More rhetorics, less actions

By Sultan Ahmed


THE SAARC summit held at Kathmandu last week achieved little to feel proud of, except adopting a high-sounding declaration on which there was no visible disagreement among its seven members.

The fact that the annual summit did take place after a long interval of three years, during which it was postponed time and against owing to escalation in India-Pakistan tension, was significant. But as has been the case in the earlier SAARC summits, what happened on the sidelines of that meeting made more headlines than what transpired within it after the foreign ministers had drafted a comprehensive declaration seeking to promote large economic cooperation between the member states and make progress in the grossly neglected social sector.

But what is visibly lacking in SAARC is the political will on the part of its leading members to implement the pious resolutions they had been passing in various meetings held in the past in respect of economic cooperation. That vacuum is still very much there. The real progress cannot be made in enhancing the level of cooperation in various areas that can benefit the 1.3 billion people of the region unless the political roadblocks are removed.

What happened on the sidelines of the summit such as the handshake between President Pervez Musharraf and the Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that led to further informal meetings was significant after an angry face-off of many weeks. But even after their brief meeting along with a longer meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries the Indian leaders insist that nothing substantive was discussed between them, and the dialogue, as urged by President Bush and the visiting British prime minister Tony Blair, cannot begin. Maybe that can begin after the state elections in Uttar Pradesh next month in which the ruling BJP has a stake.

The stance of Vajpayee and foreign minister Jaswant Singh is in sharp contrast with the lofty contents of the Kathmandu declaration. The declaration reaffirms the commitment to foster good-neighbourly relations, relieve tensions and build mutual confidence. That was not the spirit shown by India at Kathmandu. And yet the seven leaders agreed to the vision of a phased and planned process eventually leading to a South Asian economic union.

That great dream can only be realized after setting up a South Asia Free trade Area. The summit has directed the council of ministers of SAARC to finalize the text of the Draft Treaty framework by the end of this year. It also asked the member states to remove all tariff and non-tariff barriers and structural impediments to free trade.

But prior to that the South Asia Preferential Trade Area has to come into being. The summit has asked its officials to conclude this arrangement early. The outgoing secretary-general of SAARC Nihal Rodrigo says there are 20 to 30 major points of contention that will have to be settled on a priority basis. But it will take a long time, given the prevailing state of tense relations between India and Pakistan. Hence, the proposed economic union, to be set up on the lines of the European Union, is still a dream.

What India has been doing instead is to act unilaterally or bilaterally and sign such agreements with Nepal and Sri Lanka, it is conducting protracted negotiations with Bangladesh, leaving out Pakistan for future negotiations if regarded feasible or possible.

Meanwhile the SAARC summit has asked the secretary-general to finalize a regionally agreed investment framework to meet investment needs of member states. The summit also underlined the need to take measures to promote South Asia as a common tourist destination by upgrading infrastructure, air linkages, simplification and harmonization of administrative procedures and joint marketing.

Such idealistic proposals were put forward by SAARC leaders at a time when President Musharraf had to fly to China to be able to arrive at Kathmandu and the Pakistan delegates who went to Nepal for the South Asia Free Media Association Conference had to fly to Dhaka from Kathmandu, and then to UAE by Biman Airways of Bangladesh to return home. The chilling reality in Kathmandu was far different from the inspiring words of the declaration.

The declaration underscores the need for promoting people-to-people contact, including contacts between intellectuals and other professionals interested in cooperation among the SAARC states. But the reality is that India has snapped the rail link between the two countries by suspending the Samjhota Express and cancelling the bus service between Lahore and Delhi that began in 1998 after Mr Vajpayee had met Nawaz Sharif in New York.

The SAARC summits have been stressing the need for combating poverty for over ten years now but have little to show to their credit. Meanwhile, poverty in the region has increased with about 40 per cent of the people living below the poverty line on a dollar a day. The summit spoke of the need to combat poverty with a new sense of urgency and pledged “to undertake effective and sustained poverty alleviation programmes.” It also decided to focus on rural micro-credit programmes.

