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Thursday, May 5, 2011

EDITORIAL 05.05.11

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month may 05, edition 000824, csollected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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With rescue teams reaching the site where the Pawan Hans helicopter carrying the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu, had crashed five days ago, the worst fears have been confirmed. The popular leader who served as Chief Minister of this strategic State in the North-East twice, probably died a horrible death along with others on board. Even if he or any of the others had been lucky enough to survive the crash, the absence of immediate medical assistance would have killed them. In a sense, the recovery of their bodies brings this tragic episode to a close. But uncomfortable questions remain which need to be addressed by the Union Government. The first relates to the poor safety record of Pawan Hans, a public sector undertaking, many of whose helicopters have crashed with disastrous consequences, taking a terrible toll of human lives. How safe are the helicopters used by Pawan Hans? Are they regularly checked with full rigour and due diligence to ensure there are no technical glitches? If yes, it is intriguing as to how they continue to crash with sickening regularity. No less intriguing is the fact that the helicopter was not equipped with a GPS-enable disaster signal emitter which would have helped authorities to locate the site of the crash immediately. Such equipment is considered mandatory and in the event it was missing, or malfunctioning, the Government needs to fix responsibility and mete out exemplary punishment. Not only should officials of Pawan Hans be asked to explain this lapse but also the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation must come up with a plausible explanation as to how it had certified the helicopter as air-worthy. In fact, as the recent scandal involving issuance of licenses to pilots who were clearly ineligible for them shows, the DGCA needs more than a spring cleaning: It has become a den of corruption and sloth; it poses a serious threat to the safety of thousands of people who fly every day.

For far too long public sector units like Pawan Hans (as also regulatory authorities like DGCA) have escaped scrutiny because the instinctive response of the Government, which is the majority share-holder, is to cover up criminal lapses. Popular outrage that follows every air disaster tends to dissipate and public memory being notoriously short, the Government gets away without being held accountable; so also public sector units that have a lot to answer for. There is a second question which is for the Government to answer: Why did it take five days to locate the wreckage of the helicopter despite so many eyes in the sky and access to related technology? The only reason that can be attributed to New Delhi's callous response is the fact that Itanagar is too far away and the North-East politically 'inconsequential'.







Violent clashes between Maoists and security forces are by all accounts the norm in areas commonly referred to as India's 'red corridor'. Yet the recent surge in the number of encounters between the insurgents and the jawans of our paramilitary forces, pointing towards the ruthlessness of the Maoists, has shocked the nation. On Tuesday morning, eight CRPF jawans and three men belonging to the State police were killed while another 26 were injured in the Senha area of Lohardaga district in Jharkhand after the Maoists lured the security team to a hill-top village and blasted some 50 landmines that they had been planted around a two km radius. According to reports, the insurgents demanded the surrender of the security forces, which included two CRPF companies and two police teams, but instead our brave men in fatigues and their khaki-clad colleagues chose to take on the enemy in a headlong firefight. Eventually, after four hours of intense fighting, the security forces were able to push back the Maoists who then retreated to their jungle hideouts. In a sense, it was a moment of victory for the armed forces. Sadly, it was also one that cost us the lives of 11 brave men. Critics of the bullet-for-bullet policy would call this a setback for the Government in its war on Maoists. But it is in situations such as these that we must remind ourselves of the reality: Collateral damage and casualties are inevitable in the ongoing asymmetric war with the Red terrorists enjoying a certain advantage as they do not have to follow the rules of engagement or abide by the law of the land which, much as it may sound silly, the security forces and the state must follow. In association with the Governments of States that have been badly hit by Maoist insurgency, the Union Government has launched a concerted counter-offensive to eliminate what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly — and rightly — described as the greatest threat to our internal security. Hence, there will be collateral damage, there will be fatalities, there will be casualties, such as those in Jharkhand this week. But none of these should deter either the people or the Government from persisting with hunting down those who wage war on the state and dealing with them without any trace of either mercy or forgiveness. Maoists are killers are understand no other language but that of the gun.

That a counter-offensive is integral to eliminating Maoist terror has been proven in recent months by the number of successes our security forces have stacked up. On Tuesday itself, for example, there was another fierce encounter at a Maoist transit camp in the Jhumara hillocks, some 65 km from the district headquarters of Bokaro. The four-hour-long firefight ended with the Maoists fleeing their camp while the police confiscated all that they had left behind. The Deputy Superintendent of Police of Silli was shot in the wee hours of Tuesday while leading a successful joint operation against a Maoist commander in Ranchi district. Terrorism, irrespective of the shade of the ideology of the terrorists, cannot be countenanced in a democracy with a plural and open society. It is the responsibility of the state to deal with terrorists, whether homegrown from foreign shores, with an iron fist. The war against Maoists must be taken to its logical conclusion.









The US's prolonged effort to hunt down Osama bin Laden demonstrates the necessity of sheer doggedness in the protracted war on terror.

After an unrelenting effort spanning more than a decade, Osama bin Laden, the amir and ideological fountainhead of Al Qaeda, its founder and the architect of the 9/11 attacks in the US, was killed in the intervening night of May 1-2 in an American operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad, less than 62 km from Islamabad, and a stone's throw from the Pakistan Military Academy, the country's top training establishment for officers, and the local Army Brigade Headquarters.

Barely a week earlier, on April 23, Pakistan's Army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, had driven by this location to the Kakul Military Academy to boast, in his address to cadets there, that "the terrorists' backbone has been broken" by his forces. Over the past years, the Pakistani establishment, including two successive Presidents — General Pervez Musharraf and Mr Asif Ali Zardari — have actively spread a smokescreen over the Al Qaeda leadership's presence on Pakistani soil, repeatedly asserting that Osama bin Laden, in particular, was either dead or holed up in some cave in Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden was, however, living safely in the heart of an Army cantonment, in "an extraordinarily unique compound", a three-storey building constructed around 2005 on a one acre plot, surrounded by 12 to 18-foot security walls, topped with barbed wire. There was no telephone or internet connectivity and all external contact was managed through a tiny group of trusted couriers — the vulnerability that was finally breached by American intelligence. The furnishing was rudimentary, suggesting that this may be one of many safe-houses between which he would have been shuffled about over the past years.

Crucially, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Osama bin Laden was reportedly treated in a military hospital in Rawalpindi, and, in early-2002, had been sheltered at Binori Masjid in Karachi, where he is said to have undergone treatment for a shrapnel injury after his escape from the Tora Bora cave complex. Since late-2002, however, he was pushed deep underground, most likely, given the circumstances of his eventual discovery and the persistent disinformation campaign by state agencies and high officials, by Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the ISI.

Indeed, as Mr John Brennan, Deputy National Security Adviser for Counter-terrorism and Homeland Security noted, "We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there (in Pakistan) for so long and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there... There are a lot of people within the Pakistani Government, and I am not going to speculate about who or if any of them had fore-knowledge about Osama bin Laden being in Abbottabad. But certainly his location there outside of the capital raises questions."

Osama Bin Laden was killed around 2 am on May 2 in an operation by a special team of
Navy SEALs, purportedly flown in from Afghanistan on two Black Hawk helicopters — one of which "tumbled into" the courtyard of the safe house as a result of mechanical failure. A third Chinook helicopter was dispatched to facilitate the extraction of the team. Four persons, possibly including one of Osama bin Laden's sons and two 'couriers', were killed in the operation. Only Osama bin Laden's body was taken away and, reportedly, given a quick 'burial' at sea.

US President Barack Obama informed Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari about the operation only after its completion. "For over two decades, Osama bin Laden has been Al Qaeda's leader and symbol," Mr Obama declared in a late night Press conference at the White House, "The death of Osama bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort."

The operation was a fulfillment of Mr Obama's campaign promise to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, even as it was the culmination of unrelenting efforts by three successive Administrations committed to this objective. At least four years of painstaking investigation on the basis of a tenuous 'thread' made the eventual operation possible. Crucially, this was the result of the US's Counter-terrorism Policy which says:

"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..."


Nevertheless, it falls far short of the commitment to "respond with all appropriate instruments against the sponsoring organisations and governments". Indeed, cushioning the potential impact of the US operation on Pakistani soil to neutralise the highest value terrorist target, Mr Obama chose to add, in his first Press statement, that "our counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to Osama bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding". The statement fuelled speculation that the assault in Abbottabad was a 'joint operation' with Pakistani forces or intelligence, but this has quickly been negated, first by desperate denials from the Pakistani leadership, and subsequently by a succession of 'unofficial' statements by high American officials.

Osama bin Laden's death is, without doubt, a tremendous victory, but would be premature grounds for euphoria. Mr Obama explicitly made that point, "There's no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us." Indeed, it is a survival imperative for Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups to quickly orchestrate major — if possible, catastrophic — strikes against Western targets over the coming days and weeks. Without such operations, the organisation's credibility will quickly fade away and the 'faithful' will begin to abandon it.

Osama bin Laden's death has, of course, done little to damage Al Qaeda's operational and organisational capabilities. Ayman al-Zawahiri, his long-time associate and second-in-command has, in any event, been in charge of 'military operations' for years and will seamlessly assume pre-eminent command. A deep international religious, political, strategic, military, financial, communications and organisational structure has long been established over the past years with no significant inputs from Osama bin Laden, other than his occasional taped exhortatory messages.

The death of Osama bin Laden is a major incident — but still, only a single incident — in the long war that Islamist extremists and their state sponsors have launched against the rest of the world. The prolonged effort and meticulous operation that brought about this outcome demonstrate the virtue and necessity of sheer doggedness and persistence in the protracted contest in which civilisation is presently engaged.

If the success at Abbottabad becomes the basis of even greater resolution in the war against terrorism, its outcome will inevitably strengthen the forces of freedom. If, on the other hand, it yields even the slightest moment of weakness, the cost of terror will be unbearable.

The writer is the Executive Director of Institute for Conflict Management.







The critics of 'civil society' accuse Anna Hazare and his supporters of subverting the Constitution by circumventing the authority of our democratically-elected representatives who are responsible for law-making. While the argument is not entirely without merit, we must ponder over the fact that our elected representatives, barring honourable exceptions, have not served us and the nation well

Among the charges levelled against social activist Anna Hazare and his supporters is that they arm-twisted a democratically-elected Government into including them in a Government panel to draft the Lok Pal Bill. This, the dissenters fume, cannot be tolerated, because no 'civil society' member has the right to subvert the Constitution by seeking to become a framer of public policy. That prerogative, the critics remind us, rests solely with representatives elected by the people through a transparent democratic process. It is difficult to fathom how the subversion happens if enlightened members of society want to influence policies in the larger interest of the people. But let us accept the charge for the moment to take the issue forward.

We would then have to assume that our representatives, on whom we place such trust, truly represent us. Can even the most ardent admirer certify with conviction that the representatives, barring exceptions, have served us well, and that they have demonstrated promise of doing so in the coming times? One can already imagine the critics' retort: If the people are unhappy with their representative, they can vote him or her out. Another retort: The voters are responsible for the wrong kind of people coming in. The message is clear in both the lines of persuasion, and it is that the only window available for course correction is elections. This is anachronistic to a healthy democratic system in which the people's participation does not end but begins with an election. In any case, the voters are not in a position to decide the timing of voting out a useless representative; even that is determined by Government agencies.

Moreover, this argument would have been valid if elections were fought and won on issues of good governance. But that rarely happens — the BJP Government in Gujarat and the NDA Government in Bihar are among the exceptions — and the Governments that assume power do not do so because they promise the people greater accountability and cleanliness in public life. Had that been the case, people behind bars for offences as serious as murder, rape and extortion would not be contesting — directly or through proxies — and winning elections.

To understand why we should not expect many of the elected representatives to reflect the aspirations and grievances of the people at large, we must acknowledge a harsh reality which is at the core of several of our problems. It is that these leaders often win with the help of a small section of society, many times located in a few pockets of the constituency. Thus, the people's support for them is neither broad-based nor spread across the constituency. The first-past-the-post system ensures their victory even with minority votes, ie they can bag just a quarter of the total votes polled and yet be a victor. Why would such a representative bother even with issues like good governance, when all he has to do is to appease the small section of the people which has got him elected? In the end, that is the only mandate he has to honour, not petty matters like the Lok Pal Bill.

Let us look at some figures to better understand the rationale. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, just 40 per cent of winners were elected by polling more than 50 per cent of the total votes cast. The rest polled a minority number. The situation is even more alarming when one glances at the votes gained by winners as a proportion of the total electors. As former Union Minister and author Arun Shourie points out in his excellent book, The Parliamentary System, "99 per cent of the members got into the Lok Sabha by getting less than half the electors to vote for them."

He provides another startling figure that really explains the disdain of many of our politicians to meaningful reforms like the Lok Pal Bill or changes in the electoral laws. In elections to the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly seats between 2001 and 2005, for instance, 62 per cent of candidates became the 'people's representatives' by attracting less than 20 per cent of the votes.

Staying with Uttar Pradesh, should it surprise anyone that the highest votes polled by a winner as percentage of electors in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls was a mere 18 per cent — in Ballia — and that the lowest was an abysmal 11 per cent in the reserved seat of Basti? If these margins are all that are needed to win elections, why would a representative waste his energy on anything else other than to 'manage' his niche constituents for retaining the seat!

Recently, Madhav Godbole, former Union Home Minister and now author of some remarkable books on contemporary subjects, comments in his latest offering, India's Parliamentary Democracy on Trial that it would be best to discard the first-past-the-post system which is responsible for victors to emerge in elections despite polling a minority number of votes. He informs, "In the election to Uttar Pradesh Assembly held in 2007, 96.53 per cent of the winners polled less than 50 per cent of the votes cast."

The Uttar Pradesh example should partly explain the recent conduct of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party representatives on the Public Accounts Committee. They ganged up with the Congress and the DMK to stall the acceptance of the panel's report that severely indicted the Prime Minister and other arms of the Government for the 2G spectrum licencing fraud. Winning on largely caste and community lines, the leaders of the two Uttar Pradesh parties do not have to even present a façade of support for good and accountable governance.

They have to only ensure two things to remain relevant: One, get their caste and community calculations right, and two, humour the UPA Government to fob off the various cases against them pursued by central probe agencies. In their scheme of things, helping either to punish the guilty in the 2G scam or to get progressive legislations like a strong Lok Pal Bill are way down the priority order.







In 1973, John Maynard Smith, a biologist and geneticist, along with chemist and geneticist, George R Price, presented a paper titled, "The Logic of Animal Conflict", where they rationalised, via a computer model, why the so-called beasts of the animal kingdom are far more civilised in how they conduct war-games compared to human beings, gifted as we are, with the ability to analyse and evaluate our behaviour rather than be mutely controlled by forces of nature. Smith and Price, who devised the Evolutionary Games Theory, explained that animals apply "limited war strategy" when fighting for mates, or territory, reducing the risk of injury. What is also interesting is that such strategies developed in the process prove very beneficial for the fitness of entire populations.

The study by Smith and Price has led to other fields like 'Co-Evolution', where two parties in an evolutionary relationship exert 'selective pressures' on each other, and another area of research, that of 'Mutualism', where, organisms while interacting exert mutual benefit on each other. One example given is of beneficial bacteria in cows that help in digestion. Evolution also creates parasites and predators and 'Co-extinction', where one species is lost because of the loss of another.

But in his book The Self-Organising Universe, the late Austrian astrophysicist Eric Jantsch, whose existential worries about the future in the 1960s led him to study forecasting, attributed cosmic evolution to co-evolution. Some examples given were that of the symbiotic relationship between predator and prey in nature. However, like many such studies, there wasn't enough proof to suggest there was a golden rule to all this. Because of too many variants in the real world. But the fact that science, which reduces abstract concepts to formulas, in another attempt to make sense of life, has frequently entered the world of behavioural patterns on terra firma, and more recently, of consciousness, indicates towards existential queries minus any religosity. Smith and Price's argument targetted a segment of the planet where normal 'reason', as we know it in humankind's sense of the word, would not apply. The curious thing is that there is more madness than reason in the world today which is now a hotbed of discussion over the 'most evil man', Osama bin Laden.

As I watched from the window of my flat the garden below, where the green summer branches ripe with leaves and green mangoes swayed in the breeze, it was eerie and extremely sad in a horrifying kind of way to think of a fellow human go down in a vicious bloodbath in a fortified safehouse on a dark night in Abbottabad because of certain codes he chose to live life by that were obviously so very wrong. Or else he would have been sitting with Saudi Arabian air-condition, eating kubbus, shish kabab and watching a local football match on cable TV.

One is not sympathising with Osama bin Laden, but the sight of jubilant crowds was creepy too. Especially with television dwelling on it like it was some consoling ancient ritual to give vacant masses relief from wars, recession, tsunamis and floods. Frankly, if there were Indians on the screen, one would have been sorely embarrassed. It is not like this was a party or a cricket match. But a sobering moment when insane behaviour had got its worldly comeuppance. The self-proclaimed First World could have toned down the war-whoop party. How different was that from the image of war-stoned American GIs, grinning at the camera in Abu Ghraib, before a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners?

More eerily, in the middle of all this, appeared a bizarre old interview of an old schoolfriend of Osama bin Laden's, a jolly portly man, whose name I forget, who said that Osama bin Laden had been a "peaceful and religious boy" who never participated in violence on the playground. Hey, we are not doing a psychonalysis, but that was hugely confusing. Was he a good man gone bad? Or a potential good man gone rotten? Should I feel sympathetic? What would survivors of Ground Zero think about that? They are mythifying him already, as it is.

Despite pictures of that bloodied face and vacant eyes people have begun to wonder, is he really dead? Like Elvis Presley Just Having Left the Building. Or the Scarlet Pimpernel in Baroness Orzy's book who saves people during the French Revolution, much to his enemies' disgust. He is worshiped in a poem that goes: We seek him here, we seek him there/Those Frenchies seek him everywhere/Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell/That damned, elusive Pimpernel... So what was his role in the Evolutionary Games Theory?

Thanks, however, to Osama bin Laden, a man who probably has cost more Muslims their lives than any other Muslim in recent times, that moderate Islam is making itself heard even stronger than before, and the discussions and debates between civilisations have also been more healthy. There has been much introspection.

There is also more interest in looking to others, instead of sticking to one's familial and tribal connections. Thanks to Osama bin Laden also, Americans have begun self-analysis more. A lot like humans after the Renaissance. When they had thought the universe existed for man. Or at least some Europeans and world despots did. Eric Janutsch would have felt vindicated that his Co-Existence theory wasn't without substance. In fact what's come to head very recently is that people have become increasingly concerned about how to "communicate with those who threaten communication", as Keith Kahn-Harris described dealing with extremist viewpoints. To deal with each other's humanity and then to 'engage'. The dialogue will go on, though the terrorism game is not over. But that's evolution.

And if you don't wind up getting yourself stupidly killed, you might actually see the world evolve as the paradise it was meant to be.







With the death of Osama bin Laden, Pakistan's bogus claim of being part of the global war on terror stands exposed. It is high time India hardened its position against Pakistan. It will find support among those betrayed by Pakistan's perfidy

The death of Osama bin Laden holds a number of lessons which can be incorporated by India. India, which has long accused Pakistan of hypocrisy towards terrorism and holds it solely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of its citizens, has lessons to learn from the most important targeted assassination in the history of counter-terrorism. Can the lessons learnt from the operation translate into an Indian military option against groups operating in Pakistan? What are the lessons?

The first lesson which is clearly observable in the American approach towards Osama bin Laden has been a re-shifting of focus back to the primary target. While the Bush Administration began 'Operation Enduring Freedom' with the right intentions, including the stated objective of capturing Osama bin Laden "dead or alive", counter-terrorism efforts were subsumed by the growing insurgency in Iraq. It is reported that the President Barack Obama built on his election promise, to re-double efforts and aid to the task force in charge of Osama bin Laden. India should emulate this by not losing our focus in our primary demand to bring back fugitives who have sought sanctuary in Pakistan. The administration must have a steely resolve towards achieving this goal, with ruthless efficiency. It is time for India to harden its position, especially now, since it would find echo among those betrayed by Pakistan's double crossing ways.

The second lesson, which India needs to learn, is that Pakistan's national sovereignty for all practical purposes of international law is dead when it comes to dealing with terrorist groups. The United States had to learn this in a way which is analogous to their sport baseball. A batter in baseball is allowed three consecutive swipes at the ball, and if he misses all three he is out. Pakistan had allowed high ranking Al Qaeda leaders from Khaled Shaikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj Al Libi to Osama bin Laden to be based in Pakistan, and it was only owing to American intervention that they were captured or killed.

Two of the three operations that occurred beyond the traditionally lawless tribal areas indicate a complete failure of the Pakistani state in its official capacity to uphold UNSC resolution 1373 dealing with counter-terrorism. Therefore, India should capitalise on this section to urge the international community in applying additional pressure on Pakistan, and possibly even encouraging commando style raids against targets in Pakistan. Indian Army heads have repeatedly left the decision to the political leadership. This confidence in the armed forces should be trusted and exercised.

While such an action would invite retaliation from Pakistan with a possible escalation to a full-fledged war, it needs to be realised that the international community, as a whole, is already suffering from a proxy war and blackmail in the form of Pakistan's refusal or inability to act against terrorist infrastructure. India cannot continue to wait on the bylines, while action is mounted against groups operating against other countries, while its citizens are to be treated like cattle, deserving to perish in a ceremonious act of politico-religious fundamentalism. It would be unfathomable for Pakistan to throw any remaining vestiges of rationality to the wind and escalate its conflict with India, at a risk of further international isolation and inherent degradation.

The third lesson from the operation is the need to revisit intelligence apparatus basics against groups such as Al Qaeda. According to media reports about the sanctuary, Osama bin Laden was living in a palatial house, without a telephone or Internet connection. The years it took to pinpoint his location is attributed to tracking the whereabouts of a Kuwaiti human courier, whom Osama bin Laden trusted. Osama bin Laden's aversion to communication tools and meticulous radio silence has helped him evade capture for over a decade. The same technique was adopted by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed only when he went to visit a cleric who was monitored by intelligence forces. India's intelligence capabilities have come in for a lot of criticisms, especially in the aftermath of the November 26, 2008 attacks, and while we augment our technical resources, it would be useful to develop our human intelligence resources as well. In many ways they are the unsung heroes behind foiled plots.

The final lesson to be incorporated in learning from such incidents deals with releasing information to the media. The United States in an effort to be circumspect in its euphoria raises more questions than answers in its post-incident media briefings. Questions relating to the level of cooperation with other allies, additional intelligence factors and civilian casualties are some of the details which could have been shared with the public, to prevent rumors and suspicions. The media's role becomes even more important in directing public reactions towards a more humane reaction, as opposed to the scenes of jubilation which denigrate human life and can provide additional fodder to terrorist groups.

The writer is a Research Officer, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.











In the Middle East, there have been muted reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden, who represented a virulent ideology exerting power over a certain section. Despite bin Laden being an Arab, there has not exactly been an outpouring of grief or anger at the killing of the world's most wanted. Life goes on in Cairo's cafes and Amman's bazaars; there have been no burnings of the American flag or Obama effigies. Perhaps the only political group to loudly protest - and expectedly - is the Palestinian Hamas. Yet, even this event moved just two dozen protestors to assemble in Gaza holding bin Laden banners.

Diminishing support for al-Qaida's brand of violent extremism forms a trend in recent years. According to a
Pew Research Center poll, in 2003, 70% Palestinian respondents expressed confidence in Osama 'doing the right thing'; by 2011, that number had fallen to 30%. In Turkey, 3% reposed faith in bin Laden, in Lebanon, 1%. Most tellingly, neither his name nor methods were invoked anywhere through the Arab Spring - the series of events linking countries across the Middle East, with crowds demanding freedom, rights and progress in largely non-violent protests. Even in cases of bloody civil strife, there have been no suicide bombings or hostage-takings by rebels facing brutal despots. The pro-democracy movement has broken stereotypes about the region featuring male crowds driven by mullahs and muezzins, seeing violence as the means to desired ends. Women have actively participated in the struggles, challenging notions of the passive 'victimhood' of community or even gender.

As the Arab Spring has shown, the region's people would rather look inwards and actively seek to rectify the flaws and inequities of their own societies than see themselves as mere targets of 'western imperialism' the way someone like bin Laden wanted them to. Rejecting intolerance, protesters have focussed on material conditions of life - lack of jobs and opportunities, liberty and dignity. The 'universals' they seek are democracy's political ideals and development's socio-economic benefits; the way to gain these is people's power. As is evident today in places from
Jerusalem to Kashmir, extremist ideology hasn't provided panaceas to the everyday problems of those it claims to champion; rather, it has contributed to their problems.

With bin Laden's end, US President Obama has won a major battle against the creed of terrorism and its most infamous representative. But it's important to remember that problems still exist, be it the
Palestine issue, authoritarian despots crushing their own people in Libya or Syria, or AfPak's uncertainties. Where the Middle East is concerned, a diverse people united by their humanity are seeking democracy and its hoped-for ability to provide a better life. That itself is an inspiring counter to the ideology of hate.







That India's largest foreign direct investment project has been cleared is cause for cheer, not least because it renders fatuous claims that being green is incompatible with development. South Korean steel maker Posco can now build its Rs 55,000 crore steel plant while adhering to a host of environmental stipulations. These include regenerating degraded forest land besides compensatory afforestation, and not exporting ore. This is good news, but it took Posco six years to get the environmental clearance. So lengthy was the process that the original deal expired. Posco persevered, but it is not certain if others will. Government must be quicker off the mark when investors come knocking. Greater responsiveness will help transform a range of sectors and create employment. The Posco project itself, it's estimated, will create around 48,000 direct and indirect jobs. Posco - and Jaitapur earlier - seems to indicate the environment ministry's intention to buck the dilatoriness that is the norm.

More can be done. Firm time limits for green clearances would address concerns - voiced even by RBI - that delays undermine FDI inflow. Meanwhile, Posco faces another potential hurdle: acquiring land. Of the total amount earmarked, a portion lies with the public. Plus, there's both local support and stiff opposition to the project. The
Orissa government hopes to resolve matters within a month. But Singur in Bengal remains a potent reminder of problems that can arise. Enacting the Land Acquisition Bill, hanging fire since 2009, will provide a clear template for acquisitions, engendering investor confidence. On FDI, India is slipping both in absolute terms and share of global flows. Companies must be encouraged to comply with green regulations and those giving up land must be fairly compensated. But if projects aren't to be derailed to India's cost, processes by which environmental go-aheads and land are obtained must be transparent and time-bound.









"It does not matter if I die... my death and the death of others like me will one day awaken millions of Muslims from their apathy." Osama bin Laden addressed these words to me in March 1997, in a cave in eastern Afghanistan's Tora Bora Mountains. I was the first Pakistani journalist to interview him. In May 1998 I encountered him for the second time in a hideout near Kandahar airport. He again mentioned his possible death, saying, "They cannot arrest me alive." I received his messenger within few hours after the 9/11 attacks and he praised those who conducted the attacks but never accepted responsibility for them. This confused me.

I took the risk of entering Afghanistan in November 2001 when American warplanes were targeting al-Qaida and Taliban from Jalalabad to Kabul. I met bin Laden the third time on November 8. I was the first and last journalist to interview him after 9/11. Intense bombing was going on in and outside Kabul. He again said, "My martyrdom will create more Osama bin Ladens".

Bin Laden fulfilled his promise. He never surrendered. US President Barack Obama announced his death on May 2, 2011. His death is the year's biggest news for the Americans but his sympathisers are satisfied bin Laden was not captured alive to be humiliated like Saddam Hussein. For me, it was a great surprise he was hiding in a Pakistani city, Abbottabad, famous for the Pakistan Military Academy.

It is learnt the Americans conducted the operation without informing Pakistani authorities. But highly placed responsible government sources confirmed Pakistan shared important information regarding bin Laden in May 2010 with the CIA. Pakistani security forces intercepted a phone call made between Taxila and Abbottabad. The CIA was informed in August 2010 about the possible presence of an important al-Qaida leader there. Bin Laden probably made this call, his biggest blunder.

Sometimes bin laden dodged sophisticated satellite systems and missiles by his own cleverness; other times luck saved him. US air strikes started against Taliban and al-Qaida on October 7, 2001, and bin Laden was spotted with Ayman al Zawahri, on November 8 in Kabul. They had come to attend an al-Qaida meeting and the same day I was granted an interview. Despite security measures, a female spy noticed the unusual movement of many important Arabs in Kabul.

Over 20 al-Qaida leaders were present in the small room. Suddenly an Arab al-Qaida fighter entered and informed his leaders they had arrested a woman in a burqa a few metres away. She had been spying, posing as a beggar. The al-Qaida caught her talking to someone about a "Sheikh" on a Thoraya satellite telephone.

In the ensuing rush, i said goodbye to bin Laden who told a close associate his "guest" must not be harmed. The associate, Muhammad, was to take me to Jalalabad. He would later give me startling news. He claimed the place where i met his "Sheikh" had been bombed 15 minutes after our departure but the others also left. Nobody was harmed. He said it was in Kabul's Weir Akbar Khan area that I'd met the world's most wanted man.

Muhammad and i met again in 2004 in Kunar where he told me the whole story of how he and his "Sheikh" had survived US carpet bombing in Tora Bora. It wasn't until December 2001 that Bin Laden and his fighters broke the circle created by the Americans. They entered the Kurram tribal area of Pakistan from Tora Bora – but bin Laden headed off in a different direction with a small group.

A top Afghan security official, Lutfullah Mashal, confirmed to me later that bin Laden escaped to Paktia. He claimed bin Laden entered North Waziristan. Mashal is sure the Americans missed his capture in Tora Bora because they were not ready to deploy ground forces. Bin Laden remained underground through 2002, surfacing again in April 2003 in Afghanistan after the US invasion of Iraq. Calling a meeting in Kunar province's Pech Valley, he announced plans to resist America in Iraq.

In 2004, bin Laden found himself surrounded by British troops in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. Highly placed diplomatic sources revealed to me recently in Kabul that British forces were very close to taking bin Laden – dead or alive. He was besieged for over 24 hours before managing to dodge one of the world's best equipped armies. According to Taliban sources in Helmand, the British forces broke two al-Qaida defence lines in an area of five kilometres.

Bin Laden wanted to fight but Abu Hamza Al Jazeeri convinced him to try to escape. He slipped from British hands with some other fighters. These sources denied reports that he had ordered his guards to shoot him if he were near arrest. They claimed he did not believe in suicide, it was easier for him to sacrifice his life in battle. After that escape he was careful, going underground in the Pakistani tribal areas. Nobody expected he would be nabbed in Abbottabad. When the Americans attacked his hideout he started fighting. According to his injured wife, Osama rushed to the rooftop and joined his guards resisting the attack. His 10-year-old daughter Safia watched American commandos enter the house and take away her father's dead body.

Osama is dead but al-Qaida and its allies aren't. Bin Laden always exploited flaws in American policies. His real strength was hatred against America, not Islam. His physical elimination is big news for the Americans but many outside America want elimination of the policies that may produce more Osamas. No doubt he was responsible for the killing of many innocent people but the Americans cannot justify killing innocents through drone attacks on that count. Both bin Laden and the Americans violated Pakistan's sovereignty. This must stop now. Osama is dead. If America does not leave Afghanistan now, this war will not end soon and the world will remain an unsafe place.

The writer works for Geo TV






The news of former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly's IPL comeback with the Sahara Pune Warriors has been met with mixed reactions. Some, like former Indian cricketer Javagal Srinath, have questioned the wisdom behind bringing back a retired international cricketer to shore up the fortunes of a struggling team halfway through a tournament. Ganguly stands accused of not being able to acknowledge that his playing days are behind him. However, that's for Ganguly and those hiring him to decide. Playing international cricket and playing in a domestic league like IPL are two different things. The latter is solely driven by professional considerations. If the Sahara Pune Warriors - currently languishing at the bottom of the IPL 4 table - feel Ganguly's inclusion adds value to the team, why should anyone object?

The argument that Ganguly's age is an inhibiting factor does not cut ice either. A sportsperson should be judged on the basis of his abilities. Sachin Tendulkar bears testimony to the fact that age is an irrelevant number. He has said he will retire the day he chooses to. In professional
football, Paolo Maldini played till the age of 40. In tennis, Martina Navratilova won her last grand slam title at 49. The list is endless. Though he had called it quits in international cricket, Ganguly was available for the IPL players' auction last January. That he now replaces injured Ashish Nehra in the Pune franchise shouldn't come as a surprise.

Besides, Ganguly's IPL record is nothing to be ashamed of. Having played 40 matches over three seasons, he has scored a total of 1,031 runs and was even the fourth highest run-getter in IPL 3. Hence, if Ganguly wants to play again and the Pune Warriors want him in their ranks, there's no reason why the Prince of Kolkata should decline the offer.







Where Sourav Ganguly is concerned, there are no certainties, for better or for worse. With his shift to Pune Warriors, he has shown that yet again. But it is difficult to fathom what exactly he hopes to gain. Is it the money? Unlikely in the extreme, given his long playing career, his many endorsements during it and the fact that he comes from an affluent background. The more likely explanation - particularly given his reaction when none of the teams picked him up during the auction - is that he's trying to prove a point. Unfortunately for him and his fans, it's likely to be the wrong point he ends up proving.

Let's look at the cold, hard facts. Ganguly has not been a success in the IPL. Far from it. As a captain, he might have been inspirational at the international level, but on the IPL's smaller stage, he was a disaster. Of the three years he was with Kolkata Knight Riders, he captained for two. Kolkata performed abysmally in all those years; it remains the only one of the original eight IPL teams not to have made the semi-finals even once. As a batsman, he was a little better but nowhere among the leading performers.

These poor returns are not an anomaly. Such a record built over three successive IPL seasons shows his powers are on the wane. Why would a player famously called second only to divinity on the offside want to showcase his loss of ability? Hubris among sportspersons is far from uncommon, but Ganguly would have been better served by keeping his pride in check. He need only look around to see how famous contemporaries like Anil Kumble and
Stephen Fleming have recognised that their playing days are over and smoothly and gracefully made the transition to administration and mentoring younger players.






The last typewriter rolled off the production line of Godrej & Boyce, setting a million memories now. The historic end came a while ago, but nostalgia flooded the media just last week. And left me totally soaked.

It's a very old tie. Our family newspaper operated out of our sprawling house. Late into the silenced night, my father's fingers would pick out the keys on his trusty Remington, matched by the rhythmic drone of my mugging for a school exam. It would be romantic to say that in those bonding hours, a mystic transference took place, each clack imprinting a journalistic legacy on the next generation. The prosaic reality was that my Dad was only doing his business correspondence. My mother handled editorial. She wrote in Gujarati, a script which the foreign typewriter companies didn't bother about in the days when
India was only a bazaar, not a market.

The midnight tryst of Dad, typewriter and me soon turned messy. My father was gentle, but his norms were non-negotiable. He was a great believer in the power of first impressions. This almost sabotaged the career he had set my heart on. While still in university, i decided to write for the recently started JS, but he made that initiation so tiresome that i was ready to run off and become a road digger instead.

Preening, i showed him the final draft of the piece i had so 'brilliantly' crafted. He didn't read a line. Instead, he failed it on the typing. With a fatal look at the uneven imprints, the holes where the 'o' key had eaten up the paper, the carbon smudges, the xxxxxed-out squiggles, he quietly said, "Retype it." Typewriters were not computers; one error meant you had to pull out the whole sheet and start all over. I did, again and again, till it finally emerged unblemished. This became standard operating procedure. And i had to lump it, because i wasn't allowed to leave it.

"Sloppy typing reflects sloppy thinking. It condemns your article at a glance, and insults the editor to whom you offer it," Dad had patiently explained when i had finished fuming over such an absurd emphasis on form. And somewhere along the way, that typewriter became the instrument of discipline, which in turn instilled zero tolerance for the compromise of substance. Then computers came and took away the rigour - and with it, the ritual we had come to rely on to invoke the temperamental gods of creativity.

Which is why typewriter tales are immortalised in the annals of all great newspapers. At The Statesman, the first story i was told in hushed awe was the one about Niranjan Mazumdar. When the iconic assistant editor was asked what he was going to write in his edit for that day, he shrugged insouciantly and replied, "I haven't the faintest idea. Only my typewriter knows that." Even when not omniscient, it was omnipresent.

The Times of India's mythology is coloured with many such integrations of giant egos and their clunky alter egos. The elf-like editor N J Nanporia dictated his editorials extempore, to the exact length and with every punctuation mark, to his PA who typed as the words rolled off the exalted tongue. For several equally legendary 'Ass Eds', the machine's thak-thak-thak provided both inspiration and metronome to the cerebral flow without the need for an intermediary.

Yes, that machine was an important accessory in the shaping of momentous events. Even our textbook had acknowledged this. Stamped indelibly on my formative mind was the line: 'Every time a grand editor puts finger to typewriter, he sits back to hear the crash of falling governments.'

The moving finger types, and having typed, moves on.









Every time any country carries out a successful covert military operation against a terrorist target, the question inevitably arises in India as to why it cannot do the same. On the face of it, there are sound arguments as to why this option should be part of the country's counter-terrorism strategy.

India regularly gets listed as among the world's worst affected countries when it comes to terrorism — and is probably number one or number two when it comes to the cross-border variety. Pakistan, which tolerates if not facilitates the actions of the militant groups responsible, has made it clear it sees terrorism as a means to extract concessions from India in the arena of normal statecraft.

New Delhi's seeming lack of a proactive military policy against terrorism is detrimental to its own attempts to project India as a rising power and a safe investment destination.

But this not a simple decision of blood and guts. A number of larger issues come into play. The least significant is the issue of capacity. Countries like Israel, smaller and with less resources, have been able to create fear-inspiring covert military capabilities. India almost certainly lacks the capacity today, but the ability can be created if there is political will and public pressure to do so.

Probably the most difficult facet of covert military actions is creating an intelligence system that can provide actionable information. This would require a root-and-branch reform of what India has at present. There will inevitably be questions about the legality of such action. International law has a large corpus on the permissible use of force.

Organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba are about as public and brazen as non-State actors can be in declaring their view that they are at war with India. What India could do, however, is to set up some sort of tribunal or judicial panel authorising such acts if it ever decides to walk that path.

This would provide some legal oversight to an otherwise executive decision.

The most problematic issue is whether such actions would be politically feasible in the kind of environment that exists in South Asia. Pakistan is happy to allow terrorist attacks on India because it is unconcerned about international opinion and, in fact, encourages the world to see the subcontinent as an unstable and dangerous place.

India wishes to do the opposite and has the additional ambition to be seen as a responsible global player. Then  there is the issue of nuclear weapons. Covert military strikes have the potential for escalation. And in a nuclearised environment, escalation is a four letter word. Nonetheless, there is a growing case for India to at least develop this sort of option.

Pakistan may be a difficult target, but terror threats against India are visible in places as far off as Somalia and Yemen. What the US did in Abbottabad is now a policy option that New Delhi can no longer not afford to have in its kitty.




The American Navy Seals may think that they surprised Osama bin Laden, but the Emir of al-Qaeda had given some thought to his eventual departure from Abbottabad, perhaps not to sleep with the fishes as has turned out.

A will, whether authentic or not we cannot say, has been doing the rounds to the effect that the terror tsar had stipulated that in the eventuality of his death, his wives, and he had several, should not remarry and that his children, of which there were multitudes, must not join al-Qaeda.

Most telling, we must say. Why on earth should he care while frolicking in paradise with scores of vestal virgins what his wives do? And if al-Qaeda was good enough for him, why should his army of children not carry on the good fight? Do we detect double standards here, an all too mortal failing that all of us suffer from?

We are also happy to note that like all communist commissars, the al-Qaeda leader was a little averse to soiling his hands with the actual gore of jihad. Yes, there were fetching pictures of him with a Kalashnikov and brooding in a cave. But the dear lad was actually lounging about in Abbottabad.

Now, this is what we all aspire to, to not practise what we preach. Imagine the horror of faithful who have been jumping through hoops of fire in Waziristan, running obstacle courses, sleeping on hard earth and shunning all worldly pleasures when they found that the sheikh had been whooping it up in a balmy hill town.

We can only hope that his example is emulated by his followers. In which case, the Americans or whoever is on their trail will just have to keep a sharp eye on the sudden springing up of luxury villas and unusually high occupancy in tony resorts with an abnormally high consumption of pricey goodies.

There you will probably find the lads on the lam.






What does Mamata Banerjee stand for? She says that the traditional ideological dichotomy between Left and Right does not apply to her. What she probably means is that she hasn't thought about the question or that she garners her votes wherever she can in a context where the Left's traditional constituents — the rural masses and the urban proletariat — are in a state of flux.

However, being a political person, she cannot escape ideology. Does she believe that the government has an important say in running the economy or should it all be left to the private sector? Would she use buoyant tax revenues to invest in the social sector or would she give tax sops to the middle-class and the rich? She also says she is pro-people.

What does she mean by people? The rural masses? The urban proletariat? The urban middle-class? The rich?

The answer in this case is probably the rural masses and the urban proletariat, which is where the numbers are. That would make her a Leftist. But then how does one explain the existence of the very right of centre Amit Mitra of Ficci in her ranks? All this amounts to a certain incoherence in Banerjee's political thinking, an incoherence that manifests itself in her speeches and in her actions.

She says that one should talk to the Maoists and find a solution through dialogue. Then, almost in the same breath, she says she wants to transform Calcutta into London. If Calcutta is to become London then West Bengal must become Britain, a multi-trillion dollar economy.

However, the most mysterious element in Banerjee's thinking, if it can be called that, are the words 'Ma, Mati, Manush'. These words were first uttered in the aftermath of the Tatas pulling out of Singur. The words themselves have not been coined by Banerjee, but are taken from a popular folk play. Literally, 'Ma' means mother (Mother goddess? Durga? Kali? Motherland?); 'Mati' means soil (sons and daughters of the soil? A peasant's sacred relationship with the soil he tills?) and 'Manush' means people. 

Whatever be the meaning — and Banerjee might want to leave these ambiguities alone in the hope of appearing all things to all people — there is little doubt that they circumscribe an area of sacredness and an incipient Bengali sub-nationalism.

'Ma, mati, manush' is sacred; Tata's Nano factory is not. This way she takes care of the rural primacy. Rural primacy means that the countryside and only the countryside has the numbers that count in a democracy such as we have. It means that, at least at the level of discourse, the economic and political interests of the rural masses take priority and their worldview is treated with due respect, that they are reassured that their traditional value-systems are not going to be radically overthrown, that there is going to be no cultural revolution.

It is due to this rural primacy that the political class in India weighs upon our necks like a conservative millstone. Banerjee is not threatening this rural primacy.

Even the CPI(M) has done nothing to challenge this rural primacy. This is because the undivided communist party lost its revolutionary character the day it decided to become a participant in India's fragile electoral politics. It was bound by the same electoral logic as all the other bourgeois parties and was, therefore, in no position to act upon the cultural conservatism of the rural masses.

In fact, the CPI(M) took rural primacy to paroxysmic heights.

However, it is the CPI(M)'s belated realisation that no economy can progress without industrialisation that threatened the rural primacy in Bengal. And this partly explains the virulence of the backlash it faces as a consequence of its actions in Nandigram and Singur.

Industrialisation cuts the peasant's umbilical cord with the land, and reconstitutes him as an autonomous individual, free to choose his own identity. He is free to reject the 'community' and the traditional belief systems and value systems that it holds true. Industrialisation threatens the very fabric of rural society and marginalises in a manner that would be culturally revolutionary.

It is not clear whether Mamata Banerjee herself knows what she stands for, excepting for a resurgence of the sacred within politics, a notion that the rural masses have cherished and held fast to through 34 years of communist rule. 'Paribartan', in this context, does not mean change.

It means more of the same.

(Soumitra Das is a Kolkata-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal)





Osama bin Ladens's death is a major but not fatal blow to al-Qaeda. The terror group has powerful allies in Pakistan, now its key target, and remains deadly. It has evolved enormously since 9/11 and its decentralised infrastructure makes it less vulnerable.

The mastermind of the 9/11 attack was not hiding in a cave in Waziristan or in some Taliban stronghold along the Afghan border region. He was just outside Pakistan's capital Islamabad in a military garrison town where Pakistan's first dictator, General Ayub Khan, was born. Abbottabad is in Pakistan's heartland.

To imagine it, think of Annapolis to Washington, a military city just outside the beltway. To survive there, bin Laden must have had powerful protectors in Pakistani society.

Since 9/11, al-Qaeda has focused on Pakistan. It has built alliances with the Pakistan Taliban (with whom it murdered Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and two prominent Pakistani politicians this year) and groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (which it helped inspire to attack Mumbai in 2008).

Together, these terror groups are a syndicate of murder and each is a force multiplier and protector for the rest. They are deeply entrenched in Pakistan's urban centres like Lahore and the mega port city of Karachi as well as in the tribal badlands near Afghanistan. Lashkar's boss Hafiz Saeed led special prayers after bin Laden's death to eulogise him.

The Pakistani army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retain close links to parts of the syndicate, especially Lashkar even as they fight in other parts. It is hard to imagine that no one in the Pakistani army was aware of bin Laden's hide-out. A key question for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)  now is to find out how much army protection bin Laden enjoyed? Already tense US-Pakistan ties are sure to get even rockier.

Al-Qaeda has focused on Pakistan because it is the strategic prize in the Islamic world, home to what will soon be the fifth largest nuclear weapons arsenal on the globe and a country struggling against jihadism like no other. Virulently anti-American with a very weak civilian government, bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri have increasingly believed that Pakistan is their best chance at being a global game changer — a coup by friendly officers that delivers the global jihad the world's sixth largest country with the bomb.

It still remains deeply unlikely but it is a real possibility that keeps US President Barack Obama's national security team awake at night.

Zawahiri has taken an increasingly critical role in the last few years in al-Qaeda. He is much more the group's public face than his dead boss, speaking out far more often and even writing a book last year on how to overthrow Pakistan. He was the target of the joint US-Jordanian operation in December 2009 that ended when an al-Qaeda double agent blew up the CIA's base camp in Afghanistan, killing more spies than any other disaster since Beirut in 1983.

But Zawahiri has seemed out of the loop in the five audio and video messages he released this year, trying to jump on the bandwagon of revolution in his native Egypt. Al-Qaeda long ago became more than a terror group. It is an idea, the concept of global jihad against America. It has an elaborate narrative to justify murder.

But bin Laden and Zawahiri were caught off guard by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions this winter and the wave of turmoil that followed them.

These popular uprisings challenged their whole worldview that terror and jihad were the only way to free Islam of dictators like Hosni Mubarak and of what they call "crusader-Zionist oppression". The triumph of twitter and freedom in Tahrir Square was a blow to al-Qaeda and a sign that apart from Pakistan and Yemen, it seemed increasingly on the run elsewhere.

Nato is now fighting to free Libya, not to occupy it, making al-Qaeda look dated. Whether al-Qaeda can adapt to the new Arab renaissance is an open question.

The New Mexico-born Colorado State University graduate Anwar al-Awlaki seems the best al-Qaeda leader to lead a response to the new order. His Yemeni al-Qaeda cells have been increasingly creative, with their Christmas 2009 Detroit-bound underwear bomber and last year's parcel bombs targeting Chicago.

Awlaki's English language online magazine Inspire, was the first al- Qaeda journal to laud the "tsunami" of change in the Arab world and lay out a plan for al-Qaeda to benefit from it. Now, he will doubtless play a bigger role, at least ideologically.

Killing bin Laden is US President Barack Obama's triumph and delivers on his March 2009 promise to focus US policy on dismantling and defeating al-Qaeda. His much-maligned Af-Pak strategy has got the big one. But we are still a long way from secure.

(Bruce Riedel is the author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad. The views expressed by the author are personal)




It is quite a comedown for him really.

Yes, to think that the evasive emir was caught like a rabbit in the headlights after scaring the daylights out of all of us for years.

No, you dolt, I refer to the Prince of Kolkata who will now have to ride into the gentle night to play in the IPL for the Pune Warriors.

He should thank his macher jhol that he got his foot in through the door. After all, he was dropped like a soggy sandesh in the last IPL bidding.

But it's beneath the Maharaj's dignity to play under any old Tom, Dick or Singh, and, of course, for any other team other than his home one.

Oh, for heaven's sake, Sourav knows better than to look a gift chingri mach in the mouth. He is lucky to get a bit of the action after his last couple of showings which were about as exciting as syrup-less rosogulla.

I think he should have stuck to his guns and insisted that he captain the side or that he would take his business elsewhere.

Yes, I am sure that would have sent a frisson of terror down the spine of the organisers. Almost akin to a Bengali being told that Subhas Bose is no longer amidst us.

Do say: He's a worried warrior

Don't say: A prince without Knights





Modern novelists have to rely on older writers when writing about violence

Writers, by and large, are a boring lot -even more so now that so many are employed by the state to teach middle-class youth how to tell imaginary stories in prose. Yes, yes, the academy is a fascinating subject and you can't have enough tales about college politics or balding, paunchy middle-aged lecturers lusting after young girls. But even so, something elemental has been lost: a connection to the blood and piss and fecal slime of life.

Take killing for instance. Read a modern literary novel about killing, and you'll get a lot of angst-ridden waffle ripping off other, older books. Naturally this waffle will be written by somebody with little or no experience of violence.

Of course, I am not suggesting that authors should kill just so they can know what it feels like. But given that we live in an extremely violent world, I have been wondering recently about authors who have direct experience of killing. Who are they, and what can they tell us? In my efforts to identify violent men of letters, I have come up with two categories: the professional killer and the inspired amateur.

The first category is the broadest, and contains some of the greatest names of world literature. Cervantes, for instance, was a professional soldier who lost the use of his left arm in battle. Extremely proud of all the killing he did, he went on to write Don Quixote, a humorous novel about a demented knight who believes the world is like the one you encounter in story books, and not the extremely violent place Cervantes knew it to be.

Another great author-killer is Leo Tolstoy.
It's been a while since I read The Sevastopol Sketches, his account of his military experiences in the Crimean war, but I do note that in later life he grew a very long beard and took to munching vegetables, so he was undoubtedly much less gung ho about killing than Cervantes .

Then there is Winston Churchill, who had few qualms about killing when he felt it necessary. In The River War he recounts his youthful experiences massacring tribesmen in the Sudan.

But then, war is war and it's acceptable to shed blood on the battlefield. Of course, popular fiction is awash with dead bodies and corpses; detective stories and true crime are top-selling genres in the US and Britain. But how many of those individuals writing about killing have actually snuffed out another's life?

Precious few, as far as I can see. I suppose the most famous freelance authorkiller is William Burroughs, who shot his common law wife, Joan Vollmer, in 1951. It didn't do his career any harm, that's for sure, but only added to the myth of the skeletal narco-fiend. There is a lot of violence in his books, and I do believe that it is intended as a critique of something or other, but alas I find his work unreadable so there's not much I can learn there.

The Guardian





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

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

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

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






The killing of Osama bin Laden has become a fount of confusing stories, as Pakistan twists in the wind, trying to explain how the most wanted terrorist in the world was ensconced in the middle of a garrison town. As the news broke, the Pakistan army was caught in an awful bind — it could say it had no idea about bin Laden, and appear laughably incompetent, or it could accept that a part of it, at least, was complicit with bin Laden's terror apparatus. Pakistan's reactions in the first 48 hours or so were a welter of contradictions — first it tried to pretend it was part of the operation all along, and clung to the few ambiguous words in Obama's announcement to claim part-ownership of the affair. Later, after the CIA and other US officials said that Pakistan hadn't been informed at all, because it couldn't be trusted not to alert the targets, that tack was clearly unsustainable. Then, in an 180-degree turn, Pakistan's foreign secretary said Pakistan had no role at all, and put on an air of wounded pride, describing the sneak assault as an incursion on their sovereignty.

Though it still maintains that injured innocence, the bin Laden killing has only stripped away all pretences. New Delhi, as much as Washington and others, knew that the Pakistan army was playing a dangerous, deceptive game, being sustained by US aid while feeding terror networks. This event only provided embarrassing, smoking-gun proof of that duplicity. However, now India must join those who seek a full accounting from Pakistan. While India should avoid gloating, it deserves a comprehensive explanation of how the Pakistan army and intelligence played both sides, and of the terrorist outfits that thrive under their benevolent umbrella.

However, this event obviously complicates the resumed India-Pakistan peace process. The first round is proceeding reasonably smoothly, but confirmation of the Pakistan army's double-dealing raises questions about the sustainability of the talks. Even as India continues to engage Pakistan's civilian leadership, it must draw attention to the army and ISI nurturing terrorism, to alert the world and the Pakistani people to the dangers of this unaccountable superstate. Pakistan's establishment has been pushed to the wall. US and international pressure will inevitably mount, and if it is pressured into acting against the Taliban and Haqqani network, then it will face a jihadist backlash. As these tensions rise, Pakistan's internal political arrangements could come under stress. India must be watchful of Pakistan's internal repercussions, even as it steps up the pressure for a full accounting.






In an interview to this newspaper, chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu, while calling the RBI's tightening of monetary policy "aggressive", has claimed it will not impact growth in the long term. The Reserve Bank has signalled a sharp turn in policy, a clear indication of its determination to use monetary policy to target inflation head-on. Yet a big part of the effort to get inflation under control is what to do with rising global crude oil prices. And as Basu has pointed out, oil prices are the possible spoiler for economic growth. Inflation, if it persists for too long, begins to hurt growth; and if crude prices remain near where they are at present, the finance ministry may have to revisit its growth forecast of 9 per cent for 2011-12.

The problem remains India's administered prices of petroleum products. What we have so far is an in-principle finance ministry decision to decontrol diesel prices; but, as Basu admits, the government still doesn't have a clear view on deregulation of fuel and fertiliser prices. Petroleum product prices directly affect the consumer price index, the truest picture of how inflation impacts people. The central bank's emphasis on tighter monetary policy could bring down inflation. But distortions produced by the subsidy regime limits the impact of whatever the RBI tries to do, to say nothing of requiring sharper rate hikes. When petrol prices rise worldwide, they are not hiked in India; so the demand for petrol doesn't decline, and the import bill goes up. This would weaken the rupee, and consequently raise the prices of all tradeable goods, as well as costs of production. This price burden shifts from petrol users to the general population, reducing their real income — and actually boosting inflation.

If oil remains off-radar and continues to deflect global crude prices, with continued absorption of the entire increase as subsidy, it would make the fiscal deficit much more untenable. At the same time, the higher interest rate may slow down investment in the short term and will raise the cost of government borrowing. Nor can India afford long-term high inflation. So while the RBI has made its move, the government needs to act on fuel deregulation.






So the Bengal tiger has become a Pune warrior. Sourav Ganguly — he, the former maharaja of the offside, captain-founder of Team India on whose watch the national team gained self-belief, the man whose on and off the field could bring all of Bengal to a hysterical standstill, who captained Kolkata Knight Riders for the first and third season of the Indian Premier League — has found a new city, a new team. When Ganguly was cold-shouldered by all the IPL teams in the auction for the fourth season, it was believed that, pushing 40, he was staring at the end of his playing career, that his days as captain and cricketer were finally over. But then Ganguly, the master of reinvention, never seems to see that door marked exit.

Ganguly tried off-the-pitch makeovers — he hosted game shows in gaudy Kolkata studios, he became part of the cricket commentariat. But he never willingly left the pitch he had claimed as his own as a captain with a sense of immense self-belief and a streak of rebellion. Now a beleaguered Pune Warriors have handed him the pads again. It may be tough to do what he did earlier, with a younger body and a brasher mind: playing big, coming back bigger. But can one count him out?

It will be intriguing when Pune Warriors take on Kolkata Knight Riders on May 19. Will Bengal, which collectively refused to come to the Eden Gardens, which declined to play along with a Ganguly-less KKR, move city entirely to Pune? Whether that happens or not, Ganguly would still have pulled off a reinvent once again. And the rest of us, we have learnt the lesson: never write Ganguly off.








The change of guard at Infosys, besides being riveting business drama and a media spectacle, also brought out into the open the little discussed issue of how chairman and CEO succession in Indian companies is decided. It also revealed confusion about what a non-executive chairman does. As K.V. Kamath repeatedly explained to journalists, the CEO runs the company and the chairman of the board runs the board. To be semantically exact, he is the chairman of the board and not of the company. The CEO reports to the board; and the board, led by its chairman, is supposed to appoint, terminate, evaluate, remunerate, set performance contracts with, and provide non-executive supervision and support to, the CEO.

