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Thursday, 12 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 12 Aug 2010

  An ordeal of fire Musharraf's political plans face roadblocks
 THE declaration of former President Pervez Musharraf as a proclaimed offender by Pakistan's Sindh High Court for not appearing before it in connection with a petition filed by an activist of the Awami Himayat Tehreek seeking action against him for "disfiguring" the constitution and committing "high treason" shows that the former military dictator's proposed political comeback would be no cakewalk. While it is true that the court acted after issuing several notices for Musharraf's appearance, it is difficult to overlook the fact that his relationship with the judiciary was under extreme strain before he was forced to relinquish office over two years ago. Considering that he was once President of Pakistan and he is in self-exile in London, the court could have taken a less serious view but the adversarial relationship evidently played its part.  Significantly, several cases are pending against Musharraf in courts across Pakistan, and the UN enquiry commission's report also held his regime responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. The government of Asif Ali Zardari, Ms Bhutto's widower, says it wants to question the former dictator over her death. Pakistan police have also registered a case against Musharraf that could see him tried for detaining judges in 2007 as he desperately clung to power. With that backdrop, Musharraf's declared intent to return to Pakistan and make a political comeback has set his detractors working overtime.  The former dictator's perception that with the masses disillusioned with the present regime, this is the opportune time for him to return and make a pitch for power may well be mere wishful thinking. Not only would he be tied in legal knots from which he would find it difficult to extricate himself, his fledgling party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, would be up against heavy odds with the bitter memories of the trampling of democratic rights when Musharraf was President and military chief. Yet, one cannot completely put it past Musharraf whose skills of manipulation are undoubted.

Army convoy attacked near Rajouri, 1 killed
As per reports, an encounter started between the army and ultras after the latter attacked a army convoy which was going from Poonch to Rajouri. CJ: Nikhil Menon   Wed, Aug 11, 2010            AN ATTACK on an army convoy in Jammu Kashmir's Rajouri district claimed the life of a woman besides injuring several others, including two army jawans. The attack took place near Thannamandi on Tuesday night and the situation become complicated, when a civilian bus was caught in the crossfire between the ultras and the security forces.   As per reports, an encounter started between the army and ultras after the latter attacked a army convoy which was going from Poonch to Rajouri. As the encounter continued, a civilian bus was caught in the exchange of fire which led to the death of a woman, identified as Kiran Bala.     A number of passengers were also injured in the incident and they were shifted to local hospitals.   Police said that the militants opened fire on the army vehicles, a kilometer away from Thanamandi town. The troops also retaliated and rebuffed the attack but it is not known whether there was any casuality on their side.   The terrorists took cover in the thick maize fields that stood more than six feet tall, officials said, adding that this is also hampering the search operations in the area.   Incidentally, the heavy exchange of fire came in a day after Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh urged people to end violence in the valley. He also came up with creating job opportunities in the area besides creating sustainable economic development.

Rescue operations intensified in Leh, 151 foreigners relocated
  More than 150 foreign tourists trapped in Leh, where flashfloods have killed 165 people, were relocated to safer places on Tuesday as the Indian Army intensified its rescue and relief operations, officials said.  Army columns moved into some of the worst affected areas by trekking for miles through mud and debris. "This was a task the army has performed with extreme urgency and efficiency since Aug 5-6 when the flash floods swept away villages and flattened houses in Leh," an army officer told IANS.  "Several army columns have been deployed in Ladakh for relief operations. The tourists stranded at various locations have been relocated to safer locations and provided with the required medicare, food and shelter," Lt Col JS Brar, the officiating spokesperson of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, said in a statement.  "The army aviation helicopters have also been pressed into the evacuation of critically ill tourists from various locations in Ladakh for treatment to the Army Hospital in Leh," he said.  He said 151 foreign tourists of different nationalities were stuck at Lamayuru, a tourist attraction in Leh district, known for its Buddhist monasteries and monks.  The army has provided the required relief to them, he said.  The army has also requested its Pakistani counterpart to help in locating 28 soldiers who are missing after the tragedy and might have slipped across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries.  Kashmir zone Inspector General of Police Farooq Ahmad told IANS: "We have recovered 165 bodies so far, 140 of whom have been identified. The relief and rescue operations continue in Leh town and 12 villages adjacent to it."  About 400 injured are being treated in different makeshift hospitals in Leh town, he said.  The villages of Skyurbuchan, Baldes and Katchathang in Khalsi block of Leh district, too, have been affected by the unprecedented rainfall in the region.  Army is providing relief to them and camps for the purpose have been established.  Traffic on both the highways connecting Leh to Manali and Srinagar remains suspended. The process of clearing the highways and restoration of bridges is underway.  Leh is 434 km from Srinagar and 474 km from Manali in Himachal Pradesh, to which it is connected by an alternative highway.  The cloudburst occurred at Choglamsar village, which is situated above Leh town, causing flash floods and mudslides that washed away government offices, paramilitary camps and residential homes.  Among the worst hit are the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), many local hotels and shops.  The headquarters of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), a government polytechnic, an ITBP camp, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp, some government offices and the main transmitter of All India Radio Leh have been extensively damaged.  Situated at 3,524 m above sea level, Leh is spread over 45,110 sq km comprising the main town and 12 adjacent villages.

