Garrett cites as likely to be applied to our 250,000 teachers: the education achievements of the pupils in their charge, extracurricular contributions, relationships with colleagues, and ''a range of other issues''. Can this be anything other than a haphazard process, encouraging sycophancy as a career path?

The other concern is that the most objective part of the assessment, the results of student testing, can lead to the phenomenon of ''teaching to the test'' where teachers will have a pecuniary interest at stake. Julia Gillard, in the zeal to make education her hallmark, may place too much reliance on a narrow spectrum of tests for literacy and numeracy. A visiting American authority, the Stanford University professor of education, Linda Darling-Hammond, warns that we might be following a discredited, even fraudulent, model in the testing and school ranking system applied in New York.

The structural problem in teaching is that entry standards are fairly modest, and teachers quickly advance to the highest - but still middling - pay grade within nine or 10 years, except for the few who move into administration. If we were to follow Finland's example, entry would be based on high academic qualifications and postgraduate vocational training, and teachers staying in the classroom offered continuing prospect of advancement. But we can say that Canberra is starting to put some money where its mouth is.





THE O'Farrell government has made an encouraging start in clearing the state's backlog of public infrastructure with the appointment of Nick Greiner as inaugural chairman of its centrepiece agency, Infrastructure NSW. The former premier is blessed with experience at top levels of government and industry, and brings to the new job the attitudes and reputation of a can-do achiever. The task still demands appropriate caution but it is important the first chief of Infrastructure NSW be committed to capital works proceeding, not to finding points of procrastination.

This latter attitude marked the last half of the previous government's tenure. Too often government backtracked on earlier commitments on rail in particular, the inaction defended on fiscal restraint grounds Greiner promises to render obsolete. Already he has enunciated several funding options that might free up the public purse to provide the services expected from it.

First things first, however. The immediate impact of the appointment should be to resuscitate business confidence. It suggests government determination to enhance public assets and it assures business that the baton is held by someone who understands the impediments to private investment and how they might be eased. Since the worst of the global financial crisis, the challenge for governments has been to lessen commercial risk to private investors so they remain competitively interested in bidding for big government projects. But this has become more difficult given failures of standard funding models. Take tollways, for instance. Failure of the Cross City and Lane Cove tunnel projects to attract sufficient traffic, along with other build-own-operate schemes failing interstate, burnt business confidence, particularly when the whole commercial environment was shakier.

Recognising this, Greiner has offered at least two options. One is that developers get regular payments to build and maintain roads (thereby providing an incentive to build them well), but not toll payments. Another is that the government borrows heavily to build expressways and then sells them to investors such as superannuation funds once traffic patterns stabilise and earnings can be calculated with some certainty. But governments must borrow more, anyway, if giant projects such as the M4 East and the M5 duplication are to proceed.

To his credit, the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has agreed to Greiner's demand that the five- and 20-year plans due from Infrastructure NSW by the end of this year will be published in full, even if the government does not embrace them in total. Who knows: O'Farrell might yet earn the ''infrastructure premier'' title he so desires.







TREASURER Kim Wells tried hard yesterday to justify the mood of fiscal gloom and austerity the Baillieu government had sought to cultivate since gaining office. Mr Wells' speech introducing the 2011-12 state budget rehearsed familiar remarks about spending having increased faster than revenues under the government's predecessor, with a consequent increase in debt that, if left unchecked, would ultimately be unsustainable. This risk had grown even more acute, he said, because of a cut in GST revenue from the Commonwealth that will leave a $4.1 billion hole in Victoria's coffers over the next five years. Add to these problems a $2 billion blowout in the cost of the Brumby government's trouble-plagued IT projects such as myki and HealthSmart, and it will be evident, Mr Wells claimed, that Victoria's finances are potentially in a dire state.

The problem with this analysis is that the government's mild reining in of spending in 2011-12 and over the forward estimates period seems to have been more than enough to pull the state back from the brink on which it was supposedly teetering. The government has nipped and tucked its way through project after project to find savings of $2.2 billion over five years, with the result that it has managed to keep its election promises while also making provision for new infrastructure spending. This was no slash-and-burn exercise, and after all the trimming Mr Wells has still been able to produce what a former federal treasurer of a different political persuasion might have called a lovely set of numbers. The surplus for 2011-12 will be $140 million - still above the $100 million that both Labor and Coalition governments regard as the desirable minimum - and surpluses averaging $164 million are projected until mid-2015. Net public debt is predicted to rise to 5.9 per cent of gross state product, but to remain at that level over the same period. That figure was the most intimidating the Treasurer was able to produce, but it looks bad only to those who, for ideological reasons, like to maintain that public debt should ideally be zero. There is no reason why it should be, and in truth there are many governments responsible for developed industrial economies around the world that would dearly like to have such paltry debt to repay.

The cost pressures inherited from Labor projects such as myki have been politically useful to the Coalition, both before the election and since it came to office. It might have been hoped that by now, however, the government would at least be able to tell Victorians what its intentions are with regards to some of these projects. Mr Wells almost gave the game away with regard to myki, when he told a media conference yesterday that when the government took over responsibility for the electronic ticketing system it wanted to be satisfied that costs were finally under control. We take this as an elliptical and reluctant way of conceding that myki is here to stay, but the budget papers themselves continue to treat it as an enigma. In all its tabulated glory, spending on myki in this budget and over the forward estimates is labelled TBD: to be decided. But the government surely has decided, and should say so.

The Treasurer made much of budget measures intended to relieve cost-of-living pressures, but these outlays, like the overall spending cuts, were modest. Low-income households will benefit from a 17.5 per cent cut in energy bills, and by September 2014 the government will have implemented its pledge to reduce stamp duty by 50 per cent for first home buyers. From July 1 there will be a 20 per cent cut in stamp duty on homes valued under $600,000 and home buyers will also benefit from assistance through the First Home Owner Grant and an extension of the First Home Bonus. Victorians who are not buying their first homes or who are not on very low incomes, however, are likely to find that cost-of-living pressures do not notably diminish.

But the government has not forgotten the voter grievances that bestowed office on it, above all dissatisfaction with public transport. It has allocated $222 million for spending on seven new trains, the first of 40 for Melbourne commuters, and will persist with the regional rail link despite delays in Commonwealth funding. There will be a feasibility study for the proposed Doncaster rail link, and the promised central authority to run the system, the Public Transport Development Authority, will be created. The most neglected part of the healthcare system, mental health services, will get an $88 million boost, and the government is delivering on its election pledges to increase police and protective service numbers. If the test of fiscal success is to spend while talking up austerity, Mr Wells has succeeded.






Justice in the individual case is still far from certain, but following the inquest's verdict it is at least a possibility once again

Nothing could be more serious than the state taking the life of one of its subjects – except, perhaps, for the state's agents preventing this coming to light. After an inquest's ruling yesterday, it is now official that the newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, was unlawfully killed amid the policing of the G20 protests in 2009. Many who saw the footage the Guardian obtained, which showed PC Simon Harwood striking Mr Tomlinson just before his death, will regard the verdict as a statement of the blindingly obvious. But it matters. For one thing it raises again the prospect of a prosecution; for another it invites searching questions about why it took so long to get the truth recognised.

The most immediate dilemma is for the director of public prosecutions. As he is required to do, he last night set the wheels in motion for reconsidering whether there is a realistic chance of a conviction. His unfortunate conclusion last year, which was not lightly arrived at, was that the mixed (and mixed-up) medical evidence precluded pinning responsibility beyond reasonable doubt on anyone. The inquest jury's considered view that the cause of death was "abdominal haemorrhage due to blunt force trauma", albeit it in a person whose susceptibility was increased by liver cirrhosis, surely moves things on. Justice in the individual case is still far from certain, but it is at least a possibility once again.

Even if it ultimately arrives, however, justice will have come via such a tortuous route that one has to wonder whether it could get lost next time. After a day on which many officers were concealing their identity badges, the Met dragged its heels. A botched postmortem followed, carried out by a physician who was under investigation. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said there was "nothing in the story" that Mr Tomlinson had died after a fatal run-in with the thin blue line, and it waited a full week before launching an investigation. Whether through incompetence, conspiracy or some mix of the two, every check that the citizen imagines him or herself to have against the authorities was initially frustrated.

