December 01, 2007
It is worth paying attention to the time horizon and the distances travelled as claimed in the analysis of the Gujarat 2002 Riots Cellphone Records. Let us take for example The Indian Express reporting on the movements of Joint commissioner of police (sector II), Ahmedabad, M K Tandon.
Yousuf Nazar - 12/1/2007
Pakistan’s establishment and sections of its media have perfected the art of projecting the most irrelevant topics as national issues of paramount importance. Uniform is one such example. Some newspapers even published comments to the effect whether it was the beginning of a drastic transformation. Really; transformation to a completely failed state from a ‘failed state’? Another general? So what?
Hitler was not from the Army. He never really wore a general’s uniform. So he never had to take it off. But that did not alter the fact that he was a dictator whose third Reich led to Germany’s worst defeat and complete destruction.
Ayub Khan took off his uniform in 1962 but ruled for another seven years as a military dictator without many problems. He was the most ‘moderately enlightened’ of all generals. He introduced private enterprise to the Army as well as to his family. He wore fine dinner jackets to the state dinners in Western capitals and swam with beautiful British call girls [see photo of Christine Keeler left] in his leisure time. But the extreme inequalities and regional polarization caused by his misrule led to the dismemberment of Pakistan (presided over by another general) after two years, eight months, and twenty two days of his exit as the President of Pakistan. So much for the stability that his ‘economic achievements’ had supposedly brought to Pakistan.
One would think that Pakistan’s elites (although intellectually depleted to a debilitating degree due to massive brain drain over the past three decades) having lived most of their lives under military dictatorships, would have learned that only two generals in the modern history brought about any positive political change, Napoleon and Atatürk. And they would therefore focus on more substantive issues. Is this too much or too rational to expect?
Let us now look at some real issues: The history teaches us that all generals behave in exactly the same manner when they have power. They protect their own power and the military’s institutional interests. It is of little consequence if they rule with or without uniform. Or with ‘rubber-stamp’ parliaments or without even the pretense of having an election or a parliament.
Musharraf’s both coups were desperate acts of a man who saw his career coming to an end. Both the coups showed complete and contemptuous disregard for the constitution and the interests of the country. He acted with impunity in a brazen display of naked power that showed no regard for any other consideration other than his self. What really led to his ‘dismissal’ by Nawaz Sharif was his misadventure into Cargill; a historic blunder whose sole purpose was to sabotage the peace process initiated with Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A peace process that could have led to a period of greater stability and development in the sub-continent and a reduced role of the military.
After eight years of his misrule, what has Pakistan really achieved?
* Not only Pakistan does not have a democracy, it does not have even a chance of holding free and fair elections that would be at least as ‘fair’ as they were twenty years back in 1988.
* Pakistan is as corrupt, if not more, a country as it was on October 12, 1999. The biggest loan defaulters and arguably the most corrupt family in Pakistan’s history – the Chaudris of Gujrat – are Musharraf’s principal backers and lead the ruling party.
* Pakistan has been declared the most dangerous country in the World by the Americans, his best friends.
* Pakistan’s judiciary had a tainted record but it still operated with some semblance of respect. Now it stands completely destroyed.
* And the economy? The massive inflow of funds (over $65 billion) during the eight years has been a wasted opportunity. The greatest beneficiaries have been the generals, bankers, stock brokers and their friends without any real development, whatsoever, in the country.
* The general was shrewd to utilize the 9/11 to end his own international isolation but in his desperation to undo the blunders committed by the generals (himself included) that earned Pakistan the reputation of a ‘terrorist state’, his regime has made the biggest compromises on Pakistan sovereignty and independence in the country’s history of; compromises that may ultimately lead to Balkanization, and not Talibanization, of Pakistan.
Why Balkanization? A major fallout of the prolonged periods of military rule (1977-1988 and 1999-to date) since the break-up of Pakistan in 1971, has been that the country no longer thinks nationally. For example there is no real national Party. The PPP which once played that role was squeezed out of that role by the Army and its minions, like Nawaz and Chaudris, with the slogan “Jag Punjabi Jag” and mindless repression and persecution of its followers.
The ANP,MQM,MMA and PML(N) are either purely ethnic Parties or at best Provincial entities. Similarly on issues such as Kalabagh Dam, division of assets, etc; the discussions, regardless of which Government is in power, are conducted on the basis of provincial rather than national interests. Musharraf says that the Army provides the glue to Pakistan’s integrity but implicit in this dangerous argument is the admission that nothing else holds the country together.
In any case as the situation exists, Baluchistan is in the midst of a war for secession, and the Northern territories of Pakistan are on their way to forming autonomous entities with their own justice system, tax collection regime, police force, and fairly effective militias.
From a Federation we seem to be evolving into a de facto confederation which is usually a prelude to independence. The question may no longer be whether this slow motion disintegration of Pakistan can be stopped but whether it can be managed peacefully.
This is the question Pakistan faced in 1969-1971 and failed. The apologists for the Field Marshals and Generals dismissed the possibility then. They are again ignoring such warnings now. But history and conditions do not seem to be on their side, never mind the ‘pragmatism’ of the Busharraf followers, moderates, realists, etc. The threat of Balkanization is not an issue of ‘idealism’ or ‘morality’. This threat has never been so real since 1971.
Yousuf Nazar is an economist by training and an investment professional by practice. He worked for Citigroup for 18 years and was the head of emerging markets public investments in 2005 when he left Citigroup London. In this capacity he helped manage its proprietary equity portfolio of over $2 billion across Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa from 2001-2005. Before that, he was the director and chief strategist of Citigroup’s Emerging Markets group, in which capacity he dealt with the financial crises in Mexico, Asia and Russia during the 1990s. He represented Citigroup on the board of directors of portfolio companies. He did his masters in international finance and investments in 1987 and a bachelors in administrative studies in 1986 from Canada’s largest business school at York University. He is a CFA charterholder and a member of United Kingdom Society of Investment Professionals. He has travelled extensively throughout the developing world and advises his clients on international strategy and investments. He also writes for Pakistan's largest English-language newspaper DAWN and has appeared on TV (including CNBC) as current affairs analyst.
· US fears army's Islamists might grab weapons
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
Saturday December 1, 2007
Pakistani paramilitary forces holds an alleged suspect during a crackdown operation against militants near Mingora in northern Pakistan, Friday, November 30, 2007. Photograph: Mohammad Zubair
The man who devised the Bush administration's Iraq troop surge has urged the US to consider sending elite troops to Pakistan to seize its nuclear weapons if the country descends into chaos.
In a series of scenarios drawn up for Pakistan, Frederick Kagan, a former West Point military historian, has called for the White House to consider various options for an unstable Pakistan.
These include: sending elite British or US troops to secure nuclear weapons capable of being transported out of the country and take them to a secret storage depot in New Mexico or a "remote redoubt" inside Pakistan; sending US troops to Pakistan's north-western border to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida; and a US military occupation of the capital Islamabad, and the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan if asked for assistance by a fractured Pakistan military, so that the US could shore up President Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Kayani, who became army chief this week.
"These are scenarios and solutions. They are designed to test our preparedness. The United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss," Kagan, who is with the American Enterprise Institute, a thinktank with strong ideological ties to the Bush administration, told the Guardian. "We need to think now about our options in Pakistan,"
Kagan argued that the rise of Sunni extremism in Pakistan, coupled with the proliferation of al-Qaida bases in the north-west, posed a real possibility of terrorists staging a coup that would give them access to a nuclear device. He also noted how sections of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment continued to be linked to Islamists and warned that the army, demoralised by having to fight in Waziristan and parts of North-West Frontier Province, might retreat from the borders, leaving a vacuum that would be filled by radicals. Worse, the military might split, with a radical faction trying to take over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
Kagan accepted that the Pakistani military was not in the grip of Islamists. "Pakistan's officer corps and ruling elites remain largely moderate. But then again, Americans felt similarly about the shah's regime and look what happened in 1979," he said, referring to Iran.
The scenarios received a public airing two weeks ago in an article for the New York Times by Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, who has ties to the Democrats.
They have been criticised in the US as well as Pakistan, with Kagan accused of drawing up plans for another US occupation of a Muslim country.
But the scenarios are regarded with some seriousness because of Kagan's influence over thinking in the Bush administration as the architect of the Iraq troop surge, which is conceded to have brought some improvements in security.
A former senior state department official who works as a contractor with the government and is familiar with current planning on Pakistan told the Guardian: "Governments are supposed to think the unthinkable. But these ideas, coming as they do from a man of significant influence in Washington's militarist camp, seem prescriptive and have got tongues wagging - even in a town like Washington, built on hyperbole."
Kagan said he was not calling for an occupation of Pakistan.
"I have been arguing the opposite. We cannot invade, only work with the consent of elements of the Pakistan military," he said.
"But we do have to calculate how to quantify and then respond to a crisis that is potentially as much a threat as Soviet tanks once were. Pakistan may be the next big test."
The political and security crises there have led the Bush administration to conclude that Pakistan has become a more dangerous place than it was before Musharraf took over in the coup of October 1999.
One Pentagon official said last week that the defence department had indeed been war-gaming some of Kagan's scenarios.
