DAWN - Opinion; January 8, 2002

Published January 8, 2002

The Gordon Brown Plan

By Shahid Javed Burki

SLOWLY — unfortunately, much too slowly for the comfort of many in the developing world — the West is beginning to recognize that global terrorism will not be defeated by military means alone. The rapid collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has shown vividly that the West’s military might and its mastery over technology for waging war from great distance can be deployed to crush a poor Third World country. But can the West win peace for its citizens by a series of military triumphs? Or, conversely, can the West shut out the rest of the world behind a high wall of protection and live comfortably and fearlessly?

Both questions have the same answer: no. And this answer may ultimately help shape the response of the West to the post-Taliban world. However, before a suitable response is fully worked out there will have to be a complete consensus among the people and the governments of the developed world on what was really behind the attacks of September 11. Some progress is being made in coming to such an understanding.

The immediate response on the part of many in the West to the terrorists’ attacks on America was that of extreme anger. Much of this anger was directed at Islam, and the countries that were largely Muslim. Samuel Huntington seemed vindicated. He had warned that after the end of the cold war and the collapse of European communism, the West had to prepare itself for another kind of war. This war, he said, will be between two cultures, that of the liberal West and of conservative Islam. But the war against global terrorism is not a war against Islam.

Now that the conflict in Afghanistan is nearly over and there is a realization that most Muslim countries are as concerned about global terrorism as the people and the governments in the West, there is now greater willingness to search for answers to the question: “Why do so many people in the developing world hate the West — in particular America — to such an extent that they are prepared to sacrifice their lives to register their anger?”

The real answer should have been obvious once the question got asked. There is anger in many parts of the developing world about the growing economic gap between the rich and the poor. This anger could be contained if those who are poor could look at the future with some optimism. But hope is hard to nurture when the evidence points to the direction of a rapidly growing gap between the world’s developed and developing countries. For instance, in 1999 the ratio of average US incomes to those of Sierra Leone in Africa — one of the world’s poorest countries — was seventy to one; on current trends, it will reach at least 120 to one by 2050.

While this is perhaps an extreme case, most developing nations have been constantly falling behind. East Asia is the only developing region for which the income gap with the West has narrowed somewhat. Between 1965 and 1999, real incomes per head of the population of rich countries rose at 2.4 per cent a year, against 1.6 per cent a year for the world as a whole. All developing regions saw the gap between them and the West increase measurably.

This widening of the gap should not have led to such anger as witnessed on September 11 had two things not accompanying it: one, the growing perception among the citizens of the developing world that they were being made to play on an uneven field; and two, the equally strong feeling among the same people that their governments had little respect for them and even little interest in promoting their welfare.

Let us first look at the first perception. According to Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, that the world’s elite enjoys vastly superior incomes “is the fruit of the physical, human, social and intellectual capital accumulated by its forbears over centuries. These ancestors did a remarkable job in seizing their opportunities. But they also enjoyed a favourable environment and first mover advantage in exploiting the world’s resources, from the America’s to oil and the atmosphere.”

One manifestation of the advantage gained and maintained is, of course, the use of the earth’s atmosphere. The world’s rich countries used just over one half of the total output of commercial energy in 1998. America consumed 23 per cent of the total. The ratio of US consumption of energy per head of the population to that in developing countries was eight to one; for all developed countries, it was a bit lower, 5.5.to one. Consequently, 47 per cent of all emissions of carbon dioxide in 1997 came from rich countries. Their emissions per head of the population were five times those of developing countries. American emissions per head were eight times those of the poor countries taken together, seven times China’s and 18 times India’s.

And yet America under President George W. Bush walked out of the Kyoto protocol aimed at protecting the earth’s atmosphere. This action was seen as an extremely arrogant display of power by a country that could exercise its might without being challenged. The United States seemed willing to ignore the rest of the world when its own narrow interests were threatened. For many troubled by this kind of behaviour, America needed a wake-up call.

The second perception about the failure of their own governments to aid the Third World citizenry is even more acute than the troubled feeling about the growing divide between the rich and the poor. In moments of deep distress, fiction holds a good mirror to the world. The growing anger of the people in many parts of the developing world at their own governments has been seeping into fiction now for some time. Let me take just one example. Because of the objections to his work by his own government, Sanaullah Ibrahim of Egypt had to go to Beirut, Lebanon, to publish his novel, “The Committee.” When the novel finally appeared in Egypt in 1981 it provoked controversy throughout the Arab world.

