DAWN - Opinion; August 28, 2002

Published August 28, 2002

Hot air won’t get us anywhere: WORLD VIEW

By Mahir Ali


THE World Summit on Environment and Development that opened in Johannesburg on Monday is expected to generate about 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Given the build-up to what has been billed as the world’s largest conference, there is a lingering suspicion that the extra pollution may come to be seen as its only substantial contribution to the globe.

It ought not to be so, of course. Biodiversity, the extent of global warming and humankind’s ability to pursue sustainable development will determine the fate of our common home. It is arguable whether the planet we live on is dying, but it is clearly not in sound health. The brown cloud above the subcontinent is but one symptom of the malaise. The drought and famine across a vast swathe of the continent where human existence originated also suggest a world gone dreadfully wrong. It is also possible that the intensity of the recent floods in Europe may have been provoked by our reluctance to heed nature’s warnings.

There is a small but dedicated bunch of scientists who insist that the greenhouse effect is a myth; the earth may be warming up, but there is no cause for alarm, because climate change has been a part of the package ever since the planet came into existence. After all, isn’t it widely believed that dinosaurs became extinct because of an ice age?

However, although it is indeed the case that the earth’s climate has never stood still, most scientists are considerably less complacent about recent trends, not least because most of the changes can directly be traced to human behaviour. The extinction of species at an unprecedented rate is attributable to the loss of their habitat. Excessive logging, particularly in rainforests, is not only harmful to animals, it is also responsible for soil erosion; besides, the rapid reduction in greenery means that less of the carbon dioxide we produce can be absorbed. The burning of fossil fuels for energy, which is widespread in the developing world but also common in developed countries, is the chief source of excess carbon dioxide.

Then there is the question of water, which has the potential to become a major cause of conflict in the 21st century. Water is a renewable resource, but that depends on how much of it we use. There is evidence of excess usage in many parts of Asia and Africa, and pollution of freshwater sources such as rivers and lakes is common throughout the world. It is believed that unsafe water is the cause of 30,000 deaths a day in the Third World. That is 10 times the toll taken by the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11 last year.

What is to be done? A great deal. But first let’s look at what is not to be done.

The first thing that’s not to be done is to pretend that the problem does not exist. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the man at the helm of the world’s largest powerhouse is doing. George W. Bush will not be among the more than 100 heads of state and government who will turn up in Johannesburg early next week, even though the summit was brought forward just so it wouldn’t interfere with his engagements revolving around the 9/11 anniversary.

He will not attend because some of the largest contributors to his electoral war chest have told him that it wouldn’t be a good idea to grace with his august presence a gathering that is not just “anti-western” but also “anti-free trade”. These contributors include some of the biggest multinational corporations based in the US. Their pressure has already persuaded Bush to reject the Kyoto Protocol, which laid down conditions for reducing greenhouse emissions by extremely modest amounts. Apart from Australia, most of America’s western allies have ratified the protocol. They may have done it out of fear of excoriation, but it is more likely that the main motivating factor was concern for the future.

For most multinational corporations, the bottom line takes precedence over the future. There’s no contest. Reducing emissions would involve taking a cut in profits, and that’s just not on. The future can go to hell — which it probably will, if global temperatures keep rising at the present rate.

Bush either doesn’t care, or he doesn’t care enough to jeopardize prospects of a second term by annoying his corporate friends. After all, Daddy was imprudent enough to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the last Earth Summit in 1992, and even though he did not commit himself to anything very radical, he was routed in the presidential contest later that year. George Bush Junior isn’t about to make the same mistake. After all, anyone who might be overly concerned about Bush refusing to interrupt his Texas vacation to travel to Johannesburg is likely to vote for Ralph Nader anyway. Perhaps Bush would have been less disinclined to inconvenience himself had South Africa still been under the shadow of apartheid.

