DAWN - Opinion; 05 August, 2004

Published Aug 05, 2004 12:00am

Kashmir policy: an overview

By Shamshad Ahmad

As India-Pakistan "composite" dialogue moves ahead, both countries need to build a domestic consensus on their new approach for a "practical and achievable" solution of the Kashmir issue.

They also need to identify the likely areas of convergence among the parties concerned, including the people of Kashmir. This is a challenging task which would require a comprehensive review and dispassionate reappraisal of the two countries' Kashmir policies.

The governments in India and Pakistan have kept this issue alive for more than five decades through official and media rhetoric while the people in both countries have been yearning for peace.

It is time both sides showed courage and leadership to take their people into confidence on the internal and external costs of their confrontational policies and on the options they now plan to pursue during their on-going "composite" dialogue for a final settlement of the Kashmir issue.

For the past 57 years, South Asia has remained mired in tensions and conflicts. The root cause of these problems is the unresolved Kashmir dispute which has kept India and Pakistan perennially locked in a confrontational mode. Neither Pakistan nor India has gained anything from this environment of endemic hostility.

The two countries have fought wars and continue to pay a heavy price in terms of their compounded socio-economic problems and resultant human suffering. The clash in 1948, the 1965 war, the Kargil crisis, the volatile Line of Control, the recurring skirmishes at the "Working Boundary", frequent war-like military deployments and resultant tensions, and the perceived, ever-present Indian threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity are all directly related to Kashmir.

In the process, Pakistan has maintained a high level of defence expenditure at the cost of economic and social wellbeing of its people. Our people risk losing out on the march to sustained economic growth if they remain caught in a vicious circle of "conflict and confrontation" with India.

India is suffering too, but the time is on its side. Despite the losses and setbacks caused to its economy by its hegemonic policies and continued hostility to Pakistan, it has managed a place for itself in the world's Big League.

The Indian economy is on a steep growth path with a projected yearly increase of over eight per cent. Political stability and the strong democratic dispensation add to India's size, weight and influence on the world political scene.

We, unfortunately, remain beset with too many problems, on both the domestic and external fronts. Our difficulties have been exacerbated by decades of political instability, economic stagnation and social malaise.

For us, Kashmir has been a national cause which we have faithfully espoused since our independence. Moral dilemmas aside, time has come for us to weigh the infinite cost of our traditional Kashmir policy not only for Pakistan but also for the Kashmiri people who continue to suffer the most as a result of their uncertain future and the spate of violence and repression to which they have been subjected all these years.

While the Kashmir dispute has been at the centre of all our diplomatic exertions, the world at large has developed a fatigue and a lack of patience on this issue. Sympathy may be in evidence on the human rights front but nobody is willing to even suggest to India to show reason and deliver on its commitments on the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people.

This apathy found a resounding, albeit shocking, expression at the UN in November 2003 when a traditional resolution on the universal principle of the right of self-determination which we had been presenting in the UN General Assembly for more than a decade and which had always been adopted through consensus without a vote, was subjected to a humiliating vote called by India.

Out of total 191 UN members, only 88 (less than 50 per cent) voted in favour of the resolution. The overwhelming majority of member states, including four permanent members of the Security Council (and the self-avowed champions of freedom and democracy), abstained while a large number of countries deliberately absented themselves only because the resolution was viewed largely in the context of India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir.

The message from the international community was loud and clear: expediencies, not principles, are the norm in today's world.

Even the Islamic countries pay no more than lip service to the Kashmiri cause and that too only reluctantly in OIC forums. Otherwise, they are as indifferent as practically the rest of the world. The Arab countries, in particular, are too preoccupied with their own political and economic survival to identify themselves with the problems of the Ummah.

The US position on Kashmir has always been ambivalent and evasive of any role against India's wishes. It recognizes the dispute and declares that it should be settled in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, without any reference to the partition formula of 1947 or the UN resolutions.

This would appear to strengthen the view that Washington perceives the people of Kashmir to be in favour of independence.The Kashmiri diaspora, particularly the vocal Kashmiri lobbies in the US and the UK, tacitly endorse the "third option" which calls for an independent Kashmir.

Alternatively, within the US, Kashmir is seen as a very complex problem with legitimization of the status quo as the only viable solution. This is also the Indian preference.

