April 04, 2009

BHUTAN: Maoists Getting More Active

BHUTAN: Maoists Getting More Active- Update No. 75
Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

In a major ambush of a vehicle carrying forest guards, in Sarpang, four were killed and two injured. The forest guards were returning to their camp at Phibsoo when an IED device blew up the tractor on which they were travelling. The occupants were also fired at. The militants also took away two SLR rifles with 40 rounds and a Motorola hand set. Spent bullets of AK 47 were recovered from the scene of the incident.

The United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the Bhutanese authorities, this front is one of the two militant arms of the Bhutan Communist Party ( Maoist) with the other being the Cobra Force.

With the third country settlement in place, those radical elements who wish to be repatriated to Bhutan appear to be joining the ranks of the recently formed Bhutan Communist Party (Maoist) now based in Nepal.

In a recent border meeting between the Police Officials of Bhutan and the officials of West Bengal, the Indian counter part has warned that the Bhutan Maoists have already established a nexus with the militant groups like ULFA in India.

As a consequence of these developments, the Royal Bhutan Police are setting up an elite special force unit to tackle terrorism. This unit will also support local police during a serious breakdown of law and order and "shore" up security duties.

There is also a move for creating volunteer groups to guard communities at night. Voluntary vigilance groups at the village levels are also being planned.

This major incident comes in the wake of Bhutan opening nine more schools in southern Bhutan after they were closed for than a decade for security reasons earlier.


Though exact figures are not available, so far over 10,000 refugees have been sent for third country settlement. By the end of this year it is believed that another 16,000 refugees will be taken by other countries. One welcome move is the decision of the Canadian Government to take 5000 refugees for resettlement.

The refugees who have moved are said to be happy and getting adjusted to the new surroundings. Though not confirmed, there appears to have been a case of suicide by one of the refugees who was suffering from depression. With the global meltdown, the refugees who have moved to USA are having problems in getting jobs when competing with other skilled labour.

Mercifully, there is no talk of further ministerial talks between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal. Those who want nothing else other than repatriation back to Bhutan continue to be vociferous and actively appealing to the Nepalese authorities for justice.

Transition to Democracy.

With the opposition having very little representation in the national assembly, it is the National Council that is taking its role seriously and acting as th opposition. In the normal circumstances one would have thought that the upper House would act like a "rubber stamp," but it is not the case in Bhutan.

There was a minor constitutional crisis with both the Home Ministry and the Election Commission going for an interim election for Gups for a very short period of a few months. It would have resulted in unnecessary expenditure when election according to the Local Government Act will still have to be conducted in a few months. The King had to intervene to give a directive not to conduct the elections now. To some observers, the King’s directive was misconstrued as "interference" which in fact was not.

Bhutan brings out surprises always. In the latest Police bill that is being finalised, the "orderly system" for the Police Officers is being abolished. The army is also taking the cue and from the February, 99 lieutenants will not be having orderlies. The orderlies in the Police are recruited with lower educational standards and they become a liability as they go up in service.

The controversial pay hike has been resolved with all civil servants except the Prime Minister and his ministers, wi getting a uniform pay hike of 35 percent. The Prime Minister has also appealed to the land owners and shop keepers not to raise the rent or the price of commodities that would nullify the increase.

Global Warming, Global Meltdown and Economy:

It was surprising to see that even a small country like Bhutan is being affected by the current global meltdown. The World Bank report on the impact of Global financial crisis has warned that Bhutan will be vulnerable as the sources of funding will contract. Its advice to Bhutan is to focus on creating additional fiscal space to prop up domestic economy while preserving the macro economic stability. Bhutan’s currency ngultrum has depreciated by 15 to 18 percent against the dollar in the last two months, and this has increased the cost of import bills, production costs and the balance of payments. Imports against the dollar have become expensive and this may even affect the country’s budget.

In line with global warming, Bhutan’s glaciers are retreating at 30 to 35 metres each year. Bhutan has also 3000 glacial fed lakes of which 24 are identified as potentially dangerous that could burst in the not too distant future. With improved technology and sophisticated tools, the danger could be averted, but constant vigilance will be necessary. One particular glacial lake - Lake Thorthorni is now on the brink of breaching its walls and emergency measures are being taken to prevent downstream damage.

A high-powered Indian delegation led by the power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde visited Bhutan in the first week of December, to finalise project reports and agreements of the planned 10,000 MW of power A joint intergovernmental empowered group is being set up to decide on the projects, remove hurdles and push for speedy implementation.

Border Talks with China:

The issue of border talks was raised by the Haa MP, Ugyen Tenzin, who expressed the deep concern of the people of Haa over increasing activities carried out by the Chinese along the border.

The foreign minister briefed the Assembly frankly on the progress of the talks. He said as follows


The first four rounds had focused on discussions regarding the guidelines for boundary negotiations, based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non aggression, non interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co existence.

In the fifth round of May 1988, the Chinese side made known their perception of the Bhutan-China border line, while the Bhutanese side noted their presentation. The 68th session of the National Assembly was presented, showing the Bhutanese claim based on Martham Chem, patrolling limit and traditional usage and Chinese claims in the fifth round. It was thoroughly discussed in the house, which eventually endorsed the Bhutanese claim line.

In the sixth round, there were more discussions with maps of Bhutan on 1:500,000 scale, depicting the claim lines of both sides being exchanged. There were maps exchanged and discussion on the Western Bhutan and China's borders.

In the seventh round in 1990, the Chinese side made some additional offers on the Luling valley sector, the acceptance of which would forego their claim in the middle sector.

In the eighth round, the Bhutanese delegation proposed further territorial adjustments in the Western Sector, however there was not much progress in the next four rounds of talks.

In the twelfth round, the Chinese side brought the draft of a proposed interim agreement on the maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the Sino-Bhutan border areas, which was later signed by the two foreign ministers after discussions.

In the thirteenth round in September 1999 in Thimphu, the Chinese side came up with a policy on Bhutan, with proposals for settlements of boundary, establishment of diplomatic relations and trade. The Chinese side proposed that the two sides might concentrate on preparation of descriptions and confirmation of border alignment, adding a new dimension to talks.

In the fourteenth round in 2000, as China was a larger country, the Chinese side was asked to show greater consideration on the Bhutanese perception of the traditional boundary in Doklam, Sinchulumpa, Dramana and Shakhatoe areas. The Bhutanese side also proposed cartographic discussions.

In the fifteenth round, the two sides agreed to continue discussions at the expert level groups, to focus mainly on maps and other areas to enhance official talks.

In the sixteenth round, maps made by the expert group showing claims of both sides were exchanged. In the seventeenth round in April 2004, it was decided to first narrow down the differences at the expert group level.

However in 2005, the maps were examined but could not be exchanged due to the vast differences between the two claim lines. The Chinese side had differences in areas amounting to 1300 sq km, of which they were ready to consider giving 900 sq km.

In the eighteenth round in Beijing in 2006, the Bhutanese side stressed that the package solution offered by the Chinese in 1990 during the 7th round was not favourable to Bhutan, since the offered Pasamlug already belonged to Bhutan.

The importance of pasture lands in the western sector to the livelihood of yak herders in northern Bhutan was explained. The Chinese side maintained that the basis of further negotiations must be acceptance of the package deal and that China was ready to make minor adjustments within it.

The Chinese side during this round submitted three draft proposals for Bhutan's consideration.

It is clear from the statement that the Chinese are in no mood to settle the issue in the near term. They are also seen to be shifting the goal posts and is now insisting on a "package deal." The Indians understand them well!



Thirteen persons at an immigration facilitation centre at Binghamton, about 230 kms from New York, were killed on April 3,2009, when a gunman wielding hand-held weapons entered the premises and opened fire indiscriminately before killing himself.

2.The CNN reported as follows in its website: "A senior law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation identified the suspect as Jiverly Wong, who is believed to be in his early 40s.Authorities executed a search warrant at Wong's home in Johnson City, near Binghamton, and spoke to the suspect's mother, the source said. Earlier in the day, Binghamton police Chief Joseph Zikuski said the gunman entered the American Civic Association building. At 10:31 a.m., authorities received a 911 call from the receptionist, who said she'd been shot in the stomach, Zikuski said. She told police that a man with a handgun also shot and killed another receptionist before proceeding to a nearby classroom, where he gunned down more victims, Zikuski said. Authorities also said a car was used to block the back door of the building. Two semi-automatic handguns -- a .45-caliber and a 9-millimeter -- were found at the center, where immigrants were believed to be taking citizenship and language classes. The shooter, who was carrying a satchel of ammunition, was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot to the head, Zikuski said. The American Civic Association helps immigrants and refugees with a number of issues, including personal counseling, resettlement, citizenship and reunification, and provides interpreters and translators, according to the Web site for United Way of Broome County, which is affiliated with the association. Zikuski said Wong, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was unemployed at the time of the shooting. He told CNN's Susan Candiotti that Wong had recently worked in a vacuum repair shop. Wong attended classes at the American Civic Association and had a connection there. "

3. It was clear from the CNN report that a recently unemployed American of Vietnamese origin, who had visited the centre in the past, had carried out the killings. One of the receptionists, who was shot, had spoken of "a man with a handgun"----thus indicating that only one person was involved.

4. On April 4,2009, a person claiming to be Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was reported to have claimed in a telephonic talk with a correspondent of the Reuters news agency that his men had carried out the attack in retaliation for the Drone strikes by the US on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in Pakistani territory. The Reuters despatch quoted the person who claimed to be Baitullah as saying as follows: "I accept responsibility. They are my men who attacked New York." He claimed that the attack was launched by a Pakistani man and another unidentified man.