Healthy democracies are distinguished from police states by the ideal that those who enforce the law should be subject to it in the same way as everyone else. For the most part this happens in Britain, but there can be chilling lapses in the most serious cases, as was seen in the pall thrown over Blair Peach's killing for 30 years, and in the failure to bring the Met to book over the de Menezes case, other than through health and safety laws. The killing of a newspaper salesman who was simply trying to get home raises all the old anxieties about state power which is accountable to none.





Otherwise progressive Labour voters who are contemplating a no vote have a special responsibility to think again

There is a built-in difficulty with all referendums. You ask the voters one question – but you risk getting the answer to a completely different one. Tomorrow's UK-wide referendum on changing the general election voting system has been marked by a mostly dismal campaign that may well produce such an outcome.

The question on the ballot paper is whether to replace the first past the post system with the alternative vote (AV). That issue is straightforward. In the present system, where voters select a single candidate, there is frequently a large majority of votes against – not in favour of – the successful MP. Under AV, where voters number their choices in order of preference, the winner must always have a majority mandate, after a process of redistribution. But that is not the issue uppermost in many voters' minds. For these, the referendum is about how to do down their opponents. In conservative Britain, energetic as ever in defence of the status quo, the unerring aim is to preserve the Tory party's capacity to win a Commons majority on the basis of minority support – as Margaret Thatcher did three times to such divisive effect. In progressive Britain, opinion is more evenly balanced. Most progressive Liberal Democrats are for change, as are many in the Labour party, including Ed Miliband. But large numbers in the Labour party are consumed by a cruder purpose – to bash the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg in particular, and preserve a system which also produced three successive majorities for their own party in recent history. To defend this system, large numbers of Labour activists have eagerly jumped into bed with the Tory party. Not a pretty sight.

There is plenty of criticism to dish out in all directions over this campaign. But the otherwise progressive Labour voters who are contemplating a No vote have a special responsibility to think again. A No victory will weaken the Lib Dems. But it will not kill the coalition. Instead it will bind it together on increasingly Tory terms. This will not help Labour as much as these opponents of change imagine. Under new constituency boundaries that eliminate the current pro-Labour bias, with Labour losing its grip on its Scottish heartlands to the SNP, and under new party funding rules that will boost the Tories and make things harder for Labour, the big winner from a No victory will be David Cameron. A Yes vote, by contrast, would inflame the Tory grassroots, threaten Mr Cameron's control over his party and strengthen the resolve of progressive Lib Dems to be more assertive about their party's values on social justice, civil liberty and democratic reform. It would also massively enhance the possibility that Labour and the Lib Dems can work together in the progressive cause in the future.

So, even progressives whose priority is to bash the coalition should vote Yes. But those who have remained focused on electoral reform should do so too. The existing system may be simple. But it is unfair to the ever larger proportion of voters who do not vote for the two big parties. And the alleged complexities of the alternative vote have been overstated. What's not to understand about one, two, three? AV gives a better reflection of public opinion than the existing system while retaining the constituency basis of the House of Commons.

You can't be a fairer society without having fairer politics. Keeping first past the post would mean keeping the system in which general elections mean national media campaigns funded by very rich backers which concentrate all their efforts on a few thousand swing voters in marginal seats. AV would take democracy back to the grassroots and would make more voters matter. Britain in 2011 is becoming a more unfair country both economically and politically. Voting Yes to AV tomorrow will help to stop that process and eventually reverse it. It will help to put the majority in charge, not the minority as at present.






The retrieval of two Air France flight recorders from the Atlantic renders the needles and haystacks cliche woefully inadequate

The resolution of one long hunt is dominating the news, but by any objective criterion another deserves some exposure too. The "uncovering" of Bin Laden's compound, with its 12-18 foot walls, hardly justifies the cliche about needles and haystacks. By contrast, the same analogy is woefully inadequate for the parallel search operation to retrieve two Air France black boxes from the bottom of the Atlantic. The flight recorders took up perhaps one part in every 1020 of that ocean's watery vastness. You thus need a number with 21 digits to put things in mathematical perspective, which – from any human perspective – means the recorders simply drop out of view. But since the French flag carrier's worst crash cost 228 lives in 2009, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses has slogged for 23 months, and through savvy deployment of submarinal robots with manipulator arms, it has now made its double retrieval from the deep. The vanishing of flight AF447 was shrouded in obscurity but, if the boxes dry out as hoped, the first will reveal precisely where things went wrong, and the second, which recorded the crew as the catastrophe hit, could even reveal why. Was there a problem with the hardware's design, or merely the way it was used? This is a question of pressing legal and practical importance. The boxes, which despite the name are painted orange to make them conspicuous, offer the bereaved a chance of the truth, and give all air travellers the hope that lessons will be learned.







Japan on Tuesday marked the 64th anniversary of the enforcement of the postwar Constitution just as the entire nation, including its people, private enterprises, and the central and local governments, is struggling to overcome the consequences of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.

The anniversary also came at a time when the lives of the people in Fukushima Prefecture are being severely disrupted by the radioactive materials released from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which developed a major nuclear crisis when its power sources to cool the reactors were damaged by the tsunami.

According to the National Police Agency, more than 25,000 people died or went missing in the March 11 disasters. Many people also lost their property and their jobs. More than 126,000 evacuees are still housed in temporary shelters — after more than 50 days have passed since the catastrophe struck.

Article 27 of the Constitution says that "All people shall have the right and the obligation to work" and Article 29 says that "The right to own or to hold property is inviolable." Those people's suffering was caused not by human or government actions but by the terrible power of nature. But the victims are without the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Along with the no-war principle, the Constitution, promulgated on Nov. 3, 1946, and put into force on May 3, 1947, contains an important principle of the right to the minimum standards of living. Article 25 says, "All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living. In all spheres of life, the State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health."

The first sentence of this article was not in the draft Constitution prepared by the headquarters of the Occupation forces. Japanese lawmakers inserted this sentence through their Diet deliberations — an important testimony that undermines an idea propagated by some that the Japanese just passively accepted as their new Constitution what the Occupation forces headquarters had written and imposed on them.

Despite the lawmakers' determination to improve the lives of people by including the right to the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured life in the Constitution, it is clear that the conditions of people in temporary shelters are far from what the article envisages. Even if they relocate to temporary housing, one cannot say that they will come to enjoy the living conditions as stated in Article 25. They will be forced to live under harsh conditions for many years to come.

Attention should also be paid to the situation of people in Fukushima Prefecture who were forced to evacuate their homes because of the establishment of the non-entry zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station. The evacuation is causing many of them to lose their means of making a living. These people were not responsible for the crisis at Fukushima No. 1, but they have been forced to suffer from the consequences of the nuclear calamity. Many children in the prefecture are being deprived of their right to a normal education without fear of threats to their health.

In August 1945, the atomic bombings turned the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into victims of nuclear fission. Today, nuclear power generation has made the people of Fukushima the latest victims of nuclear fission. It will be a sad chapter in Japanese history if Fukushima is remembered alongside Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a place associated with a nuclear tragedy.

Article 13 of the Constitution says that all of the people shall be respected as individuals and guarantees people's rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A condition is attached to the realization of these rights. The article says that to the extent they do not interfere with the public welfare, they shall be the supreme consideration in legislations and in other government affairs.

As a general principle, Article 13 may be correct. But it should be remembered that what is promoted under the name of the public welfare can undermine the true public welfare. It is not far-fetched to say that the central government and the power industry have pushed nuclear power on the strength of the argument that it is for the sake of promoting the public welfare. But what happened at Fukushima No. 1 has greatly violated people's rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and seriously damaged the public welfare.

It is clear that the government must quickly take well thought out measures to help and improve the lives of the victims of the triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Apart from the triple disaster, Japan has been facing various social problems, including the so-called working poor, an increase in the number of temporary workers, the deterioration of medical and social welfare services, and the weakening of the social fabric because of economic and technological changes.

It is time for the government, the private sector and citizens to seriously consider ways to realize the ideal expressed by Article 25 of the Constitution.







MUNICH — Why did Greece, Ireland and Portugal have to seek shelter under the European Union's rescue umbrella, and why is Spain a potential candidate?

For many, the answer is obvious: International markets no longer want to finance the "PIGS." But that is only half true. In fact, international markets have not financed any of them to a considerable extent for the past three years; the European Central Bank has.

The "Target" accounts, hitherto ignored by the media, show that the ECB has been much more involved in rescue operations than is commonly known. The ECB no longer wants to do it, and is urging eurozone members to step in.