The summit also resolved to reconstitute the South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation.

It is easy for the SAARC leaders to sign protocols treating trafficking in women and children as criminal offence of a serious nature but difficult to work together in the far larger area of banishing poverty in a region with over 500 millions being very poor. It is not too difficult either to sign a SAARC Social Charter as proposed but what is more important is to implement that and make it meaningful to the exploited and disadvantaged. There the SAARC has much too show.

How does one fight poverty in these countries? By investing far more, creating new jobs, ensuring fair wages and decent economic returns to all involved in the process. But if the high cost of defence stands in the way along with bloated bureaucracies which are corrupt, the poor will have no relief. In fact, as the population increases the number of unemployed will rise and aggravate the problems of poverty.

If these countries continue to spend more on defence and the bureaucracy and less on combating poverty, poverty will spread further. And that is what is happening in Nepal with its Maoist rebellion, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Poverty and defence expenditure have become more of a chicken and egg, which came first, question.

The SAARC calls for disarmament including that of nuclear arms. But there has to be universal disarmament it says. It does not seek any regional initiative in this regard but prefers to wait for the world to start that process which is bound to take a great deal of time.

The problem is excessive poverty is in this region and the region’s leaders have to take the lead in cutting non-productive expenditure and devoting more of the savings towards poverty alleviation. They are not willing to do that, and instead want to spend more and more an defence as India has been doing in recent years to maintain its large armed forces, nuclear capability and range of missiles.

Fighting terrorism has become a major issue in the SAARC deliberations and a comprehensive convention on fighting terrorism is to be signed. But that terrorism is also partly due to the excessive poverty and the resulting social injustice which cannot be remedied through a new social charter alone.

The central issue in the SAARC is the lack of real cooperation among the member states in the areas identified by the summit declarations. Officials of member countries, particularly in the economic sector, have not been slow in identifying the possible areas of fruitful cooperation. The summits too have taken decisions on them as voiced by their declarations but they have been too slow to act. So the SAARC summits have assumed the form of a ritual. So the Kathmandu Declaration says the summits and other meetings should be more business-like and result-oriented.

The declaration also advocated informal political consultation to promote mutual understanding and reinforcing the confidence-building process among members states. But that was not what one saw at Kathmandu because of the Indian attitude. When the biggest country in the group behaves like that the other countries feel helpless.

While the Kathmandu summit was in progress the European Union’s integration had advanced to the extent that a common currency in the form of euro came into circulation. At the same time SAARC experts noticed that mutual trade in SAARC region was just 3 to 4 per cent of their total external trade. And while the South Asia was forced by the WTO and IMF to give more and more tariff and non-tariff concessions to other countries in the world they are not ready to give such concessions readily to the SAARC partners.

What Indus water treaty means

By Dr Adam Nayyar


INDIA has indicated that one of the sanctions it is considering against Pakistan is the abrogation of the Indus Waters Treaty. The treaty is more than 40 years old and to unilaterally abrogate it is to bring about the uncertainty that followed the partition of India. To understand what the abrogation would mean for Pakistan, it is important to see how this treaty evolved and what it entails.

A Standstill Agreement was signed on December 18, 1947 which provided that the pre-partition allocation of water in the Indus Basin irrigation system would be maintained. This agreement was to terminate on March 31, 1948.

Alleging that Pakistan had failed to renew the Standstill Agreement, India on April 1, 1948 shut off water supplies from the Ferozepur Headworks to the Dipalpur Canal and to the Pakistani portions of the Lahore and the main branches of the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC)

This sudden closure came as a rude shock to Pakistan. With this unilateral action, India was asserting the doctrine of upstream riparian propriety rights, completely ignoring the principle of equitable distribution. From the Indian point of view, Pakistan could not prevent India from any of a set of schemes to divert the natural flow of water from the Himalaya-Karakorum into the Indus Valley:

* Beas water into the Sutlej

* Ravi water into the Beas at Madhopur

* Chenab water into the Ravi (through the Marhu Tunnel)

* Worse, the Wullar Lake scheme commands the Jehlum just before it enters Azad Kashmir.

