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Archive for March, 2009

Targeting the real problem

Posted by :) on March 31, 2009

The direct consequence of Taliban rule of Afghanistan for India was Kashmir’s highest levels of insurgency. There is no greater strategic threat to India than the struggle that today encompasses southern Afghanistan and, increasingly, swathes of northwestern Pakistan. Islamabad’s severe allergy to an Indian presence in Afghanistan and New Delhi’s normal incoherence about its foreign policy interests mean that India’s primary influence on Afghan events is via Washington. India is, thus, among the countries that has the greatest stake in the Afghan policy review announced by US President Barack Obama on Friday. Despite the concerns expressed over the past few weeks, much of the policy echoes what India has long argued about Afghanistan. First, the review recognises that the troubles in Afghanistan and Pakistan are two sides of the same coin. More specifically, that the Taliban resurgence is a direct product of cross-border safe havens. Second, no player in the ‘Afpak’ region should assume the US will leave the region in a hurry. Mr Obama has appeased his party’s left by mentioning a 2011 departure date for US troops but has conditioned it on the elimination of al-Qaeda. Third, the review outlined a stepped-up civilian reconstruction programme, having more Afghan hands take over the country’s security and broaden Afpak diplomacy to include even non-neighbouring States like India and Turkey. This is sensible. Afghanistan is and must be more than a US problem. But ultimately the military and diplomatic burden of stabilising Afghanistan can only be borne by the US. Finally, there is no mention of allowing elements of the Taliban to share power in Kabul. The Afghans will decide their rulers by ballots alone. The weakest leg of the policy must surely be Pakistan. Many elements in Islamabad still believe that defeating the Taliban is more about getting Americans out of Afghanistan than it is about tackling the militant cancer inside Pakistan. The Pakistani military has proven unwilling or simply incapable of taking on the Taliban groups inside its borders. The review speaks of increasing aid to Pakistan and encouraging Indo-Pakistan “constructive diplomacy”. Indians can take umbrage at one sop to Pakistan – the failure to mention 26/11. But there was a time this was a reason for India to worry. Today, New Delhi needs to accept that this sort of language is increasingly less policy than it is therapy – for a nuclear-armed neighbour increasingly unsettled in mind and body.

Courtesy : Hindustan Times

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Posted by :) on March 8, 2009