5. A number of questions arise from this suspicious phone call. Who initiated the telephonic conversation---- the correspondent or the person who claimed to be Baitullah? If it was the correspondent, how did he know the telephone number of Baitullah? Why did it occur to the correspondent to ask Baitullah whether he had anything to do with the Binghamton incident? If it was Baitullah who initiated the call, does the correspondent recognise his voice?

6. Unless one has answers to all these questions, one has to treat the so-called claim with skepticism. While sections of the Indian media gave more than the deserved importance to the claim, foreign media such as the BBC and the CNN treated it with tremendous caution. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US itself is reported to have discounted the claim.While the BBC reported it in its web site in a low-key manner, the CNN chose not to disseminate the claim without verification.

7. The questions still without an answer are: Was it an impersonator, who posed as Baitullah and took the correspondent for a ride or was it Baitullah himself making a false claim? If it was an impersonator, Baitullah would have by now come out with a denial. He has not. If it was Baitullah himself who made the false claim, why did he do so? Is he facing criticism from his followers for not being able to retaliate against the Americans for their Drone (unmanned planes) attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs?

8. There was an interesting development after the terrorist attack on the Manawan police school in the Lahore area on March 30. Immediately after the attack, a self-styled Taliban operative who identified himself as Omar Farooq was reported to have telephoned a correspondent of the Associated Press to claim that a group called Fedayeen al-Islam had carried out the attack and that he was speaking on their behalf. He reportedly said: “As long as the Pakistani troops do not leave tribal areas, these attacks will continue.”
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and some Western news agencies reported on March 31 that they were in receipt of a phone call from Baitullah Mehsud claiming responsibility for the attack. He was quoted as saying that the attack was "in retaliation for the continued drone strikes by the US in collaboration with Pakistan on our people". According to the BBC, Baitullah said the attacks would continue "until the Pakistan Government stops supporting the Americans". He also reportedly warned of future retaliatory attacks on American soil. According to some journalistic contacts who also received the call from Omar Farooq, he projected his organisation as different from the TTP. Baitullah himself is reported to have pooh-poohed the claim of Omar Farooq.

9. There are good reasons to suspect that Baitullah is under pressure from his followers to do something big against the Americans in retaliation for the Drone strikes. Till now, he has been hitting back against the Pakistani security forces to give vent to his anger against the Americans.(4-4-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Can Pakistan Be Governed?

The NewYork Times
April 5, 2009


TO ENTER the office where Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan, conducts his business, you head down a long corridor toward two wax statues of exceptionally tall soldiers, each in a long, white tunic with a glittering column of buttons. On closer inspection, these turn out to be actual humans who have been trained in the arts of immobility. The office they guard, though large, is not especially opulent or stupefying by the standards of such places. President Zardari met me just inside the doorway, then seated himself facing a widescreen TV displaying an image of fish swimming in a deep blue sea. His party spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, and his presidential spokesman, Farahnaz Ispahani, sat facing him, almost as rigid as the soldiers. Zardari is famous for straying off message and saying odd things or jumbling facts and figures. He is also famous for blaming his aides when things go wrong — and things have been going wrong quite a lot lately. Zardari’s aides didn’t want him to talk to me. Now they were tensely waiting for a mishap.

The president himself, natty in a navy suit, his black hair brilliantined to a sheen, was the very picture of ease. Zardari beamed when we talked about New York, where he often lived between 2004, when he was released from prison after eight years, and late 2007, when he returned to Pakistan not long after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by terrorists. For all that painful recent history, Zardari is a suave and charming man with a sly grin, and he gives the impression of thoroughly enjoying what must be among the world’s least desirable jobs. Zardari had just been through the most dangerous weeks of his six months in office. He dissolved the government in Punjab, Pakistan’s dominant state, and called out the police to stop the country’s lawyers and leading opposition party from holding a “long march” to demand the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had been sacked, along with most of the high judiciary, by Zardari’s predecessor, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Zardari defused the situation only by allowing Chaudhry’s return to office and giving in to other demands that he had previously and repeatedly rejected.

Yet, despite this spectacular reversal, the president was not in a remotely penitent state of mind over his handling of the protests against him. “Whoever killed my wife was seeking the Balkanization of Pakistan,” he told me. “There is a view that I saved Pakistan then” — by calling for calm at a perilous moment — “and there is a view that by making this decision I saved Pakistan again.” There had been, he said, a very real threat of a terrorist attack on the marchers on their way to Islamabad. That is why his government invoked a statute dating back to the British raj in order to authorize the police to arrest protesters and prevent the march from forming. I pointed out that Benazir Bhutto faced a far more specific threat and was outraged when General Musharraf kept her from speaking on the pretext of protecting her. The president didn’t miss a beat. “And therefore,” he rejoined, “we moved to the other side”: that is, he reversed his order to the police, and permitted the protesters’ march, just before giving in to their demands altogether.

Zardari has a special talent for maneuvering himself out of the tight spots he gets himself into. But the Pakistani people have grown weary of his artful dodging. Zardari’s poll numbers are dreadful. More important, he has given little sustained attention to the country’s overwhelming problems — including, of course, the Islamist extremism that, for the Obama administration, has made Pakistan quite possibly the most important, and worrisome, country in the world. Zardari has bought himself more time, but for Pakistan itself, the clock is ticking louder and louder.

When I arrived in Islamabad on March 10, the long march was set to begin in two days and had come to feel like a storm gathering force at sea — one that might peter out before it hit land or turn into a Category 4 hurricane. In a country where democracy feels as flimsy as a wooden shack, the foreboding was very real. “Our condition is much more fragile than it was in the 1990s,” Samina Ahmed, the International Crisis Group’s longtime Pakistan analyst, told me. (The I.C.G. is a sponsor of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, where I am the policy director.) The Taliban and other extremists had, she estimated, placed half the country beyond the control of security forces. The government had recently ceded control over the Swat Valley, 100 miles from the nation’s capital, to the extremists.

Pakistan feels as if it’s falling apart. Last fall the country barely avoided bankruptcy. The tribal areas, which border on Afghanistan, remain a vast Taliban sanctuary and redoubt. The giant province of Baluchistan, though far more accessible, is racked by a Baluchi separatist rebellion, while American officials view Quetta, Baluchistan’s capital, as Taliban HQ. American policy has arguably made the situation even worse, for the Predator-drone attacks along the border, though effective, drive the Taliban eastward, deeper into Pakistan. And the strategy has been only reinforcing hostility to the United States among ordinary Pakistanis.

Pakistan has made itself the supreme conundrum of American foreign policy. During the campaign, Obama often said that the heart of the terrorist threat was not Iraq but Afghanistan and Pakistan, and once in office he had senior policy makers undertake an array of reviews designed to coordinate policy in the region. They seem to have narrowed the target area even further, to the Pakistani frontier. “For the American people,” Obama announced on March 27, “this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world.” Some officials see Pakistan as a volcano that, should it blow, would send an inconceivable amount of poisonous ash raining down on the world around it. David Kilcullen, a key adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the Centcom commander, recently asserted that “within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state,” a calamity that, given the country’s size, strategic location and nuclear stockpile, would “dwarf” all other current crises.

And amid all that, Pakistan’s president appeared to be playing with fire. Zardari was setting his security forces on peaceful demonstrators, just as his authoritarian predecessor, General Musharraf, did — against members of Zardari’s own political party — several years earlier. The government crackdown, designed to prevent the marchers from reaching the capital, began on March 11. The police swept through the homes of opposition-party leaders, lawmakers, activists, “miscreants” and ordinary party workers. Many leading officials were already underground, but hundreds of arrests were made. By the 12th, the first day of the march, much of the country was glued to the television, where swarms of heavily armed policemen could be seen knocking down protesters and dragging them off to the paddy wagons. Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the main opposition party, saw the protests as the “prelude to a revolution,” while Rehman Malik, a key Zardari adviser, accused Sharif of “sedition.”

The posturing and hyperbole would have been comical if the stakes weren’t so high. Although in Pakistan, it’s true, the stakes always feel high.

FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS, Pakistan has been living through a dangerous and thrilling era of popular agitation and spasmodic crackdown. In March 2007, General Musharraf made the colossal miscalculation of insisting that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, whose activism on the bench had threatened the military’s invulnerability to legal prosecution, step down. In decades past, judges quietly acceded under such duress, and Musharraf may be excused for calculating that Chaudhry, an unassuming figure, would do likewise. Instead, the chief justice stood up to the president, who then fired him, creating a national hero of resistance. Tens of thousands of people lined the roads and cheered as Chaudhry barnstormed across the country — an astonishing sign of Pakistanis’ craving, after years of repression, for democracy and the liberal principles established in Pakistan’s Constitution.

That October, under intense domestic and American pressure, Mu­sharraf agreed to permit Benazir Bhutto, who had been living in Dubai, to return. Bhutto and her chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, had been exiled from Pakistan since their respective terms as prime minister. But their political parties — Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — continued to operate under Musharraf, and their partisans waited for the return of their leaders to revive the nation’s democratic politics.