Pakistan’s position was dismal and India held all the cards in its hand. War appeared to be the only recourse to free the captive waters, but that could have seriously harmed Pakistan.

Pakistan therefore sent a ministerial delegation to Delhi to negotiate for the restoration of water and the Indians struck a very hard bargain. They wanted recognition of their rights to all the waters in the eastern rivers (Sutlej, Beas and Ravi). They also wanted Pakistan to pay for any water supplied by India until Pakistan could find replacement from the other (western) rivers. Consequently, the Inter-Dominion Agreement was signed in New Delhi on May 4, 1948, under which Pakistan was required “to deposit immediately in the Reserve Bank (of India) such ad hoc sum as may be specified by the prime minister of India” (Article 5 of the agreement).

This unequal agreement almost amounted to a blackmail and nothing concrete was settled by it. Put in a feeble bargaining position, Pakistan had no other choice but to acquiesce in order to extract a constricted breathing space until 1960, when the Indus Waters Treaty was signed.

Indian intentions became clearer when they started work on the Harike Barrage in 1948 at the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej, creating the capacity to cut off the whole pre-partition Sutlej Valley Project, now in Pakistan.

After the nasty jolt of the Indian water shut-off and alarmed at the construction of the Harike Barrage, Pakistan’s immediate response was the design of the now famous Bambanwala-Ravi-Bedian Link Canal (BRBL), taking off from the Upper Chenab Canal, passing under the Ravi river in a siphon and feeding the Lahore UBDC near Batapur on the Lahore-Wagah road. The BRBL was completed in 1958 as an emergency measure. As the 1965 war was to prove, this canal was also an important water obstacle against an Indian invasion. In addition, it remains — in a modified form — a vital link in the Indus Basin Project to this day.

India’s actions and its assertion of propriety rights were a clear indication of its position. Pakistan’s case of prior allocation and equitable distribution was asserted, but with no ability to enforce it, even by war. Pakistan attempted to bring the case to the International Court of Justice in June 1949, but India refused to go along, maintaining that the inter-dominion agreement should now be made permanent. Pakistan was to continue to pay for the water from India and the agreement continued to hang over Pakistan’s head like the Damocles’ sword.

Finally, in September 1949 Pakistan refused to devalue its currency along with the rest of the Sterling bloc. India’s reaction was to refuse to recognize the Pakistani rupee at the old value and to impose an economic blockade on Pakistan until the end of 1950. The tactic of economic blockade threatened by India today is therefore not new.

With prodding from the World Bank, both India and Pakistan agreed to the Indus Waters Treaty, which was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960. In brief, India received exclusive rights over the three eastern rivers (Sutlej, Beas and Ravi), while Pakistan got the three western rivers (Indus, Jehlum and Chenab).

Unilateral abrogation by India is not new. As early as 1958, Pakistan’s eminent geographer Kazi S Ahmad wrote:

“The Council of the Institute of International Law in 1911 (Madrid) decided that a state is forbidden to stop or divert the flow of a river which runs from its own to a neighbouring state, but likewise to make such use of the water of the river as either causes danger to the neighbouring states or prevents it from making proper use of the flow of the river on its part. (The) Barcelona Convention (1921) to which India was a signatory provides regulations with regard to the utilization of flow of the rivers: “No state is allowed to alter the natural conditions of its own territory to the disadvantage of the natural conditions of the territory of a neighbouring state.” However, the convention was unilaterally abrogated by India in April, 1956.” (Kazi S. Ahmad “Canal Water Problems”)

India’s unilateral abrogation clearly showed that not only did it consider the disputed territory of Kashmir as a part of India, but that it also had the intention to interfere with the flow of the western rivers four years prior to the signing of the Indus Waters Treaty.

