January 04, 2013
Over the past century, the Federal Reserve has eviscerated roughly 97% of the greenback’s value. No small feat...especially for an entity supposedly created to protect the integrity of that very same currency. Perhaps you’ve seen graphs like the following one, depicting the once-mighty dollar’s dismal descent:
Politicians to Youth: You’re Screwed!
by T S Sudhir Jan 2, 2013
If this is the route the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) wishes to take to spread its wings beyond the Old city of Hyderabad, we might all have to run for cover. In a two-hour long speech in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh last week, Akbaruddin Owaisi who is the leader of the MIM legislature party in the Andhra Pradesh assembly, spewed venom like a wholesale dealer in the market would sell his wares. By the ton.
For those not familiar with the party, the MIM has its roots in the Old city area of Hyderabad and claims to be the spokesperson of the Muslims in the city, and Andhra Pradesh by extension. It has seven MLAs in the state assembly and one Lok Sabha MP, which is Akbar’s brother Asaduddin Owaisi. Asaduddin and Akbaruddin’s father, the late Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi represented Hyderabad in the Lok Sabha for six consecutive terms till 2004.
Image courtesy: IBN Live
MIM had a cosy relationship with the Congress, especially during the time that Y S Rajasekhara Reddy held sway. His demise and Kiran Kumar Reddy’s promotion to the CM’s chair saw the relationship deteriorating so much so that now the Hyderabad brothers have vowed to finish Kiran’s political innings.
In November, the MIM accused the CM of siding with the BJP and allowing work to take place at the Bhagyalakshmi temple abutting the Charminar. The party withdrew support to the Congress over the issue and its leaders have been touring the state ever since, taking Kiran Kumar Reddy to the cleaners, dubbing him a “Musalmanon ke dushman” (enemy of the Muslims).
The MIM sees an opportunity for itself now in the run-up to 2014 to grow into a pan-Andhra Pradesh party, with footprints in the old Nizam dominion. It won 13 of the 25 seats it contested in the Nanded municipal corporation elections in October, helping it cross the border into Maharashtra. And the present round of Hindu bashing in extremely crass language is one of Owaisi’s weapons to polarise the Muslim vote entirely in its favour and reach out to newer areas in districts outside Hyderabad.
Lawyers from the BJP have gone to court in protest against this outburst by Akbar in which he spoke derisively of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the cow. What helps them is that cutting across religious lines, the verdict is that the discourse was inflammatory and in extremely bad taste. And that BJP leader Varun Gandhi was hauled up by the courts for a hate speech in 2009.
The MIM is batting on the backfoot dealing with this self-goal that Akbaruddin Owaisi has scored. Sources in the party describe Akbar’s speech as a “honest mistake, not something deliberate” and point that when good orators are in full flow and the crowds are enjoying the rhetoric, sometimes they get carried away. Considering how weak a defence that will sound in court, why not apologise and settle the issue? But publicly disowning the speech is not an option the MIM wants to exercise as it fears it will lead to whispers that there are differences within the party.
Critics of the MIM like corporator Amjedullah Khan of the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) says Akbar and the MIM are playing to a script. “See today no one is talking about underdevelopment in the Old city areas. People are only discussing whether Akbar will be arrested. People are talking about the communal tension over Bhagyalakshmi temple. All this will only help the MIM. I demand that the elders of the community should disown Akbar. If they condemn Praveen Togadia, they should condemn Akbar also because it is against the Holy Quran and the teachings of Prophet Mohammed to criticise another religion,” says Khan.
The MIM denies that the speech is a part of Operation Polarisation. “Why would we want to antagonise the Hindu community. There is no threat to our core base. Akbar’s speech is not the policy of the MIM. It is not a larger political gameplan. Development politics in our constituencies has given us political dividends and that is our policy. We will not go back to the politics of 1960s to 1990s,” says a senior MIM leader.
Akbar who is out of the country is aware of the uproar his speech has created, especially on the social media. Lyricist Javed Akhtar tweeted : “Mr AU Owaisi, you are the worst enemy of Indian Muslims. your poisonous words and evil thoughts don’t represent the Muslims of India.” His son Farhan Akhtar asked “How can 2 girls be arrested in less than 24 hrs for a harmless FB post but Owaisi roams free after his blatantly communal rant?” Columnist Minhaz Merchant tweeted : “Comparing Owaisi hate speech with Togadia’s is like Pak saying “first condemn Samjhauta, then 26/11”. Dilatory tactic.”
Indeed, Akbar by virtue of being an MLA ought to have been more responsible with his tongue. To say “the 25 crore Muslims in India can take care of the 100 crore Hindus if the police stayed away for fifteen minutes”, does little to distinguish Akbar from a gully ka thug.
The criticism against the legislator is that this is not the first time he has violated the law. “He has made several such provocative speeches in the past. There are cases booked against him in several police stations but the police under successive governments have turned a blind eye,” says Khan.