TWO MONTHS AFTER HER ARRIVAL, Bhutto was killed in an attack in Rawalpindi. Her death was experienced as a national calamity — both a terrifying proof of the growing reach of terrorism inside Pakistan and a grave blow to the country’s democratic hopes. Three days later, the PPP — an arm of the Bhutto family since its founding by her father 40 years earlier — chose her widower, Zardari, and their 19-year-old son as co-chairmen, the elder acting in effect as regent for the younger. In elections seven weeks later, the PPP, buoyed by sympathy over Bhutto’s death and vowing to take up the cause of the deposed judges, won. It formed a coalition government that included regional allies and Sharif’s PML-N. Here, at last, was a chance for a new beginning.

In May 2006, Bhutto and Sharif met in London to sign a document known as the Charter of Democracy. The two vowed to rescind a raft of amendments that military rulers had added to the Constitution, including several that empowered the president at the expense of the prime minister, and to establish a merit-based system for picking judges (a practice neither Bhutto nor Sharif even remotely favored while in office). But Zardari seemed much less interested in these constitutional questions than Sharif, who made the restitution of judges a centerpiece of his campaign. (He compelled all of his party’s parliamentary candidates to swear an oath before him demanding that the judges be restored.)

In May 2008, less than three months after the government was formed, Sharif pulled his ministers from the cabinet. But he continued pressing Zardari to abide by the spirit of the Charter of Democracy. On Aug. 7, Zardari signed a document pledging that a “nonpartisan” figure would assume the presidency and that this person would restore the judges shortly after taking office. When it became clear, in late August, that Zardari himself would become president, an irate Sharif withdrew from the coalition altogether.

On Sept. 9, Zardari became president of Pakistan and proceeded to ignore his promise to restore the judges. I asked Zardari how he could have done so. He explained that since General Musharraf had agreed to resign rather than face impeachment proceedings, “everybody goes back to start fresh.” Apparently this was, in Zardari’s mind, a special kind of pact that ceased to be binding when one party concluded that the circumstances under which it had been accepted had changed. Zar­dari kept nibbling away at this perplexing concept. The document he had signed was “an agreement by consent,” not “an agreement by law.” It was like a marriage. It was like a merger. I said that I wondered if Sharif would agree; he may well have thought that Zardari had, in fact, bound himself to act with dispatch. “Maybe that might be the interpretation assumed by him,” the president conceded.

Zardari did win a partial victory: he persuaded 57 of the remaining 63 High Court judges to take a new oath in order to be restored to office. But the other six, including Chaudhry, refused to do so, on the grounds that, as they had been unconstitutionally deprived of office, the oaths they swore earlier remained in force. Early this year, the lawyers began planning their march, which was to terminate with a sit-in in Islamabad. The government would be able to dismiss a sit-in among lawyers as a nuisance; only with the active involvement of the PML-N, with its vast rank and file and its control over the Punjab state apparatus, would the protest truly pose a threat to Zardari. In mid-February, the PML-N agreed to join the lawyers not only for the planned march but also for the sit-in, which held far greater potential for confrontation.

Ten days later, on Feb. 25, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar — whom Musharraf had elevated to replace Chaudhry, and whom Zardari had consistently supported (rumors abound of late-night conversations between them in the president’s house) — abruptly issued a decision on a case that had been pending for eight months, finding that Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab, could not hold elective office because they had previously been convicted of crimes. It was widely assumed that Zardari engineered this outcome to end PML-N control over Punjab. That very evening he gave substance to these suspicions by suspending Punjab’s elected government in favor of rule by the governor, a federal appointee. This combination of moves had the appearance of a coup. It caused outrage in the Punjab, in the ranks of the PML-N and throughout the country.

When I asked Zardari why he had imposed governor’s rule, he embarked on another adventure in logic. “No democratic party would like to do governor’s rule,” he said. “It’s in the Constitution; it’s part of necessity. The government advised me to put governor’s rule, and I took their advice, as I am bound by the Constitution to accept the advice from the government.” The official line is that, with the local government dissolved and no single party in the majority and thus able to form a new government, Islamabad had to step in. In fact, in such situations the Constitution requires the governor to ask the largest party to seek to form a majority — as the PML-N surely would have done — although the president does have the right to impose governor’s rule if he judges the province to be unstable.

Zardari is, as all acknowledge, a very shrewd operator, but he seems to have little feel for public opinion: by overturning the Punjab government, he had sown a whirlwind. One leader of the planned march pointed out to me that the government could have completely taken the breeze out of the lawyers’ sails by pushing the Supreme Court to decide in favor of the Sharifs rather than against them; such an act might well have made Chaudhry’s restoration seem unnecessary. But Zardari, who traffics heavily in metaphors of combat, seems to prefer either guile or trials of strength.

Zardari’s critics were divided over the wisdom of the planned march and sit-in. “Zardari is not the issue,” Samina Ahmed told me. “It’s the institutions and processes that matter a lot. If the government is to be replaced, it has to be replaced by the people, who vote for a new government.” No democratic government in the history of Pakistan has been replaced by an orderly transition through a regularly scheduled election; Ahmed said she believed that democracy would never truly take hold until such transitions became the norm.

But others said that Zardari was very much the problem — that he was himself the chief obstacle to democratic change. Nasim Zehra, a journalist who runs the current-affairs bureau of Dunya News, a new, private Urdu-language TV station, viewed Zardari as every bit as willing to manipulate the Constitution as Musharraf had been. The real problem, she said, “is the culture of the exercise of power.” The only way to change this culture was from the outside. In her view, a new “Pakistani narrative” arose with the lawyers movement of 2007 — the narrative of “movement politics” rather than party politics, a grass-roots movement of the street, buoyed by the growth of new media, which demands systemic change rather than yet another partisan shift.

THE QUESTION, AT BOTTOM, is not, Why is Pakistan such a mess? but, Why is Pakistan still such a mess? After all, in the 1960s, Ayub Khan, the country’s generalissimo-philosopher, was celebrated, along with Park Chung-hee of South Korea and Chiang Kai-shek of Taiwan, as the very type of the market-oriented autocrat third-world nations were said to need if they were to pull themselves out of poverty. Pakistan was favorably contrasted with India: a socialist democracy with a carnivalesque political scene, an asphyxiating bureaucracy and a “Hindu rate of growth” apparently fixed at 3 percent of G.D.P. Of course, that was then. Only more recently has it become clear that India’s democracy allowed the country’s innumerable religious, ethnic, caste and language groups to find places for themselves through the ballot and to build an economy as freewheeling as its politics. Pakistan, meanwhile, has stagnated.

Histories of Pakistan often point to the original sin of its founding in 1947. The very word “Pakistan” was an artifice, coined mainly from the first letters of the provinces that Muslim leaders in India had dreamed of forging into a separate Muslim state. “India’s Muslims demanded Pakistan without really knowing the results of that demand,” wrote Husain Haqqani in “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military.” (Haqqani is now Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.) And when Pakistan’s hero-founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, died one year after independence, and his chief lieutenant, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated three years later, Pakistan’s leadership fell to bureaucrats and soldiers. Neither held democracy in high regard. This new establishment did have a clear idea of Pakistan’s identity: it was a refuge for South Asian Muslims from an India bent on subsuming the new country back into the “Hindu raj.” Pakistan understood itself, and organized itself, as a national-security state with strong cold-war ties to the United States. Ayub Khan put an end to civilian government with a military coup in 1958. Pakistan’s identity and ideology were to be dictated from the top down, without the bother of elections.

The army remained firmly in control of Pakistan’s destinies for 30 years, with an interval for the turbulent era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who inherited power from an army discredited by its inept handling of the 1971 war with the breakaway province of East Pakistan (which then became Bangladesh). Several years earlier, Bhutto founded the PPP, whose slogan was simplicity itself — “Roti, Kapra aur Makan” — “Bread, Clothing and Shelter.” The mere act of speaking directly to the aspirations of ordinary citizens constituted a radical challenge to Pakistan’s model of “guided development.” The fact that this worldly, witty scion of an old, wealthy Sindhi landowning family was himself a charter member of Pakistan’s establishment made his challenge to the system all the more electrifying, and dangerous. The military, and indeed much of official Washington, viewed Bhutto as a dangerous rabble-rouser;­ he was overthrown in 1977.

Bhutto’s army chief of staff, Zia ul-Haq, not only deposed the prime minister but had him tried and executed two years later on a trumped-up charge. Zia crushed all opposition and introduced into the country’s public life, especially into the military, a quite new element of austere and evangelical piety. Previous rulers, themselves religiously moderate, found Islam convenient, in much the same way that they found India convenient. Zia, a true believer, empowered religious societies and political parties in a bid to foster a new national ideology. His tenure coincided with the C.I.A.’s war on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan; Zia’s military and intelligence officials were the ones who controlled the Afghan mujahedeen, doled out their American funds and sometimes came to share their worldview.

By the time of Zia’s death in a plane crash in 1988, his harsh reign was coming unglued in the face of a democratic challenge led by Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir. A new era began in which all the forces born over the previous four decades contended for supremacy: the military sense of right and obligation to rule; populist and democratic politics; Islamic mobilization; and, increasingly, blatant, rampant corruption. Bhutto was twice elected prime minister, and she was twice removed by the country’s president, acting at the behest of the military, “for corruption and incompetence.” The chief source of corruption, according to many analysts, was her husband. Zardari was jailed on a series of charges — none of which he was ultimately convicted of — from 1990 until Bhutto returned to power in 1993.