If India were to abrogate the treaty, the central issue for Pakistan would be Article III of the treaty, the provisions regarding western rivers, whereby Paragraph 1 is relevant:.

“(1) Pakistan shall receive for unrestricted use all those waters of the western rivers which India is under obligation to let flow under the provisions of Paragraph (2).”

Paragraph 2 outlines peripheral “non-consumptive” use by India and Pakistan’s right to use these waters even if they flow into the eastern rivers.

Were India to abrogate the treaty, it would mean dangerous interference with the upper reaches of the western rivers. India would go ahead with the construction of at least two large dams:

—Khapala Dam on the Shyok River in Indian Occupied Kashmir (a tributary of the Indus entering Baltistan). This would seriously affect flows in the Indus and proportionally increase the effective silt load from the Gilgit River into the Indus downstream of the Rondu Gorge. This would create a very detrimental impact on the current design of the proposed Basha Dam on the transverse course of the Indus in Diamer District of the Northern Areas.

—Wullar Barrage on the Jehlum River, which would inundate more land than could be commanded upstream of the point where the Jehlum enters Azad Kashmir. This barrage can easily submerge Srinagar, thus ensuring a “final solution” of the Kashmir issue from the Indian point of view. This is an effective lever to intimidate Pakistan.

India would thus be free not only to starve Pakistan of water, but also to open sluice gates at will to generate devastating floods in the country.

India’s threat to abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty would destabilize the current status quo that both countries have learned to live with. Though both nations were far from satisfied with the treaty, it provides to this day a modus vivendi for them to live in peace with each other. The abrogation would mean the stirring up of resentments, fears and angers that have settled in the silt of 42 years. Even more crucial, it is a recipe to subject innocent people in Pakistan to hunger, famine and poverty.

Huntington’s spectre

By Sayeed Hasan Khan & Kurt Jacobsen


WHEN the Second World War ended in the radioactive embers of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the United States started to play the role of world power as it pushed for the liquidation of the tottering European empires.

American leaders at first displayed sympathy for liberation movements but soon shored up or replaced the older imperial powers where they perceived that the Soviets were gaining influence among the natives.

The litmus test for communist influence was whether the nationalists bent to American strategic and commercial designs. if not, they were Stalin’s stooges. Even “non-alignment” was viewed with deep suspicion. In America itself a vast right-wing scare campaign (McCarthyism) contrived to find the Reds under the unlikeliest beds, foreign policy experts lost their jobs, and arrogant ideologues asserted that even China somehow was “theirs” to lose to Mao.

Realpolitik mattered, although this clear-eyed if hard-hearted kind of calculation were tinged by homegrown hysteria. The US supported the French campaign in Indo-China primarily because of cold war arithmetic, in order to cement a revived and imperial France within the western alliance. The intertwining of capitalist greed with foreign policy was always so seamless that few ordinary Americans ever noticed it, at least not until the US badly miscalculated and plunged into a costly Southeast Asian war. Still, the communist spectre gave American officials an excuse to intervene wherever they saw fit and for whatever actual reasons. The spectre was a valuable asset.

During the cold war, the US agencies hit on the bright idea of using Islamic fundamentalists to counter Godless communism even if these fanatic recruits thought just as little of Godless capitalism. American agents were confident they could stuff the fundamentalist genie back in the bottle or else didn’t care. Apart from inducting Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and other Muslim nations into military pacts, the US financed fundamentalists to harass annoyingly independent rulers such as Nasser in Egypt and Soekarno in Indonesia. Secular nationalism in the Muslim world was deemed to be the dire threat and the fundamentalists were America’s friends. The fall of the Shah in Iran in 1978 killed this highly volatile strategy.

In Afghanistan the Americans enlisted jihadis to fight the Soviets. Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski recently boasted of arming the mujahedin long before the Soviets rolled in. As the soviets departed a devastating decade later, the utility of the fundamentalists vanished along with the US support. Picking up the pieces was someone else’s business. The Afghan resistance, including Osama were left dangerously to their own devices.