Bush also does not take kindly to any criticism whatsoever of the United States, and plenty of that can be expected in Johannesburg, given America’s status as the world’s most prolific polluter. However, to give the devil his due, it must be said that Bush has at least chosen the path of least hypocrisy; it is better to stay away than to appear on the world stage and spout insincere platitudes, which is what several other leaders can be expected to do.

Tony Blair is among those who are deeply disappointed by Bush’s decision. He appears to have tried extremely hard to persuade the US president to change his mind, but to no avail. This is reported to have caused considerable personal anguish to the British prime minister, who had thus far fondly hoped that his unequivocal public support of the purported war on terror would gain him some sort of leverage over Bush in other matters.

Having been disabused of that notion, can Blair now be expected to begin disentangling British foreign policy from Washington’s coat-tails?

Be that as it may, there is little prospect of the Labour leader turning into a green crusader. When it was decided earlier this month to reduce the size of Britain’s Earth Summit delegation from 100 to 70, the discarded personnel included environment minister Michael Meacher — a man who knows his portfolio well and is widely respected by environmentalists. Only an outcry in the media — and an offer by the Friends of the Earth to pay for Meacher’s passage to Johannesburg — led Blair to reconsider his ridiculous decision. However, as a consequence of the criticism, the British government was until last week refusing to release a list of delegates, who apparently include the heads of some of the largest UK-based corporations, such as Rio Tinto, an Anglo-American.

Blair evidently shares the view of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and, increasingly, the United Nations that environmental checks and improvements are something that ought to be left largely to multinational corporations. This patently ridiculous idea is closely related to the ill-founded passion for free trade as a panacea for all of humanity’s problems.

It is illogical to expect huge corporations to take the initiative in any process that is incompatible with their mantra of short-term profit maximization. But their willingness to pretend that environmental concerns are high on their agenda suits the purposes of governments that themselves are guilty of tokenism and prey to misplaced priorities. Corporate tax breaks, after all, are a much simpler option than establishing and policing greener practices or investing heavily in the research and development of cleaner technologies. As a result, each successive generation inherits a world that is in many ways nastier than the one inhabited by its predecessors.

It is almost universally accepted that the worst single cause of pollution is the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which is common practice in all parts of the world. The obvious remedy is alternative sources of energy. The nuclear option is demonstrably not a safe choice. What is amazing is the reluctance of governments to devote resources towards harnessing solar and wind power as a means of generating electricity, for example, even though the relevant technologies are available and there is no risk of dangerous byproducts. Could it be that an unwillingness to incur the wrath of the giant oil and power conglomerates acts as a disincentive?

Private investment in clean energy is held back by the prospect of outlays exceeding income in the short term. On the other hand, several conglomerates have lately been competing in the privatization of water in parts of the Americas.

In some cases fierce popular resistance has compelled the authorities to cave in and reclaim from the corporations a resource that is generally considered a part of humanity’s common heritage. Privatized water may be cleaner, but it is also only available to those who can afford it. One wonders what they’ll think of next. Fresh air? It’s rare enough to be profitably commodified.

A greener world, or even a world moving at an appreciably slower pace towards self-destruction, is unlikely to emerge for as long as the creation of wealth and its concentration in a few hands continues to take precedence over its fairer distribution. A great deal of hot air will be generated at Johannesburg, but don’t expect any miracles, or even a meaningful recipe for sustainable development. The latter is all but inconceivable under existing economic and power structures. The struggle for a more habitable planet must continue, but any hope of success will be contingent upon broadening its focus from our natural surrounds to the political environment.

As things stand, chances are that 10 years from now another Earth Summit will be scheduled in some part of the world, under conditions that are 10 times worse. And then they’ll call it off because of a lack of interest among elected dictators and company directors.

mahirali@journalist.com

BJP’s coercive diplomacy

By Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty


THE latest indications are that the Indian military concentrations along Pakistan’s border and the Line of Control may continue beyond October which was the date when de-escalation was expected. The ostensible justification given remains that of Pakistan’s failure to end “cross-border terrorism”. But given the evolving internal political dynamics in India, the maintenance of tension with Pakistan appears to be increasingly tailored to domestic compulsions.

