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DAWN - Features; July 23, 2003

July 23, 2003

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Move to shift Forest School

THE local public circles are concerned over the move to shift the Punjab Government Forest School from Bahawalpur to Ghora Gali without any valid reasoning.

The proposal, according to them, is tantamount to depriving the local population of their due share in government’s affairs.

The Punjab Forest School was established during the era of the Amir of Bahawalpur. Under the annexation agreement between the government of Pakistan and the Amir, all assets and liabilities of the defunct Bahawalpur state stood transferred to the government.

It is learnt that in the annexation deed it was also agreed that neither could the former state’s institutions and departments be disbanded nor could they be abolished or shifted from their original places. So the shifting of the Forest School from Bahawalpur would be a violation of this agreement by the government of Punjab, which is a successor to the then government of west Pakistan.

The Forest School is not only important locally, it also has national and international importance. The institution provides training facilities not only to foresters, forest guards and in-service forest servicemen of the Punjab, but also to those from Sindh and Balochistan. NWFP has its own forest school at Ghora Gali, where this school is proposed to be shifted.

The school is an internationally recognized training institution and agencies like FAO, ICRAF (International Council for Research of African Forests), the British Council and American Council exchange their programmes and information with it.

The Punjab Forest School’s campus is spread over 145 kanals and its assets are estimated to be over Rs300 million. In the past, attempts were made to grab this area by various elements but their designs were foiled. Now, if the campus is vacated, such ‘mafias’ will seize this costly land.

The school has boarding and lodging facilities for 150 students. Training is completed with the cooperation of army units including Engineer Corp. and infantry. If government lifts the ban on the recruitment of foresters, there will be no other institution except this school to impart training to 1,000 officers at a time. The Ghora Gali Forest School cannot meet the training needs of such a large number of recruits. It can train only 40 to 80 students in one team.

Dawn has further learnt that the government is contemplating abolishing the post of principal, Forest School, and shifting it to DG Khan. This would not be fair as DG Khan has no such institution.

The school employees are also in a fix since almost all of them belong to Bahawalpur and in case the school is shifted to Ghora Gali, they will face retrenchment. This would be unjust to them. So the Punjab government should review its move and allow the school to function here.

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In the sweltering heat, cold drinking water is not available to passengers at the Bahawalpur railway station.

The railway’s electric water coolers are closed by evening time, while most trains pass through Bahawalpur during night time.

Some time ago, the Anjuman-i-Tajran, Bahawalpur, donated electric water coolers for commuters, but they too are not functioning with the result that passengers are facing hardships. It is presumed that these coolers have been declared out of order with the connivance of stall owners of beverages and railway officials.

The passengers are compelled to purchase soft drinks to quench their thirst and

by this the stall owners and venders mint money taking advantage of the helplessness of passengers.

No senior railway official has taken note of the problem, though it is related to passenger welfare.

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A no-confidence motion against Naib Nazim of union council 1, Bahawalpur city, Malik Athar Rashid Awan, has been tabled before the house.

Abdullah Kaliar has filed the motion which was seconded by Shagufta Parveen. They accused Athar Rashid of misusing of his powers as a Naib Nazim.

A special meeting of

the union council will be held on July 24 to vote on the motion.

Athar Rashid is the uncle of MNA Farooq Azam Malik.

Charlie Wilson’s war

A new book, “Charlie Wilson’s War” by George Crile on the life and good times of a former US congressman is a frank pastiche of a lawmaker who helped Pakistan’s military ruler Gen. Ziaul Haq in procuring American money and weapons for the “holy war” against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

From humble beginnings in Lufkin, Texas, Congressman Charlie Wilson became an Israeli lobbyist and beneficiary of largesse bestowed upon him by the Jewish lobby in the United States and went on to become Ziaul Haq’s personal friend and confidant as they plotted to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan at times using Israeli supplied arms.

Charlie Wilson still works as a lobbyist for Pakistan on Capitol Hill and he was spotted at every reception that former Pakistani ambassador Maleeha Lodhi hosted.