“The Committee” tells the story of a long interview to which its anti-hero is subjected presumably in his search for a government job. At one point, the inquiring committee asks the interviewee to tell them by “which momentous event among the wars, revolutions or inventions will our century be remembered in the future?” The narrator plumps triumphantly for Coca-Cola, and in an “inspired riff he speaks of its history, its iconic status, and celebrates that authentic Coca-Cola is once again available in Egypt after being banned by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime.”

The book’s real target is Egypt of Anwar Sadat which the author sees as the product of the policy of opening the country to foreign investors and encouraging them by offering all sorts of tax incentives and legal exemptions. “Fat cat entrepreneurs grew rich while the real wages of most Egyptians declined. But at least Coca-Cola was once more available.” This anger was directed not only at the governments that held sway over these unhappy citizens. It was also aimed at America since it was seen to be the great protector of these regimes.

How should the West and the governments of the developing world respond to these feelings of enormous despair that have become so prevalent in recent times? This question has come to be asked with considerable seriousness in many western quarters. One answer has come from Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer. “Courageous American leadership is winning the war against terrorism, but can we win the peace?” he asked in a recent newspaper article. His answer is “yes” provided the world’s rich countries are prepared to commit a large amount of their resources to solving the problem posed by economic backwardness and persistent poverty in much of the developing world.

“After World War II American visionaries seized a powerful and unprecedented moment of opportunity. They created not only a new military and political settlement but a new economic and social order that tackled, in their own words, ‘hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos’. And their plan, the Marshall Plan, transferred one per cent of national income every year, for four years, from America to poverty-stricken countries — not as an act of charity but in recognition that, like peace, prosperity was indivisible and to be sustained it had to be shared,” wrote Brown.

As its name suggests, the Marshall Plan was the brain-child of the United States secretary of state who was one of the prominent leaders of the war against Nazi Germany. General George Marshall presented his plan to reconstruct war-torn Europe in an address to the graduating class of 1947 at Harvard University. The idea won quick acceptance since most people who had reflected on the causes of the Second World War had recognized that this time around — as against the approach adopted following the victory over Germany in the First World War — those who had triumphed could not afford to take revenge on the entire citizenry of the defeated nations. Germany and Italy had to be given the chance to develop their economies and join the rest of the developed world.

Recognizing that something similar needs to be done after the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the British chancellor of the exchequer has proposed a four-point plan. According to his scheme, the first step would be for every country, rich and poor, to adopt “recognized codes and standards for fiscal and monetary policy — rules that assist macroeconomic stability, deter corruption and build investor confidence in unstable regions”.

The second step is to adopt “effective early warning procedures, making the International Monetary Fund’s surveillance and monitoring functions independent of decisions about crisis resolution, and the private sector’s engaging on a more consistent basis as partners in development.

The third step in the Brown Plan is to be taken on the premise that economic stability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for attaining prosperity.

“Developing countries must make themselves attractive to both domestic and foreign investors, not least with sound legal systems for contracts and business forums that bring public and private sectors together to discuss the best environment for higher levels of investment and intra-regional trade.” The chancellor offers a bit of arithmetic to illustrate this part of his argument. He believes that full trade liberalization could lift 300 million of the world’s more than one billion poor people out of poverty. Accordingly, “the third step is to carry out the Doha agreements”.

The fourth and final step is for the developed world to take. “No country genuinely committed to open, corruption-free, pro-stability and pro-investment policies should be denied the chance to progress because of the lack of basic investment in education and health. A $50 billion-a-year investment fund that invites applications for health, educational and anti-poverty work will help build the capacity of the poorest countries for sustainable development and is the high road to more just and inclusive global economy.”

Will the world proceed on this high road? Says Brown: “We will advance social justice on a global scale as today’s global alliance for peace is transformed into tomorrow’s global alliance for prosperity.” To this I should perhaps add “Amen.”

Building a tolerant society

By Naeem Sadiq

IN October 2001, Sufi Mohammad after taking over parts of Swat, Dir and Karakoram Highway, led his 5000-strong army of Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-I-Mohammadi to attack the US forces operating in Afghanistan, with weapons ranging from World War 1 antiques to mortars used by modern day armies.