Since February, when the worst communal riots in ten years engulfed the state of Gujarat, the BJP has been embarrassed by the activities of the extremist wing of the Party that is clearly in the ascendant. The radical Hindus of the Sangh Parivar have assumed a dominant role but their agenda, such as early construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, is at odds with the need for secular credentials, notably in relation to Kashmir.

The selection of Dr Abdul Kalam, the father of India’s missile programme, as president was clearly designed to gain credibility for India’s secular image, but already, the relationship between him and the BJP government has become tense. His decision to visit Gujarat highlighted the failures of the state government of Narendar Modi whose desire to capitalize on the communal passions aroused by the riots has been frustrated by the refusal of the Election Commission to allow early polls in the state. He also sent back the ordinance prepared by the cabinet on electoral reforms that would allow politicians accused of criminal acts to contest elections. He later signed the ordinance when the Cabinet sent it back to him.

Coming back to the continued resort to coercion against Pakistan, and the indication that it would continue beyond October, it is natural to look for the Indian game plan. Basically, India has pursued the policy of utilizing the post-9/11 situation to suppress the liberation movement in Kashmir by dubbing it as terrorism. Since his announcement of January 12, 2002, President Musharraf has adhered to the policy of preventing any infiltration across the Line of Control by Jihadi groups.

However, if 700,000 Indian troops and security personnel in Indian held Kashmir cannot seal off the LoC, it is unreasonable to argue that Pakistan can do so. As US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has stated during his recent visit to the subcontinent, Pakistan cannot be held responsible for stray cases of infiltration. However, a substantial reduction of the so-called “cross-border terrorism” has been conceded by all concerned including India.

The basic fact is it that suits India to maintain pressure on Pakistan under the pretext of countering terrorism. BJP’s falling popularity that was revealed during the state elections of February-March is held in check by the war psychosis created by this approach. The kind of hatred of Pakistan that is being created by the BJP cannot be in the long-term interest of the region, and responsible circles in India are already expressing concern over this short-sighted approach.

It is significant that while the US and other western powers are concerned over the prospect of a conflict in the region, the pressure to ease the tension has come mainly on Pakistan. There has been little effort to persuade India to de-escalate by pulling back its forces. Some US strategic analysts have expressed the view that it is in the US interest to have India maintain pressure on Pakistan whose leadership is thereby compelled to fall in with all US demands. These range from suppression of Jihadi organizations within the country to full cooperation with the US in its war against terrorism.

The maintenance of a strategic partnership with India has become the goal of the US in the post-cold war order. The grand strategy of the US in Asia encompasses three major goals: ensure total security for Israel, maintain control over the energy resources of the continent, and to contain China. India, which under BJP has developed a nexus with Israel, shares these broad objectives. Washington also needs Pakistan, especially in its war against terror, but the convergence with Pakistan is tactical and is clearly given a lower priority.

The US is also anxious to avert a conflict between India and Pakistan, and would therefore like to facilitate a solution of the Kashmir dispute. However, from available indications, it appears it would prefer to see the LoC become the international border between the two neighbours. It may not be averse to an independent Kashmir, but that would be acceptable neither to India nor to Pakistan. The Kashmir policy of the US is closer to Indian perceptions, though Washington continues to pay lip-service to safeguarding the rights of the people of Kashmir.

The immediate objectives of India in maintaining coercive pressure on Pakistan relate on the one hand to preventing Pakistan from interfering in the sham elections it is planning in Kashmir in October, and to influencing the electoral process in Pakistan on the other. The top leadership of the BJP has apparently convinced itself that President Pervez Musharraf is unlikely to succeed in carrying popular support in facing up to the Indian threat. Here, the BJP government may be miscalculating, because major political parties in Pakistan cannot afford to launch any agitation against the military regime in Islamabad when it is facing a threat from India. Indeed, given the general perception in Pakistan about India’s hegemonic goals, public opinion is likely to regard any activity that weakens the armed forces as treasonable and unpatriotic.