A report by Kagan and O'Hanlon in April highlighted their argument.
"The only serious response to this international environment is to develop armed forces capable of protecting America's vital interests throughout this dangerous time," it said.
But in Pakistan, aides to Musharraf yesterday dismissed Kagan's study as "hyperbole
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti economic commentator Oleg Mityayev) - Gazprom is likely to raise gas prices for Ukraine in 2008.
On November 27, the Russian energy giant agreed to buy Turkmenistan's gas at a higher price, and this sparked the rumor that the gas price for Ukraine would be raised since Gazprom resells Turkmen gas to Ukraine.
However, the agreement Russia and Ukraine are initially preparing already stipulates a higher price.
The leaders of Turkmenistan and Gazprom agreed on November 27 to raise the price of Turkmen gas from $100 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007 to $130 in the first half of 2008 and to $150 in July-December 2008.
Immediately afterward, Uzbekistan also expressed a desire to raise gas prices for Russia, and Gazprom will most likely have to agree since energy prices have been growing in the world year on year. Gazprom intends to raise its prices for gas supplied to Western Europe from $250 to $300-$400.
Gazprom is supplying Central Asian gas, mainly from Turkmenistan, to Ukraine. Therefore, gas prices for Ukraine directly depend on the purchase prices.
Gazprom and Ukraine began negotiating new gas prices for 2008 and subsequent years some time ago. Gazprom adds $30-$35 to Turkmen gas it sells to Ukraine, and so it is easy to calculate the 2008 price for Ukraine. Russia bought gas from Turkmenistan at $60 and sold it to Ukraine at $95 in 2006, and the prices in 2007 were $100 and $130 respectively.
Both Ukraine and Gazprom expected the Central Asian gas producers to raise prices. Otherwise their new agreement would have stipulated a price of $150-$160 for Gazprom's supplies to Ukraine.
Now that Turkmenistan has announced the new price, Gazprom and Ukraine can sign the contract. Ukraine was shocked when it learned that Turkmenistan would charge Gazprom $150 for its gas, because its 2008 budget stipulates gas allocations at $160 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Gazprom may agree to sell gas to Ukraine at $160 in the first half of the year, but in the second half Ukraine will most likely have to pay $180.
Ukraine's acting Economics Minister Anatoly Kinakh has said that a price above $180 would ruin the bulk of Ukrainian economic sectors. I would say that Ukraine will carry the burden in 2008, but the situation may become more complicated in subsequent years.
Gazprom has said more than once that it plans to convert to European prices in gas relations with Ukraine in 2011. Besides, the era of cheap Turkmen gas is ending both for Ukraine and for Gazprom. The price of Turkmenistan's gas has more than tripled in the past three years, from $44 in 2005 to $150 in 2008, and we can expect it to continue growing in accordance with the global trend.
The European Union is encouraging Turkmenistan to join the project to build the trans-Caspian gas pipeline running through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, bypassing Russia and Ukraine. The pipeline will deliver Turkmenistan's gas directly to Europe, where it would be able to sell it at a much higher price.
To convince Turkmenistan to continue selling its gas to Russia, Gazprom has offered it an alternative project of a pipeline running along the eastern shore of the Caspian across Russia. But to entice Turkmenistan to join this project, Russia - and Ukraine - should agree to pay much more for its gas.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
The Venezuelan government's effort to create "21st century socialism" is moving ahead full-steam with the December 2nd constitutional reform referendum. While tensions and confusion about the reform are rising in Venezuela, it is important to realize that this reform will mean both less and more than most outside observers seem to think. That is, as usual, many pundits, such as from the Venezuelan opposition and from so-called international experts, are painting a picture of a Venezuela that is about to finally slip into "Castro-communism," a picture that could hardly be further from the truth and that has been falsely predicted for Chavez's entire presidency of now nine years. While there are negative or not-so-good aspects of the reform, which for the most part involve giving the president some more powers, the Venezuelan president, even after the reform, is still does not have as much institutional power as the U.S. president. On the other hand, in the process of focusing on the centralizing aspects of the reform, most observers willfully miss the ways in which the positive aspects of the upcoming reform have the potential to make Venezuelan political life more in tune with the interests of the country's mostly poor majority.
Shortly after President Hugo Chavez was reelected on December 6, 2006, he announced that a reform of the 1999 constitution would be one of the first tasks of his second full term as president. According to Chavez, the reform was to smooth the path for the creation of "Bolivarian" or "21st Century" socialism because the 1999 constitution was a product of a more moderate president and population. On August 15 of this year, eight months after his reelection, Chavez presented his proposal to alter 33 articles of the constitution to the National Assembly (AN). The AN, according to the constitution, is allowed to discuss and revise the president's proposal over a period of two years. However, following a relatively rushed process that was accompanied by numerous public forums in all parts of the country, the AN added another 36 article changes and passed the entire proposal with the required two-thirds majority on November 2. The National Electoral Council then had 30 days to organize a national referendum on the proposal, which is now scheduled to take place on December 2nd.
What the Reform is About
Chavez's constitutional reform project deepens policies in five main areas: participatory democracy, social inclusion, non-neoliberal (socialist?) economic development, politico-territorial reorganization, and stronger (or more effective?) central government. In addition, there are a few changes that don't fit into any of these categories, mainly because they don't do anything much, except adorn an already very progressive constitution. While the vast majority of these changes are progressive, in the sense that they deepen democracy and social inclusion, some can be considered regressive, in the sense that they weaken earlier achievements of the 1999 constitution. Also, one must recognize, just as some in the Chavez government have argued, that the reform represents a "transition" towards "21st century socialism," not its full implementation, which is still somewhat unclear. As such, it misses elements that progressives in many countries would consider essential for real socialism. Let us briefly review each of the above-mentioned aspects of the reform, before turning to the political context of the reform.
Deepening Participatory Democracy
In one of the greatest departures from the 1999 constitution, the reform proposal introduces a new level of government, the "popular power" (art. 136 of the reform proposal). This power is in addition to the municipal, state, and national powers of the political system. The popular power represents the "lowest" level of government, in that it is the organization of communities in forms of direct democracy. Because of this, the reform states, "The people are the depositories of sovereignty and exercise it directly via the popular power. This is not born of suffrage nor any election, but out of the condition of the human groups that are organized as the base of the population."
The opposition has tried to twist the meaning of this article, claiming that it lays the groundwork for dictatorship because it supposedly means that the authorities of the popular power are named from above, since they are not elected. This, however, represents a willful misunderstanding, as the popular power is supposed to be the place where democracy is direct, that is, unmediated by elected representatives. This is not to say that there wouldn't be any elections at this level, but that those who are elected are not representatives, but are delegates of the community, who are to execute the community's decisions. Currently this popular power takes the form of the citizen assemblies and their communal councils. According to the reform, it would also take the form of worker, student, youth, elderly, women, etc. councils.
Another more sophisticated criticism has been that incorporating popular power, in the form of the various forms of popular organizations, into the state's structure implies a cooptation of civil society. That is, citizens, by virtue of their activism, would be turned into civil servants. This would be true if all of civil society, in its totality, were to be absorbed into state structures. However, the reform limits the popular power to those councils or groups that are organized in accordance with the constitution and the law as being part of the popular power. In other words, rather than co-opting or absorbing all of civil society into the state, the reform proposes to provide more democratic and more consistent channels for citizen involvement in their self-governance. Civil society groups that are organized outside of these channels would still be free to organize and mobilize independently of the state.
However, since power is to be devolved from municipal, state, and national governments to the popular power (art. 168, 184, 264, 265, 279, 295), that is, to the communal and other councils, consistent channels for the use of this power must be established, which is done via the councils of the popular power. Many reform articles, for example, state that communities are to be involved in the co-management of businesses (art. 184), that municipalities must involve the popular power in their activities (art. 168), that they have a role in the nomination of members of the judicial, electoral, and citizen branches of government (art. 264, 265, 279, 295), and that they receive at least 5% of the national budget (art. 167) for their community projects.
Deepening Social and Political Inclusion
The second area that the constitutional reform deepens is social and political inclusion by giving all citizens the right to equal access to city resources ("right to the city," art. 18), prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and health condition (art. 21), including young people in the political process by lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 years (art. 64), requiring gender parity in candidacies for elected office (art. 64), protecting people from having their primary home expropriated due to bankruptcy (art. 82), introducing a social security fund for self- and informally employed Venezuelans (art. 87), guaranteeing free university education (art. 103), recognizing and promoting the culture Venezuelans of African descent (art. 100), and giving university students parity in the election of university authorities (art. 109). These are all forms of social and political inclusion that, if realized, would place Venezuela at the forefront in the world in this regard.
Deepening Non-Capitalist (Socialist?) Economic Development
Next, the reform would move Venezuela further along a path of non-capitalist economic development. That is, the effort to deepen non-capitalist and perhaps socialist development is centered on strengthening democratic control over the economy while weakening private sector control. For example, the central bank, which is normally under the sway of international financial institutions, would no longer be independent (art. 318, 320, 321) and the state may turn food producing and distributing businesses over to public or collective control in order to guarantee food security (art. 305). Also, the state oil company PDVSA will face stronger restrictions against privatization (art. 303).