Our friends, such as China, have been advising us to focus more on our country's economic development and regional stability and to put Kashmir on the back-burner until better times.

If anything, our nuclear capability limits our options on Kashmir. We must refrain from any new adventure in Kashmir. It would be a mistake to again cross the threshold of Indian tolerance which has lowered since Kargil and as a result of western support and sympathy for India.

Afghanistan and militancy in Kashmir have given us the ominous "Jihadi culture" making Pakistan the hot-bed of "extremism and obscurantism." The so-called Jihadi organizations, launched in the name of Islam and "liberation of Kashmir" have not only misrepresented Islam and its values but has also discredited Pakistan and the Kashmir cause.

Over the years, the Kashmiris' attitude has also evolved in a particular manner. Existence under the yoke of Indian subjugation and a half century's repressive and violent environment and a life of deprivation, mayhem and misery has bred bitterness and cynicism.

Many of them feel and openly say that both Pakistan and India have used the Kashmir issue to advance their own strategic and political interests.

Our Kashmir policy since the beginning of the dispute has gone through various phases. One constant, however, never changed: our total commitment to the cardinal principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter. No government, elected or non-elected, ever deviated from this fundamental policy which was rooted in the UN Security Council resolutions adopted on the question of Kashmir.

The Kashmir issue was taken to the UN by India in January, 1948 and remained active in the UN Security Council till the late fifties The Indian complaint was filed under Chapter VI of the UN Charter and not under Chapter VII, which requires mandatory enforcement of the UN Security Council's decisions.

The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions calling for the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan to be decided by its people through a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations.

In time, this dispute and the UN's involvement in its solution got embroiled in the cold war politics and the Russian vetoes killed any further prospects of useful consideration by the UN Security Council.

Even in the post-cold war era, Russia's unstinted loyalty to India and the international community's total apathy, especially the indifference of the major powers, the P5s, have prevented us from taking the issue back to the UN.

During my years as Pakistan's permanent representative to the UN (2000-2002), I knocked at the door of the Security Council every month in my meetings with its rotating presidents to test the world's "conscience", but the power politics within the Council blocked any formal discussion on the Kashmir issue or on the Security Council's unimplemented resolutions on this issue.

Our people need to understand that none of the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. There is no mandatory enforceability of those decisions, now reduced merely to be part of UN's voluminous archives. Their moral weight is almost inconsequential. In any case, in today's world, the UN is left with no authority or credibility.

There is no prospect of India agreeing to give up Kashmir through any UN-sponsored process or even under any bilateral arrangement. It should also be more than evident now that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. Wars and violent means have only aggravated the situation.

Over the years, we have also tried the bilateral track in pursuit of a negotiated settlement. Our efforts, however, could not move beyond rhetoric. In the early sixties, unfruitful bilateral negotiations took place at the level of foreign ministers. After the 1965 war and in the post-1971 period, internal problems in Pakistan kept us focused domestically.

The Simla Agreement, which closed a tragic chapter of Pakistan's history, generated its own dynamics which India continues to assert as an instrument of its own version of bilateralism in its relations with Pakistan.

In order to put an end to their "conflict and confrontation" and to establish durable peace in the subcontinent, the two countries, at their post-1971 debacle summit meeting in Shimla in 1972, agreed "to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them."

They also agreed that pending a final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side was to "unilaterally alter the situation" and both were to "prevent the organization, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peace and harmonious relations."

In its essence, therefore, the Shimla Agreement, if followed faithfully, binds India and Pakistan to reach a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute through peaceful means.

Any reference to this agreement in conjunction with the "principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations" would also underscore the commitment of the two countries to settle the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people as upheld by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Kashmir remained on the back-burner during the eighties on account of our pre-occupation with the Afghan war. President Ziaul Haq gave a fair chance to the Indian approach of "bilateralism and normalization first." His visits to Delhi and cricket diplomacy, and subsequently Rajiv Gandhi's visit to Islamabad failed to produce any tangible results.

To be concluded

The author is a former foreign secretary.

How West views Darfur

By Ghayoor Ahmed

The internecine strife in Darfur in western Sudan, which has already created a horrific situation there, could become a prelude to even a greater humanitarian catastrophe and destabilize the region if the parties concerned failed to recognize its gravity and work out a modus vivendi.