Each time Bhutto fell, a new election was held, and she was replaced by Nawaz Sharif, a protégé of General Zia and a voice for the citizens of Punjab, as well as for those uncomfortable with the “liberalism” — or secularism — of the PPP. Like Benazir Bhutto, Sharif ruled with the sufferance of the military and the intelligence apparatus. And like her, he ultimately fell afoul of his overseers. The era of democratic rule came to a crashing end in 1999, when General Musharraf led yet another coup.

THE GENERALS HAD CREATED a self-fulfilling prophecy: by infantilizing Pakistan’s democracy, they proved that civilians were unfit to rule. Indeed, as Zardari sagely observed in our conversation: “If you look at your own history, American history, and then you see, How does democracy become the best formula of the world to govern? Democracy becomes the best formula of the world because it learns from its mistakes.” The generals had never given civilian rule the chance. Of course, that was precisely the precious opportunity that Zardari’s critics said he was so recklessly putting at risk.

As a young man in Karachi, Asif Ali Zardari had a distinctly raffish reputation. A contemporary of Zardari’s from those days told me that his family had warned him away from Zardari, who was said to run in a bad crowd. His father had been a middling landowner — a feudal, in Pakistani terms — who had urbanized and owned the Bambino Cinema, which showed American movies. As a kid, Zardari hung around the theater and got into scrapes. He went to London, where, according to his wife — in her autobiography, “Daughter of the East” — he attended the “London Centre of Economic and Political Studies.” Zardari now says he studied at something called the London School of Business Studies. Young Zardari seemed much more interested in spending money than in making it. He had a disco in his house — very much the rage in Karachi at the time — and he drank and chased women. He was an ardent polo player with his own squad, known as the Zardari Four. He was handsome, trim in his polo outfit, with a flourishing mustache.

Zardari pretends — but just barely — to be stumped by accounts of his former exploits. When I asked about the fabulous jewelry he bought and the great wine he drank once he came into real money, he waggled his eyebrows, Groucho-wise, in mute acknowledgment of past delights. “I will not comment on those things,” he said gravely, “because Islam forbids drinking.” What’s more, he added, with a show of indignation, “this description you give — who is fun-loving, who is easygoing, who is consumption of Scotching and wining and dining and dancing — why would that kind of man opt for a life that he knows for sure that he will have to go through a lot of trouble and tribulation?” Why, in short, would he marry Benazir Bhutto — besides the fact that she was the most dazzling woman in Pakistan, beautiful, rich and famous? Zardari says that he wooed Bhutto because “she was the ultimate hope for Pakistan.” O.K. He also said, rather mysteriously, “Benazir and myself are related.” This, if true, was news to even very knowledgeable observers. Whatever the case, Zardari pursued Bhutto tirelessly, while his stepmother worked on Bhutto’s female relatives, in the time-honored fashion. Bhutto writes that she found him gallant, gracious and charming. In December 1987, they married. One year later, she won a resounding electoral victory and became prime minister.

Over the course of the next seven years, while his wife was in and out of power, he appears to have spent his time making himself immensely wealthy. He bought a 355-acre estate south of London and an apartment in London, among other properties. Investigators once found an account at Citibank with more than $40 million in it. The revenue for all this is widely believed to have come from bribes; Zardari became known as “Mr. 10 Percent.” He came to be seen as well as something of a thug: among the notorious tales from that time that Pakistanis love repeating to one another was one from 1990, when Zardari supposedly strapped a bomb to a man’s leg and forced him to withdraw millions of rupees from his bank account. Saeed Minhas, the Islamabad editor of Daily Aajkal, first met Zardari at this time and was shocked to discover, upon being hugged by him, that Zardari had a pistol tucked into his salwar kameez.

Among the many court cases mounted against Zardari and his wife were one in Switzerland claiming that he had received illegal commissions in exchange for awarding contracts to two Swiss companies and another for supposedly taking bribes from a Dubai-based gold-bullion dealership. Pakistani investigative officials claimed that the Bhutto family and associates took in more than $1.5 billion through various questionable schemes during this period. Nevertheless, Zardari can rightly assert that he has never been convicted, though in large part because Musharraf passed an ordinance wiping out pending cases against senior officials (himself included).

Zardari was imprisoned once again after Bhutto’s second tenure ended in 1996, and he remained in jail until 2004. He was an “A Class” prisoner, enjoying fine meals delivered from the Bhutto mansion, but he also says he was tortured, including having his tongue ripped open. The injustice and the suffering he endured — and endured with excellent humor and composure — provided him with a moral currency, which he otherwise altogether lacked, in the culture of the PPP. Indeed, when I asked Farhatullah Babar, the party spokesman, why the PPP chose Zardari to lead it, he said, “One factor was this” — and pulled down from the wall a framed copy of a letter Bhutto wrote out by hand. Babar read aloud the crucial passage: “I would like my husband Asif Ali Zar­dari to lead you in the interim period until you and he decide what is best. I say this because he is a man of courage and honor. He spent more than 11 1/2 years in prison without bending despite torture.” This document is dismissed as a transparent forgery by the many people who loathe Zardari. As with practically everything else about him, the truth is very difficult to determine.

Zardari does seem to have exhausted much of the deep well of loyalty from which Benazir Bhutto and her father drew. I met any number of people who told me that they had been party members practically since birth, that the Bhuttos had stayed at their parents’ homes — and that while they would never, ever abandon the party, they had given up on Zardari. Safdar Abbasi, who had worked with Benazir since 1983 and was with her when she died, said to me: “Mr. Zardari had the opportunity of continuing with the legacy of both the Bhuttos and going on with the populist line. Instead, he opted for power politics.”

The issue that comes up again and again is Zardari’s supplanting of competent figures in favor of a tight, and isolating, circle of loyalists, friends from prison days and family members. Rehmat Shah Afridi, the publisher of The Frontier Post, a former boon companion of Zardari and still, he says, a confidant, speaks much more fondly of Pakistan’s president than do many others. “He is a very good friend,” Afridi says. “He never thinks, You are a small man, or a poor man, and I am a big man.” But even Afridi says that Zardari’s fatal weakness is his habit of trusting his friends — or the wrong friends. He recalls visiting Zardari last spring and saying: “Please, Asif, who is on your left and right? If they did some good for you when you were in prison, give them some portfolio, but don’t put them in your kitchen cabinet.” Zardari, he says, “is surrounded by the most corrupt people, from Karachi and Khyber.” I asked Afridi why Zardari consorts with these characters. “Because,” he said, “they know how to butter him.”

Government-by-crony is scarcely unheard-of in Pakistan — or elsewhere. But the urgency of Pakistan’s problems make clubhouse rule seem like a dangerous anachronism. One morning I met with Ahmad Mukhtar, the minister of defense. I asked an aide why we were meeting in the office of Pakistan International Airlines. “Oh,” he said, “Mr. Mukhtar is also chairman of P.I.A.” — another government post. Mukhtar offered a series of extremely stilted explanations for his party’s behavior in the current political crisis as well as for the president’s accumulation of wealth — “Anyone who has land will become very rich in this country” — and spoke of military matters with surprising vagueness. I asked if he had a background in either the military or aviation. “No,” he said, “I’m a businessman. We’re into shoes.” His family had 400 shoe stores. More important, he was a PPP veteran and a Zardari loyalist who spent time with him in jail.

BY MARCH 12, THE FIRST DAY of the long march, Pakistanis were watching the narrative of “movement politics” unfold — live, on television — as policemen in riot gear lobbed tear-gas canisters at lawyers in black suits, ladies in high heels, PML-N workers and the more battle-hardened rank and file of the Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. By the following day, the “AA,” as the Pakistanis say — the army and the Americans, the twin bogeys of civilian government — had swung into action. The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, had met several times with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and with Zardari. He was said to be urging compromise with the marchers, though the meetings themselves awakened fears from Pakistan’s not-very-distant past. Anne Patterson, the American ambassador, met with both Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy for the region, spoke with Zardari; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a 25-minute conversation with Zardari and spoke with Sharif as well.

For perhaps the first time in the history of Pakistan, these feared forces, the AA, were trying to protect democracy rather than curtail it — though you could argue that all this meddling only confirmed, and perpetuated, the country’s political immaturity. In any case, neither side was prepared to buckle under outside pressure: Zardari offered to reopen the Supreme Court case against the Sharifs, but not to restore the judges; Sharif refused to call off the march. The confrontation moved toward its climax.

It was very easy to forget, amid all the hullabaloo, exactly why it was that Pakistan, the world’s sixth most populous nation, with 170 million people, so desperately needs effective governance. It’s the threat of extremism, of course, that accounts for all those phone calls from high-ranking American officials. But the exigencies of daily life come first for most Pakistani citizens. I received a sobering account of economic failure from Shaukat Tarin, the minister of finance. A former Citibank executive with an old-fashioned banker’s girth, Tarin is one of the very few technocrats in a cabinet consisting largely of loyalists. It was Tarin who steered Pakistan away from the shoals of bankruptcy last fall by negotiating a $7.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Now he is trying to make long-term plans — which, he added, the president had given him a free hand to do. Tarin ticked off Pakistan’s dismal current indicators: the growth rate of agricultural production has dropped every decade, and the country is now importing wheat; real income growth has been concentrated among the urban middle class, while rural poverty has increased; manufacturing is in decline; the information-­technology sector booming in India barely exists. Only remittances from Pakistanis working abroad have staved off disaster.