In theory, the succession decision for a chairman or CEO is one of the most important roles of the board and involves a lot of hard work. In America, for example, boards often employ external expert firms who start from zerobase (or from basics), by understanding future challenges facing the company or the board, and defining what competencies or qualities the new leader must have. There is then an elaborate board search process that looks outside as well as within the company to identify the best person for the job.

How is succession usually decided in Indian listed companies? In truth, it does not engage boards as much as it should. The reason is partly because there are very few India-listed companies that have dispersed shareholding, and no management-active shareholder, thus leaving the board wholly and solely in charge of succession.

Most Indian companies are still actively managed by the promoter group — which could be a family or a group of family-like founders, as in the case of Infosys. Infosys describes itself as being professionally managed by promoters, a description that applies to several family-owned businesses as well, who have well-educated, experienced family members in the business — think Godrej, Mahindra, Tata, Wipro, TVS , Piramals, etc. However, in some of these companies, there are also young, well-educated gen-next family members in the succession "pipeline" — though not the case in Infosys, and not apparently so in the Tatas or the Mahindras.

In companies where gen-next family members are already in the business, the usual practice is that at an appropriate time in the future, they become the sole candidate for the top executive or board job. Some form of board process then happens; how much substance there is to this form, how much of a "done deal" outcome it usually is, is entirely dependent on how the non-promoter board members choose to discharge their responsibility.

Infosys has followed a hybrid model of succession. The frontrunner for the CEO job thus far seems to have always been a founder — vetted and confirmed by the board, of course. After all founder-members have had their turn at CEOship, the baton will pass to professional managers, as none of the founders' children are in the business. Infosys has explained the board process it used for CEO selection, and Mohandas Pai has provided a footnote to it; but it is not clear from all the media interviews given by Infosys board members whether the board process of determining CEO succession included debating questions like the desirability of a CEO change at this juncture, or the desirability of giving every founder a chance to run the business, resulting in frequent changes at the top, and so on.

In the case of Tata Sons' chairmanship succession, it appears from media reports that the contenders, generated by a board search process, includes a family member, and the final selection will be made by some board process. There are a few more high-profile chairman and CEO successions slated to happen in the not-too-distant future. After Infosys, given how much attention the issue has garnered, it is unlikely that they will be allowed to get away with no public discussion on the decision and the process that the board used.

Bringing succession decision-making into the public space is a good thing for corporate governance, because in many of the listed companies, promoter shareholding is well below the 51 per cent mark. (For example, 16.04 per cent in Infosys, 24.9 per cent in Mahindra and Mahindra, and so on.) Therefore the rest of the shareholders, big and small, must know what those appointed to act on their behalf are doing to find the best person to run the company, or to run the board that supervises the management of the company. Are they just going along with the "default option" of a family or founder-member representing a shareholder with non-controlling stake?

However, it is true that the majority of Indian shareholders, as we can sense from AGMs, feel that the best candidate for the job is a family member or founder-member. Perhaps it is our cultural mai-baap comfort gene or, more likely, our consistent experience that promoters identify deeply with the company, do not see themselves as separate from it (a mixed blessing), display a great passion for the business, have institutional memory of it since inception, display greater commitment to see it succeed, and do not quit when times get tough. If they also bring in good professionals at one level below, then shareholders feel it is the best of all worlds.

Boards also have usually gone along with family/ founders as successors, on the assumption that they know the business best, and have a substantial stake in delivering results. However, we have, of late, seen boards play a more active role in some companies with large FII holdings or strong independent directors, though there is a long way to go in getting to even acceptable good practice.

Succession decisions in Indian PSUs are often maligned by the private sector as being totally subjective and at the whim of some minister. Yet the government processes of setting up search and selection committees, looking at a wide swath of candidates, etc are far more rigorous than the processes that most of India Inc's boards follow. The form-versus-substance scepticism is equally true for both!

Going forward, Indian boards need to play an active role not only at the time of succession, but also in evaluating CEOs more formally and rigorously, beyond the financials, than they do today. Equally, unless enshrined in the rules of the company, the board must question the choice of a promoter/ founder chairman versus an independent one — but that is a subject that, for India Inc, needs a lot of thinking even to frame the debate.

The writer is a management consultant and author of 'We are like that only: understanding the logic of consumer India',







Based on the initial reports provided by US officials on the operation that culminated in the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, it appears to be a textbook case of gathering and analysing intelligence on "high-value targets". Not only has the operation burnished the reputations of President Barack Obama, CIA Director Leon Panetta (soon to become secretary of defence), the CIA and the broader US intelligence community, but it also provides some valuable lessons about the collection and analysis of intelligence today.

The trail to Osama bin Laden was deemed by many American al-Qaeda experts to have gone cold after 2003, when an al-Qaeda commander reported having met him in Khost province in Afghanistan. Earlier, bin Laden had reportedly left Tora Bora for the frontier with Pakistan, but his continued absence led to suggestions that he had perished, either accidentally or from natural causes. Some CIA operatives began jokingly calling him "Elvis", a reference to the frequently reported sightings of the singer long after his demise. In hindsight, it emerges that bin Laden was careful enough to avoid all forms of communication that might have been compromised by the United States' sophisticated signals intelligence capabilities, including telephones and the Internet. This also proved to be the source of his downfall.

The US intelligence analysts honed in on the fact that bin Laden employed couriers to communicate with al-Qaeda's operational commanders, at least two of whom landed in US custody. The courier network was, in the words of one Bush administration official, "the holy grail" for locating al-Qaeda's senior leadership. The name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti came up during interrogations at CIA "black sites" as that of one of bin Laden's couriers. The capture of an operative in 2004 identified the mysterious al-Kuwaiti as an associate of Faraj al-Libi, who had succeeded 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as al-Qaeda's operational commander. After al-Libi's capture in 2005, he seemed to confirm through his persistent denials that al-Kuwaiti was continuing to serve as bin Laden's courier. It was only later, in 2007, that the name was reportedly recognised as the nom de guerre of the Pakistani-Kuwaiti Sheikh Abu Ahmed.

The fact that this key piece of intelligence was gathered through interrogations of detainees has already been trumpeted as a vindication of the controversial programme by former and current CIA officials, as well as by former department of justice lawyers. Although some of those interrogated as part of this process underwent the widely criticised treatment known as waterboarding, reports suggest that the relevant information for finding bin Laden was not extracted using that technique.

Once Ahmed had been identified, the next breakthrough came using signals intelligence, specifically the interception of a phone conversation between Ahmed and another individual that was being monitored by the US. This helped locate Ahmed, whose vehicle was subsequently tracked to the now-infamous compound outside Abbottabad. The design of the building clearly pointed to its use as a safe house, but it was next to impossible to determine who was living there. While the site was constantly tracked using overhead surveillance, American analysts carefully examined the intelligence and worked through the probabilities of various alternatives to bin Laden's presence in the compound. The ultimate call came down to the US president after several options were presented to him. Evidently, the US intelligence community concluded with considerable certainty that there was a high probability of bin Laden being housed in the compound outside Abbottabad.

An obvious lesson is the continued centrality of human intelligence, or "HUMINT" in intelligence parlance. After the Cold War, the US invested considerable resources in technical collection systems, often at the expense of HUMINT. The 9/11 attacks reversed much of that. Former director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mike McConnell confirmed in late 2008 that "HUMINT is back, big time", while current DNI Jim Clapper lamented only last year that it is "still dwarfed by other disciplines". The discovery of bin Laden's sanctuary in Pakistan reinforces the importance of HUMINT just as it seems to have been going out of fashion.

A second lesson can be derived from the relatively seamless and complementary roles played by different collection disciplines. While interrogations produced the name and identity of bin Laden's courier, the US employed signals and geospatial intelligence to locate the courier and then track the compound. Finally, there are lessons to be drawn from the analytical process that helped narrow the level of uncertainty regarding the compound and its inhabitants, although information about it is, at present, scarce. At the very least, "red team" exercises were conducted to explore the probabilities of other plausible explanations. Ultimately, it came down to a courageous call by the president to go ahead with the operation, despite lingering uncertainties. As we now know, it proved to be the right one.

The writer is programme officer with the German Marshall Fund in Washington DC,






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 Centre and the Pentagon that he organised. 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 organised, 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 behaviour 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.








American exit?

Even before the world digests the full significance of the American execution of Osama bin Laden, there is speculation that Washington might beat the retreat in Afghanistan.

The eagerness to see the Americans depart comes largely from those in Pakistan who have been waiting long to establish Rawalpindi's suzerainty in Afghanistan. The former ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Hameed Gul, for example, says that the "Osama drama" was all about US President Barack Obama's desperation to find an honourable way out of Afghanistan. Pakistan's conspiracy theories apart, there indeed are many in Washington, in the administration and outside, who think that after a decade of occupation, it is time for American troops to vacate Afghanistan.

It is in response to this political sentiment, especially in the liberal wing of his Democratic Party, that President Barack Obama announced in December 2009 specific timelines for scaling down US operations. There have also been some on the conservative side who question the wisdom of spending more than $150 billion a year on military operations in Afghanistan.

After Osama's death, the White House has said that the president's plans to begin reduction of troops in July 2011 and end all combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014 remain on track. Do underline the words "begin" and "combat" — in July, the initial reductions could be very minimal and cosmetic that will allow the president to tell liberals that he is not breaking his promise. What has been set for 2014 is not the full withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan but an end to their "combat operations". The plans drawn up before Osama's killing made it clear that US forces will retain a training and advisory role. The indications were also that Washington might be planning a long-term military presence in Afghanistan and is negotiating terms with Kabul in a new bilateral agreement on strategic partnership.

That Obama will quickly run for the door in Afghanistan after killing bin Laden may be wishful thinking. With his new image as the "warrior president", a surge in his popularity since the weekend, and some new leverage vis-a-vis the Pakistan army, Obama has a lot more flexibility in reframing his Afghan strategy. What a newly self-confident Washington might do in the Af-Pak region between now and 2014 is probably more relevant for India than when exactly Obama might choose to quit.

Friends of Taliban

Those in Pakistan who can't wait to see the Americans leave are also keen to promote an early political deal with the Taliban. The Pakistan army has long insisted that peace in Afghanistan is possible only through a political accommodation with the Taliban.

Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had offered himself as an "honest broker" between the US and the Taliban. After being caught with its pants down in Abbottabad, the Pakistan army's honesty and credibility as an impartial interlocutor will be doubted by even the most credulous in Washington. The Taliban itself has given no reason to suggest it is interested in peace, except on its own terms. It wants the American troops out before talks can begin. A day before bin Laden was killed, the Taliban announced its plans for the spring offensive that will focus on foreign troops and government officials. After the killing of bin Laden, there is an expectation that it will be easier for Mullah Omar and other leaders to distance the organisation from al-Qaeda — one of the main demands of the Obama administration.

The Western friends of the Taliban also say the outfit has no trans-border ideological orientation — leave them free to govern the south and east of Afghanistan, they will not bother anybody in the world. Many in Washington are indeed eager to engage the Taliban, but not everyone is buying the view of the Taliban as a crazy bunch of local yokels led astray by bin Laden. Some like Gen. David Petraeus, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, believe the Taliban must be weakened much further before opening talks.

Head of the snake

After the death of bin Laden and the exposure of the Pakistan army's double dealings, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai also has a little more room to play. Less than three weeks ago, Karzai was under great pressure from Kayani to accept Pakistan army's terms for the end-game in Afghanistan.

Now he has every reason to look at the Western leaders and say "I told you so". For many years now, Karzai has argued that the sources of his nation's insurgency, much like bin Laden, were not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. His argument that hitting the head of the snake in Pakistan is more important than fighting the tail in Afghanistan should resonate a little better in Washington now.

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







In the end, Kate and William should be elated, Col. Gaddafi disappointed. Their wedding took place before a world audience, smoothly, romantically and without interruption from unidentified flying objects — a Royal Air Force flight past Buckingham Palace, notwithstanding.

On Monday, newspapers and early morning airwaves were filled with the howls of outrage from Libyan capital, Tripoli, over the alleged death of Gaddafi's son and grandchildren during NATO air strikes. It should have been the breaking news for the day. That it didn't get more than an honourable mention, is all the fault of spoilsport Obama, who killed Osama. Haste and excitement do not make for nimble typing fingers and so a typographical error became "Obama dead" on some channels, the biggest gaffe of television's continuing and continuous coverage of Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of US Navy Seals.

All news channels, international and Indian, suspended disbelief and coverage of any other news to concentrate on Operation Geronimo. The sole exception was a helicopter, the one carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu. But other helicopters made more news and riveting television as they took flight over Pakistan. The fact that the American authorities have chosen to reveal the story in coffee spoons made the most wanted man's demise the most watched event in recent history (according to first estimates, 42.6 million tuned into it in India as against 42.1 million viewers of the royal wedding, says an eMap report). Certainly, it was the most tweeted event — so CNN told us — after, believe it or not, Japanese new year greetings.

It has been the visual equivalent of unputdownable — which is alas, not unwatchable, although it was sometimes that too, especially with the shrill attacks on Pakistan led by some Hindi news channels. As information trickled in, Monday and Tuesday, there was way, way too much discussion and the same shots of the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was discovered. Yet you stayed by the TV set, never knowing when further tidbits would feed our hunger for more information.

The "Obama dead" error was a momentary "all thumbs" lapse; worse was the constant flashing of a photograph identified as bin Laden's bloodied and disfigured face. That it was no such thing did not prevent TV news showing it well after we all knew it to be false. Oh dear; we all makes mistakes, especially in the heat of television competition, but let's not knowingly repeat it.

The lack of eyewitness accounts was another handicap for TV coverage — the Japan tsunami made for powerful television because of mobile phone pictures and first-person accounts of the tragedy. There was also the Pakistani authorities' virtual silence — they fielded their high commissioner to the UK, mostly, and later their ambassador to the US — what could TV news do but debate Pakistan's questionable role, recall Osama's history, and tell us the (precious) little they knew about the Seals?

Thus, a boy who claimed he had been gifted rabbits by Osama's household members became the only authoritative voice on the Abbottabad house inmates — and Tuesday's TV pin-up. Is it any wonder then, that Hindi news channels like Star News, Aaj Tak and India TV did what they do so well? They reconstructed the assault. It was marvellous: helicopters landed, armed troops poured out, stole up staircases, blazing guns as they went along — and none of it for real. Can a Hollywood film be far behind?

Indian English language news channels supplemented their meagre information resources with direct feeds from foreign channels. Thus CNN was on CNN-IBN (where else?) and Al Jazeera was on Times Now. Al Jazeera is less jingoistic and brings us viewpoints we never hear on other news channels. The reporting on Osama's possible successors, for example, was really instructive.

On Tuesday, NDTV 24x7 had a "world" exclusive — Wikileaks Pakistan's cables to the US on bin Laden, terrorism and related issues. So the skeletons are beginning to tumble out. While the world was absorbed by the Osama saga, TLC was still starry-eyed over The Wedding. On Tuesday night, four days after the happy event, it was still telecasting those awful contraptions balanced on ladies' heads at the Westminister ceremony. What can one say, except hats off?







No peace with Pakistan

An article in RSS weekly Organiser wonders whether India can ever be at peace with Pakistan. Taking on the argument that the people of Pakistan want to live in peace with India, it asks whether the common people in Pakistan really matter. "For that matter, does the so-called civil government of Pakistan? Does Asif Ali Zardari, the president? Does Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani? Do they have the power to speak for the country when it is the army chief, Ashfaq Kayani, who holds the reins of power? From the day Pakistan was created, its sole aim has been to denigrate, if not destroy India," it says.

"India has held several talks with Pakistan, all of which have failed. Pakistan has no intention to live in peace with India because then it will lose its relevance. The sooner India learns to accept this simple fact, the better for all concerned," the article says.

It says that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is deluding himself when he says that the people of India and Pakistan want to live in peace. "That is only true of the Indian people, and not of Pakistanis. What kind of people are they? What can one say of a people who cheered the murderer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer and showered rose petals on him? Are they different from the people who assassinated minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti?" it asks.

The article claims that Pakistan has to be further broken up, for the sake of future peace. "What kind of diplomacy is this that we let Pakistan try to make hell for us in Jammu and Kashmir while we sit back and talk of peace and amity? ...We are apologetic over the Balochistan issue. We need to be more brazen and proactive," it says, adding that India's foreign policy towards Pakistan is "effeminate, and unworthy of a great nation."

PAC a punch

The editorial in RSS journal Panchjanya focuses on the recent controversy surrounding the PAC. It accuses the Congress of denigrating institutions like the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and says that the ruling party's stonewalling on the adoption of the 2G spectrum report was not merely an attempt to shield the PMO.

"It seems the Congress's biggest fear was that the PAC investigations could reach the doorsteps of 10, Janpath via the prime minister's office," it says, and argues that this was not the first time that fingers were pointed at the PMO for carelessness in the whole affair. It says that the PAC has found that the prime minister had given a free hand to the then-telecom minister, A. Raja, in the allocation of 2G spectrum licences and the then-finance minister, P. Chidambaram had conveyed to the prime minister to treat the issue as a closed chapter later. "These are the two key points in the report and instead of focusing on these findings, the conspiracy to reject the report raises doubts over the intentions of the Congress," it said. The article was scathing about the BSP and the SP — which came to the rescue of the Congress and the DMK — and said that they were all in the same boat.

Accounting for religion

An article in the Organiser weaves a conspiracy theory about the preparation of the national census. It begins by claiming that the UPA government had, in 2004, forced the then-census commissioner to recast the figures of Census 2001, which was carried out during the NDA regime.

The argument — the "unadjusted" census figures of 2001 showed that overall growth of population decreased from 23.89 per cent in 1991 to 21.30 per cent in 2001. While the rate of growth of Hindus decreased from 25.1 per cent to 20.3 per cent, the rate of growth of Muslim population rose from 34.5 per cent in 1991 to 36 per cent in 2001. It claims that the "disclosure of this fact of phenomenal growth of the Muslim population infuriated the Congress government" which "heckled, threatened and forced" the then-census commissioner to "recast the figures showing the lesser growth rate of Muslims in the so-called adjusted figures".

"In Census 2011 it has been shown that the overall population growth slowed down to 17.64 per cent from 21.30 per cent in 2001. But it has not been shown whether the rate of growth of Muslim and Christian population also slowed down. Obviously not. The slowing down of overall population growth is definitely due to the slowing down of Hindu population growth, and not due to Muslims, who did not take part in population control measures," it says.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.







With even erstwhile critics of the Malegam Committee report—mainly big microfinance (MFI) firms—hailing the new RBI guidelines on MFI lending, it's obvious RBI has diluted the Malegam recommendations. Since the Malegam Committee was set up in the aftermath of the political problem in Andhra Pradesh where politicians said MFIs were ripping off poor customers and legislated against MFIs—and there was a danger of this spreading to other states—Malegam suggested putting a cap of 24% on what MFIs could charge, RBI has raised this to 26%; Malegam suggested a margin cap of 10-12% for different types of MFIs and RBI has adopted the upper end of the ceiling. The biggest changes are in the caps on the maximum amount of loans that can be given, the absolute level of indebtedness of the borrower and an income ceiling beyond which loans can't be given. So, Malegam was of the view MFIs should restrict their loan to R25,000 and that this also be the ceiling for overall indebtedness of the borrower; in addition, it suggested that loans be given only to families whose annual income did not exceed R50,000. Since this would mean really restricting MFI lending to very poor households which would probably ensure a poor repayment record, RBI has doubled the individual loan ceiling as well as the overall indebtedness; as for the maximum incomes of households who can get MFI loans, this has been raised to a more meaningful R60,000 in rural areas and R1,20,000 in urban areas.

That said, some big glitches still remain, starting with the overall approach of a cap on lending rates. By its very nature, a cap means MFIs will not lend to more risky segments, so this means the more vulnerable borrowers will have to stick to moneylenders. Since the Malegam Committee had said interest on MFI loans range from 31% to 51%, with an average rate of 37%, the 26% cap suggests a sizeable section won't be entitled to MFI loans. While Malegam suggested a cap of 24%, and gave a normative costing model, the committee assumed costs lower than what it said was industry practice—the average staff costs were 8% according to Malegam, but while coming up with the 24% ceiling, Malegam assumed a 5% staff cost. There are several other such instances. Most problematic is the restriction that at least 75% of the loan given has to be for income-generation. The only study Malegam cites says just a fourth of MFI loans are given for income-generation! Such a stipulation will further lower the scope for MFI lending. There is nothing wrong with RBI wanting to restrict the exposure of banks (after all, MFIs get loans at the lower priority sector lending rates from banks), but it should be clearly understood the various caps/stipulations will restrict lending.





One swallow, the old saw goes, doesn't make a summer. Though India's exports rose nearly 38% in 2010-11, projecting a $500 bn target for 2013-14 is ambitious. Achieving the target will require exports to grow by under 27% per year, small by the 2010-11 standards, but last year's growth was on the back of a fall in 2009-10 exports—overall growth in the last three years was a more sober 14% per annum. It is true the 2010-11 performance was brought about by Indian firms making forays into Latin America, Africa and West Asia to make up for the sluggish markets of the US and Europe. It is also true that engineering exports did well last year, and the 2013-14 targets build upon this new-found strength—the share of engineering exports is expected to rise from the current 18% share in overall exports to 25% by 2013-14. If China appreciates its currency, it will vacate some space that Indian firms could capture, though the experience of how India mucked up the opportunity afforded by the opening up of global textiles trade is sobering.

The larger point is that industrial exports cannot be expected to surge—and the bulk of export growth is to come from here—if industry doesn't perform admirably. Apart from the sluggish growth we're seeing, the slowing of reforms has played a role in industry slowing. The slowing in global trade growth projected by the IMF in 2011, and the near-collapse of the Doha Round suggest a further problem. Given India's low market share, of course, raising growth levels is a lot easier, but this requires all policy wings of the government to pull together. If, as in the case of the textile trade, modernisation funds like TUFS start drying up and industry complains rising input (in this case, cotton) prices are hurting it, we have a problem. The government has said it plans to provide low-cost funds for investing in capital goods, build skill development facilities, simplify procedures … all of them need to click together. Contrast this with what's happening on tax policy. Everyone knows exports shouldn't be taxed, but the finance ministry has reportedly said the DEPB, which is meant to take care of the taxes paid on imported inputs, would be discontinued soon. The SEZ scheme, which was supposed to make exporters a lot more competitive, is also near-collapse. Don't pop that champagne just yet.








Osama bin Laden's death in a firefight with the US special forces will profoundly affect Pakistan's relations with America. The death of Al Qaeda's leader deep in Pakistan, in a city with a heavy military presence, appears to confirm what many have long alleged: Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has become the epicentre of international terrorism.

How will Bin Laden's death affect terrorist groups operating not only in Pakistan, but also in other Muslim countries around the world? What impact will it have on America's involvement in Afghanistan? Some tentative answers to these questions are now possible.

The US went into Afghanistan in October 2001 to oust the Taliban regime, which had provided bin Laden and Al Qaeda a sanctuary and operational base. The US has now stayed on for almost ten years, fighting an insurgency concentrated among Afghanistan's Pakhtun population. The Pakhtuns, who constitute about half of Afghanistan's population, believe that the US invasion meant a loss of power to their ethnic rivals, the Tajiks and Uzbeks. The Pakhtun-led insurgency aims at expelling foreign troops and restoring Pakhtun dominance.

With Bin Laden's death, the US could argue that the mission begun almost ten years ago has been accomplished. Troops could begin to be brought home, in line with the promise made by President Barack Obama when he announced his Afghan strategy at West Point on December 1, 2009. But is the mission really accomplished?

That question cannot be answered without knowing definitively where Pakistan stands in regard to Islamist terrorism. Bin Laden was killed in an operation that did not involve Pakistani forces, but that may (or may not) have involved the country's intelligence community. The fact that bin Laden had lived in the heart of Abbottabad (where I was schooled as a boy), about 40 miles north of Islamabad, in a mansion built over a period of six years, and had moved in and out of it several times a year, raises troubling questions about the Pakistani military's possible complicity.

Did the army, or senior officers, know that bin Laden was living in their midst? If so, what was their purpose in letting him use so conspicuous a hiding place, practically next door to a prominent military installation?

It is extraordinary to even consider that Pakistan's military high command could have tolerated bin Laden's presence, given that he and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his second-in-command, had declared war on Pakistan.

Indeed, terrorist attacks directed or inspired by bin Laden have killed thousands of people in a number of large Pakistani cities. Some of these attacks targeted military installations, including the military's headquarters in Rawalpindi, not far from Abbottabad.

In answering these questions, it would be helpful to know if the Pakistani intelligence community provided any aid at all to the US effort to locate bin Laden's hideout. Or was Pakistan's military using bin Laden as a pawn in its relations with the US? Did the Pakistanis allow bin Laden to hide in the hope of using him as a bargaining chip in the endgame for Afghanistan? Had that moment arrived, leading to bin Laden's exposure and death?

There are no immediate answers to such questions—not even in the op-ed written by President Asif Ali Zardari for The Washington Post within hours of bin Laden's death. But answers will emerge as more details about the operation become known.

What is known is that bin Laden's demise came at a moment when relations between the CIA and Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's intelligence agency, had sunk to an all-time low. Senior leaders from both sides sought to save the relationship from total rupture. Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the ISI, took a day trip to Washington, DC, and spent four hours meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, then went to Islamabad, where he met the commander of the Pakistani army for several hours. Later, on a visit to Afghanistan, Mullen expressed frustration with the ISI, and it is now clear that he already knew when he met the Pakistanis that an attack on bin Laden's compound was imminent.

Pakistanis fear that, with the US planning to exit, Afghanistan will become their problem. One way to ensure that a friendly regime holds sway in Kabul after the US withdrawal would be to introduce into the governing structure a group with close ties to Pakistan. From Pakistan's point of view, the group of fighters led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the mujahideen leaders who fought to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, could serve that purpose.

Two decades ago, Haqqani and several other warlords were funded and trained by Pakistan and the US working together. The Haqqani group has maintained good relations with ISI. Complicating the situation, however, is the fact that the Haqqanis are operating out of North Waziristan, one of the tribal agencies located in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is fiercely opposed to the presence of America and NATO troops in their country.

There is a chance that, following bin Laden's death, the Haqqani group could now be tamed and thus become willing to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government. That would satisfy both the US and Pakistan.

The author, former finance minister of Pakistan and vice-president of the World Bank, is currently chairman of the Institute of Public Policy, Lahore.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011







Perception is stronger than truth is the commonly held wisdom. If this wisdom is extended to the regulatory domain, it is not only enough that regulators are fair and open-minded in reality but far more important that they are perceived to be so. There are regulators in several sectors, but the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has a special place because not only is it the oldest among the new set of regulators but has also done a lot for bringing about good regulatory practices in the field. Not that it hasn't had its share of controversies—right from its inception until the outbreak of the 2G scam to its aftermath, Trai had its own contributions to the mess.

So, one can safely assume that its recommendations of 2007 were wishy-washy, enabling A Raja to happily tweak them and dole out licences. Similarly, the 2010 spectrum pricing created a vertical split in the industry, with the incumbents decrying it in the harshest words, and the newcomers (Raja licensees) welcoming it. In fact, the R1.76 lakh crore loss to the government due to the grant of new licences was arrived at by the CAG on the basis of Trai's formula. Earlier this year, its revised 2G spectrum pricing once again met with a similar response because it had priced spectrum up to 6.2 Mhz and beyond it differently. To cut a long story short—correctly or incorrectly—a widely-held perception exists in the industry that Trai is pro new operators at the cost of incumbents.

Without getting into the merits of the perception, one can safely make the case that the consultation process that the regulator began last week on the review of interconnect usage charge (IUC) is ill-timed. This does not mean that a review should not happen or that there's no case to discuss if there should be a zero termination cost on operators. What one wants to point out, to borrow a phrase from the Trai Act, is that the "need and timing" of it is not right. Before detailing the reasons for the same, let's see what the consultation process aims to do. Interconnection charges are the cost that an operator incurs in connecting a call from its own network to another operator's network. It is crucial because in a scenario in which there are multiple operators, the absence of an interconnect regime will spell chaos. Two components of IUC are crucial: one is the carriage charge, which involves carrying STD calls. This is transported by only those operators who have a national long distance (NLD) licence. The carriage charge is fixed at a ceiling rate of 65 paise per minute. The other charge is the termination. Here, the network from which a call originates pays a charge to the operator on whose network the call terminates—the logic being that without the terminating party, the call will not get completed. Last revised in March 2009, the termination charge stands at 20 paise per minute for domestic calls.

The problem is not with the carriage charge because the way the industry has developed, with NLD operators competing to carry STD calls of the operators, has ensured that against the 65 paise per minute ceiling rate, no operator charges more than 30-35 paise per minute. The problem comes with the termination charge because operators that have a higher subscriber base will always gain while the ones with a lower subscriber base will lose, because the balancing out does not happen—whatever low user base the newer operators will have, the bulk of the calls made by them will terminate on the network of incumbents! The problem was always there, but with the coming of the Raja licensees and their poor market share, it has got accentuated. Thus arises the demand that the termination charge should be abolished, something that in telecom parlance is called "bill and keep". The moot question the Trai consultation paper asks is whether the termination charge should be abolished for the sake of a level-playing field? Broadly, incumbents are opposed and the Raja licensees fully supportive of the move.

The best option would be to have a termination rate and periodically review it, and let the operators themselves come to some understanding on it. Two operators can always reach an understanding not to charge termination from each other and accordingly formulate tariff packages. Any move by Trai to abolish the charge in the name of a level-playing field will instead be perceived as affirmative action on behalf of the weaker operators.

Having said this, the more important question—is the need and timing of the review apt? Consider this: the bonafides of the newer operators are currently in question so obviously any data provided by them should not be treated as fully accurate. Their roll out is dubious and Trai has recommended that 69 licences be cancelled. The 2G scam revolves around them—three companies have already been chargesheeted and five executives are in jail. Is it proper to have an IUC review amidst all this, when the major proponents of it are themselves under a cloud? The obvious answer is no. A counter-question can be posed: Should the regulator then stop its work until the 2G trial is over? Certainly not. It should carry on. Nobody is objecting to a review of the IUC, but at this point of time it is not proper to consult on whether termination charges should be abolished, especially if it divides the industry.







It is heartening that the Reserve Bank of India, in consultation with the Centre, has picked up enough courage to bite the bullet and take up the issue of tackling inflation as its main priority. So far, it was taking mere baby steps by way of a 25 basis point hike eight times since March 2010 to ensure that GDP growth does not falter. This time, the central bank surprised the market and a section of economic analysts by turning hawkish and raising its short-term lending (repo) rate by an unanticipated 50 basis points to 7.25 per cent and leaving the borrowing (reverse repo) rate to float lower by one percentage point at 6.25 per cent. Even as the bank rate and the cash reserve ratio have been left unchanged so as not to affect the flow of liquidity, the net effect of the annual credit policy action is that short-term funds the banks borrow from the RBI will be available at a higher rate and, as a result, housing, auto, and consumer loans will cost more to the consumer. The policy move, which will mean marginally lower GDP growth in the short term, has come as a disappointment to India Inc. owing to the negative impact on investment. But the higher-than-expected increase in key policy rates should be viewed as a chemotherapeutic dose to combat the cancer of inflationary expectations.

As it is, while food inflation has been ruling high through almost all of the past year owing to seasonal and other factors and a solution lies in easing the supply bottlenecks and increasing production and productivity, the more worrying factor is the headline inflation that has remained at a high of near nine per cent, belying even the scaled-up projection of the RBI at eight per cent for 2010-11. With prices of most commodities, especially oil, skyrocketing in global markets and with the external environment not exactly benign, the apex bank expects overall inflation to stay in the higher regions during the first half of the current fiscal and, in the absence of any further downside risks, moderate to more reasonable levels of about six per cent by the end of the year. It is clear that the reining in of demand pressures to contain inflation will have a negative impact on overall growth. While the government projected a GDP growth of nine per cent for 2011-12 as against 8.6 per cent achieved in 2010-11, the RBI has scaled down the estimate of overall expansion to eight per cent, which is in line with the realistic projections of various think tanks and multilateral financial institutions. Clearly, the country will have to bear the short-term pains if the long-term gains are to be achieved.





Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative party has recorded a decisive win in Canada's fourth federal election in seven years, taking 167 of the 308 seats in the lower chamber, the House of Commons. There were several surprises, not least the humiliation suffered by the Liberal Party, long regarded as Canada's natural party of government. Under the ex-academic Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals slumped from 77 to 34 seats, losing several in their traditional Ontario stronghold. The leader even failed to win his own constituency, or riding as it is called in Canada. Other shocks included the meltdown of the separatist Bloc Québécois (BQ), which lost 43 of its 47 seats. Further, the country now has its first Green MP, Elizabeth May. The Conservatives, for their part, can expect to serve a full four-year term in what amounts to a striking reversal of their fortunes since Mr. Harper's government was ousted by a vote of no confidence on March 26.

With this electoral outcome, Canadians will probably see more private sector involvement in their highly reputed national health service. Other likely developments are lower corporate taxes and more oil-drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. The new government may also relax some of the financial regulations that have enabled Canada to weather the global recession better than most countries. Internationally, Mr. Harper holds the United Nations in such contempt that he once went to the opening of a doughnut shop rather than a U.N. event. It would, however, be a mistake to see the Tory win as reflecting wholesale change among the electorate. The simple majority electoral system has given Mr. Harper's party a win on a vote-share of 39.6 per cent; while this is a gain of 1.96 percentage points on its 2008 showing, it also means that over 60 per cent of voters did not vote Conservative. Secondly, the Liberal debacle was largely due to the remarkable rise of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), led by Jack Layton. The NDP shot up from 36 to 102 seats on a vote-share which rose by 12 percentage points to 30.6 per cent. It even defeated a Conservative cabinet minister in Quebec, where it also won overwhelmingly against the BQ. Strong NDP support cost the Liberals several Ontario ridings by turning Tory-Liberal races into three-way contests. The Quebec vote shows nationalist rather than separatist support, and the analysed results reveal that Canadian voters are expressing a very different mood from that suggested by the aggregate outcome. Far from turning into fervid Tories, they seem to be looking for a better-defined and more confident centre-left identity than anything the Liberals can currently offer them.







As the United States announced the death of Osama bin Laden, the Pakistani state, especially its military, struggled to explain the role it played in the momentous event and contain the domestic political fallout on Monday.

In a damage control exercise, the Pakistan military tried to find refuge in "intelligence failure" as the elusive al-Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a Central Intelligence Agency-led helicopter borne raid on a house right under the nose of the Pakistan military's training academy.

"We had been looking for him in no-go areas, unaware that he was living so close to an installation of ours. Yes, it is an intelligence failure," a senior military official told Dawn in a background session on OBL's death in an operation carried out by a U.S. Navy SEAL strike team under CIA command.

Even as military officials tried to downplay Osama's killing in a compound less than a kilometre away from the Kakul academy, they found very few takers for their explanation.

This was hardly surprising as it is hard to believe that the paranoid security agencies never conducted a reconnaissance of the vicinity of their main training facility during times when military installations faced a continuous threat of terrorist attacks. Odder still is the fact that the military authorities or the intelligence sleuths never felt the need to find out who was using a heavily guarded structure that was protected by barbed wires and fortified walls and had the extra precaution of surveillance cameras.

It is in fact tragically comical that this compound was at stone's throw from where Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani attended a parade around a week ago; when he said publicly that his soldiers had broken the back of militants.

Was the General completely unaware that the most wanted man lived but a short distance away? Did he also not have a clue about what was to happen in the coming days in that town?

Military officials vehemently insist that they had not been taken on board by the Americans about the operation. In hindsight, the flurry of activity that took place in the past week or so indicates that something was up.

ISAF Commander General David Petraeus paid an extraordinary visit to Islamabad last Monday (April 25), when he is said to have held "a short and crisp" discussion with Gen. Kayani at an unusual meeting venue — Chaklala Airbase. The two generals are even said to have taken a short trip to an undisclosed location on board an aircraft. The same night, Gen. Petraeus had, through teleconferencing, attended a White House meeting chaired by President Barack Obama.

Observers feel President Obama referred to that meeting in his speech on Monday morning, in which he announced the death of Osama: "And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorised an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice."

The very next day, Pakistan's top military coordination body — Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee — held its quarterly session, which was attended among others by the Inter-Services Intelligence chief, General Shuja Pasha, who otherwise is not a regular member. The meeting was unscheduled.

The final orders for the raid were signed by President Obama last Friday in the presence of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, his deputy Denis McDonough, and counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.

However, it is not just the denial by the Pakistan army of any prior knowledge of the operation that is raising eyebrows.

Another anomaly in the military's account of the raid is its explanation of how four U.S. helicopters evaded the country's air defence system for about an hour (almost 30 minutes each side) as they flew in from Bagram and returned after a 40-minute long foray.

One official claimed that the helicopters succeeded in avoiding detection through 'Nap of the earth flight' — a military tactic involving low-altitude flying to evade air defence systems. Yet another maintained that the air defence systems had been jammed by the Americans.

If this sequence of events is to be believed, why did President Obama appreciate Pakistan's cooperation in the operation? Was it out of love for the country? "But it is important to note that our counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding," Mr. Obama said.

Whatever the case, Pakistani commanders took heart from President Obama's and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statements on the incident. They think the statements have provided Pakistan with a way out of the awkward situation and given the space for both sides to continue with their war on militancy cooperation.

It was in line with this assessment of the situation and the subsequent American stance that the Foreign Office statement on Osama's killing was drafted. The carefully worded statement renewed its pledge to continue cooperation with the U.S. in the fight against militancy.

"Pakistan has played a significant role in efforts to eliminate terrorism. We have had extremely effective intelligence sharing arrangements with several intelligence agencies, including that of the U.S. We will continue to support international efforts against terrorism."

The statement hailed the operation as "a major setback to terrorist organisations around the world."

Evident from the statement were the worries in the Foreign Ministry and among the civilian leadership and the military command about the questions that would be asked, especially about the violation of the country's sovereignty during the conduct of the operation. Hence, it took recourse to America's right of defence and international law.

At one point, the statement noted that "the operation was conducted by the U.S. forces in accordance with the declared U.S. policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the U.S. forces, wherever found in the world." Whereas at another point, it said "al-Qaeda had declared war on Pakistan."

The statement emphasised that the operation had been carried out by the U.S. forces, not Pakistani troops.

This is also the line pushed by the civilian government whose Information Minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said the operation was carried out by the U.S. in exercise of the United Nations Security Council mandate.

(Reproduced by arrangement with Dawn .)








CHENNAI: A Pakistani businessman alleged by the U.S to have had a direct link with Osama bin Laden, of plotting to acquire chemical and other weapons for al-Qaeda, and offering his media network for al-Qaeda propaganda was among the Guantánamo detainees whose repatriation the Pakistan government actively pushed.

The 64-year-old Saifullah Paracha remains in the Guantánamo Bay prison, possibly its oldest inmate and among the last six Pakistani prisoners not yet considered fit for release and repatriation by U.S. authorities. A U.S Embassy cable from Islamabad, dated August 30, 2006 ( 76668: confidential/noforn) details that a delegation of Pakistani officials who visited Pakistani detainees at Guantánamo returned with the impression that most of the detainees "are individuals who were 'in the wrong place at the wrong time', not extremists who pose a serious threat."

Obtained by The Hindu through WikiLeaks as part of the Pakistan cables, the diplomatic communication is a small window into the complicated relations between the U.S and Pakistan in the "war on terror," and their differences over how to tackle al-Qaeda.

It shows how sections of official Pakistan differed from the U.S. in their assessment of al-Qaeda suspects. It also shows the domestic pressures on the Pakistani government as public resentment soared over the manner in which the U.S. had detained these suspects.

The cable is a report of the Pakistani delegation's Guantánamo visit, as told to the Political Counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad by Lt. Col. Imran Yaqoob — wrongly mentioned in the cable as Imran Farooq — Director of Operations at the National Crisis Management Cell in the Pakistani Ministry of Interior, who was in the delegation.

The cable said, the Pakistani delegation that visited Guantanamo in early August that year, "left with the impression that no major obstacles remain to the repatriation of six of the Pakistani detainees," including Paracha, "provided that the GoP [government of Pakistan] makes arrangements to keep him in detention here in Pakistan."

The Karachi businessman was arrested in Bangkok on July 8, 2003, and transferred to the U.S. off-shore prison in Cuba on September 19, 2004.

One of his sons, Uzair Paracha, had been arrested in the U.S. earlier that year and charged with providing material assistance to al-Qaeda. He was convicted by a US court in 2006.

The U.S. officials in Guantánamo assured the delegation that if the Pakistan government submitted a formal request for repatriation, it would be favourably considered. Lt. Col. Yaqoob told the U.S. Embassy official that he had already written to the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in support of sending such a request. In addition to the six detainees at Guantánamo, Pakistan also wanted the repatriation of 20 more of its nationals being held in Afghanistan.

But Lt. Col. Yaqoob "warned that for the GOP to keep Saifullah Paracha in custody, it would need information/evidence from the USG to justify his continued detention, noting that Paracha's family has a petition protesting his detention pending in the Pakistan Supreme Court. Without some evidence to support a longer detention, LTC Imran said, Pakistani law would only permit his detention for three months".

In paranthesis, the cable, sent under the signature of Charge d'Affaires Peter W. Bodde noted that the Embassy "will pursue the question of the GoP's ability to hold detainees in custody with the MFA and other interlocutors."

Quite contrary to the Pakistani official's impression that Paracha would be released soon, the Guantánamo files, released last month by WikiLeaks ( ISN 1094), show that he was assessed as a "high risk" detainee who "if released without rehabilitation, close supervision, and means to successfully reintegrate into his society as a law-abiding citizen, […] would probably seek out prior associates and reengage in extremist activities at home and abroad."

The December 1, 2008 assessment recommended his "Continued Detention Under DOD [Department of Defense] Control."

According to the file, Paracha was a "significant member" of al-Qaeda, and provided assistance to the terror network. In what the file describes as "custodial interviews" rather than interrogations, Paracha is said to have confessed to meeting Osama bin Laden twice, the first time in December 1999 or in January 2000, and then again in the autumn of 2000, offering the al-Qaeda leader the use of his television station to promote his message to the world.

Paracha is alleged to have had close links with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed to masterminding the 9/11 attacks, and his nephew, Ammar al Baluchi, another al-Qaeda senior.

His file alleges that bin Laden sent Khalid Sheikh to find out more about Paracha's media company, Universal Broadcasting Limited, and how he planned to promote al-Qaeda. Paracha is alleged to have explained to Sheikh "his vision of dedicating a program on his broadcasting network depicting OBL quoting Koranic verses."

Over the next several months, Khalid Sheikh is alleged to have met Paracha five times regarding this proposal. The file also alleges that Ammar al Baluchi used Paracha's media facilities to make a film of an al-Qaeda fighter discussing his experience at Tora Boara, which was passed on to the Al Jazeera news channel.

According to Khalid Sheikh's account to his interrogators as detailed in the file, Paracha, who is an American citizen and operated a travel agency in the U.S. before moving back to Pakistan, is said to have told al Baluchi that he could obtain "unspecified chemicals from Chinese sources."

Sheikh told his interrogators that "he assumed [Paracha] was talking about chemical or biological agents that could be used by extremists as weapons."

Paracha is alleged to have plotted to smuggle chemical, biological and radioactive materials into the U.S. for attacks.

But he told his captors that his interaction with al-Qaeda "was just business."

In October 2007, when it became clear that Paracha was not going to be sent home as earlier expected, Amnesty International also called for Paracha's release unless he was charged and given a fair trial in a non-military court.

An American lawyer representing Paracha said in June 2008 that his client did not deny meeting al-Qaeda figures but did not know their real identities or that they were connected to terrorism.

Speaking in Karachi, the lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, said Paracha had met bin Laden in 1999 and 2000 in connection with a television programme he wanted to make. The al-Qaeda leader had told him he would think about it but "no interview ever took place."







CHENNAI: Rehman Malik, Interior Minister of Pakistan, and Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister, like others in the Pakistan government and military, had at different points in time, insisted that Osama bin Laden was not in Pakistan. Mr. Aziz, in particular, took offence to repeated comments by U.S. officials about terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan, according to a U.S. Embassy cable. He emphatically told the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, in a meeting in 2007, that "if there is intelligence that he [bin Laden] is in Pakistan, the government will find him." He made it clear to him that "while Pakistan will not allow its territory to be a safe haven, it will not permit foreign troops to operate here either."

Mr. Malik repeated a similar viewpoint later, in 2009, in response to the remarks made by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to Sky News that "Osama bin laden is in Pakistan."

According to a cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, dated July 25, 2007 ( 116566: confidential), when Ms. Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, met Mr. Aziz at the request of the latter, she was taken to task over statements by U.S. officials regarding terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan. Mr Aziz explained that "while the government has no information that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, he could be anywhere along Pakistan and Afghanistan's 1400 mile border." He assured Ms. Patterson that "Pakistan is committed 200 percent to fight terrorism," and the "counter-terrorism fight is in our [Pakistan] national interest and we "fight out of conviction."

Mr. Aziz told Ms. Patterson that the government was indeed hiring additional officers to counter attacks in the north Pakistan. He pointed out that "at one point, there were only 160 government forces engaged in a pitched battle against 8200 insurgents." In response, the U.S. Ambassador assured additional and quick support.

U.S. statements criticising Pakistan "will have an unwelcome effect" and made it "more difficult to fight terrorism because the Pakistani government was seen as doing this at the behest of the Americans," Mr. Aziz said. He also complained about "a purposeful campaign of leaks by 'American intelligence officials' against Pakistan." While the Ambassador admitted that classified information was being leaked and was "very damaging" particularly in the case of Pakistan, there was "little she or anyone else could do about them," she said.

Fallout of comments

The U.S. Ambassador also acknowledged the negative fallout of the comments and pointed to the coverage in the Urdu language press. Mr. Aziz responded by saying that "the press does not fully convey the extreme public reaction, and stories on the street about American intervention are worse."

Ms. Patterson perceptively observed that Mr. Aziz, who is low-key but self-assured, "understood after his many years living in our [U.S.] country, U.S. officials would continue to speak about whatever topic they wanted."

Towards the end of the meeting, Mr. Aziz made a case for purchasing energy from Iran and for the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline. He characterised the Iranians "as tough negotiators and unafraid to backtrack," and said he could not predict "whether work on the pipeline would begin in months or years, but commented that it is moving ahead more quickly than expected." The Ambassador reminded Mr. Aziz that the U.S. government opposed the pipeline and "she understood that talks had been underway since 1993, so perhaps a deal was not imminent."






CHENNAI: The United States must first "get out of Iraq," and then "get Afghanistan right," former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan G. Parthasarathy told U.S. counter-terrorism official Virginia Palmer in December 2006.

This conversation is reported in a New Delhi Embassy cable ( 89862: secret), accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

"The cost of losing Afghanistan is too great for India," he told Ms. Palmer during a meeting, noting that India has a $650 million aid programme in the country. "Opining that either a real or perceived failure in Afghanistan would be disastrous for the U.S., Parthasarathy said that India would be in 'deep trouble' if the U.S. walked away from the conflict. Palmer emphatically reassured him of the U.S. government's commitment to stay the course in Afghanistan."

A "prosperous, friendly" Afghanistan would assert its independence through foreign policy and, therefore, become a threat to neighbouring Pakistan. Ethnic Pashtuns, he said, had "shifting loyalties" and though Osama bin Laden was well-protected, every Pashtun "has his price." The Pashtun region, the cable reported Mr. Parthasarathy as saying, needs more integration and development. Tajiks and Pashtuns should not be thrown together in the same battalions in the Afghan National Army because they lack ethnic linkages to each other. "If you are fighting, you must have a cause to fight," he remarked, adding that Tajiks feel abandoned and would benefit from having an all-Tajik battalion, as would the Uzbeks.

A grassroots campaign, increasing the quality of life for people working in the fields of Afghanistan, and giving ownership to local governance would bring about local social commitment, he remarked, adding that establishing a Pashtun identity which was not Taliban or religion-oriented would be beneficial.






CHENNAI: In April 2007, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told Senator John McCain that he and many West Asian leaders were worried that a "premature pull-out" of U.S. and coalition forces from Iraq would spread sectarian strife throughout the Gulf region.

During a meeting on April 3, 2007, which was reported in a U.S. Embassy cable, Mr. Musharraf said he understood American public opinion was against prolonging U.S. presence in Iraq, but hoped the U.S. leadership could communicate the importance of the mission in Iraq.

In future, Muslim peacekeeping troops (including Pakistanis) could replace U.S. forces under a United Nations umbrella, he told the Senator. In this context, he underlined the importance of increasing the capacity of the Iraqi armed forces and police.

Iraq and Afghanistan

The cable ( 103788: secret/no forn), which contained extensive notes on the discussion between the Senator and President on a wide range of issues, centred on Iraq and Afghanistan. "Musharraf agreed with Senator McCain that Muslim countries needed to lead efforts to help Iraq's Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds reach political consensus before a major withdrawal of coalition troops." The Pakistan President noted there could be little improvement in the situation in Iraq without broader political participation from the Sunnis.

Conflicts outside Iraq also contributed to the unstable situation in the region, Mr. Musharraf said, and added that he was working on building consensus within the Muslim world on the Palestinian issue.

"Alluding to his own outreach to the moderate Muslim world, Musharraf noted there was space for non-Arab nations to play a role on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and that Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia had agreed to form a united voice to help promote peace in the region," the cable said.

The Pakistan President used the opportunity to plead Syria's case with the United States, saying he believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could play a positive role in both Iraq and Lebanon, and that Assad could be "handled" if the U.S. understood his issues. "If you want him to play ball, he needs comfort on other fronts — namely, the Golan Heights." On Iran, Mr. Musharraf agreed it could not be allowed to create further divisions in Iraq.

Pakistan facing fallout

Asked for his views on Afghanistan, Mr. Musharraf said Pakistan was facing the fallout from security decisions made in the 1980s. His take on the situation: "People who came to fight with the mujahideen against the Soviets settled in Pakistan's tribal areas and now had families. These people — mostly Uzbeks and Arabs — developed links with al Qaeda. Recently, tribal groups in both South and North Waziristan were taking action against Uzbeks and other foreigners because of the foreigners' cruel and high-handed behavior. Pakistan's military provided covert support in the form of arms and ammunition."

Mr. Musharraf said originally, the Taliban movement was a reaction against growing tribalism and warlord-ism in Afghanistan. "Since Russia and India supported Afghanistan's (ethnic Tajik) Northern Alliance, Pakistan's natural ally was the (ethnic Pashtun) Taliban. This all changed after 9/11, Musharraf said, and Pakistan had captured and killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters near Tora Bora," the cable added.

Mr. Musharraf also voiced concern over Afghan President Hamid Karzai's frequent pronouncements about Pakistan's "failure" to capture Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Balochistan's capital Quetta. "Let me tell you," Musharraf emphasised, "Omar would be mad to be in Quetta — he has too many troops to command in southern Afghanistan to make it feasible. In fact, the only parts of Balochistan where there are Pakistani Taliban are in the province's Afghan refugee camps, which we are planning to shut down."

Mr. Musharraf said most Pashtuns in Balochistan were traders and had no reason to join the Taliban. "They want roads to increase their trade, not to fight." But the same could not be said for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, he said.


The cable recorded in detail the Pakistan President's views on the ethnic dimension in the Afghanistan situation: "Musharraf said the Taliban were mainly in Afghanistan. Karzai's policies, Musharraf believed, alienated Afghanistan's Pashtuns by favoring (ethnic Tajik) Panshiris. After Coalition forces joined the Northern Alliance to oust the Taliban government, there was no change in the ethnic makeup of the victors when it came to planning. Panshiris were disproportionately represented in the government, even though they had never ruled before and were, Musharraf believed, the natural enemy of the country's majority Pashtuns."

One of Pakistan's biggest concerns, Mr. Musharraf said, was the spread of talibanisation, "especially into settled and urban areas." Countering talibanisation required a well thought out strategy to cleanse society of the Taliban culture and to encourage moderation. "Modernization and economic development were the way forward, Musharraf noted."

In response to Senator McCain's question about whether he was worried Afghanistan would become a narco-state, Mr. Musharraf answered that he was, especially because if it did it would affect Pakistan. "Musharraf thought Afghanistan could follow the example of other countries — such as India — where narcotics were purchased legally and channeled into the international pharmaceutical industry. It was a $500-600 million annual industry, Musharraf said, and the profits made from legal poppy sales could go toward poverty alleviation instead of to the Taliban."








The Reserve Bank of India has finally decided to bite the bullet, and one only hopes it's not too late. There is a view that the half per cent rate hike the RBI announced in its monetary policy review on Tuesday should have come a while back: the six or seven quarter per cent hikes in the last few policy reviews had failed to temper rising inflation.

Since December 2009, the RBI impounded `50,000 crores through cash reserve ratio requirements (the amount that banks keep with the RBI, which are frozen). Since none of these "baby steps" — as RBI governor D. Subbarao described his earlier policies — could curb inflation, he decided to adopt a more hawkish stance. As he himself noted, this was a demand side problem, very different from the supply side problem seen since 2009. This was reflected in high food prices, particularly of pulses, the poor man's protein. Food prices remained stubbornly high despite a good monsoon and good rabi crops, defying the pronouncements of mandarins in the Planning Commission and the finance ministry who looked to the rain gods for help in wriggling out of the inflationary spiral.
The RBI's latest move aims to curb the demand syndrome, which is driving inflation. There is a lot of disposable income chasing too few goods. The rising cost of raw materials saw manufacturers pass on cost increases to consumers, who paid without grumbling. The RBI is trying to temper this demand. We will know in a few weeks if it works as there is a time lag before the effects of policy pronouncement are visible. The government is surely aware, though, that it is the common man who will be hit the hardest as loans will get more expensive and salaries and wages will not be able to keep pace. Those who have taken home loans and personal loans will be hit the hardest, followed by those with car and other loans. The middle class and the poor will feel the impact; the rich will continue to splurge on everything, from real estate to automobiles, with abandon. And things can get worse — whether it is commodity prices like metals and minerals or crude oil, nothing is likely to cost less, at least in the short term. In fact, the RBI has already warned of "hidden inflation" waiting to surface — in the form of a hike in petrol and diesel prices. The government has been waiting for the state elections to get over; and a fuel hike is expected to be announced soon after the Assembly poll results are out. The hike might well be justified in the light of increasing international crude prices, but it would add to the burden of the middle class and lower income groups. The rich will continue to guzzle petrol even if its price goes up to `100 per litre!
The government is yet to visibly demonstrate that it is serious about tackling the problem — at least on the food front. Why should vegetables and fruits be so expensive? Is it so difficult to grow these to meet the rising demand? If the prices of food, vegetables and fruits remain high even when there is a good monsoon (such as last year), what should we expect if this year's monsoon is not as good as it was in 2010? There is something very wrong in the handling of the economy. There is little time left: unless the government gets its act together swiftly, and works decisively to tackle the question of rising prices, the middle class and the poor are in danger of getting crushed by inflation.






Osama bin Laden has finally been killed. As excitement over the operation subsides, it is worth pondering over the implications of Bin Laden's death — for both Al Qaeda and the United States. The central question pertains to the nature of Al Qaeda as an organisation and Bin Laden's role as its leader. Experts are deeply divided.