As a matter of fact, the tragedy in Darfur became more poignant because preventive action was either not taken or came much too late. The deadly conflict has already killed thousands of persons. About 1.2 million people are estimated to be internally displaced and up to 200,000 have taken refuge in neighbouring Chad.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who described the Darfur crisis as the worst humanitarian crisis, visited Khartoum between June 29 and July 3 this year to discuss the situation in Darfur with Sudanese leaders.

A joint communiqué between the Sudanese government and the United Nations signed on the conclusion of talks on July 3, inter alia, envisaged that the UN would do its utmost to help alleviate the humanitarian need of the affected population in Darfur, and the Sudanese refugees in Chad. The UN also committed itself to mediate in the problem.

The Sudanese government, for its part, is committed to implement a moratorium on restrictions for all humanitarian work in Darfur and remove any other obstacles in this regard.

The Sudanese government also undertook to immediately investigate all cases of human rights violations in Darfur, including those brought to its attention by the UN, the African Union and other sources. The government also gave an assurance that all individuals and groups accused of human rights violations would be brought to justice without delay.

On the question of political settlement of the conflict in Darfur, the joint communiqué stipulated the resumption of talks on Darfur in the shortest possible time to reach a comprehensive solution acceptable to all parties to the conflict.

The international community's role in assisting the implementation of an eventual peace agreement in Darfur was welcomed. It was also agreed to form a high level Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM) for this agreement.

The JIM will follow and appraise further developments and periodically report on the progress in the implementation of the agreement to the Sudanese government and the United Nations.

It is an irony that the West, particularly the United States, instead of commending the Sudanese government's cooperation with the United Nations to alleviate the ongoing sufferings of the people of Darfur and find a viable solution to their problems to ward off a bigger crisis has adopted a somewhat unsavoury attitude towards the African country.

Recently, the US Congress unanimously adopted a resolution describing the atrocities committed in Darfur as genocide so that Washington would invoke the 1948-Genocide Convention to intervene in Sudan.

The resolution also called upon the US administration to lead international efforts to intervene in Sudan. It is reported that Britain is also drawing up a plan for military intervention in Sudan.

It may, however, be pertinent to mention that UN officials have declined to denounce the situation in Darfur as "genocide". UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, said that the situation in Darfur cannot be termed as "genocide". The director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, who recently visited Darfur, also declined to use the term "genocide" to describe the situation there.

It appears that the West has chosen to use the human tragedy in Darfur to advance its political goals in that region which reportedly may have vast oil deposits.

A vicious propaganda campaign has recently been launched in the western media accusing the Sudanese government of following the traditional policy pursued by successive Arab governments in Khartoum to annihilate the non-Arab black Africans in Darfur who are also Muslims.

Apparently, this propaganda has been launched with the ulterior motive of causing a rift between the Arab and non Arab population of Sudan and needs to be countered effectively by that country.

The National Congress of Sudan has, in the meantime, warned that it would retaliate militarily against any attempt at outside military intervention in the crisis.

The Arab League has also voiced its resentment against the systematic campaign in the West for taking punitive action against Sudan and has demanded to give that country sufficient time to fulfil its commitment to redress the situation in Darfur.

For obvious reasons, the imposition of sanctions or any other punitive action against Sudan, will not help in producing the desired results. This would, in fact, be counter-productive.

The Sudanese government is believed to have already set in motion a negotiating process to resolve the underlying political problems which created the Darfur crisis.

Needless to say that the government in Khartoum shall have to focus on the real needs of the situation and, therefore, in all fairness, it should be allowed a reasonable time so that its reconciliation efforts may meet with success.

For obvious reasons, the international community cannot remain oblivious to the situation in Darfur which could of endanger world peace and security, specially since the conflict could spill over its borders.

The international community should, however, only provide support to the Sudanese government in its peace, efforts and refrain from threatening it with sanctions and other punitive measures, based on false assumptions of its insincerity and tardiness in implementing its promises.

One hardly needs to emphasize that the tough measures being advocated by the West against Sudan might discourage its cooperation in resolving the Darfur crisis.

The writer is a former ambassador.

What chance John Kerry?