The 1999 constitution had stated that PDVSA may not be privatized, but that its subsidiaries could. However, since PDVSA is a holding company that consists only of subsidiaries, it could, in theory, be entirely privatized by a government so inclined. The reform would prohibit the privatization of any national components of PDVSA. In other words, the often money-losing international subsidiaries of PDVSA could still be privatized at some point.
In addition to strengthening the state's involvement in the economy, the reform also strengthens the role of organized communities and of workers in the economy. For example, land reform is made more effective by allowing its beneficiaries (mostly cooperatives) to occupy land they have been granted before court challenges to the land redistribution are settled in court (art. 115). Until now, the land reform has often been hampered by land owners who would tie up the reform in court for many years, while the land would remain idle.
Reducing the workweek from 44 to 36 hours per week would give workers more power, vis-à-vis employers (art. 90). Workers rights are also strengthened in that the reform opens the possibility for greater workplace self-management, via worker councils (art. 70, 136) and directives that publicly owned enterprises should involve greater self-management (184 no. 2).
Also, eliminating intellectual property while maintaining authors' rights to their creations, makes it more difficult for companies to profit from the creative work of others, while still protecting authors' rights over their productions (art. 98).
In addition to strengthening the position of the state and of workers relative to private capital, the reform would also strengthen the position of domestic business relative to international business because it removes the requirement that foreign companies be treated the same as national companies (art. 301).
Finally, and perhaps most controversially, the reform introduces a variety of new forms of property that move the notion or property away from purely individualistic conceptions (art. 115). These new forms are collective, social, and public property. Critics have pointed out that the differences are poorly defined, which is true. Nonetheless, these different forms open up the possibility for the creation of socialist production enterprises, as the state has planned.
Altogether, these forms of strengthening workers and of the state with regard to private capital definitely represent a move away from classical capitalism. The degree to which it represents 21st century socialism rather than social democracy or state socialism will depend on exactly which direction and how far these moves are taken in the laws that will work out the details of the constitutional mandates.
Developing a "New Geometry of Power"
The "New Geometry of Power" is perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of the constitutional reform. The opposition and the oppositional media consistently interpret it as a blatant effort to give President Chavez dictatorial power over states and municipalities. Indeed, the reform lends itself to this misreading because it says the president may designate a variety of new politico-geographic areas, such as federal territories, federal municipalities, federal cities, and "functional districts," and may name the respective authorities, without defining the power of these authorities or the function of these new territorial divisions (art. 16).
However, it is absurd to claim that the lack of a clear definition in this regard means that these new territorial divisions or the respective authorities would take power away from elected representatives if the reformed constitution does not say that their powers would be diminished in any way. Rather, the main purpose of this new geometry of power, according to government representatives, is to allow the president to designate national resources and presidential powers to particular areas. That is, the idea is to concentrate national attention and resources on specific areas, regardless of their existing politico-geographic boundaries, that are in need of such attention because of their poverty or their unused human or physical resources. Existing local power structures would remain untouched and unaffected by the designation of these areas, other than in the sense of receiving more national government attention. If anything, the reform implies that communal councils can form governing structures at the city-wide level, thereby moving power down to the communities, rather than up to the president.
The real question in regard to this aspect of the reform is whether it is necessary to include the president's ability to designate federal territories in the constitutional reform at all, since they do not alter existing power structures. The president already has the power to focus national government attention on specific regions, which he has done via the nuclei of endogenous development. These are zones for special government attention that appear to be quite similar to those proposed in the constitutional reform, but which were created by presidential decree, without specific constitutional authorization. Including this aspect of the territorial reorganization in the reform thus appears to give additional authorization for something that the president can already do.
More importantly, though, for the reform and for a new geometry of power, is the president's and the National Assembly's new ability to re-organize municipal boundaries (art. 156 no. 11, 236 no. 3). While the politico-territorial division of states within the country's borders was always and still is a matter of a national law, with the reform the president appears to have the authority to re-organize the municipalities within the individual states, which used to have that power. This is an important change because Venezuela's municipalities are organized in a completely irrational manner that goes back as much as 200 years and has rarely been changed. The rationale for giving the president the power to reorganize these is that this needs to be done with a national-rather than parochial-vision in mind.
Strengthening Of the Presidency and the National Government
This last point, about the reform giving the president the power to reorganize municipal boundaries, touches on the larger issue of the reform slightly strengthening the president's powers in a variety of ways. Of course, the oppositional media (including the international pundits) consistently present this as "sweeping new powers," without backing this up. The most controversial changes in this regard include the removal of the two-term limit on serving as president (art. 230). However, over half of the heads of government in the world have "sweeping power," including some of the world's most respected democracies, such as France, Germany, Britain, and Italy.
Removing the limit on the number of reelections and extending the presidential term from six to seven years (art. 230) are meant to strengthen the presidency in order to carry out the long-term project of Venezuela's political and economic transformation from capitalism to socialism. In a way, opponents ought to be grateful that Chavez is not proposing a transition within his current presidential term (which lasts another five years), but a transition with a much longer time line, which would be far less traumatic and thus gives the opposition far more opportunities to reverse the project.
Extending Chavez's presidency (if reelected) is a mixed problem, though. On the one hand, Chavez supporters are right to say that it is more democratic if citizens are free to elect whomever they choose, as often as they choose, without artificial limitations. On the other hand, supporters of this principle ought to address the main reason such unlimited reelections are often prohibited, which is that presidents tend to accumulate power and can use the advantages of their office to make it more difficult for challengers to eventually win the presidency. This would mean placing strict restrictions on using the office of the president in one's presidential campaign. Currently limitations of this sort are rather limited in Venezuela.
The other controversial strengthening of the office of the president is the reform's toughening of states of emergency. According to the reform, the right to being informed would be suspended during a state of emergency, which implies that censorship may be used in such situations (art. 337). The rationale for this is that the April 2002 coup attempt was based on manipulating the media to fabricate events that ended up justifying the coup. A state of emergency, according to Chavez supporters, would have to take such a course of events into account. Contrary to most news reports, though, the state of emergency still includes the right to defense, to a trial, to communication, and not to be tortured. This is more than one can say for the current situation in the U.S., where the president has the authority to arrest people without due process, according to the recently passed Military Commissions Act.
Another area where the office of the president is being strengthened is in his ability to promote all military officers, not just high-ranking ones, as was previously the case (art. 236 no. 8). While this strengthens the president's control over the military and will probably increase the premium placed on loyalty to the president, it is not a "sweeping power" that will turn Venezuela into a dictatorship. Rather, this is something that ought to be within the purview of the military's commander in chief, even if it might not be the wisest way to handle promotions.
Another common criticism of the reform with regard to the president's "sweeping powers" is that the president may name as many vice-presidents (including regional ones) as he or she chooses (art. 236 no. 5). However, considering that the reform text does not say what these vice-presidents' powers would be, the only possible interpretation is that they have none except those that the president is already authorized to give to other members of his cabinet. Contrary to common perception, the powers of the vice-president thus cannot usurp the powers of any other elected official. In effect, vice-presidents would be nothing else than glorified ministers.
A change that has received little attention from the opposition, presumably because they support it, is that the reform makes citizen-initiated referenda more difficult by substantially increasing (by up to 100%) the signature requirements for launching such referenda (art. 71-74). The argument for this change is that frivolous referendum petitions must be prevented, especially since the referendum procedure is quite costly for the Venezuelan state. For example, few people noticed that none of the referendum petitions for members of the national assembly succeeded in 2004, even though dozens of petitions had been filed to recall pro-Chavez and opposition representatives. The signature collection and verification process costs millions of dollars and may be initiated on the whim of groups that claim they have the ability to collect the requisite signatures.
However, by increasing the signature requirements, in most cases more petition signatures will be needed to organize the referendum than votes will be needed for the referendum to pass. Such a situation reverses the logic of the signature collection process, which is merely supposed to indicate sufficient interest in a possible referendum, not represent a higher hurdle than the vote itself. In the end, the referendum process is thus significantly weakened (and the national government thus strengthened) in the name of greater efficiency, when other procedures might have been found that do not weaken the citizen-initiated referendum process as a whole.
Chavez has argued that he needs these relatively modest increased powers in order to defend the project against those who would oppose it by illegal means and in order to bring about more changes more effectively. In other words, the strengthening of the president's office continues the slightly contradictory trajectory of the Chavez years, where greater democracy and greater citizen participation is introduced from the top, by the president. Strengthening the presidency thus, in this process, is also supposed to mean strengthening participatory democracy.
While the vast majority of proposed changes to the 1999 constitution indeed deepen participatory democracy and social inclusion, there are several changes that don't seem to add much other than nice words to the constitution. This is particularly the case with the terms "socialism" and "socialist" that the reform introduces in at least 11 of the reform articles, without ever defining what the term means (art. 16, 70, 112, 113, 158, 168, 184, 299, 300, 318, 321). Again, critics have attempted to interpret this as an effort to eliminate political pluralism, saying that using this term would mean that non-socialists would not be allowed to participate in the political system. Such an interpretation is perhaps justified by the way the term was used in state socialist countries of the East Block, but there is no indication in the current constitution that this is a valid interpretation. As former education minister Aristobulo Isturiz points out, Spain's constitution refers to its political system as a parliamentary monarchy, but this does not mean that those who are opposed to monarchies are not allowed to participate in Spain's political system. In other words, there is nothing in the reform that could limit Venezuela's explicitly pluralist political system (article 2) in any way.