When Gorbachev almost single-handedly ended the cold war, no one was more shocked than the American hardliners who portrayed it as a sinister Soviet trick but soon resigned themselves to claiming all the credit for the inadvertent triumph. In the scramble to find a substitute spectre, Samuel Huntington floated a shopworn theory that “conflict between civilizations will supplant ideological and other forms of conflict as the dominant global form of conflict,” especially clashes between the West and Islam (and, please note, Confucian society insofar as China is recognizable as such).

Here was a thesis that thrilled fanatics like Osama bin Laden. Yet both Huntington and Osama know full well that what is at stake is not the “West versus Islam.” America wants foremost to secure its clients in the Arab oil-producing world while Osama wants to overthrow these same Arab ruling elites and instal pathologically religious regimes. This fraught situation resembles the age-old ideological and economic rifts that Huntington claims are obsolete.

To their credit, the American policy makers wisely shied away from embracing Huntington’s thesis, which is riddled with inconsistencies and flaws. They stipulate today that they are targeting only violent Islamic factions who, however, express dissent the only way that the US-backed authoritarian Muslim regimes permit. Not unlike the Polish Catholicism during the Soviet era or the Irish Catholicism under British colonialism, popular resistance takes on a deceptively religious dimension.

The grievances of the poor and excluded are formed to some degree in the repulsive shape of religious terrorism. They become the new spectre and the underlying causes of the violent acts of a few of them are again ignored. So, although most foreign policy analysts and officials know better, the “clash of civilizations” thesis remains very useful for domestic consumption in the US to consecrate foreign policy adventures undertaken for realpolitik or commercial reasons.

The “clash of civilizations” thesis distracts from the real war waged between global capitalism, increasingly unchecked by any political institutions, and the deprived, who are concentrated in Latin America, Asia and Africa. And, on this score, Huntington is admirably candid: “The very phrase “the world community” has become the euphemistic collective noun (replacing “the Free World”) to give global legitimacy to the actions reflecting the interests of the United States and other western powers. Through the IMF and other international economic institutions, the West promotes its economic interests and imposes on other nations the economic policies it thinks appropriate. In any poll of non-western peoples, the IMF undoubtedly would win the support of finance ministers and a few others, but get an overwhelmingly unfavourable rating from just about everyone else.” Even democracies brimming with Christians are kept in thrall, as we see in Argentina today, by an IMF that sternly favours pampering especially (but not only) the First World’s firms and banks over meeting the Third World’s indigenous needs.

It is the oldest tactic in the conqueror’s book to divide groups along religious lines and pit them against one another. Poverty and oppression know no religious boundaries. What sense can one make of Huntington’s thesis during a dark farcical moment when Israeli tanks prevent a Muslim Palestinian leader from attending a Christmas eve mass to which he was invited? Yet actions premised on religious division tend to be self-fulfilling. There are enough fodder like Osama who willingly fill the role of demonic “other.” At root all fundamentalists — Muslim, Jew, Christian, whatever — are alike: selfish, dogmatic, myopic and too often malignant. Religious affiliation is a terribly poor guide and too often an absolver of atrocious actions.

Suharto, for example, was given the green light by America in 1975 to invade East Timor which underwent a blood-bath while its freedom was thwarted for twentyfive years. No Muslim country displayed much concern over the crimes inflicted on the Timorese by a Muslim power. Nor did brutal Indonesian behaviour disturb American policy makers, who are mainly Christian and supplied many of the instruments of slaughter. Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Vietnam and Chile experienced US-aided repression but in most cases the Muslim world was not interested or too involved with the US to protest. Even in the Israeli-Palestine conflict there is little mention of the role of Arab Christian struggle in the Muslim press.