Some argue that after its expulsion from Afghanistan in 2001, Al Qaeda transformed itself into a networked organisation with franchises and affiliates spread across the globe. The real threat, they held, came from such grassroots terrorism or the "leaderless jihad", as Marc Sageman called it. Others disagreed. That the organisation increasingly relied on networks of smaller outfits to carry out attacks was evident. But they insisted that the role of "Al Qaeda Central" — the top leadership including Bin Laden and his close associates — should not be overlooked. Al Qaeda Central continued to be deeply involved in planning, financing and training for terror attacks.
The notion that Al Qaeda is a completely flat and non-hierarchical organisation is not supported by much evidence. Nevertheless, the alternate view also needs to be qualified. In recent years, Bin Laden's importance to Al Qaeda stemmed neither from his financial resources nor his organisational abilities. Rather it was in his unique position as the narrator of stories about "global jihad" that he sought to wage against the West.
Part of the reason why Al Qaeda managed to attract a steady stream of recruits and to mount a series of major attacks was Bin Laden's perceptive understanding of the impact of the information revolution on modern warfare. Interestingly, his thinking evolved almost in parallel to that of Western militaries which also sought to usher in a "revolution in military affairs" by harnessing information dominance to precision strike capabilities. But where the United States and its allies saw this revolution as taking conventional warfare to a new level, Bin Laden understood its potential in unconventional war — a form of combat that came yet again to the fore since the mid-1990s. In these "wars among the people", winning the support of the populace was as important as physical destruction of the enemy. To do so, it was essential to shape people's understanding of the nature of the struggle, the stakes involved, the progress of operations and the eventual outcome.
Bin Laden was quick to grasp the importance of this battle of story lines about the war. This came out quite clearly in a letter sent in July 2005 to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the so-called Al Qaeda in Iraq. Following a spate of attacks on Shia mosques in Iraq, Bin Laden sought to dissuade Zarqawi from persisting with them. Bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman Al Zawahiri, wrote to Zarqawi, "I say to you: that we are in a battle and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our umma".
It was here that Bin Laden played a crucial leadership role in Al Qaeda. His periodic press statements and video messages constantly updated and retold Al Qaeda's version of the progress of "global jihad". In these messages, Bin Laden skilfully wove together the latest developments with the long-term trends, and tactical outcomes with strategic objectives. It was his ability to shape the ideological narrative that kept the diffused and loosely-networked organisation going after 2001.
With the exit of Bin Laden, Al Qaeda is certainly going to find it tough to keep the momentum going in the information domain. Bin Laden's associates may have a better grasp of operations or a deeper understanding of jihadist thought, but none could rival him for the position of narrator-in-chief. Al Qaeda and its affiliates will continue to attempt major strikes, but their ability to impart strategic momentum to their campaign will be impaired in the absence of Bin Laden. The fact that his death coincides with wider changes in the greater Middle East, where popular mood has swung sharply in favour of peaceful change, poses a greater problem for the residual Al Qaeda leadership.
The elimination of Bin Laden is also likely to have significant implications for the United States' stance in the AfPak theatre. From the outset, the Obama administration has been divided between those — primarily the US military leadership — who favour a strong counterinsurgency strategy aimed against the Taliban and those — led by vice-president Joe Biden and supported by the intelligence community — who advocate a nimbler counter-terrorism strategy focused on Al Qaeda. After many months of discussion, US President Barack Obama arrived at a compromise strategy that accorded highest priority to the liquidation of Al Qaeda but also emphasised the importance to degrade the Taliban's ability to threaten the Afghan state.
The successful operation against such a high-value target as Bin Laden is likely to tip the balance in favour of the advocates of counter-terrorism. This would fit well with Mr Obama's desire to draw down American troop levels in Afghanistan over the next couple of years. The institutional changes that are now in the offing may work in the same direction. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Leon Panetta is tipped to take over as the secretary defence; Gen. David Petraeus, the strongest advocate of the counterinsurgency strategy, seems set to take over as director of the CIA, the agency that spearheads the counter-terrorism effort. In short, the removal of Bin Laden is likely to accentuate America's quest for an early exit from Afghanistan.
In so doing, the US will necessarily seek Pakistan's support in cobbling together peace deals with the various Taliban groups. The fact that Bin Laden was taken out in Pakistan might aggravate prevailing American suspicion of its key ally. But the consequence of his death could well be increased American dependence on Pakistan. For India, then, it is going to be business as usual.

Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's killing, much has been made of the role of the social media. The news of the death was "broken" by a tweet much before it was officially announced by POTUS (President of the United States). Then, Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant who happens to live next to the enclosed mansion where Bin Laden

was hiding and eventually shot, achieved instant stardom because he began tweeting when he saw and heard helicopters and kept tweeting throughout the operation.
The social media is being referenced in all big stories of late. Facebook and Twitter were hailed as the key force multipliers during the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt, though that might be giving them too much credit. In our own small burst of public protest in Delhi, the connected generation patted itself on the back for having used Facebook to spread the word.
So now unless the revolution is tweeted and Facebooked (to say nothing of YouTubed), it is not a revolution.
Mr Athar's tweets are somewhat generalistic and make sense only if you know the whole story. By reading his tweets it is clear that he had no idea what was going on: "GO away helicopter — before I take out my giant swatter:-/", followed by "A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty:-s". He didn't know half of it.
Let's try an alternate scenario. What if a smart young tech-savvy guy was watching the whole thing from his window, figured out that it was an assault and noticed that the soldiers did not seem Pakistani. What if he tweeted and the denizens of the mansion got to know of it. It is conceivable that the operation could have been compromised if not botched. Then how would the US authorities have reacted?
In this interconnected world, this is not a remote possibility. There was no telephone or Internet line to the Bin Laden hideout, which is good thinking for someone paranoid, but there would be enough people around who could be monitoring the social media and could have tipped off the target — it is not entirely inconceivable.
A totally unconnected story that also points to the implications of tweeting something in advance comes from Canada. Elections in the vast country were held earlier this week and the government had put a ban on tweeting results. In a country of five time zones, this made absolute sense, since results on the east coast would be out even as voting was going on in the west. But this ban was defied by some and anyone who was interested in the results could check out the tweets. So far no action has been taken but it is almost certain the authorities will not take it lightly.
We began by thinking of tweets etc. as fun media, and even when member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor first got a rap on the knuckles (for being jokey about government policy) and then lost his job following a tweet (by Lalit Modi) no one took it seriously. But governments worldwide are not as sanguine; they are taking note of the ability of the social media to spread information, which has been compounded by the portability offered by devices such as mobiles and iPads.
Tweeting and posting messages on Facebook or videos on YouTube in real time is a double-edged sword. Where we see transparency, governments think of breach of secrecy. If Mr Athar had given away any detail that was even remotely classified, he would be facing suspicion if not intense interrogation right now. Today we can chuckle over his messages like "there goes the neighbourhood" because the eventual outcome was successful.
Nor is confidentiality the only concern governments have. All kinds of new laws are being put in place without people being fully informed. India's already strict cyberlaws have now been further beefed up with new regulations that prohibit anything that is "hateful", "blasphemous", "harassing" and "disparaging", whatever that means. In practical terms, even satire and gentle fun can be considered a criminal activity, to say nothing of anything that offends any community or leader. And we know how touchy people can be. It is a fact that often comments online border on the libellous, but there is a need to balance freedom of speech with sensible curbs. Throw "secrecy" into the pot and we will have a set of laws that could effectively change the way we operate online. Then posting messages on Twitter or Facebook will not be fun anymore.

Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai









In a very rare development the Defence Minister A.K. Antony has warned military commanders against "falling prey to corrupt practices by vested interests." It appears that this warning was necessitated by a prospective defence deal to the tune of 20 billion US dollars in near future. Normally never before has such exigency arisen in the defence department and it sounds regrettable that the astute defence minister has the compulsion to issue the warning. Indian army is known to be one of the finest disciplined armies in the world. No bad name ever came to it either in war or in peace. Its nationalism has been exemplary and the entire nation has been proud of its performance. The army fought three open and one proxy war and at all times it emerged victorious with honour and dignity. Unfortunately the first time when fingers were raised on some officers and commanders in the army in connection with the purchase of weapons from foreign countries, the people would not believe. But with the passage of time, the skeletons began to fall from the cupboard and complicity of some unscrupulous army officers in bribes, kickbacks or pecuniary benefits was established. The law of the land came into action and the cases of fraud or bribery or corruption whoever was registered. The more recent example is of Adarsh high rise building scam in Mumbai. As per reports many army officers are implicated in the scam. Investigations of the Commission of Inquiry set up by Maharashtra government found that senior army officers like Maj. General (retd) T. K. Kaul and Col B.K. Saxena were instrumental in compromising national security and were part of a nexus in which many officials of defence department, army and air force and some politicians are involved. The saddest thing is that in the case of Adarsh high rise building the norms of security of the country too have been violated. This has brought a very bad name to the army. Investigation by the Commission of Inquiry is going on and soon the entire details will be known to the public. Apart from bringing dishonour to the person, such corruption cases besmear the fair name of the country. All this has compelled the Defence Minister to forewarn the commanders lest they fall prey to the vested interest. Indian army is expanding at a reasonable speed and the defene allocations are growing. The main reason is that the security of our borders is threatened on the west as well as on the east. The nation cannot accept any complacency. The Defence Minister was right in saying that there was always the danger of falling prey to corrupt practices perpetrated by vested interests in the garb of aggressive marketing. At times vested interest brings unnecessary pressures which poses a serious threat to our security. The Defence Minister expressed his full trust in the integrity of the commanders and other ranks but it was timely for him to issue the warning. According to reliable sources the military hardware which the defence ministry is planning to buy in near future is 126 combat aircraft at a cost of 11 billion US dollars, 4.1 billion C-17 heavy lift air craft and Ultra Light Howitzer for the army. It is obvious that middlemen will jump into the fray to squeeze each penny of kickback if they can. It goes to the credit of the defence minister to be aware of the possible maneuvers of stakeholders and we hope that he will ensure a foolproof purchase of the military hardware to his entire satisfaction. If he succeeds in that, it will be first big deal ever clear of corruption and kickbacks to which we have unfortunately become used to. The defence minister has told the commanders in clear terms to take care.







Trade between two parts of the state through the trading point at Chakkan-da-Bagh, in Poonch district had begun on October 10, 2008. This could happen after the two governments deliberated over the matter and decided to start the trade. The main purpose of this bilateral measure was not only to promote the bilateral trade but to build confidence among the people on both sides of the line so that relations between the two parts of the state or two countries would improve. Given the historical and political constraints that bedeviled relations between the two countries for last six decades no body expected that the trade between the stakeholders on the two sides would show any spectacular results. It had to be a modest beginning and angularities likely to arise would be ironed out in due course of time. Creating the good will among the people on either side of the line was the essential purpose. Ever since trade relations between the two countries began from this crossing point, the total business transacted so far has been 124 crores in Indian currency (export) and Rs.232 crores in Pakistani currency (import). This may not be too striking figures nevertheless given stable political conditions transactions would sure increase and reach new heights. But a hurdle has appeared in increasing the quantum of transitions and that is the imposition of Sales Tax and VAT on the trading commodities by the State government. President of LoC Traders Union, Pawan Aand said in Poonch that traders were unhappy with the slapping of sales tax and VAT and the transaction had been withheld for the time being till the government lifted sales and VAT from the traded commodities. The fact of the mater is that if the two sides have come to the conclusion that trade would be a viable source of building confidence among the people on both sides of the LoC, is it not in the interests of the people in the sub-continent that a channel has been opened and it has the potential to become the major conduit for improving Indo-Pak relations? What actually the two countries ought to do is to create more and more facilities for increasing bilateral trade, allow free flow of trade and reduce formalities and complicacies that hinder free flow of trade. May be a joint meeting of commerce secretaries or commissioners on both sides might work out a new formula for improving commercial relations between the two countries carried through the specific points at LoC.








Osama bin Laden's death is of greater relevance to the West than to India. The Al Qaeda leader's primary target was America, followed by Europe which was a breeding ground for some, like the 9/11 bomber Mohammed Atta and the failed shoe bomber, Richard Reid. Occasional terrorist acts were also carried out in Europe as, for instance, in Madrid and London. But, as a Saudi who resented the presence of American troops in Islam's holy land, Osama's antipathy towards the US was all-consuming. It is possible that his proximity to the Americans during the anti-Soviet jehad in Afghanistan bred further contempt for them because of their arrogance and pleasure-loving lifestyle.
India was never on the Al Qaeda's main radar. Arguably, even the question of Kashmir did not exercise Osama as much as it did his Pakistani patrons. There is another reason why his death may not matter much to India. It is that the Al Qaeda has been becoming weaker over the years and is bound to become more feeble after Osama's death. Its failure to launch an attack on America after 9/11 and to sustain the earlier acts of terrorism in Europe confirm this debilitation.
Pakistan, too, may have started to lose interest in Osama and is probably secretly pleased that he was "taken out" by the Americans. It was obvious that to harbour the Devil Incarnate was bound to prove extremely costly as time passed by. There was no place where the Pakistanis could install him. Even if the Taliban re-established control over Afghanistan, Osama and Mullah Omar could hardly be expected to begin playing their earlier role there without inviting fresh reprisals from the US. By allowing him to build a million dollar mansion with 12-foot high walls not far from Islamabad, Pakistan was probably signalling to the US that someone of importance lived there.
Now that the terrorist mastermind is gone, there is unlikely to be any single person to pick up his Kalashnikov. But it is more than likely that the Al Qaeda's place will be taken by the Lashkar-e-Toiba which was once described by Newsweek as the new Al Qaeda and "potentially the most dangerous terrorist outfit on the planet". Since the LeT is India-centric, the threat to India will persist and may even increase because the only way Islamabad can deflect the anti-American sentiments in Pakistan is by targeting India through its "strategic assets".
Islamabad's compulsions to do so will be all the greater because the impunity with which the Americans violated Pakistani sovereignty by "invading" Abbottabad means that the rage of not only the terrorists, but even large sections of the ordinary people will be at an all-time high in the near future. As it is, they are angry over the drone attacks, which are supposed to be carried out with Pakistan's tacit permission, and the presence of undercover agents, one of whom was caught and extradited after much brouhaha. But the flying in of as many as three helicopters with their armed personnel, and the ferrying out of the dead and the alive from an ISI safe house, are obviously the limit where Pakistan's self-respect is concerned.
In addition, the Pakistan military will have much explaining to do. For the rest of the world, who are unaware of its secret life involving supping with terrorists and keeping isn readiness to assume the country's administrative responsibilities, as it has done so often in the past, the fact that Osama lived within shouting distance of army personnel for nearly five years can only cause astonishment and outrage. To the international community, the confirmation that the army in Pakistan is the only one in the world which harbours terrorists will come as a shock even though the clandestine relationship has long been known in India.
The resultant tarnishing of the army's image will mean that its claims to be Pakistan's saviour vis-à-vis an aggrandizing India will be damaged. It is this reputation which it uses when carrying out its periodic coups against civilian rulers. Moreover, since the army rank and file have been infected by the virus of terrorism, they will resent the renewed criticism which the organization will face. The fact of this radicalization was acknowledged by the army chief, Ashfaq Kayani, to explain why he could not condone the assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatt, the minority affairs minister.
An increase in militancy in Kashmir via the infusion of terrorists from across the border, the reactivation of the "sleeper cells" of the Indian Mujahideen and SIMI and a repetition of the Mumbai-style attack of November 26, 2008, remain the only way in which taint caused Osama's detection inside Pakistan can be lessened. There were reports during the cricket world cup matches that the Pakistan-based terrorists might carry out a major attack. Mercifully, nothing happened. But to believe that the LeT will continue to sit idle and Hafiz Saeed will be content only to call for a jehad against India will be foolish. (IPA )








The government's move to create a Nuclear Regulatory Authority of India with statutory powers is a bold and pragmatic one. For nearly half a century, the Atomic Energy Department has exercised control over all nuclear-power-related activities. It enjoys a measure of legal protection and works under the direct supervision of the PMO. The events in Fukushima, Japan, and the protests in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, have pushed the Centre to undertake some scrutiny of nuclear power and research activities.
The proposed Authority is expected to replace the existing Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which has been unable to break its umbilical cord with the DAE (Department of Atomic Energy). Though the AERB was conceived of as an independent identity, it lacked teeth in decision-making and was forced to fall back on the DAE.
Given the sensitivity of atomic energy, the DAE was given virtual immunity, under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 (undergoing changes of late). The watchdog role of the AERB was a small step in bringing in some transparency; public interest litigations and environmentalists' protests failed to make much headway in the past as the Department enjoyed protection on the pretext of national security issues. The Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) has set its sights on pushing the installed capacity of nuclear power to 40,000 MW by 2030, from the present 4,700 MW. The decision to go in for import of foreign reactors, especially from France and the US, has brought to the fore the need for greater emphasis on security, environmental safety and financial accountability.
With the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal and slow easing of nuclear isolation, the Department is optimistic of a surge with access to both technology and fuel. Another boost to its plans is that, after decades, the NPC has also been able to identify new sites to locate the large capacity reactors. These include Koodangulam (Tamil Nadu); Jaitapur (Maharashtra); and Kovvada and Kadapa, in Andhra Pradesh.
Though, credit should be given to the DAE and the NPC for running the existing 18 nuclear reactors with very few significant mishaps, issues of safety (in scores) have been raised by former AERB Chief, Dr A. Gopalakrishnan, in a report that was submitted to the Government over a decade ago. The Atomic Energy establishment maintains that it has stepped up safety measures in all the reactors.
Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) constitute the mainstay of nuclear power today. The technology is proven and and operational aspects mastered. However, in its ambition to hike the proportion of nuclear power in the overall energy mix to at least 4 per cent, the NPC has upped its stake. It has decided to set up 700 MW units and 1000 MW units, and has opted to import French pressurised light water reactors (LWRs).
Talks are on with Areva of France to have two European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) reactors with 1,650 MW capacity each at Jaitapur initially, and then a cluster of six totally with total capacity of 9,900 MW. NPC is also negotiating with GE and Westinghouse of the US for the latest reactors.
The clusters of 1,000 MW reactors being set up with Russian collaboration at Koodangulam are in an advanced stage of construction. If the wishes of the NPC materialise, the country would have at least 20,000 MW capacity by 2020 itself with more than a dozen new units joining the existing PHWRs. However, the mix would be disproportionately in favour of imported reactors. Though these are advanced reactors with the latest safety features, the concerns of environmentalists cannot be brushed aside.
Critics of the AERB, including Dr. Gopalakrishnan, describe the organisation as subservient to the Secretary, DAE. Even the NPC, which has raised funds from outside through bonds, reports to the DAE. There is no separation of regulatory and promotional activities of nuclear power, as required by the Convention of Nuclear Safety, which India ratified in 2005. DAE enjoys a degree of legal immunity, which allows it to keep deficiencies in nuclear power stations under wraps by quoting the Official Secrets Act. The AERB is not in a position to push the Department towards transparency. The AERB has, however, put in place several safety-related issues, and has been training personnel over the years.
The Nuclear Power Corporation has been creating awareness about safety, and is agreeing to public hearings in some places where it is setting up facilities. In public, the NPC and DAE scientists have been upbeat on the safety of nuclear power stations. However, opposition from environmental groups and local people on safety and displacement is bound to gain ground, as in Jaitapur.
It is in the fitness of things that the prime minister and the minister for environment and forests have taken some steps to create the nuclear regulator. India is an energy-starved country, and needs safe and economical energy forms to sustain high growth. (INAV)








Instead of removing poverty, the politician turned poverty into business of vote-bank-politics. Result: Sixty-two years later Maoists control 40 per cent of the Indian territory and the insurgents in the border states have influence in another 10 per cent, both with explicit support of external actors.
While the army is battling insurgents for decades in Kashmir and in the Northeast, in all likelihood, it will be drawn into conflict with the Maoists to reclaim territories under their control. This is a direct consequence to the demonstrated incompetence of the inept and crumbling civil administration. Resources of the army, air force and the navy are already at an all time low and are over stretched, undermining the capability of the Indian military machine to fulfil its primary role of coping with the challenges of external threat.
MoD's legendary inefficiency extends battle-winning advantages to the enemy. Beijing and Islamabad are delighted with New Delhi's clumsy response. Couple the internal threat with burgeoning external threat. Beijing boasts of capability to create three-pronged mischief on the Indian borders. First, China has built elaborate infrastructure and potent military capability in Tibet. Second, it not only synergized anti-India activities with Pakistan but has also positioned elements of the PLA inside PoK. Third, China quietly propelled their proxy Maoists (Nepal) to the centre-stage in Katmandu. Not to mention the advantage China gained in Sri Lanka while India lost some. Beijing now influences almost 7500 kms of land opposite Indian borders.
The Indian Navy grappling with increasing incidents of piracy, securing the EEZ, the 7500 km of coastline and sea lines of communications, now faces the prospect of confronting the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean. The competitive interests of the two rapidly growing economies for energy and transit can transform the Indian Ocean into an area of bitter conflict in the near future.
Apart from its wits, the Indian navy will require a large and modern arsenal. New Delhi's indecisiveness, inconsistent and callous approach to modernization of the armed forces, ignorance, and enormous bureaucratic red tape keeps the army, navy and the air force under-equipped and devoid of adequate material and human resources to meet the growing threats.
To cope with a two-front war, the IAF requires 60 air-worthy combat squadrons. The professional assessment to tackle the challenge of a single front war and holding action on the other front requires 45 squadrons. New Delhi sanctioned 39.5 squadrons, but has indicated intent to raise the squadron strength to 42 by the end of the current decade. Of the sanctioned strength of combat squadrons, for the IAF only 28.5 remain air-worthy today. Discounting the obsolescent fleet of the MiG 21 as also other ageing aircrafts, the IAF is left with around 22 combat worthy squadrons. At Aero India 2011, apart from the Su30 MKI display by IAF, rest of it turned out to be nothing more than a vintage aircraft rally!
When the NDA Government was in power, India negotiated for 40 Mirages 2000-V. After prolonged negotiations, when the time came to ink the deal, the then defence minister decided that he would sign it after the general elections. NDA coalition lost and the UPA Government that came to power scrapped the deal. Similarly, a deal for In-flight refuellers was negotiated over three years. When the deal was about to be inked, the ministry of finance suddenly declared that the tankers preferred by the IAF were too expensive. The tender was scrapped.
Moreover, after many years of trials and negotiations, the deal for 197 helicopters was thrown out of the window in the last minute. The tender for 126 MMRCA is languishing for the past eleven years and now runs into problems and complications with the unwieldy offset procedures and transfer of technology.
In the bargain, the vendors have lost millions of dollars on unproductive effort. Worse, the nation lost credibility in its international dealings and the air force its combat power.
The state of the IAF prompted the chief of the air staff to state publicly that 50 per cent of the equipment in the IAF was obsolete. Clearly, the IAF is in no shape to support power projection by the nation or to confront its two main adversaries that are rearming and modernizing rapidly.
Global tenders for even desperately needed military equipment remain bogged down in the complex bureaucratic labyrinth of the defence procurement procedure. Ineptitude and apathy of the government is usually cloaked in fiery rhetoric that routinely emanates from the top echelons of national leadership and genuine modernization programmes continue to remain a distant dream.
For the past 25- years ministry of defence has found itself incapable of finalizing the induction of 155 mm guns for the regiment of artillery. The Kargil war was barely managed through extensive cannibalization just to have a few guns firing.
The Indian Army's Combat Arms are in a state of crises because of obsolete equipment that was not replaced in the last sixty years. Tanks and ICVs are night blind without night sights. The MoD is unable to decide between import of Thermal Imager Fire Control System (TIFCS) and Thermal Imager Stand Alone System (TISAS). Pakistan forces equipped with night vision devices will be sitting behind blind Indian mechanized forces since modern wars will be fought largely at night.
The bewildering variety of antiquated artillery guns-120 mm mortars, 105 mm Field gun, 130 mm Medium gun, 155 mm Gun, 122 mm Howitzer, 122 mm Multi-barreled Rocket Launcher and now Pinaka and Smerch Long Range Systems are a logistician's nightmare.
Ground based air defence practically is non-existent and devoid of Control and Reporting (C&R) System. Further, air defence is in shambles as L-60 and L-70 guns are of WW II vintage. On the other hand, the Schilka self propelled guns, SAM and OSA-AK missiles are of early 70s vintage. Not a single gun and missile has been acquired since then.
The Infantry soldier fights with a WW II carbine while the terrorist is equipped with AK-47. DRDO has been kept in business by funnelling taxpayer's resources but INSAS rifles and LMG have not proven successful. FINSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) is yet to take off. DRDO continues to copy ideas from the brochures of the western firms, guzzling huge defence budgets, but is unable to produce a simple CQB weapon like a carbine! Communications systems remain antiquated. Fifty percent of the infantry is yet to be equipped with Individual Combat Kit (ICK).
The navy will be left with nine operational submarines by 2012 against the stated requirement of thirty. Keeping in view the precarious position, I wonder what stopped New Delhi from ordering in a single stroke twelve submarines from the French and simultaneously opening a second submarine manufacturing line with another vendor. The laborious and complicated process of vetting tenders and negotiations provided adequate data to replenish the dwindling submarine resources at one go. Once again, we start this time-consuming tedious process to appoint a second vendor. (INAV)










IT is uncommon in Punjab to see a politician or a bureaucrat getting convicted for corruption. First, FIRs are not registered by a helpful police. Then the prosecution is often friendly towards the influential accused. Or eyewitnesses turn hostile. If the ruling party is determined to pursue a case, dilatory court procedures come to the rescue of the suspect. As cases drag, prosecution officers and governments change. The accused gets away on the standard plea that the case against him was "politically motivated". In this scenario the conviction of Mahilpur Akali MLA Sohan Singh Thandal comes as a surprise.


The case against the MLA was registered during the previous Congress regime and the conviction has taken place when his own party is in power. Before the Akali leadership assumes a high moral ground, it needs to be reminded that the Punjab Cabinet has refused the CBI sanction to prosecute Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon in a job bribery case. The ruling Badal family itself was booked for amassing wealth during the chief ministership of Capt Amarinder Singh, who made the mistake of handing over the case to Vigilance instead of to the CBI. Eyewitnesses turned hostile one after the other as the Badals ruled the state.


Now the Union minister who is the Captain's wife, Preneet Kaur, has announced that the cases against the Badals would be reopened if the Congress returned to power in Punjab. Surrounded by tainted leaders, the Captain is less aggressive on corruption and has lost the moral edge after allegations of manipulated selections of doctors surfaced against his hand-picked Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission. Punjab politicians are known for making flippant statements like Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal demanding the death penalty for corruption. If politicians are really serious about uprooting graft, they should pass the law to confiscate the property of anyone in the government convicted for corruption as is being done in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.










Parliamentary elections in Canada are as keenly contested as in India. Many of the electoral districts called ridings are dominated by Punjabis, so much so that in some, the candidates of all the mainstream parties are Punjabis. Even the candidates of other communities use Punjabi language for campaigning. For the people back in Punjab, the party label matters less than the number of Punjabis who make it to Parliament. In the May 2 elections this time, the number of Punjabis declared victorious has fallen to eight from nine last time, but what is being hailed is that the strength of Indo-Canadians on the Treasury benches will be six, against four in the last House. The 1.5-million strong community has been traditionally backing Liberals but winds of change are now blowing in favour of the Conservative Party.


The election saw four stalwarts – Ruby Dhalla, Sukh Dhaliwal, Ujjal Dosanjh and Gurbax Malhi – biting dust. That goes on the show that the support of the community cannot be taken for granted, especially when there are compatriots who are more active in public service. On the other hand, there was the case of Nina Grewal, who made her fourth entry into the House of Commons defeating among others a fellow Indo-Canadian woman Pam Dhanoa of Liberals.


This time, there were 24 Punjabi candidates in the fray – eight of the ruling Conservative Party, 10 of the main Opposition Liberal Party, five of the New Democratic Party (NDP), and one fielded by the Green Party. Six Conservatives emerged victorious, while two seats went to the NDP. The campaigning in Punjabi-dominated ridings was marred by malicious late-night prank calls, illegal lawn-sign tampering and tossing of eggs at houses bearing the election signs of opponents. One hopes that the bitterness will be forgotten soon enough. While the celebrations in the native villages of the winners focus on their Punjabi origin, what will promote their careers in Canada is their capacity to take along voters of all communities.











Talking of beti bachao abhiyan (save girl-child campaign) in itself is ironical in 21st century India. Now, a 22-year-old high school dropout maiden, Monica, is going to adopt the ritual of ghudchadi ( alight a horse and trot as a symbol of victorious return) in Kuparwas village of Bhiwani district of Haryana before her marriage. Something the grooms-to- be have been doing for centuries. In a society where symbolism carries more relevance, the gesture could bear some consequence.


Stallion owners, who train victorious horses for a derby, also prepare horses who continue to lose to the winner horse. They have a well formulated system to keep this balance. The loser and the winner are conditioned psychologically in following their well charted-out path. In all the patriarchal societies, women are conditioned through a complex network of traditions and customs to be that loser, so that their male counterpart could remain a winner. The traditions begin even before the birth of a child, and continue till death, leaving deep impression on the mind. From the blessings showered on a woman like- putravati bhav, saubhagyavati bhav ( may you be blessed with sons and husband), the nature of marriage vows which demand a woman to be obedient to his husband and his family to dozens of fast and rituals meant to celebrate a man in a woman's life have not changed over centuries, though so much has changed around us, from technological interventions in our life to economic emancipation of women. The tightly knit patriarchal chain that controls religion, rituals and tradition has never spared a thought for a woman's desirability in her own eyes. If she has a desirable space in society, it is a secondary issue. This is a result of such well- programmed brain-washing carried out by rituals and traditions that millions of so- called educated women do not wish to bear daughters. The depth of erosion of their self esteem remains immeasurable.


In such a scenario, if a semi- literate belle from a region notoriously known for killing its daughters dares to indulge in what is typically a male chauvinistic gimmick (performed by Rekha on celluloid a few years back), even the gimmick is a welcome change.









THE ordinary Americans are jubilant and it's a shot in the arm for a besieged US President Barack Obama. After deploying enormous resources and manpower to tracking down the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, the US can finally claim success in an enterprise that took almost ten years to come to fruition. And psychologically, this is an important moment for the US too. A power that has been talked about in terms of its decline, economic and military, has shown that Washington still commands the most formidable fighting machinery in the world.


Bin Laden, the son of a billionaire Saudi Arabian contractor, was wanted by the United States not only for the Sept. 11 attacks but also for Al-Qaida's bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, which killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000 people. The U.S. government had offered a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture or death. Bin Laden was killed in a raid by the US special forces on a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. He was buried at sea after a Muslim funeral on board an aircraft carrier in the north Arabian Sea. Hailing the death of Osama bin Laden as a "good day for America," Obama said ""Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can't do." But in a sign of the dangers that lie ahead, the US has put its embassies around the world on alert, warning Americans of the possibility of Al-Qaida reprisal attacks for bin Laden's killing. CIA director Leon Panetta said Al-Qaida would "almost certainly" try to avenge the death of bin Laden.


Washington is using this rare opportunity to send a message to the extremist Taliban movement fighting to make a comeback in Afghanistan, where it had harboured bin Laden and Al-Qaida before being driven from power by the U.S.-backed Afghan forces in November 2001. The message: give up hope of defeating the U.S. and NATO forces, renounce Al-Qaida and join the political process. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has vowed that the United States "will continue to take the fight to Al-Qaida and its Taliban allies." Appearing at the State Department, she said, "Even as we mark this milestone, we should not forget that the battle to stop al-Qaeda and its syndicate of terror will not end with the death of Bin Laden." She added: "Our message to the Taliban remains the same, but today it may have even greater resonance. You cannot wait us out. You cannot defeat us. But you can make the choice to abandon Al-Qaida and participate in a peaceful political process."


This is significant as the narrative of American decline that was fostered by bin Laden is now being used by the Taliban who believe that the US has no stomach for a fight and will soon withdraw. From Taliban to Hamas, organisations are also expressing their sympathies for the "martyrdom" of bin Laden. A spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistan-based strand of the movement, made it clear that the group would seek revenge. "Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target". The Afghan Taliban meanwhile is planning to launch a special offensive, called Bader, to avenge the Al-Qaida leader. "Losing him will be very painful for the mujahideen, but the 'shahadat' [martyrdom] of Osama will never stop the jihad," the commander of this group has suggested. There is also the Palestinian Hamas, whose top leader in the Gaza Strip has mourned bin Laden as an "Arab holy warrior." Ismail Haniyeh, who is Hamas's prime minister, said that "we regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood."


But the most important challenge of this development will be faced by the Pakistani security establishment. The United States did not share any intelligence with foreign governments, including Pakistan's. Pakistan for years had insisted that bin Laden was not on Pakistani soil. And now bin Laden is found in a compound in Abbottabad, just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy — the country's equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst. Bin Laden had been in a large building with high walls so close to an army base without the knowledge of the Pakistani security forces. It will undoubtedly be a huge embarrassment to Pakistan that Bin Laden was found not only in the country, but also at the doorstep of the military academy. Ironically, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's military chief, had visited the military academy in Abbottabad just over a week ago and, in a speech, said his troops had "broken the backs" of militants.


The Pakistani government's failure to discover bin Laden's whereabouts will only reinforce suspicions in Washington and elsewhere that Islamabad is either not committed to the U.S.-backed fight against Islamist militancy or is playing a dangerous game by sheltering terrorists even as it pledges to fight militant groups. New Delhi has long warned Washington of this double game and Washington in recent years has been well aware of this. But the US still needs Pakistan if it is to succeed in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested that co-operation from Pakistan helped lead the Americans to bin Laden.


Nevertheless, the death of Osama bin Laden puts the US in the driving seat once again and will give a new momentum to the US military's operations in Afghanistan. It remains to be seen if this will allow the US to force Pakistan to mend its ways in its policies vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. The past does not offer a particularly optimistic prognosis.









A late night knock on a winter night elicited a question from my Man Friday: "Who is it?"


"Balbir Daku", was the reply, which resulted in a scampered disappearance of my servant to the safe confines of his room, leaving me to answer the door with my terrified wife by my side.


I rose to open the door, but found myself rooted to the floor, not on account of fear, but of the steadfast clasp of the lady by my side, desperately pleading with me not to open the door.


I told her that the gentleman, sorry the person outside, was a regular client who came from my own village and most probably he had come with good intentions of engaging my services as a lawyer and not to deplete our scant resources.


She, however, would not relent, and as the knock on the door grew louder I intensified my efforts to gently disengage my ankle from her entreating clasp,with reassuring words that neither her "Suhag" nor her celebrations for the impending "Karva Chauth" were threatened in any way.


Having succeeded in disengaging myself, I opened the door to the greetings of an impatient person having been made to wait longer than required. On seeing my wife, who clung to my elbow, he respectfully folded his hands and said, "Namaste Maaji".


I saw the colour of her face change to an angry red, as she stomped out of the room, eyes flashing, feeling insulted at conferment of the exalted status of a matronly mother upon as young a lady as her.


I attended to the visitor, who handed me sheaves of papers to file an appeal and then after the niceties of talk he departed giving me my demanded fee.


I returned to my wife who still seethed with anger and handed over the money to her for safekeeping.


"I will not touch this money. It is coming from a dacoit".


I gently told her that in a lawyer's profession, very often his duty requires him to cater to clients who have dubious credentials and money is money.


"Keep it yourself," was the terse reply, and "How dare he refer to me as Maaji?"


I understood where the shoe pinched and kept quiet.


After a few days I noticed a glistening necklace on her neck and observing my gaze she said, "For Karva Chauth".


"Good", I said, even as the suspicion gripped me that Daku Balbir's money had been put to good use, which gradually turned into a belief and then certainty.


I was, however, bemused, recalling her earlier revulsion to the man and his money and recalled what James Hadley Chase once wrote and truly so, "The Colour of Money is green".


Today scams are popping up faster than corns in a popcorn machine and scamsters don the hats of respectability which wealth provides them, no matter what the colour of their deed is, unlike the unpretentious brigand — because the colour of money is green.









IN Independent India, rural health care services have been broadly developed on the lines of recommendations of the Bhore Committee. These were (i) provision of free medical care to all without distinctions, (ii) integration of preventive and curative services at all administrative levels and (iii) diversion of major health care resources in terms of medical relief and preventive health care to its vast rural population. Rural population and rural health care services, however, remained neglected till late 70s and this was reflected in wide variations in various parameters of health status in terms of rural-urban gap in child survival, infant and child mortality, maternal mortality and in health-seeking behaviour during ailments.


]Thirty years ago there was a paradigm shift in thinking about how to provide better health to all its population. The Alma Ata Conference in 1982 mobilised a "Primary Health Care movement" of professionals and institutions, governments and civil society organisations, researchers and grassroots organisations that undertook to tackle the "politically, socially and economically unacceptable" health inequalities in all countries. The Declaration of Alma Ata was clear about the values pursued: social justice and the right to better health for all, participation and solidarity. Today the human resource development success story of various countries in terms of health suggests that the PHC has remained the benchmark for those countries' discourse on health. In these countries the PHC movement tried to provide rational, anticipatory response to health needs of these societies and social expectations.


Being signatory to Alma Ata Declaration, India too had formulated National Health Policy in 1982 and reorganised its health service delivery as a three-tier structure with Sub Centres, Primary Health Centres and Community Health Centres. Each had a role in provision of preventive, curative and supervisory outreach services. The result of this was witnessed in terms of eradication of various deadly diseases, increase in immunisation levels, care of expectant mothers and safe deliveries, acceptance of family welfare programmes and health awareness.


In the state of Haryana too, health service infrastructure has recorded a praiseworthy growth since inception of the state and impact of development of infrastructure is seen in terms of decline in crude death rate from 45 to 7.5 per thousand population, infant mortality rate from 108 to 56 per thousand live births and significant decline in incidence of number of epidemics during 1970 to 2004-5. Similarly, population served per primary health centre (PHC) is about 42,000 at present in comparison to more than 1 lakh population in 1980s, indicating the establishment of PHCs during later decades.


National norms


It may also be noted that the national norms of provision of PHC is 30,000 as envisaged in the National Health Policy of 1982. The state still lacks requisite number of hospitals, PHCs, and CHCs as suggested in policy papers and being revised as per the National Rural Health Mission programme. The state official document (DGHS) agrees to the fact that there is an overall shortage of medical personnel. District level health survey of 2007-8 shows that there is a shortage of general surgeons to the tune of 75 per cent against required at CHC level. Similarly, 68 per cent of Lady Medical Officers' posts were lying vacant in PHCs in rural Haryana, besides, the deficiency of other paramedical staff at PHC and sub centre levels.


What is more shocking is the recent announcement of the Haryana government to withdraw 285 posts of medical officers from the PHCs and the CHCs on the pretext that PHC services remain underutilised in rural areas. The underutilisation of rural health services may be true, but it is largely due to the poor quality of these services. Among those are lack of proper diagnostic facilities, lack of doctors, poor hygiene conditions, lack of essential drugs and also the absence of strong referral facilities.


Ill-advised move


One cannot throw away the baby with bath water. The present health system has evolved over a long period of time. One would agree that at the time of the formation of the state, there was a general shortage of doctors and medical staff in all districts as only 40 per cent of the medical staff were in position. Today's health system is a long-drawn process achieved with greater efforts and larger thinking on the lines of equity and well being. One cannot penalise the rural population for our own inefficiency of maintaining the standards. Withdrawing of medical officers would lead to further deterioration in the quality of rural health services, leaving a vast rural population at the mercy of private practitioners and quacks.


It is true that the purchasing power of rural population has also increased over a period of time in Haryana. But at the same time, this is also fact that quackery is rampant in the region. Further, there is tremendous increase in the health cost and given the nature of diseases and in absence of health manpower in public sector, the rural population is left to fend for itself at the mercy of either private practitioners or quacks.


Better response


The need is to address the inefficiency and poor quality of rural health services by making them to respond better and faster to the challenges of a changing world. In many regards, the response of the health sector to the changing world has been inadequate. With development, the age structure of population got modified. The disease pattern has been changing. Rather than improving their response capacity and anticipating new challenges, health systems seem to be drifting from one short-term priority to another, increasingly fragmented and without a clear sense of direction. The need for making health systems more effective and equitable is often missed.


In this era of globalisation, when heath needs are changing fast, we can certainly achieve Health For All through this vastly developed health care infrastructure based on primary care. Only through Primary Health Centres which were envisaged as coordinator of more comprehensive response, can we provide better value for money than its alternatives.


The writer is from Kurukshetra University



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Given the poor standard of service and lack of professionalism, it is often difficult to sympathise with Air India employees when they go on strike. But despite all the opprobrium they are attracting from management, stranded passengers and the media, the 800-odd pilots of the former Indian Commercial Pilots Association, the now derecognised union representing pilots of the former Indian Airlines, may have a case for parity with those pilots who belonged to Air-India when it was solely the international flag carrier. Indeed, it is a matter of concern and shame that a basic managerial issue like this had not been sorted out earlier. After all, the international and domestic organisations merged in the August 2007, so this demand for equal work for equal pay has been festering for over four years. The most vital aspect of corporate mergers is to settle such human resources management issues. The management, therefore, is as much to blame for the current imbroglio as the intransigent pilots. The problem has been complicated by the fact that the pilots have been badly let down by their representatives. As a report in Business Standard earlier this week highlighted, committees to deal with merger-related HR issues have been squabbling ever since. The unions fared no better.

Dubbing the matter via newspaper advertisements as a problem of pilot avarice is to divert attention from the issue at hand. Sure, the pilots earn high salaries, but that isn't really the point here. The heart of the matter is that "Air-India" pilots were paid better, with higher fixed salary and extra allowances, compared to "Indian Airline" pilots, for the same job done. AI also had better terms than IA for allowances linked to number of flying hours. This is the deal the unions negotiated in 2006. The reason the latter pay structure is pinching is that the loss-ridden merged Air India has since cut back on its domestic flying capacity by 40 per cent. That is why former Indian Airlines pilots are demanding, pending a final wage agreement, an interim pay structure that loads remuneration on to the fixed component and insulates them from the airline's performance. Obviously, this would raise the salary bill, which is already a steep 18 per cent of operating cost. The problem is that with accumulated losses of Rs 15,000 crore and a debt burden of over Rs 40,000 crore – of which Rs 21,000 crore is for working capital loans alone – the airline's management says it is in no position to pay higher salaries (though, it did not baulk at paying its recently departed Austrian COO Gustav Baldauf a generous "market-linked" package).


 The management is in a bigger bind because it knows that giving in to the striking pilots' demands would mean following through on similar demands for ground crew and so on. None of this would have arisen if the merger metrics had been put in place and everyone asked to take a haircut in the interests of survival. As it is, a proposal to convert 60 per cent of Air India's short-term debt into long-term debt and the rest into preference shares is in the works, but it is uncertain how far this will help salvage an airline that has another Rs 20,000 crore on its books for aircraft that it doesn't really need. These issues get complicated because the merger itself is suspect and seen as an act of political cronyism meant to benefit corporate vested interests and ground the airlines.






The new international consensus on sharing swine flu vaccine and virus samples is a major victory in the battle against the pandemic. It marks a turning point in international cooperation in the field of medicine and public health. The agreement, brokered by the World Health organisation (WHO), is to be formally adopted by 193 member countries at the forthcoming World Health Assembly later this month. It will allow countries in dire need of low cost medical solutions to public health challenges affordable access to essential vaccines, anti-viral drugs, diagnostic kits and even vaccine production technology during disease outbreaks. The protocol provides for binding regimes for sharing of virus samples and the vaccine prepared from them between developed and developing countries. It is significant that for the first time such an inter-governmental treaty has the support of multinational drug companies. They have agreed to work with national health services and the WHO's laboratory network to put in place a reliable framework to fight pandemics. Some 30 major pharmaceutical companies have consented to earmark at least 10 per cent of their pandemic vaccine manufacturing capacity for donation to the WHO or for supplying to developing countries at reasonable prices. Going a step further, they have also agreed to transfer the vaccine production technology in case they cannot meet the vaccine requirement during disease outbreaks.

The issues concerning intellectual property rights are proposed to be sorted out with mutual consent to facilitate smooth operation of such technology sharing arrangements. For a change global drug manufacturers have placed human interest above corporate profits.


 A World Bank study had estimated the negative impact of the swine flu outbreak in South Asia to have been around 0.6 per cent of the region's gross national product (GDP). This kind of income loss was on account of inadequate preventive health care and the inability of these countries to afford high-cost vaccines. Besides, some countries like Indonesia declined to share the samples of virus with the WHO and drug companies, making it difficult for cooperative solutions to be found. Had the virus turned more virulent, global health security would have been in real jeopardy. What needs to be realised is that though the active phase of the swine flu pandemic of 2009-10 is over, the killer H1N1 virus that had caused it has not ceased to exist. As is usual in post-pandemic phase, sporadic outbreaks of the disease are continuing to erupt – and may go on for at least a few years – though these are often not recorded or reported to the WHO. The real danger is that if this virus mutates into a more lethal form, which has so far not happened, new life-saving vaccines directed specifically at the mutated strain would be needed. The new global accord will enable timely action in taming an epidemic and, hopefully, in preventing them from turning into pandemics.







There's some good news, and yes, some bad news… The good news is that momentous developments are under way in spectrum and telecom policy:

  • The Ministry of Communications & Information Technology held consultations with service providers, then posted the transcript on the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) website. 

The Wireless Planning & Coordination Wing (WPC) disclosed data on all commercial spectrum allocations – frequencies allotted by geography and service provider or operator – on its website.


Terrific first steps in a constructive approach. There's more: the ministry's report of 100 days states: "We will hold consultations with key stakeholders to evolve a clear and transparent regime covering licensing, spectrum allocation, tariffs or pricing, linkage with roll out performance, flexibility within licenses, spectrum sharing, spectrum trading, MVNOs, unlicensed bands, M&A, etc, in a technology agnostic environment after due consideration of Trai recommendations in this regard. Interest of the 'aam aadmi' would be the prime consideration." That's comprehensive alright, which is good, though the 'aam aadmi' bit is either confused or manipulative. Elected governments should act in the public interest, no more, no less. While the private sector is exhorted not to play games, the government at all levels – politicians, administrators and agencies – must also focus on results, and avoid populism.

The presentation of information could be more effective for the patterns and structure to be easily accessible. The WPC display is of voluminous raw data. There is no overview, with the ability to drill down to details, nor to aggregate details by operator or frequency. The full set runs into 32 pages of tables.

Compare this with a display in colour from the US' National Telecommunications and Information Administration (Click here for chart). Similar information from the WPC runs into many pages.

However, the US display contains not as much detail, and has no interactive capabilities (these are possible extensions). For an interactive graphical interface, consider the "market map" by for stocks (, if adapted for details on spectrum. One can drill down in any sector by clicking on the rectangle. For example, "Telecommunication", which opens a map with the listed companies, each colour-coded to reflect more detail (green for gains, red for losses).

Clicking on a company shows its daily price and volume chart. In a variant (at, it opens a menu with access to details like news, financials and so on. Similar spectrum displays could show, for example, information by operator for network rollout and subscribers by frequency.

An alternate display format is the "Topics most commented on" on the The Economist website ( conversation-cloud?days=30). When the cursor hovers on a topic, related comments are displayed. Clicking on a topic realigns the clusters based on content around that top. This would work well for aggregating comments on related issues in the consultation transcripts.

Imagine what such a graphical interface to a relational database could do for effectiveness and transparency in the spectrum policy. It could be extended to telecom and broadband next, and, eventually, to all of government.

Judging from news reports, process inadequacies might render the ministry's grand intentions unachievable. The following examples show why.

  • Spectrum sharing is an obvious solution for high demand with limited supply. The DoT has reportedly considered it for years, but discussions so far have been superficial and on "excess spectrum". Also, the statements of intent on sharing or trading are confusing. "Spectrum trading" implies exclusive rights to spectrum, unless otherwise specified. "Spectrum sharing" means aggregating spectrum for redeployment, with Dynamic Spectrum Allocation. This is analogous to "common carrier access" and "big pipes" for railways, roads, oil pipelines, or airways. Therefore, from a policy perspective, spectrum sharing and spectrum trading are mutually exclusive.

Spectrum and airways or flight paths coexist in the atmosphere. Imagine if airways were auctioned to each airline for its exclusive use, instead of being available to all airlines for similar aircraft through Air Traffic Control. That's what we have with spectrum auctions in communications. The logic for spectrum auctions is based on old technology with no allowances for improvements in managing interference in the last 60-70 years. Also, allocating spectrum in this way means that aggregate capacity is constrained for two reasons. One is that each operator uses only part of allotted capacity. A study in Singapore in 2008 found that only two bands had a utilisation rate of 50 per cent; the overall utilisation rate for 80-5,850 MHz was about five per cent ( News/Documents/Spectrum%20survey%20in%20Singapore_%20Occupancy%20measurements%20and%20analyses.pdf). Second, a large band provides much greater capacity than the sum of smaller bands.

Our spectrum predicament arises primarily from inappropriate allocation policies. Therefore, forward-looking policies need the incorporation of a technical understanding of spectrum occupancy, of the effects of spectrum aggregation versus fragmentation, and of technologies like multiple antenna effects (multiple-input and multiple-output, or MIMO), which enable more effective spectrum use and improve functional attributes of higher frequencies. A backward-looking audit of historical data will not serve these purposes.

An inherent limitation of the consultation-and-pronouncement approach (as opposed to a collaborative-stakeholder-workout) is that external expertise in technology and process consultation, sorely needed in India, has to be brought in only by the government. This must be done before formulating new policies, because the issues are too complex to resolve without objective expertise.





The dramatic (37.5 per cent) growth in exports in 2010-11 confirms my long-standing belief that the exchange rate is not a major determinant of India's export competitiveness. Despite the rupee strengthening by four per cent on an average in 2010-11 – 5.5 per cent, if we use the average rate three months in advance, when most exports were likely priced – exports surged like never before. Indeed, since 2003-04, there has been virtually zero correlation between the average value of the rupee (with or without a three month lead) and exports – and, for that matter, imports – in any particular year.

The most important factor for export growth is, obviously, the state of global markets. In 2009-10, when the global economy was reeling from the fallout of the global debt crisis, exports fell by 3.5 per cent despite the rupee being more than 10 per cent weaker than in the previous year. If people aren't buying, a weaker currency has all the impact of pushing on a string.


More specific to, and much more significantly for, India, our exports growth has benefited from the more or less continuous rise in our productivity. Each year, India's productivity jumps as a result of improvements in telecommunications, transportation, business skills, financial markets, government finances and even bureaucratic friction. To be sure, these improvements are uneven and piecemeal, but, from time to time, and differently for different industries and companies, the cumulative change results in a bolus of increased competitiveness.

Most exciting, of course, is the fact that we still have a long way to go before our productivity is even close to plateauing out, as it has in developed economies like Japan, Germany and the US. In other words, export growth is likely to remain largely independent of the exchange rate for some more years.

This suggests that making the rupee fully (or substantially more) convertible will have little impact on export competitiveness or export growth. And, given that the world is very loudly looking for a wider array of reasonably stable convertible currencies, it is definitely an excellent time to push the rupee forward. The benefits to the economy would be multifold, from dramatically increasing foreign investment to further adding to business productivity to making life much simpler for citizens.

Of course, greater convertibility would likely lead to higher rupee volatility. However, our reserves are more than adequate to prevent any dramatic macro consequences — we had to draw down only about $30 bn of our reserves (around 10 per cent) to combat the 2008-09 crisis, and we are back at around $300 bn and counting.

To address the impact of this higher volatility on a micro-level, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should license selected NBFC's as "super-AD2's" who could provide substantially improved service in the FX arena to small and medium enterprises, which are very poorly served by the current banking establishment. RBI has indirectly acknowledged this need by launching currency futures to provide small FX users an alternative window; however, as is well-known by now, this hasn't worked for hedgers. Indeed, full convertibility would also make the futures market more attractive for hedgers since physical settlement would automatically be permissible.

However, before RBI can throw the switch, we need – hold your breath – a meaningful debt market. You can't have a convertible currency till there is sufficient liquidity in the debt market to where the FX forwards reflect interest rate differentials at different tenors. RBI has acknowledged privately that the ONLY way we can get there is if nationalised banks become much more aggressive in trading their interest-sensitive assets. RBI could push banks to do this — by, say, eliminating the held-to-maturity segment, which would require banks to mark their entire bond portfolios to market every day. But the risk is that most nationalised banks may well back completely away from risk and stop holding government securities, which could result in dramatic problems for the government's borrowing programme.

However, since the finance minister announced in the last budget that the Office of Debt Management would be set up and operational shortly, RBI will soon be free to focus on monetary policy and market development. The transition will certainly have glitches — some having to do with RBI being unable to stop mother-henning; some, more seriously, with our politicians having to learn that the market will severely punish fiscal indiscipline. But you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

The good news, though, is that the increasing activity of all sections of society, abetted by the media, has already started the process of demanding discipline from our political servants. The energy and continuity of these efforts confirm that there's no turning back.

The new India is, indeed, in play! Aa jaon maidan mein!

As for the rupee — my guess is that we will see full convertibility in not much more than two years.







Way back in 1954, a British author named Arthur Llewellyn Basham published a book on India's past, called The Wonder That Was India. If Balsham were alive today, he'd possibly have written a sequel dealing with India's present and called it The Puzzle That Is India.


 When Gandhian activist Anna Hazare got the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to yield to his demand to involve civil society in the drafting of an effective and comprehensive Lok Pal Bill, I felt a lift in my heart. At last, I thought, the government was being wise enough to heed the voice of the people – vox populi, which I have been brought up to believe is vox dei, the voice of God – and, perhaps, there was still some hope left for India's democracy. But when, soon afterwards, partisan politicians launched a counter-attack, trying in their many devious ways to undermine the credibility of Hazare and his followers, even while agreeing that fighting corruption is a noble and desirable cause, it became quite clear that nothing has really changed. India remains the same old bundle of oddities and contradictions, a big, inscrutable puzzle.

It's sad, because the real issue here isn't Hazare's credibility or corruption in high places. The issue is the people's role in a democracy that claims to be by the people, of the people and for the people. Hazare's fast, and the spontaneous popular support it evoked, underlined the fact, in a forceful manner, that there's a large body of public opinion out there, outside of the government and Parliament that has never been taken into account, always taken for granted, and now wants to assert itself and be heard. To deride Hazare's campaign and question his motive is to insult this larger opinion, diminish its value, and ignore its rightful place in a true democratic system.

Questions have been asked if civil society should be allowed to compete with Parliament, the lawful popular forum established by the Constitution. But a more fundamental question is: Does Parliament reflect the true will of the people? The popular enthusiasm surrounding Hazare's fast made it abundantly clear that it doesn't, that the civil society feels it should have an essential role in governance, not to compete with Parliament but to supplement its work, and a government calling itself democratic must seek its opinion on all matters that affect the greater good of the people.

These feelings aren't unfounded. Yes, Parliament is elected to represent the people, but it isn't a complete representation. Its members represent political parties, and political parties represent points of view that may not necessarily be shared by the wider, independent public. Besides, the principle of "majority decides", a functional necessity of the democratic system, means that the ruling party or coalition will always be able to act in its self-interest and get away with its political designs. The opposition can do little about it even though it may represent large segments of people. The public at large can do nothing at all.

What's worse, we've failed to reform the electoral process in a manner that ensures that party finances are fully above board and accountable and only clean, well-meaning candidates can sit in Parliament and state assemblies to work in public interest. As a result, civil society has little faith in politics and politicians, giving rise to a situation where cynicism is the prevailing mood and criminalisation of politics is a real threat.

Let's not deny that, between the influence-peddling top and the easily-manipulated bottom layers of society, there's a vast segment of public opinion that's either badly reflected or not reflected at all. How to give voice to this important middle segment of independent opinion is the biggest challenge for Indian democracy and should be its major concern. And one of the best ways to address this concern is to create a credible, permanent mechanism for public consultation on major public issues, independent of what goes on within Parliament and irrespective of the views of political parties. That's the basic point of Anna Hazare's movement.

Regrettably, in our system of governance, there's no place yet for independent public consultation. We have all-party meetings that the prime minister and the chief ministers of states call from time to time. But all-party meetings are nothing but a partisan political mechanism and often don't reflect the true feelings of civil society at large, those liberal, thinking sections of the public who live and work outside politics but have a mind of their own and a contribution to make.

It's this society at large that we must aim to reach. If government and politicians don't wake up to the larger clamour of the people, more activists will be forced to take their protests to the streets. Anna Hazare has set a most welcome trend.






The persistent social inequalities in India stand out starkly when we look at basic indicators like literacy rates. Census data collated over the years clearly reveals that literacy rates of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe population continue to lag, especially in comparison with the national average. Literacy among the Scheduled Castes increased from 10.3 per cent in 1961 to 54.7 per cent in 2001 and the overall literacy rate of the Scheduled Tribes increased from 8.5 per cent to 47.1 per cent over the same period.

