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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

From Today's Papers - 20 Jan 09

With Intelligence Warning of Terror Attacks,
Assam on High Alert

A maximum security alert has been sounded in Assam with intelligence reports about terrorists trying to stage violent attacks in the run-up to Republic Day, officials said here Monday.

A police spokesman said security forces have stepped up anti-insurgency operations with reports that the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was planning to carry out violent strikes ahead of the Jan 26 celebrations.

"As always, the ULFA has been trying to carry out strikes in the lead up to Jan 26 and hence a massive security offensive and vigil is being carried out," Assam police chief G.M. Srivastava told IANS.

In the past two weeks, security forces have killed seven ULFA militants in separate encounters, including two of them Sunday near Hajo, about 30 km west of Assam's main city Guwahati.

"Militants of the ULFA's 709 battalion have been trying to enter Guwahati and other towns ahead of Republic Day to create terror, but at the same time our security forces are on the job and hence been able to foil such attempts," the police chief said.

In separate raids, security forces have managed to recover a huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives, including 27 AK 56 assault rifles seized from a village home in eastern Assam over the weekend.

"The militants are definitely trying to smuggle weapons and explosives, but the good thing is that we are getting tremendous support and cooperation from the local people who are helping the security forces in thwarting all nefarious designs," Srivastava said.

Militant groups in the northeastern states of Assam, Tripura and Manipur have for years boycotted national events to support various demands.

There are some 30 rebel groups operating in the region with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination. More than 50,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in the northeast since India's independence in 1947.

Pakistan Assures Envoys of Fair Probe
into Mumbai Attack

By Muhammad Najeeb

In a bid to address international demands to book the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage, Pakistan Monday assured Islamabad-based foreign envoys of a fair and transparent probe into the attacks, even as India termed the investigations an "eyewash".

"The envoys were told that Pakistan will not hand over any of the suspects named by India, but assured them of fair and transparent investigations that would lead to fair trial in the country," an official in Islamabad said after the envoys from almost all major countries were briefed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Interior Ministry advisor Rehman Malik on the progress in the probe.

Several envoys also asked questions of both Qureshi and Malik about the investigations being carried out by Pakistan.

India, however, said not enough was being done.

"The efforts made by Pakistan till now on the 26/11 evidence handed over to it are an eyewash," Indian Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju told reporters in New Delhi on the sidelines of a function.

"If they (Pakistan authorities) don't do enough, we will do what is needed to be done to defend ourself," he added in response to a specific question.

According to Raju, "the civilian government is not one of the most powerful. The civilian power-centre is not strong enough to act on its own. I don't see them doing enough to bring the perpetrators to book."

The Islamabad official said that the briefing started from "the day when attacks were carried out in Mumbai and in almost over an hour, the envoys were told each and every thing till today."

The briefing was based on the findings by Pakistani law enforcement agencies on the "information" provided by India.

During the briefing, Pakistani minister and advisor repeatedly said that they require more "information" and "evidence" from the Indian authorities.

Qureshi also called upon the envoys to urge India to resume the composite dialogue without any delay. "We believe all problems can be resolved through bilateral talks," the official quoted a minister as telling the foreign envoys.

The interior ministry has already formed a team of experts to investigate the Mumbai attacks in the light of the information provided by India.

New Delhi has blamed militants based in Pakistan for the Mumbai terror attacks Nov 26-29 in which over 170 people were killed.

Malik said that his ministry has already directed the authorities to complete the investigations within 10 days.

"We are trying our best to complete the investigations as soon as possible but we expect that India would cooperate with us in this regard," said Malik.

In response to a question about the deadline for completing the investigation and India's demand for speedy investigations, Malik said that it would be difficult to give exact deadline but the initial report will be submitted within ten days.

He said Pakistan is cooperating with India wholeheartedly, and it is ready to take action against the culprits, if proved guilty of the charges being levelled by India.

The foreign minister said investigations were moving forward according to specific strategy and Pakistan would try to satisfy India about these investigations.

Qureshi said Pakistan wants peace. "However, if a war was imposed, it would retaliate."

Brahmos to be test-fired today
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, January 19
India will test fire surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missile Brahmos at Pokhran, some 160 km short of the Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan, tomorrow. Chief of Army Staff Deepak Kapoor will supervise the test.

Several tests of the missile, including its launching from a submarine, have taken place earlier with recent one in December last year only. Tomorrow’s test fire is being seen as India’s show of strength close to the border amidst the tension between the two countries over the Mumbai carnage.