The fact that most of these illiterate and misguided soldiers lost their lives to unfriendly daisy cutters, and Sufi, who had himself never seen either an American or an aeroplane, deserted the battle-field, ran for his life, and ended up in a Pakistani jail, with a cosmetic three-year sentence, perhaps for not possessing valid travel documents.

In December 2000, Maulana Akram Awan marching with his private army of ten thousand misguided zealots, camped at Chakwal, and threatened to capture Islamabad, the capital of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, if the laws considered Islamic in the medieval mind of Maulana were not promulgated throughout the country. The government was so unnerved that it sent a delegation consisting of the home secretary, inspector-general police and the minister for religious affairs to please, pamper and compensate the Maulana and convince him to return with his army to wherever he came from. Having never met an official beyond the rank of the SHO, the Maulana was so moved at the top officials of the nuclear state obsequiously falling at his feet, that he withdrew without a battle, and declared to come back next year to implement his promised mission.

For ten long years many Madressahs of Balochistan retained the dubious distinction of operating as the world’s largest nursery for producing teenage soldiers.

Till a few days back travelling between Lahore and Peshawar by road, one could see dozens of sign-boards offering short cuts to paradise to those who sought recruitment in one of the many private armies operating under the names such as Jaish-i-Mohammad, Lashkar-i-Taiba or Harkat-ul-Majahideen. The proliferating religious fervour of these private armies has resulted in the creation of downstream sectarian militant organizations whose strong sense of loyalty to their own brand of ideology requires killing of every one else who does not subscribe to their point of view. The brother of the interior minister was shot to death two days after the minister articulated his much belated intention of curbing the religious extremists. The private armies thus freely rule and till recently even collected “bhatta” (compulsory donations) in the land of the pure, making a mockery of the writ of the state. This phenomenon often generically referred to as “Talibanization” of society remained unchecked till recently when its excessive export drew an angry response from the world at large as well as the already fed up neighbours.

Pakistan’s primary think tanks remain pathologically addicted to a frozen world view based on a dogmatic and bigoted understanding of religion, emphasis on rituals instead of spirit, hatred instead of tolerance, ideological slogans instead of service to people, state agencies instead of participative institutions, abhorrence to science and technology, deep disinclination to reason and rationality, obsession with female behaviour and dress, and the megalomaniac self-image as the flag bearer and champion of the cause of Ummah, (not one of the Ummah countries offered even a lip service of support at the time of India-Pakistan stand-off.)

While the large majority of Pakistanis are as moderate, tenacious, vibrant and enterprising as the people of any other country, their rightful place amongst the developed and civilized nations of the world has been a hostage to tribal traditions, private armies and religious fanatics who forcibly dictate the social order of the country. Only a week back the Orakzai tribes got together to declare photography as an offence punishable by demolition of the offenders’ house and a fine of one million rupees.

The events of September 11 in many ways provide a unique opportunity and impetus for Pakistan to re-evaluate its direction and make a conscious decision to make a departure from the past. It can choose to follow the path that has enabled other nations to pursue progress, prosperity and enlightenment. Alternately it can remain glued to its ancient and obsolete mindset, and gradually acquire the status of an irrelevant and failed state.

Any nation must first address issues that are vital to itself and its own citizens. For Pakistan these are issues of creating a just and civil governance mechanism, education, industry, addressing poverty, and providing host of basic amenities and services to its burgeoning population. For too long the voluntarily adopted culture of obscurantism has come in direct conflict with the scientific and rational methods that could be applied towards solving these issues. The bigoted clergy, the Lashkars, the Sipahs, the Jaishes, the agencies and the increasingly bureaucratic and incompetent state machinery are either completely reluctant to change for the better or desire a change in the reverse direction only.

The first step is to realize that there can possibly be no sanity, peace or progress in Pakistan, as long as it retains a multitude of fully loaded private armies, each in pursuit of its own brand of intolerance and bigotry. It is time for Pakistan to realize that the private armies representing the feudal and tribal thinking of the medieval times are simply not compatible with how the progressive, modern nations pursue their interests and conduct their business in the 21st century. There can be no serious investment or development interest by any outsider (for that matter even insiders) in a state ruled by private armies eternally at war within and without.