So far, the BJP government has been strengthening its cooperation with the US and has been greatly assisted by the large Indian expatriate community in that country. Indeed, the Pakistani community in the US is so divided that the pro-India lobby is able to exercise considerable influence whereas the Pakistan-Americans are not only fewer but are split into factions almost everywhere. Promotion of greater cohesion among the Pakistani expatriates should be a priority of the new government that is thrown up by the elections in October.

As the BJP government persists in a coercive approach to Pakistan in the expectation that Islamabad would have to accept New Delhi’s concepts of South Asia’s political structure, Pakistan must respond proactively to frustrate these goals. Apart from maintaining its leverage with Washington, Pakistan must build on its all-weather friendship with China, and shore up its relations with major Muslim countries. Its equation with the Karzai regime in Afghanistan, as well as with Iran, remains critical to its diplomatic response to BJP’s hegemonic goals in the region.

We also need to persist in our policy of stressing the desirability of a dialogue to resolve all issues, including Kashmir as the best counter to India’s coercive strategy. Our constant refrain in favour of a dialogue has made an impact, especially as India under BJP is seen as aggressively arrogant whereas President Musharraf has made an impact as a champion of peaceful negotiations.

Though the BJP government in India has been spurning a dialogue, a number of peace activists from India have taken a courageous stand against the coercive approach of the BJP. Prominent personalities like Shekhar Gupta, editor of the Indian Express, social activist Nirmala Deshpande, and author Arundhati Roy have sought to promote a forward looking equation between the two neighbours. We need to welcome this line of thinking among moderate elements in India who reject BJP’s extremism and jingoism.

It also goes without saying that as our armed forces stand guard at the frontier, all our people should behave with responsibility and patriotic fervour to promote a democratic culture and economic regeneration. The upcoming elections will be a test of our maturity, and should not be permitted to degenerate into a free for all that could encourage India to capitalize on its military posture.

We should hold fast to our principled stand on Kashmir, while continuing political and moral support to those in the state who remain steadfast in demanding the rights promised to them in UN resolutions. When the dialogue resumes, which is inevitable sooner rather than later, our aim should be to promote a peaceful and just order in the subcontinent under which its resources and energies are devoted to eliminating poverty and backwardness that affect millions of people.

Getting away with it: OF MICE AND MEN

By Hafizur Rahman


ONE has to be pretty aged to remember events of the early forties with any degree of clarity. That is why I am not sure that I shall be able to find a contemporary who will bear me out and confirm this little vignette which still amuses me when I think of it.

Because of dearness occasioned by World War II sweepers in the Lahore Municipal Corporation of those days were agitating their demands for better wages. One day Lahore was shaken to the core of its being when a press statement and wall posters appeared about these demands signed by one Ram Saroop ICS.

The ICS, or the Indian Civil Service, predecessor of our CSP, was, to all intents and purposes, the administrative royalty of the subcontinent. Every educated person knew the names of the senior-most members of the ICS by heart, just as they knew at that time details of the British royal family members. Therefore every one of them knew there was no ICS by the name of Ram Saroop, and was surprised by the posters.

In any case, they said, what should an ICS be doing acting as the spokesman of the LMC sweepers, the lowest among humanity. Newsmen rushed out to locate and interview Ram Saroop who turned out to be president of the sweepers’ union. His explanation was simple. He had decided to appropriate the three golden letters, ICS, because, so far as he was concerned, they stood for Indian City Sweeper.

Not a bad anecdote, you will say, even though it sounds contrived and even incredible. But I swear it’s true. You will also ask: what is the occasion for recalling it today in this column? Well, from one thing to another, as they say. Memory is like that. It flits from one point to another point that is seemingly unconnected with it.