The Army chief reached Jaipur today. His wife Kirti Kapoor, president of the Army Wives Welfare Association, inspected the War Widows Hostel in Vidhyadhar Nagar here. The Army chief would fly to Pokhran tomorrow.

BrahMos, named after the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers of India and Russia respectively, is the product of joint efforts of Indian and Russian scientists, under the joint venture company BrahMos Aerospace, DRDO of India and NPO Mashinostroyenia of Russia.

The 2.8 Mach supersonic speed gives the missile an edge over other missiles, which are sub-sonic at present. The missile can fly at 208 times the speed of sound. It can carry warheads up to 200 kg in weight and has a maximum range of 290 km. The missile is capable of being launched from multiple platforms based on land, sea, sub-sea and air.

Army hospital to pay Rs 12 lakh compensation
to Brigadier’s wife

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
The wife of a Brigadier has been awarded compensation of about Rs 12.5 lakh for suffering caused to her due to alleged medical negligence at the Army’s premier Research and Referral Hospital.

While deciding the suit in favour of the plaintiff, Sudha Garg, the Delhi High Court in its judgment last week also observed there were attempts to cover up lapses in the staff court of inquiry ordered by the Army authorities on the complaint of the plaintiff.

The suit of the plaintiff has been decreed jointly against the Union of India, Chief of Army Staff, Adjutant General, Director General Medical Services, Army Research and Referral Hospital and two army doctors for Rs 12.47 lakh along with interest.

The plaintiff had claimed negligence in performance of certain procedures in the army hospital, which had led to internal injuries and failure to treat these injuries. When the plaintiff had complained of pain in her throat and difficulty in swallowing, a doctor advised that her condition would settle down. Her condition, however, worsened and she was admitted to a private institute for 92 days.

The defendants claimed that the said procedures were attempted twice but were not successful due to the inability of the patient to undergo them. Further, the plaintiff had concealed that she had undergone an operation previously that had changed the anatomy of her mouth. The defendants claimed that there was no internal injury suffered by her as associated symptoms were not present and nor was there any link in the treatment given at the Army hospital and at the private institution.

The court came to the conclusion that the alleged aggravation of the plaintiff’s medical condition was a result of an attributable to the negligence of the defendants.

“It is held that the defendant is guilty of negligence and the casual connection between negligence and medical condition and treatments which the plaintiff had to undergo is established,” the court ruled.

The court also observed that It was not difficult to understand mental agony and pain suffered by the plaintiff and her family members.

The court assessed the non-pecuniary damages for suffering pain and mental agony to be Rs 2 lakh, with the remaining compensation going towards medical expenses borne by her.

Enemy next door
Threats from Pakistan army’s jihadi links
by Amulya Ganguli

A year after the adoption of the Muslim League’s Pakistan resolution, Jinnah told a gathering in Aligarh: “Let us, therefore, live as good neighbours; let the Hindus guard the south and western India and let the Muslims guard the north-west and eastern frontiers. We will then stand together and say to the world: Hands off India; India for the Indians”.

It is clear that Jinnah regarded himself then as an all-India politician, viewing India as a whole and Indians as a composite entity despite their various religions. These two concepts — the unity of India and the common identity of Indians — were to become the casualties when the Quaid-e-Azam’s “moth-eaten” Pakistan came into being. But, in Aligarh in 1941, Jinnah was still articulating the vision of his earlier political phase as the “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”, in Sarojini Naidu’s words.

There is basically one reason why Pakistan did not live up to this vision or the one visualised by Jinnah’s “Hindus will cease to be Hindus, Muslims will cease to be Muslims” speech on August 11, 1947. It was the deaths of Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan in quick succession which meant that Pakistan was deprived of any politician of stature (unlike India), who could ensure the new country’s development as a good neighbour. Instead, it fell into the hands of petty politicians, whose bickering enabled the army to take charge on the plea of restoring order. In the process, however, it inflicted two grave damages on Pakistan.

One was to stifle the growth of democratic institutions and the other was to perpetuate its own rule by fostering the bogey of India as the big, bad bully forever threatening Pakistan’s survival. The US, too, made its highly damaging contribution to this depressing scenario by describing Ayub Khan’s takeover as a “popular coup”, thereby legitimising army rule then and later. Washington was propping up dictators wherever it could at the time to counter the communists and deriding Indian democracy as a “functional anarchy”, in J.K. Galbraith’s words. It was a myopic policy which reached its most fateful climax when the US built up the Islamic zealots, including Osama bin Laden, in the eighties to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

But it is India which is facing one of the most critical periods of its post-Independence history as a result of these American-inspired events in Pakistan from the mid-fifties. While the earlier threats were from the army alone, the latest is from a dangerous combination of the army and the militant fundamentalists, which has its roots in the Islamisation of the military in Zia-ul-Huq’s time and the growth of terrorism in Afghanistan. This covert alliance between the army and its adjunct, the ISI, on the one hand, and the religious extremists on the other is a dangerous, as well unique, formation which is establishing a new precedent in modern history. Never before has an army been in cahoots with anarchic elements to fulfil its strategic objectives.