The gap between these groups and the national average rose from the sixties to peak in the 1981 Census data, and has been reducing since then — the highest rise in literacy rates was seen in the nineties. Though the government has recognises Scheduled Tribes as the most deprived and marginalised sections of the society, the specific disadvantages that characterise the tribal population have clearly not been addressed effectively.


The level of development has been quite uneven among different states and among various segments of the population within the states. Data from Census 2001 show that some of the states with higher tribal concentrations have done well with higher literacy rates among the Scheduled Tribes. States like Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya fall in this category; 95 per cent of Mizoram's population falls in the Scheduled Tribe category and the state has the second-highest overall literacy level, while Nagaland and Meghalaya with a more than 80 per cent Scheduled Tribe population have relatively low literacy rates of 65.95 per cent and 61.34 per cent respectively. (Click here for chart)

Literacy rate by social group in India

























Source: Census of India

However, Orissa and Jharkhand stand out as states with high shares of Scheduled Tribe populations but low literacy levels. On the whole, disparity among states in terms of tribal literacy is high ranging — from 89.3 per cent in Mizoram to 28.17 per cent in Bihar, pointing to the basic differences in the social structure of these states. The Scheduled Castes, on an average, have fared better than the Scheduled Tribes; there are six states with literacy rates lower than the national average in this group — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. Except for Karnataka, the remaining five states are way behind the national average in general literacy as well, indicating an endemic problem in these states. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Orissa and West Bengal have differences of more than 25 percentage points in overall literacy and literacy in the Scheduled Tribe population, while Bihar and Jharkhand have the highest differences when it comes to overall literacy and Scheduled Caste literacy rates of more than 15 percentage points.

Slow progress of the marginalised sections in the most basic indicators has become one of the major constraints of the current development paradigm meant to ensure sustained growth with equity and social justice. It is true that there has been a much higher increase in the spread of literacy within these two groups since the eighties and while group-wise data, yet to be released for Census 2011, will reaffirm the rising trend, one can only rue the decades of lost opportunity in bringing these groups on a par with the average Indian.

Indian States Development Scorecard, a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics, focuses on the progress in India and across the states across various socio-economic parameters. t







Despite rising interest rates and high net interest spreads in general, a clutch of private banks has recorded unexpected results for the fourth quarter; a point to note is that fee-based services have notched up higher growth than interest incomes. While it is too early to conclude there has been some kind of shift in banking practices in India or, conversely, a widening of banking services that are finding popularity among customers, the results do suggest a harbinger of that trend, and this can only be welcome.

Three banks — HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and, to a smaller extent, IndusInd Bank — have posted a faster pace of fee incomes than interest incomes. For Axis Bank the growth of fee-based incomes was significant enough to constitute almost half its March quarter earnings; at Rs 1,231 crore, up from Rs 780 crore in the same quarter the previous year, the growth in fee incomes in absolute terms compares very favourably with the interest incomes at Rs 1,701 crore. In the case of ICICI Bank, the second largest bank after SBI, interest incomes still dominate, with fourth quarter growth pegged at Rs 2,510 crore, but fee-based incomes grew faster to about half that level and contributed to the fourth quarter's robust earnings of 44 per cent. HDFC Bank and IndusInd Bank too showed a marked improvement in fee-based incomes over interest incomes. Right now it is too early to draw meaningful comparisons with state-owned banks but there are a few pointers that serve to suggest how the future of the banking business will pan out. So far at least, for almost all banks, interest incomes based on high Net Interest Margins (NIMS) are the main source of healthy bottom-lines. NIMS, the difference between the cost of funds and the cost of lending, have traditionally worked to shore up bank profitability as deposit rates have remained constant and lending rates have tended to be on the high side. Now deposit rates, at the insistence of the RBI, are also rising; yet, the NIMS of most state-owned banks average 3.3 per cent because lending rates too have risen. This has caused the RBI to term NIMS "usurious" and insist that the spread between deposit and lending rates be reduced. But that can be done only if operational efficiency increases, the cost of lending goes down and if state-owned banks rely more on fee-based incomes.

Given the high loan growth and interest rates, the preference for interest incomes will be hard to change but change banks must, especially since deposit growth is not keeping pace with credit growth. Moving to fee-based incomes is the only way forward.






In Naomi Klein's bestselling book The Shock Doctrine, that has been made into a viscerally compelling documentary by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, the central thesis is the idea of "disaster capitalism", the exploitation of moments of shock in vulnerable countries by governments and big business to further their own agenda.

Thus in the US, the shock of 9/11 helped the Bush administration to not just invade Iraq but push disaster capitalism to new levels in that hapless country. The Shock Doctrine shows brilliantly how traumatic upheavals such as Hurricane Katrina result in "loss of narrative," a disorientation that makes people vulnerable to whatever the administration does.

But shocks of another kind can generate another form of catharsis, a collective release of relief that can provide legitimacy to official actions hitherto deemed wasteful, irrelevant or harmful to a collective self-image.

Narrative of terror

The killing of Osama Bin Laden is one of them, an act that enables the US administration to legitimise its extravagant and destructive actions in Afghanistan as an act of deliverance. Mr Obama can now say to his people what his predecessor ought not to have claimed prematurely: Mission Accomplished.

The cathartic moment, apotheosised in the Hollywood-style code-words 'Operation Geronimo', has been persistent in American media, captured vividly in photographs of Americans waving their flag in jubilation outside the White House, in the collective applause for its inhabitant who just gunned down "Geronimo." What they inadvertently celebrate and endorse is the systematic destruction of Afghan society.

What the snuffing out of Osama Bin Laden does to Americans bewildered by an economic tsunami and an enfeebled administration is their business.

Indians need to worry about the extent to which the narrative of his authorship of terror and the counter-narrative of the "war on terror" have wormed their way into the discourse of Indian policymakers and the media.

Some sections of the latter could not keep hysteria out of their jubilant headlines.

In part, a local flavour infected the sense of satisfaction; for both the media and the Ministry of External Affairs the taking out of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan evoked a dual joy for it also proved our point about our neighbour being terror's crucible.

Script with no end

When the MEA described the event as a "victorious milestone in the global war against the forces of terrorism" it was reading off the US State Department's script.

But, more profoundly, the MEA was echoing an American obsession for personalising complex and turbid social phenomena or cataclysms. History, for most Americans, is the narrative of comic-book figures; this reductionism is reinforced by television that further obfuscates the underlying causes and effects.

Osama's death does not end terrorism or prove Pakistan's hand in it. India does not need his spectre to know that acts of terror by jihadist groups in the sub-continent spring from the by-lanes of its geography and history and the unwillingness of its leaders to seek meaningful solutions.

The taking out of Osama Bin Laden has the traits of a Hollywood western but, unlike that honourable film genre, the script in this case has no end for it is being written by people stung by poverty, maimed by "surround" violence and poisoned by prejudice posing as religion, all of which together drain them of their humanity.









"Osama bin Laden sleeps with the fishes" — a sign at a music store in Oklahoma City — captures the sense of jubilation. Nearly 10 years after 9/11 came the news that the "mass murderer" was taken out in a fire-fight in Pakistan by US Special Forces and eventually tossed from an aircraft carrier in the Northern Arabian Sea to a watery grave.

It is not merely the death of a reviled personality who was responsible for taking the lives of thousands in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In one stroke it has also raised disturbing questions of what is ahead on the terror front; the impact of the bloody raid in other parts of the world, especially the Middle East and, above all, on a so-called US ally — Pakistan.

Candidate Barack Obama in 2007 set off a furious debate in the political establishment as well as within Pakistan when he said that his administration will take the fight into Pakistan, issues of sovereignty notwithstanding. "There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

And that was exactly what happened on May 1, much to the protestations and embarrassment of leaders and politicians there.


There has always been apprehension about Pakistan's position in the fight against terror — whether it is a willing ally in the fight, or whether it is trying to have it both ways. When the dust clears, and when all the small details of the operation get played out, the Obama administration will come under tremendous pressure to wind up the show. One of the things that Washington should think about is what it wants to do with Pakistan.

In all the hoopla about Islamabad being an "ally" in the war against terror, the Obama administration did not give Islamabad the benefit of the doubt.

Here was Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, a military garrison area, just a short distance away from the capital and said to have been living in the place presumably for four years!

The argument dished out from Islamabad — and mimicked by its minions in Washington — that a distinction would have to be made between "private support" and "government" backing does not cut much ice in the United States, both in official and private circles.

The intelligence community in the United States harboured deep suspicions of Pakistan's ISI, its links to terrorist groups in particular.

Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan maintained that it was "inconceivable" that bin Laden did not have a support system in Pakistan that allowed him to remain there for a long period of time.

"People are raising a number of questions, and understandably so. I'm sure a number of people have questions about whether there was some kind of support provided by the Pakistani government," he said.

The Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin, remarked "I think the Pakistani army and intelligence have a lot of questions to answer, given the location, the length of time, and apparent fact that this facility was actually built for bin Laden."

And Sen Joseph Lieberman, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said: "This is going to be a time of real pressure on the Pakistanis to make clear to us that they didn't know that bin Laden was there."

Washington has been reminded many times that Pakistan is a "weak" ally in the war against terror, if it is to be considered as an "ally" at all. And the past week proved that Pakistan is neither an "ally" nor a serious partner. How else can one explain its being kept out of the loop, in spite of the preposterous initial claim of being privy to the goings on?


The Obama administration faces a stark choice now on what lies ahead in this war against terrorism. It is one of either staying the course, or making a determined move to map a strategy that comes to terms with ground realities.

For a very long time, out of so-called strategic compulsions, administrations in Washington have been reluctant to accept the state of play in South Asia and Afghanistan, particularly as it pertains to terrorism.

President Obama now has the rare chance to stay focused and clean up the act in Pakistan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and in Afghanistan. Failing to do so and taking the eye off the ball would mean that this Democratic President would also have squandered away the opportunity that his Republican predecessor had.








The recent interest in corruption has focused almost exclusively on its legal dimension. This is understandable when political and industrial luminaries find the law knocking at their door. But the tendency to be preoccupied with the legal has gone far beyond those with such immediate concerns.

Social reformers like Anna Hazare have made the ability to decide who will be on the committee drafting an anti-corruption Bill the cornerstone of their campaign. Such a preoccupation with the law in addressing a social issue suggests an effort to clap with one hand. Indeed, the tendency to ignore the social dimensions of corruption makes this law-centric approach a part of the problem rather than its solution.

Once we take the debate away from the environment of high-pitched righteousness it is obvious that a meaningful solution can only be found if we can first identify the reasons we are now in this mess. A purely legalistic approach suggests that this is essentially a matter of the laws not being strong enough. The sub-text of the arguments of the civil society groups is that both the judiciary and the political class have failed us, and the way forward is a Lokpal who is appointed from outside the usual political process.


In the highly charged milieu in which this argument is made one question has not been adequately addressed — who will ensure that the Lokpal does not develop into a moral Frankenstein who is vindictive, if not completely corrupt? If this is to be done by the existing judicial and political processes we are back to square one. And if she or he is beyond such scrutiny, the consequences can be even more frightening. It is of course possible even within the law-centric approach to look beyond an all-powerful morally superhuman Lokpal. The well-regarded economic theoretician and Chief Economic Advisor to the Finance Ministry, Kaushik Basu, has come up with an argument that tries to divide the corrupt.

His expertise in game theory leads him to focus on the bribe taker and the bribe giver sharing a common interest in preventing detection. His solution is then to absolve the giver of what he calls 'harassment' bribes from any guilt. The bribe giver would then have an interest in reporting the bribe taker, especially if the bribe taker is forced to return the bribe.

There are a number of problems with this argument. The basic objective of introducing a difference between the interests of the bribe taker and the bribe giver could be just as easily achieved by absolving the bribe taker from any guilt. Implicit in the Mr Basu's argument is a belief that the bribe giver has the moral edge since she is being harassed. But it is not impossible to build a moral case for a traffic policeman working long hours for a less-than-adequate salary to supplement his earnings with an occasional bribe from persons who can afford to pay. If Mr Basu can build a moral case for bribe-givers he may be familiar with in his social group, it is not impossible for others in social groups more familiar with bribe-takers to build a moral case on their behalf.

The role of such social group-specific moral choices in the approach to corruption becomes critical in the context of the growing conflict between the elected and the unelected in India's governance structure. One of independent India's greatest achievements has been the consolidation of electoral politics.

This process has thrown up leaders from parts of India that would earlier have been considered remote. The demands of these leaders for a role in policy making threatens the unelected English speaking elite that has been deciding policy, often through the institution of the Prime Minister's Office.


The response of the unelected has been to come up with a series of steps that have the effect of confining the elected representatives to their constituencies. In the United States an elected representative can be assessed by her voting record on different policy issues. In India this has been made impossible by an anti-defection law that ensures that an MP voting against the party whip will lose her membership of the House. Along with this stick there is the carrot of the MP Local Area Development Fund. MPs are expected to be happy using this fund for their constituents without bothering about policy-making.

For those MPs and ministers who try to break out, the charge of corruption is always there. India's telecom revolution has the potential to transform one-sixth of humanity and will, no doubt, be the subject of academic scrutiny elsewhere in the world. But the ministers who made it happen will be permanently tarred by the brush of corruption. And this process could be institutionalised if an all-powerful Lokpal, set up by the unelected, is used to first taint and then remove from office any minister interested in policy.

None of this is to suggest, even remotely, that politicians are not corrupt. But the way forward is to reform the electoral and other practices that make it virtually impossible for a clean politician to be elected. The solution is not to give an unelected, and potentially equally unscrupulous, group veto power over policy by deciding who should remain in office.









 The RBI has paid its mandatory lip service to financial inclusion in the credit policy statement of May 3. However, the policy actually restricts the formal financial system's access to the poor and is half-hearted on the use of technology, despite serious liberalisation of some existing norms in this regard. The RBI has broadly accepted the Malegam panel's recommendations on microfinance institutions (MFIs). Well-meaning though these might be, the result would be to drive poor borrowers to the moneylender. The borrower presumably has to show up with an income certificate from an appropriate authority to satisfy the condition that her household income should not exceed . 60,000 and another one to satisfy the central bank that her indebtedness does not exceed . 50,000. If she has an unexpected health emergency or a wedding to be financed, an MFI can no longer offer her credit, she can only go back to the moneylender. Smaller MFIs will find it difficult to meet the interest and margin caps prescribed by the RBI and will also hand over their clientele to the moneylenders. True, the term financial inclusion has not been defined in the credit policy. The policy works for inclusion if it means liberalising the reach of the moneylender at the expense of the banks working through MFIs.
Similarly, the RBI's vision of banking expansion to the rural areas continues to be primarily of the brick and mortar variety. This model is pre-modern, and not because it eschews cement and concrete. Optical fibre and portable electronic vaults should be the primary means of reaching out to communities too small for the overhead costs of conventional banking to spell viability. The RBI pats itself on the back for the great liberalisation it has introduced in the use of banking correspondents. This is welcome, for whatever it is worth. But this only half-utilises the unique ability of India's telecom service providers to make huge profits from millions of small transactions. Imagine the quantum leap in the reach of formal finance that would result from a telecom operator or, even better, a joint venture between an operator and an established bank, being given a banking licence.






 The government's move to appoint a civil servant as chairman of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) is retrograde, even if it is a stop-gap arrangement. LIC joins the list of public sector organisations — ONGC, NHAI and MTNL — that do not have a permanent head after the end of term of their chiefs. Ideally, a new chairman for LIC, that manages . 12 lakh crore of assets and is seen to have a stabilising influence in the local equities market, should have been named well in advance. That's how succession planning is done in any decent private sector company in India. The government's failure to follow this practice is not just dysfunctional but also capable of creating serious misgivings about the reason behind it. Is this just a case of systemic inertia leading to delay or are there extraneous considerations in holding up crucial appointments of pubic enterprise chiefs? There is no reason to give room for such speculation. There is simply no reason why the selection cannot be done in advance when retirement dates are known. T S Vijayan, former chairman of LIC, completed his fiveyear term last month. A panel to select a new chairman of LIC had reportedly proposed a two-year extension for Mr Vijayan, but his name was not cleared by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). It is strange that the government could not find another professional to take charge of LIC. Instead, it has now kick-started a fresh process of selecting a chairman for the country's biggest investment institution. This would mean a three-month delay in the appointment. Giving a senior bureaucrat additional charge of the portfolio is reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s when civil servants had control over financial institutions. It also puts the notion of independent regulation of insurance in question.

Top appointments need CVC clearance and the body is now headless: a recipe for delay in other senior level appointments. Also, the choice of successors in PSUs should be driven by merit, not political patronage. It is high time the government professionalised succession in public enterprises.








The revelation that more Indians watched the Osama bin Laden action thriller than the Will-Kate love story should reconfirm what Bollywood usually divines instinctively. After all, the storyline of the latter had been so over-publicised in the run-up to the world premiere in London that the plot really had no twists and turns to thrill viewers. The hero, albeit a megastar all his life, was balding and the heroine was too goodygoody; it did not even have a surprise item number in the shape of an Other Woman (as had pepped up the groom's parents' wedding) to enthuse the frontbenchers. Nor was there star power in the front row — only a bunch of frumpily dressed royals and aristocrats, and some 1,000 hoi polloi. The identity of the chief costume designer offered some suspense, but beyond that it was clearly meant for the diehard romance buffs only. Had there been another high-voltage release slated for that Friday, The Royal Wedding (TRW) may not have got the eyeballs it did here. More intriguing, however is the fact that though many more Indians watched the one-nighter in Abbottabad than IPL-4 fixtures, Sunday's matinee show of Operation Osama (OO) notched up only 5 lakh more viewers at 42.6 million than TRW's 42.1 million in a billion-plus nation. This despite the fact that it was a much-awaited sequel to the deftly-scripted disaster that played out in 2001, and actually featured the protagonist who remained resolutely out of the frame on 9/11 although he had the leading role. Nor did the very original plot, nail-biting screenplay, special effects and part-reality TV, part-narrative guarantee OO an overwhelming viewership. Could that denote that the public is actually wearying of blood, gore and violence? It isn't just Bollywood which needs to note this trend, for future action.








Inflation remains the single-biggest macro challenge for Asia Ex-Japan (AXJ). Inflation in the region has accelerated rapidly since the second half of 2010 to near a 27-month high of 5.5% in February 2011. We believe that strong aggregate demand pressures and slow reversal in expansive fiscal and monetary policy are at the heart of the inflation problem. Since the global credit crisis, the region's policymakers have been buying insurance against slowdown due to concerns on global growth. Immediately post the credit crisis, policymakers had put Asia's relatively strong balance sheet to use and pressed the pedal hard on domestic demand with AXJ leading the global recovery.

However, aggressive push to domestic demand, led by the public sector, did not have the same productivity-boosting dynamic like a normal private sector-led recovery. While this approach was needed until the end of 2009, we believe the pace of policy exit has remained slow for longer. Specifically, in China, banks have disbursed close to $3.4 trillion dollars (about 77% of pre-crisis GDP) of loans since the crisis unfolded. Similarly, in India, the government lifted its expenditure by close to 4% of GDP, which largely boosted consumption at a time when the crisis resulted in private corporate capex to decline by over 5% of GDP, slowing capacity creation.

More importantly, the global environment under which such aggressive policy support had been put in place was itself turning around quickly. Global growth recovered fast from the trough and has sustained its pace. The region's exports clearly demonstrate this point. In the aftermath of the crisis, the region's exports fell 27% from the peak in July 2008, compared with just 15% in the 2001 recession in the US. However, exports recovered to peak levels in almost the same number of months (21) in both cycles. Alongside strong policy-induced domestic demand, exports recovered to its pre-crisis levels by May 2010. This was the first surprise to policymakers who were expecting a slower recovery in external demand. Unfortunately, global growth concerns re-emerged during May-August 2010 centred on Europe's sovereign debt issues. This led India and China go cautious on the policy exit they had already commenced. The RBI had decided not to make any policy changes for three months in early November 2010. The government in India made no effort to cut spending right up to the February 2011 Budget. Similarly, in China, loan-to-GDP remains close to peak levels at 128%.
EU sovereign concerns were short-lived at least in terms of its impact on global economic activity. Indeed, between October 2010 and March 2011, the region's exports (seasonally adjusted) have spiked up by a stunning 26% (not annualised). This, we believe, has completely caught the region's policymakers by surprise, disproving their implied assumption of weaker global growth. This sharp rise in exports has added to overall demand pressures, exacerbating inflation.

The second surprise came in the form of multiple supply shocks. Just when inflation pressures were beginning to build due to strong demand pressures, back-toback crop failures led to a spike in food inflation.
    Against this backdrop, the CRB food index rose rapidly and is now 19% above peak. This rapid uptick in prices was not limited to food only. Metals also saw a fast rise in prices, with CRB metals index currently 18% above the 2008 peak levels. (The CRB index comprises 19 widely traded commodities and the letters originally stood for Commodities Research Bureau). Further, oil prices (Brent) have moved up relentlessly since the turn of the year, crossing the $120/bbl mark amid strong global growth and developments in the Middle East. With a starting point of high inflation, low slack in capacity and low real rates, a large spike in oil prices will only make the task of managing inflation expectations more difficult.

In this environment, while policymakers have raised policy rates from their troughs, these remain low compared to the previous inflationary cycle in 2008. The region is still expected to run a fiscal deficit of about -3.1% of GDP this year. In contrast, the region's fiscal balance was almost close to zero in 2007, before inflation had spiked in 2008. In sum, fiscal and monetary tightening is nowhere close to levels seen in H1 2008 even as core inflation pressures are similar to that period's. Policymakers remain concerned about a potential developed world slowdown and have been reversing policy supports cautiously. However,this is resulting in strong aggregate demand pressures pushing against tighter supply conditions — a recipe for higher core inflation pressures.

Some argue that the region's policymakers have no choice but to live with high inflation in order to sustain high growth. It would be a risky strategy to ignore persistent inflation pressures. We do not expect the benign outcome wherein inflation will moderate soon without meaningful deceleration in growth over the next 12 months. Indeed, the longer the developed world sustains a moderate growth environment and the longer the region's policymakers remain slow in policy exit, the higher the likelihood of inflation pressures. Once inflation expectations get sticky, the sacrifice of growth required to bring them back to the comfort zone will only rise. To quote China's Premier Wen Jiabao, "Inflation is like a tiger; once it gets free, it is difficult to put it back in the cage".










A section of Kerala's factionridden CPI(M) believes that CM VS Achuthanandan's recently acquired iconic status did help pull in women's votes, when the state went to polls on April 13. Therefore, in a state where women outnumber men, the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is likely to return to power, winning at least a simple majority in the 140-member assembly, predict a few leaders. They say that apart from women, who they say were in awe of "VS" for his "pro-women stance", the "otherwise neutral" voters, across genders, also wanted to see Achuthanandan return as CM to fight against "rogue" elements within the party and outside.
Is that a case of hoping against hope?

We all know what happened: in a dramatic turn of events, Achuthanandan, who was initially denied a ticket to contest the April 13 elections by the CPM state committee, managed with an iron fist by party strongman Pinarayi Vijayan, was brought back to the electoral centrestage by the polit bureau of the party, in a virtual replay of the 2006 election-eve power play in the deeply polarised party unit. There was cause for celebration for a few czars in the local media who have for the past few years meticulously lapped up Achuthanandan's "crusade" against corruption and nepotism within his party with an eye to rein in Vijayan, their real target.
Years of mild brainwashing worked wonders on the eve of the election. Suddenly, Achuthanandan seemed to have acquired a halo larger than those of his illustrious predecessors such as EMS Namboodiripad, P Krishna Pillai and even AK Gopalan himself. News of people, cutting across party lines, waiting in the scorching Kerala sun for hours to have a glimpse of the chief minister became a regular feature. In the run-up to the polls, feminists and other women activists came out openly in support of the 87-year-old CM. Former Naxalite leader and committed feminist K Ajitha described him as the last ray of hope in the political scheme of things in the state. Call it a phoenix-like rise, but the semimedia barons rued the decision to back him — emerging from the sidelines, VS looked popular enough to reverse his party's political fortunes, much to their anguish.
Notably, throughout his campaign, Achuthanandan skipped talk of economic development and drew loudest cheers over his unequivocal commitment to bring to book people who have committed atrocities against women. One of his prime targets, former industries minister PK Kunhalikkutty was for long embroiled in a scandal — the ice-cream parlour sex scandal — which had dominated the last two elections. It had almost died down after Achuthanandan came to power in 2006 before it resurfaced a few months ago, following Kunhalikkutty's brawl with his sister-in-law's husband KA Rauf, once his man Friday. Rauf said he was ready to spill the beans on a cover-up of the sex scam.

Well, we will know for sure what actually was on women's minds on May 13, when the results will be out. But the truth is, for all his enthusiasm to protect and champion the cause of women, Achuthanandan hasn't even once raised, in the way expected of him, a finger against the laughable representation of women in the Kerala assembly: seven out of 140. Compare this with the tally in first assembly of 1957-59: six out of 127 seats! While local bodies in the state now have 50% women among its ranks, women are yet to gain a relatively strong foothold in the assembly, and nothing seems to have changed since 1957!

Sadly enough, in line with the decades-old practice, Achuthanandan and others had followed as party chief, Vijayan too fielded very few women in the assembly polls. While the LDF had 14 woman candidates, the Congress-led United Democratic Front had only eight women candidates. The Muslim League and the Kerala Congress (M) had no female candidates. Janata Dal (Secular) has fielded one while the RSP or the Kerala Congress (Jacob) did not even bother about such possibilities.

One could say that it isn't easy to change the mindset of political parties in the state, which, ironically, is India's most literate state. However,considering that leaders like Achuthanandan were, for long, part of a political culture that continued to give women the cold shoulder — and at times even sabotaged chances of women occupying chief ministerial positions — people like Ajitha may be hoping against hope. On May 13, whether his party comes back to power or loses, for women, hopes of empowerment in the state assembly continue to be forlorn. And for a society supposed to have had some matriarchal traditions, that is pitiful indeed.







    Pak perfidy is now the big thing for Indian media, from calls to dump the Mohali spirit and rants against the Pak policy of hunting with the hounds while providing safe burrows for hares to wild hopes that Washington will now declare Pakistan a new enemy. The impact, if any, of this frenzy on Pakistan would be counterproductive: to whip up nationalist fervour and impede internal reform.

Does anyone who wasn't born yesterday need Osama bin Laden being tracked down to a mansion near Rawalpindi to be convinced of Pakistan's reliance on terror as an instrument of state policy? Pakistan recruited, trained and armed the Taliban. Ditto for terrorists targeting India. The Americans handed over to India transcripts of the instructions flowing out of Pakistan to the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008. Who does not know, except for those who choose not to know, like China, of Pakistan's comfort with the proposition that terror is war by other means? The question is, what can India realistically do about it? War or surgical strikes or daring raids of the kind American Navy Seals performed to take out bin Laden are not viable options, given the real possibility of such actions' swift escalation into a nuclear confrontation.

What has really changed after bin Laden's elimination? The most important factor is the serious blow it has delivered to the legitimacy and prestige of the Pak army. If the Pak army and its intelligence wing knew nothing about Osama having taken shelter in a suburb of Islamabad, and this state of blissful ignorance extended to the incursion of American helicopters into Pak airspace and a 40 minute firefight close to a military installation, then the army's competence is zilch. If, on the other hand — and this is a more likely contingency — if the Pak army knew what was going on, both when bin Laden found a safe house near Islamabad and when American special forces killed him, it is a treacherous force that cannot be trusted by friend or foe. Friend can turn foe or a seeming foe actually be a friend. In other words, on account of either trustworthiness or competence, the Pak army is the pits.

This loss of credibility has serious implications for the Pak army's ability to use terror as a means of strategic depth. No terror outfit can any longer swear to love, honour and obey the Pak army as in the past. Depending on the constellation of international pressure and domestic politics, the army could wash its hand of any group it had been supporting, at any point of time. A dead Osama bin Laden is living testimony to the Pak army's fickle fidelity.

But don't police informers and double agents work under such perilous patronage all the time? Why should terror outfits alone be put off by such unreliable sponsorship? The difference is in the nature of the motivation. Informers and the like work for money, and accept the risks as they come. Terror groups are driven by ideology, commitment to what they believe to be a calling as high as the heavens. Those who betray such committed soldiers also betray the larger cause and cannot be pardoned. The irrationality that drives their commitment and cohesion makes terrorists difficult customers when it comes to accommodation within a framework of coldblooded calculus of the kind the Pak army would seem to have employed with regard to bin Laden.
The army's loss of prestige and weakened ability to deploy obedient dogs of war would be the two concrete outcomes of the bin Laden killing that India has to factor in. The continuing movement for democracy in the Arab world is another. India has good relations with all the regimes that are under threat from their own people. So it is difficult to support movements whose eventual success can only be speculated on, against entrenched governments. Yet, India must throw its lot with the people, not with the governments. Modernity and democracy in the Islamic world will not just make jihad redundant but also make it difficult for Pakistan's oligarchy to continue the pretend that they have a democracy going over there. Radical internal reform is Pakistan's route to emancipation from a national self-definition in hostility to India, and to civilian supremacy over the military establishment.

Pak bashing in India only serves to unleash defensive nationalism in that country, hampering internal reform and restoring lost legitimacy to the army. The sensible course for India is to continue to engage the state, such as it is, in Pakistan, while encouraging democracy and reform in the Arab world. And the latter would be incomplete without an independent state of Palestine at peace with Israel.

In return for its cooperation in supporting democracy in the Arab world, India should ask the US to not let Afghanistan relapse into Taliban rule, however distrustful the Taliban might now be, of the Pak army. This would be a constructive response, not high-decibel Pak bashing.









Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell has just published the eleventh and final novel in the Kurt Wallander series, The Troubled Man (Harvill Secker London 2011 tr by Laurie Thompson). In several interviews, Mankell talks about how the series began: Appalled by the rise of Neo Nazi groups in Sweden and attacks on immigrants, Mankell felt he had to write about his concern. Well, if he was going to write about crime, he needed a detective. He picked the name 'Wallander' out of the telephone directory. The first book in the series, Faceless Killers was published in 1991.


"I work in an old tradition," Mankell says in a Guardian 2003 interview, "that goes back to the Greeks. You hold a mirror to crime to see what's happening in society. I could never write a crime story just for the sake of it, because I always want to talk about certain things in society." He adds that the best crime story he has ever read is Shakespeare's Macbeth, "a terrible allegory about the corrupting tendency of power that could equally be about President Nixon." In another interview he says, "We have created a society in which we throw people away the way we throw away old socks. The ultimate point about a consumer society is the way you are also consuming people."
    There's a sense in which the title of the novel, The Troubled Man can apply to the detective Wallander as well as the chief character, a retired naval officer who has disappeared. He seemed troubled and afraid when Wallander met him at his 75th birthday celebrations. He looks into the case, even though he is on holiday, because the naval officer's son is his daughter's partner. He's also troubled by the fact that he is 60, the inevitability of old age and death, his poor health. He has moments of complete forgetfulness when he cannot remember where he is or who he's with.


What interests Mankell about his character is that he spends so much time thinking. Citing John Le Carre as one of his influences, Mankell says, "John Le Carre is an influence because he is interested, as I am, in the mental landscape of things. I mean, what is Wallander doing? He is going around thinking, page after page. And that is what interests me – the thinking."


 At the end of The Troubled Man, Wallander, who has solved the case though he has found himself caught up in a complex web of espionage, thinks, "What did he know now that he hadn't known before? Not much at all, he thought. I'm still that same bewildered character on the periphery of all the major political and military developments. I'm still the same unhappy and insecure individual on the sidelines, just as I've always been." This is vintage Wallander.


Wallander is considered "one of the most wonderful creations in contemporary crime writing," and Mankell, "Sweden's greatest living mystery writer." Mankell thinks that one of the reasons for Wallander's popularity is that he "is a kind of spokesman… for the worries of a lot of people." In some of the earlier books, far too much was made of how hard Wallander and his team worked, and how tired they were. (I'm told that happens in the TV series as well). His complete lack of humour is a bit of a problem as well (even melancholics sometimes have a sense of humour!).


Henning Mankell is married to filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's daughter Eve. He divides his time between Sweden and Mozambique where he runs a theatre group, and works with groups concerned with AIDS. He has written fiction for children, young adults, and "non-crime" novels.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The Reserve Bank of India has finally decided to bite the bullet, and one only hopes it's not too late. There is a view that the half per cent rate hike the RBI announced in its monetary policy review on Tuesday should have come a while back: the six or seven quarter per cent hikes in the last few policy reviews had failed to temper rising inflation. Since December 2009, the RBI impounded Rs 50,000 crores through cash reserve ratio requirements (the amount that banks keep with the RBI, which are frozen). Since none of these "baby steps" — as RBI governor D. Subbarao described his earlier policies — could curb inflation, he decided to adopt a more hawkish stance. As he himself noted, this was a demand side problem, very different from the supply side problem seen since 2009. This was reflected in high food prices, particularly of pulses, the poor man's protein. Food prices remained stubbornly high despite a good monsoon and good rabi crops, defying the pronouncements of mandarins in the Planning Commission and the finance ministry who looked to the rain gods for help in wriggling out of the inflationary spiral. The RBI's latest move aims to curb the demand syndrome, which is driving inflation. There is a lot of disposable income chasing too few goods. The rising cost of raw materials saw manufacturers pass on cost increases to consumers, who paid without grumbling. The RBI is trying to temper this demand. We will know in a few weeks if it works as there is a time lag before the effects of policy pronouncement are visible. The government is surely aware, though, that it is the common man who will be hit the hardest as loans will get more expensive and salaries and wages will not be able to keep pace. Those who have taken home loans and personal loans will be hit the hardest, followed by those with car and other loans. The middle class and the poor will feel the impact; the rich will continue to splurge on everything, from real estate to automobiles, with abandon. And things can get worse — whether it is commodity prices like metals and minerals or crude oil, nothing is likely to cost less, at least in the short term. In fact, the RBI has already warned of "hidden inflation" waiting to surface — in the form of a hike in petrol and diesel prices. The government has been waiting for the state elections to get over; and a fuel hike is expected to be announced soon after the Assembly poll results are out. The hike might well be justified in the light of increasing international crude prices, but it would add to the burden of the middle class and lower income groups. The rich will continue to guzzle petrol even if its price goes up to Rs 100 per litre! The government is yet to visibly demonstrate that it is serious about tackling the problem — at least on the food front. Why should vegetables and fruits be so expensive? Is it so difficult to grow these to meet the rising demand? If the prices of food, vegetables and fruits remain high even when there is a good monsoon (such as last year), what should we expect if this year's monsoon is not as good as it was in 2010? There is something very wrong in the handling of the economy. There is little time left: unless the government gets its act together swiftly, and works decisively to tackle the question of rising prices, the middle class and the poor are in danger of getting crushed by inflation.







Osama Bin Laden has finally been killed. As excitement over the operation subsides, it is worth pondering over the implications of Bin Laden's death — for both Al Qaeda and the United States. The central question pertains to the nature of Al Qaeda as an organisation and Bin Laden's role as its leader. Experts are deeply divided. Some argue that after its expulsion from Afghanistan in 2001, Al Qaeda transformed itself into a networked organisation with franchises and affiliates spread across the globe. The real threat, they held, came from such grassroots terrorism or the "leaderless jihad", as Marc Sageman called it. Others disagreed. That the organisation increasingly relied on networks of smaller outfits to carry out attacks was evident. But they insisted that the role of "Al Qaeda Central" — the top leadership including Bin Laden and his close associates — should not be overlooked. Al Qaeda Central continued to be deeply involved in planning, financing and training for terror attacks. The notion that Al Qaeda is a completely flat and non-hierarchical organisation is not supported by much evidence. Nevertheless, the alternate view also needs to be qualified. In recent years, Bin Laden's importance to Al Qaeda stemmed neither from his financial resources nor his organisational abilities. Rather it was in his unique position as the narrator of stories about "global jihad" that he sought to wage against the West. Part of the reason why Al Qaeda managed to attract a steady stream of recruits and to mount a series of major attacks was Bin Laden's perceptive understanding of the impact of the information revolution on modern warfare. Interestingly, his thinking evolved almost in parallel to that of Western militaries which also sought to usher in a "revolution in military affairs" by harnessing information dominance to precision strike capabilities. But where the United States and its allies saw this revolution as taking conventional warfare to a new level, Bin Laden understood its potential in unconventional war — a form of combat that came yet again to the fore since the mid-1990s. In these "wars among the people", winning the support of the populace was as important as physical destruction of the enemy. To do so, it was essential to shape people's understanding of the nature of the struggle, the stakes involved, the progress of operations and the eventual outcome. Bin Laden was quick to grasp the importance of this battle of story lines about the war. This came out quite clearly in a letter sent in July 2005 to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the so-called Al Qaeda in Iraq. Following a spate of attacks on Shia mosques in Iraq, Bin Laden sought to dissuade Zarqawi from persisting with them. Bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman Al Zawahiri, wrote to Zarqawi, "I say to you: that we are in a battle and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our umma". It was here that Bin Laden played a crucial leadership role in Al Qaeda. His periodic press statements and video messages constantly updated and retold Al Qaeda's version of the progress of "global jihad". In these messages, Bin Laden skilfully wove together the latest developments with the long-term trends, and tactical outcomes with strategic objectives. It was his ability to shape the ideological narrative that kept the diffused and loosely-networked organisation going after 2001. With the exit of Bin Laden, Al Qaeda is certainly going to find it tough to keep the momentum going in the information domain. Bin Laden's associates may have a better grasp of operations or a deeper understanding of jihadist thought, but none could rival him for the position of narrator-in-chief. Al Qaeda and its affiliates will continue to attempt major strikes, but their ability to impart strategic momentum to their campaign will be impaired in the absence of Bin Laden. The fact that his death coincides with wider changes in the greater Middle East, where popular mood has swung sharply in favour of peaceful change, poses a greater problem for the residual Al Qaeda leadership. The elimination of Bin Laden is also likely to have significant implications for the United States' stance in the AfPak theatre. From the outset, the Obama administration has been divided between those — primarily the US military leadership — who favour a strong counterinsurgency strategy aimed against the Taliban and those — led by vice-president Joe Biden and supported by the intelligence community — who advocate a nimbler counter-terrorism strategy focused on Al Qaeda. After many months of discussion, US President Barack Obama arrived at a compromise strategy that accorded highest priority to the liquidation of Al Qaeda but also emphasised the importance to degrade the Taliban's ability to threaten the Afghan state. The successful operation against such a high-value target as Bin Laden is likely to tip the balance in favour of the advocates of counter-terrorism. This would fit well with Mr Obama's desire to draw down American troop levels in Afghanistan over the next couple of years. The institutional changes that are now in the offing may work in the same direction. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Leon Panetta is tipped to take over as the secretary defence; Gen. David Petraeus, the strongest advocate of the counterinsurgency strategy, seems set to take over as director of the CIA, the agency that spearheads the counter-terrorism effort. In short, the removal of Bin Laden is likely to accentuate America's quest for an early exit from Afghanistan. In so doing, the US will necessarily seek Pakistan's support in cobbling together peace deals with the various Taliban groups. The fact that Bin Laden was taken out in Pakistan might aggravate prevailing American suspicion of its key ally. But the consequence of his death could well be increased American dependence on Pakistan. For India, then, it is going to be business as usual. *Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







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 Centre and the Pentagon that he organised. 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 organised, 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 behaviour 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 public 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 May 2. "Do you feel peace?" Another friend asked, "Are you going to dance in the streets now and celebrate?" On September 11, 2001, my sister Karen died while working at the World Trade Centre. 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 emails 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 realise 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 traumatised 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 centre and Pentagon, George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan, and then under false pretences 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 recognise how the rest of the world sees us, and figure out how to change that. Until we do that, more 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. *By arrangement with The New York Times







Al Qaeda will slip into a fatal coma: Wilson John *Wilson John, senior fellow and vice-president, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi The killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was a crippling blow to the global terrorist group and its violent agenda. The manner in which US special forces took him out in his protected lair will seriously undermine the morale of terrorist groups and their sympathisers across the world. The unceremonious death of Bin Laden and his controversial sea burial might provoke violent reprisals from them but Al Qaeda, as the flag bearer of global jihad, will rapidly slip into a fatal coma. Bin Laden was not only a great planner but also a motivating, inspirational force behind the resurgence of jihad across the world for over three decades. By declaring jihad against the US, Bin Laden projected himself as the lone crusader of the Islamist cause, bringing together disparate extremist groups and leaders from different parts of the world under a common ideological umbrella of hatred and violence. By carrying out the 9/11 attack, Bin Laden showed how the world's most powerful nation, the US, can be humbled, sparking a violent movement across the world which fed on misplaced perceptions and showed utter disregard for human lives. Al Qaeda had been systematically degraded by the US-led global war on terror, but Bin Laden remained an icon of Islamic revenge against the "Great Satan". The failure of the US to hunt him down made him invincible in the eyes of his admirers, followers and sympathisers, creating a cesspool of potential candidates for jihad from different corners. His abrupt killing by the US in Pakistan, much like a wanted criminal, has robbed Bin Laden of a "brave martyrdom" and will certainly dim his charisma among the jihadis. As for Al Qaeda as a group, Bin Laden's death has already created a leadership vacuum with a possible "war of succession" imminent in the days ahead. Ayman al-Zawahari, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, has neither the commanding stature of Bin Laden nor a vision for "global jihad". Whether he can lead Al Qaeda out of imminent defeat and destruction is questionable. Al Qaeda as a group will die a natural death over the next few years, leaving behind a diffused group of proxies, mercenary jihadis, and lone wolves inspired by Bin Laden's violent extremist ideology and agenda. The man is dead, so will be Al Qaeda. But global terrorism can remain as pressing and tough a challenge for the civilised world. Osama's shahadah will inspire many: Syed Ali Shah Geelani *Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Kashmir's pre-eminent pro-Pakistan leader, is chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat I will be the last person to call Osama bin Laden a terrorist. I had strongly condemned the 9/11 incidents, and I do so today as well, but the US has failed to provide evidence of Bin Laden or Al Qaeda's involvement. Bin Laden has died a martyr's death. Muslims are not enemies of the Americans, but Washington has been employing brutal tactics against Muslims in many parts of the world. Like Israel and India, it is involved in gross violation of human rights and unleashing state terrorism. As somebody has rightly asked, if everyone was so clever and knew where Bin Laden was since August 2010, how to explain so many drone attacks inside the Pakistani territory all these months which claimed hundreds of innocent lives. So who is the terrorist? And who is the victim? People in Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Pakistan are being humiliated and killed, their properties vandalised and resources robbed in the name of war on terror, or other pretexts. Saddam Hussein was attacked on the pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Nothing was farther from the truth, and the world has acknowledged this. Why has Libya been pushed to the wall, and by whom? If Col. Muammar Gaddafi is a tyrant, what had his innocent grandchildren done? Why were they killed? I don't support Col. Gaddafi's policies. But why do Muslims continue to be killed on a daily basis in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere? To put it in plain words, the US is at war with Muslims and Islam, and is doing everything in its authority to hurt the interests of all Muslim nations because Washington perceives them as the biggest threat to its imperialistic designs. I conscientiously believe Bin Laden was a symbol of heroism and a fighter against US imperialism and aggression. He has died a martyr's death. The resistance movement will not end with his embracing shahadah (martyrdom). Rather, this will give impetus to what you call "extremism" but I say is a valiant refusal to go along with America's policies and actions vis-à-vis the Islamic world and other oppressed nations. Bin Laden's killing is not the defeat of the resolve he upheld in his lifetime. More and more Bin Ladens will rise from the ashes in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, unless the US and its allies renounce treating Muslims despicably, and stop plundering their resources and thrusting stooges on them to overwhelm their political system.









VALID, probably inevitable, were questions from aam aadmi that if the Americans could "take out" bin Laden secluded deep inside Pakistan why nothing could be done to negate the activities there of India's "most wanted": Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim. Yet it was nothing short of ridiculous, indeed ludicrous, when that populist query was popped by a couple of ministers, including one handling security-related duties. For nobody ought to be more aware of the answer ~ this country simply does not have what it takes for that kind of a mission, nor the muscle to operate in another's territory in breach of international law. It is a collective failure, not just of those holding office today. For starters there would be neither political resolve nor consensus. The track record confirms a "soft state" that has buckled repeatedly: the return of Haji Pir in 1965, not exploiting the holding of 90,000 POWs in 1971, the "exchange" at Kandahar… Or such fear of negative fallout that there has been no execution of death sentences to persons convicted of terrorism. Worse, that almost every failure has been exploited by the Opposition of the day, recall the negativity during Kargil. Militarily too (and that includes action by agencies other than the armed forces) there are simply neither the intelligence gathering capacities nor the "swift, surgical strike" capabilities. What the armed forces dub "special forces" hardly fit the bill. Why talk of the "most wanted": for decades there has been much drum-beating about terrorist-training camps in POK, has even a single raid been mounted? Or for that matter the camps of insurgents across the eastern frontier? Indeed even within the country, Maoist leaders function unfettered as did forest brigand Veerapan. For all the hype, the action in the Mumbai hotels and Jewish centre following 26/11 was hamhanded, the collateral damage unacceptably high. To take the capability-deficit argument a little farther ~ the search for the missing helicopter of the Arunachal chief minister has spread over days.

A skewed sense of patriotism must not impair addressing such issues (just a few have been mentioned), actually not doing so would border on national betrayal. Clearly the armed forces need to re-focus, the days of wars fought along well-defined fronts and a series of battles are over. Intelligence overhaul requires no iteration. And when will political parties truly unite, go beyond jingoism, to fight national causes? Back to the ministers who asked the silly question: time to remind them of the schoolboy dictum, "you gotta have the punch to back the 'lip'…"



THE Orissa government has been spared loss of face with Monday's clearance by the Centre of the South Korean giant, Posco's steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district. To be sure, the Union ministry of environment and forests never had an issue with Posco, but with the state which incidentally has performed far better than for instance Bengal in terms of investment. However, uncertainty has hobbled the Posco project for more than five years, the stalemate rooted in part in the environment ministry's feet-dragging, in part in the state's half-baked exercise in terms of compensating the displaced for the land acquired, and most of  all the robust agitation by the forest dwellers. As in Bengal's Nandigram and Singur, it was only after the investor was invited that serial fiascoes ~ though not firing ~ impeded the investment drive, a testament to the absence of essential spadework. The claim by the administration in Bhubaneswar that not all the forest dwellers are entitled to compensation under the Forest Rights Act appears eventually to have been accepted by the Centre. Hence minister Jairam Ramesh's belated clarification that the FRA has not been violated.

For all that, there may yet be red herrings along the trail from Seoul to Jagatsinghpur. Not least because the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which has been spearheading the movement against this massive industrialisation, has almost immediately resolved to challenge the Centre's approval in court. It is time for the PPSS to see reason. A large segment of the dwellers, indeed residents of the area for the the past 75 years, have been compensated. Indeed, the minimum period of residence is a critical feature of the FRA. Many of the agitators do not fulfil this stipulation, still less those who have settled since 2006, the year the Act was promulgated. Apart from land acquisition, there remains a raft of other issues that remain to be sorted out, chiefly the renewal of the MoU, which has lapsed, and the Centre's insistence on a ban on the export of iron ore, a condition that Posco is unlikely to accept. The sailing, in a word, may not be smooth. Ironically, the Centre's approval has steeled the resolve of the agitators. Should the agitators once again bar the entry of Posco representatives to the project site, it shall be a further loss of face for the Naveen Patnaik administration. Orissa can at best keep its fingers crossed.



With no political masters in real terms in a period of limbo, West Bengal's Chief Secretary can afford to act independently and without engaging in homilies... pending retirement. Mr Samar Ghosh's imprimatur to Secretaries to reply to letters from the Centre with the promptness that they deserve is a faint echo of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's "do it now" directive a decade ago. However, in the ten years that he has been Chief Minister, it hasn't worked out to even "do it whenever". For a state to respond to correspondence from the Centre is one of the certitudes of the federal engagement, quite apart from being a matter of elementary courtesy. It relates to the basics of governance that have been denuded over time. The present Chief Secretary and his predecessors would have been perfectly within their rights if they had advanced similar directives within the tenure of the outgoing ministry. That they didn't illustrates that the administration had been undermined to the position of a second fiddle, unable to display even a modicum of assertiveness even in constitutional matters. It will be acutely deleterious for the bureaucracy if the next set of administrators is as politically overbearing as the one it seeks to replace. Indeed, Mr Ghosh's initiative, however belated, ought to signal a change in the functioning of the Bengal bureaucracy. On the surface, he appears to be keen on ensuring a foolproof arrangement; departmental heads have been asked to ensure on a monthly basis that letters from Delhi are replied to, and do not remain docketed in the files. By not responding to the correspondence, the state has conveyed the impression that it is routinely muted in its response to the Centre's queries. A few questions survive. Was it sheer lethargy? Were the officers acting under ministerial instructions not to interact with the Centre? Clearly, not to have replied to Union ministries has become almost integral to public administration in Bengal; and the indifference cuts across the departments. The Chief Secretary has made a bold beginning in the virtual absence of an elected government. The initiative must be followed up to be effective.








THE recent campaign against corruption was a unique moment in Indian democracy. Not since Jayaprakash Narayan's call in the 1970s, has the country's democracy witnessed such a unified show of strength in the face of a deep-rooted institutional malaise. However, the developments of the last few weeks have also revealed a clear hostility to Anna Hazare from a very unlikely quarter.

A wide array of intellectuals, professional academics and budding social scientists flooded the mainstream media as well as blogs and social networking sites with their reservations about the campaign. Why was there no rebuttal of this enlightened cynicism from within the academic community? Why did scholars of politics and society not offer intellectual support to Anna Hazare? The reason for this is a curious tendency among intellectuals to disregard and devalue the spirit of extraordinary events, particularly the ones that fall outside the purview of established theories and frameworks. The stance can be likened to that of nuclear scientists who simply refuse to admit civil society's concerns over nuclear policy in the wake of the Japanese crisis.
Academics seek merit in their rigorous logic, and it is not my purpose here to refute the importance of that.  For instance, one of the prominent discourses flowing from the academic community is that a grave issue like institutional reform cannot be resolved by a bunch of civil society activists who have no mandate to hold an elected government to ransom.

Second, how can an entire nation invest decision-making authority based on the proclaimed virtues of some individuals? The fear is that a single institution invested with indiscriminate power can easily destroy the mechanism of checks and balances built carefully into our democratic institutions. While there is little wrong with these rigorous and extremely valid arguments, all of these miss the point of the recent developments.
The primary significance of the Anna Hazare campaign has to do with consolidating public anger against the unbridled corruption of our elected representatives. In fact, it is this demonstration of support for the cause that might go a long way in orchestrating corrective mechanisms within our political institutions.
The problem is rooted in the very nature of professional academics. We are happy to acknowledge our deficiencies and facilitate dialogue between opposing schools of thought in an effort to expand analytical tools at our disposal. But all of this remains circumscribed by invisible yet rigid disciplinary walls. Scholars of politics will no doubt reflect on the Anna Hazare campaign in an effort to understand its place within existing theories of democracy. They will also speak to each other and disagree severely among themselves on its significance and import in reshaping the definition and scope of Indian democracy. However, when questions were raised by disciplinary outsiders, they were quick to offer a unified resistance to suggestions of newness or change. So, at a moment when intellectuals were presented with a unique opportunity to mould the campaign in constructive ways by leading from the front, they chose to present a hostile and defensive face to the media and to the society.

In the context of the Indian middle class apathy towards elections, it is of course necessary to bear in mind the dangers of viewing civil society as the panacea of our problems. Advocates of minimum government have been known to usurp the concept of civil society to propagate anti-politics. Our intellectuals have done well to caution against some of these dangers in the current draft of the Lokpal Bill. At the same time, they have lost the opportunity to harness the potential of this campaign for generating a more unified and resounding response from society.

Interestingly, the campaign received support from intellectuals of a different genre. Artists, actors, dancers, poets and spiritual leaders lent their face to the campaign without much ado. Perhaps rigorous theories and methodologies did not grip them tightly enough to shun allegiance to the movement. Unfortunately though, they failed to infuse substantial content to the debate around the deficiencies in the Lokpal Bill. It is on this specific point that our mainstream academics and intellectuals have missed a terrific opportunity in harnessing the debate and offering credible alternatives to the idea of the Lokpal.

After the initial euphoria, the anti-corruption campaign appears to have lost some steam. Accusations of vested interest and political colour have also marred its credibility. But none of this is sufficient to obliterate the spirit of Hazare's call across various sections of society. In fact it would not be wrong to suggest that a greater degree of intellectual solidarity with Anna Hazare could well have distracted from these chinks and imperfections.
It is premature to forecast any long-term impact of the recent show of strength by civil society. But if we look back on events in the not too distant past, the JP movement comes to mind as a moment that altered the trajectory of our institutions quite irreversibly. It is largely to the credit of the widespread civil society offensive that we have never reverted to the Emergency of 1975. It set Indian democracy along a new path and we have not looked back since. Whether or not Anna Hazare's effort will have a similar impact on institutionalized corruption remains to be seen. But it is an important beginning and needs to be sustained.

The writer is a terminal doctoral student in Political Science, Rutgers University, USA








Islamabad is damned both ways: whether it admits to its hand in the US operation which killed Osama bin Laden or it says that it did not know that he was living at Abbotabad, close to Pakistan's military academy. The first option may evoke an anti-Pakistan storm within and outside the country because Osama had come to represent anti-American sentiment among most Muslims. At present, people's mood is sullen but not evocative.
The second option will be taken with a pinch of salt. Not many are willing to trust Islamabad that it was not aware of Osama, his wives and 13 children living in a mansion in the heart of Pakistan for the past five years. America's anti-terrorism chief has already asked Pakistan to prove that it did not know of Osama's whereabouts. He has alleged that there was a supportive terrorist network which needed to be exposed.
For the world, it is a serious matter which Islamabad must attend to in a serious manner. It would be difficult to sell what Pakistan envoy to the US has said: Pakistan is making inquiries how Osama came to Abbotabad and lived without the authorities knowing it. Different voices from different places to explain this may not do. Without a valid explanation, Pakistan would find itself in a tighter position as the days go by.
My inference is that top circles in the Pakistan establishment knew about his residence and Osama's stay at this place. One allegation is that the ISI had built the huge mansion for him. It must be very large because four US helicopters ultimately landed in the compound. But whoever built Osama's residence, the fact of its existence cannot be denied.
True, Pakistan's sovereignty has been violated as former President General Pervez Musharraf has said. But the American commandoes, numbering 3,000, have been operating in Pakistan for many years. The four helicopters which conducted the operation flew from Ghazi, the Pakistan territory where the US has an airbase. Islamabad should not have allowed the Americans to enter from day one. My fear is that much more trouble is in store for Pakistan because Washington is determined to use it for its war in Afghanistan.
Whatever the rhetoric, I do not buy the argument that Pakistan knew about the operation. Islamabad is spreading this information ~ even through its foreign missions ~ that it knew about it and connived at the whole operation. This is not true. America did not trust Pakistan on the operation in any manner because it had burnt its fingers earlier. A couple of times, the USA had pinpointed Osama's hideout and communicated to Islamabad before carrying out the operation. But all the times it turned out that Osama had left the hideout at the eleventh hour. The US state department has openly said that Pakistan was not kept in the "loop". It was entirely a US operation from the beginning till the end.
Pakistan may feel embarrassed over the statements by some top military echelons and former retired foreign service hands. One Air Marshal has said on one Indian TV network that Islamabad supported the US operation, but did not want to admit it because it was still in the midst of a war against Al Qaida. A foreign service hand said that Pakistan wanted to punish Al Qaida which has killed some 4,000 Pakistani soldiers and nearly 40,000 civilians. Therefore, according to him, Pakistan was justified in letting the US operation to take place without any challenge. He announced that his country would continue to support the Taliban. This is apparently borne out of hope that the Taliban should come back to rule Afghanistan and give Pakistan the vicarious satisfaction of having the strategic depth.
Washington may gloat over the elimination of Osama. Secretary of state Mrs Hillary Clinton said: "This is America and what it decides it carries out." She should realise that Osama emerged because he was able to harness the hurt of Muslims who have felt America's interference in their internal affairs. His elimination may ultimately end Al Qaida. But some other Al Qaida will come up ~ Taliban are already there ~ to whip up adverse sentiments with regard to the USA and the West which come across as anti-Islam in their policies to Muslims. Terrorism, Muslims generally believe, has been made synonymous with their faith to give them a bad name. The USA and the West have to seriously consider how they can allay their fears. President Obama tried to reach out to Muslims at Cairo but the words he used have turned out to be empty. Muslims expect him to give a concrete shape to the sentiments he had expressed to prove his credibility.
When America emerged victorious in the Cold War after defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the West believed that it had crushed communism for good. But that is not true because communist ideology still captivates many countries. Similarly, the Al Qaida may get wiped out but its clones may rear heads in some other countries. In fact, the Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba is an offshoot of Al Qaida. The root cause of Islamic terrorism is grievance. Unless that is addressed, there will always be some group or individual who will be willing to disturb peace.
India's response was along expected lines. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that the episode proved that Pakistan was a haven for terrorists. He termed Bin Laden's death a "significant step forward" and hoped that it would deal a decisive blow to Al Qaida and other terrorist groups. Home minister Mr P Chidambaram hoped that the embarrassment would now compel Islamabad to effectively prosecute those involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack. Of course, this will be the litmus test for Pakistan's keenness to pursue prosecution of the Mumbai terrorists.
Yet, I wish our reaction had been more considerate. We should have talked about joint action against terrorists in the entire region and proposed a common ground. Of course, it is known that there are some elements in Pakistan operating against India with the connivance of Islamabad. A joint operation will eliminate official assistance, if there is any. At this time, when both countries are in the midst of a positive dialogue, a proposal of joint operation would have gone down well. People in Pakistan, brainwashed to hate India, would have seen a gesture from Delhi as a step to help Pakistan when it needed help most. It would have also given the impression that its own government was in the wrong and not India. This is how normal conditions can be created for a sturdy friendship.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator








All students are taught at an early age to write neatly and legibly. Much importance is accorded to the acquisition of this skill as legible handwriting is a must for examinees and others who wish to communicate effectively. And, eventually, most of us manage to retain enough clarity in our script to prevent unintended howlers from creeping in.