If you were to read the name of Mr Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister when war broke out in September 1939, and you were of my age, you would instinctively think of an umbrella because of his habit of always carrying one. And umbrellas would take your mind either to the atomic explosion which looks like a mushroom, or to the pretty young girl you saw the other day (as I did) taking shelter from the rain under a policeman’s umbrella.

Actually I am anticipating events that are very likely to take place after the coming general election. Also one provocation is the police. What is the traffic constable to do if he stops a ramshackle car and asks the driver what the letters MPA on the round plate on his vehicle stand for? If the driver or owner of the car can say with any conviction that the vehicle belongs to a member of the provincial assembly the constable knows what to do. He has only to look the other way and let the car go.

But suppose the man at the wheel says that, in his case, MPA stands for Member of Pakistani Awam, or Master of Pedigreed Alsatians, what would you advise the constable to do? He can’t look the other way. I am sure he would never have heard of the pre-partition story of Ram Saroop ICS. And our policemen don’t like jokes.

I have been reminded of the subject because of the incidents that were frequently occurring before October 1999, when MPAs considered themselves as privileged as the CSP. According to one story in my scrapbook, some of the cars bearing the legend MPA or MNA on their bumpers did not belong to any MNA or MPA. Not even to a close relation. And this despite the fact that PM Nawaz Sharif had prohibited the use of this special round plate on the cars of legislators.

I hate delivering homilies. That should never be done by a columnist. But the truth is that those who are young and not yet entitled to privileges tend to copy their betters and elders. When the (common) young man sees that his MNA and MPA do not care to pay the car tax, that their vehicles carry no registration (and sometimes no number plates), and that the three letters on a round number plate are a passport to everywhere, why shouldn’t he want to copy and enjoy some free concessions?

Actually even if I try to explain and write a book about it, the case is hopeless. It is simple beyond description. In this country, being in a position of authority is considered no big deal unless the position brings with it some clout, a number of privileges, facilities, concessions, amenities and a few extracurricular perks.

Take the simple case of the so-called VIP lounges at the airports, abolished on paper, but, I’m told, still very much there. Any moron of an additional secretary to government who has reached that status through a process in which his personal ability had no share, can walk into a VIP lounge and enjoy its fawning comforts. But in their lifetime, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sadequain and Dr Abdus Salam, perhaps the only three personalities about whom Pakistan could take pride in international circles were denied entry into these holy sanctums.

Seen in this light, a youthful delinquent can be excused if he thinks he can enjoy a few hours, or perhaps a few days, of VIP status by putting that precious round plate on a borrowed or stolen car. He is not doing anything illegal. He can always say to the traffic cop, as Ram Saroop the fictitious ICS did, that, in his case, the MNA stands for Muslim National Academy of which he is a student, and the three letters MPA for anything equally bizarre and incomprehensible. It is all a question of possessing supreme self-confidence which most of our well-placed young men have in plenty, and getting away with it.

The Lahore police officer who had indignantly told a newspaper (as my scrapbook further tells me) that his men had caught certain persons and cars using the plate MNA or MPA unauthorizedly, did not care to reveal under what law or rule a genuine legislator was allowed to affix that plate on his car. Was it simply on the basis of usage, or was it again a case of getting away with it?

It is easy to blame “anti-social elements” for breaking the law, but it is not easy to admit, even for a prime minister in Pakistan, that the lawmakers themselves are sometimes the biggest law-breakers in the country. It is to be seen what the all- powerful president, General Pervez Musharraf, thinks of this round plate business after the country is flooded with MNAs and MPAs.

As the standoff continues

By M.H. Askari


THERE is nothing to suggest that the US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has any reason to be satisfied with the outcome of his visit to South Asia. There is no perceptible change in the relations between India and Pakistan. About a million troops continue to be massed on the border and the tensions in the region continue to be a source of concern.

Mr Armitage claimed that there has been a lessening of tensions, but a Pakistan foreign office spokesman denied that any such thing had taken place and maintained that the situation continued to be “very dangerous.” He believed that no improvement could be expected so long as the Indian troops remained in “offensive positions” on the border.