By Iffat Idris

John kerry is not perfect. There are many qualities one would wish for in a presidential candidate that he lacks. He is not a naturally "people-friendly" figure: his hand-shaking and baby-kissing as he woos voters always has a slightly forced air about it.

He does not fall in the category of amazing communicators like Bill Clinton: Kerry's public speeches can be incredibly dull and tortuous. And, too often in his political career, he has come across as a conceder, someone whose vote is determined by the interests of his career rather than his principles.

So far in his bid for the presidency, these faults have held John Kerry back from making the political capital he should have out of his rival's many mistakes.

The rising US body toll in Iraq; the Senate intelligence committee report criticizing the intelligence used to justify war; the Iraqi prisoner aim abuse scandal; the war's manifest commercial nature; the rise in global insecurity; the huge budget deficit; cutbacks in social spending at home - all these are more than enough to place Kerry well ahead in the polls. That he and Bush are almost level is a reflection of his weakness as a candidate.

Why was the Democratic convention in Boston so important? It was a chance for John Kerry to silence his critics. It was a chance for John Kerry and the Democratic Party to show Americans that they present a credible, safe alternative to George W. Bush. It was a chance for the Kerry-Edwards duo to set the agenda for November's presidential election. Thankfully, it was a chance they did not waste.

Watching TV coverage of the American presidential elections, it is easy to make the assumption that all American voters must follow the news and be as familiar with the candidates and the issues as we are.

That is not always the case - particularly in a population as notoriously uninterested in current affairs-politics as that of the US. Despite having been a candidate and Democratic frontrunner for many months, prior to Boston Kerry was still a relative unknown for many voters.

The Democratic convention, watched by millions across the country, went a long way to raise his national profile, making voters aware of his background and getting them at least thinking about him as their next President.

Those tuning in found out that Kerry did have a privileged background, but that he studied and worked hard too. They came to know that he served his country valiantly in Vietnam, winning three Purple Hearts for bravery.

But following his principles, he returned home and gave up his medals to campaign for an end to the war. In his many years in the Senate he has gained a thorough understanding of the way America runs and the issues that face its next president. In all they discovered that he has the brains, the stamina, the determination, the values and the courage to be that next president.

Kerry supporters were justifiably apprehensive about how their man would perform at the podium - making what was probably the most important speech of his life. Thankfully, Kerry rose to the occasion and delivered a - if not Martin Luther King-league, then at least competent speaker-league - address to the American people.

In that speech, he got his anti-Bush message across but in a manner that was sober and restrained, rather than bitter and vindictive. That was true of the Democrats as a whole: (with the short-sighted exception of Al Sharpton) they resisted the temptation to have a Bush-bashing convention, choosing instead to focus on issues and policies.

Since, in the case of the Bush administration, these are unremittingly disastrous, focusing on them automatically blackened the president. A direct assault would have come across to uncommitted voters as petty: this indirect issue-based assault came across as mature - as presidential.

The message was presidential too. Kerry presented himself as a unifier - one who would heal the 'Divided' states of America created by George Bush. He presented himself as a multilateralist - one who would work with the rest of the world, and heal the many rifts with global partners opened up by George Bush.

He presented himself as an economic realist - one who would reverse profligate tax cuts and bring the budget back from deficit, one who would address the health care and education needs of America's underclass rather than the tax-evading interests of the super-rich. And in true Democratic tradition, he presented himself as a liberal - one who would protect the human rights of minorities, women and foreigners.

Most significant of all, was what he said about Iraq and national security. George Bush and the Republicans are and will try their utmost to present the incumbent as a 'war president', and Kerry and the Democrats as weak on defence. At a time when national security features so prominently in the American mindset, winning that battleground is vital for success in November.

In Boston, Kerry presented himself as a national security president - one who would not shirk from taking his country to war, but who would only do so if such action was justified, backed by solid intelligence and had a clear exit strategy. He would not wage the kind of foolish, politically-motivated, short-sighted war waged by George Bush in Iraq.

National security has traditionally been the domain of Republican leaders. Only a Democrat with the powerful credentials of "decorated war hero" could have mounted such an effective challenge for that high ground. 9/11 had a powerful silencing effect on US politicians (and media) - to have criticised the Bush administration ran the serious risk of being seen as unpatriotic and unAmerican.

For too long, Democrats refused to take that risk. Only a man like Kerry could have finally released the Democrats from the silencing shackles of 9/11, and put the war on terror bang at the heart of November's election.