Still, the inclusion of the term "socialist" in many parts of the referendum seems unnecessary, other than to give a label to something that has not been proven to deserve this label. Also, given that the meaning of the concept of socialism (unlike that of monarchy) is a hotly contested one, putting such a label on Venezuela's political and economic system opens it up to abuse. The danger that the label is confused with the ideal is quite real. After all, the state socialist countries of the East Block were labeled socialist, but that alone does not mean that they were. It seems far wiser to simply go about creating socialism in the sense of achieving liberty, equality, and social justice for all and then leave it to historians to decide whether the Venezuelan system deserves the label "socialist."
Another clearly unnecessary change is the inclusion of the social programs known as missions in the reform (art. 141). Given that the missions are operating just fine within given social framework, it is not clear at all why these need to be "legitimated" by being mentioned in the constitution.
Despite the large number and large reach of the changes that the National Assembly and President Chavez are proposing, these changes fail to include issues that would go even further in creating socialism in Venezuela. For example, if socialism means true equality of opportunity, then it ought to include a woman's right to an abortion. This, though, is still not part of Venezuela's constitution, largely because there is no consensus within the government coalition in favor of such a change. Also, if socialism means real self-determination, then the reform should include much stronger provisions for self-management in all workplaces, both public and private. Next, if citizen participation is a key feature of 21st century socialism, then the power of communal councils should be extended to regional and even national levels, not just city-wide levels, to either compete with or displace representative democracy on these levels. Finally, if 21st century socialism means assuring a fair and sustainable production and distribution of goods and services that go beyond the distribution mechanisms of the market and of the state, then new forms of distribution and production need to be invented. The reform does not touch on this at all, though, presumably because such a change would require a completely new constitution, with the convocation of another constitutional assembly.
Prospects for the Reform
As the above review of the constitutional reform shows, the vast majority of changes would deepen participatory democracy, social inclusion, and non-capitalist economic development. Those relatively limited changes that strengthen the presidency, which Chavez and his supporters say are needed for pushing the other reforms even further, cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered "sweeping new powers," as critics and the media like to call them. Although the necessity and wisdom of some of the changes are definitely debatable, the most controversial changes that strengthen the president's powers, such as eliminating limits on reelection, eliminating central bank autonomy, tightening control over the military, strengthening states of emergency, and increasing the president's ability to reorganize the politico-territorial divisions of Venezuela do not represent dictatorial powers - not even close.
The only reason Chavez appears to have dictatorial powers in the eyes of the opposition is because he and his supporters control all branches of government, which, indeed, makes "checks and balances" against presidential power more difficult. But whose fault is it that Chavez and his supporters control all five branches of the Venezuelan state? Ultimately, the Venezuelan people and the opposition are responsible for this situation. The Venezuelan people are responsible because they are the ones who have voted in support of Chavez and his coalition parties over and over again, with overwhelming majorities (the last time with a near 2/3 majority of 63% of the vote in last year's presidential election). The opposition is responsible because they have consistently messed-up, boycotted, and otherwise obstructed the democratic process in Venezuela, thereby losing political credibility and popular support.
Despite this rather depressing state of affairs for the opposition, Chavez handed the opposition yet another chance to redeem itself when he launched the constitutional reform. Chavez says that this move was necessary for the deepening of Venezuela's socialist transformation, but, strictly speaking, many of these changes could have been made without the reform and those that could not, could have waited until 2012 for a more deliberate reform process than the one that took place.
By rushing the reform process Chavez presented the opposition with a nearly unprecedented opportunity to deal him a serious blow. Also, the rush in which the process was pushed forward opened him to criticism that the process was fundamentally flawed, which has become one of the main criticisms of the more moderate critics of the reform. The loss of these former moderate Chavez supporters serves to strengthen the opposition. Also, the rush makes it easier for the opposition to paint the reform on its terms than on the government's terms. After all, it is always far easier to spread disinformation about something quite complex such as the reform than it is to spread serious and well-reasoned explanations about it while also correcting the disinformation.
This is why the reform appears to have suffered some setbacks in public opinion. Opposition-affiliated and government-affiliated opinion polls appear to be farther apart than they have ever been, compared to earlier electoral contests during the Chavez presidency. Part of the explanation for this divergence is, first and foremost, the confusion about the reform and the consequent unwillingness of a large segment of the population to commit to vote either for or against it. Abstention will thus be relatively high. And high abstention makes voting trends notoriously difficult to predict, which means that it is more likely that opinion polls will reflect the biases of their contractors.
In the end, it all boils down to which side mobilizes more supporters. That is, while it seems that the undecided lean against the reform, Chavez supporters tend to be far more enthusiastic about their support for their leader and thus far more easily mobilizable than the opposition is. In other words, if turnout is high, around 60 to 70%, it is likely that the vote will be very close, while if it is low, around 50% or less, the yes side will win.
Unfortunately, if the constitutional reform passes by a small margin, this increases the likelihood that the opposition will falsely claim fraud and will mobilize its more radical elements to launch a destabilization campaign. Such a claim, though, as many opposition supporters have begun to recognize, will have no basis in reality because the electoral system has become more transparent and more verifiable than nearly any electoral system in the world. All eyes will be on Venezuela and only a sound defeat of false fraud claims, both nationally and internationally, will avert greater tensions in Venezuela's still deepening political process that has created more democracy and more social inclusion.
Gregory Wilpert is author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power (Verso Books, 2007) and is principal editor of Venezuelanalysis.com
For more informtion, see:
Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform: An Article-by-Article Summary November 23rd 2007, by Gregory Wilpert – Venezuelanalysis.com
What is Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform Really About? November 23rd 2007, by Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis.com
Full Spanish text of the constitutional reform proposal
English translation of Venezuela's 1999 constitution
 The constitutional reform actually constitutes only one of five "motors" to bring about 21st century socialism. The other four motors are enabling law, which allows Chavez to pass laws by decree for an 18 month period, an education campaign in favor of socialist values, the creation of a "new geometry of power" that would reorganize political boundaries within the country among other things, and the "explosion of communal power," to strengthen the role of communal councils in the country's system of participatory democracy.
 The party Podemos, which was part of the pro-Chavez coalition, challenged the National Assembly's ability to add articles to the reform and has, as a result, broken from the coalition.
 Most of the opposition's campaign literature makes this argument.
 Made by people such as the sociologists Edgardo Lander and Margarita Lopez-Maya (see: "López Maya: La reforma se traducirá en inestabilidad," El Nacional, November 25, 2007 and "Contribution to the debate on the proposed Constitutional Reform in Venezuela," by Edgardo Lander in: Transnational Institute, November 23, 2007
 Many specialists on poverty argue that one of the greatest obstacles to overcoming poverty is the limited access that the poor have to city resources, such as housing, banking, and utilities, often largely as a result of the neighborhood they live in. Giving people a right to equal access implies substantially increasing the chances poor people have to overcome poverty.
 Even though public university education is free now, the current 1999 constitution only guarantees free education through high school.
 According to the reform text itself, this would be called a socialist economy, but since the text does not define socialism, it is not too clear what is meant by this. A negative definition, as non-capitalist, is thus more useful.
 The opposition argues-correctly, for a change-that altering the constitution is not necessary for reducing the workweek, since the current constitution already states that a lower workweek may be legislated. There has been some confusion about whether the workday would be six instead of eight hours, as has been widely reported. The reform text states that the workday may not exceed six hours OR 36 hours per week. The labor minister has interpreted this to mean that employees of the public administration might work 8 hours per day Monday to Thursday and 4 hours on Friday.
 See here, for example, Edgardo Lander's critique, Contribution to the debate on the proposed Constitutional Reform in Venezuela
 See Chris Carlson, "What is Venezuela's Constitutional Reform Really About?" Venezuelanalysis.com, Nov. 23, 2007.
 Article 16 refers to "communal cities," which can be created when all communities in a city have communal councils and communes. Chavez's original reform proposal described communes in greater detail, but the National Assembly removed this part in an effort to simplify the reform. Communes are larger groupings of communal councils. Exactly how these will function is to be determined by a law.
 See: "Chavez: Reform Strengthens Venezuelan State in Fight against Neo-Liberalism", Venezuelanalysis.com, November 14, 2007
 Phil Gunson has made this claim in: "Venezuela: Towards Elected Dictatorship" (http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/politics_protest/elected_dictatorship)
 In a meeting with foreign journalists October, 2007.
 In addition to the usual three independent branches of executive, legislature, and judiciary, Venezuela also has an independent electoral branch and an independent prosecutorial branch (consisting of Attorney General, Comptroller General, and Human Rights Ombudsperson).
 Moderate critics include Edgardo Lander, Margarita Lopez-Maya, and the Podemos party.