Everybody’s favorite front-line state, Pakistan has suffered the “foreign-aid curse” as other nations suffer “the resource curse.” As Tarin put it, “We have avoided the tough decisions, and we just keep hoping that something will happen, and we will get this infusion of foreign aid.” Tax-collection rates are dismal, and the country spends paltry sums on education and health. Little serious planning has been done on either agriculture or manufacturing. Infrastructure remains primitive. And the bureaucratic culture sedates the entrepreneurial spirit. “There’s no performance management,” Tarin said, “no merit, a lot of nepotism.”

I asked Tarin if he worried that Pakistan’s political melodrama would diffuse the intense focus the country’s problems require. He laughed uneasily. The country’s chaotic politics “could have wrecked the very democracy we were talking about,” he said. “You cannot achieve economic stability without political stability.” But when I asked Tarin if any of his cabinet colleagues shared his sense of urgency and of the need for systemic change, he maintained a prudent silence. “This is the long-term history of Pakistan,” he said. “This is not one government.”

Zardari maintains that while Pakistan imported grain last year — when he wasn’t in office — it had a bumper crop this year. He seemed to share Tarin’s view of the dangers of aid dependence. “The world philosophers,” he asserted, “have come to the conclusion that aid has never been one of the best ways of developing countries.” But then he scrambled his talking points and said that when he first spoke with Bush administration officials, he called for a “Marshall Plan” for Pakistan.

The civilian government does at least exercise control over the economy, but national security and defense remain the domain of the military. Early in his tenure, Zardari made several bold efforts to assert civilian authority over the military. He sought to transfer control over the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the feared military-intelligence service, from the army to the Ministry of the Interior; the military simply refused. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, carried out by Pakistanis apparently operating from a Pakistani base, Prime Minister Gilani said that Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the ISI, would go to India to coordinate the investigation; instead, a lower-level official was dispatched. After these episodes, Zardari backed off.

The relationship between the military and the civilian government is thoroughly opaque, and you can hear wildly different views about the ambitions of the military from Pakistani analysts. Rifaat Hussain, a military analyst at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, says flatly, “I can assure you that General Kayani has absolutely no political ambitions.” I heard the same view from retired military officials and diplomats. Others are not nearly so persuaded. Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group worries that American military officials are far too inclined to accept Kayani’s insistence that he wishes to return the military to the barracks. She points out that he previously served as director-general of the ISI, which is notorious for playing by its own rules — and elements of which, according to American officials cited in a recent New York Times account, continue to work with terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which appears to have planned the November attack in Mumbai. During the crisis of the long march, Ahmed said, the military “would have been given a pretext to intervene,” if only by forcing the antagonists to settle on terms of its own devising. No one I spoke with said he believed that the military wanted to seize power, but many argued that it seeks to expand its own space at the expense of civilian government.

There is, of course, a reciprocal relationship between weak civilian governance and military supremacy. Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a retired officer and a leading military analyst, pointed out that so long as party hacks serve in the most sensitive positions, the military will feel justified in preserving its position. Another example of weak governance, according to Masood, was Zardari’s statement in a speech that Pakistan would not be the first to use nuclear weapons against India — a break with Pakistani doctrine hailed by many as a significant breakthrough. Not Masood: “I would have been very happy if he had seriously said, ‘No first use.’ But the way he did it was irrelevant. It wasn’t part of a larger strategic rethinking. He didn’t discuss it with the military” — which controls nuclear policy. “He doesn’t even understand the vocabulary.”

Zardari actually seems less encumbered by the obsession with India, and less equivocal about the need to take on terrorists, than most of his predecessors, including his wife. Precisely because he is an outsider, he was not immersed in the culture of Pakistan’s security services. And yet the widespread perception that he has tacitly approved the Americans’ drone strikes, as well as occasional hot-pursuit violation of Pakistan’s border, has damaged him politically. And in any case, his failure to formulate a coherent security policy, much less to articulate it in public, has reduced his views almost to a curiosity. Masood, an avowed foe of military supremacy, is biting on the subject. “The only way to counter the rising force of extremism in Pakistan today is through the strengthening of civil society,” he told me. “Zardari is doing just the opposite.”

Underneath all of Pakistan’s problems is the failure to provide decent governance. Extremism flourishes in the absence of legitimate state authority. This is patent in the self-governing tribal areas along the Afghan border, but the most striking current example is the Swat Valley, once a honeymooners’ paradise and now a militant statelet within Pakistan’s formal jurisdiction. The army actually succeeded in pushing militants out of the area in 2006 and 2007. But the government of the North-West Frontier Province, which Musharraf had given as a sort of prize to his more moderate Islamist allies, made little attempt to field a police presence, or to provide the services, above all functioning courts, that residents of the area demanded. These are the same demands Pakistanis elsewhere have made; the difference was that in Swat the extremists offered themselves as an alternative.

The new provincial government elected in 2008 promised to negotiate with the extremists rather than fight them. And that is precisely what has happened. The forces of Sufi Muhammad, the militant leader, have laid down their arms in exchange for a pledge to create Shariah courts. But other militants have an agenda of their own, including closing down girls’ schools. Most analysts were appalled by the deal. “It was an act of capitulation,” says Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. “And there’s no assurance that this will be the final domino.” Zardari, to his credit, has so far refused to sign off on the deal. But there’s little he can do to affect the outcome.

Meanwhile, American policy is coming down the road like a monster truck. With the strategic reviews now complete, the Obama administration is planning an enormous increase in development aid to Pakistan, reaching $1.5 billion a year over five years, as well as an increase in military aid, to be directed to counterinsurgency warfare. The administration’s increasing receptivity to negotiating with some elements of the Taliban and fighting others puts it far more in line with Pakistani thinking than the Bush administration ever was. But as President Obama said on March 27, “after years of mixed results” from military aid to Pakistan, “we will not provide a blank check.” Obama emphasized that extremists “are a grave and urgent danger to the people of Pakistan.” Someone in Pakistan must make that case, and it can’t be the army chief of staff. As Ambassador Lodhi told me: “Pakistan needs strong leaders who can stand up and say, ‘Here is the extremist threat that Pakistan faces, and this is what we must do.’ We have a democratic government, but they haven’t used that status to go to the people and articulate a policy.”

SUNDAY, MARCH 15, turned out to be one of the most extraordinary, and exciting, days in the recent history of Pakistan. That morning, a spokesman for the PML-N reported that more than 3,000 party workers had been arrested. Hundreds of police officers surrounded the home of Nawaz Sharif, and officials announced that he would be detained there for the next 72 hours. The lawyers’ leader, Aitzaz Ahsan, was detained and then escaped. In Lahore, cadres of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party threw rocks at advancing officers; the officers flung the rocks back and fired hundreds of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets. The roads to Islamabad were sealed off with trucks, containers and steel barriers. The Zardari government appeared to have successfully squelched the long march, even if at real cost to its standing.

And then it hadn’t. Around 4:30 that afternoon, the Lahore police district coordinating officer announced his resignation from the force — live, on television. Other officers followed. Sharif left his home in a caravan of cars — and as the caravan inched forward, the police fell back and then melted away. The government continued to take a hard line, but plainly, something had happened. Around midnight, reports began to circulate that Prime Minister Gilani would speak. The cabinet was meeting; General Kayani was once again on the scene. Pakistanis, a late-night people in any case, waited hour by hour in front of the television. Finally, at 5 in the morning, Gilani delivered a brief address in which he announced that the government had agreed to reinstate Chief Justice Chaudhry the following Saturday, when Chief Justice Dogar was scheduled to retire from the bench. Sharif and the lawyers agreed to call off the long march.

THE NEXT DAY, EVERYONE was jubilant, save PPP officials. The whole nail-biting drama had provided a tremendous boon to Sharif, to the lawyers and to the judiciary, to General Kayani and perhaps to the prime minister — to everyone, in short, save Asif Ali Zardari. Sheik Mansour Ahmed, a PPP loyalist who earlier solemnly explained to me that the march was a ploy by Islamists to pressure President Zardari into easing up on the militants, now said Gilani was “not playing a positive role.” The official line, implausible though it sounded, was that Zar­dari had orchestrated the whole affair. Waqar Khan, a recently minted Zardari insider now serving as minister of investments, told me: “I think the president has done a phenomenal job by returning the chief justice, and they’ve done it at the right time. They’ve accepted the wishes of the people.”

It’s not clear what in fact happened that afternoon. Najam Sethi, editor of The Daily Times and one of Pakistan’s leading political analysts, says he believes that General Kayani played the decisive role behind the scenes, and that the army thus not only “re-established its credibility in the eyes of the people” but also managed to “cut the president down to size.” That is not, of course, the way Zardari recounts the events of that day. He says that his government ordered the police to fall back out of concern that “aggressive parties” associated with the Sharif brothers might use a confrontation to commit acts of violence. In any case, he said, his law minister had advised him that he could not have two sitting chief justices and so would have to wait for Dogar’s retirement to restore Chaudhry. I asked him, frankly incredulous, if he was saying that he had always intended to reinstate Chaudhry but had held off saying so until that moment.

“No,” Zardari said. “I’m not saying that. I’m saying that different positions existed given by the law.” And he apparently had to wait for a clear ruling among his advisers.

But there’s no getting around the damage the president did to his own standing. He tried to strike a blow at Nawaz Sharif, his chief adversary, and it was Sharif who emerged the stronger. American officials, increasingly convinced both that Zardari is not the interlocutor they had hoped for and that his days in power may be numbered, have begun to pay more attention to Sharif, long considered dangerously close to Islamist forces. Leading PML-N officials say they have learned from past mistakes. They have learned, for example, to accept an independent media and an independent judiciary. It’s not clear if Sharif himself has profited from experience. In the course of a phone conversation last week, he passed up all opportunities for self-scrutiny and advocated a response to terrorism that combined dialogue with tribal elders and economic and social development; military force was apparently not part of the equation.