On the eve of Mr Armitage’s visit there was strong speculation that the US would bring India and Pakistan to the negotiating table. Mr Armitage also said that the US was continuing its efforts “to bring about a situation where there can be a dialogue and the two parties can sit face to face to speak about these matters.” There is no sign yet of this happening.

Speaking to newspaper representatives in Islamabad on the conclusion of his visit to Pakistan, Mr Armitage indicated that his peace-making efforts would continue. At the moment, however, unless there has been some quiet understanding between Mr Armitage and the leaders of the two countries, the outlook remains as disquieting as before.

Indeed, after a previous visit to New Delhi and Islamabad Mr Armitage had plainly admitted that “when you have close to a million men glaring, shouting and occasionally shooting across a territory that is a matter of dispute, then, I think, you couldn’t say the crisis is over, but I think the tensions are down measurably.” However, to quote an Indian news commentator, the subcontinent is between a hot war and a cold war — a hybrid confrontation which is a war of rhetoric with guns in suspended animation.

The sudden Indian air-ground attack on the Pakistani positions in the Gultari sector near Skardu last Thursday cannot but be seen as an escalatory move. India’s categorical denial of any such offensive is enigmatic and lacks credibility. Disclosing the incident, the Pakistan military spokesman, Maj-Gen Rashid Qureshi gave specific details, which could not have been made up just to put India in a bad light. India has taken a position which makes the whole thing seem quite mysterious. Its defence minister’s remark that resorting to falsehood had become quite a habit with Pakistan was more an angry and intemperate retort than a convincing denial. India’s external affairs ministry also termed the report of the Indian attack on Gultari military posts baseless and maintained that no Indian military personnel had been killed. However, the retired Indian general, V.R. Raghavan, who at one time headed the Indian force in the Kargil region and also served as director of military operations, confirmed that there were reports of troops on both sides trying to evict each other from their positions in the region.

It is quite likely that the Indian military planners may have tried to spring a surprise on Pakistan like the one they had themselves suffered in Kargil two years ago. However, Pakistan insists that it possesses incontrovertible evidence to support its disclosure about the Indian attack in the Gultari sector.

It could well be that the Indian forces positioned on the border, out of sheer weariness, were looking for an opportunity for some sort of showdown and stumbled into the Gultari adventure. With reports from New Delhi that the Indian troops could stay massed on the border until well after October, the possibility of more such local skirmishes between the two sides cannot be ruled out.

Indeed ever since an attack on the Indian parliament building by Kashmir militants in December last year and a similarly attack on an Indian military camp in occupied Kashmir, the ultra-nationalists in New Delhi’s ruling coalition have been pressing the government for “teaching Pakistan a lesson”, saying that “the mood of the nation is to hit back.”

A report in the Time magazine said that Vajpayee was under pressure to resort to “the logical escalation of pressure” which should take the form of limited air strikes, sorties across the border to hit “the terrorists’ camps”, perhaps an abrogation of the 41-year old treaty that would deny Pakistan vital water supply from rivers that originate in India; after that, all-out war.”

It would be the height of insanity for India to think of acting out such a scenario. For the subcontinent the consequences would be unpredictable, possibly catastrophic. It is important for Washington to realize that the peace of the region is critically at stake and no effort should be spared to make face-to-face talks between India and Pakistan possible. Pakistan is always prepared for such a dialogue. A way should be found to bring India round to a more reasonable and conciliatory frame of mind.

A former judge of India’s Supreme Court has been critical of Prime Minister Vajpayee’s refusal to respond to President Pervez Musharraf’s repeated suggestion for a resumption of the long abandoned dialogue. Retired Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, in an article in Frontline news-weekly, has said: “India should seize every opportunity to find a solution for a diehard controversy. In this I agree with (former foreign minister) K. Natwar Singh’s view that the confidence-building conference of 16 nations in Kazakhstan was an opportunity too timely and too strategic to be rejected and that it was too unstatesmanly and pusillanimous on India’s part to have written off a dialogue held under the solemn auspices of an Asian meet and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s well-meaning presence... Nothing is lost by a talk. Something may be gained at least by way of lessening tension...”