 See for example, the recent comments on the electoral system of opposition blogger Francisco Toro (http://caracaschronicles.blogspot.com/2007/11/this-again.html)
Shapar: The village council office in this western Gujarat hamlet tells a story. It's at the heart of the change visible through much of the state. That is where Chief Minister Narendra Modi began chipping away in his ambitious governance makeover.
"Before Modi's time, no one came here. The building was in ruins; it didn't even have a door. No one cared for the panchayat," said 20-year-old Charuda Bhikku Karamsi, showing off his workplace in Shapar village.
Karamsi works part time for the panchayat. He gets Rs 1,000 a month as a "gram mitra" (friend of the village), one of four such positions in Shapar. His job is to inform people of the development schemes they could gain from, and help them do the paperwork.
The innovations have many takers.
"The Congress wouldn't be able to do in 50 years, the work that Modi has done for us in five years," declared Rajesh Bohda, 39, the deputy village head of Shapar.
"The macro picture is marvellous. The kind of rural prosperity here is remarkable," said professor Ravindra Dholakia at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. "Gujarat is the only state in the country where inequality is declining, real agricultural wages are rising, and rural employment is increasing."
Outside Gujarat, Modi carries the baggage of the 2002 violence. But across villages in large parts of the state, that barely seems to matter.
It began with rewards of Rs 1 lakh and more for villages which would appoint its representatives unanimously. More than 2,800 of the state's 13,800-plus gram panchayats have received the reward. Villages with no criminal cases and practices like female foeticide for three consecutive years are separately honoured.
As one turns in from the highway and drives to Shapar, about 40 km from Jamnagar, there are milestones that did not exist before Modi.
The car whizzes on a wide metalled road, past miles of green fields rich with irrigation water from small dams built by village councils with people's participation. Two electricity lines run along the road, one for irrigation, the other for homes. Earlier there was one bus connecting the village to Jamnagar. Now there are six.
Shapar, where tankers brought water earlier, now gets piped water, and every home has taps. There is a telephone exchange, a 66 kilowatt power sub-station, two community centres, and a well-networked sewage system. There is a primary school, and a high school is being built.
Teachers are coming to school, so dropout rates have dipped. All schoolgirls get bicycles. There are streetlights, and once every month, the village headman gets to talk on video conference directly with the chief minister.
"I used to walk to the well in the rainy season to get water. Now I get it at home, as much as I want," said Kashiben Bhagwanjibhai, 55.
But all that came second for at least one man. Vallabhbhai Boda, the former headman declared in his rustic baritone: "Narendra Modi has brought luck with him to Gujarat, after all there hasn't been a drought since he took office."
© Copyright 2007 HT Media Ltd. All rights reserved
"Development, development, development, yahi mera jeevan mantra hai" (Development, Development, Development- that only is my life mission.)
"Mei koi Mantri nahi, mei to chowkidaar hoon. Mei na khaata hoon, aur naa khaane deta hoon" (I am not a Chief minister, I am a gatekeeper; neither do I take bribe, nor do I allow others.)
"Aatankwaadiyon ko, mei eet ka jawab goliyon se doonga?" (I will reply terrorists' bricks with bullets.)
"Jo mere Pradesh se prem kare, woh meri Atma hai. Joe mere desh se prem kare, who mera Paramatma hai" (One who loves my State is my Atma, One who loves my country is my Paramatma).
"Agar beta padhe to ek vyakti shikshit hota hai, agar beti padhe to pura parivar shikshit hota hai" (If son studies only one person is educated, if daughter studies, the whole family is educated).
"Mera na koi beta, na koi jamaai.. Mei to akela hi hoon. Lekin pura desh mera parivar hai" (I have no son, no son-in-law. I am by myself. But the whole county is my family).
November 30, 2007
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney faces a major strategic dilemma this week, when he decides whether to publicly address the issue of his Mormon faith.
With the Iowa caucuses drawing near, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is threatening to overcome Romney's perceived financial and polling advantages there. A key bloc of Republican voters Romney is courting -- conservative evangelicals -- are very wary of his Mormon beliefs. He faces an uphill battle to assuage their fears.
Pride and prejudice
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), as the Mormons call their institution, is one of the most rapidly expanding Christian sects in the world. There are nearly three million self-identified members of the Church in the United States and close to 13 million members globally. Church teachings emphasise traditional gender and family roles, which has helped promote a rapid expansion overseas.
While other Christians deem many Mormon beliefs deeply eccentric or heretical, their secular activities in the United States are almost always seen in a positive light. Mormons are active members of their communities, and make major contributions to the arts, public service, and secular charities. They also have cosmopolitan outlooks, as young men are required -- and young women are encouraged -- to serve two-year missions abroad.
However, there is considerable prejudice directed at the Church in the United States. The problem is less the modern Church, than enduring public disquiet about its past practices.
The LDS Church encouraged polygamy until 1890, and only moved to absolutely proscribe the practice in 1905. However, its insistence on monogamy, and the active promotion of traditional families, has been part of its core doctrine for over a century.
A tiny group calling themselves the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) continues to practice plural marriage. The FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs, was this year sentenced to life in prison in Utah for arranging the marriages of underage girls. While FLDS groups have no connections to the regular LDS Church, the Jeffs affair received heavy US media coverage. Many voters associate Jeffs with Mormonism.
The head of the LDS Church is known as the 'president and prophet'. This implies both secular and religious authority to many non-Mormons.
The handicap that Romney suffers due to his Mormon faith is limited, but possibly crucial:
- It will not hurt his campaign much in Western or Northeastern states. In the former, voters tend to know many Mormons personally and are comfortable with their beliefs. In the Northeast, religious tolerance is deeply ingrained.
- However, Republican primary voters in the South and Midwest include a large number of conservative protestant evangelicals. They tend to be very rigid on questions of doctrine; some see Mormonism as an insalubrious cult.
- Former President John F. Kennedy was famously forced to disavow the secular authority of the Pope in a public address to protestant evangelicals during his 1960 campaign. The Romney camp is divided on the issue: media reports suggest that the candidate himself favours a public address to explain his faith, while many of his advisors are opposed.
Yet if he wants to capture the Republican nomination, Romney needs to publicly defend his beliefs. Handled adroitly, this might even transform a political liability into an asset.
(ii) 60517 Muslims are in security agencies like CRPF, CISF, BSF, SSB.
(iii) Muslims in central and State Public Sector undertakings constitute 7.2% of the employees for the units reporting.
(iv) The percentage of Muslims amongst OBCs in the country is 15.7.
Source: Parliament of India (Q&A), Ministry of Minority Affairs
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 29
In a major move to make country energy secure, chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) Mahraj Krishna Rasgotra today called for concerted efforts to develop solar energy in a big way and proposed the idea of building a pipeline from Central Asia through China instead of the pipelines through Iran, Afghanistan and Baluchistan.
In his inaugural address to 6th Petro India 2007 conference, Rasgotra lamented that “very little has been done in the area of solar energy” and said “we should take the lead instead of the US”.
“We should bring in researchers from abroad also and do some solid work”, Rasgotra said adding that India should spend at least $1 billion per year for five years to harness solar energy as an alternative.
Pleading for bigger investments in exploration to increase domestic production considerably, Rasgotra, a former foreign secretary and now president of the Centre for International Affairs of Observer Research Foundation, also asked the conference to consider his idea of building a pipeline from Central Asia through China, instead of the pipelines through Iran, Afghanistan, Baluchistan etc.
Stating that Russia, China and the US are playing a game in natural gas-rich Central Asia region, the former foreign secretary said they were trying to divert natural gas to European side.
In his keynote address, chairman of the Petroleum Gas Regulatory Board Labanyendu Mansingh said unlike in the western countries, the natural gas market in India was not market driven but supply driven. He said the regulator here would have to start from the scratch and expressed hope that the process would evolve soon and the regulator would be able to do justice to the producers as well as the consumers.
Addressing the conference whose theme this year is “India’s changing gas scenario: The new imperatives”, union power secretary Anil Razdan announced that the Krishnapatanam Ultra Mega Power Project, which would run on imported coal, would be awarded tomorrow to Reliance Power whose bid was the lowest.
He reiterated that the government would electrify all villages by 2012 creating a capacity of 78,500 MWs.
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
UNSTARRED QUESTION NO 1084
ANSWERED ON 29.11.2007
HINDUS IN SINDH PROVINCE .
1084. SHRI JAI PARKASH AGGARWAL
Will the Minister of EXTERNAL AFFAIRS be pleased to state:-
(a) whether Hindu population in the Sindh province of Pakistan are living under the threat of terror and the number of incidents of kidnapping of Hindus have increased throughout the province;
(b) if so, the reaction of Government thereto;
(c) whether Government had or are considering to have any dialogue with Governments of other countries including Pakistan to curb increasing crimes against Hindus; and
(d) if so, the details thereof ?
THE MINISTER OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
(SHRI PRANAB MUKHERJEE)
(a)-(d) The Pakistan press has been carrying reports of violence including kidnapping against citizens of Pakistan belonging to minority groups. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a reputed Pakistan based NGO, in its annual reports, has also highlighted violence against Hindus in Sindh and other parts of Pakistan. These reports have not been part of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.