Kerry in Boston was a success but it is, of course, far too early to celebrate victory. The Republican convention - massive publicity for George Bush - is only a month away. The Bush campaign chest is brimming with donations from his super-rich supporters.

The Republican machine - guided by ruthless advisers like Karl Rowe - has already started its vicious, smear campaign to malign the challenger. In short, there are still many many difficulties ahead.

The Democrats will need all the qualities they displayed at their convention - discipline, unity, focus, determination - if they are to overcome the Republicans in November.

John Kerry will need to reinforce the message he sent the American people from Boston - that he has charisma, that he is capable, that he has principles, that he is the best man to lead the United States - if he is to replace George Bush in the White House.

Wasted aid, elusive reforms

By Sultan Ahmed

Pakistanis are asking each other where the foreign aid of $70 billion has gone, and who really benefited from it, as large parts of the country continue to remain in a sorry state, even though it is over 50 years since the aid programme began.

How was the money spent over the years and decades, so that instead of the returns going towards loan repayment, we have been taxing the people to repay the loans and beseeching donors to write-off large parts of the debt.

The issue has come up before the US Congress in a big way, and donor agencies supported by US funds are being accused of massive corruption and waste of aid funds.

In a critique of World Bank aid to poor countries, economist, Murray Hiebert, writing in the Far Eastern Economic Review, argues that while aid often does not reach the poor in most countries, it is they who are now being forced to repay loans which they haven't received.

He quotes US Senator Richard Lugar as telling the Senate: "In its starkest terms, corruption has cost the lives of uncounted individuals contending with poverty and disease."

Critics of the World Bank in the US Congress say that the Bank should be doing much more in the battle against corruption. They argue that the Bank has achieved less than it could have in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and the Philippines because it has too often turned a blind eye to corruption.

The latter is estimated to have drained anywhere from between five to 30 per cent of the roughly $525 billion it has lent over the past six decades.

Severe critics of the Bank place the top figure wasted or lost at $100 billion, but World Bank President James Wolfensohn says that figure is 20 per cent of the total aid given and a wholly unacceptable figure.

He says he was the one who set up the Department of Institutional Integrity which has a staff of 50, including 30 investigators most of whom have been hired from outside the Bank.

The issue now is how to save as much as possible of the average annual lending of the Bank of $11.8 billion, and direct it towards the poor and others who need help desperately.

We can only hope that the debate in the Congress does not lead to a reduction of the US contribution to the World Bank and other aid agencies. American aid is already low and needs to be increased if the US wants to address the basic causes of global terror that is attracting recruits from deprived countries.

It may be argued that a great deal of money has been spent on education and public health, including population planning, over the years. Yet, after 57 years of independence, effective literacy in Pakistan is not more than one-third, and the literacy rate of women is much less, in fact under 10 per cent.

The largely foreign-funded Social Action Programme I and II ended as monuments of corruption and waste, and almost one-third of the people live below the poverty line of a dollar a day.

Some of the foreign aid came in the form of grants while a part of it has been repaid, leaving behind a foreign debt of $38.85 billion. No less burdensome is the domestic debt of Rs. 2,028 billion that carries with it an annual interest of Rs. 161 billion and is a big drain on our financial resources.

In case of aid for a project, the progress of the latter is before us, although it may cost far more than the targeted amount because of corruption and mismanagement, as in the case of large dams.

But in other cases, the impact of aid is far less visible, particularly where substantial amounts allocated for social and economic reforms are concerned. This is reflected in the latest report of $14 million allocated for training members of Parliament and the provincial assemblies.

It is a three-year programme, stretching from 2003 to 2005 - $5 million each for 2003 and 2004 and $4 million for 2005. The programme is halfway through, but we have yet to see any visible improvement in the performance of the legislators, central or provincial.

Nevertheless, we are told that training under the programme has been imparted to members of all the parties, including the religious ones. But nobody bothers about its efficacy as the money from the US administration comes as a grant to humour the legislators.

The training is imparted by World Vision which combines foreign and local talent. World Vision has been educating legislators and doing other noble deeds since 1950. It is assisted in its efforts by the Pakistan Institute for Legislative Training (PILDAT) which is headed by S.M. Zafar, a top lawyer.