Indians and Pakistanis are the same people. Why then have the two nations moved on such divergent arcs over the last six decades? The idea of India is stronger than the Indian, and the idea of Pakistan weaker than the Pakistani. Multi-religious, multi-ethnic, secular, democratic India was an idea that belonged to the future; one-dimensional Pakistan was a concept borrowed from the fears of the past. India has progressed into a modern nation occasionally hampered by backward forces. Pakistan is regressing into a medieval society with a smattering of modern elements. Pakistan was born out of the wedlock of two inter-related propositions. Its founders argued, without any substantive evidence, that Hindus and Muslims could never live together as equals in a single nation. They imposed a parallel theory, perhaps in an effort to strengthen the argument with an emotive layer, that Islam was in danger on the subcontinent. Pakistan’s declared destiny, therefore, was not merely as a refuge for some Indian Muslims, but also a fortress of the faith. This was the rationale for what became known as the “two-nation theory”. The British bought the argument, the Congress accepted it reluctantly, the Muslim League exulted. The Indian state was founded on equality and equity: political equality through democracy, religious equality through secularism, gender equality, and economic equity. Economic equality is a fantasy, but without an equitable economy that works towards the elimination of poverty there cannot be a sustainable state. India, therefore, saw land reforms and the abolition of zamindari. Pakistan has been unable to enforce land reforms. India and Pakistan were alternative models for a nation-state. Time would determine which idea had the legs to reach a modern horizon. The two strands within Pakistan’s DNA began to slowly split its personality. The father of the nation, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, thought he had produced a child in his own image, but his secular prescription was soon suppressed. His ideas were buried at his funeral. His heirs began to concede space to mullahs like Maulana Maudoodi who asked, in essence, that if Pakistan had been created to defend Islam, then who would be its best guardians? After some debate, the first Constitution in 1956 proclaimed Pakistan as an “Islamic” state. It was an uneasy compromise. No one cared (or dared) to examine what it might mean. The principal institutions of state, and the economy, remained largely in the control of the secular tendency until, through racist prejudice, arrogance and awesome military incompetence it was unable to protect the integrity of the nation. The crisis of 1969-1971, and the second partition of the subcontinent, which created a Muslim-majority Bangladesh out of a Muslim-majority Pakistan, forced Pakistan to introspect deeply about its identity. Perhaps the last true secularist of this Islamic state was the Western-Oriented-Gentleman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who came to power in 1971, preached emancipation from poverty and did not mind a spot of whisky in the evening. By the end of his six years in office, he had imposed prohibition. The ground had begun to shift even before the coup that brought Gen Zia to power. Zia had the answer to his own question: if Islam was the cement of Pakistan, how could you expect the edifice to survive if the cement had been diluted. Islam became the ideology of the state, not as a liberal and liberating influence, but in its Wahabi manifestation: compulsory prayers in government offices, public flogging, the worst form of gender bias in legislation, the conversion of history into anti-Hindu and anti-Indian fantasy, a distorted school curriculum, with “Islamic knowledge” becoming a criterion for selection to academic posts. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provided the excuse for the adoption of “jihad” as state policy as well as a medley of irregular forces, liberally funded by American and Saudi money. The madrassas became not only the supply factories for irregular soldiers, but also the breeding ground for armed bands that are holding Pakistan hostage today. If it had been only a question of an individual’s excesses Zia’s death could have been a swivel moment for the restoration of the pre-Zia era, particularly since his successor was Benazir Bhutto. But in the quarter century since his sudden death by mid-air explosion, no one in Islamabad has had the courage to change the curriculum or challenge the spread of the madrassas. There are now over 20,000 of them, with perhaps two million students, most (not all) of them controlled by extremists. Worse, prompted by thoughtless advice, Benazir engineered the rise of the Taliban and helped it conquer Kabul. The children of Gen Zia are now threatening Islamabad. Sometimes a simple fact can illuminate the nature of a society. During the 2005 earthquake, male students of the Frontier Medical College were stopped by religious fanatics — their elders — from saving girls from the rubble of their school building. The girls were allowed to die rather than be “polluted” by the male touch. This would be inconceivable in India. For six decades, power in Pakistan has teetered between military dictatorship and civilian rule. When the credibility of civilians was exhausted the people welcomed the army; when the generals overstayed their welcome, the citizen returned to political parties. Pakistan is facing a dangerous moment, when the credibility of both the military and politicians seems to have ebbed beyond recovery. How long before the poor and the middle classes turn to the theocrats waiting to take over? The state has already handed over a province like Swat to Islamic rule. Men like Baitullah Mehsud, Mangal Bagh and Maulana Faziullah are a very different breed from the mullahs who have already been co-opted and corrupted by the system. They have a supplementary query which resonates with the street and the village after 9/11: why is Pakistan’s army fighting America’s war against fellow Muslims? Any suggestion that Pakistan might have become a much larger base for terrorists than Afghanistan ever was is met with the usual response, denial. On the day that terrorists attacked Sri Lankan cricketers, I had a previously arranged speaking engagement at a university in Delhi before largely Muslim students. I began with the suggestion that every Indian Muslim should offer a special, public prayer of thanks to the Almighty Allah for His extraordinary benevolence — for the mercy He had shown by preventing us from ending up in Pakistan in 1947. The suggestion was received with startled amusement, instinctive applause and a palpable sense of sheer relief.


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Srilanka Cricket attck in Pakistan : In pictures PART-A

Posted by :) on March 3, 2009

A video grab shows a suspected gunman near Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday.
A video grab shows a suspected gunman near Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday.
Boold Stains In the bus
A bus which was carrying Sri Lankan cricketers is seen with bullet holes outside the Gaffafi stadium after it came under attack by a group of gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan on March 3, 2009. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudhry)

Police gather beside the wreckage of a police van in Lahore

A bus which was carrying Sri Lankan cricketers is seen with bullet holes outside the Gaffafi stadium after it came under attack by a group of gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan on March 3, 2009. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudhry)

Pakistani police officer gather around the dead body of a police commando at the shooting site in Lahore, Pakistan on March, 3, 2009. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudhry)

Pakistani police officer gather around the dead body of a police commando at the shooting site in Lahore, Pakistan on March, 3, 2009. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudhry)

The bodies of Pakistani police officers
Batsman Thilan Samaraweera

Batsman Thilan Samaraweera was reported to have suffered a gunshot wound.

Bodies of Pakistani Officials

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Sri Lanka cricket attacks: Kumar Sangakkara injured in Pakistan