And what about President Zardari? I asked him if he had learned any lessons from the previous week. He pondered. “Every day,” he said, “man is growing and learning. What you were yesterday, you are probably not today, because today’s you is yesterday’s experience. One is always learning.” Indeed, one is.

James Traub, a contributing writer for the magazine, is the author most recently of “The Freedom Agenda.”

Rahul Gandhi's election affidavit : Misrepresentation


April 4th, 2009 - 6:27 pm

According to the documents filed, Rahul Gandhi is an M.Phil in development economics from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, 1995. He has done his Bachelor in Arts from Rollins College, Florida, in 1994.

Dr. Swamy on Rahul Gandhi's education & citizenship

Raul Vinci Chronicles - Cambridge Contradicts Rahul Gandhi Affidavit
Read More

Manish Tiwari accentuates Rahul Gandhi’s ignorance READ MORE

Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh), April 4 (IANS) The total worth of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is around Rs.2.25 crore (Rs.22.5 million/$450,000), and the young scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family does not own a vehicle, according to an affidavit filed by him Saturday.
Rahul Gandhi, 38, who is seeking re-election from Amethi, filed his nomination papers for the Lok Sabha seat Saturday afternoon. The affidavit filed as part of the documents says his assets total around Rs.2.25 crore.

The Congress general secretary wrote nil against the column asking whether he owns a vehicle.

And the cash deposit that he owns, with the State Bank of India, Delhi, is not much either - Rs.70,000.

He has deposits with financial institutions worth Rs.7,000.

His deposits with non banking financial institution, NDFC (National Development Finance Corporation) is Rs.742,966. With the HDFC (Housing Development Finance Corporation) in New Delhi, he has Rs.341,892. Both are long term deposits.

Rahul Gandhi’s deposits with postal savings, the Life Insurance Corporation and the National Savings Scheme total Rs.1,029,128 (over Rs.1 million).

He owns 333 gm of jewellery worth Rs.150,000.

His assets, including values of claims and interests, are Rs.729,621.

He also owns agricultural land in two places. A 4.692 acre land in Mehrauli, Delhi, of which an undemarcated 50 percent is his share. The value is Rs.986,244 as on March 31, 2008.

He owns another plot of six acres in Faridabad, Haryana, worth Rs.2,822,000 (over Rs.28 lakh).

He owns two shops in the Metropolitan Mall in Saket, New Delhi. Shop no.24 in the mall is 514 sq ft and valued at Rs.55 lakh.

Another shop on the ground floor - 996 sq ft - is valued at Rs.1 crore 8 lakhs (Rs.10,800,000).

Against liabilities, he filed that je had taken a Rs.70 lakh loan from HDFC in 2006, of which Rs.23 lakh has to be returned.

He has paid income tax of Rs.1,120,880 and sales tax of Rs.532,000.

He paid property tax of Rs.78,000 this year.

According to the documents filed, Rahul Gandhi is an M.Phil in development economics from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, 1995. He has done his Bachelor in Arts from Rollins College, Florida, in 1994.

He filed his nomination at the Sultanpur District Collectorate at the office of the additional district magistrate Radhey Shyam, who is the returning officer for the Amethi Lok Sabha polls.

There are no criminal cases pending against the Amethi MP.

INDIA: Despite EC order, few affidavits posted online


Samanth Subramanian

New Delhi: Despite an Election Commission notice urging chief electoral officers to scan and upload candidates’ affidavits on their websites “not later than 24 hours” after they have been received, most states have yet to comply with this stipulation.

This lapse is significant because at the end of last week, a study by a non-profit institute found that 63 of the candidates who had filed their candidature had criminal records, and the first phase of the elections is to kick off on 16 April.
Also See Election Scan (Graphic)
These affidavits function as summaries of candidates’ criminal records as well as disclosures of their assets and are intended to give voters information they need before they enter the polling booths.
Of the 15 states voting (at least partially) in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, only three states— Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Kerala—have posted filed affidavits online to any significant degree. At the time of writing, the official websites of the chief electoral officers of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh were inaccessible, while that of Jammu and Kashmir did not even show the schedule for the phased elections in the state.
“This is the first time we’re specifying this kind of 24-hour timeline, but it seems now like they’re not always able to do this everywhere,” said K.F. Wilfred, Election Commission secretary. “They aren’t doing this purposely—maybe they’re just not as good at it in some places. So now we may be able to have the affidavits online in 24 hours in all places, and a delay of a day or two may have to be acceptable.”
But Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), points to the importance of these affidavits. “Between the announcement of the candidates and the elections, there is not much time for people to debate their candidates,” he said.
As political parties continue to nominate candidates with criminal backgrounds, the information contained in the affidavits becomes vital to the democratic process. Last week, for example, ADR and National Election Watch had found 63 declared candidates with criminal records, including 39 with “serious criminal cases, like murder, attempt to murder, robbery, theft (and) kidnapping.”
Some chief electoral officers, Bairwal added, didn’t even know that the notice about uploading affidavits within 24 hours has been issued: “We had to send a copy of it to them.”
In Orissa, Prabhakar Sahu, a spokesperson for the state’s chief electoral officer Alka Panda, confirmed that her office had not received the Election Commission’s communication, even though at least 40 nominations have been filed already. “When the letter reaches, accordingly the action will be taken,” Sahu said. “It should take only two or three hours.”
In Meghalaya, nominations began to be filed on 23 March, and the state’s chief electoral officer, Prashant Naik, said that he had received seven candidates’ nominations till date. “We do have affidavits from previous elections on our website, but not yet for these elections,” he admitted. “Tomorrow there’s a scheduled videoconference with the Election Commission to discuss this, and after that we will begin uploading them immediately.”
Hemanta Narzary, chief electoral officer of Assam, said his office would enlist the help of the National Informatics Centre, the Indian government’s Web services organization, to upload its affidavits. “We have received only one nomination over the last couple of days but there were four nominations filed today,” he said. “So we hope to start putting the affidavits on our website soon.”
Asked if the 24-hour deadline was reasonable, Narzary laughed and said: “It isn’t as if by uploading the affidavits in 24 hours, it will provide a scoop of any sort. But if the Election Commission has said it, we will try to get it done.”
The 24-hour deadline “was a positive step, although I don’t know about the logistics of it. How fast the machinery can be activated will have to be seen, because there are always teething problems in this kind of move,” said All Indian Congress Committee secretary Tom Vadakkan. “But it’s wise to become as transparent as possible. Any information—as fast as it is available—should be useful.”
Graphics by Paras Jain / Mint

Russia Sparks Energy Paranoia

Apr 2009

The Kremlin
The current paranoia over Russian expansion threatens to turn into outright hysteria as news emerges that a Russian company has acquired one-fifth of a Hungarian refinery, Jeremy Druker writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Jeremy Druker in Prague for ISN Security Watch

At first glance, the announcement earlier this week that a Russian company had bought a fifth of a Hungarian refining company might seem to warrant a brief news item on the business pages. In reality, Surgutneftegaz's surprising €1.4 billion (US$1.87 billion) purchase of 21 percent of MOL has alarmed officials across Europe worried about Russian expansion into the EU's security sector.

The deal has also sparked worries - bordering on outright panic - among newspaper columnists in Central Europe.

The issue of energy dependency on Russia has been high on the agenda of European officials for years, but hit home in January during the Russian-Ukraine gas dispute. Many continue to view any acquisitions by Russian energy companies in Europe as part of a Kremlin-led strategy to stymie efforts at diversification, whether the Russian companies involved are state-owned or private.

The latter category technically fits Surgutneftegaz, but no one really knows who controls the company, which has a notoriously opaque ownership. Allegations have surfaced over the years of a special relationship with the Kremin, and the Financial Times and others have asserted that Vladimir Bogdanov, the head of the company, is a close ally of former Russian president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The purchase seems to have hit those worried about Russian influence in the EU's energy sector particularly hard because it was so unexpected. Austrian oil company OMV had cherished its shares in MOL, trying for years to gain control over its Hungarian rival, only to be repeatedly rebuffed.

In the end, OMV apparently lost patience with the lack of progress and opposition of various Hungarian government officials, and began to negotiate with Surgutneftegaz. After the announcement of the purchase - the Russian company's first abroad - Budapest claimed to have been taken by surprise.

That reality has pointed up the chimera of supposed EU cooperation, as Czech commentator Jan Machacek observed in his daily column on the website of Respekt, a Czech news magazine.

“What good is it that European states strive for questions of European energy security to be managed on the basis of consensus and shared goals from Brussels? Individual governments then return from Brussels and make their own deals,” he wrote.

Even in the midst of the financial crisis, Surgutneftegaz was willing to pay twice the market price for part of MOL. Some, like Machacek, have alleged that the Russians overpaid in order to sway the Austrian government toward supporting the Russian-based South Stream gas line project instead of Nabucco, which is backed by the US and some EU states.

In the Czech Republic, the Hungarian deal has added to a feeling that Russian influence both in the energy sector and at the highest echelons of power has been increasing. The Russian company TVEL will, beginning in 2010, start supplying the Czech nuclear power plant Temelin with fuel, replacing Westinghouse, the American firm; a Czech subsidiary of the Russian company OMZ will take part in additional work on Temelin; and Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, controls Vemex, the second largest importer of gas from Russia, whose share in the local gas market has grown to 12 percent, four times what it was two years ago.