The worry is that the speech has gone viral on the net. And it is wrong to assume that it is only the youth and the illiterate or the semi-literate get attracted to such a divisive narrative. Mazher Hussain, Director of the Confederation of Voluntary Associations, which does commendable work in the Old city areas points out that even elders are drawn to oratory of this kind. “While the youth are in the forefront of covert violence, the covert context is provided by the elders,” says Hussain.
While bigwigs of the Congress in the state have publicly kept mum and prefer that the courts decide on the matter, the police does not expect any political reluctance to act against Akbar.
In his speech, Akbar dares Kiran Kumar Reddy saying “Hum tujhko chain se bethne nahi denge” (We will not let you remain in peace). The pity is that such verbal diarrhoea does not let the idea of India live in peace as well
January 03, 2013
January 02, 2013
December 31, 2012 15:50 IST
For starters given a declining West, it is indeed unwise on our part to depend on it for any matter whatsoever for our growth, writes M R Venkatesh.
The events of the past few years at the global level demonstrate that the west is on a significant decline. This decline, let me hasten to add, is not merely political. Rather, it is now visible in economics, finance, demographics and culture.
Possibly, this decline of the West is caused by a relative growth of the rest. In a sense one could argue that all this may result in a genuine rebalancing of global order.
But if events of 2012 are any indication, in my considered view, the decline of the west could well and truly be terminal where the hegemony of the west is increasingly questioned or probably challenged by the rest of the world in the next decade or two. Let me explain.
Americans at this point in time are grappling with their internal economic crisis. As a result a "fiscal cliff" looms large. The only way out of this mess seems to tax Americans more and simultaneously reduce government expenditure. This is ostensibly aimed at reducing budget deficits and by extension, debt. But as events of the last few days reveal, this is easier said than done.
If the US is in an economic crisis, Europe is facing economic calamity. Portugal, Ireland, Italy [ Images ], Greece and Spain (PIIGS) are virtually written off at the global level. And all these developments in the west have profound implications for India [ Images ] in the next decade or two.
At the core of all this economic mess is that family and family values, the basic building blocks of any society and by extension national economy is weakening in the West; perhaps to the point of complete destruction.
In 2010, more than 50 per cent of children were born out of wedlock in the US. The rest of the western countries, things are no better. Illegitimacy, it seems, is the new norm! This breaking up of the family in the west has put tremendous pressure on the finances of governments and is primarily responsible for their economic mess. Let me explain.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal (10 October 2011), nearly half of US households received some form of government benefits like food stamps, subsidised housing, cash welfare or Medicare or Medicaid or social security.
All these means governments have to tax more - an impossibility given the fact that western democracies are rooted to libertarian views with well-defined individual rights. Similarly, given their extensive social security programs, it is impossible to curtail government expenditure.
Either way they need to borrow more - an economically unsustainable proposition from now on; a classical case of damned if they do, doomed if they don't.
Writing his column titled "Will India needs to prepare for the decline of the West?" [www.firstpost.com - December 15, 2012] Professor R Vaidyanathan bases his observation on two recent reports from the US - Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, by the US National Intelligence Council, and US Strategy for a Post-Western World: Envisioning 2030, by the Atlantic Council that map a decline of the west with a concomitant rise of India in the next decade or two.
Professor Vaidyanathan neatly summarises the following five trends in the west which will have far-reaching implications for it:
The west's problems are related to the decline of the family as an institution and household savings.
Demography is increasing the proportion of old people in the population.
Rising longevity is leading to a social security crisis which will bankrupt governments.
The decline of the church and belief systems - both in Europe and US - could have major implications
The Westphalia consensus about the sovereignty of nations which are not western/white is over.
An Asian Re-emergence
More importantly, he recalls the pioneering study of Angus Maddison for the OECD, in which Maddison demonstrated that till 1820 India had nearly one-fourth of the share of global GDP before its decline started, thanks to colonialism, to a mere four percent share by 1950.
Buttressing this view, the PM of India Dr Manmohan Singh [ Images ] speaking at the Oxford in July 2005, quoted Maddison and observed "There is no doubt that our grievance against the British Empire had a sound basis.
As the painstaking statistical work of the Cambridge historian Angus Maddison has shown, India's share of world income collapsed from 22.6 per cent in 1700, almost equal to Europe's share of 23.3 per cent at that time, to as low as 3.8 per cent in 1952."
From that point of view, Professor Vaiyanathan claims, we are "re-emerging markets" and not "emerging markets." The distinction is not merely an exercise in semantics. Obviously the 200 years of western dominance is an aberration in the last 2000 years recorded history of man and if these studies by US Think Tanks are correct, India's time has well and truly come.
This renaissance is probably pan Asian too. Writing his piece in The Guardian, [27th July 2012] Pankaj Mishra the author of acclaimed book From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia brilliantly captures this entire paradigm and states "that the central event of the modern era is Asia's emergence from the ravages of western imperialism."
Yet, we in India are in a perennial state of denial on this tectonic shift. The reason for the same is not far to seek. For most educated Indians it is impossible to question, much less challenge, western supremacy as much as it is to accept Asians on equal terms.