Normally, a country's current-account deficit (trade deficit minus transfers from other countries) is financed with foreign private capital. In a currency union, however, central bank credit may play this role if private capital flows are insufficient. This is what happened in the eurozone when the interbank market first broke down in mid-2007.

The PIGS' own central banks started to lend newly printed money to their private banks, and this money was then used to finance the current account deficit. These funds went to the exporting countries, where they circulated as part of normal transactions. The exporting countries' central banks responded by reducing their emissions of fresh money to be lent to the domestic economy.

In effect, central bank money lending in exporting countries, above all in Germany, was diverted to the PIGS.

The ECB's policy was not inflationary, because the aggregate stock of central bank money in the eurozone was unaffected. But, as PIGS' central bank lending came at the expense of central bank lending within the eurozone's exporting countries, the policy amounted to a forced capital export from these countries to the PIGS.

The amount of the ECB's "replacement lending" is shown by the so-called Target2 account, which measures the deficit or surplus of a country's financial transactions with other countries. As the account includes international payments for both trade in goods and financial claims, a deficit in a country's Target account indicates foreign borrowing via the ECB, whereas a surplus denotes foreign lending via the ECB.

The balance is not reported on the ECB's balance sheet, since it is zero in the aggregate, but it does show up on the respective balance sheets of the national central banks as interest-bearing claims against, and liabilities to, the ECB system. Until mid-2007, the Target accounts were close to zero, but since then, they have grown by about €100 billion per year.

For example, the Bundesbank's Target claims ballooned from €5 billion in 2006 to €323 billion by March 2011. The counterpart to these claims were the PIGS' liabilities, which had grown to about €340 billion by the end of last year. Interestingly, the PIGS' cumulative current-account deficits from 2008 through 2010 were of roughly the same order of magnitude — €365 billion, to be precise.

Had the ECB failed to finance these deficits, the PIGS would have had a hard time finding the money to pay for their net imports. If they succeeded at all, high interest rates would have induced them to tighten their belts, and their current-account deficits, which in the case of Greece and Portugal exceeded 10 percent of GDP, would have diminished.

One should not criticize the ECB for propping up the PIGS' current accounts during the global crisis. Unconventional measures were necessary to prevent their economies from collapsing. But it should be clear that this was not a sui generis monetary policy; it was a bailout. Now that the world economy has largely recovered from the crisis, it is time to end this policy — not least because the ECB is running out of ammunition.

By the end of last year, the aggregate stock of central bank money in the euro area was €1.07 trillion, and €380 billion was already absorbed by ECB credit to the PIGS. So financing a continued PIGS current-account deficit of about €100 billion a year would consume the entire stock of base money within another six or seven years.

To exit this policy, the ECB wants the EU's Luxembourg rescue facility, EFSF or ESM to take over, and some countries even call for the issuance of eurobonds. But this would simply prolong community financing of the PIGS' current-account deficits, now in its fourth year, for another couple of years. In the end, either the euro will collapse, or a transfer union will be established in Europe, in which the current-account deficits will be financed with inter-country donations.

It would be better if the EU kept the Luxembourg fund for real emergency measures, and if the ECB instructed its member institutions in the PIGS to demand significantly better collateral for their lending operations.

Tight national caps on Target balances could provide the right incentive to comply. Such a cap would not eliminate current-account deficits, but it would reduce deficits to the flow of private capital willing to finance them.

Setting a cap on Target accounts is a fundamentally more appropriate policy to keep current-account deficits in check than the wage policies contemplated by the new Pact for the Euro. Wage policies are appropriate only for centrally planned economies.

Perhaps the PIGS should ponder how Italy handled itself. Even though it had to pay interest premiums and was running a current-account deficit, Mario Draghi (the leading contender to take over the ECB this autumn) kept his central bank's lending under tight control throughout the crisis. Although it must have been sorely tempted, Italy did not accumulate Target deficits. It opted for virtuous abstention.

Hans-Werner Sinn is professor of economics and public finance at the University of Munich, and president of the Ifo Institute. © 2011 Project Syndicate






Beyond our imagination, the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) teachings have spread to many layers of society, but the way the government plays down the lurking danger that may cost the existence of Indonesia is regrettable.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto raised many eyebrows when he, in response to brainwashing practices involved in the recruitment of NII members, regarded the clandestine organization as having no potential to endanger national integrity.

Unfortunately, Djoko's statement is too good to be true.

Due to its aspiration to form a state that breaches the Constitution, NII makes no difference from the now defunct Free Aceh Movement and the Free Papua Organization, which the government used to and is trying hard to quell due to their secession movement, which is a serious crime.

For years NII has been recruiting members, many of them students and even political party members and government officials, and collecting funds, findings that should give cause for concern not only to the government but also the public at large.

No less surprising is the confession of a former NII minister, Imam Supriyanto, who said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party donated US$10,000 to an Islamic boarding school widely rumored to have been used to promote NII ideology and recruit followers.

Not to mention a possibility that NII deposited billions of rupiah into the now defunct Bank Century, prompting the House of Representatives to ask the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre to verify the report.

NII may have not transformed its dream to build an Islamic state into an armed movement as the Aceh rebels and the old NII did, and Papua separatist group is perpetrating, but the ideology war NII is waging could be more effective, particularly if people lose their confidence in democracy and a prosperous and just society envisioned by our founding fathers.

Indonesian modern history has seen the commitment to a nation state that preserves plurality surviving a series of efforts to change the Pancasila state ideology to Islam, either through constitutional or unconstitutional ways.

The fourth and latest constitutional amendment in 2002 confirmed that the Pancasila ideology, which does not recognize the Islamic state, was final and would be maintained as it stood.

Sadly the political elites have been compromising the national consensus by giving false hope to an Islamic state or a quasi of it for short-term interest and political gains. The passage of regional ordinances that are inspired by Islamic law in many regencies and provinces is a trick the elites have deliberately chosen, regardless of its repercussions which many warn as creeping Islamization.

The hard-won democracy has allowed everybody to exercise their freedom, but there is always a limit. The freedom shall not put the nation state that was built on blood and sufferings of our founding fathers at stake.

It was this concern that perhaps triggered noted Muslim scholar, the late Nurcholish Madjid, to consistently uphold his famous and hopefully everlasting motto "Islam yes, Islamic parties no".






As I watched US President Barack Obama announcing the death of Osama bin Laden with his body buried at sea after Saudi Arabia refused to accept it, I posted my reactions through my Twitter account.

"An ideology is hard to kill with the death of its advocates like Bin Laden, but his death can help reduce his global leadership."

I tweeted further: "Osama and many terrorists have used Islam to sustain their ideologies and actions, but they don't represent around 1 billion Muslims in the world."

However, the death has meant different things to different people around the globe. Many in the US and elsewhere have welcomed and celebrated Bin Laden's demise as a victory over the leader of number-one terrorist network al-Qaeda.

Obama thinks "we can all agree this is a good day for America". Obama and Hillary Clinton pointed out that "justice has been served" for the victims of 9/11 in particular, and Americans in general. Many say "the world is now safer".

American Muslim leaders, including that of CAIR (Council of American-Islamic Relations) welcome the death, because "Osama was a mass murderer".

Muslim Senator Keith Ellison said Bin Laden was responsible for mass killings in the US, Pakistan, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania and more, and had caused fear and suffering for many.

Some in the US have expressed their ambivalence toward the death: The killing of a man without trial is clearly not correct for them. Some would expect Bin Laden to have been captured alive.

Some, including self-proclaimed Christians, said "they do not rejoice the death of a human being, no matter how monstrous he was".

"Judgment and punishment are up to God," Christian author James Martin wrote. Although he prays that Bin Laden's departure may lead to peace, as a Christian, he is asked to pray for Bin Laden and at some point forgive him, a command that comes from Jesus.

In Indonesia, when people are preoccupied with domestic problems, including how to deal with the spread of the Negara Islam Indonesia (NII, the Indonesian Islamic State) ideology, including in schools and colleges, mixed responses have been voiced in the media: Many have welcomed the death, whereas others, including the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) moderate leader Said Aqil Siradj implicitly welcomed it but added that the Allied Forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Libya could also be regarded as terrorists, radicals and uncivilized.

The US, he implied, should not demonstrate double standards, but serve justice in dealing with terrorism.

Some Islamist leaders have said Bin Laden's death will not eliminate al-Qaeda. Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) president Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq said the death would have no direct impact in Indonesia because none
of Bin Laden's family has investments here.

He added that violence came from injustice and poverty, so violence would not stop if justice and prosperity were absent.