At the same time Muslim communities sprouted throughout the West where they often have more freedom to practise their way of life than in their former lands. Minarets of the mosques shoot up in the sky in Germany, France, England and even in Spain, where Muslims were expelled in the 15th century. Muslims are found in every walk of life, including parliaments, in their adopted industrialized countries, where different traditions meet and change and enrich one another. There is no inherent clash. As always, what really matters is whether the distribution of power, rights and wealth improves or worsens.

Yet Huntington is a serious scholar whose entire work cannot be dismissed. In fact, Huntington warns that it is “most important, to recognize that western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multi-civilizational world.” One hopes the western leaders heed Huntington’s apt advice so that they do not collectively become a spectre too.

Missing the wood for the trees?: WASHINGTON NOTEBOOK

By Tahir Mirza


TRYING to project a rational interpretation of Islam these days in America when the news stories are full of references to Muslim terrorists and extremists is not an enviable task. It is made more difficult by the fact that scholars or commentators attempting to present such an interpretation are, in present circumstances, necessarily forced to be on the defensive.

For Western audiences, therefore, the explanations have to be offered, for the sake of understanding, largely within the religious framework — in other words on the wicket favoured by the obscurantists. Such a discourse can get trapped in various explanations of issues such as jihad and suicide or rely on repeated assertions of Islam’s essential message of peace for all or, in the Pakistani context, fall back on the modernist approach of the Quaid-i-Azam. It runs the greater danger of ignoring the fact that the problem with Muslim masses is not Islam: the problems that need to be addressed are political, economic and social, and it is there that both the West and the Muslim countries need to focus their attention.

Politically, there is lack of democracy in most countries with Muslim majorities, which means that there is lack of tolerance and accommodation. Economically, many Muslim countries are poor and backward, and their poverty leads to despair which drives people, in the absence of political institutions that could have turned despair into populist revolt, to the mullahs with their concept of retributive justice. Socially, most Muslim countries have ignored state-funded education and managed to stifle scholarship. In the Middle East, there is oppression by a colonial and settler state of a whole people, oppression that is seen as enjoying western, particularly American, backing. Then, there is the entire complex question of the link between Muslim separateness in South Asia and the rise of extremist trends in the region.

This is an explosive mix of issues, and some of these issues came to the fore, directly or through omission, at the US introduction of Dr Akbar S. Ahmad’s much-introduced book, Islam Today, at a Washington DC bookshop on Monday. Dr Akbar Ahmad, who now teaches at American University, stressed in brief remarks at the event the importance of trying to understand the hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks, the background they came from, and of isolating them. “Understand the hijackers, and separate them from the civilization that they are supposed to represent,” he said.

The largely American audience was receptive to the rational manner in which Dr Akbar Ahmad, who makes it a point to refer to his training as an anthropologist, attempted to present the moderation of the Muslim mainstream, and a number of questions were asked. The event was held at the Politics and Prose Bookstore, something of a landmark on bustling Connecticut Avenue, and it gained a certain flavour because of the setting. The bookshop continued to function normally, with its daily intake of customers and browsers, even as Dr Akbar Ahmad spoke and people gathered around him to listen. The bookshop holds such book introductions on a regular basis, and it is helping to promote a unique rapport between authors and Washingtonians.

Dr Akbar Ahmad made at least two references to Mr Jinnah as a modernist who wore western clothes, spoke impeccable English and had a vision of Pakistan as a secular state. That vision lies in tatters, and much has happened in between. What perhaps needs to be stressed is that we the people of Pakistan have to decide, now and today, what we want to make of our country irrespective of references to the past. Also, modernism itself, divorced from democracy and social justice, cannot be the answer: it ought perhaps to be remembered, although this is a simplification of the conflicts that raged across Muslim India at that time, that it was the Quaid’s modernity that had created opposition from the religious parties.

The present-day jihadi spirit is also to an extent fired by resentment of modernism that it is perceived as having led, among other things, to the creation of a westernized elite. Our collective failure to respond more positively in the past to the cries of “Islam in danger”, only strengthened the hands of the obscurantists. Now we are being made to confront some of the contradictions inherent in our society for five decades and more.