For instance, can an Indian lawyer question the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence model? Can an Indian doctor accept traditional Indian medicinal systems? Or can we learn appropriate lessons from the Japanese in handling their traditions and appropriately blending it with modernity?
The answers to these questions can never be answered in a binary manner. However it has to be conceded that our overwhelming acceptance of the west is stunning for an independent country, more so a civilisation of several thousand years. In contrast, the Chinese do, so do Koreans or the Japanese without being adversarial with the west.
But there is more to such lack of questioning or independent research by our educated of the west. In the absence of independent thinking, three western ideas has pinned India completely down since independence. If for the first twenty years it was socialism, it was secularism for the next twenty and globalisation for the rest.
In the process India has been reduced to a huge western laboratory since 1947!
Take the last one - globalisation - for instance and try and see if it was referred even once in the debates in the run up to recent elections in America or for that matter in any other part of the world. Simply put, the idea of globalisation, never appealed even in the west, its presumed land of birth. Yet, we celebrate the idea of globalisation even as it is orphaned in west!
But we are not on an elevator
But this does not mean we are automatically poised to grow, lead and dominate the world. Neither can we draw solace at this decline of the west. The west despite all these negative developments is in no hurry to vacate its position. Naturally, we need to draw appropriate lessons from our past for our future.
For starters given a declining West, it is indeed unwise on our part to depend on it for any matter whatsoever for our growth.
We must realise that our growth will be an outcome of our efforts. That in turn implies we must have an indigenous model - one that is home grown with local entrepreneurs, domestic capital and native enterprise. In contrast to the doctor's prescription, India is increasingly depending on foreign entrepreneurs, external capital and alien enterprise.
The reason for this baffling approach is obvious. As 2012 draws to an end, India will be seen globally as a confused, corrupt and a cynical nation - one that neither acts nor reacts. We seem to be in a perpetual state of paralysis where debates, not actions, matter. And believe me most of it self-inflicted.
Simply put the decline of the west offers an opportunity to lead the world. But how we handle the next decade is an immense challenge. Needless to emphasise a diffused nation that fails to handle itself cannot be handed the responsibility of leading the world.
Of course, this is not the sole responsibility of the Indian Government. India as a global leader is a responsibility of every Indian who must see, seize and act on this development.
It need to be understood at this point that leaders are not mere rule followers but perhaps rule breakers and definitely rule makers. That takes us to the question posed at the beginning - do Indians have it in them to question the West - and break the rules imposed on the rest? Can we as a nation successfully challenge western domination?
As sage Aurobindo Ghosh prophesised nearly a century ago - from the ruins of the west, India will rise. Will the west be in ruins? Will India rise? 2013 may well hold answers for all these questions.
The author is a Chennai-based Chartered Accountant. He can be contacted at email@example.com
M R Venkatesh
January 2, 2013
By all means, 2012 can be considered a watershed year for the Indian space programme. The programme had begun modestly in November 1963 with the launch of a 9-kg sounding rocket from a modest facility in the fishing hamlet of Thumba on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. 2012 saw the 100th space mission of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). On September 9, 2012, the four stage workhorse PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) orbited the 720-kg French remote sensing satellite Spot-6 along with the 15-kg Japanese Proiteres probe as a piggy back payload on commercial terms, and in the process helped ISRO complete the saga of a “space century”. The significance of the mission lay in the fact that the PSLV, considered a highly reliable space vehicle, launched the heaviest ever satellite of an international customer on commercial terms.
The PSLV has so far launched 29 satellites for international customers on commercial terms. Its versatility lies in the fact that it can launch satellites into a variety of orbits. But then ISRO’s continued dependence on a single operational launch vehicle in the form of the PSLV implies that heavier class home grown INSAT/GSAT series of communications satellites are hoisted into space by means of procured launch services. Not surprisingly then the 3,400-kg GSAT-10 satellite carrying 30 communications transponders and a payload designed to support the Gagan satellite based, civilian aircraft navigation and management system was launched by the Araine-5 vehicle in September 2012. The continued dependence on Ariane-5 for deploying the heavier class Indian communications satellites not only implies a huge foreign exchange outgo but also makes for a far from sound strategic approach. For, in the context of the rapidly shifting global geopolitical dynamics, the timely accessibility to a procured launch service could become a difficult and challenging proposition in the years ahead.
Indeed, the failure of ISRO to qualify the home grown cryogenic engine stage, meant to power the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), has forced India to go in for commercial launch services to get its heavier class communications satellites off the ground. The long delay in mastering the complexities of the cryogenic propulsion system based on liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen mix implies that there are serious challenges ahead in putting in operational mode the GSLV-MKII capable of placing a 2.5-tonne class satellite and the high performance GSLV-MKIII capable of deploying a 4-tonne class satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbits. The failure of the two GSLV missions during 2010—one with a home grown upper cryogenic stage and the other with a Russian origin cryogenic engine stage—proved to be a setback for the Indian launch vehicle development programme.