Another PKS leader commented that al-Qaeda was based on an ideology and had a developed organization and recruitment system and therefore terrorism remained a threat.

Some liberal progressive activists commented that it would be better if Bin Laden were captured alive so he could stand trial and people could hear what he had to say.

Progressive activists commented only a little. One simply observed that when a friend is killed the loss is mourned, but when an enemy is killed, it is rejoiced.

They seem to agree with an analyst that the loss of a symbolic, semi-charismatic leader whose own survival burnished his legend was significant, but that radicalism and violence were not about to end.

Many questions have been raised, including about the future of terrorist ideology: Will terrorism decline? Will the death of Osama bin Laden bring a new world order? How should the world leaders address the root causes of terrorism and reduce its spread in many parts of the world, including Indonesia?

The fatwas or edicts reportedly from Bin Laden have been read and translated into many languages. The edicts issued in 1996, 1998, 2004 and later years contained a global call to war waged against the US and mention some of the reasons for Bin Laden's ideology of terror: Because of the US presence in the holy sites Mecca and Medina, the unqualified US support of Israel and of the US attacks on Iraq and other "Muslim soil".

Bin Laden urges the Muslim world to kill American crusaders and Jews, combatants and civilians as well as whoever is in support of them.

For those who show support or sympathy, Bin Laden constitutes a symbol of resistance against the US power. Some observers like Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis have argued that Bin Laden was a model for anti-globalization, anti-Westernization and anti-modernism.

Other scholars comment that terrorists as fundamentalists have lived as by-product of modernity.

But the appeal of Bin Laden cannot be overstated because many fatwas were issued to reject such calls. Most Muslims have rejected terrorism, the killing of civilians and the use of violence.

The struggle and discursive debate among Muslim leaders and groups have intensified between those who agree with the ideas but not the violent tactics; those who reject violence and terrorism without qualification; those who sympathize with terrorists and those who commit similar acts of terror in London, Bombay, Manila, Bali, Jakarta and other places.

A survey conducted by Pew Research Center on Muslim publics around the world a few months prior to Bin Laden's death indicates little support for the al-Qaeda leader. In the Palestinian territories, which he used as rationale for his war, only 34 percent expressed confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs.

In 2011, about 26 percent of Indonesians supported Bin Laden, compared to 22 percent of Egyptians and 13 percent of Jordanians. These numbers dropped from the figures in 2003 and 2005. This explains why there have been fewer reactions to Bin Laden's death in the Muslim world than in the US.

Now that Bin Laden has been officially confirmed dead, some people have remained concerned about the perpetration of his ideology.

Others have raised more ethical, philosophical questions about just war, patriotism based on killing, the value of human beings, violence to end violence, soft power and hard power, and the like. Others have pointed to addressing the root causes of terrorism and its circumstances.

The death of a world terrorist seems to have been welcomed by many, albeit in different ways, but this is not sufficient to make this complex world a safer place to live.

The writer is an assistant professor in Islamic studies, Religious Studies Department, University of California, Riverside.







Osama bin Laden is being hailed as a hero and martyr by radical groups around the country, with the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) holding a program of "gratitude for service" later today at its headquarters. Demonstrations against the US by other groups are planned. The question is whether there will be more serious consequences, and three come to mind.

One: a temporary shift back to foreign targets. For the last two years, Indonesian extremists have moved away from attacks on the West, symbolized by iconic brand names of American hotels and fast food chains, to hits and attempted hits on local targets, especially the police.

This was a direct result of anger at Detachment 88 for arresting and killing so many mujahidin after a training camp in Aceh was broken up in February 2010, but it also reflected recognition that international targets had no general recruitment value: Few Indonesians saw the logic of killing foreign civilians to avenge Muslim deaths in Iraq
or Gaza.

Bin Laden was such a powerful symbol and so revered in the extremist community, however, that calculations of costs and benefits may be overridden by a felt need to respond somehow to his death. The ubiquitous television images of cheering Americans may strengthen that resolve.

As we wrote in a Crisis Group report last month: "No one should conclude that targeting of foreigners is gone for good. One lesson from this report is that there is a constant process of adaptation, and developments in the Middle East and Pakistan, as well as within Indonesia, could produce new strategic directions." Bin Laden's death could be one of those developments.

Two: possibility of revenge attacks. While the possibility of revenge attacks is real, it is not a simple matter to pull them off. Planning an attack takes time, so the danger is less likely to be in the coming days than in the coming months or longer, giving police more time to get wind of a plot. Indonesian extremists also do not have a successful track record in this regard.

Police operations in Poso, Central Sulawesi, in January 2007 killed 14 local fighters and led to demands within the movement for retaliation, but no group had the capacity to respond. The execution of the Bali bombers in November 2008 led to massive demonstrations at their funerals, but no counter-attacks, despite widespread fears.

The fastest retaliation thus far was the Sept. 22, 2010, attack on the Hamparan Perak Police station, North Sumatra, in which three policemen were killed.

It came only three days after police killed three suspects they were hunting for the Medan bank robbery. But the fugitives already had arms, motive, target and opportunity. Putting all that together for a response to Bin Laden's death may not be so easy.

While that may be somewhat reassuring, it is also true that there are five or six constellations of possible perpetrators, and only one of them needs to be successful.

Three: Strengthened attachment to al-Qaeda. Another possible consequence of Bin Laden's death is a strengthened attachment of Indonesian extremists to al-Qaeda, both to the idea and to specific parts of the network.

A succession of Southeast Asia extremists have tried to set up local affiliates of al-Qaeda, based more on shared ideology than direct institutional linkage. At the time of the second Bali bombing, Noordin M Top called his group al-Qaeda for the Malay Archipelago.

By 2009 and the Jakarta hotel bombings, he was calling it al-Qaeda for Southeast Asia, even though a Malaysian named Mohamad Fadzullah Abdul Razak (since arrested) was using the same time a year earlier for a completely different group that wanted to send fighters from Malaysia to southern Thailand.

In early 2010, the alliances of extremists that set up the camp in Aceh began calling itself al-Qaeda for the Verandah of Mecca, a common term for Aceh.

By the admission of one participant, the name was in recognition of Bin Laden's leadership of the global jihad rather than anything more concrete. Finally, only a few days ago, a statement appeared on radical websites here, again in the name of al-Qaeda for Southeast Asia, praising the April 15 suicide bombing at a police station mosque in Cirebon, West Java.

Obviously the idea of al-Qaeda still resonates, to the point that most self-respecting jihadi groups want to identify with it.

But there are also more substantial links. On Jan. 25 this year, Umar Patek was arrested in Abbottabad, the same town where Bin Laden was living. It was probably not a coincidence (indeed, may have been part of the same operation).

Indonesian authorities need to be asking Patek, who remains in detention in Pakistan, exactly what the nature of his communication was with the al-Qaeda organization and who else from Southeast Asia is actively working with al-Qaeda in propaganda, training, or even operations.

In his desire to work with Bin Laden, Patek, a former Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) member who was one of the original Bali bombers, follows in the footsteps of Hambali, the JI leader detained in Guantanamo whose relationship with al-Qaeda until his arrest in 2003 is outlined in a recent WikiLeaks document.

But he is not the only one. Muhammad Jibril, founder of the ar-Rahmah publishing company and, was in regular communication with al-Qaeda's media outlet in Waziristan.

And other parts of the radical network in Indonesia are in communication with the radical Yemen-based preacher, al-Awlaki, who is active in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The death of Bin Laden could lead to a renewed push to bolster these ties or to an intensified propaganda campaign based on al-Qaeda materials, especially from AQAP, translated into Indonesian.

There is thus no reason to believe that the security situation in Indonesian has in any way been significantly improved by the killing of al-Qaeda's founder.

The good news, if there is any, is that none of the groups that have emerged over the last two years have shown the kind of technical capacity that Noordin M Top used to such devastating effect. No one, however, should be celebrating the end of terrorism in Indonesia.

The writer is senior adviser at the International Crisis Group.







In September 2001, Indonesia welcomed countries from across the region to the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance East Asia Ministerial Meeting (Asia FLEG) and openly acknowledged for the first time that illegal logging was a significant problem that demanded focused attention.

The meeting produced the Bali Declaration, which sparked numerous efforts over the past decade to combat illegal logging and promote improved forest management and transparent trade in legal and sustainable wood products.