More mysterious has been President Vaclav Klaus's relationship with Lukoil, the Russian oil company. Information surfaced last year that Lukoil had paid for the Russian translation of a book Klaus authored that denies the existence of global warming.

But in early March, Respekt raised more questions, reporting on a secret meeting last fall between Klaus and Vagit Alekperov, the head of Lukoil and another friend of the Kremin (he has been “allowed” to keep his vast fortune while the Kremlin has readily struck down other oligarchs). Although Klaus hosted Alekperov at Prague Castle, the president's office has labeled the meeting “informal” and refused to disclose its content.

Respekt reported that the government had no advance knowledge of the visit and that some cabinet members only found out about the meeting through a regular report from the BIS, the domestic secret service. The magazine also said that the two men had met, secretly, a short time before Klaus was reelected president in February 2008. At the time Alekperov also met with Prime Minister Mirek Topolonek and Alekperov’s deputy met with then Minister of Transportation Ales Rebicek - again without any public explanation.

Klaus has long been seen as pro-Russian, including in his comments on the Russian invasion of Georgia last fall, when Klaus’ criticism of Russia was much tamer than that of other European leaders.

Lukoil apparently has big plans for the Czech Republic, having chosen the country as the base for a wave of wide-ranging investments in Central Europe. The company already owns about 50 gas stations that it bought from Conoco, part of a network of over 400 throughout Central Europe. More controversial, according to Respekt, the company received a 20 percent share - without a public tender - to supply fuel to the Prague airport.

All of that activity, plus that of other Russian companies, led Jaroslav Spurny of Respekt to warn in an opinion piece in early March that these “business” moves were all “about acquiring power and influence, by which the Kremlin could determine the political development of a country in which it has an interest.”

If Czech commentators didn't already have enough to fuel fears of Russian expansion, the business daily Hospodarske noviny reported on 1 April that a secret buyer (or buyers) has evidently been buying up shares of CEZ, the state-controlled energy colossus. CEZ and MOL have a joint venture to pursue projects together, including the construction of new power plants.

For years, the Czech government has resisted lucrative entreaties to sell its portion of the highly profitable CEZ. Speculation has focused on Gazprom, among others, as the possible suitor, and if should that come true, the current paranoia over Russian expansioin would likely boil over into outright hysteria.

Jeremy Druker is executive director, editor-in-chief and one of the founders of Transitions Online.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).
International Relations and Security Network (ISN)

April 03, 2009

Banker Julius Meinl arrested in Vienna over fraud


By Boris Groendahl and Alexandra Schwarz
Posted 02 April 2009 @ 09:16 am EST

Julius Meinl-- Cappuccino

Something got me started
You know that I will love you
Lately since we parted
I truly know that I need you

Id give it all up for you
Yes I would

Totally broken hearted
Guilty of what I did to you
Lately since we parted
I truly know that I need you

Id give it all up for you
Yes I would

Youve got to help me help me help me

Banker Julius Meinl V, head of an Austrian coffee-roasting dynasty and chairman of Meinl Bank, was arrested late on Wednesday on suspicion of defrauding investors through secretive share buybacks.

The arrest follows 18 months of investigations by prosecutors and financial watchdog FMA, and mainly relates to Meinl's role in the fall of Meinl European Land, a listed real estate firm started by Meinl Bank, Vienna prosecutors said.

Among other crimes, British-born Meinl is accused of having orchestrated a buyback in which Meinl Land bought 1.8 billion euros ($2.4 billion) worth of its own shares to prop up the share price before it suddenly fell off a cliff in July 2007.

"The most serious is defrauding investors by buying back shares to prop up the share price," said Michaela Schnell, spokeswoman for Vienna state prosecutors. "He was arrested because there is risk of escape."

Other allegations include that Meinl Bank damaged Meinl Land shareholders by overcharging for services, and that it wrongly portrayed Meinl Land shares as an almost risk-free investment in several widely advertised share issues during 2005 to 2007.

Meinl, a personal friend and business partner of former Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser, would face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty. His lawyer was not available for a comment.

Meinl Bank declined to comment on the suspicions against its chairman but only issued a statement reassuring clients that the bank and clients' deposits were safe.


Julius Meinl's arrest marks the nadir for a once proud family that started selling coffee beans in Vienna in 1862, built a retail chain, fled from the Nazis to Britain in 1938 and then rebuilt the chain in Austria after the war.

Trained at Bear Stearns in the 1980, Julius took over the family's bank and turned it into the center of the family's fortune, selling off the retail business but for a posh deli in Vienna's center.

Apart from the bank, which mainly does wealth management and investment banking, Julius used property acquired when he was still running a retail chain as the starting point for Meinl Land, which became a shopping mall developer in emerging Europe.

Meinl Land sold shares to the public in an IPO in 2002 and between 2005 and 2007 raised a total of 4.3 billion euros in several share issues, mostly sold to Austrian retail investors.

While Meinl Bank never officially held a stake in Meinl Land while it was listed, the bank owned the company that acquired and managed Meinl Land's investments for a fee, it handled its capital measures and it acted as its market maker.

The share buybacks took place between February and July 2007 and were not authorized by and not disclosed to shareholders until they were concluded.

The buybacks buoyed Meinl Land's share price at a time when real estate stocks were falling across the world. When they eventually became public, Meinl Land's share price dropped sharply at the end of July 2007.

The buybacks overlapped with a period in which a vehicle controlled by Meinl Bank was selling 620 million euros worth of the stock in the market, and with initial public offerings of two similarly structured sister company of Meinl Land.

Meinl Bank does not dispute the buybacks, but says it did not need shareholder authorization and denies it bought back shares directly from Meinl Bank or an affiliate.

Meinl Land was last year taken over by Israeli real estate investment firm Gazit Globe and renamed Atrium European Real Estate . Gazit Globe said it was not connected in any way to Julius Meinl or his bank.

The two other companies Meinl started -- Meinl International Power and Meinl Airports International -- were taken over by rebel shareholders, and last week decided to sell all their assets and pay out the funds to shareholders.

(Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall in Vienna and Tova Cohen in Tel Aviv; editing by Simon Jessop and Andrew Callus)

Read the full article of:

Copyright 2009 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


April 2 (Reuters) - Julius Meinl V, chairman of Austria's closely-held Meinl Bank, was arrested late on Wednesday on suspicion of defrauding investors in secretive share buybacks in 2007, Vienna prosecutors said on Thursday. [ID:nL2619867]

Following are five facts on 49-year-old Meinl and his bank:

* Meinl was born 1959 in London, heir to a family which started a shop selling coffee beans in Vienna in 1862 and which then grew into a retail chain in Austria. The family emigrated to London when Nazi Germany occupied Austria in 1938 and rebuilt the chain after World War Two, but kept its British citizenship.

* The Meinl chain name and logo -- a stylised Moorish child wearing a fez -- were synonymous with food retailing in Austria until Julius Meinl sold the then loss-making retail chain in 2000. He kept one luxury deli in Vienna and coffee and preserves production.

* Meinl Bank was founded as a side business in 1923 but over the years turned into the centre of the family's business after Meinl, who had been trained at investment bank Bear Stearns in New York in the 1980s, took it over as a 23-year old in 1983 and turned it into a wealth management and investment banking firm.

* Meinl made headlines in 2006 when pictures were published of a yachting trip with then Austrian finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser and Wolfgang Floettl, a banker who was later convicted of breach of trust in the scandal around Austrian union-owned bank BAWAG.

* Meinl Land -- whose investments were managed by a company owned by Meinl Bank -- sold shares to the public in an IPO in 2002 and between 2005 and 2007 raised a total of 4.3 billion euros ($5.7 billion) in equity in several share issues, which were widely advertised in mainstream media and mostly sold to Austrian retail investors.

(Reporting by Boris Groendahl; Editing by David Holmes)

Banker Julius Meinl V left a Vienna jail on a record 100 million euro ($134 million) bail on Friday after being arrested earlier this week to face accusations of defrauding investors.

Meinl, chairman of Austria's Meinl Bank and head of a coffee-roasting dynasty, left the Vienna jail in a taxi after spending two nights behind bars, dodging photographers waiting for him outside. He was arrested late on Wednesday.

Prosecutors accuse him of having defrauded investors in 2007 through secretive share buybacks. A judge ordered Meinl's release on Friday after the highest bail ever paid in Austria was confirmed to have arrived on the court's account.

His lawyers rejected the accusations again in a news conference on Friday and said the arrest came out of the blue after several hours of questioning by prosecutors on Wednesday evening.

"It was a very calm and detailed questioning and when we were done I had already put on my coat when the prosecutor suddenly said, 'And now for the unpleasant part'," Meinl's lawyer Herbert Eichenseder told journalists.

"It came totally out of the blue for all of us," he said. "Meinl was stunned."

Eichenseder and Christian Hausmaninger, another Meinl lawyer, said they were surprised about the move because they said Meinl had cooperated during the entire 18-month investigation and never missed a meeting or withheld files.

Hausmaninger said the case was legally complex because it involved both Austrian law and that of the British Channel island of Jersey, where the company at the centre of the allegations is incorporated.

"We believe it's our job to explain misunderstandings," Hausmaninger said. "We'll try even harder now."