No, says your friend who had kindly taken you to Politics and Prose, it isn’t easy. There are too many questions to be debated and sorted out, he mused aloud, and meanwhile you can only mourn the way in which Muslims seem to be under suspicion, here and abroad.

* * * *

A TIP from a colleague leads you to the World Socialist Website run by the International Committee of the Fourth International and to an article that provides some intriguing background information on Mr Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan American just appointed by President George Bush as his special adviser on Afghanistan. It appears from the article, by Patrick Martin, that there may be more to it than meets the eye to Mr Khalilzad’s appointment, and that it may underscore the economic and financial interests also at stake in the US military intervention in Central Asia.

The article says the new adviser has been intimately involved in the long-running US efforts to obtain direct access to the oil and gas resources of the region, largely unexploited but believed to be the second largest in the world after the Gulf. As an adviser for the oil giant Unocal, Mr Khalilzad drew up a risk analysis of a proposed gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. He participated in talks between the oil company and Taliban officials in 1997, which were aimed at implementing a 1995 agreement to build the pipeline across western Afghanistan.

Unocal was the lead company in the formation of the Centgas consortium, whose purpose was to bring to market natural gas from the Dauletabad Field in southeastern Turkmenistan, one of the world’s largest. The $2 billion project involved a 48-inch diameter pipeline from the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, passing near the cities of Herat and Kandahar, crossing into Pakistan near Quetta and linking with existing pipelines at Multan. An additional $600 million extension to India was also under consideration.

The article asserts that Mr Khalilzad also lobbied publicly for a more sympathetic US government policy towards the Taliban. Four years ago, in an op-ed article in the Washington Post, he defended the Taliban regime against accusations that it was a sponsor of terrorism, writing, “The Taliban does not practise the anti-US style of fundamentalism practised by Iran.” It is claimed that he shifted his position only after the Clinton administration fired cruise missiles at suspected Al Qaeda camps in August 1998.

Born in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1951, Mr Khalilzad hails from the old ruling elite of Afghanistan, and his father was an aide to Zahir Shah, the king until 1973. As a member of the National Security Council, Mr Khalilzad reports to Dr Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, who — and this gets even more interesting — also served as an oil company consultant on Central Asia. After serving in the first Bush administration from 1989 to 1992, Ms Rice was placed on the board of directors of Chevron Corporation and served as its principal expert on Kazakhstan, where Chevron holds the largest concession of any of the international oil companies. The oil industry connections of President Bush and Vice-President Richard Cheney are also well known.

The article, pointing to the general media silence on these murky connections, says one of the few commentaries about the subject appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle last September 26. Staff writer Frank Viviano observed: “The hidden stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in a single word: oil. The map of terrorist sanctuaries and targets in the Middle East and Central Asia is also, to an extraordinary degree, a map of the world’s principal energy sources in the 21st century.... It is inevitable that the war against terrorism will be seen by many as a war on behalf of America’s Chevron, Exxon, and Arco; France’s TotalFinaElf; British Petroleum; Royal Dutch Shell and other multinational giants, which have hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the region.”

So, this is something else for Pakistan to mull over in the months ahead. The US may be in the region much, much after Osama bin Laden and Mulla Mohammad Omar have been captured. It should be noted that both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have paid visits to the Central Asian Republics since September 11.

* * * *

AMERICA’S joy in seeing Afghan women “liberated” — getting included in the interim administration and throwing away their burqas — contrasts with the protest mounted by the highest-ranking woman pilot in the US air force who has sued the defence secretary for orders that make her wear the abaya and head scarf when she goes out of her base in Saudi Arabia, prohibits her from driving, and directs that she should always be escorted by a male.

The pilot is Lieutenant Colonel Martha McSally, posted in November to the Prince Sultan Air Force Base, who argues that the instructions given to her amount to asking her to abandon American values “that we all raised our right hand to die for”.

So, it’s not merely Pakistan that has to face up to some inherent contradictions and hypocrisies.

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