After the Bali Ministerial Meeting, in 2003, the Indonesian government launched a comprehensive, participatory and transparent process to develop a national timber legality standard to be applied to all forest management units and factories producing forest products for export and a system to ensure independent verification of companies' compliance.

Given the technical and political complexity of the undertaking, the process took nearly seven years. But in September 2010, independent, accredited auditors began assessing concessions and factories against the standard.

To date, 12 certificates have been awarded representing an important first step in what will be a multi-year process.

The legality standard also supports the goals of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Indonesia and the European Union. The VPA negotiations, which concluded this month, produced a system to ensure that only timber products from legal sources in Indonesia would gain access to the lucrative European market.

The timber legality standard is the mechanism to provide such assurances. While the legality standard is geared primarily at the export market, it is clearly intended to raise the standard across the entire forestry sector in Indonesia.

Another policy initiative that traces its roots back to the Bali Ministerial Meeting is the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indonesia and China concerning Cooperation in Combating Illegal Trade of Forest Products. This was an explicit recognition that the two countries had a shared responsibility in addressing the illegal trade in such products.

The two trading partners have since established regular communication on what was once a very sensitive issue.

In 2010, the two countries signed a second broader MoU on Forestry Cooperation to promote development of the forestry sectors in both countries.

Last week, a delegation from China's State Forest Administration, Ministry of Commerce and General Administration of Customs traveled to Indonesia at the invitation of the Forestry Ministry.

The delegation is keenly interested in the Indonesian legality standard as China is in the process of tightening up its own regulatory environment and putting in place mechanisms which can assure both domestic and global markets that its products — which combine both imported and domestic wood — are legal.

The visit coincided with the state visit to Jakarta of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The Bali Declaration, the VPA, the MoUs between Indonesia and China, a similarly-framed 2007 MoU between Indonesia and the US and the subsequent Lacey Act Amendments of 2008 in the US are all examples of the recent strengthening of policy signals across the global supply chain designed to bring sustainability to the management of forests and transparency to the trade in timber products.

Private companies, which clearly want to continue to process, manufacture, export and sell timber products, are responding to these signals and in doing so putting more pressure on forest concessions to improve the quality of management to ensure that the products flowing into their supply chains are from legal and sustainability harvested sources.

Ultimately, continued strengthening of the linkages between policy processes, legal mechanisms, and corporate practices will be required in order to translate good intentions into real results on the ground.

The Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) program, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has adopted such an approach.

In addition to supporting the development of Indonesia's timber legality standard and facilitating the linkages between Indonesian and Chinese government officials, the RAFT program has worked with more than 35 timber concessionaires covering nearly 4 million hectares.

This work has included enhancing human and institutional capacities in forest inventory, planning, road construction, and logging, as well as building skills in identifying and safeguarding important ecological attributes of the forest and negotiating agreements that benefit their adjacent community groups.

This has helped concessionaires to achieve legal verification and ultimately certification against such internationally recognized standards as those of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Indonesian Eco-labeling Institute (LEI).

While ensuring responsible operation, these certificates can provide a key comparative advantage to progressive companies looking to prosper in an increasingly global and competitive market.

Indonesia has come a long way since the 2001 Ministerial Meeting, with both government and businesses taking steps needed to improve forest management and bring transparency to the trade in timber products.

The sector is positioning itself to provide a range of social, economic and ecological benefits to the country while doing so in a way that Reduces Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a central component of the government's low carbon growth strategy.

While it is critical for Indonesia to continue to nurture this transformation in the forest sector and resist the powerful interests which want to maintain the business-as-usual approach to land use management, it cannot do this alone.

Much like a forest, without continued cooperation with trading partners and investment in system improvement, these emerging initiatives too will disappear, at a much higher cost for Indonesians, and citizens of the world.

Jack Hurd is the chief of party for the Responsible Asia Forestry & Trade program and Dicky Simorangkir is the forest program director for The Nature Conservancy in Indonesia.






Last week I went to see Opera Tan Malaka, which its author, Goenawan Mohamad, calls an "essay opera". I watched my first opera at the Budapest State Opera House, aged 8, and I still love it, so I was curious to know what an "essay opera" was, and to learn something about the man who inspired the whole thing.

Why Tan Malaka? He is usually considered a revolutionary hero, but I'm not sure why. A 20-year stint in exile left him a political outsider in Indonesia, and his life was fraught with failure.

He was head of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) for three months (December 1921–February 1922), but they later came to hate him. In any case, he was soon arrested by the Dutch colonial government and exiled to Holland. He went on to Germany, the USSR, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and only returned to Indonesia in 1942. There he formed the Murba Party in 1948, but that was somewhat of a flop as well, and he was shot dead in 1949 by Indonesian soldiers under mysterious circumstances.

Despite all these, Tan Malaka was officially declared a national hero by the People's Consultative Assembly in 1963.

Again, this is a bit weird, as he'd been imprisoned by president Sukarno from 1946 to 1948. Perhaps Sukarno, then increasingly cozying-up to the Left, needed a hero to support his "Nasakom" (nationalism-religion-communism) doctrine?

There weren't a lot of Communist heroes floating around, and Tan Malaka had conveniently been dead for 14 years, so maybe that's all there was to it.

In any case, Amir Sjarifuddin might have been a better choice for an opera romanticizing Indonesian revolutionary heroes. Sjarifuddin was a Marxist, like Tan Malaka, but unlike him, he was one of the first leaders of the republic, holding positions as Cabinet minister and even prime minister, but never declared a hero (heavens, he was executed as a communist rebel!) His life was no less controversial, and at least he lived in Indonesia!

Despite somehow remaining a national hero through the Soeharto era (1966-1998) when most other communists were dead or demonized, Tan Malaka was largely erased from history books.

Now he's made a Reformasi "comeback" as a revolutionary cult figure. Like Che Guevara, he's become "sexy"!

Another national hero who has long been hot political stuff is Raden Ayu Kartini (1879-1904) who recently just turned 136! She was declared a national heroine for pioneering women's emancipation. People unquestioningly celebrate her birthday on April 21 every year, despite her achieving virtually none of her noble aspirations.

In fact, some historians see her as a Dutch creation. She lived at a time when the colonial government was implementing its "Ethical Policy" in the East Indies.

As a Javanese aristocrat aspiring to a Dutch education, she was a convenient icon for them — much more so than a real rebel.

What about Tjoet Nyak Dien (1848-1908), for example? She was a feisty Acehnese noblewoman, who led armies against the Dutch for decades. She was made a national heroine in 1964, so why wasn't her birthday chosen to commemorate women's emancipation?

Simple: She wasn't Javanese, and she didn't compromise, whereas Kartini, for all the great ideas in her widely read letters, is the perfect icon for Indonesian women, who are expected always to compromise. After all, that is what Kartini did when she became the fourth wife of Raden Adipati Joyodiningrat, the regent of Rembang, despite her vehement opposition to polygamy.

These two case studies are good reminders that our heroes are usually heavily constructed with politics in mind.

And that's true for holy figures too. There's a whole website devoted to debunking Gandhi ( and a new book by Joseph Lelyveld entitled Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India, which portrays him as a bigoted racist, a sex maniac and pervert.

Another author, G.B. Singh, says in Gandhi: Behind the Myth of Divinity, that his image as a great leader was "the work of the Hindu propaganda machine" and Christian clergy with ulterior

Pretty controversial stuff, and you may not accept it all, but it does suggest the movie Gandhi may have been gilding the lily a bit!

Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama have also been subjected to the same treatment. Some of the stuff you find on the Internet is gob-smacking if it is true.

Again, this may not be what you want, but we shouldn't just accept our heroes and saints as they are served up by the powers-that-be.

The point is that there are two kinds of history: academic and ideological. Academic historians are fussy and annoying. They try to dig up facts, to get to the multi-layered, complex, sometimes contradictory "truth". Most of us prefer the much simpler and more satisfying myths propagated by the people who rule us.

Trouble is, this means we miss chances to learn from the realities and human foibles of our (usually deeply flawed) heroes.

That leaves us trusting in the next "superman" or "superwoman" who comes along promising to save us all and fix everything, and we end up paying for it for years after every election!

When next someone makes another opera about a revolutionary hero, why don't they just make it an imaginary one? That way, we can focus on assessing the art form, and not worry about political controversies!

The writer ( is the author of Jihad Julia (Mizan).