Lt General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani -- a Punjabi officer from the famed Baloch Regiment, till recently the vice chief of Army Staff and Inter Services Intelligence chief, pro-US, and an old India hand -- recently took over from General Pervez Musharraf [Images] as Pakistan Army's 14th chief of Army Staff.
The chain-smoking, reclusive general is the first director general of ISI to head the Pakistan Army.
Kiyani's appointment as the chief of Army Staff has Washington's nod. He is certainly not a part of Musharraf's inner coterie.
Kiyani's appointment could be seen as part of the US grand strategy to pass off democracy on Pakistan with Musharraf as the civilian president and a civilian prime minister.
Kiyani has done three courses in the US, including one at the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth.
He is known to the top brass in Pentagon, a clear reference to which was made by a US State Department spokesperson that senior officers at Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency have had "some long-term interaction" with General Kiyani and "was comfortable with him." Interestingly, he had met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last November.
Kiyani has been deeply involved in the discussions on the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, particularly on the war on terrorism.
Kiyani's working relationship with the US top brass strengthened further during the period when he was the director general of Military Operations (January 2001-September 2003).
It was the time when the US launched its global war on terrorism following the September 11 attack.
During the first emergency meeting called by Musharraf to assess the terrorist attack and the US request for assistance on September 14, 2001, in a nuclear bunker near Islamabad, Kiyani was entrusted with the task of drafting a contingency plan.
Kiyani and other generals were apprehensive about the fallout of the US bombing of Taliban and Al Qaeda [Images] hideouts in Afghanistan and felt that religious elements would retaliate in case Pakistan was used to launch the attacks.
Kiyani, all along, as subsequent events show, remained a 'Yes Man', refusing to dissent with Musharraf at any given point of time.
He has followed Musharraf's policies on the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Balochistan and Kashmir. This is one of the reasons why Kiyani has managed to survive in the Pakistan Army during the past eight years, and that too in some key positions -- DGMO, DG ISI and Rawalpindi Corps Commander.
Kiyani has been active in politics for quite some time. In October 1999, for instance, he was the general officer commanding at Murree.
GOC Murree acts more like a 'Viceroy' of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and is known to take an active interest in managing the political affairs of this federally administered area.
This is a significant clue to Kiyani's political experience, quite contrary to the smokescreen being created that he was apolitical. Nothing could be further from the truth if one pieces together bits of facts available in the public domain.
He was the deputy military secretary to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] and has been in touch with her even during her self-exile in London [Images].
Bhutto had picked Lt Col Kiyani from four candidates (including Tariq Majeed) in May 1990.
Kiyani subsequently served under prime ministers Ghulam [Images] Mustafa Jatoi and Nawaz Sharif. In fact, Sharif offered to transfer him to the civil service, but Kiyani chose to remain with the army.
It was this exposure to politics and politicians that made Musharraf pick Kiyani to open negotiations with Bhutto.
As DG ISI, he was part of Musharraf's A-Team led by National Security Council secretary Tariq Aziz negotiating with Bhutto for a political deal with Musharraf.
He was Musharraf's only aide during the hush-hush meeting with Bhutto in Abu Dhabi on July 27, 2007. It has been reported in the Pakistani media that Bhutto wanted a chief of Army Staff of her liking as part of the deal and had settled for Kiyani.
Kiyani's presence during the Abu Dhabi meeting indicated such a possibility. Bhutto has been opposed to Tariq Majeed. Her party had filed a corruption petition against him in the National Accountability Bureau.
His familiarity with other Punjab-based political parties -- Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz -- cannot be discounted either.
He was involved in opening negotiations with Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz Sharif in August 2007.
Kiyani along with Nadeem Taj (the present ISI chief) and Musharraf's Chief of Staff Lt General Hamid Javed had flown to London to work out a "grand reconciliation", reported The News, an English daily published by the Jang Group of Publications in Pakistan.
The ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q chairman Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain has also been in touch with Kiyani.
According to The News (October 2, 2007), 'The Chaudhrys have been dealing with General Kiyani for quite some time and they are maintaining irritant-free working relations with him.'
It is very interesting to note that an officer, who is supposedly apolitical, chose to invite Pakistan Muslim League-Q leaders and other political leaders to his iftar party in Islamabad, just one day before President Musharraf submitted his nomination papers for the second presidential term.
Daily Times commented that the dinner 'is being seen as a major political gathering'.
Kiyani hails from one of the largest and most powerful clans from Gujar Khan in the Pothohar belt of Punjab, a traditional recruitment ground for men and officers even during the British times. Punjab accounts for about 60 per cent of the recruitments to the Pakistan Army.
Kiyani is considered to be a hardline, experienced general with an ear to the ground on India.
He has been part of the inner coterie among the principal staff officers advising the president on Kashmir and the India-Pakistan peace process. He was with President Musharraf during his visit to Agra [Images] in July 2002.
As a major general, he was the DG Military Operations (January 2001-September 2003) when India launched Operation Parakram, a mass mobilisation of troops along the border to launch an attack in revenge for the terrorist attack on Parliament House on December 13, 2001, in New Delhi.
The dexterity and expertise with which he handled the Pakistani troop movements -- from the western borders to eastern frontier -- to counter the Indian mobilisation on the borders brought him closer to Musharraf.
It was a tough call to make, especially after Musharraf had committed his support to the US-led global war on terrorism, which meant assistance to the US operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Kiyani was also instrumental in organising a 10-day war game exercise called Sabaat Kadam at National Defence College to assess Indian deployment, disposition, capabilities and intentions.
In September 2003, he was promoted as Lt General and appointed to head the most critical command, the Rawalpindi Corps (X).
As commander X Corps he made a breakthrough in penetrating terrorist cells, which had planned the assassination attempts on President Musharraf.
In his autobiography, Musharraf complemented Kiyani by pointing out that problems caused by inter-agency rivalries 'disappeared when I appointed Kiyani in charge of investigations.'
Kiyani's investigations resulted in a secret military tribunal convicting 11 men of planning and carrying out the attack.
Some of these men were from the Pakistan Air Force and at least one of them was a Special Service Group commando who had been part of Musharraf's security detail.
Kiyani was conferred the Hilal-i-Imtiaz award by President Musharraf for the investigations.
As DG ISI (October 2004-October 2007), Kiyani played an important role in unravelling the London terrorist plot in 2006.
It was the ISI tipoff that led the British and the US police to foil the plot. Kiyani, it is reported, worked in tandem with Western intelligence agencies to do the follow-up investigations.
As the spy chief, he was also deeply involved in keeping a tab on the growing presence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban elements in the tribal areas and the North West Frontier Province.
Kiyani is credited with the arrest of a top Al Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al-Libbi and hunting down Amjad Farooqui, one of the key suspects in the assassination attempts on President Musharraf.
On the flip side, it was during his tenure as the DG ISI that Waziristan and neighbouring areas witnessed increased Talibanisation.
Although the Pakistan government went in for a truce with the Taliban elements in the tribal areas in September 2006 (Miramshah Agreement), the influence of radical elements was seen in Islamabad when students, both men and women, of the Lal Masjid took to the streets, calling for imposition of Shariat law in Pakistan.
Kiyani as the DG ISI should have been aware of the developments taking place inside the seminary, which was situated close to the ISI headquarters and was often visited by middle-rung ISI officials for prayers.
The fact that the students, aided by terrorist groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed, could amass weapons and explosives within the complex raises a serious question about Kiyani's tenure as the spy chief.
Kiyani's role in keeping the jihadi strategy in Kashmir (and India) is worth a probe.
According to Pakistan media reports, Kiyani as the DGMO and later as the DG ISI, only promoted this strategy, which was scripted by Musharraf when he was the DGMO.
The widely circulated Pakistani English daily The News headlined a detailed analysis of the army's Kashmir strategy, 'Army Believes Kashmir Freedom is Near', in its edition of May 30, 2002.
Relying on interviews with officials at the GHQ, the newspaper wrote that the perception within the top hierarchy was that 'an expected impetus to anti-military guerilla activities by freedom-fighters may turn the Indians' dream for a decisive war in Kashmir into a nightmare for the Indian military.'
As the ISI chief, Kiyani could be held responsible for the release of Harkat-ul Mujahideen chief Fazlur Rehman Khalil (December 2004) and Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami chief Qari Saifullah Akhtar (May 2007), two of the Afghan jihad veterans who have been instrumental in reorganising terrorist strategies and operations on behalf of the ISI and the army.
In September 2006, more than 2,600 suspected terrorists were released by Pakistan.
Musharraf could not have taken the decision without taking his corps commanders into confidence, particularly the ISI chief.
The freed terrorists included HuJI operational commander Sohail Akhtar (involved in the suicide attack in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers) and Fazal Karim (a suspect in the assassination of Daniel Pearl).
It is also reported that many of the junior ISI officials, retired in the purge carried out by Ehsan ul Haq after September 11, 2001, have returned to the fold as contractual employees to aid the Taliban.
These men operate mainly from the ISI office in Chitral (Northern Areas), which supports terrorists launching attacks on the US, and Afghan forces in Kunar and Nuristan.
Kiyani as the head of ISI was certainly aware of these developments and allowed such backdoor support to the Taliban as part of the overall Pakistan policy.