Wilson, an avowed anti-Communist and anti-Indian, sat on the powerful US House Appropriations Committee. He managed to procure millions of dollars for America’s largest covert operation ever. He has been investigated several times by the FBI for using covert money to support his lifestyle.

Wilson reveals in the book that he was introduced to Gen Ziaul Haq by the Houston socialite Joanne Herring who was appointed honorary Pakistani consul-general by the then ambassador of Pakistan, soon to become foreign minister, Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan, when Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was prime minister.

Joanne Herring, described as the “Texas Bombshell” in addition to her role as “a social lioness and hostess to the powerful”, was credited with “setting in motion a process that would profoundly impact the outcome of the Afghan war”. “In the pivotal years of the Jihad, she (Herring) became both matchmaker and muse to Pakistan’s Muslim fundamentalist military dictator Ziaul Haq as well as scandal prone Charlie Wilson,” writes Crile.

“Herring set the stage. She had called Zia from Houston on his private line and told him not to be put off by Wilson’s flamboyant appearance and not to pay attention to any stories of decadence that his diplomats might relate. She was adamant he win over US Congressman from Texas: he could become Pakistan’s most important ally.”

Crile quotes Wilson in the book as saying that “Zia would leave cabinet meetings just to take Joanne’s calls”.

When Zia made his maiden visit to the United States during the Reagan administration, he was much reviled by most Americans having hung Mr Bhutto. Ms Herring hosted a most lavish dinner for Zia at a Houston hotel where she defended Zia’s hanging of Bhutto, saying “Zia did not hang Bhutto. He was found guilty. President Zia did not commute the sentence because the Pakistani constitution based on the Quran did not allow it”.

At that dinner, Crile writes, “Zia had dangerous decisions to make in the coming months about the CIA’s involvement in his inflamed North-West Frontier, and all of them centred on whether he could trust the United States. Joanne’s startling toast was strangely therapeutic for the much-maligned leader, who remembered how quickly Jimmy Carter had turned on him. In Houston that night, Joanne Herring saw to it that a host of powerful Americans actually honoured him. And that same night, Charlie Wilson provided yet another dimension to Zia’s growing partnership with the United States when he took the general into a side room for a private talk. The congressman had a novel proposition for the Muslim dictator. Would Zia be willing to deal with the Israelis?

“This was not the sort of proposal just anyone could have made. But by now, the Pakistanis believed that Charlie Wilson had been decisive in getting them the disputed F-16 radar systems. As he saw it, Wilson had pulled off the impossible. Now the congressman, in his tuxedo, began to take Zia into the forbidden world where the Israelis were prepared to make deals no one need hear about.

“He told Zia about his experience the previous year when the Israelis had shown him the vast stores of Soviet weapons they had captured from the PLO in Lebanon. The weapons were perfect for the mujahideen, he told Zia. If Wilson could persuade the CIA to buy them, would Zia have any problems passing them on to the Afghans?

“Zia, ever the pragmatist, smiled on the proposal, adding, ‘Just don’t put any Stars of David on the boxes.”

With that encouragement, Wilson pushed on. “Pakistan did not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and Wilson certainly had no authority to serve as a quasi secretary of state. In fact, with this kind of talk, the congressman was walking dangerously close to violating the Logan Act, which prohibits anyone other than the (US) president or his representatives from conducting foreign policy. But as the two rejoined Joanne’s party, Zia left the congressman with an understanding that he was authorized to begin secret negotiations to open back channels between Islamabad and Jerusalem. Wilson would leave for Israel in March and travel on to Pakistan to brief Zia immediately afterward.

Crile says that the CIA man in Islamabad, Howard Hart, when asked years later, if he knew about Wilson’s efforts to bring the Israelis into the Afghan war, dismissed the story out of hand, insisting that the Pakistanis would never have permitted it. “I would have burst into hysterical laughter and locked myself in the bathroom before proposing such a thing,” he said. “It was bad enough for Zia to be dealing with the Americans, even secretly. But the Israelis were so beyond the pale that it would have been impossible. You have to understand that the Pakistanis were counting on maintaining the image of holding the high moral ground — of a religious brother helping a religious brother. It is beyond comprehension to have tried to bring the Israelis into it.”