Though ISRO had planned a GSLV-MKII launch with an indigenous upper cryogenic stage during 2012, it stood postponed to 2013. The qualification of a 400-tonne plus GSLV is critical for ISRO to sustain some of its high profile projects including the Chandrayaan-II mission slated for take off sometime during the middle of this decade. The Chandrayaan-II mission to the moon, which would feature an Indian orbiter and rover and a Russian lander, is a follow up to India’s maiden lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 launched in 2008.
Nevertheless, the successful launch of India’s fully home grown microwave earth imaging satellite RISAT-1 by means of a PSLV flight in April 2012 stood out as a sort of achievement for ISRO. For, very few countries have built up the technological expertise to engineer an all weather remote sensing satellite like RISAT-1, which is capable of collecting data even under conditions of cloud, darkness, haze and dust storm. RISAT-1 can be harnessed for both civilian and defence applications. It can be used for disaster prediction and monitoring agricultural dynamics as well as for surveillance by the armed forces.
Though ISRO had hinted at a couple of space missions from the space port in Sriharikota island on India’s eastern coast before the end of 2012, these did not materialize. In particular, the launch of the Indo-French research satellite Saral by means of the core alone version of PSLV—without the usual six strap on boosters attached to the first stage—originally planned for the end of 2012 was postponed to the first quarter of 2013. ISRO has cited technical glitches as the reason for the postponement of this space mission. The 400-kg Saral built at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore is designed to monitor the circulation of oceanic currents and measurement of sea surface heights. This PSLV mission will also launch five small payloads of international customers on commercial terms.
ISRO also plans to launch the first of the seven satellites constituting the space segment of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) by means of a PSLV flight sometime in 2013. IRNSS makes for great strategic sense as it would free India from its dependence on the American GPS system whose specialized services at times are difficult to access. The Indian defence forces would stand to benefit from IRNSS for purposes ranging from location identification to launching precision weapons including long range missiles with a high degree of accuracy.
However, the highpoint of ISRO’s march into space would be the plan to launch India’s Mars probe in November 2013 when the earth moves closest to the Red planet. This is the earliest launch window available for the Indian Mars probe. The launch of the Indian Mars orbiter by means of an augmented version of the PSLV would make India the sixth country in the world to send a mission to the Red Planet. The Indian Mars mission will focus on life, climate, geology, origin, evolution and sustainability of life forms on the planet. ISRO considers the Rs. 4500-million Indian Mars probe, to be called Mangalyaan, as a major technology build up exercise for accelerating India’s forays into deep space. After the accomplishment of the Mars mission, ISRO plans to send probes to Venus and the asteroid belt.
But then India’s much talked of plan for a human space mission, which is yet to receive final clearance from the Government of India, has been kept in the backburner. Even as ISRO has done some preliminary ground work for identifying the cutting edge technologies for this high profile project, the country is yet to build up ”the infrastructure and capability” robust enough for this ”complex and challenging mission.” According to ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan, “A human space flight is a complex mission requiring a host of things such as a heavy rocket, re-entry vehicle, space capsule, space suit, environmental control, life support system and an escape system for the crew… As of now, we don’t have a programme to launch a human space flight over the next five years.”
In the ultimate analysis, both the planetary missions and human flight represent a dilution of the original philosophy with which the Indian space programme took off. In the late 1960s, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the architect of the Indian space programme, had elaborated:
“There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned spaceflight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the comity of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.”
In this context, ISRO points out that the societal commitment of the Indian space programme continues to be in an expansion mode even as efforts are on for forays into deep space.
In the context of fast expanding space missions resulting in a growing constellation of satellites, there is a concern in India over the safety of its space assets. This concern assumed serious dimensions in early 2007 when China successfully carried out an anti-satellite test followed by a well conceived plan for mastering the techniques of a full fledged space war. Of course, both ISRO and DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) have made it clear that India has all the resources required to engineer an anti-satellite system to take on a “rogue satellite”. In the aftermath of the successful flight test of India’s long range Agni-V missile in April 2012, DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat had noted that the “Agni-V launch has opened a new era. Apart from adding a new dimension to our strategic defence, it has ushered in fantastic opportunities in building anti satellite weapons.”
By all means India’s space weaponization programme, the realization of which is subject to the approval of the political leadership of the county, would stand to benefit enormously from the technological advances made by ISRO and DRDO. Not long ago, India’s Defence Minister A.K. Antony had wondered as to how long India would ”remain committed to the policy of the non weaponization of space even as counter space systems are emerging in India’s neighbourhood (read China).”But then India, which is officially committed to the peaceful uses of outer space, will find it difficult to go ahead with plans for developing the building blocks for engaging in a full fledged space war.
January 1, 2013
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — The young president who ascended to office as a change agent decides to end the costly and unpopular war in Afghanistan. He seeks an exit with honor by pledging long-term financial support to allies in Kabul, while urging reconciliation with the insurgency. But some senior advisers lobby for a deliberately slow withdrawal, and propose leaving thousands of troops behind to train and support Afghan security forces.