The first step towards peace and progress must therefore begin by firmly disbanding and disarming all militant religious, political and tribal organizations in Pakistan. This needs to be done as a national challenge and not like the lame, half hearted, incompetently managed and half way aborted earlier de-weaponization campaign. It is also the time to extend the rule of law to areas and tribes that hitherto made their own laws. The days of private armies and the ‘wild west’ must come to an end if a new beginning is to be contemplated. While this may also be a high profile international demand, it is essentially for its own good that Pakistan clean up its militant backyard. It is only through creating a law-abiding, pluralistic and tolerant society that Pakistan can hope for peace, progress and dignity in the years to come.

Food not guns: ALL OVER THE PLACE

By Omar Kureishi

I WAS 20-year-old when Pakistan and India became masters of their destiny, two sovereign nations. The leaders of both were given to saying that the future belonged not to them but to my generation. When it came to our turn, we inherited the present and the future looked distant, as the years passed by and we in turn said that the future belonged to the generation that would come after us and more years passed by. There is still no sign of the future.

What were our expectations? We did not, realistically believe, that we would build a heaven on earth but we hoped that we would begin with the foundation and not the roof in building our national home and this would mean that the people would come first, not the leaders and their kith and kin and what would emerge as a ruling elite. We did not want that we should exchange one set of rulers for another.

Both countries were rich in resources including human resources but an overwhelming number of them were desperately poor for whom even one square meal a day would have been a feast. And they still are, because the population has grown and there are that many more mouths to feed. The number one priority for both countries would have been a war on poverty, not a war on each other. It is now 2002 and can we say that the people are now better fed, have better health care, safe drinking water, that the quality of their lives has improved by even a fraction?

I write this in the context of the war fever that is raging, as armies are being massed on the borders, villages along these borders are being evacuated, civil defence exercises are being carried and both countries are preparing for a war that will be ruinous. It defies all reason. It is callous too.

It is hard to know who speaks for India. Is it Mr. Vajpayee but he blows hot and cold? One day he says that he will change the face of Pakistan and use all weapons at his disposal, which presumably includes the nuclear option. Then very next day, he says that war is not inevitable and he would go more than half way to avoid it. There seems little doubt that passion for war is being fuelled by the hawks, the hardliners.

One does not include Mr. Vajpayee among the war-mongers. If this is the case, then it is clearly a dangerous situation because a group of people are exercising authority without responsibility, beating war drums, working up the hysteria, showing the true face of Hindu fundamentalism, the face of Godse who shot Mahatama Gandhi in cold blood, acting not alone, but on behalf of a political party, the forebears of the BJP. Gandhi was pleading for peace between the two countries and an end to communal hatred. He was planning to visit Pakistan.

I heard the speech delivered by Bill Clinton on BBC, the Richard Dimbleby lecture and hoped that Indian leaders would have heard it too. He outlined the burdens of the twenty-first century: “Half the people on earth are not a part of that new economy I talked about. Think about this when you go home tonight. Half the people on earth live on less than two dollars a day. A billion people, less than a dollar a day. A billion people go to bed hungry every night and a billion and a half people—-one quarter of the people on earth—-never get a clean glass of water. One woman dies every minute in child birth.” These are staggering statistics. But that was not all. He went to disclose that this year one in four of all the people on earth who die, will die of AIDS, TB, malaria and infections related to diarrhoea.

Most of them, little kids that never get clean water. He said that if we just took AIDS alone, there are forty million cases, that is 8, 200 people a day dying. And this should be of particular interest to the Indian leaders. The third fastest growing rate of AIDS and the largest number of cases outside South Africa are in India.

There was much more in his speech but I have fastened on to the statistics on global poverty because the last thing, the very last thing that the countries of the Third World should be thinking of is war. Unless poverty and healthcare and literacy are tackled on the basis of an emergency, we run the risk of global de-stabilization. Even the Developed World is looking hard at itself, concerned about various social disparities. The Third World is counting on charity from richer countries, not prepared to invest their own resources on social reform, preferring to invest them on armaments and on palatial public buildings, airport terminals and other utterly useless and obscene projects.

The year 2002 is going to be a very important year, not only for the people of Pakistan and India but the entire world. It is obvious that we won’t be able to bungle along as we have been doing so. It is not terrorism that threatens the world. The battle against terrorism can be won militarily but that would only be a short-term solution.