It is not difficult to understand why this partnership between an institution of the state and the so-called non-state actors is taking place. Pakistan lost both its two major wars with India. It was forced to make peace in 1966 when an advancing Indian army directly threatened Lahore, and suffered a crushing setback with the surrender of 93,000 soldiers in 1971 when Jinnah’s two-nation theory was buried by the secession of East Pakistan. Since then, the Pakistan army has never ceased to plan its revenge by trying to enact in Kashmir India’s success in Bangladesh. The 1999 Kargil misadventure of Gen Pervez Musharraf was one such attempt, but behind it was the grandiose game-plan of building up the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as an area of strategic retreat in the event of a war with India.

Pakistan may have lost Afghanistan after 9/11, but its tactics remained unchanged — to use the jihadis based in the badlands of the north-west and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to undermine India. In the words of Lashkar-e-Taiyaba’s Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, “there cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy”. What is alarming is that this insane hatred is shared by at least sections of the Pakistan army and the ISI, though not by the Pakistani people or the country’s civilian leadership.

The latter seem to have not only realised that India cannot be made to kneel, but the new generation of leaders in Pakistan also probably do not have any desire to make it do so. As any visitor from India to Pakistan has experienced, there is such an abundance of goodwill for them that often shopkeepers refuse to accept payments or taxi drivers their fares. It is worth remembering that the first series of cricket Test matches between India and Pakistan was in 1952-53, only five years after the traumatic events of Partition. Evidently, the ordinary people of the two countries had decided to forgive and forget.

Only the army and the ISI have retained their animus. In fact, their antipathy towards India is so great that they haven’t hesitated to foster the jihadi culture even if it hurts Pakistan itself, for the religious bigots have no time for democracy and other civil institutions which cannot but be neutral in the modern age. So, the highly unusual nature of the threat against India is obvious. It comes not from a country or its people, but from the army of that country, whose policies are at variance with those of the civilian leaders. The latter is also virtually helpless because the background of successful coups has made the army a law unto itself, which allows the civilians to rule at its pleasure. Otherwise, they will be toppled.

The events of the recent past confirm this assessment. As soon as the army realised that the new government of Mr Asif Ali Zardari is keen on friendship with India, it decided to nip such a development in the bud by organising an attack on Mumbai. There were other reasons, too, for its offensive. India’s economic growth, its proximity to the US via the nuclear deal and its rising stature because of its thriving multicultural democracy must have unnerved the Pakistan army, for it realised that India would soon become too successful and powerful a regional power to be contained any more. Pakistan army’s old preference for parity with India, which used to be encouraged by the US during the Cold War, would then have to be abandoned forever.

India’s growing presence in Afghanistan, where it is welcomed by the locals, was also a matter of concern to the Pakistan army. Not only had it lost its area of retreat, the total jihadi territory in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden lives, was shrinking. And it would shrink further when the new American President, Mr Barack Obama, introduced his proposed surge in troops in Afghanistan and carried out more aerial bombardment of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The Pakistan army and the ISI, therefore, didn’t have a moment to lose. They had to carry out a major strike against India with the help of their jihadi collaborators in order to provoke a war, which would refocus American and international attention on Kashmir. Perhaps the reports about Mr Bill Clinton’s appointment as a special envoy for South Asia were seen by the Pakistan military as an excellent opportunity to turn Kashmir again into a nuclear flashpoint, as in 2001 after the attack on the Indian Parliament. It is a manoeuvre which India must nullify at the earliest. Kashmir is a problem for future generations to solve, as even Beijing once said. In any event, India cannot discuss it as long as Pakistan remains the hotbed of terrorism and its government unable and perhaps unwilling to end the menace.

Israeli ceasefire
Set up a UN war crimes tribunal
by Robert Fisk

It's a wrap, a doddle, an Israeli ceasefire just in time for Barack Obama to have a squeaky-clean inauguration with all the world looking at the streets of Washington rather than the rubble of Gaza.

Condi and Ms Livni thought their new arms-monitoring agreement – reached without a single Arab being involved – would work. Ban Ki-moon welcomed the unilateral truce.