“Yet right under Hart’s nose,” Crile writes, “Wilson had proposed just such an arrangement, and Zia and his high command had signed on to implement it. Seven years later, Hart still knew nothing about it.”

Charlie Wilson’s strategy called for introducing a new weapon into the battle every three months or so, in order to bluff the Red Army into thinking their enemy was better armed and supported than it was, “The Spanish mortar, for example, with its satellite-guided charge, was rarely deployed and may only have succeeded because the Pakistani ISI advisers were along to direct the fire. But the Soviets didn’t know that. When the weapon was first used it wiped out an entire Spetsnaz outpost with a volley of perfect strikes.”

But ultimately it was the Reagan administration’s decision to covertly supply the mujahideen with Stinger missiles which changed the course of war.

President Zia, Wilson is quoted as saying in the book, was unwilling to deploy Stingers in the war fearing that the Soviets would react harshly. As it is at Leonid Brezhnev’s funeral Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov, had threatened “to destroy Zia if he didn’t cut off the Afghan bandits.”

In his bid to persuade Zia to allow mujahideen to deploy Stingers, Wilson says that he told the general “that he should consider an important benefit beyond weapon’s battlefield value to mujahideen. The Stinger, he told Zia would become symbol of the special relationship that had been forged between United States and Pakistan.”

Crile says Wilson’s importance to Zia and Pakistan went beyond money. “Every year the appropriations sub-committee members fought a battle royal over charges that Pakistan was actively pursuing an Islamic Bomb. And every year Wilson, sometimes single-handedly, beat back those accusations. The fact is, Pakistan was working on the bomb, as Wilson, the CIA and almost everyone knew. Furthermore it was not about to stop. The one thing all serious Pakistani politicians agreed on was the need for a nuclear deterrent. It was the only way, they believed, they could survive against militarily superior India, which had already overrun the country in three previous wars.”

Thus, Crile says, “Zia knew that as long as Pakistan was backing the mujahideen, Charlie Wilson would be with them, whether they had the bomb or not.” Hence the crucial decision to deploy the Stingers was made by Zia.

Syed Mahmud as a dissenter to the Raj

It would surely surprise all those, who regard Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to be too British, that towards the fag of his life he was considered ‘not too friendly’ by the British along with his son, Justice Syed Mahmud. True, the feelings also keep on changing.

There were reasons for this ‘rupture’ in Sir Syed’s otherwise life-long pro-British stand. He became grossly peevish when Syed Mahmud had to resign from the judgeship of Allahabad High Court on the plea that the Chief Justice was ‘too white’ to consider Indians as the legatees of a glorious past which had surprised all European travellers of the mediaeval times.

We ought to be grateful that one-time Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India and a former vice-president of that country Justice Hidayatullah, has left behind a monograph on Justice Syed Mahmud. Read with the archival material of Aligarh University, this monograph is an eye-opener for all those who think that friendship and animosities couldn’t be subject to changes. Justice Syed Mahmud was an eminent jurist besides being an educationist and scholar of Arabic and English. His impromptu translations of Ghalib - some of them published - had forced many Englishmen to accept that India, too, had a number of great poets. His grandfather, Mir Hadi, was a famous Urdu poet, a Sahib-i-Diwan and contemporary of Mir and Dard. It is strange that even Sir Syed has not thrown light on this aspect.

Syed Mahmud did a lot of spade work in disseminating the ‘gems’ of poetry among the high government functionaries of his times. It would be wrong that Justice Syed Mahmud played an important role in making Ghalib an important Indian poet in the Gymkhanas of northern India. His son, Sir Ross Masud continued the family tradition and did a lot to turn Ghalib into an ‘icon’ for every educated person. Ghalib is being more fervently read in Devnagri script in India today than in Pakistan. What a contrast?

Coming back to Justice Syed Mahmud, the Aligarh archives help us recast Syed Mahmud as well as Sir Syed’s image quite differently.