The long-term solution lies in cleaning up the social environment in which terrorism breeds. If the same money that is being invested in fighting terrorism was to be invested in fighting global poverty and the many injustices it creates, the world would not only be a better place but a safer one. Imagine what it cost the United States and the then Soviet Union to acquire nuclear arsenals. All those bombs and missiles have become museum pieces. But the idea that Pakistan and India, two poor countries, with half of their population living below the poverty line, should be on the brink of war, would have been too absurd to consider seriously, had it not been real. Fifty-four years since both countries became independent. And very little to show for it. This is a form of betrayal.

Judging by appearance

JUDGING people by their appearance or ethnicity is a fuzzy, fickle business, as several recent stories make clear.

In Baltimore, an American Airlines pilot and airport police vigorously questioned a man of Arab descent and — while they contend race had nothing to do with the matter — ultimately removed him from a flight to Texas. It turned out that the man was just who he said he was: a Secret Service agent on his way to protect President Bush.

On the other hand, when a man with a British passport and the decidedly un-Arab name Richard C. Reid allegedly tried to ignite shoes filled with plastic explosives on a Paris-to-Boston flight, attendants called on a tall passenger named Kwame James for help — apparently oblivious to the fact that he was engaged in an activity that racial profilers would once have deemed suspicious: Flying While Black.

African Americans say they’ve noticed this phenomenon often since Sept. 11. When a passenger became unruly on a Christmas Day flight from Houston to LAX, for instance, the crew rushed up to a black passenger and asked, “If we need you, will you help?”

“I’m there,” the man said without hesitation, no doubt marvelling at how quickly people turn from profiling one group as a possible threat to looking to them as allies against whomever the latest conventional wisdom identifies as dangerous. —Los Angeles Times

Is December 13 the Kargil of 2001?: NOTES FROM DELHI

By M. J. Akbar

KARGIL came out of the blue, or rather the white of the Himalayan mountaintops, for the Vajpayee government. Not to mince any words, Kargil was a massive intelligence failure. For months armed men had been creating a bulwark from which they could threaten Indian defence forces and, prospectively, the stability of Jammu and Kashmir, and the government in Delhi had absolutely no idea of what was happening, not on the hostile side of the Line of Control but on our side. Three factors shaped the story of Kargil.

The first, and most important, was the capability of our security forces and systems. Once the Indian armed forces became aware of the extent of their challenge, they did not need any further psychological persuasion. Pepsi has probably never had a more successful slogan than the line that still swims across the audio-visual waves: Yeh dil maange more! That is what the jawans were saying as they mobilized and climbed up towards the peaks that had been lost to intruders.

The second was the ability of the BJP government to convert an administrative disaster into a political coup. Crucial to this turnaround was the credibility of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee then higher than ever thanks to a disastrous victory won by the Opposition in the parliament. A no-confidence motion against the Vajpayee government had been carried by one controversial vote, and instead of offering an alternative government, a dysfunctional Opposition fractured in full view of television cameras. Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav tripped Sonia Gandhi’s efforts to lead a new government; while she gave sufficient evidence of the fact that no one had taught her to use the political abacus. In comparison, Vajpayee, with the help of information and broadcasting minister Pramod Mahajan, was brilliant in the management of a war environment and particularly in the use they made of the betrayal of their Lahore initiative. By the end of the Kargil war, and before the beginning of the general election, the voter was telling Vajpayee: Yeh dil mange more!

The third was the inability of the Opposition parties, and particularly the Congress, to formulate a viable response. They were buried in an avalanche, and whatever Sonia Gandhi managed to suggest from under the Kargil snow sounded weak, unconvincing and often contradictory. She was given what can only be described as typical Congress advice by those in the party who have made seniority their principal virtue. They told her that the government should not be criticized because that would be the unpopular thing to do. Sonia Gandhi, perhaps also nervous about her status as a person of foreign origin, was unable to draw a dividing line between support for a national cause, the war effort, and criticism of those who had allowed the situation to deteriorate on the borders. The Communists of Bengal, who are articulate and understand politics, did so and preserved their base. No voter thought Jyoti Basu was unpatriotic.

The BJP has convinced itself that the startling mission that broke through the outer security cordons of the parliament and nearly pulled off a remarkable terrorist achievement is the starting point of its return to the public favour that it has lost during two years of mismanagement. I deliberately do not call it a suicide mission, because while the terrorists were certainly ready to risk their lives, death was not part of their end-game.