We presume the first lesson the legislators would receive is to attend assembly sessions regularly, so that sessions are not frequently adjourned, as is the case at present, for want of quorum. If they have indeed received such a lesson, they have been ignoring it merrily. The assemblies' and Senate sessions are adjourned too often for want of quorum.

There was an ugly scene in the National Assembly on July 22 when the deputy leader of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal pointed out to deputy speaker Sardar Yaqub Khan that there was no quorum. Harsh words were exchanged between them before the session was abruptly adjourned.

In India, too, the Congress party that won the May elections arranged for training for the new legislators but many of them did not attend the lectures. Mrs Sonia Gandhi had to admonish the erring members and force them to attend the lectures.

Apart from receiving training in good parliamentary conduct at home, our lawmakers visit the parliaments of other countries by invitation in large numbers and return home to submit their reports on the good practices they saw there.

But do they practise any of that at home? No. They remain unaffected by the strong attendance in the House of Commons and the active interest its members take in the proceedings. Evidently, most legislators treat such visits as holiday trips or shopping sprees.

In return for such visits, parliamentary delegations from other countries are invited to visit Pakistan when we do have a parliament at times, and they are taken to the National Assembly as the session begins and there is proper quorum.

I presume World Vision also teaches the legislators not to split one Muslim League into 10 and then merge and re-merge these parts. In the same manner, are they also advised not to split one Peoples Party into six or more and then play around with the pieces? World Vision must have also told our legislators that parties have proper manifestos, and programmes of action, instead of all parties echoing the same slogans.

When our legislators visit foreign parliaments that have an effective committee system, they come back wanting the same kind of efficacy for the standing committees of the House; but after a while, following resistance from officials, they fall into the same old vacuous domestic routine.

Of course, there are issues like voters' access to members of parliament which is held secured, as well as the need for members to respond to letters from voters. But then, when the members are not educated enough they may not be able to read their constituents' letters and reply to them in writing.

However, in a feudal order where elections are not regular or frequent, where there are bonded voters and where polls are rigged, members of the assemblies have no such obligations to the others nor are any expected of them. So nobody brings a critical approach to legislator training as the money is a grant and not refundable.

It has also been reported that the Asian Development Bank has pledged to release $7 million to fund gender reform plans. This assistance complements the on-going $300 million decentralization support programme approved in 2002.

It aims at supporting the government's PRSP commitments to the Gender Reform Action Plans (GRAP) which is a provincial programme approved by the provincial cabinets.

We are getting financial assistance from the World Bank and others for administrative reforms, CBR reforms, judicial reforms, and police reforms. The total sum is indeed very large, and most of that is repayable.

Are we benefiting from these reforms, particularly the judicial and administrative reforms, or is the system getting worse? Where are the gender reforms going when there is strong support in the assemblies for archaic, grisly practices like karo-kari?

To reduce corruption, the World Bank is dealing with not only the federal government but also the provincial set-up and the local governments. That cuts red tape as well and saves a great deal of time.

Now the Sindh government is asking the centre to write off a part of its debt of Rs. 40.1 billion. It wants to lower its debt burden and pay back some of the high cost debt. The centre is reported to have asked the provincial government to reduce corruption and the waste of funds.

Meanwhile, the waste at the top is a source of concern. Lawyer M.T. Tahir has moved a petition in the Lahore High Court against unduly large and wasteful cabinets. He says the Punjab has 32 departments but has 42 ministers to take care of them.

When the departments are split, a third minister has to be nominated for coordination. Deputy attorney-general Danishwar Malik argues that the centre has 20 ministers, seven ministers of state and four advisers instead of the permitted five. But the federal cabinet is to be expanded and no ceiling has been set.

What we ought to do now is to make the best of the dollar and the rupee at the project-building stage, and after the projects are completed, make them work to full capacity.

The fact is that after 50 years of external aid we have become veritable aid-addicts. We want aid at the drop of a hat. If the aid comes as a grant or at very low interest rates we are all the more for it.

At the moment, the talk of external funds for reforms is for about $2 billion. There is no effective way of determining whether the funds have been well used. We should be able to fund reforms ourselves, including gender reforms, so that our commitment is stronger. Addiction to aid and sovereignty cannot go together. We should have no doubt about that.

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