List of Pakistan's chiefs of Army Staff:
General Sir Frank Messervy (August 15, 1947 - February 10, 1948)
General Sir Douglas David Gracey (February 11, 1948 - January 16, 1951)
Field Marshal Ayub Khan (January 16, 1951 - October 26, 1958)
General Musa Khan (October 27, 1958 - June 17, 1966)
General Yahya Khan (June 18, 1966 � December 20, 1971)
General Gul Hassan (December 20, 1971 - March 3, 1972)
General Tikka Khan (March 3, 1972 - March 1, 1976)
General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (April 1, 1976 - August 17, 1988)
General Mirza Aslam Beg (August 17, 1988 - August 16, 1991)
General Asif Nawaz (August 16, 1991 - January 8, 1993)
General Wahid Kakar (January 8, 1993 - December 1, 1996)
General Jehangir Karamat (December 1, 1996 - October 6, 1998)
General Pervez Musharraf (October 7, 1998 - November 28, 2007)
General Ashfaz Parvez Kiyani (November 28, 2007- present)
At last, the Turkmen leadership has announced a 30% raise of the gas price for Gazprom. It seems that the Russian “gas establishment” reacted to the news with a sigh of relief. First, Ashgabat’s requesting its share of the ballooning gas revenues was a long-expected move. Secondly, as of today $130 per 1,000 cu m is a fairly moderate price ($150 was anticipated just recently). Finally, there seems to emerge at least some certainty in the Turkmenistan-Russia-Ukraine price chain. Besides, now a higher gas price for Ukraine is entirely justified. As for specific figures, so far there is no clarity. The $160 per 1,000 cu m declared earlier by Ukraine’s president V. Yushchenko is merely a suggestion and not yet a contract number. The actual price can just as well make $180 depending on the composition and the party spectrum of Ukraine’s government and Naftagaz top management.
Truly speaking, prices are not the only contentious issue in the relations between Russia and Ukraine. The developments, which took place last months, made one recall that these relations have always been plagued by the overdue payments problem. The scheme of supplies via the RosUkrEnergo intermediate link failed as a result of the increasing consumer indebtedness. RosUkrEnergo’s debt to Gazprom grew from $100 mln to $3 bn over 2006. By October, 2007, Naftagaz owed RosUkrEnergo over $700 mln, plus $300 mln were owed by UkrGazEnergo.
The debt situation in 2007 showed that gaining access to end consumers and billing them directly is not enough in the conditions of Ukraine. The payments for the gas supplied are not so easy to extract. Calls for Gazprom’s learning to do “the routine job of collecting payments”, voiced by some experts, are not serious – this is not a job for Gazprom. The appeals of the Russian gas industry to Ukrainian authorities appear quite logical – since their political destiny depends directly on gas supplies from Russia, they are the ones who should take care of ensuring the uninterrupted functioning of the pertinent schemes, even if the schemes are imperfect in some respects. Moreover, V Yanukovych’s signature under the debt payments agreement made it possible to resolve the problem, though it also turned the Ukrainian government into the guarantor of the deal and provided Gazprom with formal grounds for discussing supply cut-offs in case the debts are not repaid. Should a government led by Yu. Tymoshenko rise to power, bouncing debts out of the Ukrainian authorities would become a lot more difficult.
It does not take a prophet to realize that serious tensions in the relations between Gazprom and its consumers are imminent. Whereas Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and other post-Soviet Republics depend on Russia for gas entirely, Europe gets only a quarter of its gas supplies from Russia. However, the prices for Russia’s gas are set in the framework of European contracts. The growth of these prices determines Gazprom’s strategy of making its sales to all of its clients equally profitable. Inevitably, the resulting price hikes will entail conflicts with post-Soviet Republics. This is especially true in the context of the continuous growth of gas prices.
Gazprom intends to raise prices for Western Europe in 2008 by 60%, all in one move. A statement to the effect was made by Gazprom Deputy CEO A. Medvedev – he told that the gas price for Europe would grow from the current $250 per 1,000 cu m to $300-$400. The potential causes of the “third gas war” include more than just the soaring fuel prices and the declining dollar. Gazprom is not exactly happy about the plans of the EU Commission to liberalize the EU energy market. These plans are clearly directed against Gazprom’s investment plans. The liberalization of the EU market would inevitably lead to a situation where higher prices will be inevitable, warned A. Medvedev.
The plans of the Russian monopoly to enhance its share of the EU gas market to the level of 33% by 2015 in response to the continent’ growing consumption can be jeopardized. Having expressed – essentially for the first time – Gazprom’s opinion on Brussels’s energy directives, A. Medvedev indicates that “serious negative consequences for the long-term EU gas supplies are likely” in case the EU does not make its requirements easier to deal with.
Thus, Ashgabat’s long-awaited decision to raise the price of the gas it supplies to Gazprom is a manifestation of a broader global tendency of the steady growth of the cost of commodities and fuel. And the transition to market in Russia’s relations with the buyers of its gas simply cannot be a conflict-free process. The “fuel paternalism” practiced by Moscow in its relations with the CIS countries is a matter of the past, as is the strategy of donorship in dealing with the domestic industry. A total shift to market prices – consequently, to high prices – is inevitable.
It seems that the situation is understood in the gas-importing countries. Brussels threatens to diversify the EU gas imports, but also – quite inconsequently – includes the Nord Stream in the list of Europe’s priorities, exempting the project from its own new directives. Brussels is fully aware that supplying the sky-rocketing gas demand and meeting environment-protection requirements without the Russian gas is impossible. Clearly, the gas theme is also perceived as a priority in the capitals of the CIS countries. Otherwise, it would be hard to explain the high level of attendance at the government summit of the CIS countries, which convened in Ashgabat on November 22. For the first time ever, the summit was visited by the PMs from 12 countries, with 10 more delegating the heads of their governments. Everybody was interested to know, what was going to happen to the Turkmen gas price – the answer to the question was given only at the end of the summit. Nevertheless, by definition the situation at the gas market requires if not the unity of suppliers, then at least a coordination of their activities. Ukraine’s PM V. Yanukovych called for the union of gas producers, exporters, and transit countries. Even though nobody espoused the idea of the “Gas OPEC” in the CIS framework openly at the summit, the unification tendency clearly gathered momentum. The coordination of activities of the post-Soviet gas suppliers will become an even more realistic option after the signing of the agreement on the Caspian gas pipeline. Obviously, Gazprom is going to accept the new Turkmen gas price, and thus to make it possible to build-up its transit via the Russian gas network. Already in December, the Presidents of Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan will sign the documents providing for a serious intensification of the gas transit from Central Asia via Russia. The results of the Caspian pipeline construction and the expansion of the Central Asia-Center network will total some 100 bn cu m annually. The $30 price increase can hardly be regarded as an excessive cost for such a serious progress in the gas cooperation in CIS.
Even if one prefers to ignore the experts’ forebodings that a new gas war in the CIS is coming, it must be admitted that the situation spans far beyond the confines of local pricing conflicts. Given the continuous growth of the gas prices, the CIS countries face the difficult but inevitable task of finding the modes of unification in the gas (and possibly, the energy) space. Judging by Ashgabat’s gentle approach to raising prices, Turkmen President G. Berdimuhammedov has opted for greater cooperation with Russia. A unification of the CIS countries, maybe not in a formal bloc, but a real unification nevertheless, will make it possible to put an end to the endless and fruitless energy confrontation with Europe. It will also help Europe to move on from meaningless talks about “Moscow’s energy weapon” to the actual cooperation.
Anti-personnel land mines have been banned in many countries under specific legal instruments for several years, notably the Ottawa Treaty and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
Yet cluster weapons -- which spew thousands of bomblets over a wide area, many of which remain unexploded for years and are therefore likely to kill and maim indiscriminately -- are not yet banned by any international treaty and are considered legitimate weapons by some governments.
The use of the bombs has come under growing criticism from Canada and the European Union, as well as from humanitarian groups who argue that the weapon inflicts severe suffering on civilians. Lebanon, South-east Asia -- especially Laos and central Vietnam's former demilitarised zone -- Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq are all areas peppered with unexploded ordnances.
Efforts are being made to bring about a moratorium on the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions. A flexible multilateral process, similar to the process that led to the Ottawa Treaty, was launched in Oslo in February this year. Some 70 countries support a total ban and are taking part in the parallel process aimed at negotiating a pact by the end of 2008. Their next meeting takes place in Vienna this week.
Yet the Oslo process lacks momentum, and meaningful negotiations for a ban on the weapons have not yet taken place.
Resistance to a ban comes from countries including the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan. But they have recently agreed to look at how the humanitarian impact of cluster bombs can be minimised.
The Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was regrettable that the mandate for the expert talks showed no commitment to working for a legally binding pact prohibiting cluster bombs.
The US Campaign to Ban Landmines said nations who signed the CCW accord in 1981 had "failed to deliver on cluster weapons".
Individual countries may decide to ban the weapons in the absence of an international treaty or an agenda for UN-sponsored talks.
Belgium, Austria and Hungary have announced moratoriums on cluster weapons
Peru has launched an initiative to make Latin America a cluster munition free zone.
Strategic Cultural Foundation
The launch of the state programme of repatriation of Russians from the former Soviet republics to the Russian federation in 2006 posed the question: what can their number be?