Posted by :) on March 3, 2009

Sri Lanka cricket attacks: Kumar Sangakkara injured in Pakistan shooting Sri Lanka vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara was one of five players injured when gunmen opened fire on their team bus in Pakistan. By Simon Briggs Last Updated: 10:52AM GMT 03 Mar 2009 Sangakkara, Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis and Thilan Thushara were all treated for shrapnel wounds after the attacks in Lahore. The five team mates are expected to return to Sri Lanka with the rest of the squad later today. Thilan Samaraweera: On Monday, Samaraweera was celebrating his second Test double-century in a fortnight. A day later, he was in hospital, after suffering shrapnel wounds in his thigh. An off-spinning allrounder who turned himself into a top-class batsman, Samaraweera (32) is a vital cog in the Sri Lankan side, and one of the most under-rated cricketers in the world. This incident is sure to raise his profile, though for all the wrong reasons. Tharanga Paranavitana: A newcomer to the Sri Lankan side for this tour, Paranavitana is a 26-year-old opening batsman who captains the Sinhalese Sports Club team in Colombo. He has not had the most successful start to his Test career, scoring 30 runs in three innings, though any disappointment over his performances is likely to be forgotten in the wake of the horrific attacks in Lahore. Paranavitana was taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds in his chest. Kumar Sangakkara: One of the two key batsmen in the Sri Lankan side, Sangakkara (31) is expected to take over the captaincy from his friend and ally Mahela Jayawardene at the end of this tour. He is one of cricket’s most intelligent and personable characters, who has trained for a career in law and written columns in the Sunday Telegraph. The quality of his left-handed strokeplay has previously carried him to the No. 1 ranking among world batsmen, though he now stands at No. 3. He scored 104 – his 19th Test hundred – in the first innings of this abandoned Test. Ajantha Mendis: Surely the most exciting newcomer to international cricket in the past year, Mendis is a mystery spinner who can bowl a bewildering variety of deliveries with little discernible change in action. He was irresistible on his early appearances, though a slight fall-off in his recent returns suggests that batsmen are working out ways to combat him. Mendis was named the Emerging Player of the Year at the International Cricket Council’s awards ceremony last September. He will be 24 on March 11. Thilan Thushara: A left-arm seamer from Balapitaya, a coastal village in south-west Sri Lanka, Thushara (28) has been a fringe player for some time. He made his Test debut against the West Indies six years ago, but has only made three more appearances since.

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Eight dead as Sri Lankan cricketers attacked in Pakistan: police

Posted by :) on March 3, 2009

Criminal ACT

AFP/NDTV – A TV-grab shows unidentified gunmen fire their weapons during an attack on a vehicle carrying the Sri …

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) – Masked gunmen opened fire on the Sri Lankan cricket team’s bus in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Tuesday, killing at least eight people and wounding six team members, police said.

Up to 12 gunmen attacked the team’s convoy near the Gaddafi stadium with rockets, hand grenades and automatic weapons, triggering a 25-minute gunbattle with security forces, said Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman.

“They appeared to be well-trained terrorists,” said Rehman.

A police official said that two civilians and six police officers who were guarding the players were killed in the attack, which happened as the team was heading for the third day’s play in the second Test against Pakistan.

Television footage showed several gunmen creeping through trees, crouching to aim their weapons and then running onto the next target.

Crystals of broken glass littered the road next to a gun cartridge and an empty rocket-propelled grenade launcher. A police motorbike was shown crashed sideways into the road at the Liberty Chowk roundabout.

Bullet holes ripped through the windscreen of another vehicle and a white car was shown smashed headlong into the roundabout as nervous security officers guarded the site.

Pakistani officials gave no details about the fate of the gunmen who they said arrived at the scene in rickshaws.

Sri Lankan officials said six team members — five players and a coach — were wounded and that the team was immediately ending its tour of Pakistan.

Assistant coach Paul Farbrace and star batsman Thilan Samaraweera were kept in hospital although their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, said Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge.

Captain Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tharanga Paranavithana and Ajantha Mendis suffered only minor injuries, he said.

Samaraweera is one of Sri Lanka’s leading players and earlier this week became only the seventh batsmen in Test cricket to notch a double hundred in consecutive matches.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but fears of attacks by Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda have caused many teams to postpone or cancel cricket tours to Pakistan in recent years.

The shooting also came as the Sri Lankan army pushed its final offensive against ethnic Tamil rebels in the north of the country in a civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The brazen attack sent shockwaves through the world of cricket and immediately raised doubts about the 2011 World Cup which is due to take place in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

“What has happened is very shocking indeed,” said N. Srinivasan, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“We have been saying that there was a lack of security and safety in Pakistan. But this is not the time to give statements on that. At the moment our concerns are only for the Sri Lankan players,” he told AFP.

Former Sri Lankan cricket coach Tom Moody said he was stunned.

“My thoughts and prayers are not only with my friends in the Sri Lankan cricket team, but with the families of everyone that has been killed or injured in today’s attack,” he said.

The attack cast another cloud over Pakistan cricket which has been reeling from a string of cancelled tours and tournaments.

Australia earlier this month forced Pakistan to change the venue of a one-day series to the neutral venues of Dubai and Abu Dhabi when the two sides meet in April-May this year over security fears.

Australia, who also played Pakistan in three Tests at the neutral venues of Colombo and Dubai in 2002, have not toured here since 1998.

India also refused to send its team across the border amid heightened tensions in the wake of attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, which New Delhi blamed on militants based in Pakistan.

Last month, security concerns raised by other teams forced the ICC to move the 2009 Champions Trophy out of Pakistan.

The event was originally scheduled for last year but was put off after South Africa pulled out of the event and Australia, England and New Zealand showed a reluctance to tour because of fears about players’ safety.

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