This is a nearly exact description of the endgame conundrum facing President Obama as he prepares for a critical visit by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, planned for early January.
But the account is actually drawn from declassified Soviet archives describing Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s closed-door struggles with his Politburo and army chiefs to end the Kremlin’s intervention in Afghanistan — one that began with a commando raid, coup and modest goals during Christmas week of 1979 but became, after a decade, what Mr. Gorbachev derided as “a bleeding wound.”
What mostly is remembered about the withdrawal is the Soviet Union’s humiliation, and the ensuing factional bloodletting across Afghanistan that threw the country into a vicious civil war. It ended with Taliban control and the establishment of a safe haven for Al Qaeda before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
But scholars who have studied the Soviet archives point out another lesson for the Obama administration as it manages the pullout of American and allied combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“The main thing the Soviets did right was that they continued large-scale military assistance to the regime they left behind after the final withdrawal in ’89,” said Mark N. Katz, a professor at George Mason University and author of “Leaving Without Losing: The War on Terror After Iraq and Afghanistan” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).
“As long as the Afghan regime received the money and the weapons, they did pretty well — and held on to power for three years,” Mr. Katz said. The combat effectiveness of Kabul’s security forces increased after the Soviet withdrawal, when the fight for survival become wholly their own.
But then the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991, and the new Russian leader, Boris N. Yeltsin, heeded urgings of the United States and other Western powers to halt aid to the Communist leadership in Afghanistan, not just arms and money, but also food and fuel. The Kremlin-backed government in Kabul fell three months later.
To be sure, there are significant contrasts between the two interventions in Afghanistan. The Soviet invasion and occupation were condemned as illegal aggression, while the American one was embraced by the international community, including Russia, as a “just war,” one with limited goals of routing the Taliban and eliminating Al Qaeda. That war of necessity has since evolved into a war of choice, one the Obama administration is working to end as quickly as is feasible.
Despite the differences going in, both the Soviet Union and the United States soon learned that Afghanistan is a land where foreigners aspiring to create nations in their image must combat not just the Taliban but tribalism, orthodoxy, corruption and a medieval view of women. As well, Pakistan has had interests at odds with those of the neighboring government in Afghanistan, whether Kabul was an ally of Moscow or of Washington.
“The Soviet Union did not understand religious and ethnic factors sufficiently, and overestimated the capacity of Afghan society to move very fast toward a modern era, in this case socialism,” said Svetlana Savranskaya, director of Russian programs at the National Security Archive, an independent research center at George Washington University.
“Here I see similarities with the approach of the United States, especially with all the discussion about trying to leave behind an Afghanistan that is democratic and respects the rights of women, ideas that simply are not accepted across the broad society there,” said Ms. Savranskaya, who has written extensively on the Soviet archives.
If the Soviet experience offers any guidance to the current American withdrawal, she said, it would be to accelerate the departure of foreign combat forces — but to leave in their place a “sustained, multiyear international involvement in military training, education and civilian infrastructure projects, and maybe not focusing on building democracy as much as improving the lives of the common people.”
And she noted that the United States should already be seeking partnership with Afghan leaders beyond Mr. Karzai, who is viewed across large parts of the population as tainted by his association with the Americans.
Pentagon officials have signaled that they are hoping for an enduring military presence of 10,000 or more troops, but may have to accept fewer, to cement the progress of the years of fighting. Those troops would focus on training and supporting Afghan forces along with a counterterrorism contingent to hunt Qaeda and insurgent leaders.
In a parallel, one of Mr. Gorbachev’s closest early confidants, Eduard A. Shevardnadze, the foreign minister, advocated a slow withdrawal pace — and pressed for 10,000 to 15,000 Soviet troops to remain to support the Communist government. The Soviets left only 300 advisers.
But after losing more than 15,000 Soviet troops and billions of rubles, the Kremlin knew it had to somehow justify the invasion and occupation upon withdrawal.
Mr. Gorbachev had “to face up to a difficult problem of domestic politics which has puzzled other nations finding themselves in similar circumstances,” Rodric Braithwaite, a former British ambassador to Moscow, wrote in “Afgantsy” (Oxford University Press, 2011), his book on the Soviet intervention based on Communist Party documents.
“How could the Russians withdraw their army safely, with honor, without looking as if they were simply cutting and running, and without appearing to betray their Afghan allies or their own soldiers who had died?” Mr. Braithwaite wrote of the internal Kremlin debate, in terms resonant of the Americans’ conundrum today.
Around the time of the Soviet withdrawal, an article by Pravda, the Communist Party mouthpiece, clutched for a positive view as the Soviet Army pulled out. Read today, it bears a resemblance to the news releases churned out by the Pentagon detailing statistics on reconstruction assistance.
“Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan repaired, rebuilt and constructed hundreds of schools, technical colleges, over 30 hospitals and a similar number of nursery schools, some 400 apartment buildings and 35 mosques,” the article said. “They sank dozens of wells and dug nearly 150 kilometers of irrigation ditches and canals. They were also engaged in guarding military and civilian installations in trouble.”