The Central Asia has an especial role to play among other countries and regions where there are “foreign” Russians. By the time of the break-up of the USSR the second largest Russian community after Ukraine lived there. From 25 million Russians who found themselves out of the Russian Federation 9.5 million lived in the Central Asia, including 2/3rd in Kazakhstan (6.2 million) and 1/3 in the Central Asian republics (3.3 million)1.
The history of migration of Russians into this region that was first officially referred to as Central Asia in 1990, dates back several ages. Russians began to settle in Northern Kazakhstan, which before the 1917 Revolution was known as the Steppe Province, in the late 16th century, and in what was then known as the Middle Asia in the mid-19th century. The mass influx of Russians into this region was seen in the second half of the 19th century and in early 20th century, during the period of the agrarian reform conducted by Pyotr Stolypin, (Chairman of the Russian Government before the 1917 Revolution – E.Nikitenko). In the 1920s the resettlement of Russians to the Middle Asia was provoked by the civil war and famine that affected Russia’s European territories the most. In the 1930s the influx of non-ethnic population was caused by the mass recruitment of workforce for the implementation of the national industrial programme and during World War II – due to the evacuation of the personnel of industrial enterprises and organisations; in the 1950s-1960s – as the result of the campaign of development of virgin territories.
In the final decades of the Soviet power the dynamics of the changes of the number of Russians there began to vary. In 1968 they began to leave Kazakhstan, and in 1970s, the Central Asia. That was caused by the demographic “explosion” of the indigenous population that resulted in the growth of tensions on workforce markets and the decrease of the rates of economic development that stipulated the decrease of demand for the skilled personnel from “Slav” republics and the growth of traditionalist ethnocratic trends in the social life of the region. In the 1980s the growth of socio-political instability, manifestations of nationalism among the indigenous population and the overall worsening of the economic situation resulted in the considerable growth of the migration flows. In the late 1980s-early 1990s the growth of emigration of Russians caused the codifying by the republics of their state languages and inter-ethnic conflicts in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In Kazakhstan, where there were no major inter-ethnic conflicts there was no upsurge of Russian emigration even in that period, whereas emigration even decreased2.
In conditions of formation of new independent states within the boundaries of the former Soviet national republics, the emigration of the Russian population acquired avalanche-like features. Its initial cause was the aggravation of inter-ethnic relations due to the growth of nationalist sentiment among the indigenous population, and the need to identify themselves as citizens of this or that country. Later on economic causes became predominant3.
The most important factor of expulsion of Russians, no matter how inconspicuous it could be to an outside observer, has always been their non-involvement in the system of clan and clientele relations4 and as a consequence, their discrimination as employees in the areas of state management and other high-profile areas. Another alarming factor acting in the same direction is the shrinkage of Russian education, cultural and information space and the ensuing lack of social prospects for the children of Russian speakers.
The growth of emigration of Russians and other non-indigenous peoples continued up to the mid-1990s when the emigration wave gradually began to subside of. On the one hand that was caused by the exhaustion of the emigration potential (as most of those willing to leave, had left), and on the other – by relative stabilization of the economic and political situation. In 1991 to 1999 the migration decline in the Central Asia thanks to the exchange with Russia was 2.6 million people, 3/4ths of whom were Slavs, and 2/3 of their number were Russians. Russia’s population increased in this period by 3 million Russians, 243,000 Ukrainians and 30,400 Byelorussians owing to the emigration from the Central Asian republics. Almost 2/3rd of those were in the able-bodied age category, and more than half of them boasted of higher education or special professional training5. Deterioration of social prospects and the outflow of the most active able-bodied workforce resulted in the considerable increment of the rates of mortality of Russians in the Central Asian countries over the birth rates. In Kyrgyzstan in 1995 the birth rate of the Kyrgyz population amounted to 30.6 PM (per mil) vs 6.4 PM (mortality) with the natural birth rate increase equal to 24.6 per 1,000 population. Corresponding figures for Uzbeks were 32.1 – 6.0 - 26.1, and 9.2 - 14.6 – 5.2 for Russians6. So, if indigenous ethnic groups demonstrated high rates of natural increase, Russians began to die out. The phenomenon was officially referred to as the “natural decrease” of population. Similar processes were developing in other republics.
In 1989-1999 the number of Russians in Kazakhstan fell to 4.5 million from 6.1 million (26%)7, to 1.2 million from 1.6 million in Uzbekistan (27%)8, to 603,000 from 917,000 in Kyrgyzstan (34.2%)9, and to 68,200 from 385,500 (by 5.7 times) in Tajikistan that survived a civil war10. Turkmenistan stands aside with reliable demographic statistics actually unavailable in the conditions of an extreme authoritarian regime.
According to official data by 1995 the number of Russians reduced to 299,000 from 334,00011, and to 100,000-120,000 (by 2.5 to 3 times) by 200112. The share of Russians in Kazakhstan’s population fell to 30% from 37.4%; to 12.5% from 21% in Kyrgyzstan, to 5% from 8.3% in Uzbekistan, to 1.1% from 7.6% in Tajikistan and to 2% from 9% in Turkmenistan.
The outflow of Russian from Central Asia slowed down in the first years of this century (thanks to the economic stabilisation in most of the countries of this region) but the number of the Russian population continued to fall. By 2006 this number for Kazakhstan was 3,973,30013, by the beginning of 2007 about 470,000 Russians lived in Kyrgyzstan14, about 1 million in Uzbekistan15. As for Turkmenistan the number is hardly more that 90,000 to 100,000, and about 45,000 to 50,000 for Tajikistan. On the whole the number of Russians living in Central1 Asia by the beginning of 2007 was an estimated 5.5 million to 5.7 million.
At present the number of Russians living in Central Asia at present is about 60% of their number by the time of the break-up of the USSR. Regardless of the complexity of the situation that arose in the wake of the disintegration of the single union state the outflow of Russians to the RF, even en-masse, has not become a massive flight. Second to Ukraine, where there are about 11 million ethnic Russians, the Central Asia is still a significant demographic reservoir in the former Soviet republics. The absolute majority of Russians are grouped in the three republics, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Their number in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan has over the past several years dwindled to its lowest, with a considerable share of people of pension and pre-pension ages16.
In planning re-settlement of Russians and other “European” ethnic groups from Central Asia into Russia the following fact should be taken into account: most of those people who still live in these republics have now adapted themselves to the current situation, infrequently featuring quite high social statuses and living standards. Many Russians have higher paid-for jobs as compared to the indigenous population in different branches of industry and other technologically complex spheres of activity, and some own their businesses. As the most active part of ethnic Russians who have lived in a strange ethnic surroundings, they are significantly different in their mentality from their fellow countrymen in the Russian Federation, and infrequently – to their advantage. Their resettlement into the RF and re-adaptation would require considerable financial and organisational resources; otherwise the implementation of the re-settlement programme would be problematic.
1 The National Composition of the USSR Population. Based on the 1989 census. USSR State Statistics Committee., M. 1991, pp.13-14; 17-19.
2 V.Perevedentsev. Migration of Population in the CIS: A Forecast Study // Polis. 1993. No.2, p.72
3 Member-States of the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1991. The CIS Statistics Committee. M., 1992,p. 7. S.Savoskul. Russians of the New Foreign Countries: Choosing their Destinies. M., 2001. p.p. 398-399
4 O.Brusina. Social Traditions in the Life of the new independent Central Asian states as a factor of Expulsion of Russian Population// Present-Day ethnopolitical processes. M., 1998.
5 The 1993 RF Demographic Yearbook. RF Goskomstat, M., 1994 pp.400-401; M., 2000, pp.321,323, 342-343, 354-357.
6 The Rates of Birth, Mortality and Natural Increase for some Nationalities// Assembly of Kyrgyzstan’s peoples
7 Brief Summary of the 1999 Census in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s Statistics Agency. Almaty,2000,p.5
8 The National Composition of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Jan.1,1999. // Uzbekistan Development Gateway /http://uzbekgateway.freenet.uz/duzdemog7.html (17.03.2003).
9 Principal Results of the First National Census in the Kyrgyz Republic. The National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic. Bishkek, 2000. p.26.
10 Tajikistan’s Census // CIS Statistics, 2002. Aug. No 15, p.39.
11 Turkmenistan’s 1995 Census. Vol.1 p.67
12 Statistical Yearbook of Turkmenistan, 2000-2003. National Institute of the State Statistics and the Information of Turkmenistan. Ashgabat, 2004. p.13.; Neutral Turkmenistan,2001. 2001. Apr.14.
13 Kazakhstan’s Statistics Agency: The Number of Russians Decreases// Regnum. 2006, Apr.26. /http://www.regnum.ru/news/630665.html
14 Kyrgyzstan’s Word. 2007. Aug.23.
15 RF Ambassador to Uzbekistan: Russia and Uzbekistan Have No Disputable Matters Concerning Our Fellow-Countrymen //Russians in the Former Soviet Republics /http://russkie.org/index.php?module=fullitem&id=10270
16 M.Peshkov. The Policies Dushanbe Officially Proclaimed is Realistic // Nezavisimaya Gazeta. 2001, July 31.