Eichenseder said London-born Meinl gave his British passport to the court and had to report once a month to authorities. The court may allow him to travel abroad on prior request to pursue his business.

"He has been commuting regularly as part of his business, and he plans to ask the court to allow him to continue doing his job," he said.

Prosecutors had said the 49-year-old was taken into custody to stop him escaping -- possibly in his fully-tanked private jet parked at Vienna airport, for which Meinl has a pilot's licence.

He is Austria's 12th-richest man according to magazine Trend took over his family's Meinl Bank aged 23 after training at investment bank Bear Stearns in New York. In 2000 he sold the retail chain his family had built since 1862.

The accusations against Meinl mainly relate to his role in the fall of Meinl European Land, a real estate firm started by Meinl Bank, listed in Vienna but incorporated in Jersey.

Among other crimes, Meinl is accused of having orchestrated a buyback in which Meinl Land bought 1.8 billion euros worth of its own shares to prop up their price, before they suddenly tanked in July 2007.

Thousands of Austrians lost their money in the scheme which prosecutors say wrongly pedalled Meinl Land as an almost risk-free investment.

The judge who decided on the bail has promised to better take care of the money Meinl paid in. "She has promised to try to get a good interest on the money," Eichenseder said. "I thought that was very kind of the judge."

India Elections 2009 - Open Letter to Rahul Gandhi


India Elections 2009 - Open Letter to Rahul Gandhi

Dear Rahul Gandhi
I am writing to you because Times of India has this report from PTI that you will always take care of me.
Now that you have promised to the whole nation that you will take care of me, I thought it was important for you to know me close and personal for you dont seem to know very much.
Let me begin with your assurance that the UPA Government was a Government of the “poor people” and “aam admi”.
Did you know that back in 2004 you said the same thing that the UPA Government would be a government for the “poor people” ?
Well even if you didnt I am happy that you kept your promise.
Because of your promise State Governments across the country took good care of us poor people.
They took such good care of us poor people that between 2004 and 2008
#1 The proportion of BPL population fell to 26% from 28% at the national level
#2 poverty decreased across all states barring Uttarakhand
#3 poverty has declined in 380 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies
So I am little confused when you say the UPA Government in 2009 will be a Government of the poor because guess what there are many of us who are no longer poor !
#1 Does that mean that if in 2004 you were for us, now in 2009 you are against us ?
#2 Does that mean you will take care of us only if we remain poor and you will abandon when we no longer remain poor ?
#3 Does that mean we are “common masses” as long as we remain poor and you will treat as uncommon exceptions when we are no longer BPL ?
#4 Does that mean if in 2004 when you came to our village found that we didnt understand “India Shining”, we should remain ignorant that way for 5 years and still not understand it in 2009 ?
#5 Does that mean India should never shine for us even if we manage to improve our standard of living ?
You may not have all the answers for these but I think I do.
When the rest of us in those 385 Lok Sabha constituencies managed to reduce poverty, in your own pocket borough of Rae Barelli poverty increased.
I now understand your duplicity better.
#1 When you say you are for the poor in 2004 and in 2009 what you really mean is you are for the poor staying poor election after election ?
#2 When you say you will take care of the aam admi in 2004 and in 2009 what you really mean is you want the aam admi to continue to be helpless and dependent election after election ?
#3 When you say you are a Government for the common masses in both 2004 and 2009 what you really mean is you want us to remain faceless underachievers ?
#4 When you say in 2004 and in 2009 that we didnt understand India Shining, what you really mean is you want us to remain ignorant and never understand what “India Shining means” ?
#5 When you say in 2004 and in 2009 that anyone who talks of India Shining is talking for the rich, what you really mean is you never want us to aspire to become rich and you never want India to Shine for us ?
I can see how well you have done this in Rae Barelli and Amethi and I can also how well your comrades-in-arms the CPI-Mafioso has done this in West Bengal where after decades for claiming to be pro-poor the Government has actually accomplished by keeping the people of Bengal poor and by increasing their numbers so there are more poor to celebrate the triumph of Social Justice.
You made this claim today that
Congress president Sonia Ganhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and myself will not let down common man and will leave no stone unturned in removing poverty
but how can I believe you when you are coming back to me in 2009 with the same attitude you had in 2004.
Here I am in 2009, I am no longer below the poverty line, I am hungry for knowledge and learning, I am hungry for opportunities.
But I see that you dont have a new message for me.
I see that you want me to feel guilty that I am now above the poverty line.
I see that you want my fellow poor to look upon me as rich and anyone who wants myy vote as being there enemy.
You claim the opposition is practising divisive politics, but I see here that you are practising the same divisive politics by making my fellow poor feel victims of my success and by making me feel guilty about that.
I see that you are practising the same divisive politics by making an enemy of the poor anyone who wants to talk about how India can shine for me with new skills, knowledge and opportunities.
But what hurts the most is when you claim to take care of me as an aam admi when you were nowhere to be seen when Terrorists struck in Varnasi, Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Malegaon, Samjhauta Express, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati and again in Mumbai on 26th November 2008.
When my kith and kin aam admi who were both poor and common died in these incidents you did nothing to take care of us and you now come back in 2009 to talk about something that happened in 1999.
I dont care about what happened in 1999. I do care about what happened to the promises you made in 2004 and what you delivered at the end of 2008.
In closing as “an above the poverty line”, “not so common”, “one in a few” aam admi, I am lead to conclude that you have no real intention of taking care of me and that you intend to make an enemy of anyone who provides me with the opportunity to take care of myself.

Yours Sincerely
a recently uplifted and barely Above The Poverty Line Aaam Admi

Pakistan planting rumour against RAW

by Capt.Johannan

A rumour is being planted in Pakistan press that Indian RAW is interested in eliminating CJ of Pakistan Iftiqhar Choudhry and has infiltrated special teams to do the job. Rehman Malik has planted some SOURCE REPORTS during SriLankan cricket team attack on similar lines.

CJ Iftiqhar has become a thorn in the flesh of Army and civilian politicians and bureaucracy.He was hated by Army and Musharaff and now Zardari. Some pro Army Taliban elements may be instructed to eliminate him so that INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY IS KILLED in its infancy while blame can be put on Indian RAW.

US to develop "space situational awareness" for "spherical battlespace "

by Capt. Ben Sakrisson
Air University Public Affairs

4/2/2009 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) -- The world is no longer flat and information is no longer static. Neither can military operations confine focus to one area of a conflict while remaining oblivious to interconnections with the larger picture. It is time the view of the battlefield is turned upside-down. This is the message of the commander of Air Force Space Command.

Speaking before a crowded conference hall here March 31 at the 25th National Space Symposium, Gen. C. Robert Kehler laid out his vision of the redefined theater of operations -- the spherical area of operations.

"I am going to define that as an area starting at the geostationary distances from the earth and extending down," General Kehler said. "I think for far too long we have looked at our conception of future battlespace by standing on the ground and looking up. I think that might be the wrong way to look."

While the concept of always seeking the high ground is as old as military doctrine itself, seeking to understand this newly defined area is a daunting task.

"The spherical battlespace is constantly changing as on-orbit objects transverse across a volume that is 6,000 times larger than the airspace of the earth below," General Kehler said.

The seemingly trivial decision of what domain to cover, in fact, results in a great degree of study and debate on the extent of a given space that should be covered by a single asset.

"In our headquarters, we're combing through the different layers of space, high altitude, air and terrestrial to better understand how a degree of adequate redundancy and complementing capability can be achieved to preclude an overinvestment in one domain which creates vulnerability for our operating forces," said Army Lt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell, commanding general of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and commander of Joint Functional Component Command-Integrated Missile Defense of U.S. Strategic Command.

While the connection between space and cyberspace may be unclear to many outside of these career fields, to those within the space community, the connection is clear.

"Nearly 100 percent of the product from space is information," said Col. Sean D. McClung, the director of Air University's National Space Studies Center.

To this end, the vital cyberspace link to troops in the field is connected via space assets.

"Space capabilities provide intelligence that would otherwise be lost, warnings that would otherwise be undetected, and communications that would otherwise be impossible," General Kehler said.

Perhaps one of the most difficult pieces of the puzzle to get right, though, is the determination of how many assets are required from private industry at a given point in time and how to balance the need for increased bandwidth in a contingency against the need for operational security.

"You have to have a way to talk about capacity reallocation and reprioritization. When you get into a real hot battle what happens is, unless you have already planned it, there is no capacity," said Richard DalBello, vice president of legal and government affairs at Intelsat General Corporation, the largest provider of satellite services in the world. "If this stuff is not worked out in advance, it is not going to be worked out in a conflict."

Likewise, with respect to space-based assets, the ability to determine with certainty and react in a timely manner to threats in their orbital paths is still in its infancy.

"Straight-line thinking no longer works; objects are always in motion," General Kehler said. He further advocated for better situational awareness in both space and cyberspace.

The effort to build a national space situational awareness, or SSA, architecture is underway, though it is not yet up to full operational capability. Currently, "we have space situational awareness, (but) it is not as good as we would like it to be," said Col. Dustin A. Tyson, the chief of the Space Control Division at the Pentagon's National Security Space Office.

The future goal with the development of a national SSA architecture, according to Colonel Tyson, is to "evolve SSA from what we have a tendency to do today, forensic, to predictive knowledge." Once this critical process is complete, the military will be one step closer to having advanced warnings of possible collisions in space rather than investigating the cause in the aftermath. In the spherical area of operations, that determination is made at 11,000 meters per second.
Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)