But there are some among us whose earlier well-aligned handwriting manages to break its fetters somewhere along the road to adulthood and turns into indecipherable squiggles. Is there any particular class of people who fit into this group? No, the offenders come from a diverse background.
Mercifully, modern technology has now come to our aid so that many of us are not subjected to the trial of having to unscramble unreadable script. But there is a particular class of professionals who cannot take recourse to the computer, and who can be classified among the most unreadable of writers ~ script-wise, that is. These are practitioners of the medical profession whose prescriptions have to be handwritten, and whose scrawls defy analysis by their patients. But strangely enough, they can be easily deciphered by chemist shop employees. I certainly have not had a brush with death so far owing to wrongly-administered medication. So, after handing over the doctor's prescription to the chemist, I unquestioningly accept whatever has been handed over to me.
But not all chemists are able to decipher a doctor's scrawl. There are some who find themselves stumped when a paper with some scribbled lines is presented to them. In this context, I am reminded of an anecdote involving an English couple who sent a dinner invitation to their family physician. In return, they received a handwritten reply, but could not make out what it said. Had he accepted their invitation or declined it? After some speculation, the wife decided that it would be best to show it to the nearby pharmacist as he would be sure to make sense of it. The man behind the counter perused the letter that was presented to him. He peered at it from every angle and then, with a puzzled look, reached up to a shelf above and taking out a bottle from it, put it on the counter before the couple, saying: "That will be five and six pence." He could not understand why the couple walked away in disgust, leaving the bottle of medicine behind.
But chemists are not the only ones who (with exceptions) are masters of the art of decoding unreadable script. There is another category of people which manages to surpass even chemists at this feat. For, they can not only read illegible handwriting, but also make sense of what may stump even the most experienced handwriting-expert. These are the humbler employees of the postal service.
Some years ago, we had a domestic help who took leave to visit his village. He was unable to return on schedule but was considerate enough to send us a postcard to let us know of the delay. The postcard was addressed to my husband. But it could have been addressed to anyone, for the letters denoted anything but his given name. The soup of alphabets below them, we presumed, indicated the name of the multi-storied building in which we resided. And, the address had no mention of the road on which the building stood. The area in which we lived could only be identified with an abundance of deductive imagination. And yet, the postcard reached us, and in good time, too.






To The Editor

SIR, ~ I am glad t see your extremely sensible endorsement to the letter in which Purna Chandra Ghosh objects to the use of the word "suicide" in referring to the recent case of sati. It would be amusing to see this gentleman including himself among "the products of Western learning and culture", and yet describing self-destruction in a manner calculated to drive other misguided women to similar rush acts, were it not a serious matter. Things have come to a pretty pass, if one of the noblest triumphs of the British Raj ~ the suppression of sati ~ is to be imperilled by the vapourings of a sentimental Bengali.


To The Editor

SIR, ~ May I  be permitted to express my appreciation of your remark in your issue of today? I am astonished beyond expression to think thee are men in our midst who believe a case of sati to be "an incident of noble and heroic self-immolation". I have the opinion of many learned Hindu gentlemen and they naturally ridicule the whole idea! Your correspondent fails sadly to show that he is "the product of Western learning and culture".

News Item

Cholera has broken out in three villages, Bolakpur, Bakaram, Murshidabad, in the vicinity of Hughestown, Hyderabad, and 22 cases and 9 deaths occurred up to 25th ultimo. Dr Hamid, Health Officer, assisted by his staff took prompt and efficient sanitary measures, which checked the progress of the epidemic and there is at present no cause for alarm.






Unlike the law of gravity, the law of inflation says that what goes up, will go up some more. That is the message that the Reserve Bank of India governor, Duvvuri Subbarao, delivered on May 3 while unveiling the monetary policy for 2011-12. The policy objective: bring down inflation at any cost (or almost any cost). The central bank has not just raised policy interest rates, it has changed the way the policy rates are arrived at and implemented. First, rather than a range, the central bank will now use one policy rate: the repo rate, at which banks borrow from the RBI, which it raised by half a percentage point, or 50 basis points, instead of the expected 25 bps, to 7.25 per cent. Second, the RBI raised the cost of additional borrowing further: banks that chose to use the RBI's facilities to fund additional needs (up to one per cent of the 25 per cent of deposits they kept as statutory liquidity ratio or SLR) will now pay one per cent more than the repo rate, or 8.25 per cent, under a new marginal standing facility. Both the cash reserve ratio and the bank rate have been kept unchanged. Experts, including the chairman of the prime minister's economic advisory council, Chakravarthy Rangarajan, have suggested that the bank rate be abolished since it serves no purpose anymore.

In a surprise move, and after nine years, the RBI has raised the savings bank interest rate to 4 per cent. Just a few days ago, the central bank had put out a discussion paper on deregulating the savings bank interest rate for public comment. The central bank has announced a few regulatory measures that will go some way in constraining bank credit; the pace of growth in bank credit has continued unabated, despite much slower deposit growth, militating against monetary policy transmission and making inflation management much more difficult.

Interest rate hikes of this magnitude — the policy rate has been raised nine times over the last year, and cumulatively by 4 percentage points — increase the risk of higher non-performing assets; so the central bank has preemptively raised provisioning requirements on all categories of lending. Banks have also been told to reduce their investments in liquid schemes of mutual funds to 10 per cent of their net worth over the next six months; banks will have to manage liquidity more actively as a result. For the banking system that has ignored the monetary authority for some time, this policy is a hard landing.







Although India may be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, its pace of action in matters crucial to public interest remains shamefully slow. The Central government took six long years to decide on a controversy that should have been settled in a few weeks. It is true that the Posco steel plant project in Orissa was mired in some of the knottiest problems imaginable in modern India. From its inception, the idea was plagued by disputes over land acquisition, violation of environmental laws, forced displacement of local residents and so on. The Orissa government was determined to bring industry to the state and put the natural resources of the region to good use. But even the best arguments for economic change must be bolstered by transparency and uprightness at the level of execution. So, while it made eminent sense to replace a system (agriculture, in this case) that failed to generate enough income with one that is more conducive to growth (industry), such change could not be imposed from top down, especially in a democracy, with no regard to global standards of excellence. The Centre should have followed credible protocols right from the start in order to put to rest all the contentions surrounding the project. Such a mode of action would have established the credibility of the government not only before investors of the future but also before the common people of Orissa and beyond.

With its delayed response to the Posco project, the government lost a chance to prove that bringing industry to a primarily agricultural economy may not necessarily be an unpleasant process involving a waning of trust between the state and citizens. It is not imperative for the government to agree on every proposal that comes its way just because it is interested in creating an ambience favourable to business. The Centre should rather evaluate the ground realities on a case by case basis before giving its seal of approval to a project. Unnecessary delays in the form of petty politics and self-interest are not only going to slacken the growth curve of a nation bubbling with economic energy but also dampen the spirits of those who are interested in making India their business destination.








Now that Osama bin Laden has been killed by an elite special operation force group belonging to the United States navy, this dramatic operation has answered an important question. Where was bin Laden hiding? It was believed for a long time that he was hiding in Afghanistan or in the border region where both geography and a fierce sense of tribal independence made it difficult to locate him. Pakistan's establishment repeatedly assured the Americans that he was not in Pakistan. Indeed, it is reported that during a Congressional visit to Islamabad in September 2009, Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, had speculated that he might have gone to Iran or Saudi Arabia or even Yemen. Malik went so far as to suggest that bin Laden might be already dead. That he was hiding in the heart of Pakistan in the cantonment town of Abbottabad, near Islamabad, and in a mansion that was practically within walking distance of the prestigious military academy of Pakistan, defies imagination. The mansion in which he was hiding offered comfort and, what is more, security. Built in 2005, the mansion has, as we learn, high security arrangements. The compound of the mansion has high outer walls topped with barbed wire and also internal walls that partition different parts of the compound. Two security gates restrict access.


This operation also raises many questions. How could Pakistan's establishment claim that it had no clue as to where bin Laden was hiding? The other question that is being asked is: how much, if at all, did Pakistan know of the operation? While credit must go to the United States of America for finding bin Laden and carrying out this operation with deadly effectiveness and with no 'collateral' damages, it needs to be asked as well: why did it take so long for the US to find him? George W. Bush had said soon after the attack of September 11, 2001 that he wanted bin Laden in the words of a poster of the West, "dead or alive".


These questions demand answers. It stretches credibility to have to take Pakistan's assertion of "no clue" seriously when bin Laden seemed to be living, by all appearances, as a guest of honour of Pakistan in a mansion specifically built with his needs in mind. Suggestions have already been made from Pakistan's side that bin Laden was cunning enough to choose a location where nobody would suspect his presence. This line of reasoning overlooks the fact that the lack of detection in a cantonment town is not so much a function of the cunning of the person hiding as of the failure of routine checks, intentionally or otherwise. Moreover, the argument can be turned around. Could it be that those sheltering bin Laden chose in a rather daring manner a location that nobody could have suspected as a hiding place for him? Could it be that this location was chosen because bin Laden needed constant medical support? To address the second question now about whether Pakistan knew of the operation, evidence so far seems to be mixed. President Barack Obama's address itself creates doubts. While he noted cooperation with Pakistan against terrorism, he mentioned also that he called President Asif Ali Zardari after the operation was over to convey what had happened. All the indications coming from Washington suggest that it was treated as a top-secret operation and only a small group around Obama knew about it. A possibility is that, while Pakistani support was taken in minor matters for the ground operation, the overall plan was not shared. Pakistan's statements on this issue, independent of whether they assert involvement or the lack of it, need not be taken on their face value.


Returning to the last question now, a suggestion may be made that it took the US so long to find bin Laden because the allies against terrorism were also playing the role of protectors of top terrorists. Soon after Obama was sworn in as president of the US, a perceptive American diplomat said something to me that I recalled the moment I heard of the killing of bin Laden. "Bush is a typical man from the American West," I was told, "for him white is white and black is black. There is no place for grey. If he looks upon someone as a friend, he is a friend and is to be trusted. Obama is more sophisticated." I was further told that Bush trusted the former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, fully. He did not see his duplicity. Could it be that Obama succeeded while Bush did not because the former is more competent in handling duplicity?


An objection may be raised here. Is it enough to refer to an American diplomat to describe Musharraf's conduct as deceitful? It is useful to recall here that his double-dealing regarding Kargil was exposed by Nawaz Sharif himself, Pakistan's prime minister at the time, under whom Musharraf acted as the chief of army staff. Moreover, as Touqir Hussain, the noted former diplomat of Pakistan, says in the special report to the United States Institute of Peace, US-Pakistan Engagement: The War on Terrorism And Beyond (2005), Musharraf left jihadi outfits unscathed and also did not go against the Taliban with full force to gain by way of leverage in dealings with both India and Afghanistan. Can it not be said with respect to the US as well? Indeed, by all accounts, Pakistan under Musharraf seems to have mastered the dangerous game of duplicity.


There were internal compulsions for this game. The turmoil of Pakistan is to a large extent the creation of the armed forces. They have used all means to cripple the growth of proper democracy in Pakistan as against a puppet democracy and to promote their dominance in all spheres. In this process, space has been created for Islamists. It is useful to read Hussain again: "The country has serious problems relating to social change, governance, and democratization. One can debate endlessly as to whether the army or politicians are to blame for Pakistan's problems. Seen from a historical perspective, both have failed. Each has done enough damage to fully account for Pakistan's troubled history. They have both been united in common pursuit of strengthening their class and institutional interests. Indeed, their identities fluctuate and often merge imperceptibly. The army relied on the politicians for its legitimacy, while, in turn, the politicians have relied on the army's support to keep themselves in power and shield themselves from accountability. Both have pandered to the Islamists, who have provided the ideological underpinnings of a security-denominated nationalism in Pakistan that has guaranteed the military's dominant political profile. As a result, by creating political space for the Islamists, the military has helped foster religious extremism in the country."


The American journey in the handling of Pakistan seems to have moved from the time of Bush to the present time under Obama from trust to what may be described here as distrustful trust. This means handling duplicity in an expedient manner. This also means handling internal contradictions within Pakistan's establishment effectively. To progress further, the Obama administration needs to cross other obstacles as well. Pakistan, yet again under Musharraf, perfected the refrain that could be heard in different arguments presented by it to the US. It went somewhat along the following line: we may be bad but we are trying to reform; break us not, for you may not like us but surely you do not want those who are worse than us to take over from us. The nuclear angle made it more compelling. The amount of money that was extracted under several heads on this ground over the last decade is amazing and needs to be looked into closely.


There is no clear sign yet of a full strategy being in place for handling this threat, but the progress is unmistakable. If the US under Obama could slay a lion (for that is what the name Osama means), is it too much to expect that it will find ways to fight other obstacles as well? Pakistan's establishment must be made to commit itself against all kinds of terrorism without deceitful deviations. A clear policy needs to address what is suitable for specific objectives not only on practical grounds but also on moral grounds. Indeed, policy objectives themselves require to be redefined in a fast-changing scenario. Recent popular protests against authoritarian regimes in the Arab world open many possibilities. It needs to be appreciated in the US as well as in India and other counties that a democratic Pakistan that addresses the aspirations of its people in a constructive manner is important for this region and also for world peace.







Representing around 40 per cent of the world's population and nearly a quarter of its economic output, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called Brics countries — came together in Hainan, China, recently to show off their growing global heft. Their joint statement underscored the need for a realignment of the post-World War II global order that was based on untrammelled US supremacy. The governing structure of international financial institutions, the statement said, "should reflect the changes in the world economy, increasing the voice and representation of emerging economies and developing countries". This was in line with the long-standing demand of these rising economic powers for the restructuring of the global financial architecture to make it more representative. The statement also calls for "comprehensive reform" of the United Nations to make the body "more effective, efficient, and representative". This was interesting as China is the biggest obstacle to changing the permanent membership of the security council.

Among the more specific actions and recommendations announced was an agreement for development banks in Brics countries to open mutual credit lines denominated in local currencies; a warning about the potential of "massive" capital inflows from developed nations destabilizing emerging economies and support for "a broad-based international reserve currency system providing stability and certainty". There was an implicit challenge posed to the status of the US dollar as the leading global reserve currency. Clearly, there is an attempt by these emerging powers to coordinate their efforts on the global stage.

But for all the bonhomie at the Hainan summit, there are serious differences among the Brics nations themselves. First, there is the structural disparity between China and the rest. The dominance of China makes the very idea of a coordinated Brics response to the changing global balance of power something of a non-starter. China's presence makes other nations nervous, leading them to hedge their bets by investing in alternative alliances and partnerships.

Great divide

There are significant bilateral differences among Brics nations. Brazil is worried about the influx of Chinese investment and cheap Chinese imports, and has criticized China for its undervalued yuan. Brazilian manufacturers are losing market share to their Chinese counterparts. Brazil is also wary of China's growing economic profile in South America, a region that Brazil considers to be its own sphere of influence.

Russia is worried about its growing economic disparity with China. Russia's failure to develop its Far East has allowed China to get a toehold in this strategically important region and pushed Beijing into the driver's seat in defining the Asian security landscape. Even though China is the largest buyer of Russian conventional weaponry, many in Russia see this as counter-productive because China might emerge as the greatest potential security threat to Russia.

The saga of the decline in Sino-Indian ties is well known. Despite the two sides deciding to resume defence ties during the prime minister's trip to China, New Delhi remains sceptical of Chinese intentions. China's refusal to acknowledge India's rise and lack of sensitivity on core security interests are leading to complications. Trade imbalance in favour of China had gone up to $20 billion in the overall bilateral trade of $55 billion as of December 2010 from $16 billion in 2009.

As such it is difficult to see a productive future for Brics countries together. The rise of Brics is as exaggerated as the decline of the United States of America. Tectonic plates of global politics are shifting, but they may not be shifting in predictable ways.







The most ghostly place in New York City is its financial district. The neighbourhood empties by nightfall, drained of its grey legions of corporate workers. While the rest of Manhattan hums with activity late into the night, this district's canyons of glass grow dark and silent. It can feel eerie walking here after hours, with the streets totally lifeless and the looming skyscrapers pressing in close. In the midst of this brooding monumentality, you find the glowing open wound of New York, a crater fenced off by cranes and tall, harsh lights: Ground Zero.

By the time I reached Ground Zero in the early hours of Monday morning, the normally empty streets echoed with raucous life. A crowd had descended on the site of the World Trade Center, jubilant with the news of Osama bin Laden's death. Men climbed trees and lampposts, spraying those below with champagne. Others mounted the shoulders of their friends to wave American flags, sing the national anthem, proclaim the singular greatness of the US army, and lead the throngs in chants, including "Obama 1, Osama 0!" and the insistent "U-S-A! U-S-A!," as well as other less polite slogans. There was a crowing, tribal tone to the rally, akin to the celebrations of rabid football or cricket fans.

These scenes in New York — alongside similar exultation at the gates of the White House — were broadcast around the world as examples of the rough triumphalism with which Americans greeted bin Laden's killing. Many people, both inside and outside the United States of America, questioned the spirit of these celebrations; on Monday, I appeared on a BBC World Service discussion programme in which many expressed dismay at the chest-thumping in New York and Washington, deeming it inappropriate and inflammatory. In light of the continuing turmoil spawned by the 9/11 attacks and the US "war on terror," the critics said, surely it was undignified and wrong to delight so crudely in bin Laden's assassination, regardless of his numerous sins and undoubted cruelty.

Though I generally agreed with this critique, I urged listeners not to read too much into the raw and crass reactions of the crowd, which mostly consisted of young, university-age students, many of them drunk. Moreover, there were not many people at Ground Zero when I was there, only hundreds, not thousands, in a city of millions. Yet journalists and camera crews in their dozens nibbled around the edges of the clump of revellers, inflating and sensationalizing what was not really that large a rally. Sadly, pictures of New Yorkers as they celebrated death have now become defining images of the local mood.

As a New Yorker myself, I can only hope such images are not truly representative. I, too, was uncomfortable amid the celebrations at Ground Zero. In small part, this was because even though I have lived in New York most of my life and consider it my home, I am not American, and therefore I am insensible to the fervour of that bellicose flag-waving. In larger part, I simply find it difficult to see joy in the indifferent face of violence and death.

But more poignantly, the scene at Ground Zero made me think about a very different moment nearly ten years ago here in New York. In the nights after the 9/11 attacks, New Yorkers gathered in squares and public spaces across the city, lighting candles, laying wreaths, holding vigil together and finding solace in that melancholy unity created by tragedy. We had all seen the smoke and ash and ruin at the heart of our city. It was a sombre time, but I remember very few expressions of bloodlust or demands for vengeance.

Strength, graciousness and real togetherness could be found in the solidarity of New Yorkers ten years ago. By contrast, the rallies that hailed the killing of bin Laden show how difficult it is to appropriately mark victory. Hubris is easy; managing humility and reflection in a moment of triumph is much harder.

Much of the US media wrongly described the festivities at Ground Zero earlier this week in transcendent terms of "unity," "healing," and final "closure" after a decade of trauma. In truth, many New Yorkers, even those who almost lost their lives in the attacks, were reluctant to share in the rowdy euphoria. When asked about bin Laden's killing by The New York Times, Harry Waizer, a man who worked in the World Trade Center and survived its collapse, explained that "if this means there is one less death in the future, then I'm glad for that. But I just can't find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden."

Barack Obama, the US president, plans to visit Ground Zero today in a not-so-subtle attempt to maximize the political capital of the moment. He will be appropriately sober in the ghostly shadows of Ground Zero. He will praise the work of his security and intelligence forces. And he will claim, as he already has, to have brought America's most hated enemy to "justice."

But the noisy celebrations that disturbed the nightly quiet of the financial district this week had less to do with justice than the grisly satisfaction of revenge. Bin Laden probably deserved his fate. But if retribution is justice, it is only the most desolate, impoverished kind of justice. In the weeks and months after 9/11, a famous quotation of Mahatma Gandhi popped up in public displays across the city: "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." New Yorkers live in an international city that is irrevocably in the world and of the world. They would do well to remember this simple wisdom which has long been theirs.

The author is a writer and scholar based in New York City







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




The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seems to have finally grown up. After eight 'baby steps' the RBI has now taken an 'adult step' in combating inflation. Since April 2010 the central bank of the country has raised the key policy interest rates (repo and reverse repo rates) in small doses of 25 basis points (bps), which the RBI itself described as 'baby steps'. But now by raising the rates by 50 bps it has sent a strong signal that inflation is a serious issue and needs to be countered with stricter monetary policy. The RBI is right, the small doses of rate hike have failed to contain the headline inflation which is averaging around 9 per cent now. In a tradeoff between inflation and growth, the RBI rightly chose the former.

The reason is simple: inflation is a slow poison, affects everyone but more severely the poorer section of the population. Unlike the organised sector employees who get compensated to some extent for higher prices in the form of salary increase, poor people have no such protection against the erosion in real value of their earnings.
There is no doubt that to combat inflation the RBI is ready to sacrifice some economic growth as it has projected a lower GDP growth of 8 per cent for the current financial year. The logic is that high cost of money will make borrowing expensive, raise overall cost, curb demand and, thus, bring down the price rise. Car manufacturers, for example, in April saw a muted growth in sales mainly due to high cost of finance. Realty developers are also complaining that demand for properties have dropped as cost of loans has gone up. But rate hike will have a limited impact due to shortage of farm products and oil products. It is almost certain that in the next six weeks we will see another round of rate hike.

In its latest monetary policy the RBI has also made other changes which are in the right direction. After eight years it has raised the interest rates in savings account from 3.5 per cent to 4 per cent. This move, a precursor to deregulating savings bank interest rates, will help the depositors make slightly more money. The apex bank has also brought the unregulated micro finance companies under its regulatory control which will help in disciplined development of this core industry that lends money to rural people.







Pakistan's decision to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India is a major positive for bilateral trade and business. India had unilaterally granted the status to Pakistan many years ago and has persistently demanded that Islamabad reciprocate the gesture. There was reluctance in Pakistan on the matter as it was feared that Indian goods and products would flood that country. Pakistan has been citing various unconvincing grounds for continuing with its discriminatory trade regime. But the fact is that both the economies and the people would gain substantially from increased trade. The meeting between the commerce secretaries of the two countries held last week has finally reached an agreement and the decision is likely to be implemented by October this year.

The present bilateral trade volume is $ 2 billion which forms only a measly part of India's global merchandise trade of $595 billion. It is estimated that bilateral trade can grow to $ 10 billion in three years if there is MFN status for India and if India removes some non-tariff barriers. The unofficial trade between the two countries conducted through third countries like the United Arab Emirates and Singapore is much more than the official trade. This points to the scope for increasing the official trade volumes. The secretaries' meeting has also agreed to consider easing of the curbs on investment and banking and relaxing rules for business visas. The decision to do away with the current positive list (of items that can be traded) with a negative list (of items that cannot be traded) will help to boost the trade volumes in the coming months. A mechanism to increase trade in petroleum products has also been worked out and this may mean strengthening  the rail, road and pipeline infrastructure for trade.

India is an exporter of refined petroleum products and Pakistan is a major importer of fuel. India's refiners, both in the public and private sectors, who have facilities not far away from the Pakistan border, can look forward to good business. There are many other sectors also in both countries where complementarities exist and they can all gain from increased trade. Growing trade and economic relations can have a positive impact on political relations too. They can create a vested interest in improving overall relations or at the least prevent them from deteriorating.







PAC must not be a political wrestling ground. Nehru kept Krishna Menon out of the Union Cabinet on an adverse comment from it.
It is gratifying that Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar reappointed Murli Manohar Joshi as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee notwithstanding Congress' protest. It reinforces people's faith in the parliamentary democracy that every thing is not lost. But the way the report of the PAC on the 2G spectrum allocation scam was leaked (by whosoever) and was rejected by the ruling coalition has given a body blow to the credibility of the oldest parliamentary committee which came into existence in 1921 in the wake of the Montague-Chelmsford reforms.

The then Committee on Public Accounts became a parliamentary committee functioning under the control of the Speaker after the coming into force of the Constitution. Since the beginning the chairman of the committee is from the Opposition and since 1969 the PAC has been giving its report unanimously. But the glorious tradition was breached this time with the Congress and the BJP holding each other responsible for this sordid impasse.
 The PAC has estimated that the government lost Rs 1.90 lakh crore in grant of 122 new licences in 2008, issuance of dual technology licences and grant of extra spectrum to operators. It further pointed out that 2G Spectrum was arbitrarily givan at a throwaway price and 3G auction gave revenue five times more than the base price.

 The Comptroller and Auditor General had pegged the presumptive loss to the exchequer between Rs 57,000 crore and crore Rs 1.76 lakh crore while the CBI put the loss at Rs 30,000 crore. So, there are differences among various agencies about the quantum of loss but there is unanimity that the allocation of spectrum in an arbitrary manner did cause huge loss to the government. It is but natural that different parties would scramble to score political points and salvage the damage to itself but on such a vital issue politicking should not get the better of governance.

But this is what has exactly happened. Out of a total of 21 members, 11 of the Congress, the DMK, The SP and the BSP rejected the report after chairman M M Joshi adjourned the meeting. The UPA members allege that the chairman was biased from the beginning and hardly held any consultations with the members. They wanted to summon former telecom minister Arun Shourie and the law secretary but the chairman did not listen to them. The BJP, on the other hand, has charged the Congress with derailing the investigations as its hands are not clean and the obstreperous attitude of the Congress members and their allies was a well thought-out strategy.

Recommendations of a parliamentary committee are normally accepted or at least taken seriously by the government. The PAC is a recommendatory body but traditionally the government has accepted most of the reports submitted by it. The government has to file an Action Taken Report (ATR) within three months on the submission of the report and reasons are to be adduced if certain recommendations are not accepted. Legally speaking, it can adopt a report by majority but since the committee is manned by members of different parties on proportional basis the ruling party or coalition will always have a majority in the committee also and then it can never censor the government making it redundant.

 However, the Congress says that it was undemocratic for Joshi to press for approval of a report which did not find acceptance of the majority of the members. It is also of the view that after the creation of the JPC, it would have been in the fitness of things if Joshi had referred the issue to the JPC as it was the BJP and others which obstructed the entire winter session of parliament for the setting up of the JPC.

PAC must not be a wrestling ground of political parties. An adverse comment by the PAC on V K Krishna Menon in the jeep scandal forced Jawaharlal Nehru to keep him out of the cabinet though Nehru personally wanted him in. What happened this time is total breach of parliamentary privilege. What is discussed in the meeting of the committee is confidential and no member can divulge it outside. But members freely talked to media about the proceedings of the meeting. Now the ball is in the Speaker's court who has to decide whether the report is acceptable or not, but the credibility of the institution must be restored.

However, the PAC has made some important suggestions for improving the governance to combat the canker of corruption and the government and the Opposition should seriously excogitate on them. Taking note of the recent happenings in the department of telecom, the draft report laments that the administrative powers of postings and transfers were used as a powerful leverage to reward pliant officers and to punish or marginalise officers of unquestionable rectitude who refuse to be privy to wrongdoing.

It has recommended that the system of concurrent internal audit needs to strengthened and accorded full autonomy with a duty cast on each financial advisor to report all financial irregularities to the finance ministry as well as to the statutory audit. It has also castigated the disturbing tendency of some top civil servants joining private sector soon after their superannuation and has suggested a three year cooling off period after retirement before they are allowed to join any tribunal or non-government company. These recommendations merit serious consideration.






The Alawites describe themselves as Muslim but trace their roots back to the time of Alexander.
Syria may be a hotbed of discontent these days, but an hour's drive to the northwest of Damascus, a surprising peace has reigned for centuries.

To get to the shrine of St Takla at Malula, you walk through a steep gorge just an arms' width in places, whose walls tower above, grudgingly admitting a sliver of daylight. Legend says God parted these rocks to help a young Christian woman of beauty and virtue escape from a pagan rapist. The cave where Takla sheltered almost 2,000 years ago nestles in the cliffs above a Greek orthodox convent where orthodox nuns in black habits and veils scurry silently between St Takla's shrine, the chapel and an orphanage.
Across from Takla's cave, perched on a jagged rock above the gorge, is the monastery of another ancient church, the white limestone Greek catholic monastery of St Sergius and St Bacchus, one of the oldest monasteries in Christendom. There, a priest recites the prayer in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, to visiting tourists. The chapel's circular altar dates from the 4th century, maybe even earlier. Down in the valley below the view is of a street with still more churches from different traditions, and mosques as well; beyond the town spread damson and fig trees, as they have long before Christianity or Islam arrived.
Religious coexistence

The Qalamun Valley is a mosaic of religions and churches which have coexisted since their earliest history. Syria counts some 11 branches of Christianity, including ancient ones such as Nestorians, Monophysites and Monothelites not widely known beyond the Middle East. There are churches that broke with Rome and became Eastern, and Eastern churches that joined with Rome; there are liturgies in Armenian, Syriac, Arabic, French, Aramaic. And all live in peace with one another and with the Sunni, Druze and Shiite Muslims whose mosques dot the country.

In Damascus, the 7th-century Omayyad mosque incorporates a Byzantine church that was built on the site of a Roman temple. Inside, the Sunni majority worships alongside Shiite pilgrims who come to honor the relics of Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and alongside Christians who pray at a shrine said to contain the head of John the Baptist. In a region notorious for the fracture and bloodshed of sectarianism, Syria has a religious tolerance that is as rare as it is precious. But can it survive?
The current rulers of Syria are from the Alawite sect, which comprises around 12 per cent of the country's population. The Alawites describe themselves as Muslim but trace their roots back to the time of Alexander the Great and celebrate Christmas, Easter and the Epiphany – a broad embrace that has earned them the disparaging epithet of 'Little Christians' among some Muslim branches. Once regarded as poor and without influence, the Alawites became the favoured group under France's post-World War I rule. This position was entrenched by the rise of the Baath Party and a coup d'etat in 1963 that eventually brought Hafez al-Assad to power.

Assad ruled ruthlessly even by the standards of the Middle East, but he also promoted secularism to counter tribalism and to attract other minorities fearful of Sunni Islamist rule. This simple template, handed down on his death in 2000 to his son, Bashar al-Assad, is now being challenged. The demands of the Arab Spring for new leadership carries risks for religious tolerance. Anger at corruption in the regime could find a wider target in the Alawite sect itself. Assad may be tempted to play one religious faction off against another. Earlier this month, in an apparent attempt to appease Muslim conservatives, he overturned a ban on women teachers wearing the niqab, or Islamic head-dress, and ordered the closure of the country's sole casino.
Just as troubling is the question of who would succeed him: Secular rivals have been systematically imprisoned, tortured, killed or exiled, leaving a vacuum that, in theory, well-organized fundamentalists can readily exploit. Even so, I heard many people insist that Syria would not succumb to the religious violence of its neighbours. "We are not Lebanon and we are not Iraq," I was told in several conversations in Damascus. That holds out hope for Qalamun Valley, for its peaceful villages where churches and convents exist side by side with mosques, and shops sell crucifixes, icons and the Koran.







The course also included free membership of the neo-artistic society.
From childhood I was a recluse. I preferred assembling my Meccano set to going out and playing with other children. This continued in my adult life, too. I would sit in my college library and spend all my non-class hours reading up on various serious subjects. My working life followed the same pattern. Evenings would be spent reading from the scriptures or books on philosophy.

Two years back I started subscribing to six daily newspapers. Initially I would discard the supplement pages without even a glance. Then out of curiosity I started seeing the photographs of well-dressed people who generally seemed to be having a lot of fun. As days progressed I found that I would read the supplement first. I got a vicarious thrill seeing the same people being featured day after day. Somehow, I started getting a feeling of emptiness in life. Something seemed to be missing. I had this sudden urge to be with that crowd.

I consulted an old class-mate (now a corporate head honcho but nicknamed 'rowdy' in college), whom I went to every time I needed advice. Oh, you want to be part of the P3 crowd, he asked? I had never heard of that term before. He told me that there were two easy ways of getting in. I should join a Wine Society or an Art Society. I was a bit shocked at the first suggestion as the strongest drink I had till date was a cola. Plus, I found that I would have to buy at least ten bottles of expensive imported wine every year to retain my membership. The other suggestion was more to my liking. Unfortunately, my only links with art were cheap reprints of amateur paintings of the Eiffel Tower and India Gate respectively.

On my friend's suggestion I joined a course called 'The Science of Art appreciation.' In addition to early, medieval and post-medieval art, this course offered western and European art - modern and classical. Chinese, Japanese and South East Asian Art. At the end of the course I took part in a slide identification examination to evaluate the observation power of the students and their newly acquired knowledge. I was now armed with a very artistic looking certificate. The course also included free membership of the neo-artistic society of South India.

I started receiving invitations to art exhibitions almost every week. Most of these were in the banquet halls of five star hotels. This would be followed by a cheese and wine session (so I had the added bonus of being a wine consumer gratis).Today, I can stare at a mediocre painting and spout such extravagances as "This artist paints with an enormous capacity for absolute empathy; a complete identification of himself with the figures he paints. He sets forth what it feels like to do something; not what somebody looks like doing it."

Life's good!







The word "reconciliation" is so distant from the Middle Eastern reality that its use is taken as either a joke or threat. The signing ceremony in Cairo yesterday between Fatah and Hamas is likely to mark a turning point, not only for the concept, but also for the Palestinian and regional situation.

The land mines that threaten to shatter this reconciliation are not buried underground; they are visible. Still, it's vital to examine whether the rapprochement offers a new opportunity not only for the Palestinians, but also for Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry, in contrast to the public positions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, thinks the reconciliation offers Israel a strategic opportunity. A secret ministry report revealed in Haaretz yesterday by Barak Ravid advised the government to view the report as an opportunity and refrain from attacking it.

The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas depends on a new perception of strategy, born hurriedly in the upheavals that are still taking place in the Middle East. According to this idea, the closing of ranks between the two factions, each controlling a separate Palestinian territory, is the preferred path to achieving international recognition of both a Palestinian state and all elements in the Palestinian leadership.

The Palestinians hope this recognition will advance their liberation from the Israeli occupation after 20 years in which neither they nor their Arab partners have managed to change Israel's position. Israel, which views the Palestinians' national aspirations as a strategic threat, has begun an aggressive campaign to destroy the reconciliation, as if a situation in which Hamas quarrels with Fatah provided greater security, or as if Israel had been willing to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority before the two factions reconciled. These two arguments are nothing more than sleight of hand intended to disguise the traditional Israeli view that a union of the two movements is a threat.

The agreement signed yesterday obligates Israel to revisit its positions. Israel cannot and does not have to thwart it. It would also be correct for Israel to recognize the Palestinian unity government in order to conduct a dialogue and neighborly relations with the Palestinian state in the future.







Nothing will help the American right wing, the Israeli right wing or Fox News now; the assassination of Osama bin Laden has given U.S. President Barack Obama a decided boost.

Now that bin Laden is dead, Obama is seen not as a geek but as a killer, not as a softy but as a fairly tough leader. The young man has successfully completed his coming-of-age ceremony. Combined with the burgeoning recovery of the economy and the president's movement toward the political center, bin Laden's death has turned Obama into a strong and authoritative leader. If he doesn't make any big mistakes in the coming year, chances are good that he'll continue living in the White House until 2016.

But Obama insists on making big mistakes. His Middle East policy is inconsistent and incoherent. His guiding principles are obtuse and bizarre. He supported the removal of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak from office but grants immunity to Syria's Bashar Assad. He went to war to avoid a bloodbath in Libya, but won't raise a finger to stop the massacres in Syria.

Weak leadership and a lack of moral clarity continue to characterize Obama. Instead of leading the Arab world to a good place, he's being dragged along with it to a bad one.

One problem is Iran. The Arab spring has caused a situation in which no Sunni power except for Saudi Arabia now stands in the way of the ayatollahs. The revolutions in Arab countries have also improved the economic situation in Tehran by pushing up the price of oil. Improved strategic and economic positioning allow Iran to rush toward a nuclear reactor and erode America's hegemony in the region.

Turkey poses another problem. In mid-June, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to win reelection in a landslide victory. Right after that, the temporary respite he's granted himself will end. Encouraged by the scope of his mandate to govern, this ambitious Islamist will try to build a neo-Ottoman Empire. He'll work with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran to undermine the U.S. foothold in the Middle East.

The third problem is Palestine. As everyone knows, another Black September is in the offing. Palestinian Authority President Mohammed Abbas is provoking Obama by his plan to undermine Israeli stability with the expected international recognition of a Palestinian state and his reconciliation with bin Laden's supporters in Gaza. If a Hamas-Fatah government leads to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's disappearance from the scene, the result will be the collapse of American's peace policy.

The fourth problem, Egypt, is the most severe of all. Egypt is likely to go bankrupt by the end of the year because of the loss of income from tourism, the strengthening of the army's monopoly and the new government's inability to be anything other than populist. Mubarak was bad? The White House will be longing for him way before Christmas. The economic growth he created will contract. Poverty will turn into shortages, shortages into despair, despair into protest. The army will not be able to withstand the disappointment and rage.

Egypt will become a black hole.

There are no simple solutions to these four problems, none of which are Obama's doing. Perhaps he hasn't offered a genuine answer to any of these strategic problems because he did not understand that when he opened the Pandora's box of the Middle East, he became responsible for what emerged from it. While Obama exhibited professional determination in taking care of Osama, he was hesitant and amateurish when it came to the fundamental problems of the Middle East.

Egypt is the most pressing problem. Two years ago Obama gave a very impressive speech in Cairo. Three months go he encouraged the revolution there. But now the U.S. president has disappeared. Where is the American plan to rebuild the Egyptian nation? Where is the international initiative to save the Egyptian economy? Where is the effort to do on the banks of the Nile what is being done in Ramallah?

The summer of 2011 is the summer of Barack Hussein Obama. If he does not stabilize the Middle East this summer, a regional avalanche will take place by summer's end. Obama will bear personal responsibility if the Arab spring turns into a cold and bleak winter.








 Well done, Barack Obama. Kudos, Navy SEALs. Assassinating Osama bin Laden, code-named "Geronimo," was a fairly impressive military operation. But that's it. All the rest is sheer nonsense.

The waves of excitement and joy that swept the world, including Israel, are no more than a deceptive ripple of foam that will evaporate immediately. Just like last week's wedding of the century, this week's assassination celebration was no more than a Hollywood-style event blown out of proportion.

But while many people didn't take the wedding festivities seriously, the celebrations of bin Laden's death have created mountains of bombastic pathos signifying nothing. Among the troublesome questions, which almost nobody dares to utter, is why kill bin Laden rather than capture him alive and, primarily, why toss the body into the sea, keeping him from getting the burial that even a dog would.

It is important to note that the world hasn't changed at all since the operation. A safer world? Of course not. A better, more moral world? Very doubtful. Bin Laden deserved to die. He was responsible for the deaths, not only of thousands of Americans and Europeans, but also of hundreds of thousands of Muslims who were killed in the abominable retaliation wars America waged in response to his acts. He gave a bad name to Muslims and spread hatred of them. Killing bin Laden was an act of primeval revenge, nothing more and nothing less.

The empire that struck back remains at least as hated as it was before, and persists in its decline. Only its president's popularity is soaring, but that's just temporary. Israel's 1976 Entebbe raid saved lives, yet changed nothing in history; even the prime minister who gave the order couldn't be reelected after the operation.

But bin Laden's death didn't even save anyone. It only made many vindictive people happy. Just as bin Laden's body was thrown into the sea, the Americans had previously shown Saddam Hussein having his teeth checked as though he were a horse being examined in the marketplace.

Both acts are despicable, repulsive and unnecessary. As it is wont to do, the United States cloaked the details of the operation with the fog of war. Was bin Laden armed? Was there a woman in the compound? Were shots fired? Nobody asks. Why spoil the best party in the world? Israel, of course, joined the orgy with great enthusiasm.

An army of generals and commentators, who wait in the wings for assassinations like these, emerged in television studios, proudly airing their intimate familiarity with the Navy SEALs and singing America's praises. Oh, such intelligence information; oh, such commandos. The subtext is how great it must be to take action without a High Court of Justice, without a Richard Goldstone or a B'Tselem. As if we don't jump into operations like that anyway.

We just haven't had similar success with a rescue of Gilad Shalit. The result is more support for assassinations and torture, and even less of a chance than before of reaching a deal to free Shalit. That is the local damage of the operation in Abbottabad. After the euphoria ebbs, the world will awaken to more acts of vengeance and an even greater hatred of America.

This Rambo V-style operation will not be what brings glory to the United States. The only glory comes with returning to its stated values, which have mostly been voided of content, with acting like it really is the leader of the free world.

It is not Guantanamo Bay and Abbottabad that will make America the promised land. The empire may have struck back multiple times, but it has long betrayed its duty. The Muslim world dreams of America, trying inadvertently to implement its declared spirit − and hates it.

It's no wonder that America's sole achievement in recent years was made without firing a shot or invading a single country. Its only achievement stemmed from its serving as an example in Tunis, Benghazi and Cairo, where people want their countries to be like America − but not the America of the Navy SEALs, of the body tossers.

They want the America of its proclaimed principles − the ones it states loftily, and betrays again and again. Killing Osama bin Laden may have been necessary, but it will neither strengthen this empire nor halt its decline.

Only if the United States reinstates its basic values and disseminates them will it once again be the leader of the free world, not merely the leader of modern imperialism. About two and a half years ago, the United States seemed to have elected for president a person who understands that, but that hope is on its way to being dashed.








The murder of my cousin Arik Karp hit us on a Saturday afternoon. My cousin told my mother and my mother informed us. From that moment we were in shock, glued to the television broadcasts until the following day, the day of the painful funeral. After that came the seven-day mourning period, from which we emerged weeping because Arik's wife Sarah, bandaged and in a cast, couldn't even raise her head. She was completely shattered.

From her we heard the whole story: That evening in August 2009 was very hot. Arik, Sarah and one of their daughters, Otilia, decided to go out to the Tel Aviv promenade to enjoy the light sea breeze for a while. Suddenly a young man came up to them, called Arik aside and asked him something. Arik said no and sat back down on the bench. The man phoned friends on his mobile phone, they arrived quickly and began to beat up the three members of the family.

The mother and daughter escaped, phoning for help as they fled. By then Arik was already fighting for his life. The young men used violence that's impossible to understand. He tried to get away, but his attackers did not let him. They overcame him. When he was already a corpse, Arik was seen floating on the waves near the shore.

Arik Karp was an older cousin, about 10 years my senior. He would often visit us at home and drink coffee with my father on the balcony. For him, I was the cute little cousin. He loved me − me and my brother. Later we met up less frequently but we continued to see each other at family events. In William Golding's novel "Lord of the Flies," Simon is described as he comes down from the mountain bearing a message. He wanders into the circle of boys, who are in a frenzy, and he is trapped by them. They stab him with wooden lances, their fingernails and their teeth. He dies. Simon, too, is gathered up into the bosom of the ocean.

In a conversation with his aide and ally, Piggy, Ralph says: "Piggy, that was murder," and Piggy, who was present at the event and serves in the book as the mouthpiece for wisdom and progress, replies: "It was an accident." Golding knew the human soul. He understood well that the name a person gives an event gives it the meanings he wishes to attribute to it; it also allots the degree of responsibility the person takes on himself in light of its results.

What does "Lord of the Flies" have to do with my cousin's murder? In the trial of his murderers a terrible mistake was made. The crime was not called by its name. Just as in the book it was not an accident, here it was not manslaughter. It was murder, plain and simple.

My late father always had a little story to tell, held in reserve for the right occasion. When in our excitement we would tell him about something that had happened to us, he would reply with a story. It seems to me I know which story he would tell upon hearing about the trial of Arik's murderers: "A certain Jew, in our city, was extremely rich. He had vineyards as from here to Pardes Katz. And he had a large winery with 150 or 200 workers, where he would dilute the wine with water and a few other things, and sell it to gentiles. This went on for years. He and his sons, who helped him, lived in real comfort − they never wanted for money.

When the hour of his death was approaching, he called his sons to him to tell them something important: 'You must know, my sons, it's also possible to make wine from grapes!'"

The legal hairsplitting in the sentencing of the murderers is exactly the diluted wine. Beyond the pain of the loss of Arik in such a terrible way, we were stricken by the legal language and the abyss it opened between what it depicted and the simple truth and natural justice.

Judges of Israel! Purify and cleanse what has been distorted, lest more hard-hearted, drunken and violent murderers learn to turn the fumes of alcohol and the caprice of an insane moment into a shield for themselves in the courts.







The yearning for freedom constitutes the essence of many nations' existence. But that is generally not true of the nations in our region ‏(including elements of the Jewish nation that are working to annul their own people's political liberty‏). It is reasonable to assume that the demonstrators who launched the protests in Tunisia and Egypt indeed aimed for Western-style liberty, but other forces in these countries, who constitute the decisive majority, seek "liberty" in a very different sense.

The Palestinians who yesterday signed an internal reconciliation pact do not seek freedom along the lines that Aluf Benn urged U.S. President Barack Obama to articulate in yesterday's Haaretz ‏("Bin Laden killing gives Obama new chance in Mideast"‏). To obtain such basic rights, the Palestinians do not need a presidential declaration. Nobody − certainly not Israel − is preventing their conferral. Though the Palestinians lack full political liberty, what is stopping the Palestinian Authority's leadership from granting the Palestinians "human rights, dignity and freedom from oppression?"

For over a decade and a half, the Palestinians have had control over their domestic affairs. Is the lack of a declaration by the U.S. president what has prevented them from establishing an independent, impartial judicial system in lieu of the present one, which is steeped in corruption? Is that what has stopped the Palestinians from maintaining a free press and governmental transparency or preventing corrupt cronyism? Is the lack of a presidential statement what has stopped the Palestinians from setting up a police force that protects the citizens rather than being a bastion of corruption whose main assignment is to protect the regime by intimidating the citizenry? Isn't all this the very essence of civil liberty?

Yesterday, a new alliance was forged between those who bite their tongue to conceal their innate opposition to the existence of a Jewish state and those, such as Hamas, who show exactly what is in their hearts via bloody terror attacks. This alliance deliberately drives the other form of liberty, political freedom, even further away.

Had they really desired political liberty, the Palestinians could have attained it years ago. For instance, they could have obtained it after the signing of the Oslo Accords. The governments of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were prepared to grant this form of freedom. So were the governments of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

Yasser Arafat, who feared that fulfilling the commitments he signed in the Oslo Accords would cause him to go down in Arab history as the leader who betrayed the Arab nation's bedrock principle − namely, the absolute negation of the Jewish state's right to exist on sacred Muslim land − chose instead to annul the Oslo option by sanctioning the murder of hundreds of Jews. His successor, Mahmoud Abbas, who feared that Obama might force Benjamin Netanyahu to cough up a Palestinian state obligated to recognize Israel, suddenly disappeared from the negotiating theater. He did this by presenting a precondition ‏(a freeze on settlement construction‏) that had never been put on the table in any previous talks with Israeli prime ministers.

Now, via his alliance with Hamas, Abbas has further hamstringed himself. That's the real meaning of the sudden warmth in his relationship with those who threw dozens of his own people off of rooftops in Gaza.

In another year, the Palestinian Authority will hold elections. After the tumultuous response on the Palestinian street to the agreement "almost reached" by Abbas and Olmert, who would dare renew talks with Israel? Hamas, which won the last democratic election, is liable to repeat this accomplishment, and this time will gain control over the West Bank as well − just as those Israelis who support the reconciliation agreement are hoping. Free elections, after all, are the essence of liberty.

Obama might be able to promote a Palestinian state, but he cannot promise that it will respect civil liberties. The lamentations and eulogies heard in Gaza and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque after the killing of Osama Bin Laden make it quite clear what sort of liberty the Palestinians seek, and are able to deliver.



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




To an untrained eye, the fields of Iowa have a reassuring solidity. You cannot tell that the state has lost half its topsoil in the past century. According to a new report from the Environmental Working Group, Iowa's soil is washing away at rates far higher than anyone realized.


For Iowa — and other corn belt states facing similar problems — this means an increasing loss of fertility that has to be replaced chemically. It marks a failure of stewardship, since these soils will have to feed future generations. And every particle that washes away causes problems downstream, including sedimentation — which can increase the risk of flooding — and the alarming dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the result of runoff of the chemical fertilizers farmers apply to make up for lost fertility.


The Agriculture Departments says that that a "sustainable" rate of topsoil loss for most of Iowa is 5 tons per acre per year and the actual average soil erosion is 5.2 tons . But using Iowa State University statistics and an aerial survey, the Environmental Working Group concluded that average annual soil loss in much of Iowa is double the federal government's estimates. This pace of erosion is caused partly by an increasing number of intense storms. As the report says, it has been exacerbated by a fundamental bias in federal farm policy and supports. In the dozen years before 2009, Iowa received nearly $17 billion in subsidies that fostered high-intensity farming and less than $3 billion to support conservation. In the recent budget battles conservation programs were the hardest hit farm programs.


Meanwhile, the race to profit from high crop prices — especially corn for ethanol — and the sobering jump in the cost of rented land in Iowa means that there is an intense push to create greater yield on more acreage and less incentive than ever to practice sound soil conservation.


This is all the more tragic because the techniques for conserving soil are well understood. It requires planting buffer zones between fields and rivers and contour strips on sloping fields and planting regimes that keep crop cover on the soil by rotating between 3 and 4 crops, not just soybeans and corn. It also requires comprehensive conservation regulations and enforcement and, above all, facing the fact that erosion is not nature or bad farmers at work. It is the legacy of bad agricultural policy.








Even before the fiscal crisis, the New York State Legislature was doing a terrible job of managing the State University of New York System. Lawmakers who voted to cut financing to the 64-campus system also starved it by forbidding reasonable tuition increases and then hijacked tuition revenue for use in the general state budget. In recent years, administrators have had to cut class offerings, limit enrollment and rely far too much on part-time faculty.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has now thrown support behind two sensible ideas. He endorsed a "rational tuition' ' bill, pending in both houses, that would allow the SUNY system to create a fair and predictable five-year tuition plan for in-state students, with a limit of no more than 5.5 percent per year. That would finally allow both schools and students to do more rational financial planning.


Mr. Cuomo also said he would support a proposal that would allow flagship campuses — those with research programs and the most high-powered faculty — to propose their own higher undergraduate tuition increases. And he announced a plan to give the research universities $140 million to finance campus expansions in hopes of promoting local economic development.


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver seems dead set against differential tuition, fearing that it would price poorer students out of the best schools. But New York's current tuitions are significantly lower than those in other Northeastern systems.


In New Jersey's, the range of public four-year annual tuition plus required fees for full-time state resident undergraduates is $4,883 to $13,898. At SUNY, that range is $5,195 to $7,136 .


It is necessary to avoid overly sharp tuition increases. But it costs more to educate students at high cost, research universities. Unless all of the state universities have a more rational budgeting process, the system will continue its decline, and New York's students will suffer.








Kings Point, N.Y., on Long Island's gilded North Shore, wants to do criminal checks on every car that enters its placid realm. It has the technology — license-plate cameras hooked up to police computers — and is borrowing the money to install 44 of them. For about a million dollars, it will get what village trustees say is the snuggest security blanket money can buy.


Kings Point is not a gated community or club. It's F. Scott Fitzgerald's West Egg, 3.5 square miles of estates, McMansions and shady streets, home to about 5,000 people. It has little crime, though there has been a recent frightening spate of break-ins by a voyeur who snuck into girls' bedrooms. Mayor Michael Kalnick says the cameras predate that and have been discussed for years, as a good way to spot lapsed registrations, suspended licenses and stolen cars. They were approved in August, but most people didn't know until Newsday ran a big article.


Villagewide car surveillance seems like a big leap into the chilly postprivacy age. But at a village meeting last week, I waited in vain for someone to complain about civil liberties. Mayor Kalnick took some testy questions: Why are taxes rising 9.8 percent? Why is the police commissioner getting a raise (to $199,756)? Why wasn't the camera contract put out to bid? Why didn't you tell us about the last budget meeting? Why doesn't the village have a working Web site?


He didn't have to answer the privacy question because nobody asked it. I'm not sure why, but Big Brother lost to taxes as the bigger menace. Only one young man, who said he was from outside Kings Point and drove through on his way home, bristled a little. How come I wasn't asked about this camera thing? he asked. If you've done nothing wrong, Mr. Kalnick told him, you should have nothing to worry about.









The killing of Osama bin Laden provoked a host of reactions from Americans: celebration, triumph, relief, closure and renewed grief. One reaction, however, was both cynical and disturbing: crowing by the apologists and practitioners of torture that Bin Laden's death vindicated their immoral and illegal behavior after the Sept. 11 attacks.


Jose Rodriguez Jr. was the leader of counterterrorism for the C.I.A. from 2002-2005 when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other Al Qaeda leaders were captured. He told Time magazine that the recent events show that President Obama should not have banned so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. (Mr. Rodriguez, you may remember, ordered the destruction of interrogation videos.)


John Yoo, the former Bush Justice Department lawyer who twisted the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions into an unrecognizable mess to excuse torture, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the killing of Bin Laden proved that waterboarding and other abuses were proper. Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, said at first that no coerced evidence played a role in tracking down Bin Laden, but by Tuesday he was reciting the talking points about the virtues of prisoner abuse.


There is no final answer to whether any of the prisoners tortured in President George W. Bush's illegal camps gave up information that eventually proved useful in finding Bin Laden. A detailed account in The Times on Wednesday by Scott Shane and Charlie Savage concluded that torture "played a small role at most" in the years and years of painstaking intelligence and detective work that led a Navy Seals team to Bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan.


That squares with the frequent testimony over the past decade from many other interrogators and officials. They have said repeatedly, and said again this week, that the best information came from prisoners who were not tortured. The Times article said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, fed false information to his captors during torture.


Even if it were true that some tidbit was blurted out by a prisoner while being tormented by C.I.A. interrogators, that does not remotely justify Mr. Bush's decision to violate the law and any acceptable moral standard.


This was not the "ticking time bomb" scenario that Bush-era officials often invoked to rationalize abusive interrogations. If, as Representative Peter King, the Long Island Republican, said, information from abused prisoners "directly led" to the redoubt, why didn't the Bush administration follow that trail years ago?