Syed Mahmud’s resignation from the judgeship of Allahabad High Court was a much talked about event in India. He was the first Muslim to be elevated to that office. Well versed in English literature, classics, Arabic and Persian, he was a luminary in his own right. He fell out with the Chief Justice on some points of law. Justice Mahmud was a fierce nationalist and was not in favour of allowing government control on educational institutions. It was this distrust of government control on educational institutions which went a long way in creating some doubts about his loyalty to the British. Some high officials thought him to be a person too independent for the position he was holding.

Born on 24th May 1850, Syed Mahmud was brought up as a prince in a family which had been close to the Royal Family from the day of its migration to India from Herat, Afghanistan. Sir Syed’s maternal grandfather was the Prime Minister of Emperor Akbar Shah II.

Drawing upon this rich background, Syed Mehmud was educated at Queen’s College, Benaras and went to England alongwith Sir Syed in 1869. He got admission to Christ Church College of Cambridge and completed his education in Law in 1873 with flying colours.

Enjoying his father’s complete confidence, it was Syed Mahmud who selected Theodore Beck with the help of Arthur Strachey in 1883 for the principalship of the M A O College. Married in 1886 in Sir Syed’s maternal grandfather’s family, he didn’t live long and died in 1903 in Sitapur. He was buried in Mehmood Manzil, Aligarh near his inclustrus father.

Syed Mahmud will be remembered for his pioneering role in educating Muslims. He drew up a blue-print for the Muslim University in 1872-73 at the age of 22 which created a furore against him. He didn’t want any government intervention in the affairs of the university and thought it to be a grave impediment in the formation of the students and faculty alike. Sir Syed was on the side of his son — a fact which turned many loyalists against him.

Syed Mahmud wrote several articles on education and his monograph history of Western Education in India (1793-1893) was presented at the Mohammedan Educational Conference. Alas! this monograph is still a rare document.

To cut along story short, much against the common belief, Sir Syed had felt that the British principals of the M.A.O. College didn’t want their Muslim students to go beyond Arabic and Persian in their Master’s programme of studies. He, with the help of justice Syed Mahmud, worked for the statutes, which could ensure that Aligarh could never be turned into a college of oriental languages. Thus, Sir Syed disbanded the oriental studies section of Aligarh in 1885, keeping the departments of Persian and Arabic intact in the general programes of the college. Well, this was an important step which even the advocates of Sir Syed don’t dwell upon. Obviously, Sir Syed’s opposition grew by leaps and bounds. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, through this measure, secured English-medium modern education centre in time to come. The Law of Trustees (1889), ensuring college’s independence, was passed unanimously.

How strange it is that the general impression still holds the ground that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was unduly supportive of the British principles and faculty. In fact he was opposing tooth and nail all attempts to convert M A O College into a mere Oriental College - an idea which even Theodore Beck also appeared to support at one time.

The tussle, however, took another shape and the Aligarh Archives abundantly prove that Sir Syed was on the side of giving Trustees and the Secretary so much power that even the government was not to be in a position to cripple its independence. The tussle between Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Antony Macbonnel proved this point. Nawab Hamid Ali Khan, Nawab of Rampur, who was asked by the U P government to take some of the powers of the Trustee failed and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk succeeded in thwarting the attempt.

In fact according to Justice Hidayatullah’s monograph of Justice Syed Mahmud, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan wanted to keep M A O College to steer clear of the government influence - a policy which his son believed to be covered and the opponents of Sir Syed - Maulvi Samiullah Khan and Khwaja Muhammad Yousuf were favouring the government lobby.

Even Hali, in his Hayat-i-Jawaid, couldn’t grasp this point and was wrong in misreading Sir Syed’s intention in supporting Syed Mahmud’s candidature from the secretaryship.

Thanks to Justice Hidayatullah and a work on Aligarh archives that we know a little about Syed Mahmud and Sir Syed.

Nobody in Pakistan can gloat over Bangladesh’s Test defeat

TO no one’s surprise Australia beat Bangladesh by the emphatic margin of an innings and 132 runs. But within its considerable limitations, Bangladesh was not altogether routed.