The Kremlin had learned that its armies could not capture political success, but Soviet commanders made the same claims upon withdrawal that are heard from NATO officers today: not a single battlefield engagement was lost to guerrillas, and no outpost ever fell to insurgents.
That understanding seemed to animate Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta as he toured Afghanistan recently in a traditional holiday visit with the troops.
At each stop, Mr. Panetta acknowledged that significant challenges remain to an orderly withdrawal and a stable postwar Afghanistan, and not just the resilient insurgency.
He cited unreliable Afghan governance, continuing corruption and the existence of insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. None of those are likely to be fixed with American firepower.
By Myra MacDonald DECEMBER 29, 2012
Pakistan has been facing gun and bomb attacks for so long, it is tempting to think it will continue to muddle along, the situation never becoming so bad as to galvanise it into action. And maybe it will.
But a series of attacks in and around Peshawar this month should give serious pause for thought.
First came a raid on Peshawar airport in mid-December, for which the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility. Then political leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour – an outspoken critic of the Taliban and a senior minister in the provincial government of the Awami National Party (ANP) – was killed in a suicide bombing.
While the city was still in shock over Bilour’s death, its defences were attacked. Taliban militants assaulted three security posts meant to separate the so-called settled areas from the neighbouring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), killing two men from the security forces and taking 22 others prisoner. At least 20 of them were later killed by the Taliban,Pakistani media reported.
It is difficult to escape the notion of a city under siege.
For outsiders, particularly the United States – distracted by domestic political wrangling, weary of the war in Afghanistan, and weary too of trying to work out how to deal with Pakistan – the prospect of Peshawar succumbing to Taliban influence should be ringing alarm bells.
And for Pakistanis, the potential loss of Peshawar should be even more alarming – even a small risk of that happening should be enough to stir memories of the unthinking drift to war that led to the loss of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in 1971. Indian military intervention ensured Bangladesh won independence, but the origins of the conflict lay in the dissonance between Pakistan’s Punjab-dominated heartland and ethnic Bengalis; just as now there is a difference in understanding of the threat of militancy between mainly Pashtun Peshawar and the centres of power in the Punjabi cities of Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Yet for all those familiar tripwires, the alarm over the attacks on Peshawar has been muffled at best. While the ANP in Peshawar has appealed for consensus among political parties on a strategy to fight terrorism, many in the rest of Pakistan are looking the other way. True, some of the English-language media has run powerful commentary arguing that Pakistan must wake up to the threat of terrorism, but on the whole, initial shock over the attacks has dissipated into confusion.
Here is the problem – or rather an additional problem compounding Pakistan’s internal divisions over whether the war against the Taliban is its own fight or one being carried out at America’s behest.
All of this is happening at a time when the country is heading into an election, expected next May. Few want to rock the boat with, for example, a military offensive in North Waziristan that might unleash a wave of reprisal bombings on political rallies across Pakistan. For the first time in its history, a democratically elected government is set to complete its term and hand over power to another democratically elected government – a milestone worth fighting for.
But the boat is already rocking. A huge political rally held in Lahore by Islamist preacher Tahir ul-Qadri – on the same day as ANP leader Bilour’s funeral in Peshawar – has got everyone talking about whether he was sponsored by “the establishment” (the Pakistan Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency) to disrupt the democratic process. Qadri has promised a march on Islamabad in January if changes are not made to the electoral process in time for the polls. And since it is not possible to make those changes in time, his threat has raised fears he might be paving the way for a government of technocrats which would (with the blessing of the military) take over for a few years until Pakistan’s crises are resolved.
To an outsider, it sounds like another Pakistani conspiracy theory. To a Pakistani, used to the army’s dominance of politics and the so-called Deep State’s ability to pull the strings from behind the scenes, the threat to the democratic process is real. Among the unlikely cast of characters being conjured up by the media to support a government of technocrats are Qadri, the Defa-e-Pakistan alliance of militant and religious groups, and Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf Pakistan (PTI). Qadri and PTI deny taking any support from the military.
In reality, nobody knows for sure what is going on, and because of the uncertainty, everyone is hedging their bets. And because everyone is hedging their bets, the country will not take on the Taliban. Meanwhile the Pakistan Army – which dominates security policy – says it will launch a new military operation only with political consensus.
And there is no political consensus.
The ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has devoted much of its energy to simply staying in power to prove the democratic system can work – President Asif Ali Zardari confounded everyone by keeping his job and his government in place long enough to hand on the mantle of the PPP, which he inherited from his late wife Benazir Bhutto, to their son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who made his political debut in Pakistan this week.
If Zardari and the PPP survived, it was partly thanks to opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who having been ousted in a coup in 1999 knew better than to leave a gap where the army might take over. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is the main challenger in the coming election and is likely to do well because of the PPP-led government’s reputation for poor governance and corruption. He has everything to lose if an escalation in militant attacks forces the election to be postponed.