The Assist. Secretary of State Robert Blake had arrived in Sri Lanka with a secret message which he says cannot be revealed until he has discussions with the Govt.   Blake is noted for his 'take it easy approach' which he pursues pertaining to SL. The  'Inner City Press' website posted  the foreign policy  responses to the UNSG report – discussion document , there the  responses in relation to America are mentioned thus  :'there are two standpoints that will affect the USA stand on Sri Lanka.' The State Department has a take it easy approach and the Obama administration will take a tougher approach.

When Blake was the Ambassador in SL, he was a war partner of the SL Govt.  against the Tamil Tigers. America commenced supporting SL Govt. in the war, according to Wikileaks cables disclosures, by creating two International contact groups to check the LTTE fund raising and arms purchase. America included into the two Int. contact groups , Australia , Belgium, Canada, France, Germany , India , Indonesia , Italy, Japan, Malaysia , Philippines, Singapore , Switzerland, Thailand , United Kingdom and other countries where the LTTE fund raising and arms purchase network were  in operation. Attacking and destroying the fund raising and arms purchase network of the LTTE were begun through these two Int. contact groups. Their sole and whole objective was to obstruct the purchase of arms and fund raising of the Tamil Tigers. It is noteworthy that if the LTTE had been allowed to continue with the arms procurements, the war would never have been won by the Govt. Indeed, it was America which broke the backbone of the LTTE and crippled it. While America was blocking the Tamil Tiger funds and the arms procurement routes, the SL Govt. had to shoulder the responsibility of trapping the LTTE in the Wanni Jungle.

America promised to break the spine of the LTTE taking into account the fact that the Tigers were an obstacle to the SL's peace. It was their conviction that as long as the Tamil Tigers existed a political solution for the Tamil people cannot be formulated. Blake was a faithful follower of this belief and propagated this within America. As far back as 25th Oct. 2008, Blake when delivering a lecture to a Madras University in Tamil Nadu said , 'Time for Colombo to defeat LTTE with political solution'. In fact he was at that time pronouncing America's policy. He chose Tamil Nadu to make this pronouncement because the heat of SL Tamil issue was most intensely felt there. In other words he said, the Indian policy for a political solution for the Tamil people is in line with America's policy. By this message what he conveyed to the Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Tigers engaged in the war in the SL's north and East was , that he endorsed the  SL Govt.'s policy in relation  to the war. Later on , when  delivering  a lecture on 'post LTTE politics' at a seminar in Colombo on 11th March 2009, he underlined that as the LTTE is now defeated, the SL  Govt. should take meaningful steps by going beyond the 13th amendment to the constitution and devise  a political solution. In the recent Wikileaks cable , this message  was disclosed thus ' But Mr. Blake pushed back saying that while the US would be glad to see Prabhakaran captured or killed , US and India should not allow Rajapaksa to predicate progress on a power sharing agreement on Prabhakaran demise…..'

It becomes very evident from this , the policy of Blake and America was  to find a political solution to the Tamil people even by arresting or killing Prabhakaran and destroying the LTTE. This was precisely why Blake and America were described as war partners of the SL Govt. Moreover , it was America which monitored the movements of Prabhakaran via satellite and handed over the details to the SL Army.

But now, what has happened to America and Blake is what happened to Sarath Fonseka who is now held behind bars. It is an unequivocal fact that it was Fonseka as Army Commander at that time who led the country to its war victory. Yet after the war, within a few months he was dismissed from the post of Army Commander. He was disillusioned and disappointed so much so that he charged the Rajapaksa Govt. of discarding him. Blake and America became war partners relying on the condition that a political solution shall be provided for the Tamil people. But after the war was concluded, the Rajapaksa Govt . did not fulfil this condition. Discarded Blake and America are therefore now supporting the war crimes investigations and are pushing it ahead. However in the foreign policy responses to the UNSG report – discussion document , it is related, a moderate GOSL response to allegations may aid in striking a compromise deal facilitated by the USA or India – USA ……' It is deducible from this, Blake's objective perhaps is to explore the possibility via his 'take it easy approach', whether a deal can be struck to secure a political solution for the Tamil people.  Or else , this might be a  warning signal of his that the countries representing  UNHRC as well as those countries in it constituting one of the two  contact groups which America utilized to break the backbone of the LTTE may be enlisted towards achieving his end against SL.






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. Much, however, depends on how Washington conducts itself from this point onwards. For starters, President Obama needs to rethink the war in Afghanistan.

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?

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.





By Patali Champika Ranawaka, General Secretary, Jathika Hela Urumaya
"We are once again reminded that America (USA) can do whatever we set our mind to," President Obama was reported to have said it in his address to the nation when he publicly declared the US forces' killing of the leader of Al-Qaida, Osama Bin Laden. However, this statement could not be taken as "end of the war on terror." They have done partly what we had comprehensively achieved in May 18, 2009. The killing of Osama Bin Laden should be welcomed. But, there have been a huge number of civilian deaths and collateral damages in the progress. Will there be a UNSG's expert panel on accountability issues of the USA on their war against terror?

Despite the heavy protests by the Sri Lankan Government against publishing the so-called Advisory Panel Report of Ban Ki-moon, it has finally seen the light of day. The ostensible justification given by the UNSG for publishing it was that to ensure his transparency and due to public interest. However, the pertinent query of the Government of Sri Lanka in this regard is that if the whole exercise was to get himself advised, why was it made public?

It is clear that the appointment of this panel itself is a gross violation of the UN Charter as its article 2 clearly spells out that it should safeguard the sovereignty of its members and non-authorization of UN intervention in affairs that fall within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. If the UN had foreseen the necessity of any such enforcement measure, it should have, in the first instance, got it ratified by the UN Security Council, UN Human Right Commission or UN General Assembly. In May 2009, attempts made by some interested parties in this regard were foiled by the Security Council. Similarly, In May 2009, the UN Human Right Commission in Geneva, adopted a resolution, with an overwhelming majority, preventing the UNSG from legally appointing any such advisory, investigation commission or preparation of Indictments against Sri Lanka.

It is no secret that Ban Ki-moon is lobbing for his second term re-election this year and as a result it is inevitable that he is subject to tremendous political pressure. However, against the backdrop of his appointing a panel on Sri Lanka, he has overstepped his authority as the UNSG.

The next noteworthy factor of the report is the track record of its three members – Darusman, Zooka and Ratner who had been aided and abetted by the US, the UK and their allies, from the very inception. The brains behind the so-called expert panel report – the US and the UK - are the only two countries that so far have endorsed it.

Notwithstanding the flawed methodology with which the panel was formed, its thrust itself has overstepped its terms of reference, scope or mandate. There is no such advice spelled out in the report. Instead, it has come out with some recommendations based on unilateral and prejudiced investigations forming a basis for future indictment Authorities in Sri Lanka on charges for having fought against Neo Nazi terrorism.

According to their report they have "found credible allegations' that comprise five core categories of potential violations committed by the GOSL. Namely, Killing of civilians through wide spread shelling, shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects, denial of humanitarian assistance, human right violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict including both IDP and suspected LTTE cardres and human right violations outside the conflict zone, including against the media and other crimes of the government.

They also have found the LTTE having associated with 6 categories of violations. Namely, using civilians as a human buffer, killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control, using military equipment in the proximately civilians, forced recruitment of children,  forced labour and killing of civilians through suicide attacks.

However, they have made four recommendations aimed only at the Government of Sri Lanka whilst none against the Global Tamil Forum or the so-called Transnational Eelam Government run by the LTTE rump in the west.

When we talk about civilian deaths we should remember that over ten thousand LTTE terrorists surrendered after the demise of the LTTE Neo Nazi leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and to the credit of the Government of Sri Lanka, it also should be remembered that none of those detained were harmed and no single incident was reported after May 1, 2009. This is a clear manifestation of the fact that the intentions of the forces of the GOSL were to eliminate the LTTE and the LTTE only.

All four Geneva conventions permit military action against terrorists or non-state actors who resort to violence or military means to achieve their political goals and more so when a terrorist outfit of the calibre of the LTTE using artillery, rockets, mortars, air strikes, naval operations. When the LTTE was using civilian hospitals, schools and even UN bodies to wage military action against the forces of the democratically elected government, one cannot rule out the possibility of people and institutions getting attacked
However, in accordance with international "principles of proportionality", the forces of the GOSL had never used excessive power to vanquish the LTTE, in any way similar to the methods adopted by the US and the UK to devastate Dvesctan and Hiroshima which are even now continued in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. It was also no secret that guerillas armed with AK47s in those countries had met with tom-hawks missiles and cluster bombs.