Certainly none of us in Pakistan can gloat over Bangladesh’s trouncing. When Pakistan last played in a Test series against Australia, a ‘home’ series with one Test match played in Sri Lanka and two in Sharjah, we did not exactly cover ourselves with glory.

It happens in sports that one team will be the monarch of all it surveys. Pakistan once ruled the hockey world and though squash is not a team game there was Jahangir Khan and there were the others. Someone has to be the best and someone has to be at the bottom of the ladder. But Bangladesh was expected to do far worse than it actually did.

Certainly the match did not end in a day but went past lunch on the third day. There was some resistance and Habibul Bashar did make a plucky 54 in the second innings. One can imagine the tremendous pressure that was on Bangladesh.

It was bad enough to be playing against the best team in the world. But it was made much worse that it was mocked and held up to ridicule by the likes of Dennis Lillee and David Hookes. In the end we had the unusual situation when Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist and even Brett Lee came to Bangladesh’s defence. There is a thin line between encouragement and patronising someone.

All the indications are that Bangladesh is not demoralised. I don’t think it will stretch Australia in the remaining Test match but in a sense, the worst is over and there may be even greater resistance.

But Bangladesh will need to build on all the ‘positives’ from the series. Defeat can be a good teacher and if the squad that was picked for the Australian tour was the right one, then it should settle for it and give it a long run. Bangladesh will be touring Pakistan next month and that too will be a tough tour for them.

Steve Waugh has now become the captain with the most Test wins, 74%. But more than that in almost all these wins, he has made a personal contribution. He is a captain who earns his keep and in the Test match against Bangladesh, he reeled off an unbeaten century.

Much as the Australian Cricket Board may like to get rid of him, he manages to outfox it. I would imagine that many Australian newspapers have been ready with his cricket obituary and are constantly updating it. Waugh simply refuses to put away his green, baggy cap.

It is ironic that the world’s most successful captain is re-appointed on a series by series basis. Waugh has himself indicated that he feels “younger” and is good for a few more years. Most cricketers deemed to be over-the-hill feel this, except that Waugh goes out and proves it.

I first saw Waugh play in the World Cup 1987 semifinal at Lahore and he plundered the runs at the end of the Australian innings, runs that were to prove decisive. He became known as “the ice-man.” The ice has still not melted.

Faisal Iqbal has been named captain of the Academies XI which could be a signal that he is in the frame as a future Pakistan captain.

I noticed that Hasan Raza has not been included in the team and can only presume that he is in contention for a place in the Pakistan team against Bangladesh. When he first played Test cricket he became the youngest player to do so, 14 years and some months. Yet his career has been a roller-coaster ride and one can’t help feeling that this acorn was not properly nurtured for as by now he would have been a mighty oak, as Sachin Tendulkar is.

A cricket expert had once indicated that Hasan Raza was suspect against fast bowling. I had told him that so too was every batsman in the world and it was Ranjitsinhji who played his cricket in the early part of the last century and who was one of cricket’s greats who had first said that no batsman in the world “likes it quick.”

Even Don Bradman did not. I don’t think we should pigeon-hole cricketers. There is still plenty of cricket in Hasan Raza and I certainly hope that he will not be forgotten or written off. He fits into the new-look team having both youth and experience.

The Youth Asia Cup has been badly affected by the weather. But it dispelled the perception that Pakistan is an unsafe place and Karachi in particular. New Zealand are still unwilling to play in Karachi, the memory of the bomb blast in the adjoining hotel to their own still haunts them.

In the meanwhile, there seems to be some progress in the revival of cricket ties with India but the signals we are getting are mixed ones. When it comes to the national teams, India seems rooted to its fixed position.

Kapil Dev’s remarks were negative. He simply stated that it was for the Indian government to decide. He could have lent his voice in trying to persuade his own government to be more flexible. There has been a lot of activity and delegations of various sorts have been visiting each other’s country and the bus service has resumed. All this would pale into insignificance with a Test series between the two countries.

As I have written many times, we should not be putting up fences but building bridges.