Imran Khan’s PTI has promised to break the mould of dynastic politics and end corruption. But in a constituency-based electoral system where local patronage buys votes, Khan does not have the party machinery to win a significant number of seats. And having positioned himself as a campaigner against U.S. drone attacks in the tribal areas, which he claimed were the main cause of militancy, he has left himself no space to take a strong stand against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The Peshawar-based ANP, and the Karachi-based Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), whose leader Altaf Hussain lives in exile in London, have been pretty much alone in speaking out clearly against the Taliban. “The time has come for decisive action,” ANP’s Bushra Gohar, a member of the National Assembly, told Newsweek Pakistan. “We have to expose these elements. The time for apologies is over. We need to adopt a clear-cut policy.”
But in an election year, the heartland of Pakistani politics is in Punjab where both the PML-N and PTI are based and where the biggest number of seats in parliament are to be won. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, in a statement released earlier this week, said it had no quarrel with those two parties. Even the PPP, whose roots are in Sindh province, knows its survival comes from winning popular votes in Punjab while maintaining an uneasy relationship – as it has done since it came to power – with the army. All have an interest in appeasing the religious right, whose street power in Punjab by far outstrips its ability to win votes in elections. All would be vulnerable to reprisal attacks by militants with deep roots in Punjab were they to take a strong stand against them.
That leaves Peshawar bearing the brunt of TTP violence, along with the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the tribal areas themselves. Karachi too is suffering from violence, but Peshawar is even more vulnerable, lying next to the tribal areas.
Many of us have declared Pakistan to be on the brink so often over the years that it becomes hard to take ourselves seriously. It survives, doesn’t it? That famed “resilience”. And the chances are, it will be fine, muddling through until the election.
And yet the steady infiltration of the Taliban into Peshawar, and their apparent ability to carry out attacks there with impunity, should worry everyone. All the more so since so many elsewhere in Pakistan are showing no signs of responding to the threat to a city barely two hours’ drive from the capital.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Shri B. Raman is to be applauded for his consistent and persistent opposition to the Pakistani Genocide against Balochistan. He is probably the only Indian citizen journalist waging a principled war on the side of the oppressed Balochistanis, including the much oppressed and systematically targeted minuscule Baloch Hindu population
--- Praveen Shanker Pillai
December 30, 2012
Dr. Deen Mohammad Baloch and Dr. Akbar Marri are among dozens of doctors who are missing or have been killed. The Pakistan Medical Association reports that at least 26 doctors have been killed in Balochistan in recent times and as many as 17 have been kidnapped.
Khuzdar, Mastung, Quetta or Jaffarabad – doctors are not safe anywhere as they are allegedly being targeted by the security forces and spy agencies.
"Nowadays the young doctors, they are mostly influenced and support Baloch Doctors’ Forum. Leadership of BDF, they are young doctors and especially they have political opinion. And nowadays, the issue of Nationalism is rising in Balochistan, so the Baloch Doctors’ Forum is also working like a pillar. So the government and intelligence agencies mainly targeting the intellectual class of Baloch society." said Dr. ALI AKBAR MENGAL, BALOCH NATIONALIST
Instead of taking action against criminals and providing protection to doctors, the Balochistan government has acted against several doctors by suspending them from their jobs.
The doctors in the region have been on strike for months against kidnappings and targeted killings.
Operation theatres and outpatient departments in state hospitals remain closed due to the strike."We want to convey to the government that the hospitals will not function, including emergency services. Till our demands are met, we stand firm on our decision."
Attack on doctors in Balochistan is a strategy of Pakistani agencies to target Baloch `intellectuals’ in the region.The Baloch are fighting for an end to colonial rule imposed by Pakistan and are seeking independence.
"Baloch are also human beings. If they ask any justice as like other nation including Kosovo, Israel and Palestine. Nowadays, in a real situation, Balochistan is worse then Palestine as many dead bodies are recovering from every corner of Balochistan and it is a media black out region. " said DR SULTAN TAREEN,PRESIDENT, PAKISTAN MEDIACAL ASSOCIATION, BALOCHISTAN
The Baloch National Movement (BNM) said in a statement on Sunday that Pakistan military offensive in Mashkay, Balochistan has entered its sixth day. A spokesman for the party said that after killing dozens of innocent Baloch the Pakistan military has laid siege to the entire area, setting check-posts at all entry and exit points. "Due to the blockade of routes, the people wounded during heavy bombardment by gunship helicopters are being deprived of medical aid, leaving them to die", the spokesman said.
The statement claimed that the so-called "kill and dump" Operation is going on unabated, as the mutilated body of BSO activist, Hassan Langov, was found dumped on Saturday. While condemning the as assassination of Hassan Langov, the BNM appealed to international human rights bodies to take notice of human rights abuses in Balochsitan. The spokesman claimed that Balochsitan was suffering from human rights crisis more serious than those in Uganda, Darfur and Congo, but the civilized world has opted for a criminal silence despite the fact that the secular and liberal Baloch are fighting an extremist state which is a serious danger to global peace.