In sharp contrast, India’s deputy prime minister, Lal Krishna Advani, struck a hawkish note in an interview in London recently, saying that “India considers itself at war with Pakistan over the disputed Himalayan region despite there being no formal declaration of hostilities.” He even credited his country with exceptional restraint in not declaring war on Pakistan after the December terrorist attack on Indian parliament.

As against this belligerent stance of its leaders, India has some remarkably outspoken believers in peace with Pakistan. The recent visit to Pakistan of two of them was like a breath of fresh air.

The veteran Gandhiite, Nirmala Deshpande, and the literary celebrity, Arundhati Roy, addressed large audiences in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi stressing that the common people in both countries wished nothing more ardently than peace and harmony, but those in power deliberately activated contentious issues to divert the people’s attention from problems such as health, education and employment. Ms Deshpande had no hesitation in admitting that the most blatant atrocities committed on the Muslims by Hindu zealots in Gujarat were preplanned and had the connivance of the official agencies.

To underline her commitment to peace, Ms Arundhati Roy went to the extent of saying that if she knew in advance that her government was about to fire a missile aimed at Pakistan she would rush across the border to share the fate of her Pakistani neighbours. She called for an end to nuclear proliferation and the senseless arms race between India and Pakistan.

Visits such as those of Ms Deshpande and Ms Arundhati Roy will hopefully create a climate of confidence and hope, making it possible for saner sections of people on both sides to work ever more vigorously for the cause of peace and reconciliation between the two countries.

House for rent

YOU don’t have to own a house to go on vacation. You can rent one, as many people do. It can make for an odd relationship.

Landlord: Here are the keys for the month of August. I know you’ll be happy. (I should have charged him a lot more than $3,000. He got a steal.)

Renter: Thanks so much. I look forward to living here. (It’s a shack, and not even worth $500 a week.)

Landlord: The washing machine is in the basement. (When it works.)

Renter: My wife wanted to know where the linen closet is. (He probably left us two towels and two washcloths.)

Landlord: Enjoy the garden. (I won’t tell him it’s full of poison ivy.)

Renter: I like the hammock in the backyard. (The ropes are so worn I don’t dare get into it.)

Landlord: The garbage disposal is great. (When it’s working and doesn’t clog up.)

Renter: How are the neighbours?

Landlord: The salt of the earth. (There is no sense telling him that the guy next door has kids who party all night, and he cuts his lawn at 7 o’clock in the morning.)

Renter: Charlie, our dog, likes to sleep in our bed.

Landlord: That’s nice. (He didn’t tell me he had a dog. I wouldn’t have rented him the place.)

Renter: It’s nice that the house is a “walk to the beach.” (If you like a five-mile walk.)

Landlord: The cleaning woman’s name is Rosita and she comes once a week to change the sheets. She’ll do anything you ask her to. (She’s afraid not to, because she’s an illegal alien.)

Renter: Why do those cement trucks keep driving past the house?

Landlord: Don’t pay any attention to them. (The guy next door is building a new house and the trucks have right of way on our property.)

Renter: Which one is the guestroom?

Landlord: The one with no curtains. We ordered them a month ago, but you know how those people are. (What does he want for $3,000, the Ritz Carlton?)

Renter: How do you work the outside shower?

Landlord: You don’t. Because of the drought, the town has banned it. (I’m not going to tell him the inside shower doesn’t work either.)

Renter: Well, that about does it. It’s going to be a summer we will never forget.

Landlord: We hope so. May I have the $1,000 cheque for breakage? (He’ll never get his deposit back.)

Renter: Here you are. (I’ll never get my deposit back.).—Dawn/Tribune Media Services

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