As is now clear from the available evidence or equipment and supplies that they carried, they wanted to hold a sufficient number of the highest rung of politicians hostage and then bargain with the Indian government over at least ten days to get a number of demands met. This was a Kandahar operation on a far more dramatic and demanding level. The five terrorists had a last full meal at Karim’s in the Jama Masjid area before their operation, but it was not meant to be a last breakfast. They carried with them enough nourishment to last ten days. I suppose they had estimated that it would take about this long for the will of the government to crumble.

At least one parallel with Kargil works, which is why a government that might have crumbled along with any collapse of nerve is enthused about revival instead. Once the security apparatus of Delhi understood the level of the challenge, and it did so in remarkably quick time, it responded with efficiency and effect. Hard task-masters will still ask why CRP sharpshooters used so many rounds, but that is only a part of the drill for even better capability. A grateful government is not counting the number of rounds.

A second parallel is also becoming manifest. Luck. If the Vajpayee government had been replaced after the no-confidence vote two and a half years ago, and a prime minister like Jyoti Basu been in the chair when Kargil broke, one can imagine the havoc that he would have wreaked politically on the BJP. The armed forces would have done their job irrespective of whether their prime minister was Vajpayee or Basu since both have the good sense not to interfere with professionals, and provide all the logistical support they need. But a non-BJP prime minister would have used the information available to tell people how the previous government was sleeping while the mountains on the Line of Control were awake with preparations for war.

On December 13 as well, luck was on the side of the government. After their car had crossed the outer security ring, the terrorists discovered that they were prevented from reaching the main and most vulnerable entrance of the parliament by the oldest reason in the modern world — a traffic jam. There were just too many cars in queue, for the hour they chose is the busiest moment of arrivals. It was this that probably forced them to choose the entrance at which Vice President Krishan Kant’s extra security was posted. They hit the vice president’s car, and in that instance all their plans went awry.

We can ask ourselves, endlessly, as to why they did this, or why they did not do that. But pause for a moment and consider. Men in such an operation are most effective when they do exactly what they have been programmed to do. They are not trained to think of rational alternatives. At best they work, in those fleeting seconds, on instinct. Instinct cannot take you beyond a limited range. If even a couple of them had managed to break through into the inner circle and enter a single room occupied by MPs or ministers, the story would have been different.

The symmetry stops being parallel, and it all becomes an embarrassing square with the third factor. There is one reference to Kargil that the government is trying hard to forget: the coffin scam, extraordinary not so much for the money involved but for the sheer audacity. That the defence ministry, under the leadership of the virtuous George Fernandes paid 2500 dollars for a 175 dollar casket is one part; but it takes some gall to make money out of coffins. The chant ‘Coffin-chor, gaddi chhor!’ has become part of the political litany, and George Fernandes will hear it again when he weaves through Uttar Pradesh to ask for votes for the BJP. The BJP will hear it even when George is busy elsewhere.

The most important difference between today and two years is the gap in credibility. Today, voters are more likely to call the performance of the government incredible rather than credible. You can sell merchandise in politics if you are believed; the same goods find no buyers if the market has lost its confidence in the salesman. Publicity is no substitute for policy.

The government is trying to achieve a number of inter-related objectives through December 13. The passage of the anti-terrorist law is part of a package that is expected to deliver Uttar Pradesh in the crucial Assembly elections ahead, along with some strident rhetoric against madressahs, a convenient way of broadening the attack on minorities. The politics of Kargil worked during elections because no one had any answers.

This time, parties other than the Congress have an equally vested interest in the answers, like the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav. He is going to deflect the demand for passage of the prevention of terrorism ordinance by pointing out that POTO is already law. He is going to agree about the involvement of Pakistan, and then point out that there are still hundreds of miles between the borders of Pakistan and the centre of Delhi: why was the home ministry unable to stop terrorist activity in between?

He is going to note that both the prime minister and the home minister publicly said and repeated that the parliament was under threat. Why was nothing special done to protect it when the government had the intelligence reports on its desk? If there was no intelligence failure this time, then there was administrative failure. That is common sense. The home minister has asked plaintively that if the Pentagon cannot be protected from suicide missions then it is impossible for any government to protect anything. One can understand admission of a one-time failure. Or even if the terrorists succeed twice or thrice. But not when they punch deadly holes into the system time after time, and place after place — the Red Fort, the J and K legislature, now the parliament itself.

When politicians start running from their mistakes, they quickly discover two things: first, you can run, but you can’t hide. Second, you also run out of excuses.



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