It's no longer a secret that Pakistan is harboring terrorists at home and exporting them all over the world to black mail regional and international powers. Still the world has preferred to remain silent.The BNM spokesman said they had the support of the Baloch nation and they would continue their struggle even if the whole world remains indifferent towards their flight.
The next step in the case relating to the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in New Delhi, who has passed away, is the investigation and prosecution of the six accused in quick time to ensure that justice is done to the Braveheart, whom the shocked nation looks upon as its daughter. Justice means their conviction and sentencing to the severest sentence possible under the existing laws.
2.The Government has done well to designate a Special Prosecutor to ensure the successful prosecution of the accused. For this purpose, the proposed Special Prosecutor should be given whatever manpower, resources, and expertise that he might require for a successful prosecution.
3.It would be unwise to be self-complacent thinking that since the accused have already confessed, getting them convicted should be no problem.There is every possibility of the accused retracting their confession as public memory and anger fades.It would be necessary to strengthen the other evidencethat the police are able to collect to supplement the confessions.
4.Now that the girl is dead, the most important piece of evidence, inter alia, will be her dying declaration recorded before a magistrate in a New Delhi hospital and the medical findings of the doctors whotreated her in New Delhi and Singapore. The Special Prosecutor and his staff should see that an iron-clad case is made out of such evidence which will withstand attempts that might be made by the lawyers of the accused to question their acceptability before the court.
5.The Special Prosecutor, his staff and the Police should not let themselves be taken by surprise by any attempts by the lawyers of the accused to question the reliability of the evidence.
6. An equally urgent measure will be to strengthen physical security for women in public transport and in public places that are used by rapists to commit their crime. The Government has already announced certain measures such as verification of the character and antecedents of the staff of public transport and removal of the coloured windows of the buses.
7.While necessary, these measures alone would not be adequate.It is equally important to order that all public transport plying anywhere in Delhi between 7 PM and 7 AM would have a Constable and making the staff of the transport and their owners liable for criminal action if they ply a transport during these hours without a constable.All public places unfriendly and risky to women should be identified and static guards should be posted at all such places during these hours.
8. The number of additional constables and supervisory staff that would be required for this purpose should be estimated and a special sanction issued by the MHA for the recruitment and training of the additional staff needed for preventing crime against women.
9.The police regulations, manuals, operating procedures and training syllabi having a bearing on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime against women should be reviewed and updated in order to make them more women-focussed. There should be a separate training capsule on crime against women with a separate examination for joining the police at any level---from constables up to IPS officers.
10. A list of offences against women, which should be treated as heinous offences, needs to be drawn up and incorporated in the police regulations and manuals.All heinous offences against women should be liable to mandatory supervision by senior police officers of the rank of at least a Superintendent of Police.
11.It should be made obligatory for Station House Officers to record an FIR and start the investigation in respect of all crimes against women ---whether heinous or not so.There shouldbe a computerized data base of all crimes against women indicating the stage of investigation and prosecution in respect of each case.
12. Separate divisions on crime against women should be created in the office of the Commissioner of Police and in the office of the Secretary, Internal Security, of the MHA, and these should serve as the nodal points for monitoring all action against crime against women.Crime against women should be treated as seriously as terrorism with special squads for investigation and prosecution and special courts for trial.
13.The need for early implementation of the police reforms recommended by a committee set up by the Morarji Desai Government and subsequent bodies such as the National Security Advisory Board and the Special Task Force headed by ShriNaresh Chandra has been stressed by many. The implementation of the recommendations at the pan-Indian level has been tardy due to resistance from different State Governments and political parties. The delay in implementation at the pan-Indian level is likely to continue.
14. The Government should, therefore, separate the recommendations relating to the Delhi police from those relating to other States and set up a fast-track implementation mechanism.The Delhi Police cannot be compared to the police of other metropolitan cities. In addition to tasks relating to crime control and law and order, the Delhi Police performs important and sensitive tasks of a unique nature relating to VIP security, including security of visiting foreign VIPS, and diplomatic security.
15.While there should be no problem in transferring to the supervision of the Delhi State Government the tasks relating to crime control and law and order, the MHA has to have a say in the supervision of matters relating to VIP security and diplomatic security. If this is also transferred in toto to the State Government, problems of co-ordination and command and control could arise if different parties come to power in the Centre and the Delhi State.
16. Delhi, therefore, needs a separate policing architecture with the State Government having primacy of supervision in respect of crime and law and order and the MHA in respect of VIP and diplomatic security.All Governments which were in power in the Centre were opposed to changing the status quo in which the MHA has total control.The possibility of an alternate architecture with dual supervision had never been examined. The time has come for examining this.
17. The recent incidents of violence in New Delhi in the wake of the gang-rape incident highlighted the lack of sophistication in crowd control by the Delhi Police.Public were shocked by the crude manner in which the police officers, including the women police, handled women protesters. They used the same high-handed techniques against men as well as women. There is a need for a total revision of our crowd control techniques relating to men and women, in order to make them more sophisticated. (30-12-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )