DAWN - Opinion; March 9, 2002

Published March 9, 2002

An end to poverty?

By Tasneem Siddiqui

IF you carry out a survey in Pakistan and ask the people what is their problem No. 1, for sure it will not be Kashmir, nor a fear of Talibanization of Pakistan. It will be unemployment followed by bad governance (which includes insecurity because of sectarianism, a rising crime rate, poor enforcement of laws, and high handedness of public officials). One can see a direct correlation between increasing poverty and the high incidence of crime against property.

If further proof is needed one should see the number of suicides and carjackings taking place in Karachi (last year 125 people committed suicide because of economic reasons in Karachi alone and over 9,000 vehicles were snatched at gun-point). Dacoities and robberies are so common that in Karachi there are people who have had the dubious distinction of having been robbed thrice. Most of these ‘dacoits’ are urban educated youth, reduced to despair having no hope of finding gainful employment.

It is interesting to see that when lawlessness increases, it is generally taken to be the result of mismatch between the strength of police force and the number of people they serve (or harass?) quoting figures from other cosmopolitan areas of the world, and additional funds are demanded. More surprising thing is that the request is generally acceded to. But the root causes of increasing crime are never addressed.

Due to this conventional approach, there has been a phenomenal increase in police strength and disproportionately high expenditure on law and order. At the break-up of One Unit, there were 24,033 policemen in Sindh and the total expenditure on the force was Rs 46.30 million. At that time law and order situation was excellent. In the last thirty years Sindh’s population may have quadrupled, but the expenditure on police has touched the six billion rupees mark. Money spent on other law enforcement agencies is in addition. But what is the situation now? Can we expect to control crime without addressing the basic social issues like joblessness and resultant poverty?

One can say that we are in double jeopardy. On the one hand is the ever-increasing cost of maintenance of law and order, and on the other mounting losses caused by deteriorating law and order. The question is could we avoid this situation, if we had taken good care of our poor?

There is general consensus among the economists that during the last 12 years, the number of people living below poverty line (one US dollar a day) has increased tremendously. In 1988, it was 22 per cent, now it is about 36 per cent. In Sindh the position is more dismal. Here half of the population is living below the poverty line. And if Sindh’s finance minister, Dr Hafeez Shaikh, is to be believed, in five districts of the province as many as 82 per cent people are surviving on one dollar a day. But the most intriguing thing is that the government statistics continue to show that the current rate of unemployment in Pakistan is only 5.6 per cent. Is it believable? Even in industrialized countries, 8 to 10 per cent unemployment rate is quite common.

Whatever the number of unemployed in the country, the government can say that we are spending huge amounts of money on ‘poverty alleviation.’ Programmes for helping the poor have been launched under different names by various governments. There have been direct subsidies, zakat dole-outs, Peoples’ Works, Five Points and Tameer-i-Watan programmes followed by ‘Growth and Poverty Reduction’ facilities under IMF conditionalities. But has this strategy worked? More importantly, can it work? This article is an attempt to study the genesis of the problem and to see why our development strategies have not been able to adequately reduce poverty; what can we learn from our past mistakes, and what can be done in future.

While studying the causes of poverty, one should focus one’s attention on issues like: What does the state mean to the common man; how are citizens in their everyday life affected by public policies and development strategies? Is the state supportive of their causes, is it impartial or hostile? How does the state allocate resources or bestow crucial advantages on the already rich, and how are public policies used to protect vested interests or to thwart them.

Keeping the above parameters in view, we can place the government policies into four categories and see what has happened in Pakistan:

a. Policies which bestow crucial advantages on the already rich and make them richer. Conversely the poor remain poor or become poorer;

The state resources were allocated to a class of hand-picked ‘entrepreneurs’ in the name of ‘rapid industrialization.’ But at the same time low-wages and poor living conditions made the lives of workers miserable. On the other hand, Green Revolution strategies supported the big landlords by providing them subsidies in HYV seed, fertilizer, pesticide and tractors. Rural poor became poorer because they had small holdings and could not afford the package.

b. Policies which create physical and social infrastructure and help in reducing poverty indirectly:

In Pakistan trillions of rupees have been spent on both these counts, but much of this money has been wasted making Pakistan a graveyard of incomplete schemes. Main reason: a flawed planning and development paradigm, and bad governance.

c. Direct subsidies to the poor and poverty alleviation programmes.

These have also not worked because the basic problem with subsidies is that most often than not they are hijacked by other than the target groups.

d. Policies which create enabling circumstances allowing flowering of full potential of the people:

Unfortunately this has also not happened either. Here multiple agencies and departments which are created to look after the interests of workers and peasants, play a negative role. Instead of supporting and facilitating small businesses and small holders they control and ‘obstaclize’ their activities and stifle the potential of the people in as many ways as possible.

Taking the discussion further, the first question that can be asked: Is Pakistan a poor country? Is our poverty accidental and because of natural causes? I think there is hardly any doubt that unlike some unfortunate countries (Somalia, Chad, Nepal, Haiti for example) Pakistan is not resource-poor. We may not have oil, gold or other precious metals, but we are blessed with one of the biggest irrigation systems in the world; vast coastline; different climatic zones, natural gas and coal reservoirs and above all a hardworking, enterprising, patriotic and law-abiding population. The question is: Why are we poor then? Why have we not been able to attack the heartland of mass poverty in spite of our high growth rate for a number of years?

Let us examine these issues in some detail.

When we say that poverty in Pakistan is neither because of natural causes nor is it accidental, its corollary is that it is a political issue. It is the bye-product of the elitist model of governance and misconceived macro-policies that our ruling oligarchy has followed during the last 54 years. Tragedy is that the authors of these policies were highly trained economists who came from the top universities of the First World.

Initially we were told by these ‘wizards’ that poverty could be eradicated, if we achieved and maintained a growth rate of around five per cent. For that ‘rapid industrialization’ was necessary. We accepted their advice as gospel truth and focused all our energies on implementing it. We have had some success in establishing the large manufacturing sector (at the same time benefits of ‘Green Revolution’ came as a bonus), and for about three decades Pakistan did experience unprecedented growth (5 per cent on the average).

But the surprising thing was that in spite of this ‘growth’ and ‘development’, the proportion of our population below a fixed acceptable minimum standard of living did not fall appreciably. The incidence of rural poverty showed little tendency to diminish even in Ayub Khan’s ‘Decade of Development’ when the average growth rate was 5.6 per cent. As a matter of fact, in many cases the standard of living of some groups and classes, notably the landless actually declined.

In 1958-69, the so-called ‘glorious’ days of Pakistan, the focus was not on re-distribution or eradication of poverty. The mantra was: Go all-out for growth, make sure that the growing incomes are mainly profits and not wages, encourage private business to save and re-invest out of profits, and deal with poverty and inequality later, when you are richer and re-distribution is, therefore, less of a strain.

Although over 70 per cent population was living in rural areas, no meaningful reforms were carried out to improve their lot. One can say agriculture was purposely ignored. Urban areas and industry prospered at the cost of rural hinterland as no major investment was made in the agrarian sector.

Pakistan was not the only country to follow this route. Most developing countries fell in this trap. The neo-liberal theories of economic development were championed by the economists coming from the Ivy League universities of the US and adhered to by the Brettonwoods Institutions. Since they were sitting in the Central Planning Commission, their advice was accepted by Pakistan government without any serious thought as to its long term repercussions.

Mahbubul Haq, who was then the chief economist of the Pakistan Central Planning Commission, supported Gustav Papanek who argued that the problem of inequality existed but its importance must be put in perspective. ‘First of all the inequalities in income contribute to the growth of the economy which makes possible a real improvement for the lower income group.’ He quoted J.M. Keynes who had said: “In fact, it was precisely the inequality of the distribution of wealth which made possible those vast accumulations of fixed wealth and of capital improvement... they saved and accumulated not less to the advantage of the whole community.”

Our hand-picked entrepreneurs neither saved, nor reinvested. They indulged in vulgar ostentation and promoted a life of cheap consumerism. Soon their industrial units became sick while they continued to enjoy the bounties of good life. Now no one talks about the infamous ‘trickle down’ theory. Interesting thing is that in spite of this fiasco and in spite of the fact that many governments have come and gone, the basic approach remains almost the same. The names and faces of the economic managers have changed, but it has made little difference.

What we see in 2002 is that the country has a foreign debt of about 38 billion dollars, in addition to domestic loan which is about 1700 billion rupees while the social indicators and employment level continue to portray a very poor picture. The last decade which Dr Ishrat Husain, Governor, State Bank calls the ‘lost decade’ has added new dimensions to the dismal conditions which the poor have to endure.

(To be concluded)

After Gujarat what?

By Kuldip Nayar

MANY years ago I met Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a tall leader of our national struggle. Out of respect, we called him the Frontier Gandhi. He lived in a ramshackle cottage at Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Pakistan would not accept him because of his participation in India’s independence movement.

The communal orgy at Ahmedabad in 1969 was very much in his mind when I met him. Badshah Khan, another endearing title for him, asked me whether the victims at Ahmedabad were Muslims. I said: “Most of them.” He fell silent. After a long pause, he said: “We had imagined that the Hindu-Muslim riots would end after the British left since it was their creation.” Yet more poignant was his remark: “How could it happen in the land of Mahatma Gandhi?”

Strange as it may sound, the rioting between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat hurts the nation more than the riots in any other state. It is well known that the place is the most dangerous powder keg of communalism, ready to explode any time. Still Gujarat is so much associated with Gandhi in the minds of the people that every Gujarati is weighed on the scales of Gandhian values.

Even after realizing that most Gujaratis hang Gandhiji’s photo in their houses just for formality, without following any of his teachings, there is a faint hope that their conscience would one day prick them. That would be the time when they might realize the folly of not respecting the apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity, the greatest son of their soil.

Gujarat may be the worst case. But it is a symptom, not the disease. The disease is the distance between Hindus and Muslims, still yawning even after 55 years of partition. We have adopted the most secular constitution in the world. But we have failed to cultivate the temperament required to implement even the letter, much less the spirit, of the constitution. Muslims are generally suspect and they still carry the cross of partition on their back.

The Pakistanis do not realize the price that the Indian Muslims continue to pay for what was an agreed formula on the division. The terrorism, which Islamabad has been exporting to India for more than a decade, has only heightened suspicion against the Muslims and created more problems. The reason why some in India have doggedly pursued good relations between the two countries is the co-relationship between the anti-Muslim feeling and the anti-Pakistan feeling.

Probably Gandhi could foresee this. He insisted on the payment of Rs. 55 crore to Pakistan, its share that India had withheld during the war on Kashmir. It was Gandhi who took up the cause of the Muslims in the country. Despite the partition, he said that the Hindus and the Muslims — he called them his two eyes — could forget their personal tragedies and past quarrels and live like brothers. The belief in pluralism was the only way to keep the different religions together, he said. Rioting would tear the fabric of common heritage they had shared for centuries. He was right, but once he disappeared from the scene, his ideas began to fade. Parochial considerations began to raise their ugly heads.

What happened in Gujarat, in fact, was happening all over India after partition. The fires of communalism were raging high. The country looked like coming apart. The Hindu Mahasabha and its allies talked of a Hindu Rashtra even at that time. But people did not pay any heed to them. Gandhi was such a bright secular light that even the dark corners of communalism came to shine. What really killed communalism was his assassination.

People began to hate the very idea of Hindutva which they felt was responsible for the killing of the Father of the Nation. There was an electric change in the atmosphere, from hate to understanding, from alienation to amity, and from communalism to pluralism. The fanatics were boycotted. The extremists were on the run. No party pandering to communal sentiments got any attention, either electorally or otherwise. The Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, could not even reach the double figure in the Lok Sabha elections.

For more than 40 years, Gandhi’s martyrdom kept communal forces at bay. Secular forces did little to consolidate the ground. Everybody took faith in secularism for granted. For a long time, it was as much fashionable to talk in secular terms, as it is now to talk Hindu chauvinism.

The Hindutva forces have a long-term agenda. They lay low but went on penetrating every segment of activity and injecting the poison of communalism into them. When the Congress fell from grace through its acts of omission and commission, the Hindtuva forces were able to exploit the opportunity. They began to occupy the place the Congress had vacated. Indira Gandhi’s authoritarianism and Rajiv Gandhi’s naivete gave the RSS parivar a chance which they grabbed with both hands.

Today we have a situation where the Centre is led by the BJP which has pronounced Hindu credentials. Once the torch-bearers of secularism, George Fernandes, Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, are now its allies, with eyes fixed on power, not on Gandhi’s philosophy of secularism. The Congress is beginning to take a stand against communalism but its past has been so dubious that people are reluctant to trust it again.

The situation is getting more tangled because some Muslim organizations have come to believe that they must unite the community to form an all-Muslim party. Such elements are playing into the hands of Hindu extremists who want to polarize the country. The Godhara train incident has done what the RSS could not have done for years.

There is no other option except Gandhi’s path of Hindu-Muslim unity. Secularism is the only alternative to keep the country democratic and united. The BJP, if it wants to be a party of tomorrow, has to cut off its relations with the RSS, the advice which Jayaprakash Narayan, a Gandhian, gave the party when it was part of the Janata government. But the BJP continues to be politically dependent on the RSS.

It is a pity that the Centre has taken no action against the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders when they have openly incited people to support their communal agenda. My fear is that the government might give them some secret understanding on the acquired land around the disputed site where the Babri masjid stood before demolition. “Not to disturb the status quo” is the directive of the Supreme Court. Anything done overtly or covertly to devalue the order will be tantamount to playing with fire.

Increasingly, one feels that the BJP-led government at the Centre does not have the will or firmness to fight obscurantism. Even on the communal flare-up in Guajarat, it adopted a lackadaisical attitude. The party, internally divided, cannot do anything. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee looks a pathetic figure. He is willing to strike but he is afraid to wound.

Secular forces have to assert themselves to save the country from going communal. Blinded by fundamentalism, the BJP is not seeing the writing on the wall. Muslim jihadis have destroyed Pakistan and put on the country’s back the army which refuses to return to the barracks. The Hindutva ‘jihadis’ are out to instal in India a theocratic state.

The BJP leadership cannot conceive what type of forces it will unleash. The leadership may be the first victim. But one thing is certain: India, a secular, democratic nation, will cease to exist. Playing the communal card for power is suicidal but playing it for governance is a national disaster.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in New Delhi.

How long this brinkmanship?

By Afzaal Mahmood

THE earlier hope that India’s bellicosity towards Pakistan will soften after the state elections has not been fulfilled. On the contrary, there is a dangerous trend to escalate the militaristic strategy followed by the Vajpayee government since December 13.

Using the Indian president’s conventional address to the parliament at the start of the budget session, New Delhi has needlessly scaled up its anti-Pakistan rhetoric. Mr K.R Narayanan said that India’s massive troop deployment on its western border was there to stay until Islamabad met some key conditions and there could be no talks with Pakistan unless the latter gave evidence of steps to stop “cross-border terrorism” in Kashmir. He also demanded handing over of 20 “terrorists who have committed grave crimes and who continue to receive shelter in Pakistan.”

Even Mr Vajpayee, instead of playing it cool, has uncharacteristically indulged in political bluster that is bound to increase temperature on the bilateral front. In addition to Pakistan bashing and the use of militant language, he has hinted that New Delhi has capabilities to foment “internal trouble” for Pakistan, even though asserting that any interference of this order in the domestic affairs of Pakistan “is not our policy, nor style.”

The policy of brinkmanship that India has followed as part of its pressure diplomacy since December has not achieved the desired results. First, it has totally failed to unnerve Pakistan. Second, Islamabad has turned the tables on New Delhi by banning the two militant outfits — Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed — which were accused by India of attacking its parliament. Also, India has failed to cite a single convincing reason for its refusal to de-escalate the dangerous stand-off on its border with Pakistan. The net result is that for the first time since Kargil, India has been obliged to step down from the moral high ground it has been occupying for quite some time. By persistently refusing to pull back its troops, deployed within a striking distance of Pakistan, and resume dialogue with Islamabad to resolve bilateral issues, New Delhi today finds itself at odds with important international opinion.

Even within India, there is a growing realization that it was senseless to mass Indian troops on the border with Pakistan without first drawing up a workable exit strategy. Many defence analysts and retired generals have started questioning the wisdom of prolonged deployment of troops in a striking posture, with its consequent financial costs and fall-out on the morale of the armed forces.

The continued military confrontation on the border has already inflicted significant economic costs on both India and Pakistan. The latest economic survey, presented by the Indian government before the budget session, has warned of lower economic growth and higher fiscal deficit. This has forced finance minister Yashwant Sinha to present a lacklustre budget which will hit hard the common man.

The dangers of brinkmanship between India and Pakistan, who have already fought three wars, are quite obvious. When the two armies are facing each other, within striking distance, even a small error of judgment or a little display of bravado can lead to disastrous consequences. A near disaster was narrowly averted when the Indian corps commander Lt. General Kapil Vij moved his armoured columns along the Rajasthan border in January in a threatening posture. The corps commander was summarily transferred, but the ill-advised move could have ignited the fire.

Actually, the real danger from the current brinkmanship comes from unintended consequences which are difficult to control. The nuclear dimensions of a military conflict are too horrifying to contemplate. Any such conflagration would reduce the December 13 attack on the Indian parliament and the rights and wrongs of the Kashmir dispute to mere footnotes.

There has been another unintended consequence of the militaristic strategy followed by the Vajpayee government. The massing of Indian troops in an offensive posture, within the striking distance of Pakistan, accompanied by a virulent propaganda campaign, has also played a role in raising communal temperature and energizing Hindu militant and chauvinist outfits. As if this were not enough, hate campaign against the Muslim minority by the Sangh Pariwar, in pursuit of its political agenda, has led to the worst communal holocaust in a decade.

The Godhra killings were most reprehensible and gruesome but even they could not justify the horrifying orgy of violence in the presence of the police against the minority community. Those who perpetrated the train massacre were certainly no friends of the Hindus, but they were no friends of the Indian Muslims either. They deserve to be condemned by every sane person, irrespective of his or her religious belief.

The most bewildering aspect of the Gujrat tragedy was the attitude of the BJP, the party heading the coalition at the centre and running the government in the concerned state. It came out in support of the VHP’s call for the ‘bandh’ which aggravated the crisis as it amounted to encouraging the terrorist groups and organized criminals to carry on the horrifying scale of violence against the minority community.

Indian analysts are agreed that the Gujrat carnage was a failure of gigantic proportion. It has badly besmirched the governance record of the BJP. Yet, home minister L.K. Advani has given a clean chit to the BJP government in Gujarat.

There is a danger that Mr Vajpayee’s “brain-trust” may push India inexorably towards an incremental militarism vis-a-vis Pakistan in order to divert attention from the domestic crisis. The March 15 deadline fixed by the VHP for the construction of a temple at Ayodhya does not leave much time to put out the communal flames the Sangh Pariwar has lit. The widening political cracks and growing religious tensions do not augur well for political stability in India.

Mr Vajpayee is facing the worst political crisis since he assumed office in 1999. His problem has been complicated by the fact that the VHP springs from the same Hindu revivalist wave that the BJP rode for winning power at the centre. That is one reason he has been slow in reining in Hindu chauvinists.

It is sad to see Mr Vajpayee, known for his moderation, cool-headedness and pragmatism, locking himself in a militaristic confrontation with Pakistan. The policy being pursued by New Delhi is senseless as it cannot achieve any of its objectives. It is now time for de-escalation and pull-back of the troops so that a meaningful dialogue may begin to resolve all bilateral issues.

Pakistan has offered to discuss all matters which are of concern to India, including the list of 20 “terrorists/criminals” that New Delhi wants Islamabad to extradite or deport. But the all-important question is: will the BJP hardliners and the Sangh Pariwar, as well as the prevailing communal tensions in India, allow Mr Vajpayee to embark on a policy of de-escalation with Pakistan?

Daniel Pearl: a political obituary

By M.P. Bhandara

I NEVER knew Daniel Pearl, nor do I recall reading any of his writings in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). His brutal murder makes him a martyr of the times. Not that he would have wished to be a martyr. He was a journalist and a family man, and I suppose he was quite content on being just that.

From his photographs Daniel Pearl comes through as a quiet, affable, gentle soul. That he worked as the South Asia correspondent for WSJ would mark him to be a professional of high merit. The WSJ is an exceptional newspaper. Laid back, and non-sensational, it is respected worldwide for the probity and depth of its reporting on financial and political matters.

Apparently his abductors executed Daniel for the reasons that he was a Jew, an American and a white — perhaps in this order. What is clear is that the abducted was neither a combatant nor an agent of his government. His guilt was the faith he was born in and his nationality.

Let us imagine an imaginary conversation with the more intelligent of his abductors — if such a conversation be possible. And indeed, such a conversation might have taken place between the condemned man and his executioners:

“You claim to be Islamists. The law of the holy Quran and the Sunnat of the Prophet (PBUH) is your absolute and only standard that should govern your actions. Assuming that the Jews and the Americans are your enemies, where is your sanction to murder an enemy who is a non-combatant? Even if a combatant (and Daniel Pearl certainly was not one) comes to you in peace and you invite him to the shelter of your roof with mal-intent, is your action not the worst kind of treachery? And to murder a person by subterfuge and treachery, are your actions not absolutely repugnant to Islam?

“Presumably, as Islam’s self-appointed holy warriors, it is your aim to foster the brotherhood of Islam and by the piety of your actions bring about a true Islamic state in Pakistan. Is it lawful to you to use methods forbidden by Islam in the war of your imagination? If your chosen means are un-Islamic, how can your ends be Islamic?

“Admitted the suppression of a Muslim people (or any people), as is the case in Chechnya, Palestine and Kashmir makes a powerful case for jihad, terrorism can be justified to combat state terrorism. Where is the Islamic or moral sanction to kill women, children and non-combatants such as tourists, journalists etc. in pursuit of your aims? If a jihad degenerates into mayhem, murder, kidnap and torture, then surely a vital force of Islam is being polluted. The rest of the world will see no distinction between jihad and terrorism. Is this any service to the world of Islam? This appreciation relating to the protection of women, children and non-combatants in time of war has been upheld by the jurist consults of all the four major schools of Islamic tradition.

“Clearly the outrages of September 11 in the US, October 1 in Srinagar and December 13 in New Delhi are acts that do not have the sanction of Islam as interpreted by its savants and scholars. The blowing up of an armed camp of the enemy or a prison used for torture of freedom fighters are acts that can enjoy the sanction of terrorism for they are directed against the combatant and his instruments. The world applauds men that fight like men in the field of battle. Treacherous cowards do not fight in the way of God or country.

“Daniel Pearl was an American Jew, a nomenclature he would not have liked to be known by. As a man of culture he was a universal man. It may surprise you to know that there are many Americans including Jews and prominent Israelis that bitterly oppose the unjust war declared by Ariel Sharon on Palestine. I would imagine that the sympathetic Daniel was one of them; by murdering in cold blood people like Daniel who seek to be intermediaries between cultures and peoples, whose side are the so-called Islamic jihadists on?

“Historically terrorism has won in the last century only two wars of liberation i.e. Algeria and Yemen. Both countries have yet to recover from its consequences. By contrast dozens of countries including Pakistan have won liberation by political means.

“Your other reason for murder could be that being a follower of Mr Osama bin Laden, you deem it your duty to kill an American whenever and wherever possible, Mr Osama’s declared assumption for such an edict was that America, to borrow Ayotullah Khomeini’s phrase, was the ‘Great Satan’ and that the two are at war. There is a well-known western saying that ‘all is fair in love and war.’ The first part of this saying may or may not be Islamic but certainly not the part relating to war. Islam lays down very fair and clear rules for warfare. The enemy is respected; the enemy is not hit below the belt.”

Poor Daniel when he entered the lion’s den was trying to reach out to the minds if not the hearts for those who have a savage blind hatred for the values that Daniel stood for i.e. liberalism. This particular ‘ism’ has been the ‘beta noire’ of all totalitarian systems from the monarchists and anarchists of the 19th century to the Marxists, Hitlerites, Stalinists, Pol Potites and fundamentalists of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam in the 20th century. Liberalism does not reject religion, on the contrary it is deeply anchored to it; it seeks to validate the truths of religion through science and knowledge created by mankind.

The fundamentalists of all stripes are the leftovers of the age. Retards who are unable to learn or compete or those under-privileged not having an opportunity to advance find employment with the gun. The liberals world-wide, including Pakistan, neither have guns nor the lung-power to match. Yet the future belongs to them; ignorance can never win. It is in this context that Daniel Pearl is a martyr of our times in the cause of freedom for the individual.

Liberalism does not offer vengeance. It ventures to learn and to love, this spirit has been expressed with great dignity and moving words by his widow, Marleanne Pearl, who carries Daniel’s unborn child. Before she left Pakistan she left a message which should ring in our ears, for they shame us for ever, something that the vengeance of the bullet can never achieve.

“Revenge would be easy, but it is far more valuable in my opinion to address this problem of terrorism with enough honesty to question our own responsibility as nations and as individuals for the rise of terrorism. My own courage arises from two facts. One is that throughout this ordeal I have been surrounded by people of amazing value. This helps me trust that humanism ultimately will prevail. My other hope now — in my seventh month of pregnancy — is that I will be able to tell our son that his father carried the flag to end terrorism, raising an unprecedented demand among people from all countries not for revenge but for the values we all share: love, compassion, friendship and citizenship far transcending the so-called clash of civilizations.”

Whether it be a kidnapped Jew, a helpless Kashmiri girl or a bright Palestinian boy whose lives are terminated by mayhem and murder, the light extinguished by terrorism will never burn in their eyes again.

“Can storied urn call back that animated breath / can flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?”

The writer is a former member of the National Assembly of Pakistan.

The war is not over

AMERICANS are dying in the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan, a reminder that the war there is far from over — and a reminder that even in wartime, information and debate are forces that make democracy strong.

Yes, the initial phase was easier than most observers expected and caused fewer American casualties than feared. But when some Afghan allies proved lacklustre at searching Tora Bora’s caves and at stopping Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from slipping off to Pakistan, it became clear that rooting out the enemy would mean exposing more US ground troops to gunfire and missiles.

Now hundreds if not thousands of fighters are thought to be holed up in labyrinthine caves in Paktia province, and hundreds of regular Army soldiers have joined US Special Operations troops, Afghans and allied nations’ fighters in attacking them. This time US and allied soldiers are closing off potential escape routes. Presumably they will lead the post-battle search of the hide-outs. The security of the United States is tied to the success of such operations. And the security of the US system of government is tied to the public receiving accurate, unvarnished information about such actions, successful or not.

On Jan. 24, US soldiers conducted a predawn raid during which more than a dozen Afghans were killed and 27 captured. The Pentagon at first said those captured were Al Qaeda or Taliban soldiers or sympathizers but then admitted that was wrong. Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called the deaths “unfortunate” but said the raid was “no mistake” because Americans fired in self-defence. Rumsfeld should have just called it what it was — a mistake.

Ultimately, such fudging, even in wartime, proves counterproductive. Even more troubling are the White House’s penchant for secrecy — which the war on terrorism has only exacerbated — and Republican sympathizers’ efforts to silence debate.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle criticized the administration for not telling Congress it had created a shadow government of 100 senior civilian government managers (only executive branch members need apply). —Los Angeles Times



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