Permanent commission for women in army by Oct 
The government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it would consider giving permanent commission within two months to women serving as short service commission officers in the legal and education branches of the Indian Army.  The government has sought time to implement its undertaking.  An apex court bench headed by Justice JM Panchal stayed the contempt proceedings against the defence ministry arising out of a Delhi High Court verdict directing the grant of permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.  On July 26, the apex court asked the ministry to produce an army notification that makes women ineligible for permanent commission in the regular army.  The court direction came during the hearing on an appeal filed by the army against a verdict of the high court in which it was directed to extend permanent commission to women officer in the regular army.  The Indian Air Force has already granted permanent commission to women.  The ministry took the stand that a notification issued in pursuance of Section 12 of the Army Act, 1950 excluded women from getting permanent commission in the regular army.  On the face of it, the notification appeared to be in breach of constitutional provisions guaranteeing equality before law but it was not so, the ministry told the court.  Additional Solicitor General Parag Tripathi told the apex court that Section 12 of the Army Act was protected by constitutional provisions that permitted certain restrictions on employment in defence services.  Article 33 of the constitution empowers parliament to modify the fundamental rights conferred on the citizens, he claimed.  On Tripathi's submission, the court said these objections should have been raised at the threshold challenging the maintainability of the petition before the high court.  Counsel for respondent Babita Puniya said there was not even a whisper of these objections before the high court.