The great and the good gathered for a Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Only Hamas itself was not consulted. Which led, of course, to a few wrinkles in the plan. First, before declaring its own ceasefire, Hamas fired off more rockets at Israel, proving that Israel's primary war aim – to stop the missiles – had failed.

Then Cairo shrugged off the deal because no one was going to set up electronic surveillance equipment on Egyptian soil. And not one European leader travelling to the region suggested the survivors might be helped if Israel, the EU and the US ended the food and fuel siege of Gaza.

After killing hundreds of women and children, Israel was the good guy again, by declaring a unilateral ceasefire that Hamas was certain to break. But Obama will be smiling on Tuesday. Was not this the reason, after all, why Israel suddenly wanted a truce?

Egypt's objections may be theatre – the US spent £18m last year training Egyptian security men to stop arms smuggling into Gaza and since the US bails out Egypt's economy, ignores the corruption of its regime and goes on backing Hosni Mubarak, there's sure to be a "compromise" very soon.

And Hamas has had its claws cut. Israel's informers in Gaza handed over the locations of its homes and hideouts and the government of Gaza must be wondering if they can ever close down the spy rings. Hamas thought its militia was the Hizbollah – a serious error – and that the world would eventually come to its aid.

The world (although not its pompous leaders) felt enormous pity for the Palestinians, but not for the cynical men of Hamas who staged a coup in Gaza in 2007 which killed 151 Palestinians. As usual, the European statesmen appeared hopelessly out of touch with what their own electorates thought.

And history was quite forgotten. The Hamas rockets were the result of the food and fuel siege; Israel broke Hamas's own truce on 4 and 17 November. Forgotten is the fact Hamas won the 2006 elections, although Israel has killed a clutch of the victors.

And there'll be little time for the peacemakers of Sharm el-Sheikh to reflect on the three UN schools targeted by the Israelis and the slaughter of the civilians inside.

Poor old Ban Ki-moon. He tried to make his voice heard just before the ceasefire, saying Israel's troops had acted "outrageously" and should be "punished" for the third school killing. Some hope. At a Beirut press conference, he admitted he had failed to get a call through to Israel's Foreign Minister to complain.

It was pathetic. When I asked Mr Ban if he would consider a UN war crimes tribunal in Gaza, he said this would not be for him to "determine".

But only a few journalists bothered to listen to him and his officials were quickly folding up the UN flag on the table. About time too. Bring back the League of Nations. All is forgiven.

By arrangement with The Independent

Pak will share findings of 26/11 probe with India: Gilani

Press Trust of India

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 12:48 AM (Islamabad)

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday said that Islamabad will share with New Delhi the findings of a team of experts that is examining the information related to the Mumbai terror attacks, provided by India.

In his meeting with visiting British Defence Secretary John Hutton during which the regional tensions sparked by Mumbai attacks figured prominently, Gilani assured Hutton that all findings of the team will be shared with India.

According to an official statement, Hutton said he felt encouraged by Gilani's reassurances as this "would greatly help defuse the present situation in the region".

Pakistan's political leadership also told Hutton that cross-border attacks in the country's tribal areas by US and NATO forces based in Afghanistan were counter-productive for the war on terror.

Hutton, who recently assumed the post of Defence Secretary, met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to discuss bilateral security cooperation, the situation along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and regional tensions after the Mumbai attacks.

Gilani and Qureshi told Hutton that incursions into Pakistani territory by US and NATO forces in Afghanistan were "unacceptable" and counter-productive for the campaign against militants and extremists.

Calling for the US and NATO countries to strengthen intelligence sharing with Pakistan "instead of resorting to drone attacks", Gilani said such incursions affected his government's efforts "to isolate extremists from the peace-loving populace of the tribal areas".

US CENTCOM chief arrives for 2-day visit today

By Sajjad Malik

ISLAMABAD: US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief General David Petraeus will arrive in Islamabad today (Tuesday), on a two-day visit to help defuse India-Pakistan military tensions and discuss cooperation in the on-going war on terror.

Defence sources said he will meet Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani in Rawalpindi and get first-hand information about the post-Mumbai military build-up between India and Pakistan and its impact on Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terror.

He would also discuss the situation in Afghanistan and possible cooperation in the wake of an announcement by the incoming US administration to deploy additional troops, the sources said.

They said Pakistan would explain its capacity-building requirements and also highlight the issue of US drone attacks on its territory.

Pakistani defence officials will brief him about the operations in the Tribal Areas.

The two countries will analyse the existing mechanism for sharing intelligence and discuss how it can be improved.

It is General Petraeus’ second visit to Pakistan since he assumed the office last year. It comes on the day when the new US administration is being sworn-in in Washington.

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