As a whole, the Ban Ki-moon – Darusman report at issue is possessed with three core essentials which are detrimental to Sri Lanka, South Asia and to the whole world in general.

Firstly, this report will hamper the progress of the UN, which is an organization setup to maintain international peace and security based on the principles of sovereign equality of its members. The deviation from the UN charter and its procedures to achieve the hidden objectives of a few will bring about irreparable damage to the rights of sovereign countries in maintaining their sovereignties. Also the failure to appoint such committees to investigate reported atrocities committed by the US military in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan where millions are killed is nothing but clear manifestation of double standard adopted by the UNSG. This stance on the part of UNSG tantamounts to his endorsement of the US hegemony, whilst justifying dictatorship and undermining democracy.

Secondly, the UNSG – Darusman Report has dealt a severe blow to the fight against global terrorism. They would forget to tell the world, the kind of so-called accountability that had prevailed in Sri Lanka if the LTTE had won the war and also would conveniently forget the resultant impact of terrorist and separatist movements would emerge in India and many other countries in the world, similar to that of recent waves of anti-government political agitations in Tunisia, Arab and North Africa. If the LTTE had won the war it would have definitely triggered a violent wave of terrorism in the whole of South Asia. The LTTE had been the sole terrorist organization in the 21st century which had possessed heavy artillery guns with MBRLS, Armed tanks, rockets, small fighter planes, naval attack crafts, submarines, international procurement network and a unique mode of diplomatic media network.

The USA had been well aware of the fact that the terrorist techniques of the LTTE were being practised by Al-Qaida and Taliban. It was found in 1993, that the LTTE had supplied Ramzi Ahamed of Philippines with forged passports and other travel documents. Ramzi was the brain behind the 1993 aborted New York World Trade Centre attack and also the assassination attempt on Pope and Boinjka where 11 US planes to be hijacked and exploded.

Under these circumstances that prevailed in the past, the entire world should have congratulated the GOSL forces for having made a valuable contribution in fighting against the world's most ruthless terrorist organization, without having obtained any super power support. This achievement on the part of a democratically elected and relatively poor government such as Sri Lanka, undoubtedly serve as a demoralizing note to all those who indulge in terrorist activities in the world.

However, it is unfortunate that the UNSG – Darusman Report whilst undermining the GOSL's contribution against terrorism it encourages terrorists all over the world to use civilians as human shields, so that they could subsequently interpret it as human right violations against legitimate governments. At the same time it discourages democratically elected government to fight against terrorism due to a possibility of UNSG making quarries on the so-called accountabilities.

The third essential point is the possibility of this report hampering the political and social re-conciliation process in Sri Lanka. Forgetting the past, Sinhalese, Muslims and anti LTTE Tamils are now trying to reconcile with Ex-LTTE cardres, their supporters and sympathizes who are "acting" as Tamil civilians. However, it is very unfortunate that a small but a powerful section of the Tamil community inclined to egotism and racism are now trying to revenge the GOSL forces for having vanquished Neo-Nazi LTTE and it may eventually give rise to social questions such as "look, we have tried our best to forget the past and rebuild the future at the expense of our tax money and our development. But they are pushing us towards the unfortunate past. So what else can we do without meeting the LTTE and their gurus with equal and opposite activities." The UNSG Darusman Report can now be used by the Colombo based TNA to intensify their political activities. Sooner the better if the TNA, Tamil Nadu politicians and migrated Tamil Neo-Nazi forums that any demand on their part for a 13+ or Federal form of governance as a panacea for all the problems they and their ancestors had created, would jeopardize much sought after reconciliation attempt in Sri Lanka. They also must realize their egoistic thinking that they a superior nation and they could defeat Sinhalese will affect innocent Tamils who are trying to rebuild their lost development.

Since it is clear that the report at issue has been designed to lay the foundation to destabilize Sri Lankan state in future, it is prudent that we initiate sensible counter measures without much delay. If the US and the UK with the LTTE rump – the axis of devils are so determined they may extend their four-prone assaults on Sri Lanka, militarily, politically, economically and technologically. However, at present they are unable to use the military front due to non-availability of a stable political actor to sabotage any ongoing peace process. As a result they may try to revitalize the LTTE and other disgruntled military and political elements in South in the form of a common front. It has been reported the possibilities of using one or two African countries as training grounds and the possibility of the Naxalite movement and other terrorist groups in Indian sub-continent being used to supply arms and ammunition. So we have to be prepared for any eventuality as one cannot rule out the possibility of Libyan kind of rebel operation in Sri Lanka.

It was evident that certain western countries as their contribution towards political assault on Sri Lankan state openly supported some opposition parties and candidates during major elections in 2010. Similarly they supported opposition parties of their choice to instigate democratic waves in Arab and North Africa. Since the opposition in Sri Lanka is in a state of disarray, they may try to make use of INGOs and NGOs as a strategic front, paving the way towards diplomatic offensives at an opportune time in the future. We should not forget the fact that although the US and the UK failed in their bid to initiate some kind of investigation against the GOSL in May 2009, through the Security Council and Human Right Commission, they succeeded it in Serbia and Sudan against heavy opposition of Russia (Slav neighbours of Serbia) and China (which is heavily involved in Sudan affairs) with their Veto powers. If they still fail to initiate their sinister agenda, they may initiate the US and the UK kind of diplomatic offensive similar to one that was taken up against Sudan, Serbia and Libya without obtaining any credible ratifications of the UN system. In the meantime they can bring pressure to bear on India manipulating Tamil Nadu racist politicians and in turn will expect India to pressurize Sri Lanka on full implementation of Provincial Council act with police powers and if possible with more monitory and administrative powers. This kind of solution will create discontent among nationalist forces in Sri Lanka - the voter base of Mahinda Chinthanaya.

The third operation will be the economic assault. The west tried to impose economic sanction by way of removing GSP in USA, GSP+ in EU and also they tried to stop the IMF package due to Sri Lanka. Equipped with the new report they might impose a full scale trade embargo and a travel ban against GOSL and also they might try to freeze our foreign reserves and foreign assets. Although, these can be distant possibilities we have to have clear economic strategies to cope up that kind of a situation.

The fourth operation would be their technological assault which they now extensively use in cyber space to spread rumour and for false propaganda. This could be extended to attack our vital economic nerve centres. In this regards it is important to note that Iran had complained against their electronic system being attacked by a computer virus created by a Western company tasked to upgrade their SCADA system in electricity grid.

In view of the emerging unfavourable changes that are taking place in Sri Lanka it becomes the duty of all those who are responsible in maintaining our valuable nerve centres such as banks, power systems and telecommunication to ensure sufficient precautionary measures against any eventuality in their respective establishments.

Although, there are some who would not hesitate to treat these views as bad dreams, the fact remains that these operations are very much in place even now in many parts of the world. We have to admit that although we waged a humanitarian operation in consistent, coherent and determined manner, unfortunately our diplomatic and international political manoeuvres had failed to keep pace in a similar consistent, coherent and determined manner. Therefore, it is high time we formulated a clear cut politico–diplomatic strategy encompassing the whole foreign policy of Sri Lanka. The report at issue is a threat to the sovereignty of our motherland. Therefore, we have no alternative than to unite forgetting our political, ethnical and religious differences to fight against external aggression. If Western powers push us towards the wall, we will have no choice than to transform this country as hub of political defiance against Western interferences, worldwide.










As thousands of jubilant flag-waving Americans and others continued to celebrate the reported killing and sea buriel of elusive Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, we yesterday marked World Press Freedom Day. What we know about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is largely what Western governments and often deceptively biased Western media tell us. The killing is likely to give a boost to President Barack Obama's bid for re election, while more devastating international issues like state terrorism go largely unreported, twisted or colour-washed to fit into what many see as some CIA detective fiction. What is important for the people is not just to accept what governments, state-controlled or biased media tell us but to deeply study and find out the story within the story, the agenda behind the agenda and who is responsible for what.

Just five days before yesterday's World Press Freedom Day we in Sri Lanka marked the sixth death anniversary of senior journalist Darmaretnam Sivaram. Sivaram was also known by the pseudonym Tharaki. He was abducted from a Bambalapitiya Restaurant and his bullet-ridden body was found the next day dumped in a paddy field within a high security zone near the parliamentary complex. Amid renewed calls for his killers to be brought to justice little or nothing seems to be done in that direction.  Two years ago on January 8, The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunge was brutally killed in broad day light not far away from military checkpoints in Ratmalana. Lasantha was known for his fearless and forthright reporting and as an editor who never pulled his punches. His articles on what took place behind closed doors in the corridors of power were not couched in euphemism or double talk He said it straight and said it as it was. He too paid the ultimate price with his life. His killers too have not been identified.

From time to time there have been reports of journalists being killed, abducted or compelled to leave the country after being subjected to assaults, threats and intimidations. So how goes press freedom in Sri Lanka and in other parts of the world, why do those in authority look askance at the free media, which is one of the watchdogs of good governance. A free press has the power to stir the conscience of those in authority and provides the opportunity to feel and read the pulse of the people and thus become aware of their needs and aspirations. The fear of objective journalism is not confined to Asia, or Africa, or the Middle East but exist in Western countries as well.

It's important to ponder what American journalist T.D. Allman, best known for his exposés of the CIA's "secret war" in Laos, has said, "Genuinely objective journalism is journalism that not only gets the facts right it gets the meaning of events right. It is compelling not only today but stands the test of time. It is validated not only by reliable sources, but by the unfolding of history. It is journalism that ten, twenty, fifty years after the fact still hold up a true and intelligent mirror to events."

In tandem with what has come to be described as the kept or captive media, the official or free media, is the emergence of a new or unofficial media with the dramatic rise in social networking via the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail and the SMS, which with modern technology, disseminates news in a manner that is fast and vigorous and thus provides a balance in countries where freedom of expression is diluted or polluted.

On Press Freedom Day let us remember the hundreds of journalists around the world who have been persecuted and murdered because their independence and courage were feared. They are our real heroes.

As Soviet dissident Yevgeni Yevtushenko said, "When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie."

Let us not let this happen in Sri Lanka.









The differences among key countries in the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Doha trade talks are so wide as to be unbridgeable in at least one major area, and the time has come to decide on what to do about the talks - to continue trying to get a deal this year, to admit failure and close talks, or something in between.

This seems to be the message from the 600-plus pages of a document issued by the WTO secretariat that contains reports on negotiations on nine issues and assessments by director-general Pascal Lamy.

Failures in recent weeks to make progress, including by a group of 11 members and in bilateral talks between the US, on one hand, and China, Brazil and India, have deepened the impasse. The conclusion is that talks will not complete in 2011 - the deadline set by the G20 Summit in Seoul last year.

There is a serious feeling that if they do not complete this year, they may never complete, because political events, especially the US elections in 2012, and beyond will make it impossible for a deal to be struck.

Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Azevedo told a recent WTO meeting: "If this view (that developing countries have to make more concessions) prevails, then we have not reached the end-game, we have reached the end of the game."

In his report, Lamy focussed on the impasse in reductions in industrial tariffs (known as the NAMA issue) and found gaps between developed countries and major developing countries (China, India, and Brazil) to be "not bridgeable today."

The problem is that the US is demanding these three countries cut their tariffs to zero (or near zero) for three sectors (with the stress on chemicals, electronics and industrial machinery). The super-liberalisation in these "sectorals" is supposed to be voluntary, but the US wants it to be mandatory for the big developing countries.

The latter think they are unfairly picked upon to carry the burden of the Doha talks. They already have to slash their industrial tariffs significantly; with the extra load of the sectorals, the local industries would be seriously damaged.

Although Doha started as a "Development Agenda" with a pledge that developing countries' interests would be at the centre, there is hardly any development content left in the Doha elements. This is evident from a review of the 600-plus pages of the April 21 texts and reports.

The core of the documents comprises the draft texts on agriculture and NAMA, accompanied by reports of the Chairs of the negotiating groups on the two issues. The texts are the same as the ones issued by the Chairs in December 2008.

However, the two December 2008 texts did not emerge from negotiations. They were revised from previous drafts and especially from the one-page paper of Lamy of July 25 2008, he had presented to the inner group of seven ministers during the mini-ministerial meeting that closed without an outcome.

Both papers contain the imbalances as between developed and developing countries, and agriculture and NAMA, that were in the previous documents, as well as new imbalances contained in the Lamy paper.

Since the main papers are reports by Chairs and not made or endorsed by Members, and since the main draft texts on agriculture and NAMA are also by the Chairs, which have not been properly discussed let alone endorsed by Members, it would be logical for the 21 April documents to be only reference papers which do not enjoy special status.

All other relevant documents including Members' proposals should still be on the table, when and if the talks resume.









"Wanted dead or alive" was the tag former U.S. president George W. Bush placed on the head of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden as long ago as September 17, 2001. Smoking the 1.93-metre-tall Al-Qaeda leader out of his cave was the Bush administration's motive for invading and occupying Afghanistan. But following an intensive bombing campaign of the mountainous Afghan region of Tora Bora and the U.S. military's failure to commit enough troops to that stated mission, all that was found in Bin Laden's network of bunkers was his coat.

They sought him here, they sought him there, but the ailing man himself had escaped on horseback to northern Afghanistan and from there to Pakistan. Apart from a few video and audio tapes, the world had heard nothing from Osama for a decade, and then just when he had almost faded from the news, on Sunday, US President Barack Obama announced that Bin Laden had been killed by US Special Forces.

Details of the operation are still filtering through but it's fair to question how the Al-Qaeda boss went unnoticed as he lived a comfortable lifestyle with his youngest wife, a courier and his brother, and one of his sons in a luxurious high-security compound outside the summer resort of Abbottabad -- a favorite retirement spot for military officers, near Islamabad. And all this time, we had been given to believe the Saudi millionaire was in a mud hut in Waziristan.

It seems incredible that this family went under the radar of Pakistan's intelligence services for so long when it took them just weeks to track down the killers of American journalist Daniel Pearl. The fact that the house was occupied by foreigners, had no phone lines or internet connection and all its garbage was burned should have elicited red flags with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence or the local community.

There is no doubt that this has been a real coup for Obama, especially in the run-up to presidential elections next year. Cynics might say he waited until now to spring this surprise when the US has had intelligence about Osama's whereabouts since last August. Bush has congratulated him calling the death 'a victory for America' but inside he must be seething that his successor did the job he failed to complete.

Few cheers

Joyous crowds celebrating the death may be flooding American cities as after all the news represents a major public relations coup for the long arm of US 'justice', but there will be few cheering in the Arab world. That isn't because Arabs approve of Bin Laden's warped interpretation of Islam or his willingness to murder innocents in the name of his faith. Until September 11, 2001, most in the Middle East region had never even heard of Osama or Al-Qaeda and some have been skeptical about his role in September 11 as well as the authenticity of a video tape released by the Pentagon in which he appears to admit culpability. Moreover, some people in this part of the world -- along with numerous American intellectuals — have bought into September 11 conspiracy theories. What they're seeking is hard facts and answers. It's unfortunate that Bin Laden wasn't taken alive to appear before a court of law; the truth has now died with him.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that Bin Laden's body has been hurriedly disposed of; the US has chosen to bury him at sea, primarily because they didn't want his supporters to turn his grave site into a shrine.

At the same time, the White House was loath to crudely display his corpse on TV after the Bush administration was criticized for flaunting the bodies of Saddam Hussain's sons. That's understandable, but that shouldn't have precluded allowing foreign diplomatic and medical representatives to view it and take DNA samples to quash lingering doubts.

As the world was waking up to the news yesterday morning, I telephoned a few Egyptians to take their pulse on the death. Hani Salim, the manager of a bank in Alexandria, said, "That's good news, if it's true. But they need to show us something as the Americans told us he was once before."

Fishmonger Mohammad Salah says he's happy as long as the death can be proven. Civil Engineer Mohammad Juma'a was pleased. "If he created problems for the world then good riddance," he said. Antiques expert Essam Al Ashly complained that the Americans have killed more innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq than Bin Laden ever did.

Ala'a Al Gani from Al Ahram Weekly set out his thoughts in this e-mail. "Bin Laden is not as important as he was 10 years ago. He is more a symbol for Al-Qaeda supporters. It is surprising that he had little to say about the Arab revolutions this year, as this is what he supposedly wanted. I don't think his death will have much impact on Egypt, where Islamists are represented more by the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, who reject violence. There probably will be revenge attacks, maybe in Pakistan and the US."

In my view, Bin Laden's gruesome legacy will live on. The world is well rid of this death-celebrating hate-filled fanatic, but as long as the terrorist scourge continues I won't get out the balloons.

* Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs.

(Source: Gulf News)



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