There are many arguments against torture. It is immoral and illegal and counterproductive. The Bush administration's abuses — and ends justify the means arguments — did huge damage to this country's standing and gave its enemies succor and comfort. If that isn't enough, there is also the pragmatic argument that most experienced interrogators think that the same information, or better, can be obtained through legal and humane means.


No matter what Mr. Yoo and friends may claim, the real lesson of the Bin Laden operation is that it demonstrated what can be done with focused intelligence work and persistence.


The battered intelligence community should now be basking in the glory of a successful operation. It should not be dragged back into the muck and murk by political figures whose sole agenda seems to be to rationalize actions that cost this country dearly — in our inability to hold credible trials for very bad men and in the continued damage to our reputation.








Cambridge, Mass.

REDUCING the budget deficit and stopping the explosion of our national debt will require more tax revenue as well as reduced government spending. But the need for more revenue needn't mean higher tax rates.


As the bipartisan fiscal commission appointed by President Obama stressed last year, tax revenues can be increased substantially by limiting the deductions, credits and exclusions that are essentially government spending by another name.


Tax credits for buying solar panels or hybrid cars are just like government spending to subsidize those purchases. Similarly, the exclusion from employees' taxable incomes of employer payments for health insurance is no different from subsidizing the purchase of those insurance policies. The deduction for interest on residential mortgages, probably the best-known tax expenditure, amounts to a giant subsidy for homeownership.


At their worst, such tax expenditures create incentives for wasteful borrowing and spending; they have been factors in the mortgage crisis and the rising cost of health care.


Tax expenditures collectively increase the budget deficit by more than all other nondefense spending combined, other than Social Security and Medicare. And unlike those direct outlays, these tax expenditures are not subject to annual review as part of the appropriations process. Once they are part of the law, they automatically continue and become more costly with time.


Despite the strong case for limiting tax expenditures, it is politically difficult to do so because no one wants to give up benefits.


So here is a way to curb this loss of revenue without eliminating any individual deduction: limit the total tax saving for any individual to a maximum percentage of his total income. Daniel Feenberg of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Maya MacGuineas of the New America Foundation and I have been studying a reform that would cap the tax reduction that each taxpayer could get from tax expenditures to 2 percent of his adjusted gross income.


What's the result? Taxpayers with incomes of $25,000 to $50,000 would pay about $1,000 more in taxes; those with incomes of more than $500,000 might pay $40,000 more.


The cap would affect more than 80 percent of taxpayers. Although they would continue to benefit from the mortgage deduction, the health insurance exclusion and other tax expenditures, their tax savings would not increase if they took out a larger mortgage or a more expensive insurance policy. Similarly, they would not be penalized and get a lesser tax benefit if they scaled back their mortgage or their health insurance premium by moderate amounts.


A key point to stress about this proposal is that the 2 percent cap refers to the reduction in an individual's taxes, not to the size of the tax deduction or exclusion.


Consider a taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of $150,000 who faces a 25 percent marginal tax rate and has total deductions (for mortgage interest, state taxes and other items) of $30,000 and a $10,000 health insurance premium provided by his employer.


The deductions and exclusion together reduce taxable income by $40,000 and the tax liability by 25 percent of that, or $10,000 — well above the 2 percent cap of $3,000. This calculation (which would appear on a modified version of the current tax form, reflecting insurance premiums reported by employers) would seem to imply a tax increase of $7,000.


But if he switched to the standard deduction, the only tax expenditure benefit he would get would be from the health insurance exclusion. That $10,000 premium implies a tax expenditure of $2,500, which is less than the 2 percent cap. The result is an increase in taxable income by $18,400 (the difference between the $30,000 in itemized deductions and the $11,600 standard deduction) and a tax increase of $4,600.


With the 2 percent cap, individuals would continue to benefit from all of their current deductions, exclusions and credits. It is the total tax benefit and not any particular tax reduction that is limited.


To estimate the macroeconomic effects of this proposal we used the tax simulation model of the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a sample of nearly 150,000 anonymous tax returns for 2006 provided by the Internal Revenue Service, adjusted to approximate the total taxes and tax expenditures for 2011.


We found that a 2 percent cap on tax expenditures in 2011 would raise tax revenue by $278 billion — nearly 30 percent of total projected income tax revenue for this year. The extra revenue would increase over time, reaching nearly half of the projected future fiscal deficits.


The tax expenditures that we cap in our analysis include all itemized deductions, the health insurance exclusion and the child tax credit. We do not limit the tax expenditures associated with saving and investment like the individual retirement account deduction, the interest accumulating in I.R.A. accounts, and the reduced rate on capital gains.


The 2 percent cap would also simplify tax payments by inducing some 35 million taxpayers who itemize their deductions to shift to the standard deduction method. That is about three out of four of those who now itemize their deductions.


It would be possible, of course, to start with a higher ceiling on the tax expenditure benefit and gradually reduce the cap to 2 percent. A 3 percent cap would raise $208 billion, while a 5 percent cap would raise only $110 billion. Our list of tax expenditures could also be modified — to exempt charitable contributions from the cap, for example.


Federal revenue must be raised to deal with our very serious fiscal problems. But it would be far better to do so by capping tax expenditures than by raising marginal tax rates.


Martin S. Feldstein, a professor of economics at Harvard, was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984 under President Ronald Reagan.









HARGEISA, Somaliland

In a few days Americans will celebrate Mother's Day with roses, chocolates and fine dinners, inducing warm and fuzzy feelings all around. But, in addition, I'll bet helping mothers less fortunate would also render any mom giddy.


That's what some Americans have decided to do: commemorate motherhood by saving the lives of mothers halfway around the world — such as in this impoverished nook of Somaliland in the horn of Africa. Beyond celebrating moms with fleeting flowers, they are helping an extraordinary Somali woman, Edna Adan, run a maternity hospital here to make childbirth safer.


We in journalism often focus on villains, but Edna is one of my heroes. She's a tireless 73-year-old whose passion is to save her countrywomen's lives, get them access to family planning and end female genital mutilation.


Somaliland is a breakaway republic carved from Somalia but recognized by no outside country. It has only two OB-GYNs, and a woman here has perhaps a 1-in-10 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth. Just about the most dangerous thing a Somali woman can do is become pregnant, but Edna — with her American supporters — is changing that. They provide a lovely example of how Mother's Day can be about something richer than the finest chocolate, and more lasting.


One of the first Somali women in this region to get a proper education and study in the West, Edna became a nurse-midwife and served in a senior post in the United Nations. For a time, she was foreign minister of Somaliland.


But Edna's life dream was to open a maternity hospital. After she retired from the United Nations in 1997, she sold her Mercedes and took her entire life savings of $300,000 to build a maternity hospital on land that had been the town dump.


When the hospital was almost complete, her money ran out. But then an article appeared in The New York Times in 1999 about Edna and her flickering dream, and a few readers in Connecticut and Minnesota reached out to help. One of them, Anne Gilhuly, a retired teacher, told me that she and her friends leaped at the thought that they could use spare cash to keep women alive.


The Americans founded a tax-deductible charity, the Friends of Edna Maternity Hospital (, and a remarkable partnership was born that allowed the hospital to be completed and flourish. "If it weren't for 'Friends,' we would never have built this hospital," Edna said.


What they have wrought is stunning. On a continent where hospitals are often dilapidated and depressing, Edna's is modern, sterile and hums with efficiency. She lives in an apartment above the hospital so that she is available 24/7, and she accepts no salary. She also donates her U.N. pension each month to help pay hospital expenses.


So far, the hospital says it has delivered about 10,000 babies, some of them after the woman was rushed to the hospital gate in a wheelbarrow. Edna has also used her hospital to train Somali midwives to serve in remote areas. Training a midwife at Edna's hospital costs $215 a month for 18 months — and then that midwife will save mothers and babies for many years.


If there's ever a time when the needless deaths of women in childbirth — one every 90 seconds or so somewhere in the world, according to the United Nations — should be on our radar screen, it's at Mother's Day. And we know how to save those lives.


CARE says that $10 pays for food for three days at a hospital for an expectant mother. When food is provided, a woman is more likely to deliver at a hospital. Or with $190, CARE can buy a bicycle rickshaw ambulance to rush a woman in labor to a hospital.


Save the Children runs a midwife training program in Afghanistan (where women are 200 times more likely to die in childbirth than from a bullet or bomb, the group says) and points out that $80 will pay for a midwifery kit for new graduates. And for $450, the Fistula Foundationcan repair a woman suffering from an obstetric fistula, a devastating childbirth injury that leaves her leaking wastes.


In a column a year ago, I suggested that we move the apostrophe so as to celebrate not so much Mother's Day — honoring a single mother — but Mothers' Day, to help save mothers' lives around the world as well.


Eva Hausman, a retired social studies teacher in Connecticut, and five other women took up that challenge. They started a Mothers' Day campaign, which has its own Web site at They hope that Americans will consecrate the mother in their lives not only with presents but also by helping impoverished women and girls through a particular charity (this year it's one that works in a Kenyan slum). They've found matching funds from a foundation to do that.


To me, that's a perfect way to honor a mom.








Let us stop for a minute to consider Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana.


Bet you didn't see that one coming.


Many of you may be unacquainted with Daniels. After all, a lot of Americans go for years on end without ever setting foot in Indiana even though it is a fine state, full of lovely people and some first-class universities, not to mention the RV Hall of Fame, the world's largest ball of paint and the Dan Quayle museum.


But about Mitch Daniels. The political world has been abuzz with speculation that he will run for president. Centrist Republicans loved it when he began urging the party to keep its eye on the deficit-reduction prize and stop obsessing about social issues. "Try to concentrate on making ends meet, which Washington obviously has failed to do for a long time, and have other policy debates in other places if you can," he advised.


He then went home and announced that he would sign a bill to strip Planned Parenthood of Medicaid financing.


"He called a truce on social issues, and he was the first to fold," said Nancy Keenan of Pro-Choice America.


"The suggestion I made about trying to set aside other issues was made in the national context," Daniels said over a lunch with journalists this week in New York. "I was thinking more broadly than some people heard it."


Actually, Daniels's moderate fans thought abortion was precisely the issue he was calling on Republicans to set aside. Right now, the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives can barely talk about anything else. State legislatures are flooded with bills to create "Choose Life" license plates, require women seeking abortions to look at sonograms of the fetus or make it harder for insurance companies to offer policies that cover abortions.


At one point during an interminable debate on an anti-abortion bill in Florida, the Democrats had an embarrassing squabble between two members that ended when Representative Scott Randolph of Orlando threw his opponent's commemorative House pen in the trash. He is the same legislator who was privately admonished by the Republican House leadership for saying the word "uterus."


Florida is a wreck. This is not something I would normally recommend, but maybe they should all get together and work on naming an official state gun.


The bill Daniels says he is going to sign in Indiana is a compilation of the anti-abortion movement's greatest hits. It will make it impossible for Medicaid recipients to make use of the 28 Planned Parenthood clinics in the state and bans abortions for pregnancies that have reached 20 weeks.


Also, doctors would be required to tell women seeking abortions that "medical evidence shows that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks," that human life begins when the egg is fertilized and that having an abortion could cause infertility.


"Pregnant women in the past might not have been provided with all the information," Daniels said.


Possibly because all that information is questionable, theological or totally wrong.


While Daniels is not a good example of a fiscal conservative who wants to move beyond the social wars, he is a real prototype of the peculiar strain in the political right that trusts people to make their own informed decisions without government intervention except when it comes to the most exquisitely personal choice a woman could ever face.


In Washington, the new Republican majority's very first bill of the year, H.R. 1, eliminated both financing for Planned Parenthood and financing for the groundbreaking database of public safety complaints that the Consumer Product Safety Commission was about to put online. The database, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas warned, "will drive jobs overseas."


Legislatures in states that tend to be less than obsessive about consumers' right to know are competing to find more things to require that doctors tell or show their patients before they can get abortions. In South Dakota, women have to be told that abortion ends "the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." A court tossed out another section that required doctors to say that the procedure leads to an increased risk of suicide.


In his capacity as deficit hawk, Daniels waxes eloquent on his conviction that if Americans have to pay more of their medical bills, they'll make smart choices about whether that nagging headache really requires the expense of a CAT scan. Doubting that the individual patient can judge whether more tests or medical procedures are required, Daniels said, "demeans the dignity of people."


However, women who are seeking an abortion have to be given not only the information they ask for, or the information the doctor thinks they need, but also faux facts that their local lawmakers want to force on them. And dignity be damned.









The driver of the car that was taking me to the TV studios where I was expected to comment on the developments of the death of Osama bin Laden was unequivocal: "Osama is a CIA agent. I don't believe he died. Saddam Hussein is not dead either." As I was personally mulling and finding it difficult to provide simple answers to questions surrounding the current developments, I was one more time, believe me this is not happening for the first time, amazed about the self confidence of the driver about the accuracy of his conviction.

But his reaction does not only reflect an ordinary man's resort to simplifying things that are very complex, but also shows a general conviction in Turkey on doubts about bin Laden's death. Even the academic, who was clearly from conservative circles, shared his comments in the same TV program voiced doubts as to the murder of bin Laden.

I personally can not imagine a scenario by which, bin Laden and the United States reached an agreement whereby bin Laden accepted to go live in Miami after several esthetic operations, in exchange for giving up terrorism. Actually the line of thinking is that bin Laden was a CIA agent and that the U.S. ordered him to now disappear, as it decided his mission was over.

I might find some arguments against this line of thinking. I could spend hours trying to convince them that this is a very unlikely scenario.

But what to say, on why his body was thrown into the sea? Why the pictures or the videos surrounding his death are not disclosed?  Why instead photoshopped pictures were distributed? Why is the administration backtracking from its initial accounts of the death of bin Laden? In contrast to U.S. president's chief counterterrorism adviser, John O.Brennan, who said that bin Laden was "engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in," and he used his wife as a human shield, we are now told that he was not carrying a weapon and that he did not use his wife as a human shield.

I might have a simple answer to all these questions: "A huge incompetence on managing the immediate post death of bin Laden."

But believe me, the driver that would provide simple explanations to complex international issues, will not be convinced with such a simple answer.  Because in the eyes of the many, the U.S., as a superpower, can not make simple mistakes.

The murder of bin Laden might be a huge military/intelligence success for the U.S., but the aftermath, which will have serious consequences for not only the region but the whole world, was a huge disaster.

The death of bin Laden can end a period whereby Islam was equated with terrorism. It is coinciding with the Arab spring, when potential recruits for al-Qaeda are seeking peaceful ways for regime change. As they could not voice their opposition to the regimes, they were directing their hatred to Washington, as they saw Americans as the main supporters of their oppressors.

The present situation is providing a huge opportunity to the U.S. administration to improve its tremendously tarnished image in the Middle East. Yet the advisers of Obama, who managed the aftermath of bin Laden's death, seem to be acting in total ignorance of these potential consequences.

My humble advice would be for the U.S. Embassy and Consulate to cable Washington, urging to provide whatever evidence there is to prove the death of bin Laden.  

They should urge to adopt a different strategy and while they can't call on Obama to change those who were responsible for the disastrous aftermath, let me do them a favor, they can quote me for asking to change some of the administration advisers.

And please please please start from the brainless person who had the idea of naming the operation, after an Apache leader, Geronimo. It is such a big embarrassment to link what Native Americans see as one of the greatest Native American heroes, with the U.S.' public enemy number one.

If a government does not respect its own people, how can it respect other countries' nations?






Seeing what a monster earthquake and its knock-on effects have done to Japan, we'd be obtuse not to wonder: When will the next Big One hit Istanbul?

Over the last 2,000 years this city has been rocked by a major quake every 17 years, on average. Our last one was 12 years ago. These upheavals do not run like clockwork, but another is sure to come before long. There is no avoiding it. Turkey is sitting squarely on the North Anatolian Fault, in one of the earth's three most active seismic zones. Few great cities are as densely and haphazardly built up as Istanbul, and few are as encircled by water.

Therefore one have to wonder: are we ready? Marmara Region lost an official 17,000 dead in 1999; the real total was certainly many more. The costs for rebuilding have run to at least $20 billion. For the present, Turkey is simply short on taut discipline, the multiple backup systems, and the precautionary habits that govern life in obedient Japan. Even those, of course, haven't kept the Japanese from suffering a likely 30,000 deaths and costs that will probably rise to $300 billion.

So where does Turkey stand in girding itself up for the inevitable? Beyond that, how much sense does it make to put nuclear reactors in a country where the earth regularly heaves and splits?

A look at some highlights of local earthquake history may help focus the mind on the risks we live with here. In the year 447, people in the then Constantinople believed the earth was ending, as a massive quake that leveled most of the city happened to combine with a solar eclipse. A quake that shook the city in 480 had aftershocks for 40 days. In 557 the dome of the Emperor Justinian's 20-year-old Hagia Sophia was brought down by a violent quake; another one in 1346 caused the building's eastern arch to collapse. Those dates only skim the surface. Give or take ten to 15 years either way, earthquakes have arrived every 17 years. They are a geophysical certainty in Turkey, and Istanbul isn't the country's only vulnerable urban center. İzmir (then Smyrna) was destroyed by a quake in 1688.

In 1999, most of the deaths and property losses here came from poor construction and unsafe building sites, as whole residential frontages slid into the Sea of Marmara. By now the municipal authorities must have cracked down on building codes and the contractors putting up newer buildings, demanding that braces and shock absorbers be bolted to the inner steel skeletons of all high-rise apartments.

Still, what about the majority of buildings that are decades old? How many of them have been retro-fitted with the recommended sprayed concrete, or, like older structures in Japan, lifted from their foundations and then lowered back onto steel or rubber pads? In the recent Japanese quakes, high-rises in Tokyo and other inland cities swayed like palm trees during the six-plus Richter temblors, but steadied after each shock.

Bridges in Istanbul are relatively new by world standards, and the required micro-piles through their foundations, as well as the jackets around their columns, are likely to make them as quake-proof as any. The same is probably true of the city's new tunnels, which were built with an awareness of a flexible joint technology that allows them to bend with earthquake motion.

A chillingly different matter is nuclear reactors and their susceptibility. France can have its many reactors, and get 80 percent of its electricity from them, because earthquakes do not hit French soil. It's possible the Russian company contracted by the government to built four reactors here in Turkey does have, as promised, a fail-safe solution – a meltdown-proof construction model that would contain radioactive material in a specially-fortified basement.

Are there reasons to think nuclear power in Turkey is worth the risk? More than a few think so, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to be among them. Their reasoning is hardball economics; Turkey needs a source of electricity that will free it from the $35 billion yearly fuel-import bill that sucks money out of the country. Nuclear energy is proven and renewable; most of the attractive other renewable energy, such as solar and wind, are still far from economical. On-stream nuclear power would also allow Turkey to cut back on the kind of coal-fired electrical-generating plants that cause global warming.

It is true nuclear reactor construction inevitably brings delays and cost-overruns, an example is the off-and-on construction progress of a French-built reactor in Finland, but an operational reactor would amortize itself in ten years, and then be good for half a century or more of home-generated energy. Unless, that is, an earthquake shut it down.

It is at least statistically reassuring to note that in the history of peacetime nuclear energy, a global total of 582 reactors operated for a total of 14,400 reactor years, with core-damage accidents – meltdowns like those in Japan today – happening only once in every 1,300 years of operation. Right now 439 reactors are operating worldwide. That many reactors would yield a core-damage accident every three years on average. Across the world, since 1957, there have been 12 meltdowns; three of them are now under way in Japan.

It's key, though, to remember that meltdowns do not depend only on earthquakes and tsunamis. They can as easily come from human error or equipment failure, as at Chernobyl.

No one who remembers Chernobyl would like a repeat in Turkey. Common sense says all the safeguarding and pro-nuclear arguments in the world don't seem to make it worth the risk. Nature has dealt this country a permanent geophysical weakness. That's a fact for which there are no fixes. Turkey can live with it, and ride out the worst earthquake damages, if it's ready. Nuclear reactors probably would not ride them out. Why roll the dice?







The Court of Appeals has completely turned upside down the principle that caused Turkey to experience a Hizbullah shock at the beginning of 2011.

Let me ask at the very beginning a question I should ask at the end: What would happen if the Court of Appeals adopted the decision to change court practices on Jan. 1? The answer: Many murderers, including Hizbullah terrorists, unrelated to the Lebanese Hezbollah, would not have been released from prison.

Let's go back to the beginning in order to elaborate on the Court of Appeals change of opinion, which has been the source of a news story by Gökçer Tahincioğlu in daily Milliyet.

There had been no restrictions on detention periods until lately. A suspect having a court order for their arrest was kept in jail until the decision of arrest was finalized, no matter how long a trial phase took.

A new Code of Criminal Procedure, or CMUK, article, in force since Dec. 31 2010, put an end to this open-ended situation for confinement. With the Court of Appeals' re-interpretation of the article, the detention period has been re-regulated with 10 years maximum for crimes against the order of the state and constitution, and five years in other offenses.

The most delicate part here allows us to ask a question: Should the second stage following a court's decision, which is the appeal period, be covered in the detention period or not? Let me put this way, at what point does an accused become a "convict"? Is this through the court order or through the Court of Appeals' decision?

If the appeal period is counted as part of detention period, a murder who, let's says, would be sentenced to 40 years will be released automatically at the end of the fifth year while waiting the Court of Appeals' final decision.

If the appeal period is not counted as part of the detention period, this murderer will still be kept inside after five years. No matter when the Court of Appeals reaches its final decision, the detention period will not be affected.

In the past, the Court of Appeals acted according to the first option, i.e. seeing the appeal period as part of the detention period.

In fact, the release of Hizbullah members by the Court of Appeals' decision is the result of such interpretation of the high court. At the end of a nine-year trial period, several Hizbullah members were sentenced and then their files were transferred to the Court of Appeals. Because of delays, the 10-year period expired so the convicts were released. Similarly, many murderers were released since the five-year detention period was expired in their cases and since the Court of Appeals had not reached a decision yet.

At this point, there is one more thing we should particularly pay attention to: The European Court of Human Rights factor. The European court ruling is that the appeal period shall not be counted as part of detention period. However, the Court of Appeals in Turkey did not honor the European Court decision on the subject.

What is interesting here is that the penal departments inside the Court of Appeals are already facing differences of opinion among themselves. For instance the 11th Penal Chamber acts in accordance with the European Court decision and does not release anyone. The 9th Penal Chamber adopted a different approach and released the Hizbullah members. However, let me say that the Court of Appeals General Council's decision was in line with that of the 9th Penal Chamber.

The Court of Appeals General Council has recently convened with new judges on board. The Council discussed the issue and at the end of a very critical voting the decision has been adopted that the appeal period shall not be counted as part of detention period. This is extremely critical for the decision is in accord with that of the European Court. However, the final decision was reached by 16 votes against 15. And that means penal departments of the high court are still struggling to reach an agreement among themselves over the issue.

I am sure that Hizbullah terrorists who disappeared in a puff of smoke following a Court of Appeals decision of release are pleased to hear this change of practice in the high court.

* Sedat Ergin is a columnist of daily Hürriyet, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.







Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may say "there is no Kurdish issue left; what is left is only problems of our Kurdish citizens." But there is still a problem persisting.

If you were paying attention, Kurdish militants are out on the streets.

The main reason is the state opposing the formation of the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

What does the KCK formation mean?

Actually the PKK is forming a unique bureaucracy appointing civilian staff as it pleases. It is forming the leader staff, which will manage the region in the future.

In order to prevent this, the state is arresting every one it deems a "PKK militant," bringing them before a court of law. Some 110 people have been arrested so far and 20 people are on the run. The giant organization has been mutilated but still it never dies. The PKK appoints new staff in place of the departed.

And this is not the only pressure exercised on the state.

Civil disobedience acts become more widespread by the day.

Those arrested insist on speaking the Kurdish language and encounter resistance by the judiciary so no judgment can be made, meaning a constant bleeding of the wound. When we add to that the tents established in 25 cities being removed by authorities in a harsh way, the streets turn into a fire ball.

It results in a deadlock of tension without an end.

We are facing a situation that seems difficult to continue. For, this approach we call "terror" and others perceive it as "civil disobedience or democratic right." We are unable to escape the vicious cycle.

Now slowly we should ask ourselves the following basic question.

If after elections we are to enter into a serious process in which to solve this issue then should we continue with such a brisk attitude?

Or, should we step on the brakes in order to prepare for steps to come after elections?

We should not understand this approach as accepting the PKK or enduring its deeds. Should the preparations for a new process start now or should we, until elections, engage in bloody fights to prove how strong the state is and roll up our sleeves afterwards?

We also need to criticize the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

Turkey has entered an extremely vital election process.

These elections are facing probably the most important test especially as to whether or not a solution has been found to the Kurdish issue.

A change in the constitution will prove the real intent of the Turkish Republic and show how far it can go.

Underneath the chaos out on streets lies an explicit blackmail on account of the PKK.

The message is clear, "If no steps are taken toward a solution in this respect and if we are not left alone then we'll turn Turkey into a fire ball."

They carry a big stick.

The BDP needs to put an end to this.

The party sent its message.

Even if we don't like it we still got it.

Enough now.

In the period to come the BDP needs to use all of its influence on the PKK protecting streets at least until after elections.

It is difficult to live with such a conflict.

Just as the state will have trouble healing wounds afterwards, the BDP will have trouble asking the Turkish public for flexibility in its solutions after causing tension.

We really have had it.

We mutually need to stop escalation and step on the brakes for a while.

Bin Laden is gone, Israel stands strong

Those who follow my articles know that I believe in Israel's right to live. I am not one of those sharing fanatic views like erasing Israel from the face of the earth.

I especially am sensitive about Turkish Israeli relations. I do believe in the importance of strong relations for the sake of peace in the region.

But I am opposing and becoming progressively angry about Israeli leader Netanyahu's general attitude as well as Washington accepting everything he says.  

If there are bin Ladens still left on the face of the earth and if we are applauding an extinction of these bin Ladens, isn't there something wrong?

Aren't impertinent politics practiced against Israel and Palestine the main factor causing the emergence of bin Ladens or the systematic oppression of folks in Gaza and West Bank?

Isn't Israel creating all the organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and doesn't Washington approve all their moves?

Israel is gradually becoming a country that threatens regional peace. The tension will increase further unless it changes its policies.







Talking at a panel at the prestigious Boğazici University, Sedat Kapanoğlu, or SSG, with his famous alias at the "Ekşi Sözlük" (Sour Dictionary) electronic platform, joked on Tuesday that bans, restrictions and censorship applications were advancing so fast in the "advanced democracy" of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that "definitely a day will come when the Ekşi Sözlük will be silenced."

Kapanoğlu was not aware at all but as he was speaking a secretary was writing the death sentence for the Ekşi Sözlük. Later the same evening the internet service provider contacted Kapanoğlu to inform him that the Telecommunications Directorate, or TİB, has demanded in an official closure letter of the, the hosting registry name of the Ekşi Sözlük, under Law Number 5651, which "orders" Internet service providers not to provide hosting services to websites that include material falling in the "catalog crimes" such as obscenity, prostitution, pedophilia, gambling.

Excluding "obscenity," which requires further explanation as it varies from person to person and community to community, it is indeed difficult to oppose the restrictions introduced particularly if the "best defense is attack" mentality of the AKP administration is taken into consideration. Besides, pedophilia, for example, should not be of course tolerated at all. But, where is the limit? Can individuals not do that by installing some filters available on the market on their computers and keep unwanted material away from their kids? Or, are all Turks at the intellect level of a kid and must be protected by the big brother state?

Advanced censorship

The advanced censorship mentality started to bite bitterly already.

"When I was speaking at the panel, I was joking. I definitely did not think that it was the day of closure for the Ekşi Sözlük. I did not have such an imminent expectation," he told reporters yesterday.

What is happening is of course is fully compatible with the advanced democratic mindset of the AKP governance, even though for people who still adhere to simple democracy the developments are indeed incomprehensible.

In this country of advancing religious conservatism, and rejection of everyone and everything that insists not to engage with the AKP within an allegiance framework, disguised as advanced democracy, this kind of oddities may perhaps help the Turkish public see the biter reality and the imminent danger of the secular Turkish democratic republic turning into an "advanced democratic dictatorship" of the absolute ruler and his allegiant almond-mustached, gloomy looking subjects.

Just a while ago the same TİB issued a statement outlining a set of censorship for the Turkey-hosted Web sites and rules for access to international Web sites. That statement set August 22 as the date when new censorship rules would enter into force. Thus, most of the Turkish online community condemned that statement as the "doomsday decree for Internet in Turkey." Under those fresh from oven censorship rules Turkey-hosted websites would not use words of sexual content but also words with possible sexual connotations, such as hot, blonde, nuts, forbidden, secret, teen, or face the consequences, including permanent closure. Similarly, Internet service providers will provide four different levels of filters and thus some sort of tokens for their customers. Those filters will restrict access of Internet surfers to visit websites with "hazardous" content. Trying to find a way to evade the restrictions and access to "restricted" sites will be a crime.

For example, if this decree was issued when the famous YouTube website was prohibited in Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was boasting around his advanced Internet capabilities saying he was accessing the banned site through some proxies, the prime minister would have been committing a crime.

What will happen after August 22 remains a mystery. Will Turkey go ahead with this backward censorship decree and relegate Turkey from a country in accession talks with the European Union to that of the Cuba, China and Iran where there are similar censorship applications?

Perhaps depending on the outcome of the June 12 polls the climate in Turkey will improve as well and some of the oddities of advanced democracy will be corrected with some regular applications of a regular democratic mindset. Probably the TİB will not dare close down the Ekşi Sözlük, a platform that has become a phenomenon among university youth of the country and issue a statement similar to those rather unfortunate "inadvertent" statements of the Student Selection and Placement Center, or ÖSYM, chairman, Professor Ali Demir.

It appears that this is not an advanced democracy, but an inadvertent one.







These days it is very hard to be a manager at an Internet service provider in Turkey. Even harder if you are the CEO. They are caught right in the middle of an upheaval. The government and the citizens are getting ready for a war. I have written about the new regulations, effective as of August 22, before. The government is getting ready to categorize the users and it will censor the web pages as a small group of bureaucrats' wishes right at the source. According to the new regulation the Internet service providers, or ISPs, will be responsible for "filtering" the "harmful" content. The government got bored of banning sites one by one and came up with this brilliant idea. Banning one site at a time was both time consuming and each new site caused a disturbance. With the new method government officials will be able to ban sites we wouldn't even know existed at the first place. This is not the first time the government is putting the ISPs in an awkward position.

 Last week the ISPs received a letter from the Turkish telecommunications authority urging them to ban all the websites containing certain words. Information and Telecommunication Technologies Authority, or BTK, Chairman Tayfun Acarer said the regulation did not use the word "banning," adding the letter was only meant to get the ISP's attention on some dirty words. Naturally the "letter" was publicized hours later and we all read that BTK clearly states "all the necessary legal actions will be taken for the ISP's who doesn't do as the letter recommends." There were 138 words on the list. Some of these very dirty words are "hot, panties, high school, local, breath" and even "forbidden" and "ban." So the authority forbids Turkish Internet users to have a websites containing the word forbid. I seriously think that right after the meeting that produced this brilliant idea, the board members of BTK congratulated each other about how clever they are issuing a ban that forbids using the word ban.

Naturally, right now people are organizing all sorts of protests and ways to break these laws. The civil society will teach the authorities that Turkey can not be turned into Iran. The harder they try, the harder we will resist.

This is why I wouldn't want to be a CEO to an ISP, especially of TTNET as it has the largest amount of users. They will be on the target as well without anyone to blame. The public will put pressure on ISP's managers for certain. The citizens will expect ISP's to take their side. However it would be extremely difficult as they can't really go against the government. We have seen what happens to those companies that raise their voice against the government. It would be unfair to expect such chivalry from the ISP's.

The organizations from which we should wait a decisive action, are the big three nongovernmental organizations, or NGO's, namely Turkish Informatics Foundation, Turkish Informatics Industry Association, Turkey Information Technologies Association. These NGO's must act now or there will be no turning back. They have the responsibility on their shoulders. They must not back down.






It is well known that, pornography and indecent media are issues under discussion in the United States among the two poles of opinions; the "conservatives" and the "liberals," as well as a frequent case of appeal for freedom of expression in the European Court of Human Rights. Having received plenty of social support from the liberal political and social actors, today I am feeling freed enough to discuss on a more solidified position as "libertarian feminist," the freedom to express "the defense of pornography." Though it will be half incomplete to put this defense in 6,000 hits, I will put down some basic questions from the field to let you determine your own opinion positions by yourselves.

"Pornography" is defined as sexually explicit representation, which has the function or intention of sexually arousing its audience. Written or spoken pornography is an instance of speech, and all pornography is an instance of expression. A defense of freedom of speech, or of freedom of expression, is therefore implicitly a defense of the freedom to produce and consume pornography. Anyone who supports state prohibition or censorship of pornography is by that token supporting suppression of freedom of speech or expression. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. Some people may say that, therefore, it is inviolable.

There are four main types of argument against pornography;

(a) The deprave-and-corrupt argument. The contention of this argument is that the production and the consumption of pornography deprave and corrupt those who participate in them. To be depraved and corrupted means to be devalued in some sense.

(b) The harm-to-others argument. The contention of this argument is that consumption of pornography makes those who engage in it more likely to commit sexual offences.

(c) The harm-to-children argument. The contention of this argument is that children are harmed if they consume pornography or are used in its production.

(d) The degrades-women argument. The contention of this argument is that pornography degrades women by portraying them as subservient to, or inferior to, men.

First, suppose the contention of the deprave-and-corrupt argument were true. It could not justify prohibition or censorship of pornography. The objective of this prohibition or censorship would be to prevent consenting adults from entering into some activities that devalued them. But a government's pursuit of this objective would be flatly inconsistent with it being the government of a free society, which respects the rights of its citizens to pursue their own conceptions of the good life, so long as they do not violate the rights of other citizens. Further, it would be difficult to argue that the objective of preventing one kind of devaluation of people, due to pornography, justified the surely more important kind of devaluation of people involved in denying them their human rights.

Second, suppose the contention of the harm-to-others argument were true. It would certainly not follow that pornography should be prohibited or censored. For the objective of such prohibition or censorship would be to reduce the incidence of sexual offences. This is an objective that can be pursued through other measures. A preventive measure would be to improve education, e.g. better sex education or better teaching of the importance of respect for people and property. A more obvious measure would be better law enforcement and stiffer penalties for offenders. Surely, everyone but the criminals would agree that tougher action against offenders is preferable to suppression of a fundamental human right?

Third, suppose the contention of the harm-to-children argument were true. Again, it would not follow that freedom of expression should be suppressed, since there are other ways of dealing with the matter which do not suppress fundamental rights. There are many things which are harmful to children, e.g. alcohol, tobacco, medicines, sharp implements, guns, etc. It is the responsibility of adults to see that children do not come into contact with these things or to ensure children's use of them is properly supervised. There are also sanctions against adults who negligently or willfully bring children into dangerous contact with such things.

Fourth, suppose the contention of the degrades-women argument were true. This would not justify prohibiting or censoring pornography. For, given harm to women comes under the harm-to-others argument, the objective of the prohibition or censorship would be purely to suppress an opinion, that women are subservient to, or inferior to, men. Such an objective could not be entertained by the government of a free society. And it could not be achieved simply by prohibiting or censoring pornography, since the opinion in question could still be expressed in non-pornographic representations.

In short, even supposing the contentions of all four anti-pornography arguments were true, they would not, in a free society, supply legitimate grounds for suppressing freedom of expression.

Sex and sexuality can be immensely important in human life and happiness. People should be free to explore and enjoy them without inhibitions. One way of doing this, is to produce and consume pornography, which is, after all, merely a celebration of the fun of sex for its own sake. On this view, far from devaluing people, pornography contributes to the personal development and fulfillment of those people who enjoy it. Denying pornography to these people puts an obstacle in their way; and insofar as it succeeds in obstructing their self-realization, it is that which devalues them. Then, measures to prohibit or censor pornography could not legitimately be pursued by the government of a free society, or by any government which took human rights seriously. Yet, in Turkey, our government boasts that we have the toughest anti-pornography laws in Europe and the Middle East. We are, indeed, on the road to despotism.

* Ayşegül Akbay Yarpuzlu is a professor at the Faculty of Health and Education at Ankara University. She can be reached at








Failure to reform financial systems across the board is feeding directly into the downwards economic spiral. As the need for reform becomes ever more urgent in every sector, the government of the PPP and its allies views with concern an election that is going to be upon them early in 2013. The tax conundrum lies at the heart of many of our ills. The Federal Board of Revenue has announced that a mere 1.9 million people out of a registered taxable population of 3.2 million actually paid anything in 2010. Our fiscal deficit has widened to 5.3 percent from 6.3 percent of GDP in 2010; and our projected growth figures according to the Asian Development Bank limit our growth to 2.5 percent in 2011 and to 3.2 percent in 2012. Slightly less than one percent of the population pays any direct taxes at all.

The failure to reform or collect taxation links to an unwillingness by donor agencies to support us, as evidenced by the stalling of $14 billion by donors for our failure to implement power-sector reforms. The reforms are facing stout opposition from assorted vested interests who fear a loss of their own influence – and personal profits. Smart metering systems have not been installed as promised. There are no new CEOs for the electric power distribution companies as per commitment. The power sector as a whole loses Rs46.8 billion annually due to poor management and the theft of furnace oil. Our deficits are developing an alarming tendency to converge, and the KESC appears to have completely run out of bunker oil to run generators. Spending on health and education is at an all time low and there is a distinct impression that as our metaphorical Rome burns, our politicians play both the literal and metaphorical fiddle. And the common man? Goes hungry, jobless and eternally in the dark – not that this is likely to concern the Neros who lead us.






The Pakistan government's rather desperate efforts to save face following the operation against Osama bin Laden which we now know was carried out unilaterally by the US have not really fooled anyone. Pakistan and its security apparatus have become something of a laughing stock, with the media around the world highlighting the discovery of the world's most wanted man at walking distance from a leading military academy. The ISI has bravely accepted failure, the military and government say the hilly terrain around Abbottabad and the special equipment used by the Americans prevented detection of intrusion, and, in what appears to be an especially pathetic effort, the president in an obviously ghost-written article, has emphasised past collaboration with the US and stressed Pakistan's sufferings as a victim of terror.

The embarrassment which hangs all around cannot be disguised – and after the initial stunned reaction as leaders were informed of what had happened less than 100 miles away from the capital, there is finally a greater willingness to face reality. There is no real choice but to do so – given that the facts have been highlighted everywhere with US officials making only a passing reference to Pakistani assistance against terror.The most crucial questions have perhaps risen after the Foreign Office statement. These questions include how secure Pakistan – and its nuclear weapons – really are, given that helicopters were able to fly undetected deep into our territory. We need some answers, especially since it is highly unlikely that the US will, after the success of this mission, take serious note of Islamabad's warning that such operations must not be repeated.

Meanwhile, like the rest of the world, people at home ask what Pakistan's role in the whole business has been. Intelligence veterans like General Hamid Gul have described the lack of information about Osama's presence in Abbottabad as 'amazing'. And CIA Director Leon Panetta is no less surprised. He has said that Pakistan is either incompetent or involved. In the UK, questions are being asked regarding the handing out of aid to Pakistan given what is seen as its duplicity as far as terrorism goes. The same concerns have been raised in other countries. None of this is good news for Islamabad. The almost laughable claim of a 'great victory' by the prime minister may be turning into a significant defeat. The begging bowl he holds out, citing militancy as one reason why we need aid, may not fill quite so fast – and there will inevitably be far more pressure on it to prove that it is in fact committed to combating terrorism, rather than playing games that threaten to land us in very deep trouble.






The presidential petition being heard by an 11-member Supreme Court bench seeking a review of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case, revives many ghosts from the past. Counsel Babar Awan has stated Bhutto – hanged in 1979 according to records – was in fact killed in custody beforehand. His is hardly a new allegation; stories of torture and of Bhutto being killed in his cell have surfaced before – and the court, predictably enough, has asked Mr Awan for a more detailed and less biased account of the events that took place over three decades ago.

The case will continue for now, as the court determines if a full review is justified. But what the proceedings have highlighted so far is how many secrets and uncertainties cloud our history. There is much about the past we know little of, ranging from the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan to events in 1971 in Bangladesh. There are many other mysteries that have never been solved. What we need as a nation is a clearer narrative of our history and more objective accounts of events. The absence of these complicates matters, as is indeed happening in this case. For the sake of future generations, the truth needs to be known about many matters, so that it can help us determine our future. This is vital to our survival as a stable nation, with many of the crises we face now stemming from mistakes that were made in the past.









 "Fair is foul and foul is fair,

Hover through fog and filthy air."

-- 'Macbeth' by Shakespeare

Zardari's alliance with the PML-Q to get the budget passed, failing which his government would have been shown the door, will no doubt unleash a fresh round of applause from the usual bunch of starry-eyes, awe-struck so-called experts and analysts as yet another stroke of 'genius' on his part. It matters not that political and ethical principles as well as all important considerations of national and public interest are nowhere in sight, but as long as it produces the effect of rescuing the government from collapse, it is a stroke of 'genius' for some, even though the nation is already expressing revulsion at such a brazen sellout on both sides.

All we heard in the run-up to this unholy alliance was how many seats in cabinet will be awarded to the PML-Q, who will get the most lucrative and powerful portfolios and who will be deputy prime minister or senior minister.

With the crown prince of the PML-Q sitting in prison under charges of corruption, one could be forgiven for believing that there is a whole other aspect of this accord between the PPP and the PML-Q that public eyes are not privy to. But what will the country and the people get out of this alliance? If either side had even a trace of ideological foundations and commitments or even an iota of concern for the people they purport to represent, there would have been give and take on issues of public interest rather than wrangling over cabinet posts and portfolios.

Apart from a routine statement of demands for public consumption which nobody expects to be implemented, who actually believes that the PML-Q really pressed the government in earnest for meaningful measures to ensure the cessation of drone attacks, a crack down on corruption and stopping massive wastage of public funds, action in Karachi to stop the target-killing bloodbath and improvement of the law and order conditions generally?

All this alliance amounts to is a melee of 'use and be used' for both parties for personal and political benefits. Both sides know this and they do not mind being used by the other side as long as they too profit from it. No benefits whatsoever shall accrue to the nation. Still, some will rush to call this alliance a stroke of genius.

This government feels it is bestowing a great favour upon Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by filing a presidential reference in the Supreme Court to exonerate his name in the murder case for which he was hanged. The fact is that the people of Pakistan and history always held him to be innocent and his legacy has been repeatedly honoured by the people as his party has thrice been voted into power since his judicial murder. But while this government pays meaningless lip service to the Bhutto legacy, it has formed an alliance with those who played a key role in the PNA movement that toppled his government and put him in the gallows.

Furthermore, this government, which came into power only because of Benazir Bhutto's murder, reportedly offered the post of deputy prime minister and now senior minister to the man Benazir herself named among those who should be held answerable if anything happened to her.

In a press conference in Karachi on the day after the attempt on her life upon her return from exile, the whole world saw Benazir Bhutto identify by name people who she believed wanted her dead and should be held accountable if she were to be harmed – this list included the name of a PML-Q leader who has now been inducted into the cabinet and will reportedly soon be appointed senior minister.

It is also public knowledge that in his first press conference after Benazir Bhutto's funeral, Zardari referred to the PML-Q as the Qatil (murderers) League. Now, this sudden somersault in the name of preservation of power is sans principles, sans even a smidgen of honesty and morality, and sans any loyalty to the Bhuttos, in whose name this lot live, breathe and have prospered financially and politically beyond their wildest dreams.

What greater betrayal of the Bhuttos of Garhi Khuda Buksh can there be than their political successors forging an alliance with their mortal enemies? But some persist in calling such immoral maneuvering political 'genius'.

The scent of the Bhuttos has disappeared from the Peoples Party. Truth be told, the process of jettisoning all traces of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from his own party was initiated by Benazir Bhutto herself. She severed ties with the old guard, who created the party along with her father and who were senior and ideologically committed office bearers and workers on whose shoulders her father rose to power and acquired international fame, to make room for the very elements that her father struggled against and some of whom even celebrated and distributed sweets when he was hanged.

His vision and unbending principled stand was watered down and diluted in the name of political expediency. After Benazir Bhutto's murder, the new leadership not only completed the elimination of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's aura from the party but embarked upon replacing Benazir's influence with those whom she and her father bore contempt for and made it a point to keep at arms length.

Adherence to personality cults is an archaic concept and new leaders must evolve a new outlook and vision for the future based on sound morals and principles, but this lot has failed to do so simply because it has no vision, no fresh message of hope. The only crutch they have to lean on to survive in power is the Bhutto name and they cannot face the people without literally hiding behind the portraits of Bhuttos to conceal ugly realities. But now even that spell is wearing off. People demand results and solutions to their mounting problems which hollow old slogans and appeals to drained out emotions cannot provide.

In all this, the silence of the jiyalas is deafening. Is there no one left in the whole party with a conscience, if not at the ministerial or MNA/MPA/senator level, who have supped full at the banquet of power, then at the grassroots level? No one who still retains some vestige of commitment to the principles of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto and feels genuine pain in seeing their new party leaders embrace their mortal enemies? Where are all those who wailed and beat their chests hysterically when Benazir was murdered? Where are all those who make it a point to be photographed offering fateha and shedding crocodile tears at the tomb of the Bhuttos in Garhi Khuda Buksh every so often?

How can they watch in criminal silence as their party is mercilessly dismantled from within, something even military dictators failed to do? This poignant silence is a crushing indictment of our society as a whole; we have come to value personal gain more than principles and self-aggrandisement more than heeding our conscience.

But what will happen after all the 'using' and 'being used' is done? The PML-N, MQM and JUI-F know only too well how things unfold in alliances with this government. This new alliance is the most unnatural one yet in the last three years. Troubled times lie ahead, not just for this ill-fated alliance but for the whole nation, for we have forsaken principles and values based on honesty, truth and justice to pursue expediency and a quick buck. That is why, instead of opting for clean and capable leaders, we prefer dishonest and corrupt ones who loot public funds and throw a few scraps our way as well.

The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.







We have all read books featuring pirates. Chilling images of the one-legged Long John Silver and the evil blind man Pew stick in the mind from the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic 'Treasure Island' and other yarns featuring the much-feared Jolly Roger fluttering above a pirate ship. Even today, obsessed men hunt for treasure they believe was left hidden centuries ago by legendary pirates.

But modern piracy is, of course, quite different from that which existed in ancient times. It is focused off the seas that surround Somalia with talk in the international community of moving in to capture Somali waters or even the 'pirate' villages which have crept up along its long coastline which wraps elegantly around the horn of Africa.

In the United Nations there is more and more talk about the issue and after the USS Bainbridge was seized by pirates in April 2009, prompting retaliation from the US Navy, President Obama also chimed in to say that there was need for action.

Since then, the problem has grown. In 2010, a record 1,181 hostages were seized off 49 vessels. Ransoms ranging from $500,000 to two million dollars have been paid in past years. Demands for amounts as high as $25 million have been made; insurance premiums have soared and aerial drops of tightly sealed ransom amounts over the high seas have become more commonplace.

The barely functional, transitional government in Mogadishu is essentially helpless and the pirates – some of whom own sprawling mansions and snazzy cars – have triggered an economic boom in towns such as Eyl, where restaurants that feed hostages flourish and other related enterprise has grown.

Modern pirates wield rocket-propelled grenades and guns, rather than swords, but the sight of a swarm of men scrambling up rope ladders onto a targeted ship is – for the crew – no less terrifying than that of Captain Hook swaggering along deck.

The captives they have taken are from a wide range of nationalities. Right now, among the scores of hostages held, are at least four Pakistani sailors, captured from the Egyptian cargo ship the MV Suez in August last year. The families of the captives have appeared on television seeking help for their loved ones.

The issue of piracy has also been taken up at home as a result of this ongoing drama. A ransom demand of two million dollars has been made in exchange for the captured Pakistanis.

An Indian welfare organisation has offered one million dollars and the shipping company had chipped in with 0.5 million dollars – while efforts are on to raise the remaining amount.

Traditionally, the Pakistan government has done little to help its citizens captured at sea. In April this year, the Danish Navy rescued 16 Pakistanis who had been in the captivity of Somalian pirates for over a year after having been taken hostage in a number of different incidents.

But is there only one kind of piracy prevalent in Somalian waters? Are the pirates who raid ships and demand large ransoms usually from insurance companies really villains without anything to redeem them? The voices of these men are of course almost never heard.

Only rarely are the views of others in Africa who paint a somewhat different account of events reflected in the mainstream media. We hardly ever hear them. The story these sources tell is a significantly different one.

They speak of another kind of piracy in the region. This involves giant trawlers that illegally fish in Somalia's tuna-rich waters and also dump toxic, possibly even radioactive waste, in the area thus killing off fish close to the shores.

The result has also been a devastating loss of livelihood for the fishing communities which had formed around the Somalian coast chiefly during the 1970s and 1980s after drought drove farmers and herdsmen close to the seas and the livelihood they offered.

The collapse of the autocratic, socialist government of Siyad Barre in 1991, the breakout of civil war in Somalia and the consequent collapse of the Somalian Navy and Coast Guard left its waters open to powerful poachers from all across Southern Europe and the Middle East, who saw an opportunity to take home rich catches of fish.

Impoverished Somalian fishermen in their tiny boats stood no chance in the presence of the enormous vessels that muscled their way in. The fishermen also say that their nets were deliberately cut, their boats rammed and destroyed.

This piracy continues today, but outside Africa it is hardly ever spoken of – despite the fact that the fishermen victimised by it were the first to turn to piracy, as a means of survival, and, according to their own accounts, patrol the waters of their own land.

Since then, the growing influence of pirates, notably in the Puntland region of Somalia, and the increased organisation demonstrated by them have complicated the issue.

Force hardly seems to be the best solution. Like so many other African countries, Somalia has suffered from far too much intervention from the outside – following its independence from the British in 1960.

For the last two decades it has been in chaos, with secessionist warlords giving way to a brittle government trying to holdback Islamic militancy. While an international force patrolling waters that are deemed the most dangerous in the world may offer a temporary respite, the only lasting solution lies in greater stability within Somalia.

The existence of another band of pirates, aboard ships which fly the flags of many powerful nations, also needs to be acknowledged. The plunder of the nation's waters and the theft from its helpless people is also a crime that must be dealt with. Anger within the country, reflected in writing and in music, runs high against this outrageous conduct and the silence of the world.

Both kinds of piracy off the Somalian Coast must be treated as an inter-linked issue. There cannot be one set of rules for some countries and different ones for others. Somalia needs a government that is sufficiently empowered to tackle the problem.

The best service the world can offer is help one take command and end the bedlam which affects Somalia just as badly as the ships which nose their way around its shores.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor. Email: kamilahyat@







'Go back as far as you will into the vague past,' Mark Twain writes in The Innocents Abroad, 'there was always a Damascus. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies'.

And the latest victim of the ancient city could be the Bathist order that has ruled Syria for nearly half a century since the so-called Arab socialist revolution led by Hafez Al Assad, the late father of President Bashar Al Assad. Now the trouble with revolutions is they are not just dangerously unpredictable, they often sow the seeds of their own nemesis with their excessive zeal and violent ways.

When a minuscule minority, responding to the winds of change sweeping the region, took to the streets in Syria about a month ago, constantly looking over their shoulder, Assad had thundered: "The Arab spring stops here!"

And he has, ably assisted by the trusted, crooked comrades of his late father, tried every tested trick in the book to rein it in – from shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic that is this regime to offering to lift the hated emergency laws. When little seemed to work, he did what his kind in this part of the world do best: Send in the tanks and boots to crush the protesters.

Yet the harder the regime tries to suppress the raging inferno of protests and the anger of a long repressed and persecuted people, the angrier it becomes. Hundreds have been killed in the ferocious crackdown raging across Syria and by the time this wave of Arab spring breaks over this mystical land, it may have left behind mountains and mountains of bodies. The casual, breathtaking brutality of these so-called Arab leaders against their people would shame the famously coldblooded Israelis.

It's the same story next door in Muammar Qaddafi's Libya. The industrial scale of the massacre in Libya has killed thousands and would have inevitably killed thousands more if the UN hadn't woken up and intervened. And the more violent and vile the mad Colonel gets in his desperate attempts to hold on to power, the greater defiance and determination he appears to inspire in his victims.

It's amazing how most of these men refuse to learn from the region's most recent history to march on, drunk on power and eyes wide shut, into the minefield that has already claimed many of their fellow travellers. Both Qaddafi and Assad steadily ignore the fate that has befallen Ben Ali and Mubarak.

And it's all the more amazing how a people long caricatured as docile and indifferent imbeciles who suffer in silence and allow themselves to be enslaved by their corrupt, ruthless despots have turned on their tormentors with a determination and quiet courage that would have made Gandhi and Mandela proud.

This is an epic battle of wits and wills, if there ever was one. And if the recent history is any indication, this is a war the Assads and Qaddafis of this world are destined to lose to the other side. Eventually. Sooner or later.

Having long been held hostage to history and conspiracy of circumstances first by colonial masters and then by their own, they have suffered enough. The ground shifting changes in the neighbourhood have set them free. Forever. They have sighted what lies beyond the high walls that imprison them. They have seen the future in a flash and it has captivated them. And nothing will persuade them to go back and withdraw themselves into the shell they have lived in all these years. This is a battle that Assad has already lost. He lost it when he sent those tanks into towns and cities across Syria to crush his people.

The western-educated physician who promised a 'swift cure' to an ailing nation when he took over from his father 11 years ago is little different from the prototype of potentates the Arab world has seen so many, from the Levant to Maghreb. The good doctor vows to arrest the Arab spring in Syria. But who has ever been able to imprison an idea whose time has come?

Men like Assad, Qaddafi and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh may delude themselves, and the world, for some time that all's well and that they are here to stay and rule till kingdom come. Eventually though they will have to face the writing on the wall. They are on the wrong side of history and they know it. Only they cannot muster the courage to admit it.

This obscene, appalling display of brute force against unarmed, peaceful protesters may buy them momentary modicum of calm and respite. However, they know in their hearts that this flimsy veneer of order can be ripped apart any time by a single voice of protest. Didn't they see what just happened on the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere? Violence and heavy handed tactics by security forces that have sustained all these regimes all these years have only provoked greater popular fury and have hardened the resolve of the Arab street to cast off their tormentors, sending them where they belong – in the dustbin of history.

The facade of fear that the powers that be had carefully constructed around themselves was torn apart when the Tunisian fruit vendor Mohammad Bouazizi had set himself on fire in protest in the dying moments of last year. The genie is out of the bottle and no power on earth can force it back. Change is a reality and is destined to transform the Middle East, the birthplace of all civilisation, whether anyone likes it or not. Arab elites would ignore this stark reality at their peril.

The Arab League seemed to come to terms with it when it unequivocally condemned the use of force against peaceful protesters, saying they "deserve support, not bullets."

In an extraordinary tribute to the pulsating spirit of our times, the League reminded its members: "The people's demands for freedom and democracy are demands that require support not bullets in the chests of demonstrators. We call on Arab regimes and governments to commit to and speed up reforms, immediately stop using force against demonstrators and spare their citizens bloodshed. These demonstrations point to a new Arab era led by youths seeking a better present and a brighter future."

This would have been unthinkable even a couple of months ago for the Cairo-based League. Better late than never. Clearly, we are living in interesting times, as the Chinese say it. Arab elites have been presented with a rare opportunity to be on the right side of history. They face a stark choice: Go with the hopes and aspirations of their people and redeem themselves and the region stuck in a time warp for centuries despite its rich human and natural resources.

The alternative is total chaos and bloodshed everywhere, inviting the vultures waiting in the wings for an endless feast. However, for all their awesome power and nuisance value, our western and Zionist friends cannot ground this juggernaut of change. If anyone could imprison the Arab spring, it will be the Arabs themselves.

The writer is based in the Gulf.








  The US corporate media and members of US Congress and Senate have brazenly advised Obama administration to assassinate Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and members of his extended family. Senator Lindsey Graham, member of the Senate Armed Services committee, said on CNN: "My recommendation to Nato and administration is to cut the head of the snake off. Go to Tripoli, start bombing Qaddafi's inner circle, their compounds, their military headquarters."