Poor Pakistan is best helped by providing aid with strings attached 
By Stephen King  Wednesday, August 11, 2010  POOR Pakistan: only on the cricket field does it ever seem to have any luck.  Ads by Google How to Convert to Islam How to convert and become a Muslim with Live Help by chat  First a series of leaked classified US military documents left its government scrambling to deny suggestions its secret service was covertly supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Then a plane on a domestic flight crashed in bad weather, killing all 150 passengers on board. Meanwhile, the country's commercial capital, Karachi, has been gripped by riots following the assassination of a local politician, leaving dozens dead. Now the Pakistani government – unpopular to begin with – is being criticised for its slow response to the appalling recent floods, the worst in decades.  The Irish Government has pledged more than €500,000 in relief aid, but the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto, jetted off on a grand tour of Europe, somehow finding time to drop by his vast French chateau. He also spoke at a political rally in Birmingham organised by the Pakistan People's Party – more a monarchical dynasty than a political movement – of which he and his son, Bilawal, are co-chairmen.  Zardari is a polo-obsessed businessman with a reputedly voracious appetite for kickbacks, infamously seeking while his wife was in power a fee of $200 million for a French jet fighter deal that never took place. Benazir was duly ousted in 1995 before the plans could be implemented. She personally wasn't above feudal plunder either.  President Zardari himself might be politically tone deaf, but Pakistan itself never has its troubles to seek. The country has not had an easy history. Partition, as Ireland knows – whatever the reasons for its imposition – is never easy to live with. For Pakistan, separation from India – even if it sought as much – brought its own challenges.  At least Northern Ireland could never totally deny its Irishness, even if some might have wanted to. Pakistan, however, by embracing a new name and a state religion, turned its back entirely on its past. It lost all claims to centuries of heritage that are now known to the world purely as Indian, never as Pakistani.  More than 60 years later, few – even Pakistanis themselves – really know what Pakistan stands for, except being Muslim and not being India. Throughout its comparatively short history, it has struggled with corrupt regimes and a jittery economy, continually battling inflation and unemployment. No investor ever mentions Pakistan in the same breath as India or China – or even the likes of Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey.  Comparisons with India hurt most of all, of course. While Indians manage multiple identities – high caste and Indian, low caste and Indian, Tamil and Indian, Sikh and Indian and so on – Pakistan struggles to claim its own nationalism. Religious and provincial identities too often supersede a Pakistani national identity.  Instead, Pakistan is a country at war with itself, caught between the twin poles of the military and the mullahs. Fundamentalism gnaws at the heels of the state while democracy is a poor, undernourished creature. Pakistan might have been a state since 1947, but is not a nation. Pakistan is a place and a people inside a certain geographical boundary but lacking the crucial components needed for nationhood: a strong common identity and a shared sense of history and purpose.  The lack of nationhood can be traced to the genesis of Pakistan and the single factor that drove it – religious identity. The founder of Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, based the struggle for Pakistan on the simple premise that Hindus and Muslims could never live together peacefully within one nation state.  So what is Pakistan supposed to be then, beyond being a homeland for Muslims? Decades after the horrific bloodbath of partition, the subject remains hotly debated. Jinnah himself died in 1948 leaving little behind by way of an ideology. Some hold him up as a liberal secularist, others as a proto-Islamist.  The country's basis in religious identity soon led to painful paradoxes. An overbearing West Pakistan rode roughshod over East Pakistan and became despised, leading to the creation – with Indian assistance – of Bangladesh in the early 1970s.  What Pakistan stood for suddenly became clear: revenge. Benazir Bhutto's father, prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, promised a "war of a thousand years" against India and started Pakistan's quest for the atomic bomb in 1972. While this served temporarily as a rallying cry, General Zia's military coup of 1977 that sent him to the gallows soon revived the identity issue.  Zia was determined to end once and for all the confusion about Pakistan's outlook. He sought to create an Islamic state – not just a Muslim one – where Sharia law would reign supreme. It was to be nothing less than a Pakistani version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Secular principles went out of the window, democracy was denigrated as unIslamic and religion was put front and centre of every sphere of life, public and private.  The effects of this revolution are now clearly felt. Having been schooled using textbooks that glorify martyrdom and malign all outsiders, the half of Pakistanis under the age of 18 are increasingly militant. Thousands of youngsters emerge from the dilapidated schooling system every year, unskilled and unprepared, cannot find jobs and eventually revert to distorted forms of religion when all else disappoints. Waiting for them with open arms are religious opportunists promising paradise for those who become suicide bombers for Islam.  Is it any wonder that a recent survey of young Pakistanis found that three-quarters identify themselves primarily as Muslims, while just 14% chose to define themselves primarily as citizens of Pakistan. With such deep concerns about the economic situation and corruption, though, is it any wonder so many see religion as an anchor and violent change as the answer to their country's problems?  WHAT'S needed is some nation-building. That means becoming a true democracy rather than a militarised state where the conflict with India over Kashmir is used as an excuse for the use of force against ordinary Pakistanis, sucking up all the country's resources and leaving it dependent on handouts.  The army has become powerful way beyond the realm of defence. Senior officers own vast assets including banks, estates, airlines and insurance companies. That needs to change, as does the concentration of power in Islamabad. A country with such a diverse and rapidly expanding population cannot be run without significant devolution of powers to the provinces.  The central government needs to stop micro-managing and concentrate on tax collecting: Pakistanis take their cue from their leaders and avoid paying their dues if they possibly can.  If and when the government can increase its revenues and divert them away from the army, it needs to boost spending on education – better schools with facilities for more than learning the Koran, as well as more status for teachers and a broader curriculum that encourages children to think for themselves.  It's tempting to give up on Pakistan as a failed state and the path to making a Pakistani nation is undoubtedly going to be difficult. But the international community cannot afford to ignore such a populous country, especially one with nuclear weapons. Perhaps the international community's assistance recovering from the recent flooding will provide an opportunity for some subtle pressure to bear.