Had such dreadful advice not been given by US policymakers to Nato, without any qualms of conscience, a suitable euphemism in place of 'murder' in the title of this piece could have been used to make Qaddafi's proposed murder look less gruesome. Had Senator Graham read George Orwell on how grisly acts of war were euphemised to make them palatable, he could have asked to 'silence Qaddafi' instead of demanding the cutting off of his head. But the Senator must have chosen his words carefully for his warning to sound as stark, spiteful, and ghastly as it did.

When the CNN host pointed out that attacks on civilian areas of Tripoli were not covered by the UN resolution 1973, the Senator retorted, "The goal is to get rid of Qaddafi. The people around Qaddafi need to wake up every day wondering 'will this be my last?'. So I wouldn't let the UN mandate stop what is the right thing to do." Hubris apart, what did Qaddafi do to earn the wrath of the imperialist powers is what bewilders large populations of Muslim countries, save many of their governments. Arab leaders who are aiding and abetting Libya's destruction will do well to remember that they might soon face the predicament Qaddafi now faces.

Desert sands are proverbially treacherous. When they shift, one feels them slipping under the feet while one wistfully looks towards the Muslim brethren for help. But the brethren in cloaks choose to remain mute; they're grateful to live a few more years in opulence. Had atrocities of the magnitude perpetrated against Libya been committed against any tiny Christian country, the Christian world would have crowed to high heavens. The Muslim world is in a deep slumber.

Without doubt, the wars of the last 10 plus years are predatory by any definition and corporate media have played a leading role in promoting them. For instance, the editorial desks and columnists of the New York Times and the Washington Post have actually been guiding the US administration in what to do and how to proceed in Libya. The Times has advised using A-130 Hercules turbo prop armed with 105mm cannon that fires 10 high explosive shells a minute, and three 25mm cannons that fire 7500 rounds a minute on their targets. The aircraft has been described as the 'Angel of Death' because shrapnel from its cannon fire spread across about 1500 metres. Further, this aircraft has been used with devastating impact in Iraq and Afghanistan. Human beings caught in the orbit of fire are blown to smithereens.

Noticeably, the main media outlets leading the Libyan war on the media front are Fox News, The Sun, The Times of London, Sunday Times, the Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, and of course, the New York Times and the Washington Post. It is no surprise that the first five belong to one of the largest media conglomerates – News Corporation owned by Rupert Murdoch, an Australian Jew and now, a naturalised US citizen. Some of us rejoicing to watch two shows for the price of one in reading the International Herald Tribune – a dwarfed version of the New York Times – along with the English daily that is locally published, may like to know the origin of the paper, its editorial policy, and what it stands for.

Wouldn't most of us like to read balanced news and articles and not distorted facts, slanted news, and carefully crafted untruth in the guise of gospel truth?

Nevertheless, the rhetoric going around paints a great humanitarian effort to save the Libyans, Qaddafi's own people. The world is told that his forces are mercilessly killing people, and that the three imperial powers, the UK, France, and the US are now planning to land their troops to save them. Even though the mission is humanitarian, these powers are committed to the idea of regime change. Luckily, both missions are blending beautifully in Libya.


The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore. Email:








The writer is a defence and political analyst

The greatest, most expensive manhunt in history, employing human and material resources far beyond anything else in recorded times, culminated at about 3 a.m. on Sunday, May 1, 2011. With a shot to the head over the left eye, and maybe another one in the chest, Osama bin Laden's decade-long evasion of those seeking him "dead or alive" came to an abrupt end. US president Barrack Obama, who earlier had given the definitive "kill" order and watched the whole operation by live video feed, said, "Justice has been done." Bin Laden met his end very much like he lived – violently. Belatedly but ultimately, the US got its point across to those who harm its interests: you can run, but you cannot hide – not forever, at least.

A "hideout" less than a kilometre away from the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul was mortifying for someone who graduated nearly 46 years ago from this revered institution. In hindsight, given the utter incongruity of it, it was extremely clever for the most wanted man in the world to take deep cover literally a stone's throw away from where Gen Kayani had only recently addressed the graduating cadets being commissioned into the army.

The isolated fortified villa was not suspicious by itself. Many such high-walled entities exist all over the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces, for security reasons but also to keep prying eyes of neighbours away from the womenfolk. Allegations of such impropriety having often led to deadly fire fights, it is not surprising that neighbours tend not to be as nosy as in other areas. Given the proximity to possible Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) support further up in the mountains, Abbottabad was well chosen.

Conversely, one may ask, if there was indeed Pakistani collusion, what moron would be so stupid as to hide Bin Laden in a major garrison town, albeit one full of foreign NGOs in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake?

Four US helicopters took part in the surgical operation, lifting an elite US SEAL unit to rappel down ropes onto the roof of the compound. The fire fight lasted only a few minutes, the commandos stayed on the ground for nearly 45 minutes, collecting a virtual intelligence treasure trove of computer hard drives, a hundred or so storage discs and documents. Before picking up Bin Laden's body and taking one captive, they carried out a quick screening of the dozen-plus people left alive, mainly women and children.

From Jalalabad in Afghanistan to the target location would have taken the raiders over (or near) three bases of the Pakistani air force, including the very active army helicopter base at Tarbela engaged in ongoing operations in Swat. Having myself flown extensively in the area as a helicopter pilot beyond Abbottabad along the Karakoram Highway (KKH), it was most surprising that the PAF radar units, fixed and mobile, failed to pick up all this aerial activity even slipping through radar blind spots, particularly at that time of the night. Obviously the radars were jammed. That does not bode well for our air defences – the frequencies were compromised.

From Jalalabad to Abbottabad and back, with 45 minutes' hovering time at the target location, is quite an extended time for choppers to go without refuelling, even with a disposable fuel tank. Where was the "forward base" located where fuel bowsers refuelled the choppers? Somebody has to take full responsibility for this atrocious operational failure in not scrambling our fighter aircraft. Has anybody the conscience to fall on his sword?

Grudgingly acknowledging Pakistani collaboration helping the US close in eventually on Bin Laden's hideout, the extent of "actionable intelligence," if any, is unknown. Being kept out of the loop for "security reasons" in the actual operations is embarrassing for us as a nation. That we remained totally oblivious militarily of either Bin Laden or the operation, both smack of gross incompetence as was suggested by outgoing CIA Chief Leon Panetta.

The 9/11 atrocity against the highly symbolic "Twin Towers" and the Pentagon, the 3,000-plus US victims (including passengers in United Airlines Flight 93) left a permanent scar on the American psyche, nurturing a deep psychological yearning for revenge, ironically a very Islamic concept of "an eye for an eye." Obama reiterated this presidential diktat to "kill or capture" the perpetrator of the 9/11 atrocity, soon after taking office. The spontaneous reaction of widespread joy on Bin Laden's death was evident among the citizens thronging the streets across the US at midnight, congregating symbolically at "Ground Zero" in New York and outside the White House in Washington DC. Maybe not for crass political reasons (the presidential stakes were high for Obama if anything went wrong) but for psychological ones. It was important that the finger on the trigger be American. A rambling Osama bin Laden in the dock would have been a symbolic living martyr fomenting more terrorism.

The calculated risk in the human element notwithstanding, a physical operation was the pragmatic choice, rather than a missile attack. That revenge was derived ultimately by US hands satisfied its ecstatic citizens, even the most diehard Republicans weighed in to praise the Democrat president, the one they had only just been labelling as "weak and indecisive."

A very significant vocal minority in Pakistan remains enamoured by Bin Laden despite his brutal excesses. The US said that for reasons of operational secrecy, Pakistani participation was not feasible. Certainly, no one would have trusted anyone in the civilian government about the impending operations; might as well announce it on CNN or the BBC! But the fact that the American chose also to keep the military hierarchy in the dark shows a lack of respect for our tremendous sacrifices. By far, most Pakistani citizens (5,000-plus military and over 30,000 civilian ones, making for roughly 10 times the number of American losses) have died in this war. However, highlighting Pakistani involvement would have force-multiplied terrorist retaliation in the heartland. It probably made good political sense to let Americans take credit for dealing with this "hot potato."

One may not agree with what all the ISI does or with its motives and methods, but it still happens to be one of the prime institutions protecting the country's core interests. We have to support firmly the soldiers dying every day in counterinsurgency operations, notwithstanding the many times more collateral civilian damage suffered by those killed in the streets and mosques. There will be extraordinary pressure within the US to exit Afghanistan now that Bin Laden is dead, a long struggle against terrorism looms ahead of us and we need the US, and they do need us. Bin Laden, alive or dead, does not matter. The fight is far from over!

Pakistan's detractors are having a field day, converting conjuncture into fact. Scurrilous speculations are being bandied about regarding our intelligence agencies. The data collected from Abbottabad by the raiding party as well as the captives' interrogation report assumes great importance. For Pakistan's future as a credible entity in the comity of nations, the real truth, whatever it may be, must come out. Anybody cooperating with terrorists needs a short shrift. On the other hand, the US has all the evidence to either clear or indict "Pakistani collaboration," official or unofficial. The blunt message to our US allies must be unequivocal: put up or shut up!








Al-Qaeda is the most successful terrorist organisation in history. By destroying the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11 it provoked the US into launching wars damaging to itself in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al-Qaeda aimed to destroy the status quo in the Middle East and it succeeded beyond its wildest dreams.

Its success has not been all its own doing. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's number two and chief strategist, wrote at the time of 9/11 that the aim of the group was to lure the US into an over-reaction in which it would "wage battle against the Muslims." Once the US was committed to a ground war, and no longer exercised its power primarily through local surrogates, the way would be open for Muslims to launch a jihad against America. By over-reacting, President Bush, aided by Tony Blair, responded to 9/11 very much as Al-Qaeda would have wished.

In the decade since the attack on the Twin Towers 'terrorist experts' and governments have frequently portrayed Al-Qaeda as a tightly organised group located in north-west Pakistan. From some secret headquarters its tentacles reach out across the world, feeding recruits, expertise and money to different battlefronts.

Al-Qaeda has never operated like that. The closest it ever came to being a sort of Islamic Comintern was when it had several hundred militants based in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 1996-2001. Even at that time, when it could operate more or less freely in the Afghan mountains, its numbers were so small that it would hire local tribesmen by the day to be filmed for Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, showing its men marching and training.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies were criticised after 9/11 for failing to pick up on the threat posed by Al-Qaeda early in the 1990s. But in practice it barely existed before 1996 when Laden moved to Afghanistan from Sudan and, even then, he was only one among several players leading Islamic jihadi groups. Since 2001 Al-Qaeda has continued to exist organisationally mainly as a series of local franchises.

Al-Qaeda had the advantage post 9/11 that it did not have to do much to have an impact in the US.

No US government can afford to have another 9/11 take place without devastating retaliation from the voters. Washington had to be seen to be doing something successful to restore American confidence in its own strength. One of the reasons why George Bush's administration had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq rather than devoting all efforts to hunting down Bin Laden, was that the first two options seemed easy and the third was not.

Osama's demise will have some impact on Al-Qaeda itself, in so far as it exists as an organisation but its main impact will be on American self-confidence. Of course, there will be jihadi groups who will want to restore the balance of terror by making new attacks, but none are likely to have the same impact as 9/11.

The collapse of the old order in the Arab world may play against Al-Qaeda: it will no longer be the beneficiary to the extent it was in the past of the hatred felt towards local dictators allied to or tolerated by the US.

Al-Qaeda's appeal will be diluted. But already its significance was mainly confined to the world of perceptions rather than real threats. This is why it is of such real importance that Bin Laden, the symbol of so many American fears, is dead.

Courtesy: www.counterpunch. org








AT a time when some of the US lawmakers and western leaders are raising questions as to how Osama bin Laden stayed in Abbottabad for so long, a saner advice has come from Beijing where Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated that Pakistan has made an important contribution in the war against terrorism. Spokesperson Jiang Yu during a briefing pointed out that Pakistani government was firm in its resolve and strong in action in war against terrorism.

Since the killing of Al-Qaeda head, Pakistan is facing a violent backlash and the western leaders and media are in the forefront in the propaganda as they got an opportunity to blame it. However as pointed out by President Asif Ali Zardari in his opinion article published in the Washington Post, this does not reflect the facts as Pakistan suffered the most in the war on terror in terms of loss of lives and economy as compared to any other country and in fact it was Pakistan that identified the courier that helped in tracing out Osama. Former President Retd General Pervez Musharraf has also refuted the propaganda when he told Fox News that it would have been stupid for the country's main intelligence agency to keep Osama hiding in plain sight. Since day one Pakistan has been emphasising that it remains committed to fighting the radical elements that continue to terrorize its citizens. The western leaders and the media must carefully read President Obama's speech who thanked Pakistan for its cooperation. Former US Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain also gave a sound advice to the administration that the US must stand with Pakistan. Some U.S. officials also said that while Pakistan was not informed of the mission, the country was helpful in leading the U.S. to bin Laden. However many analysts don't even believe that Washington kept Pakistan in the dark on the Bin Laden mission. A former Pentagon intelligence analyst in his newsletter, Nightwatch, wrote that the compound could not have been attacked from Afghanistan and Osama's body taken by US Navy SEALs flying US helicopters without official Pakistani government cooperation. Therefore we would impress upon the western leaders and the media not to draw early conclusions as there are many links still missing which would be known with the passage of time and pay heed to the Chinese advice about Pakistan's contributions in the war against terror.








INDIA has never missed the opportunity of Pakistan-bashing and its reaction to the Abbottabad operation by the US forces has once again highlighted New Delhi's venomous attitude towards Islamabad. Following immediate statement of Home Minister who accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism, now Indian Air Chief P V Naik has tried to bully Pakistan by claiming that his force has the capability of surgical strikes like that of the United States demonstrated in Abbottabad.

Though, strictly speaking, Indian Air Chief was talking about capability of IAF but we must not take the comment lightly in the backdrop of repeated warnings that India might go for hot pursuit and even target so-called 'training centres' of militants. American action, in a way, encourages others to follow the suit and that is why there is great resentment in the country over violation of the country's sovereignty by the US forces. Whether or not the operation was conducted with the knowledge or support of the Pakistani forces, the mute reaction of the Government over trampling of Pakistan's sovereignty has also caused frustration and anger among people. Pakistan must show zero tolerance to such violations especially when it has repeatedly offered to act upon the actionable intelligence if provided to it. We are confident that Pakistan Air Force is fully prepared and geared to take up any challenge from the eastern border but still the Government and PAF authorities should sit together to ponder over ways and means to strengthen its capabilities to send right signal to our enemies that they would get a matching response for any adventure. We say this because the authorities concerned have adopted an unacceptable position on the issue of Abbottabad operation by maintaining that our radar system remained clueless about intrusion by American helicopters which took advantage of 'black spots' on radar. Who will buy the logic that there is an uninterrupted and contagious corridor of black spots right from the Durand Line to Abbottabad? And even if something of the sort exists, then why we failed to take care of the problem when we fully know that the enemy is also on the look out to target our strategic assets? It pains each and every Pakistani that our forces were unaware of the intrusion and 40-minute drama that was played so close to a military facility. Such lapses in future could cost dearly to the country and therefore, every step should be taken to ensure vigilance and other measures to defend our interests.







IT is, perhaps, for the first time that the Government has responded in a highly positive manner to a just and legitimate demand of one section of the society i.e. doctors and paramedics. The issuance of notification by Health Ministry of the new Career Structure for Health Personnel (CSHP) has widely been welcomed by all the stakeholders because it fulfils their aspirations in adequate manner.

In fact, it was one of the recommendations of the Pay and Pension Commission that there should be separate pay structure for education and health so as to attract talented people to these sectors but unfortunately the Government ignored this recommendation citing financial constraints. Health personnel are lucky that they have been delinked from the Basic Pay Scales and would now have separate but highly lucrative service structure but their counterparts in education are still a neglected lot denied of the promised benefits. While appreciating the move of the Government with respect to health personnel, we would urge both federal and provincial governments to fulfil the commitment made to teachers as well in the forthcoming budget. Financial problems notwithstanding no one can deny the fact that investment in teachers and health personnel would pay back in qualitative terms and the investment is worth making. On this occasion, we would also expect from doctors and paramedical staff that they would now fully concentrate on their professional duties. So far, doctors and paramedics have been behaving like bureaucrats with the ailing community forgetting codes and ethics of their profession. There have also been complains that they do not attend patients properly in public sector facilities and refer them to their own or a network of inter-woven private clinics and laboratories. This attitude must now come to an end.








PM Gilani accompanied by Gen Kayani visited Kabul at a time when a visible thaw has occurred in Pak-Afghan relations. Karzai has repeatedly expressed his keenness to remove misgivings and to establish friendly ties with Pakistan since dawn of 2010. He wants Pakistan to play its role in finding an amicable solution to Afghan problem. While agreeing to establish tension-free cordial ties, the visitors gave proofs of Afghan and Indian subversive activities in Balochistan. The hosts were pressed to give an undertaking that in future the Afghan government would not allow Indian interference in Balochistan or any other part of Pakistan . Presence of certain undesirable elements in Afghanistan since the establishment of Northern Alliance heavy regime of Hamid Karzai has been the cause of sour relations between the two neighbors. Afghanistan-Pakistan constructive dialogue is possible only after Afghan rulers make a solemn pledge that it would not allow Afghan soil to be used by India for launching covert operations against Pakistan .

While Pakistan has always vied to maintain cordial and tension free relations with Afghanistan and has never tried to exploit its land lock handicap, successive regimes in Kabul have traditionally treaded hostile path towards Pakistan and have remained inclined towards India . Pakistan 's softness towards Afghanistan has stemmed from commonality of religion and centuries old cultural ties. It was only during the Taliban rule that Pak-Afghan relations were friendly and Indian influence had waned.

Afghanistan is currently in deep trouble since it is an occupied country and ruled by a puppet regime installed by USA . Resistance forces are engaged in Jihad against occupation forces duly supplemented by US trained Afghan National Army which is non-Pashtun heavy. Unlike in 1980s when Pakistan was supporting Afghan Mujahideen to push out occupying Soviet forces, this time Pakistan stands on the side of occupiers and is acting as the conduit to provide logistic support to 152,000 strong ISAF in Afghanistan.

Pakistan position is very dicey since non-Pashtun Afghans have a grudge against Pakistan for having helped Taliban in capturing power in 1996. The Taliban are resentful that Pakistan had ditched them in their hour of crisis and sided with their enemies. The current regime friendly to India strongly suspect that Pakistan is assisting Taliban and hence is hostile to Pakistan . The US-NATO have its own set of grievances against Pakistan because of which it treats Pakistan less as an ally and more as an enemy country. Pakistan is up against massive covert war launched by its adversaries having common objectives against Pakistan . India having no role in war on terror is having the best of everything at the cost of Pakistan .

Faced with multiple challenges, Pakistan is still trying to maintain friendly ties with USA, Afghanistan and India . Since Afghanistan is faced with multiple challenges, Pakistan doesn't want to add to its woes and is keen to help solve Afghan imbroglio. Stable, friendly and peaceful Afghanistan is in the overall interest of Pakistan . Despite its friendly overtures, Afghan government in the tight grip of USA and India is creating extreme problems for the national security and internal stability of Pakistan . The Indian Embassy in Kabul and string of Pakistan specific Indian consulates are involved in training and launching of terrorists and saboteurs into Pakistan. India desires that Pakistan should open its land route through Wagah border to Afghanistan for two-way trade so that it could flood Afghanistan 's markets with Indian goods and thus in the name of reconstruction grab Afghan market and resources. The Indians know that they can reach the coveted riches of Central Asia only through the land route passing through Pakistan and Afghanistan since air business is unfeasible. India has been making strenuous efforts to expand its influence in Afghanistan since 2002. Governed by this strategy, it has been siding with Karzai and now when India has established itself firmly in Afghanistan , it has become that much easy for it to carryout subversive activities against Pakistan , particularly when it enjoys complete blessing of USA . The latter has helped India in gaining a foothold in Afghanistan and gradually expanding it.

It is unfortunate that today very few recall the huge sacrifices made by Pakistan in the 1980s when Afghanistan had been forcibly occupied by Soviet forces and none had come forward to contest Soviet aggression. Had Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq not put Pakistan's security at stake and not stood up to Soviet challenge and not given full support to the Mujahideen, Afghanistan would have become a satellite of Soviet Union dancing to the tunes of Moscow. The latter had embarked upon massive Sovietization program to shatter Afghan's Islamic identity, culture, customs, traditions and historical heritage.

Who doesn't know the pathetic fate of Muslim Central Asian states which were brutally traumatized and their rich culture and identity demolished by Russia ? But for Pakistan 's role, history of the globe would have been different since Soviet Union would not have fragmented. It was because of Pakistan 's principled stand that it had to inherit innumerable problems from which it is suffering to this day. In 1980s, Pakistan faced the brunt of KGB-KHAD-RAW-AlZulfiqar sabotage and subversion for over a decade. Now it is facing CIA-RAW-RAAM-Mossad-MI6 covert war as well as drone war since 2004.

It is an undeniable fact that Karzai regime has offered Afghan soil to anti-Pakistan intelligence agencies to indulge in cross border terrorism against Pakistan . The saboteurs, arms, ammunition, explosives and funds are all being funneled into Pakistan from Afghanistan to aid anti-Pakistan forces in Balochistan and FATA, which are fighting security forces and indulging in acts of terrorism. This inflow is not possible without the active collusion of Afghan government. How is it possible to barge into someone else's house through your house without your permission?

The security situation of Pakistan has aggravated to such an alarming extent that it is no more possible to tolerate Afghanistan 's collusion in subversive activities in Pakistan . The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan who have suffered the most on account of cross border terrorism from Afghanistan are writhing in agony. They are blaming provincial governments for failing to provide them security and for their docility towards adversaries of Pakistan . Their pent up anger has reached a boiling point which may spin out of control anytime.

It has been seen that despite all our goodwill and cooperative gestures, Karzai regime has continued to maintain a hypocritical attitude because of which our efforts have proved fruitless. It is high time that our rulers should come out of their mode of one-sided appeasement and convey firmly to Karzai regime to stop allowing Afghan soil as a launching pad for India to harm Pakistan . We should also review our Afghan policy without further loss of time. If we continue with our policy of ignoring unconcealed foreign interference particularly in Balochistan, it would embolden Indians to continue with their dual policy of extending a hand of friendship as well as stabbing us in the back.


The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.








OBL is dead, it gets a mix reaction. The first impression was not a rejoice; but a trepidation multiplied by millions. It immediately rewinds the tape: US newspaper; Gen David Petraeus, now CIA's head, would fight his third war in Pakistan (earlier he fought Iraq war in which 1.36 million people were killed, according to Stratfor, and then in Afghanistan where around 800,000 killed). Wikileaks; the ISI was in 2007 declared terrorist organization (now disclosed in 2011), US State Department report; the ISI-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba Pakistan is the world's most dreaded terrorist organization, which is spread across Europe and America and has the capacity to launch operations at vital targets in any allied nations' country. Wikileaks; Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, al-Qaeda's No. 3 currently undergoing detention at Gitmo has disclosed that if OBL was killed, the European or western countries will be attacked by a dirty (nuclear, chemical or biological) bomb. And so on…

That Obama has mentioned the operation in Abbottabad's Cantonment locality near PMA Kakul was conducted with the intelligence sharing of Pakistan, but whether it was the joint ground operation, involving US gunships and troops, is not clear. If there was intelligence sharing, then why the Pakistan government could not anticipate that conducting an operation in a military garrison means an open confession that the world's most wanted terrorist OBL & Co were given covered by none else but Pakistan army. How can it be possible that a looking-different big "Waziristan House" right on the wide road to PMA with 12-feet high barbed wire walls, with no telephone, internet or TV cable connection, and no one from the locals or intelligence agencies manning the area due to sensitive and excessive military departments located in the surroundings, take no notice of it? How can it be possible that a shoot-out is held in an area where on all sides the Pakistan army installations and buildings locate, without involving the cover of Pakistani troops?

It is reported that the helicopter was not shot down by any of the guards from inside, nor was it hit by the Pakistan army troops, but rather the Americans deliberately managed to destroy it there in order to establish it as a proof of the operation conducted after midnight between May 1 and May 2. This also strengthens the speculation that if the US helicopter was shot down or crashed, the people on board must have died but as Obama said in his speech no casualty occurred on the Americans' side. The experts say that the remains of the Chinook helicopter suggest that it was the latest version of its manufacture, which has a metal on the surface that cannot be detected through even modern and sensitive radar system.

The intelligence failure, the failure of radar systems, and the confusion whether or not the Pakistan army was onboard is a great setback for Pakistan. However, Obama and Hillary's statements endorsing Pakistan's cooperation give some relief to the thinking that Pakistan and its security or intelligence apparatus was not in the dark, but at the same the question arises why the Americans are giving credit to Pakistan which Islamabad and Rawalpindi do not want to take? Why the Government of Pakistan or the ISPR are not taking a clear stand? The reports that President Asif Ali Zardari, the Supreme Commander of the Pakistan Army, did not know about the operation until Obama phoned him and informed about the successful execution of "the get Osama mission", are not believable. It means either the military leadership kept the heads of government and state in the dark, or the government did not take the military leadership into confidence and instead managed to allow the Americans to raid the house near Kakul Academy. This may aim at putting the ball in army's court to face the international pressure, as already there is talk of the town that the army is heading ISI, a 'declared terrorist organization' and patronizing now the US-declared world terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Tayaba, according to Wikileaks. This also came amidst the government that day was busy in distributing ministries among the new PML-Q partners, and the world on the other hand was planning to take Pakistan head-on, according to Guardian, worse time is waiting ahead for Pakistan, which would be of no match as compared to that of OBL's death.

There are also speculations that it was a stage managed drama scripted at Hollywood, as General Beg suspects Osama's body, already killed in 2004, was brought to Abbottabad in a bid to make a case for Pakistan that look Americans had been pointing out that Osama was in Pakistan but the Pakistani authorities had been rejecting the claim that OBL was not in Pakistan. The way they killed him, and hurriedly buried at sea raises a number of questions. Fears loom large that the US may launch the tirade that the Pakistan army had given him shelter right under its nose and hoodwinked the Americans and misguided the intelligence network. That means the real enemy is not the criminal Osama but those who have been protecting the criminal. This is because it wants to prove that Pakistan is the centre, hub and breeding ground for terrorism. This also justifies Gen Petraeus' claim of fighting his third war in Pakistan.

But there is another possibility which can be positive that Pakistan has so far suffered a lot in this war amidst the do more mantra. If OBL is in Pakistan, why not nip the evil in the bud and eliminate it once and for all. If it is so, then the thinking is appreciated by the general masses. Another view is that the Americans want to withdraw according to the schedual announced. This could have affected Obama party's elections if OBL was not caught. The task is accomplished, so the Americans may go back and let the regional countries decide their own future.

Many believe that his death is symbolic one, as he was not in charge of al-Qaeda operations and hence the impact may not be much. It seems Obama made plain to Islamabad that the latter will take no credit for operation or break news on it. This could only be possible if all high lifting was done by US. With the passing of OBL, jihadis may reject idea of structured jihadi organization and advocate formation of small terror cells without a central leader. Analysts termed Pakistan's failure to detect OBL as shocking. They more such direct attack can be conducted by the US forces in their pursuit of ALQ-Taliban leaders. Dangers we face are, tragically, far from over, even if OBL is killed. No one can believe that Pakistan army knew nothing.

It is not possible. The ISI chief's frequent visits indicated something unusual. Most importantly OBL was found in Pakistan. Reprisals and US pressure, and above all how we react to it is now the biggest test case. OBL is dead. He was a controversial figure. Repressive US can't win war against Islam. We too are not winning it. Such incidents are eye-openers. We must wake up.

The war on terror and turned on Pakistan, it is not WOT but it now WOP, the option we are left with is defiance with compliance, formulating different development strategy before going for an employment strategy. This we have to see in context of our neighboring country's war preparedness and readiness and also in relation to vulnerability, if any, of our nuclear arsenal which are now under grave threat.









Ever since Mr Obama has been elected president of the United States, as the first black politician to have achieved this honor, a certain white lobby in the Congress, as well in the country, is trying its best to downgrade him.

Recently, a multi-billionaire construction giant, Donald Trump, raised the issue of Obama's birth, in Hawaii, which he said, was not part of the United States, and Obama was not entitled therefore, for his election as the President of the country. After fusing for more than two years; to indulge in the most corrosive of conspiracy theories; questioning the legitimacy of President Obama's election, to highest office of the land.

Mr. Obama was frustrated and annoyed that the question about his place of birth has been raised, but he took no action against this stupid and ridiculous claim by Donald Trump. Since then the question of his "birth" had become a distraction in Mr. Obama's way, as he tried to solve the country's gigantic problem. Finally, on April 19th, Mr. Obama ordered the White House council to find out what it would take to retrieve his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. Having got this document, he presented to the country the proof of his birth in the state of Hawaii, two years after it had become one of the states of the USA. In a short statement, Mr. Obama poked fun at the "side shows" and "carnival barkers". He said "We do not have time for this silliness. We have better things to do than solve the big problems of the state". According to New York Times poll, about a quarter of Americans believed that the president was not born on the American soil.

Mr. Trump finally spent quite a few weeks pounding Mr. Obama on the issue of his birth. When it was proven beyond any doubt, that the president was born on American soil, he took credit that he has finally found the proof of Mr. Obama's birth in Hawaii two years after the islands had become part of the U.S. The following is the photocopy of the certificate of live birth of Mr. Obama.

After releasing the certificate of his birth to the press, Mr. Obama said "Part of what happened this morning was me trying to remind the press and the people and both parties, that what we do in politics is not a reality show, it is serious. We hope that issuing certified copies of the original certificate of my live birth will end the numerous enquiries on the issue by Mr. Trump and his followers. In fact, Mr. Trump and some of his follower in the country and in Congress really believed that Obama's birth as a U.S citizen was doubtful and he was not entitled to contest and win the election for the post of the president.

Trump was hoping to contest election for the post of the president after the end of the term of office of President Obama in January 2013. A new political party called "Tea Party" was also hoping to fight elections on the peg of Mr. Obama's birth issue. The former contestant for the post of vice president, Sarah Palin was also part of this stupid issue of Mr. Obama's birth. It is surprising that politicians in the United States can raise such a disgraceful issue against the US President.








Addressing at the White House on 1st May 2011, US President Barack Hussein Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan and said that "Justice has been done." Bin Laden was on the US (and certainly not the world's) most wanted list because he was held responsible for a string of attacks, including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen and the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon on 9/11. While no evidence was ever produced that he had planned and ordered his 'army' to carry out those attacks, there is clear evidence that George Bush and Tony Blair had ordered the attacks against and the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq killing hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis. Thousands of American experts and analysts have repeatedly said that Bin Ladin could never have carried out 9/11. Without any form of investigation, Osama Bin Laden was immediately blamed for the 9/11 attacks by the Jewish-owned West European media. But no shred of evidence was ever produced. Soon after 9/11, Bin Laden was interviewed by the Pakistani newspaper Ummat when he replied: I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle.

He went on to say: In the same way, whether it is President Bush or any other US President, they cannot bring Israel to justice for its human rights abuses or to hold it accountable for such crimes. What is this? Is it not that there exists a government within the government in the United Sates? That secret government must be asked as to who carried out the attacks. I have already said that we are not hostile to the United States. We are against the system, which makes other nations slaves of the United States, or forces them to mortgage their political and economic freedom. This system is totally in the control of the American Jews, whose first priority is Israel, not the United States. It is clear that the American people are themselves the slaves of the Jews and are forced to live according to the principles and laws laid down by them. So the punishment should reach Israel. In fact, it is Israel, which is giving a blood bath to innocent Muslims and the U.S. is not uttering a single word.

At the time, Osama Bin Laden was suffering from renal and pulmonary disease for which he even had treatment in a Dubai hospital and from which disease he reportedly died on 14th December 2001. His alleged dead picture splashed around the world on 1st May 2011, allegedly killed by US occupiers in Pakistan, is clearly a photoshopped picture of a real picture of Osama Bin Laden taken around 1996, that is, 15 years earlier. The lower half of Bin Laden's face on the 1996 picture has clearly been pasted on the face of the dead body with the lips blackened, the upper teeth whitened and parts of the white beard blackened with the edges clearly photoshopped.

The warmongers and Muslim haters may be rejoicing at the announcement that Osama Bin Laden has been allegedly murdered just like many rejoiced (including the 5 dancing Israelis) when the windowless missile planes, with no markings of American Airlines on them, hit the WTC on 9/11 and the mysterious unseen plane without debris hit the Pentagon on the same day murdering thousands, when, in reality, Osama Bin Laden has been dead for nearly 10 years. Unlike the West Europeans, he never conducted any terrorist act against any country. In fact, he was an ally of the Americans and, like other Mujahideen fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, he was on the payroll of the CIA. This list was called Al-Qaeda (the Base). Unlike the Democratic and Republican organisations, Al-Qaeda does not exist. But the term has been used for a decade by the European West merely for propaganda purposes. Just like the alleged inferiority of the brain of a black person to justify the enslavement of Blacks, the alleged organisation Al-Qaeda is a West European Zionist lie straight from the Tavistok Institute for Mind Control. In his article Killing the alibi, 2 May 2011, Marwan Bishara of Al Jazeera said: Al-Qaeda's bin Laden has provided the Bush administration with the excuse to launch its disastrous and costly wars in the greater Middle East. The overwhelming evidence for and the sheer sophistication of the 9/11 operation point to the fact that it was an inside job as confirmed by numerous authors and engineers. But the Zionist-controlled European media is complicit.

They equally previously showed forged pictures of Bin Laden. Surely, it would not have taken the sophisticated Americans with so many spy military satellites and their other NATO partners, not to mention the help they receive from the Pakistani traitor regimes, nearly 10 years to find him and judge him for his alleged crimes. But there is no evidence that he committed any crimes. So, he had to be 'killed' rather than tried in any case, and his alleged 'dead body' conveniently disposed of, allegedly buried at sea because Saudi Arabia allegedly refused to take the body. The US claim that the killing just outside the Pakistani capital took place a week ago but no one knew about it, not even the Pakistani authorities. But when the Pakistani government was informed that US troops had 'killed' Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil a week ago, they allegedly welcomed it. The Zionists are selling, but only fools will buy!

Readers are reminded that video footage exists of a top CIA official confirming that they killed Osama Bin Laden in a bombing raid back in December 2001. Madeleine Albright said they would take Bin Laden "from her freezer" for the coming of the second term of George W. Bush. Before her assassination, in an interview given to David Frost on Al Jazeera, Benazir Bhutto said that Omar Sheikh had murdered Osama Bin Laden, which part of her reply was removed on the BBC. In another interview given by Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad on American ABC News, the President was asked if Bin Laden was in Tehran to which he replied that he heard that Bin Laden was in Washington as he was a previous partner of Mr Bush. The official announcement of the alleged killing of Bin Laden in April 2011, supported by clearly forged pictures, was just a question of timing. The American presidential elections are coming up and Obama is seeking re-lection. Also, in flagrant NATO contravention of the UN unjustified no-fly zone imposed over Libya allegedly to protect civilians and for necessary measures to be taken if the no-fly zone is breached by the Libyans, without any Libyan fighter taking off, the NATO attackers have been bombing Libya's infrastructure, killing more civilians and targeting the residences of Muammar Kadhafi and his family to assassinate them. Remember, the Kadhafi family know how they financed the election of Nicholas Sarkozy of France, and, with the help of Nelson Mandela, the numerous deals they signed with the European West, including their contacts with the British Royals. The latest assassination victims were reported to be Kadhafi's youngest son and his three grandchildren when NATO bombed their residence on 30th April 2011. This is creating an international uproar with condemnation from every direction, while Nelson Mandela is nowhere to be heard. Suddenly, less than two days later, the alleged killing of Osama Bin Laden (a week earlier) is announced by US President Barack H Obama in a clear attempt to deviate attention. Also, this may well be a ploy to work out an exit strategy from Afghanistan as, in spite of its terror campaign for 10 years, NATO is losing in Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden has been the propaganda lynch pin to justify their terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Arab world is in turmoil. The US-backed dictators are falling one by one. They have to forge new alliances, with arms and violence as usual, with any new Arab regime. The Palestinians are unifying themselves to better counter the Zionist threat and occupation of their country for over half a century. Supported by fabricated pictures, the sudden announcement of the killing in April 2011 of an already dead man (10 years earlier) in the name of Osama Bin Laden whose name has been kept alive by the Zionist media must be looked at in this context.








The assault on Osama bin Laden — as quick and ruthless an operation as you would see in any spy movie — shows that the CIA and the military's super-secret Joint Special Operations Command have combined to create what amounts to a highly effective killing machine. The shorthand for these operations is "find, fix, finish." The CIA and other intelligence agencies typically provide the first two, and the bin Laden attack shows that this process can take years of patient detective work. JSOC warriors then come in for the finish.

A reconstruction of how this operation was put together shows how the pieces of America's counter-terrorism policy fit together. It also illuminates one of the CIA's biggest puzzles, which is whether it can work effectively with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. The answer seems to be "sometimes." The trail that led to bin Laden's hideout in the town of Abbottabad, about 75 miles north of Islamabad, began between 2002 and 2004 with the CIA's interrogation of al-Qaeda "high-value targets" at secret CIA sites overseas. Several detainees mentioned the "nom de guerre," or nickname, of one of bin Laden's couriers.

Some of the detainees who confirmed the courier's nickname were subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques," the CIA's formal name for what is now widely viewed as torture. This adds a moral ambiguity to a story that is otherwise one of triumphal retribution and justice. The CIA spent years trying to figure out the courier's identity. Using sources that U.S. officials won't discuss, the agency finally discovered the courier's real name in 2007, along with the important fact that he had a brother. In early 2009, a team from the agency's counter-terrorism centre traced him to a compound in Abbottabad that he shared with the brother.

Pakistan was told little about the bin Laden manhunt, for fear that the information would leak. But a U.S. official said the Pakistanis offered some help. "They provided information that helped us identify where one of the brothers might be located," this official said. He added: "They didn't tell us he was in Abbottabad, but their information allowed us to track him there." Now the agency had a suspect location but no firm idea bin Laden was there. Surveillance confirmed that this was an unusual compound. The surrounding walls were up to 18 feet high, and even the balconies had seven-foot walls. And the compound maintained unusual security: It had no telephone or Internet service, and trash was regularly burned.

As the CIA continued its surveillance, analysts concluded that another family was secretly living in the compound, along with the two brothers. The number of family members and other details matched bin Laden's likely family group. This crucial "circumstantial" evidence was briefed to President Obama last August, says a U.S. official. This year, JSOC began preparing the "finish" operation, using members of Seal Team 6, its most elite counter-terrorism unit. Obama was given a choice between bombing the compound or staging the raid. Obama opted for the latter, believing the United States needed to capture bin Laden's body.

One of the mysteries is whether the Pakistani government knew all along who was hiding in Abbottabad. It is hardly remote territory: A Pakistani military college is two miles away. A senior U.S. official says the CIA has carefully examined this question but has "zero evidence" of Pakistani government knowledge of bin Laden's location. That's not quite the same as saying for certain that the Pakistanis didn't know, and it allows the ISI and CIA to continue working as sometime partners. CIA Director Leon Panetta, who directed the operation, told Pakistan nothing until the helicopters had left Abbottabad to return to Afghanistan. But U.S. officials describe the subsequent Pakistani reaction as helpful. Pakistani officials urged Obama to make his unusual late-night announcement so the Pakistani public would immediately know the U.S. had attacked bin Laden, not a Pakistani target. And Islamabad promised to try to mitigate Pakistani popular anger, which officials did by issuing a supportive statement Monday.

Does bin Laden's demise mean the death of al-Qaeda? CIA analysts won't go that far. But they have concluded that the operation "will accelerate its demise," and that the battered organization is now at a "tipping point" that could lead to collapse. The hidden trophy of Sunday's raid: The JSOC team captured intelligence materials from the compound that might reveal the location of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the organization's new commander. "That's where we're going next," says one U.S. official involved in planning the operation. — Courtesy: The Washington Post







JUSTICE and the law are not always congruent and in the haze of war the law of self-preservation is likely to prevail.

The Australian understands those who would have preferred for Osama bin Laden to be captured and forced to account for his crimes. It is true that we must demonstrate a strong commitment to standards of justice rather than descend towards the barbarity of those who attack our values. Yet much of the legalistic condemnation of bin Laden's death smacks of pointless moral posturing.

Only those in the Abbottabad compound, amid the darkness, gunfire and fear, can know exactly how it unfolded. But it is hardly surprising that, without an immediate and obvious surrender, bin Laden was shot. Who among us would take the time, delay the trigger, and thereby risk their own life or jeopardise this vital mission? The discussion of alternative responses from the comfort of our lounge rooms is absurd. The frankness of US authorities in revealing bin Laden was not armed underscores the accountability of their system and should silence all but the loopiest conspiracy theorists.

Besides, there are pragmatic reasons why we are all better off without bin Laden surviving to create an international propaganda circus that would have endangered even more lives. We could have expected howls of protest over incarceration at Guantanamo Bay as the human rights lawyers demanded nothing less than an American civil trial. But bin Laden's imprisonment would also have provided an ongoing rallying cry for terrorists in Afghanistan and further afield, possibly leading to the loss of more soldiers' lives. And fears would have been raised around the world about his fanatical supporters attacking or taking hostage Americans, Australians or any westerners, to keep the terror alive. In the pragmatic ways of the world, not the abstract realm of attention-seeking human rights lawyers, it is a good and just thing that bin Laden is dead.

As for the spontaneous American celebrations, denounced on the ABC as bloodlust, many of us would shy away from such spectacles. But who would begrudge a people who lost almost 3000 innocents, targeted in their homeland for the "crime" of being free, throwing off their blanket of fear and launching a victory dance at vengeance realised and a tyranny ended?






GETTING slightly ahead of his Treasurer, Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten has declared that questions about a sovereign wealth fund and what shape it should take are worthy of debate.

Strangely, he then goes on to say such a conversation is premature. On the contrary, The Australian believes the sooner we analyse this initiative the better because, as Mr Shorten recognises, it would require "complex regulatory" discussions.

Repairing the budget and retiring debt are certainly the primary fiscal tasks confronting the Gillard government but the long-term challenge of managing the resources boom looms large. Wayne Swan has been all too eager to talk up the challenges of the two-speed economy and provide a jaundiced post-mortem on how the previous government failed to squirrel away enough of the previous resources boom. His duty then must be to present a plan to ensure the current mining boom is properly managed for the benefit of later generations.

Mr Swan's only answer until now, supported by Mr Shorten, is to focus on channelling future revenue windfalls into compulsory superannuation, so that more individuals are self-sufficient in retirement and the national savings pool is increased. This is a commendable plan, but only up to a point. The boom will generate at least an extra $30 billion in revenue for the coming financial year and private investment to expand our mining output will top $100bn next year. In other words, the rivers of gold are set to build into something of a flood. There could be no better time to devise a sensible plan to manage the economic consequences.

One of the key purposes of a new sovereign wealth fund, as outlined by opposition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull, would be to act as a fiscal stabiliser against our increasing reliance on commodity prices. Rather than banking the extra revenues for distant generations, we would be creating reserves to draw on when resources demand or prices fall, dragging down revenue. There would be an element of intergenerational saving but the primary purpose would be the fiscal stabilisation. Private superannuation cannot fulfil this role through a resources boom-and-bust cycle. Such a wealth fund stands out as a crucial economic reform worthy of examination by both sides of politics, lest we ever regret squandering the opportunities of mining boom Mark II.





FORGET Tony Abbott's alleged four-letter assessment of climate change for a moment, Prime Minister.

It is the 48-point paradox in yesterday's Newspoll findings that should really trouble you. It found that 78 per cent of voters believe in climate change and most attribute it to human activity. But Ms Gillard's policy response, a carbon tax, is supported by just 30 per cent. The 48 per cent discrepancy is a measure of the credibility gap Ms Gillard has to bridge between now and the next election. Make no mistake; voters have a sound understanding of what is at stake. They do not want the government to jeopardise their prosperity by going out on a limb. But the fact that the science of climate change is so well accepted indicates most would not support climate action.

Voters are clearly angry with the government for its plan to introduce the tax on July 1 next year after Julia Gillard pledged not to do so during last year's election campaign. Voters appear to appreciate what the government's adviser on climate change, Ross Garnaut, said in 2008 -- that Australia, which produces 1.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse emissions, must not get too far ahead of the rest of the world.

The Australian favours a market mechanism as an efficient strategy to alter energy consumption patterns and cut emissions, but there is no compunction for Australia to launch such a strategy before the world's biggest economies and our major trading partners commit to similar action. The Gillard government would be prudent to review the timing of its scheme following the warnings of mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto. Both companies point out that acting before China and the US, the world's largest polluters, would damage Australia's international competitiveness by saddling heavy trade-exposed industries with a "dead weight", which industry groups and trade unions agree will cost jobs and limit prosperity.

The degree of concern about climate change reflected in the Newspoll, coupled with voters' reluctance to support a carbon tax from next year, opens the way for politicians on both sides to explore other viable options, such as the capture and long-term storage of carbon in soil and forests. Sequestration is part of Mr Abbott's "direct action" climate change policy and could also work well with the government's emissions trading scheme, because it is well suited to Australia's vast land mass.

Professor Garnaut sensibly favours land sequestration being linked to carbon pricing. Such a link was absent from the Rudd government's ETS model, but in private senior Labor figures have acknowledged the potential of such an approach. Encouragingly, Professor Garnaut has also pointed out that up to 14 per cent of the carbon permits scheme could be used for agricultural offsets, creating the equivalent of a new wool industry for Australia's agricultural sector.

Ms Gillard purports not to be interested in the political cycle, but she erred in announcing the tax without any detail, leaving the public wondering how much it would cost and giving the opposition a political gift. Much as they oppose the government's carbon tax, the electorate would welcome more effective climate change policies.







THE Reserve Bank has set the tone for the federal budget next week by sending a clear message that interest rates will rise again, the only remaining question being when. In his statement alongside the decision on Tuesday to leave interest rates on hold, the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, points to a global economy expanding again, led by Asia, and other central banks around the world looking to return interest rates to more normal levels. But great uncertainty exists about sovereign debts in Europe.

At home, the job market remains robust, with the unemployment rate at about 5 per cent. Wages are rising again, returning to the same pace of growth as before the global financial crisis. Businesses are finding it a bit easier to get loans. Households, however, remain cautious and house prices have stagnated. The Australian dollar is also exerting a moderating influence, dampening inflation while hurting export-competing industries like tourism and manufacturing. On the inflation front, the Reserve has promised to look through the short-term jump in prices caused by floods and cyclone Yasi. But even still, Stevens observes that inflation has turned the corner after its tumble induced by the global financial crisis. He sees rising inflation here on in.

The irony for households, already feeling the pinch from the rising cost of living, is that, left in the Reserve's hands alone, higher inflation means higher interest rates, further adding to the cost of living pain. Such is the harsh reality of monetary policy. The job of the Reserve Bank is to keep price rises to an average of 2.5 per cent over time to preserve the value of wages. If it has to crunch down on household and business activity to achieve lower price rises, it will. As an independent government agency, it has this luxury.

The task for government, and Julia Gillard in overseeing her first budget as Prime Minister, is vastly more precarious. With inflation on the rise, any spending cuts the government makes will help cool demand in the economy and help cool inflation. But cut too hard and the government may risk exacerbating the unevenness in the economy.

Indeed, there is a case for higher spending on some productivity enhancing programs like skilling workers and assisting mobility to fill emerging skills gaps which, if left unchecked, will also create wages and inflation pressure. The Reserve Bank has only one lever to cool the economy. But the government's approach must be much more nuanced. Gillard must cut and spend at the same time, and sell the message that both are necessary. Challenging times indeed.






THERE is business in babies, it seems. Lots of it. With huge unmet demand, families ready to spend an average $350 a week, and towards $2 billion in annual government subsidies pouring in as well, no wonder that childcare is increasingly a private-sector operation driven by profit.

The Herald's reporting this week of its investigation into childcare centres reveals an incomplete transition to better standards for an industry moving out of government hands. Thankfully, only a small number of the 160,000 children put into care each day in NSW come to any serious harm, but there were 1009 serious breaches of safety standards last year that put children at risk - and most of these involved private-sector centres.

So far, the Department of Community Services has taken a tutorial role in keeping centres up to standard. In a recent six-month period it sent warning notices to 31 services for serious health and safety breaches, including having dirty, broken or unsafe facilities, hiring underage staff, and not noticing children leaving their centres. One repeat offender had a child wandering out of a playground on to a fire escape, a seven-month-old not fed for nine hours, not reporting a serious facial injury, exceeding authorised capacity 13 times in three months, failing to meet staffing requirements and not keeping proper records of who comes and goes. Yet there was no prosecution - the centre has improved its performance. It takes an extraordinary tragedy - the drowning of a child - or the likes of a child being locked in a centre overnight for a prosecution to be launched. Even then, when children have died while in care, services and carers have escaped prosecution.

A separate sanction is withdrawal of accreditation by the federal authority for the sector, but this, too, seems to be no hindrance to continued operation. So far, the federal Education Department hasn't withdrawn or suspended the childcare benefit from any repeat offenders, a step that would effectively force them out of business. Such is the demand for childcare from families needing two incomes or pursuing two careers that federal and state authorities baulk at removing any supplier from a tight market.

Our snapshot suggests our children's future in care hinges on the success of planned reforms next year that include improved staff-to-child ratios and a larger proportion of the workforce being better qualified, plus support for the sector, which already has workforce shortages, to quickly implement those. Parents need to know their children are being looked after by mature, qualified carers - and by enough of them.






IT IS an understatement to say the politics of a carbon tax are proving difficult for the federal government. But in seeking to clear the political hurdles, as she must, it is important Prime Minister Julia Gillard also ensure the policy remains true to the goal of helping lead Australia to a low-carbon future.

The latest Newspoll, published this week, found that 60 per cent of those surveyed were against the government's ''current proposal to put a price on carbon'' (comprising 39 per cent strongly against and 21 per cent somewhat against). Only 30 per cent were in favour (18 per cent somewhat in favour and just 12 per cent strongly in favour). By contrast, as recently as December last year, Newspoll found 47 per cent in favour of a carbon price that would push up energy costs and 49 per cent against.

The public mood against the government's still-undeveloped policy is not surprising, for at least three reasons. First, Ms Gillard ruled out a carbon tax in the final days of last year's election campaign, so her plan for such an impost represents a broken promise. She can hardly have expected not to pay a political price for this breach of her word. Second, the opposition, under Tony Abbott's leadership, is resolved to defeat the carbon tax plan, in spite of the fact that the Coalition under prime minister John Howard went to the 2007 election with a policy for emissions trading. Anything approaching bipartisanship on this issue is a receding memory. Third, a carbon tax will (or at least should) profoundly change the national economy and the way Australians conduct their lives. It is understandable that industry leaders and householders will be fretful about change of this magnitude, particularly before the government has settled details on such fundamental points as the carbon price and the amount of compensation to be offered, and to whom.

Amid the political heat, however, the government must not lose sight of the purpose of a carbon tax. Independent MP Tony Windsor was right when he observed this week that too much of the debate about how to use the revenue from a carbon tax had been about placating political pressures and too little about reducing pollution through such things as research into and development of viable alternative energy sources. In urging Ms Gillard to hold firm in the face of the politics of fear and self-interest that has characterised the campaign against a carbon tax, The Age calls on her to also ensure that a substantial proportion the proceeds of the tax is directed to tackling the core problem.





THERE is no such thing as a simple military intervention by international forces. The examples of Iraq and Afghanistan certainly weighed on the US and its NATO allies when they resolved to intervene in Libya, albeit with a clear United Nations mandate to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's regime. In neither case was regime change the declared goal, but it was expected. In Libya, however, the 42-year Gaddafi dictatorship has been able to resist a popular revolt, which creates a dilemma. Just how far can the UN mandate be stretched?

Although Western leaders deny regime change is their goal, they insist Colonel Gaddafi must go. It is hard to see how they could countenance his remaining in power, because of the high risk of reprisals against his own people and the West given his past links to terrorism. Plans to fund the rebels and the deaths of the regime leader's youngest son and grandchildren in a NATO attack suggest mission creep as Western forces extend the range of targets deemed to be command centres.

The lines are blurred, but that is the brutal reality of confronting illegitimate leaders who don't play by any rules. Yet only Colonel Gaddafi, among several rulers who have responded violently to revolts across the Arab world, has triggered military intervention. The ethics of intervention are never simple, as The Age observed of last month's toppling of Ivory Coast ruler Laurent Gbagbo. Yet it is likely that crude political considerations dictate that autocratic rulers can brutally crush protests in Yemen, Bahrain and, most blatantly, Syria, without triggering similar interventions. Yemen's leader of 32 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is an ally of the US againstal-Qaeda, and the US Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

A key factor in weighing up intervention appears to be the prospects of any popular revolt succeeding. Libyan rebels initially made startling progress. Despite being surprised by the success of the Tunisian revolution, which triggered the wider wave of unrest, the West abandoned Egypt's Hosni Mubarak only once it became clear his rule was ending. Egypt's army was unwilling to fire on protesters, but Bahrain, Yemen and Syria have shown a capacity to do whatever it takes to quell revolt. Scores have been killed in Bahrain and Yemen, and hundreds in Syria. The military's siege of the Syrian city of Daraa is showing all the ruthlessness that has kept the Assads in power for four decades.

The West's response is the diplomatic gestures of sanctions and meetings of the UN Human Rights Council, for which, bizarrely, Syria is a candidate to fill a vacant seat. Syria's regional influence gives rise to concern about creating a power vacuum that might open the door for Iran to extend its influence. Europe is also struggling with the influx of refugees from recent uprisings. Despite the many complexities, objections to intervention as an infringement of sovereignty, which was raised yet again this week by the Libyan regime, must not be allowed to stand. Then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, in accepting the 2001 Nobel peace prize, asserted the primacy of human rights over state sovereignty. Although some saw this as radical, it was consistent with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To be meaningful, any body of international law must require universal observance of rights and responsibilities. The corollary is that egregious infringements of rights cannot be ignored.

The practical problem is the lack of political will and of institutional means to defend humanitarian principles. The unsatisfactory alternative is ad hoc interventions, with all their obvious inconsistencies. Yet consider the consequences of allowing dictators to use force, with impunity, to crush people's legitimate calls for freedom. While the world drags its feet on developing a better system of global justice, the quest for freedom must be supported as best as the free world can manage.







The paper has essentially changed neither its ownership nor its character during its long life

The Manchester Guardian first appeared 190 years ago today. It was a weekly comprising just four pages and priced at a steep 7d (seven old pence), of which 4d went to the government in stamp duty. This was the severest of paywalls, and the initial circulation was just 1,000, soaring to 3,000 by the mid-1820s. Its appearance coincided with the death of Napoleon on Saint Helena, but his passing wasn't mentioned in the paper for several weeks, so slowly did news then travel.

The Guardian was founded by a young cotton merchant called John Edward Taylor in the wake of the Peterloo massacre of 1819, in which soldiers had killed 11 people at a public meeting in Manchester. Taylor was a reformer and religious nonconformist, and he wanted a paper committed to political change but even more wedded to truthful reporting. His prospectus for the paper promised to "zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious liberty, warmly advocate the cause of reform, endeavour to assist in the diffusion of just principles of political economy, and support, without reference to the party from which they emanate, all serviceable measures".

A newspaper, wrote CP Scott on the Guardian's centenary, has a "moral as well as a material existence". The paper has essentially changed neither its ownership nor its character during its long life. Taylor's eager embrace of political reform in 1832; Scott's early advocacy of Irish home rule and opposition to the Boer war; the attempt to warn the world of the threat posed by Hitler; the immediate realisation in 1956 that Suez was a catastrophe; the pursuit of sleazy politicians in the 1990s; the partnership with WikiLeaks to draw back the curtain from the murky world of international diplomacy; and the commitment to opening up journalism in the digital age; they are all much of a piece. The Taylors and Scotts who dominated the first century of the Guardian's life would surely recognise the same ends now being pursued, even if they might be a little surprised by the means.

In March the Guardian was read by the largest audience in its history – more than 49 million unique users, as Scott didn't call his readers. He thought of his paper as a pulpit. Readers today are less taken with sermons. Technology has revolutionised the way news is distributed – but also the ability to amplify, celebrate and harness other voices. The next 10 years – between now and our bicentenary – will see even more rapid and radical changes in the media. It is good to pause and reflect that the things that matter most – truthfulness, free thought, honest reporting, a plurality of opinion, a belief in fairness, justice and, most crucially, independence – do not change.





It is easy to miss the one event with the capacity to change the scenery in a way more profound than Osama bin Laden's death

Mayhem has become a daily ritual. Rocket launchers pound one town in Libya as a rescue ship relieves the wounded from another; the international criminal court is preparing to issue three warrants for war crimes to Colonel Gaddafi's regime; tanks are deploying in Syria; a president refuses to stand down in Yemen; a clampdown is in full swing in Bahrain; and dissent is welling just below the surface in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. All this now passes for another day in the life of the Middle East. And it is easy in this 24/7 drama to miss the one event with the capacity to change the scenery in a way more profound than Bin Laden's death.

Such an event took place in Cairo yesterday. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, two men who dedicated much of their time in the last four years to undermining each other, met in Cairo to sign an agreement to form a national unity government. The Palestinian president announced the two were turning forever the black page of division. We shall see. The ceremony was delayed over whether the two leaders would appear on the podium together. (In the end they agreed to speak consecutively.) And as for the promise to release each other's prisoners, four more Hamas activists had been arrested in the West Bank only the day before.

The potential of such an accord should not be minimised. It does not lie in what it would do or not do to the peace process. This was killed in inaction long ago – and not by one Israeli government, but by several. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, may plead the collapse of the talks was not his fault, and he was presented with a free gift from Hamas, when its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, mourned the death of Bin Laden as an Arab holy warrior. But even if you argue, as Mr Netanyahu does, that recognition of Israel's existence as a Jewish state is the core of the conflict, and not territory or settlements, what sunk the peace process has become an argument for historians, not politicians. There is no plan B, no realistic path of getting such talks back on track. Israel had the most moderate Palestinian leader in Mahmoud Abbas it was ever likely to meet over a negotiating table in several generations and blew it. He left empty handed. Had Mahmoud Abbas been given a serious and imminent possibility of signing an agreement that established a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem, and one in which the Palestinian right of return had not been erased unilaterally from the reckoning, Mr Netanyahu might have had a case when he accused his counterpart of walking away from peace. In the end, there was no peace to walk away from. There was the status quo or as Mahmoud Abbas himself put it, the cheapest occupation in Israel's history. Israel's reaction to the Cairo agreement, the holding up of a $89m cash transfer to the Palestinian Authority only rubbed the point home that this status quo is unacceptable. This is, after all, their cash, not Israel's. The degree of dependency may vary, but every Palestinian ultimately lives as hostage to Israel's fiat. This is untenable and has been the daily reality of the so-called peace process. The only path left for Palestinians of all affiliations is to unite, reform and strengthen their leadership. This is what started to happen yesterday.

The Cairo accord could well turn out to be as fragile as the one signed in Mecca four years ago. It can still be undermined in a myriad of ways. But the clock itself cannot be so easily put back. The new factor which will not be changed is Egypt's re-emergence as a major player in the Middle East. No one expected a foreign policy to emerge before a domestic one, least of all before the government itself had been formed. But if Egypt succeeds in projecting its will as Turkey has done, it has the numbers to change the balance of power. It is wholly in the interests of the US and the EU to have a government in Cairo that will keep a peace accord with Israel but not be servile to its interests.






Michel de Montaigne crafted a personal and conversational genre which has been the preferred literary mode of free spirits

With their exams looming, Britain's school and university students are probably more likely to curse the essay than to celebrate it. And with academic tomes getting ever longer while tweets gets ever pithier, the essay may seem like a bit of a relic to many others too – a bit like county cricket squeezed between tests and Twenty 20. Yet it is hard to think of a more modern mentality than that of the man who practically invented the essay nearly half a millennium ago and whose popularity today has rarely been greater, thanks not least to the recent bestseller by Sarah Bakewell. Michel de Montaigne established the essay as a form into which the provisional and the questioning were written from the start. He wrote about the momentary and the accidental, even the banal, rather than the all-encompassing. In doing so he crafted an intensely personal and conversational genre which has been the preferred literary mode of free spirits from Addison to Žižek and Hazlitt to Hitchens. The best essays, like George Orwell's, are tough but not fanatical, delight in the commonplace and ambiguous and can see the world as easily in a ham sandwich as a morning rose. The imminent launch of a new publishing imprint, Notting Hill Editions, specifically devoted to reviving the essay, may be a sign of unmet demand for wise and witty individual voices amid the modern Babel. Exam candidates may long to see the end of the essay. Many others of us, less immediately pressured, would be happy for more of them.







Osama bin Laden, the face of Islamic militancy, was killed Monday morning in an assault by U.S. special forces on his compound in Pakistan. His death ends the hunt for the man who claimed to have launched the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, which killed some 3,000 people, and a host of other atrocities.

Sadly, his demise will not mark the end of Islamic terrorism and is likely to produce a spate of retaliatory attacks. It is regrettable that this terrorist mastermind was not captured alive and was not put to trial. Following his killing, it will be unavoidable for many nations to remain vigilant.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, bin Laden was declared "public enemy number one." Yet even a $25 million bounty on his head could not produce information on his whereabouts. He taunted Western leaders with the periodic release of videotapes while remaining out of sight.

Rumors and informed opinion suggested he was in the no-man's land near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but there was never any proof that he was even still alive.

By the end of his presidency, with his country fighting two land wars and "a global war on terror," U.S. President George W. Bush declared that capturing bin Laden was "not a top priority use of American resources."

Yet efforts to find the terrorist leader continued, fueled by pieces of information collected from a variety of sources. The first clue was the alias of a trusted courier of bin Laden. Investigators learned his name and finally, after four years of searching, located his residence — a specially constructed compound in Abbottabad, a garrison town some 65 km north of Islamabad that is home to Pakistan's premier military academy — and a good distance from the border that was reputed to be bin Laden's home.

After confirming that a "high value target" was in the compound, President Barack Obama ordered a team of commandos to storm the residence, which they did in a daring early morning raid on Monday.

In the 40-minute firefight, bin Laden was killed, along with one of his sons, and three other supporters, one of them a woman, reportedly a wife of bin Laden. His body was evacuated, DNA-tested to confirm that it was in fact bin Laden, and then buried at sea after a funeral held in accordance with Muslim tradition.

Mr. Obama declared the world a safer and "better place" with bin Laden dead. Bin Laden turned terrorism into a franchise. Under his "leadership," al-Qaida became a network of terror, with similarly named units around the world, loosely connected without a defined organizational nexus.

In the 15 years since bin Laden declared war on the United States, al-Qaida was responsible for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 that resulted in the deaths of 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors in Yemen; it launched attacks in Indonesia as well as in London and Madrid. Many other missions failed, but not for lack of trying.

Bin Laden's death denies the organization and his followers a symbol, but it does not end the threat. As al-Qaida became a real network, it was unlikely that he was behind or even knew in advance of many of the incidents that were done in his name. But bin Laden remained a powerful icon and his survival was a talisman for his followers.

Those acolytes are likely to mourn him with an upsurge in attacks to seek vengeance for his killing. Everyone must be increasingly alert to the possibility of violence.

But the fight against terrorists demands more than purely defensive action. Concerned nations must continue to seek active intelligence and take preventive action against terrorists and their supporters.

More must be done to identify and solve the root causes of terrorism as well; that is not to suggest that terrorism is or can be justified, but we need to be more aware of the factors that create sympathy for terrorists and do more to eliminate them.

The support for the killing of bin Laden throughout the Arab world should put to rest the notion that he was a hero to Muslims. That should come as no surprise: Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of innocent people of all faiths and it is very likely that Muslims topped the list of his victims. He was no hero.

Among the important questions that have to be answered is whether Pakistan had a role in providing a secure hideout for bin Laden. Pakistan is a key nation in the fight against Islamic militancy.

The government in Islamabad insists it is a reliable and committed ally in this struggle, but the presence of bin Laden comfortably ensconced deep in Pakistani territory "hiding in plain sight" of the military that is fighting against him raises doubts about Pakistan's credibility, capacity and its commitment. U.S. lawmakers are demanding answers from Islamabad and that process will increase tensions in an already fraught relationship.

For their part, Pakistani officials have complained that the raid, which occurred without Pakistan's knowledge or participation, was a violation of national sovereignty.

The fate of Osama bin Laden is a reminder that no one can hide from the forces of justice. His end should offer some solace to the victims of his atrocities and may deter others from following in his footsteps. Most immediately, however, we are likely to see an angry surge in violence as similarly deluded individuals try to take their revenge.







LONDON — 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 hideout in northern Pakistan. At last, the world can breathe more easily, but not many people were holding their breaths.

President Barack Obama issued the usual warning when he announced that 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-Qaida. Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that al-Qaida 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-Qaida, 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 had accepted that doctrine, 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 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 exactly what bin Laden and his colleagues wanted the United States to do.

However, almost 10 years after 9/11, it is clear that 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 Salafists instead.

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

Which is not to say that there will never be another terrorist attack on the United States. Bin Laden had not been in operational control of al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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.

Gwynne Dyer's latest book, "Climate Wars", is distributed in most of the world by Oneworld.






SEOUL — As China continues its unremitting rise, people throughout East Asia are wondering whether their states will ever be able to achieve the peaceful, stable relations that now characterize Europe. Given the regularity of serious diplomatic spats — over everything from tiny atolls in the South China Sea to the legacy of World War II — this may sound like an elusive dream. But, with nationalism and military budgets rising sharply, achieving consensual stability has become imperative for the region.

Can it be done?

The "liberal" view of international relations recommends three ingredients: political democratization, deeper economic interdependence, and viable institutions through which East Asia's states can conduct their affairs in a multilateral way. Because, as Immanuel Kant noted long ago, states with democratic political systems tend not to fight with each other, democracy should be encouraged in order to secure peace.

Pursuit of a Pax Democratia has long been embedded in U.S. foreign policymaking. And European states have, since 1945, made democracy a core element in their integration. But East Asia's wide variety of political systems makes such a democratic consensus highly unlikely, at least for now.

On the other hand, economic interdependence among East Asia's states has been deepening. For 30 years, East Asians have received the ample rewards of Adam Smith's insight that free trade would bring material benefits to participating countries. Regional policymakers nowadays are loath to risk this progress through hostile behavior.

Economic interdependence in East Asia gained momentum following the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998. But confrontations between the United States and China, the U.S. and Japan, and China and Japan over the past year have left many wondering whether economic interdependence alone can bring about stable regional relations.

The third liberal route to peace — institutionalizing international relations — aims to regularize the behavior of states through a system of norms and rules, thereby creating order (and peace) out of quasi-anarchy.

Such thinking motivated U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's desire to establish the League of Nations after World War I, and it also underlay President Franklin Roosevelt's push to create the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions after World War II.

Likewise, European states accept the common norms and rules of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and are almost always prepared to be regulated by them. Indeed, the European Union is the fruit of a long, continuous effort to strengthen common norms and rules among European states.

In contrast to Europe, East Asia is composed of states that are radically different in terms of their size, development and political-economic systems. East Asian policymakers understand that there is little that they can do to alter their neighbors' political systems. Nor can they do much in an official way to deepen economic interdependence in the short term.

So it is natural for the region's policymakers to focus more on institutionalization, with lively discussions regularly taking place about the region's nascent constellation of groupings: ASEAN-plus-3, the East Asian Summit, the East Asian Community, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, Asia-Pacific Community, etc.

But this process has been politicized and ridden by an acute behind-the-scenes competition for influence among the major powers. Indeed, East Asia seems to lack the equivalent of major EU architects like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman — visionaries with the stature and political support needed to begin building a framework for regional peace in a time, like today, of great change.

So, for now, East Asians should be very pragmatic about institutionalizing regional affairs. Rather than spending energy on trying to build large-scale institutions covering the entire region, it would be better to focus more on smaller, issue-oriented institutions.

For example, the first successful step toward regional economic cooperation in East Asia was the Chiang Mai Initiative for international currency swaps, which followed the 1997-1998 crisis. Similarly, the six-party talks on the denuclearization of North Korea, though producing no significant results so far, remain the only useful mechanism for addressing the problem collectively.

The nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, could give rise to another issue-specific regional institution, this one focused on nuclear safety. For Japan's neighbors, the International Atomic Energy Agency is not enough; their urgent worries are creating pressure to establish a regional mechanism. The coming summit between South Korea, China and Japan on May 21-22 in Tokyo, for example, will focus on nuclear safety and prepare a regime for closer regional cooperation.

With 88 nuclear power plants operating in South Korea, Japan and China, the initiative is an important one. What would happen if any of their reactors develops problems similar to those at Fukushima? Moreover, North Korea has been running its Yongbyon nuclear facility without international inspection. According to the wife of a North Korean defector who worked for 20 years as a nuclear scientist at Yongbyon, safety standards there are dangerously lax.

More broadly, only through the establishment of less ambitious, smaller-scale, and functionally oriented institutions can momentum be built for a regional framework for peace.

After all, Rome wasn't built in a day, and the EU — rooted in the post-war European Coal and Steel Community — began with similar small steps toward integration.

Yoon Young-kwan, South Korea's foreign minister in 2003-2004, is professor of international relations at Seoul National University. e_SCrt 2011 Project Syndicate








The suicide bombing at the mosque inside the Cirebon Police compound on April 16 again showed the risks and the potential for casualties if intelligence agencies fail to prevent acts of terrorism.

Worse, the bombing served to mock the capability, or lack thereof, of Indonesia's intelligence bodies, as it struck a symbol of the nation's security apparatus.

Undoubtedly, accurate and timely intelligence is vital in both peacetime and wartime. Intelligence bodies serve to provide information on potential threats or adversaries to protect the state and its citizens.

A lack of accurate intelligence will result in a failure to make quick and correct decisions during crises, and, at worst, a failure to discover imminent threats. The CIA was lambasted for its failure to prevent the 9/11 attack in 2001 and its credibility has declined since then.

Possession of accurate intelligence data would help to pre-empt the enemy. Intelligence traditionally operates in two different areas: security intelligence, pertaining to domestic or national security threats, and foreign intelligence, connected to information gathering related to the military, political or economic activities of foreign states.

The first can be defined as the intelligence behind the police's function, as their main responsibility is to protect the country and its citizens from espionage, terrorism and such.

Although they contribute to law enforcement, they are not necessarily law enforcement officers.

For example, MI-5 in the United Kingdom and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) are neither armed nor have arrest powers. Operations requiring police authority are conducted in coordination with law enforcement.

The second type of intelligence work is done covertly overseas to inform policymakers of national security decisions and actions pertaining to external threats.

In the era of transnational crimes, the traditional boundaries between the two types of intelligence can sometimes be blurred.

There is also a danger of information overload when intelligence cannot be digested in an effective and timely manner. The new situation calls for closer coordination or "unity" between intelligence bodies and the creation of a body to coordinate different intelligence activities to deliver digestible but comprehensive intelligence reports.

Such a coordinating body would be responsible for managing and coordinating the nation's intelligence agencies and providing advice to the president. It should not have the authority to conduct intelligence operations as that would confusion the division of labor between intelligence bodies.

By comparison, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in the UK has three functions: to advise the prime minister and Cabinet ministers on intelligence collection and analysis priorities, to direct the collection and analysis of intelligence agencies and to assure the professional standards of the civilian intelligence analysis staff.

Indonesian intelligence services are comprised of different organizations with special tasks, but without a coordinating body. There are military intelligence and security intelligence bodies. Military and combat intelligence falls under Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS), units and territorial commands. Security intelligence, namely that intelligence compiled by the National Police and Attorney General's Office, support judicial decision-making. There is also an intelligence unit working under the customs office.

According to Presidential Decree No. 34/2010, the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) is authorized to conduct intelligence activities and coordinate the work of state intelligence bodies. This ambiguous authority should be ironed out in the current intelligence bill which, regrettably, does not address the issue adequately.

Another worrisome issue is intelligence oversight. In the past, some intelligence agencies were accused of involvement in human rights abuses and illegal actions.

Sadly, such abuse has continued during the reform era as BIN was implicated in the murder of human rights activist Munir.

Recent information released by WikiLeaks showed that Indonesian intelligence agencies were allegedly used to spy on the government's political foes. If true, this must be seen as alarming indication that intelligence bodies are still susceptible to abuse. This would have never occurred had adequate oversight been in place.

The debate on the balance between intelligence agencies and civil rights has been active in many democratic countries, not just in Indonesia. This is inevitable considering the nature of intelligence gathering, which involves collecting secret information by breaching privacy when needed. However, the danger of intelligence agents running loose without proper oversight is distressing.

The purpose of oversight is to protect the private rights of every citizen. There can never be an absolute and unchecked authority in charge of surveillance activity for the sake of national security. For this purpose, intelligence oversight must be achieved through multiple layers of supervision by the executive, judiciary and legislative bodies.

The executive is solely responsible for control and audit of the intelligence services for transparency and legislative oversight. The minister in charge of intelligence operations receives reports from intelligence agencies and must ensure that they comply with the law.

At the legislative level, a special commission with authority to examine the role, the effective use of resources and the implementation of intelligence policy should be created.

Such a commission must conform to special requirements to safeguard intelligence activities. For example, each member should take a special oath to uphold the secrecy of the intelligence they receive.

Last, judicial oversight is needed to ensure that intelligence activities do not violate the law and the Constitution. Judicial oversight will protect private rights, the acquisition of important information and the following of legal requirements. In addition, it also needs to be prepared for investigations in the event of complaints of improper surveillance.

We need intelligence to safeguard the country and its people, but not at the expense of privacy and life of innocent citizens. The current intelligence bill, sadly, is far from ensuring a balance between the two critical issues. Without significant changes, the bill will only revive the traumatic misuse of intelligence.

Cahyadi Satriya is a researcher at Imparsial, a human rights monitoring group. Curie Maharani is an associate research fellow with the Military Studies Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.






As the flag wavers outside the White House cheering the triumph of a "free world" over evil, it resembles nothing so much as an adrenalin-fueled Roman crowd roaring jubilantly at the sight of the spilled blood of a gladiator.

How far have we come since Roman times? Or more to the point, how far have we come since 9/11? In the pivotal week after that massive tragedy, ill-advised decisions were made that were to plunge the whole world into a seemingly unending escalation of vile terrorism and draconian security measures.

In the days that immediately followed the attack, sympathy and support for the United States poured into the White House from the world over, including many predominantly Muslim countries. It was an opportunity to create a united front, to share resources in an intelligent, long-term and effective effort to undermine any support for fundamentalism as a whole across the East/West, North/South and intra-Abrahamic religious divides.

Instead, George W. Bush — prompted and prodded by his advisors — opted for a "crusade"-like war on the sources of terror in Afghanistan.

Though the "crusade" epithet was quickly dropped, the damage was done. The neo-conservative association with the Christian right, the ongoing US blanket support for Israel's aggressive intrusions into the West Bank and Gaza strip, reinforced a massive line of confrontation between the "West" and an ever-more radicalized, neo-pan-Islamic movement.

In simple terms, the result has only been an escalation: There has been no "triumph of the free world", but on the contrary, as commentator Neil MacDonald points out, many underpinnings of American democracy went out the window: Habeas corpus was swept under the carpet, torture sanctioned, Guantanamo became infamous.

Even the name of the outrageously undemocratic Patriot Act was symbolic of this loss "free world" reason. On the other side of the fence, radicalization became an everyday occurrence.

With the election of Obama there was hope — a light at the end of the tunnel some said. His speech at Al Azhar University in Cairo was deemed historic, though many Arab commentators at the time adopted a wait-and-see stance. Whether this was simply cynicism or an awareness of the immense pressure an American president experiences in office, there does seem to be some indication that they were partially right.

Obama remains likeable as a figure, and for us Indonesians, there is something of an emotional investment in his attempt to change the world order, but right now the odds for his success in bringing about change don't look so good. Whether out of personal conviction or under incredible pressure, Obama's bid for change is perceived to have been seriously compromised.

Obama pledged to pull US out of Iraq, but he continues to try to win a military victory in Afghanistan. There is little to indicate this will succeed, nor will it do much to bring about peace, so it begs the question why a man as intelligent as Obama would take this route, which so clearly will lead into a quagmire? Is it political expediency? We expected better from Obama.

Whatever the case, the impression the world gets is that Obama has let himself be swayed by hawkish elements and there are political gains to be made. It is clear that this mission to take out Bin Laden was, from the word go, a mission to kill, not to detain. The speed and manner in which his body was dispatched at sea smacks of conspiracy and insult, and is arousing anger among Muslims the world over. Indonesia will not be an exception.

What happened to the ideals spoken of in Cairo? Bin Laden committed heinous crimes, but is "an eye for an eye" really the way forward? In a macabre scene again reminiscent of Roman emperors at the arena, Obama followed the whole mission live from A-Z, right up to the moment when a bullet entered Bin Laden's left eye.

When Obama made his speech, he emphatically and repeatedly used the word "I" regarding the authorization of the mission. It is clear that Mr. President is now fully endorsing military solutions to a problem that he once talked of as one of the misperceptions between cultures and creeds.

How this brutal and bloody "success" is supposed to bring peace is a mystery. Even the CIA is predicting more violence, and the rhetoric from the Arab world supports this.

Those who stood outside the White House and cheered are surely fools. Americans the world over will be reviled anew, senseless violence will escalate. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: "An eye for an eye will make the world blind."

The writer is a photographer and founder of a visual media company that provides services on Indonesian cultural films and television documentaries.







Human rights are the basic rights owned by a human being from birth. These rights have been recognized by the international community. States are obliged to respect human rights and lay down rules and regulations to protect the people.

The aim of protecting human rights is to respect and recognize the dignity of human beings. The freedom to live and the freedom of speech and opinion are among the basic rights practiced and respected by many nations for centuries.

Since independence until the resignation of president Soeharto in 1998 the 1945 Constitution gave a narrow space for the protection and acknowledgement of human rights. Even the government did not respect and recognize the civil and political rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution.

The fall of the Soeharto government, the ensuing sweeping reforms and the increasing international politicization of human rights at the United Nations marked the start of Indonesia's respect for human rights by ensuring freedom of speech and opinion.

For those reasons the Constitution was amended to strengthen and recognize a wider concept of human rights in line with international law.

As far as human rights are concerned, the Constitution includes not only civil and political rights but also rights relating to intellectual property as stipulated in article 28G (1) and Article 28H (4).

Both articles assert rights relating to the protection of property, including, of course, intellectual property.

The Constitution stipulates that the protection, advancement, upholding and fulfillment of human rights are the responsibility of the state, especially the government.

Although the Constitution does not per se refer to intellectual property rights, that omission does not mean that there is no constitutional protection for intellectual property rights as a part of human rights as recognized in Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

According to Article 27 (2) of the UDHR: "Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author."

The article protects not only the moral right of an author but also his or her economic right.

Similarly the Constitution protects both the moral and economic rights of authors.

To strengthen protection of human rights, the Indonesian government enacted the 1999 Law on Human Rights. It must be noted that in accordance with the law, human rights must be respected and guaranteed with the aim to enhance the welfare of the people.

Every state must guarantee the protection of human rights by laws that must be in conformity with the international law. The question now is why should intellectual property be protected by law.

There are many theories that can be offered as justification. One is that intellectual property is a personal property and laws could benefit the right's holder both morally and economically.

The government has played and will always play an active role in encouraging the development and advancement of industries to compete nationally and internationally in trade.

This is evinced by its ratification of the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization, which covers the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, in 1994.

In conjunction with the WTO, Indonesia enacted seven laws concerning intellectual property rights, the 1992 Copyright Law, the 2001 Patent Law, the 2001 Trademark Law, the 2000 Protection of Plant Varieties Law, the 2000 Trade Secret Law, the 2000 Design Industry Law No. 31/2000 and the 2000 Integrated Circuit Law.

In the 1980s and the 1990s, the international community was frustrated by the poor protection of intellectual property afforded by developing countries. Indonesia was regarded as a nation that gave scant legal protection to intellectual property.

This was for two main reasons. First, there were few scholars who were aware of the moral and economic significance of the protection of intellectual property. They thought that intellectual property belonged to only developed countries.

Second and more importantly, they thought developing countries had no interest in intellectual property development and its economic impact.

In that era, Indonesian law provided protection only to copyrights, patents and trademarks. Other fields such as plant varieties, trade secrets, design and integrated circuits were left uncovered. It seems that developing countries were not aware of the economic interest vested in intellectual property.

Intellectual property is a money maker. On these grounds it is compulsory for all nations in the world to ensure legal protection are provided to intellectual property at any cost. Intellectual property has become an instrument for all nations' economic development and growth.

Massive breaches of copyright law occur in Indonesia, especially in the use of pirated computer programs. Indonesia is the world number four illegal user of computer programs. It means more than 85 percent of the computer programs circulating in Indonesia are illegal. Pirated copies of CDs, DVDs or cassettes are also found easily in every corner in Indonesia.

It cannot be argued that despite these laws the government lacks the commitment to provide a legal certainty for the conduct of business in the country.

The weak implementation of laws regarding intellectual property has resulted in vast economic injury to Indonesia.

The infringement of laws related to intellectual property rights means a breach of human rights. Therefore the government needs to take real and coercive action to enforce the law and combat piracy so that the holders of intellectual properties can contribute to economic development.

The writer is a professor of law and the postgraduate program director at the Islamic University of Riau, Pekanbaru.







The upcoming ASEAN Summit from May 7 to 9, 2011, provides an opportunity for its 10 member states to review the defense and security context of the continuing thrust as a pivotal regional grouping engaged in aligning major power interests in Southeast Asia. In strategic terms, there are five dimensions of military security that together define the political, economic and socio-cultural success of the ASEAN Security Community.

First, Satelllite-based cyber defense: the use of satellite communications technology to transmit, encrypt, capture and control the transmission and content of military communications in space, including tracking and intercepting systems utilized and deployed by the military.

The United States, Russia, Japan and China dominate space-based defense technology. European countries, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore provide first and second-tier advanced communications technology systems deployed by land, sea and air forces.

Second, Strategic Nuclear: nuclear weapons with high-grade explosive capability with launch-capabilities of over 6,500 kilometers from land, sea and air. The United States and Russia lead the field with over 8,000-12,000 strategic nuclear warheads with command and control capabilities. China and India have fewer warheads, shorter launches as well as lesser command and control capability.

Third, Ballistic Nuclear: nuclear weapons with launch capability at ranges of 1,500-2,000 kilometers.The United States, Russia, China, India, France, the United Kingdom and North Korea are states that possess warheads and delivery systems linked to tactical nuclear weapons, deployed in tandem with conventional forces.

Fourth, Tri-Service Conventional Defense: "The military balance" usually associated with distribution and the quality of conventional army, navy and air forces' ability to defend territorial integrity and maintain "deterrence" in conventional terms. The US is the only power with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) capability in the region as well as worldwide.

Fifth, Undersea Capability: deployment of undersea nuclear powered/nuclear-weapon submarine deployment, armed with strategic missile strike capabilities. Only the United States has the range capability in terms of numbers and accuracy, with Russia, China and India actively developing anti-ship missile capability, designed at enhancing their respective "strategic space" and "far sea" presence.

The above macro-security dimensions underwrite both the intra-regional and trans-regional economic relations. Japan, South Korea and later China benefited from American "security assurance" that provided economic, trade and invesment commitments in the Pacific. ASEAN today has become a community of 10 nations with a combined GDP of US$1.4 trillion.

The security, trade and investment complementarities linking Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean are covered by America's critical role as the "security assurance" underpinning trans-regional stability. It survived upheavals in Southeast Asia, periodic crises over the Taiwan Straits and occasional tensions in the Korean peninsula.

The rise of China and India as regional and global economic powers has given rise to a desire by both nations to enhance "strategic space" in their respective "core areas of national interest", in Northeast Asia and the Indian Ocean respectively. China and India's core area of security presence will be taken into greater account as each nation increases its conventional power capability and affects ASEAN's stance on regional security.

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)/ASEAN Security Community (ASC) aims to foster intra-regional links leading to market-driven economic prosperity. ASEAN+3 (Japan, South Korea, China), ASEAN+6 (Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, India) followed by ASEAN+8 with the entry of the United States and Russia in 2010, are enhancing the concept of regional security in an interconnected world.

The ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, since May 2006, has provided a vehicle for ASEAN to provide "strategic space" among resident powers as well as calibrate "technological parity" with extra-regional military powers in order that regional security and economic progress become mutually reinforcing.

All of these collaborative clusters need to be carefully harmonized with the right pitch of military presence. The fulcrum of strategic "balance of power" and the evolving "power of balance", incorporating economic, financial (AMRO, the ASEAN Macro Economics Research Office), trade (ACFTA, ASEAN-China Free Trade Area), investment and energy interactions need to be carefully calibrated by all nations in the region. The entire Trans Pacific Partnership community constitutes 78 percent of world GDP.

The key issues for ASEAN and for Indonesia in particular for the next 10-15 years: How coordinated and synchronized will ASEAN's public and private leaders be to harness a concerted vision about its geo-political location relative to its geo-economic competitive strength? Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore exemplify the imperative to utilize "brain power" in order "to live off" the rest of the world precisely because they do not possess natural resources.

What combination of "hard", "soft" and "smart" powers must ASEAN's leadership groups in the government, in the military and in private business command in order to be able to connect and cooperate with the US, Japan, China, Russia and India? Can the national security state cope with technological, economic and financial globalization? Can territorial defenses adapt to the functional aspects of global economic and financial competitiveness arising from the pervasive uses of technological innovation?

With a population of almost 500 million, ASEAN must adopt comprehensive policy visions simultaneously linking the global, the regional, the national, the provincial and the local levels. There is a need for more skilled and educationally trained civilian, business and military leaders who are skilled at interfacing the planning of "military battles" over physical space with areas where "non-military battles" of ideas, innovation, knowledge and financial and management skills become increasingly prominent in determining a nation's ability to survive in a "24/7" competitive world.

Within the fused economies of Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, ASEAN's notion of total defense and security must merge territorial defense with functional defense. The real test for each ASEAN country is to provide broad-based social and economic justice at home. Indonesia must ensure sustainable human security, from Aceh to Papua, from North Sulawesi to East Nusa Tenggara. In the final analysis, social and economic justice is Indonesia's best defense. A strong and stable Indonesia is in the interest of all ASEAN and for security cooperation with all major extra-regional powers.

The writer, former Indonesian defense minister, is a professor of international relations at the University of Indonesia. The article was an excerpt from his opening remarks at the 4th NADI (Network of ASEAN Defense Institutes) Workshop in Jakarta on April 19, 2011.








I hope and trust readers of the column will indulge me. Over the past years I have referred to a coterie of self-defined earnest patriots and defenders of the current regime as apparatchiks and toxic hacks. Over the past few days I find that they hold me responsible for writing what they refer to as the Darusman Report, in whole or part or at the very least of being the principal source of information to the hated troika of Darusman, Sooka and Ratner. On an earlier occasion Prof Wijesinha wrote of me as the wannabe/would be foreign minister in the event that Ranil Wickremesinghe won the presidency and if I remember correctly they subscribed to the opinion that I was chiefly responsible for the loss of the GSP Plus concession.

I must retract my unkind remarks. Without a cent being forked out to them or kind word of them spoken, these devoted opinion makers have taken on the mantle of being my Bell and Pottinger, Paton and Boggs. As to who is who, is best left for them to sort out in their abundance of imagination and love of country. On a more serious note, the Panel Report, not surprisingly is generating more heat than light in terms of its contents and implications. Two points that I have made in respect of this, is that the Report is out there and requires a response that will settle the matter once and for all.  The second point is that the Report is justifiably harsh on the LTTE for the atrocities it committed in the final phase of the war – the period the Panel was charged with looking at. This is lost in the hysterical and shrill denunciations of the Report. It is significant because it directly and cogently challenges the attempt by Tamil nationalists to equate the events of May 2009 with those of July 1983 and in doing so stoke the fires of secession. Coming to terms with the Report and responding to it honestly and courageously is a challenge to Tamil political representation both here and abroad. It is one that the TNA should take up and not shirk. This must not be forgotten or brushed aside or under in the din of pseudo- patriotic fervor.

Connected to this is a third point. This is the issue of the legitimacy of the Panel and its Report. For a start is what it says about the LTTE to be discounted? If not why should the rest be? Is the Report a curate's egg or pure and simply a rotten one?

Each of the members of the Panel including its head who the regime saw fit to invite onto its Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), has been rubbished for being mala fide and paid up members of an international conspiracy hatched by the remnants of the LTTE and the West against the regime. Perhaps a less immature approach would have led to no Panel at all or a say in who was to be on it? Moreover, a perusal of the Report indicates clearly that the regime was in contact with the Panel and the Secretary General on the subject of the Panel -that is apart from the February 22nd meeting. The Minister of External Affairs in a written communication to the Secretary General of 15 February 2011 states in his characteristically elegant phraseology, "My President believes that there should be a seamless connectivity between your approach and that of the LLRC."

He goes on to state that the Presidential Secretariat has been "tasked" by the President with the responsibility of responding to the 15 questions directed to the LLRC by the Panel. The Professor notes that this has been done by His Excellency the President, in "recognition of our close relationship with the United Nations and your own goodwill and support for the continued progress of Sri Lanka…." Were there to have been some complex and nuanced strategy towards the Panel of blanket denunciation on the one hand and discreet engagement on the other, this has not come out in the wash.

 May Day was not the anti-Moon fest, promised and anticipated by some and the Report is to be hitherto referred to as the "Darusman Report", distancing it from the UN and the Secretary – General.

Yet, this is all optics. The serious business of a serious response is yet to unfold. Media reports indicate that there is to be lobbying of key members of the international community to forestall any action in the Security Council and the Human Rights Council. This deals with the short term and if successful should not be taken as a license for inaction, nationally. At the heart of all human rights concerns in this country is the culture of impunity and the need to do something credible and effective about it nationally. Leave aside for a moment the allegations in the Report, what happened to the
cases before the Commission of Inquiry (COI), the Trincomalee Five, the ACF Seventeen and a host of other within the purview of the COI and outside of it? Indeed, what happened to the Report? The same question can be asked about
Witness and Victim Protection legislation, not to mention the Human Rights Action Plan. The regime insists that the Report undermines reconciliation. As others have asked – what is the process of reconciliation currently underway? Forcing Tamil school children to sing the national anthem in Sinhala, building
army headquarters on burial grounds, postponing the release of the list of detainees requested by the TNA on behalf of families in the north and the list of beneficiaries of the houses gifted by India, militarization of the north and east?

The Tamil contingents bussed in for the May Day jamboree notwithstanding, is the regime really convinced that the Tamil community of the north agree with them in substantive measure on the Report? Do they not feel in the slightest way empowered that their sojourn to hell and back has been recorded and acknowledged and do they not hope that it will provide some space for a settlement of their grievances and aspirations?

 We need a credible national mechanism to deal with human rights accountability. We cannot have one if the Rule of Law is flouted, if there are no checks and balances on the exercise of executive power, no independent commissions for human rights, the police and the public service and no political commitment to the importance of human rights protection and accountability in moving this country to a post conflict phase and substantive democratic governance.

All of this seems clearly beyond my Bell and Pottinger, Paton and Boggs. Is it beyond this regime as well?





The killing of Osama Bin Laden by chopper-borne US Special forces and Navy Seals is good news and a job well done by that country. Shortly after the attack on the Twin Towers the Sri Lankan papers carried a piece I wrote entitled 'Why Osama Ain't My Hero', a full-on critique of terrorists masquerading as liberation fighters and an explanation of why defence of existing states, most especially democratic ones, against the former is perfectly compatible with the defence of the latter. My rejection of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda was on a continuum with my polemics and politics against Prabahakan and the LTTE, and earlier, the JVP's savage second insurrection. It also stemmed from my understanding of Lenin's and Ho Chi Minh's rational use of violence even on a large scale, and the ethics of violence of Fidel, Che, and the Sandinistas.

We Sri Lankans had a 9/11 every year, from the attack on Anuradhapura in 1985. Osama Bin Laden did far less damage to the USA than Prabhakaran did to Sri Lanka. If there is a counter argument of 'context' and 'root causes' as in "Prabhakaran was only the result of certain policies", the same argument holds for Osama Bin Laden. Those who reject that line of reasoning in his case cannot legitimately insist on it in the case of the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lanka. If as I do, you choose to comprehend context but refuse to use it as moral excuse or exculpation, you can have the analytical cake and eat it too, but the same must go for the Sri Lankan case: there is a context and a causation (the Treaty of Versailles, the Cold War, '58 and '83) but nothing excuses Nazism, al Qaeda and the Tamil Tigers.

One joins the USA in its celebratory sentiments and President Obama in his ringing reassertions about Bin Laden, but these are as valid or even more so, with regard to Sri Lanka and the Tigers. How come its 'celebration' in the USA when people spontaneously shout the name of their country and express pride in its armed forces and wave flags outside the White House and 'triumphalism' when it happens in Sri Lanka? It is fine when people gather outside Ground Zero and praise the death of Bin laden as justice served for the victims of the Twin Towers, but it is bad form when Sri Lankans, who have been victims of large scale terror and murders of their leaders, express relief and happiness at the death of the man and the destruction of the militia that plagued a generation? Why should Sri Lanka play by these hypocritical hegemonic rules?

To pre-empt any sly assertion that the killing of Osama did not entail civilian casualties, we must recall that it was preceded and is still accompanied by a protracted conventional war in Afghanistan, which spills over into neighbouring Pakistan, and has entailed quite significant civilian casualties -- not even the most surgical tactic, Predator drone strikes, are devoid of them when the terrorist leaders are embedded among their kinfolk and tribes.

Prabhakaran gambled and failed, or did he? He gambled that using human shield tactics, a Beslan or Moscow theatre hostage tactic used by the Chechen 'Black Widow' suicide bombers, but on a larger scale, would either prevent the Sri Lankan state from taking the kill-shot, or generate sufficient international pressure from the West and Tamil Nadu to deter the Sri Lankan state, or that a Jim Jones type collective suicide would make his cause reverberate. It almost worked because there were calls from the powerful and hypocritical for a ceasefire and renewed negotiations with the LTTE – as if we and our neighbours had not been down that road many times before starting with 1987; as if negotiations had not been repeatedly tried and resulted in renewed warfare by the Tigers.

 Prabhakaran was wrong is assumptions one and two. This is what we Sri Lankans have to thank President Rajapaksa for, because no one but the political executive could have said yes or no to external pressure including projects of evacuation which would have permitted Prabhakaran to slip through.   Prabhakaran was wrong in assumption three, because collective mass suicide through exposure to Sri Lankan military assault ("suicide by cop") was prevented by the military's willingness to take casualties in dangerous operations to penetrate the bunker–trench complex and create openings for the escape, each time, of tens of thousands of civilians.

 However, Prabhakaran's third gamble may have posthumously paid off at least in part, going by the current intense campaign against Sri Lanka. All wars including the on-going one in Afghanistan, entails civilian casualties. The taboo is the intentional and avoidable killing of civilians. Sri Lanka's war was not characterised by the intentional, avoidable killing of civilians. As a policy, Sri Lanka sought to minimise civilian casualties. Sri Lanka's military policy was not the intentional targeting and killing of civilians. As in Afghanistan, as in drone strikes in Pakistan, civilians died as an unavoidable result.

The US used B-52, B-1and B 2 strategic bombers, designed to carry nuclear weapons, in  bombing raids on Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which were far more lightly armed than the Tigers with their heavy guns, fledgling air force and established naval arm. Sri Lanka did not violate the criterion of proportionality in the force it deployed in the last war, including the last phase of the last war. The civilian casualties were not only unavoidable, but were a fraction of those who had died in the wars that the Tigers unilaterally waged even after a reformist solution was available in 1987, and a fraction of those who would have died had the Tigers not been terminated and the war continued for the next thirty years. 

There is an attempt to catch Sri Lanka in an accountability trap. Iraq was accused of possessing WMD and asked to submit to external inspection. It did, and the absence of WMD did not prevent the horror that was visited upon it.  The panel report is not, as Gordon Weiss has it, Sri Lanka's Srebrenica Moment. There, 8,000 men women and children were taken prisoner and executed. What is being sought to be staged is Sri Lanka's WMD Moment. The question is posed, if Sri Lanka is innocent of charges of war crimes why not prove it by means of an international independent inquiry? That's a 'have you stopped beating your wife' type of question. How independent is independent; independent of whom or what? How international is international? And why not start with other states whose wars, including those of conquest and annexation, inflicted far more casualties and ended much more than two years ago?

 The milder method of a 'Truth and Reconciliation' is also inappropriate. From South Africa to Guatemala, these have been only in situations of a negotiated peace, never an outright military victory. Had the Tigers been pushed by the West and sympathisers in the Tamil Diaspora into adhering to the CFA, instead of, say, assassinating the Foreign Minister, we might have had one of those to go with it—though, it must be noted that the Northern Ireland peace process did not contain any Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Bloody Sunday report took 38 years.  

The Darusman panel's call for an 'independent international inquiry' is nothing less than singling out of our sovereign country for a "strip search". Is there anything that suggests that an island nation with a written history of millennia and a collective identity ('imagined' or organic, constructed or primordial) even longer, a country that is not a failed state, or located in Europe or across the Mediterranean in a common region, but in Asia, will subject itself or succumb to that unfair and intrusive violation? 






Ayubowan, vanakkam and assalamu allaikum as the international political battle continues over the devastating report issued by the United Nations Experts Panel which was appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to probe accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

While government leaders went bang-bang for Mr. Ban and even made it a theme of the UPFA May Day rally, Mr. Ban himself left open the question as to what will happen next. He said one option was for the Sri Lanka government to agree to the appointment of international court to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, both by the government and the LTTE. This is highly unlikely, with some government leaders ridiculing Mr. Ban as Mon Key-Moon while others are now describing the report as the 'Darusman report'—a reference to the Indonesian judge Marzuki Darusman who chaired the three-member experts panel which issued the extensive 195-page report.

Mr. Ban said the other option was for a member of the UN to raise the issue before the Security Council, the General Assembly or the UN Human Rights Council. On Tuesday the President of the Security Council, France's Ambassador to the UN raised the issue in the Security Council. A UN spokesman also called on the Sri Lankan government to respond officially to the panel report.

Despite protests and pleas by Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry, Mr. Ban went ahead and made the report public last Monday. Government and religious leaders have condemned the publication of the report as an international conspiracy to undermine Sri Lanka's development plans and the war victory over the LTTE in May 2009.

While Russia and China have condemned the report as a violation of the sovereignty of a UN member state, analysts say they are unlikely to veto a resolution if it comes up before the UN Security Council. India's position is also uncertain. Tamil Nadu operation leader Jayalalitha Jeyaram, who is likely to emerge winner in the state elections held recently, has asked the Indian government to push for the appointment of an international court to probe alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. The Indian government said last week it was having a dialog with the Sri Lanka government on this issue. Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance's virtual acceptance of the report by the UN panel has led to a breakdown in the talks with the government on finding a political solution to the grievances and aspirations of the Tamil speaking people.  TNA frontliner and top lawyer M Sumanthiran said the devolution in the present constitution was pseudo-devolution and the TNA would insist on something more than what was provided for in the 13th amendment to the constitution.

Thus despite all the boom-boom talk on May Day, analysts believe the government is in a diplomatic crisis mainly due to mishandling by the External Affairs Ministry from the time the Ban panel was appointed. So the coming days and weeks will be vital and Sri Lankan leaders would be well advised to engage the UN chief and Western countries on this issue rather than taking a confrontational course. 










They called him the face of terrorism but he died faceless as he was mowed down by American bullets. In a few hours was consigned to the sea off the coast of Afghanistan with minimum publicity.

For some it was closure to the tragedies of 9/11 and for others it was the end of a blood-soaked chapter in modern terrorism. From the days of the Red Army, the Baader Meinhof gang, the Khmer Rouge and IRA, terrorism has converted from rebellion to a full-scale industry. Bin Laden took it to another level by masterminding the aircraft attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and became the master of the macabre game. As his legend grew, largely nourished by the inability of the US and its allies to track him down, there was also a certain aura of invincibility.

That branding has collapsed but there are now so many splinter groups that have sprouted in various parts of the world that terrorism is still a commodity that can be exported at will and if the price is right. The wild geese have a larger flock and are capable of growing wilder with mercenaries available in battalion size for the right price.

Disenchantment feeds the beast and the comforting part is that recent developments underscoring people power have marginalised the symbolic leaders like Bin Laden, who have used the latent outrage of social injustice and poverty to feed its ranks and increase them. It will be very difficult for fragmented terrorist groups to generate the necessary togetherness or sense of purpose to create another cult figure like Bin Laden — largely because the base population in the global village is no longer so easily led astray and has discovered that it can stand on its own without the need to pick up arms.    

Khaleej Times

On the contrary, in present circumstances, what one has to be cautious of is the retaliatory actions of the less organised groups who might target at will and with such arbitrariness that no one could possibly second guess them.

To that extent all the world can do is exercise greater vigilance, but the destruction of the Bin Laden saga does mark, to a tangible extent, the beginning of the end of the past forty years of extremism that have held sway in the world.







Prabhakaran killed

The world woke up on Monday May 2, to the news that Osama Bin Laden, founder and leader of the Al-Queda network had been killed in a firefight with US troops at what was essentially his safe house and base camp, not far from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. President Barack Obama in a televised speech to the nation announced the news and spontaneous and joyous celebrations erupted across the US and the western world. There was a slightly more nuanced response in Asia and the Muslim world, not in public and certainly not by the governments' but by sections of the people.

Two years ago, on May 19, 2009, Sri Lanka and the world woke up to the news that Vellupillai Prabhakaran, founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, (LTTE) had been killed in a pitched battle with Sri Lankan troops near the banks of the Nandikadaal lagoon near the Mullativu coast. A jubilant Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a televised speech to Parliament, broadcast to the nation, announced the news and the end of three decades of civil war as spontaneous and joyous celebrations broke out across Sri Lanka. In the near mono ethnic Tamil communities of the war zones of the Northern Province, there was a more muted and nuanced response.

That these two tales of terror, Prabhakaran's and Bin Laden's should have come to an end is a victory for humanity and an unquestionable cause for celebration. Both were evil in that they deliberately and as an act of willful policy targeted civilians as their modus operandi and caused misery to people including their own self proclaimed constituencies. They also had a very negative effect on the very causes they sought to espouse and the people on whose behalf they supposedly claimed to fight. Osama ultimately did no favours for either Islam or Muslims and neither did Prabhakaran's own unique brand of terror benefit the Tamil people.

The world opposed terrorism

It was the terror attacks of 9/11, which forever changed the world and also etched Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda on the global psyche. It also made terrorism very unattractive globally and led among many other developments to tightening up anti terrorism, money laundering laws worldwide, incidentally making operations that much more difficult for the LTTE. When the LTTE opted out the ceasefire agreement in 2006, the world was a much more different place, than when they had entered into the CFA in early 2002. Much had changed in half a decade, including the LTTE itself being listed as a terrorist group in most of the world, especially in the West, including the USA, Canada, Britain, the EU, Australia and of course India.   

Dialogue with the  wider group

However the West's war on terror and specifically its war on Al Queda have been complimented by a dialogue and outreach to the Muslim world. The US has and more so specifically under the Obama Administration taken pains to reach out to the Muslim world through dialogue and friendship, recognizing that Al Queda did not represent mainstream Islam and that the largest Muslim nation on earth, Indonesia and other influential Muslim nations like Turkey and Malaysia have been secular, democratic, moderate and reliable western allies for years, with no connection or sympathies for Al Queda.

Similarly Sri Lanka's own war on terror, concluded now almost two years ago, must also be complemented and succeeded by dialogue and an outreach through friendship to the Tamil community. Such a process of national reconciliation must deal with both the effects and causes of the war. The effects of the war, should be dealt with in a victim centered and equitable manner. IDP's should be resettled with the resources to rebuilt their homes and livelihoods, detainees under emergency regulations should be charged in courts or released, on bail if necessary and the artillery range kilometers long high security zones on private lands in the Jaffna District should be made available to their original residents.  The issue, the late Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam often said, of eliminating the "anomaly of imposing a mono ethnic state on a multi ethnic polity", should be addressed initially through full implementation of the 13th amendment, as well as through the government's structured dialogue process with the TNA, as the elected representatives of the Tamil people. 

(The writer served as Presidential Spokesman from 2001-2011)





Cricket is in the news again. After a much debated ICC World Cup just behind us, former Sri Lankan Cricket Captain and a fine batsman that he was Hashan Thilakaratne has-or seems to have raised a hornet's nest.

Now, Hashan has given a statement to CID and says would take the matter to the ICC after about a decade. Ironically he had said that "that matches were fixed during his career."

Note his career.

But he did not reveal any evidence as he said due to legal advice and now has said he would reveal the names of those involved in fixing matches "at the appropriate time."

Tilakaratne told a television programme earlier this month that match fixing has been rampant …, then on Tuesday made a statement reaffirming his allegations to the Western Provincial Council, where he is elected to office.

He says he stands by his statements.

The humorous aspect of the whole thing is that almost everybody in the cricketing world knows that many matches are fixed and betting cartels are very strong.

And it is not an issue to go gaga anyway. What he has said is a non-event, non-incident.

Cricket, in fact zoomed into fame in the 1990s after advent of television and after Sri Lanka won the ICC World Cup in 1996.

Before that, only diehard cricket fans listened to cricket matches amidst crackling shortwave "Running Commentaries", radios to their ears.

Why media and rest of the country suddenly went into a spin over his non-statement remains as perplexing as Murali's spins.

Sri Lanka Cricket expressed concern over the allegations and called for "concrete evidence" to substantiate them.

"We also wish to state that we find it extremely strange that these so called 'revelations' are being made so many years after the alleged misdeeds," the national Sri Lanka Cricket Board said in a statement. He cites personal security as reason.

The punch line is that the Police had been asked to look into it after the Sports Minister has ordered a 'police inquiry' into the allegations.

Shouldn't why a country has law enforcement anyway?

Hashan went on further on his stunt and charged "there was a conspiracy to silence his exposure."

In the first place he has not exposed anything so far.

"I can tell this in agreement with my conscience. Match fixing is not something that started happening yesterday or today. According to my knowledge, it happened since 1992. I say this with great responsibility" said Tillekaratne. He had played 83 Tests and 200 ODIs for Sri Lanka between 1986 and 2004.A true gentleman, former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara has said that Hashan should work with the ACSU unit of the ICC and other authorities in Sri Lanka if he had "anything more than allegations, as it's dangerous to throw names around."









Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Osama bin Laden, the author of the 9/11 atrocity in the US and lesser terrorist outrages elsewhere, has been killed by US 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 Bin Laden had been killed 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'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 Bin Laden has been moribund for years. Outside the Arab world, there have been no major terrorist assaults for about five years, 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 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 had accepted that doctrine. 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 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 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 support, the revolutionaries overthrow the government and take power.

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

However, almost 10 years after 9/11, it is clear that Bin Laden's strategy has failed even though the US 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 US 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 secular countries in the West and elsewhere enjoy. The Salafists have become virtually irrelevant.

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 US 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 US 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 US again has been rising ever since US troops began to pull out of Iraq, and 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 US, 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.








As the news of Osama bin Laden's death filtered out onto the streets of the United States it triggered unsightly scenes of undiluted hysteria, chest-thumping and back-slapping which has sadly become a trademark of the vengeful 'hang'em high' lobby that emerged from the rubble of 9/11.

And just like George W. Bush did on that horrific day way back in 2001, U.S. President Barack Obama unashamedly wallowed in a flag-waving, nationalistic wave of emotion, crowing about national unity and everyone pulling together as he revealed the manhunt for the world's most wanted man had finally been concluded.

It mattered not the Al-Qaeda leader was unarmed -- that detail was kept back as hugely distorted stories zoomed around the globe about how the evil Arab used his wife as a human shield while firing off rounds at the heroic soldiers who risked their all for Uncle Sam.

The naked display of uncontrollable gung-ho emotion was bad enough but then a smug-looking Obama began sounding like Glenn Ford in a scene from High Noon as he lectured the world about ""justice being done"".

To quote my favorite journalist Gary Younge: "This was not justice, it was an extra-judicial execution. If you shoot a man twice in the head you do not find him guilty. You find him dead. This was revenge. And it was served very cold indeed."

Mercifully, in this sea of madness another sane voice in America also drowned out the hate-filled chorus and it came from an unlikely source - 9/11 survivor Harry Waizer.

If anyone had a right to jump up and down like a lunatic at the show of a full moon it was him, but instead of adding to the hatefest he said: ""I just can't find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.""

I hope now that America's Number One Bogeyman is no more the USA returns to some semblance of normality that has been absent from its landscape since the now discredited War on Terror began.

And I hope that the U.S. Administration will stop using the politics of fear on its own people who have been ruthlessly hyped up in to a state of advanced paranoia at every opportunity. High days and holidays have been blighted by accelerated levels of terror alerts while the latest airport scares and the latest suspect parcels have brought major cities and their transport networks to a halt.

While it is always dangerous to generalize the American people appear to have been kept suspended in fear ever since 9/11 -- the reality is ordinary citizens have more chance of being shot in their backyard than be killed by a terrorist.

30,000 innocents die every year in gun-related crime -- that's a 9/11 multiplied by ten -- but the close relationship with deadly weapons shows no sign of abating in trigger-happy America.

In terms of a violent society and armed citizens, the U.S. is in a league of its own and sadly the state of disregard for the law and justice filters all the way down from The White House.

That the most powerful man in the world can stare straight into the cameras and say: "Justice was done" over Bin Laden's murder borders on absurdity; it's almost Pythonesque.

Real justice would have involved an arrest, a trial by jury and a sentence in an international court should the thought of holding him on USA soil prove too frightening.

Real justice would not have involved shooting an unarmed man in front of his wife and children -- there were no bodyguards in the house in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

Real justice would not have involved charging into someone else's country with armed forces unannounced, if indeed that was really the case in Pakistan.

I'm surprised David Cameron, the British Prime Minister and other political leaders went into congratulatory mode in the House of Commons over the whole saga.

Had it not occurred to them that if OBL had chosen to hide out in Didsbury, Tooting or Chipping Norton then U.S. Special Forces would have come into the UK all guns blazing?

I wonder would Cameron have gushed forth with undiluted praise then?

We don't know who America's next Bogeyman is going to be, but what if he does live in Britain or chooses to hide in the UK? What then? Do we sit back and allow America to breach our sovereignty in the name of U.S. justice?

Are there any real guarantees that we won't have U.S. Navy Seals bursting into our neighborhoods anytime soon?

OK, it's highly unlikely but not impossible. This is what happens when there's total disregard for international law, Vienna and Geneva conventions et al.

Distinguished QC Geoffrey Robertson is a man I'd like to lock in the Oval Office with the Commander in Chief for maybe 30 minutes. A renowned international human rights lawyer, he is not at all impressed by Obama's interpretation of justice.

Writing about the OBL killing he said the law "permits criminals to be shot in self-defense. They should, if possible, be given the opportunity to surrender, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive, if that can be achieved without risk. Exactly how Bin Laden came to be shot (especially if it was in the back of the head, execution-style) therefore requires explanation. Why the hasty "burial at sea" without a post-mortem, as the law requires?"

Why indeed? The trouble is various U.S. Administrations have lied to the world -- lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, lied about the existence of WMD, lied about Saddam being in league with Al-Qaeda.

And the problem with serial liars is that when they do tell the truth no one believes them.

Once again America has managed to shoot itself in the foot in the name of justice -- a justice that has earned the admiration and praise of the chairman of the Israeli parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security.

Shaul Mofaz of the right wing Kadima is now urging the Zionist Government to assassinate Palestinian leaders like the "U.S. did with Osama bin Laden".

He seems to have overlooked the fact that Israel has been "doing an Obama" for years as the leadership of Hamas can testify.

Nevertheless, it seems that even though international law prohibits the use of extra judicial assassination policies, various states of terror may now starting "Doing an Obama".

After bringing an end to the biggest manhunt in U.S. history, the U.S. President has managed to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory.

* British journalist Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners.

Photo: President Barack Obama and key staff, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (with hand over mouth), watch Sunday's daring raid on Osama bin Laden's compound from the safety of the White House Situation Room



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