Can the Army Salvage the Commonwealth Games?
 2010-08-11 15:43:33 Last Updated: 2010-08-11 15:48:47   RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review.   The run-up to the Commonwealth Games, which for us is an indicator of the health of the Indian nation, does not augur well.  The games are a critical reflection of our collective psyche, national character, sense of patriotism, individual and collective integrity, self-confidence and pride, governance, level of corruption, and most importantly, leadership.  Each of these aspects of national health seems to have acquired cancerous proportions, notwithstanding the repeated and revised claims of an upward trajectory in the growth rate of the country's economy.  For the past decade or so, the world has been seeing India as an economic and military power in the making. We seem determined to negate this growing impression by sabotaging the Commonwealth Games, an international event that we so enthusiastically bid for.  Citizens like me were enthused that the games would provide an opportunity to showcase 'A Rising India'. Instead, it seems to highlight some ugly truths.  Nations use such events to galvanize people and lift the sense of national pride. But such is the sense of despair amongst the Indian people, the organizers and the government that one wonders how the country and the countrymen will fare in the event of a full-scale war.  One segment of the political spectrum will be too happy if the games end up in a fiasco.  Given the fractious and opportunistic nature of Indian politics, the opposition parties can be absolved of their cynicism with regard to the games, but the deplorable part is the bitter criticism from some responsible members of the ruling party.  One of them publicly maintains that the games were a waste of money that could have been utilized for other purposes. The member is educated and erudite enough to understand the difference between "price of things" and "value of things" in the international arena.  Such statements by responsible people in the government have sown doubts about the very desirability of conducting the games.  Given the single reference point for leadership in the ruling party, it is difficult to believe that the politician concerned could be taking regular potshots at the games and their organizers without the tacit approval of the powers that be.  What we thus see is the ugly manifestation of this politics of "keeping the house divided".  The nationalistic component of our polity has been missing in the preparation for the Commonwealth Games. Our power-hungry political leaders cannot be national leaders who focus on our prestige and purpose.  The event also serves as a barometer of corruption in the country.  The culture of 'cuts' is facilitating the growth of carnivorous elements in politics, officialdom and citizenry, all raring to consume India.  They are killing the very spirit of India. Take the fact that there is no talk of preparation of our sports persons and teams for the event. We don't even seem to be bothered about their performance.  Contrast this with China's accent on its performance in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.  A nation does not become great merely by riding on an IT wave, or on nature's bounties; it rises by the virtue of the character of its people.  More than Mr Kalmadi and his team, the government of the day must be blamed for this mess.  In fact, it is a microcosm view of governance and accountability in the country. If the games end in a fiasco, the world will blame India and not Mr Kalmadi for the criminal neglect of collective responsibility and monitoring mechanisms.  Beijing Olympics was China's achievement, and London Olympics for which the British are fully prepared two years in advance is going to be Britain's achievement.  The Commonwealth Games could still be India's achievement. If the government thinks that the time period is short and the task formidable, it should immediately put the armed forces in-charge.  Recently, the Indian Army had very smoothly and successfully organized the World Military Games. Besides, I have met scores of concerned fellow countrymen, who are willing to come forward and pitch in voluntarily by the toil and even meagre resources that they have, for the sake of India's prestige and honour. Their only imperative is selfless leadership, which only the Indian Army can provide.

All you need to know about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act
 This week we give you ten facts to help you fully understand the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that has been at the centre of controversy in Kashmir and India's Northeastern states Sahil Makkar and Nikhil Kanekal     
On this weeks expert cheat sheet, we give you ten facts about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to help you fully understand the controversial act that is causing so much protest in Kashmir and the Northeast.  1. As separatist groups in India's north-eastern states grew more extreme, state administrations became incapable of controlling internal disturbance. This prompted parliament to initially pass a six month ordinance which gave the army special powers in disturbed areas. The ordinance was formalised into its present form - the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on 11 September 1958.  2. AFSPA confers special powers on armed forces in "disturbed areas" . This definition was initially given to include the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. It was then extended to Jammu and Kashmir as the The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act in July 1990. A Governor in a state or the Central government in Union Territories can declare an entire state/union territory or any part of it as a "disturbed area" and deem that armed forces are necessary to aid civil authorities.  3. Under the act, any officer of the armed forces if he considers it to be necessary, may fire upon or otherwise use force, even causing death, upon anyone deemed to be acting in contravention of any law or order, after giving due warning to those concerned.  4. The act also prohibits the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons. Officers can also destroy any shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made, or any training camp utilized as a hide-out by armed gangs.  5. AFSPA also allows armed forces to arrest persons without warrant, on suspicion that they are likely to commit a major offence. They may also use force if needed. They may also enter and search a premises without a warrant and make arrrests on the suspicion that property or arms might be stolen. In case of an arrest however, the army authority is duty bound to handover the person(s) to the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay along with a report on the circumstances of the arrest.  6. The central government has to sanction any prosecution, suit or legal proceeding made against any person who uses AFSPA to carry out his or her duties. This immunity provision was included to protect army officers from facing human rights violations.  7. Wherever AFSPA has been in operation, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial executions, torture, rape and arbitrary detention are routinely reported. In July 2004, a dozen Manipuri women marched naked behind a banner alleging the rape and custodial death of 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama at the hands of the Assam Rifles personnel. On 23 March 2009, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay asked India to repeal the AFSPA. She described it as a "dated and colonial-era law that breaches contemporary international human rights standards".  8. A committee to review ASFPA set up by the Union Home Ministry and headed by former Supreme court judge Justice Jeevan Reddy submitted its report to the government in 2005. The report recommended ASFPA be repealed. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission, and the Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir, have also recommended the repealing of AFSPA. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to amend the act in 2006.  9. Home minister P Chidambaram told Parliament earlier this month (August 2010) that it was incumbent on the government to fulfill its promise on amending AFSPA. His ministry has recommended several amendments to make AFSPA less draconian, as a result of the wide-spread criticism it has received. He also suggested its withdrawal from certain districts in Jammu & Kashmir where the Army is not deployed.  10. But the Army, with support from the defence ministry, remains strongly opposed to "any major dilution" or "phased withdrawal" of AFSPA from Jammu & Kashmir as of now. It holds that any such step will have an adverse effect on how armed forces operate in the state. Post Comments

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