DAWN - Opinion; 10 July, 2004

Published July 10, 2004

A positive response

By Afzaal Mahmood

The third round of six-nation talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, which concluded in Beijing on June 26, have been described as "the most productive session so far." Besides China, North and South Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States attended the talks which have now entered a sensitive and crucial stage.

For the first time the Unites States put forward its detailed proposals for what North Korea would receive in return for dismantling all its nuclear programmes. The Americans offered security guarantees and South Korean aid if Pyongyang completely and speedily puts an end to its nuclear ambitions.

The North Korean response was that it found "some common elements" in the American proposals but there was really "little new" in them. The encouraging development is that instead of rejecting the American proposals, as the North Koreans have done in the past, their response this time, though restrained, was somewhat positive.

Under the American proposals, if Pyongyang were to freeze all its nuclear activities, its neighbours, particularly South Korea, would supply the much needed oil and electricity to it and the Americans would offer provisional guarantees of no hostile intent.

Within the next three months, North Korea is required to account for its nuclear programme and agree to its dismantlement before other benefits flow. However, indications are that North Korea will not agree to the conditions laid down when the fourth round of talks begin before the end of September.

The real problem is the lack of trust between North Korea and the United States. Partly it is due to what has happened in the past. In 1994, when tension between the two countries reached dangerous levels, former President Jimmy Carter brokered an agreement with the then North Korean ruler Kim 11 Sung.

Under the agreement, North Korea agreed to close its plutonium plant and seal up the cooling rods from which weapons grade plutonium could be extracted. In return, the United States, along with Japan and South Korea, agreed to build two modern, non-plutonium producing nuclear power stations in North Korea and also agreed to end its economic embargo and help it with food, oil and electricity.

North Koreans allege that the implementation of the Carter agreement was sabotaged by hard-line Republicans in the Congress, pushing the administration to slow down food supplies and oil deliveries and delay action on the building of new reactors which put them behind schedule by five years.

After George Bush had come to power, the US administration even persuaded the South Koreans to slow down their "Sunshine" policy of reconciliation with the North Koreans.

The Americans, for their part, put the blame on the North Koreans and alleged that North Korea had admitted having a secret programme to enrich uranium, but Pyongyang denies having made any such plans.

In any case, the Carter agreement collapsed in 2002. In retaliation, the North Koreans expelled the IAEA's inspectors and announced their withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

After that they even admitted to trying to make the nuclear bomb by the plutonium route and even claim to have produced 8,000 spent nuclear-fuel rods which can produce six atom bombs. They, however, deny pursuing the uranium route but the Americans do not accept their denial particularly after what Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan has stated about it.

Since the relations between the United States and North Korea have, in the past two years, continued to deteriorate, the progress made at the recently concluded third round of talks in Beijing is an encouraging development.

Also, there has been a subtle change in the American stance as they are now laying greater emphasis on diplomatic moves than on sabre rattling. The Bush administration is eager to avoid the collapse of talks with North Koreans before the presidential election in November.

The real dispute between the United States and North Korea is that Washington believes that Pyongyang is secretly pursuing a uranium enriching programme for making a nuclear bomb.

North Korea denies that and has offered to freeze its plutonium facility. It even emphasizes its commitment to keep the peninsula free of nuclear weapons but wants the Americans to promise that they will not attack North Korea and provide diplomatic and economic incentives.

The US is prepared to offer incentives provided North Korea is prepared to verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear programme. However, North Korea is unlikely to agree to completely give up its nuclear ambitions under the present circumstances.

It would like to keep its options open: if it agrees to give up its uranium programme, it would not destroy the plutonium it has already produced so that it retains the capability of building a few more bombs quickly.

Pyongyang is believed to be already in possession of at least two nuclear bombs. The reason is that it has come to regard nuclear weapons as a crucial part of its survival strategy.

Many analysts believe that even if North Korea eventually decides to freeze all its nuclear activities it will do so after the US presidential election in November. Pyongyang may like to strike a deal with John Kerry, if he wins the US election, in the hope of obtaining more favourable terms from him.

As far as George Bush is concerned, he does not seem to be in a hurry either. He has silenced his critics by showing that he is engaged in serious negotiations with the North Koreans. However, the chief concern of his administration is that Pyongyang does not walk away from nuclear talks ahead of the November election.

The Americans have every reason to be pleased with the change in the attitude of North Korea since the first round of six nation talks held in Beijing in August 2003.

Compared to its earlier outrightly hostile posture towards Washington, Pyongyang is now seriously pursuing the path of negotiations with the Americans in the Beijing talks. Three important developments in the past ten months appear to have brought about the change in attitude.

Iran, a member of "the axis of evil", was obliged to sign an agreement with the UN nuclear watchdog, IAEA, allowing it broad and intrusive inspections of Tehran's nuclear programme.

In a major breakthrough, Libya has abandoned its nuclear ambitions and dismantled all its projects dealing with weapons of mass destruction. And lastly came the revelations that a top Pakistani scientist headed a black market for peddling nuclear technology. These three developments of far-reaching significance appear to have put additional pressure on Pyongyang in recent months.

There are, however, no reasons to be too optimistic about the prospects of an amicable settlement between the United States and North Korea on the nuclear issue. After the invasion and occupation of Iraq by American-led forces, North Korea considers nuclear weapons to be an essential part of its survival strategy.

Could George Bush go ahead with his invasion of Iraq, Pyongyang argues, if Saddam Hussein had possessed nuclear weapons? The answer is obviously in the negative. Confrontation, North Koreans contend, is the only way to get results and, after three years of it, it has produced results. The Bush administration is now quietly negotiating with them. They have an advantage which the Iraqis did not have.

The writer is a former ambassador.

The standard rhetoric in America

By Gwynne Dyer

You can never say this without hurting the feelings of at least some Americans, but it needs to be said. At the stone-laying ceremony of July 4th on the site where the World Trade Center towers formerly stood, New York state governor George Pataki dedicated the building that is to replace them with the rhetoric that is standard in the United States on such occasions: "Let this great Freedom Tower show the world that what our enemies sought to destroy - our democracy, our freedom, our way of life - stands taller than ever." But 9/11 wasn't really about any of that.

Imagine the scene: it's 1999, and a group of wild-eyed and bushy-bearded Islamist fanatics are pacing a cave somewhere in Afghanistan planning 9/11. "We must destroy American democracy," says one. "An America run by a dictator would be a much better place."

"Yes," says the second, "and we must also curtail their freedom. Americans have too many television channels, too many breakfast cereals, and far too many kinds of make-up to choose from."

Then the third chimes in: "While we're at it, let's destroy their whole way of life. I've always hated American football, Oprah Winfrey sucks, and I can't stand Coca-Cola."

No? This scene doesn't ring true? Then why does almost all public discussion in the United States about the goals of the Islamist terrorists assume that they are driven by hatred for the domestic political and social arrangements of Americans? Because most Americans cannot imagine foreigners not being interested in the way they do things, let alone using the United States as a tool to pursue other goals entirely.

Public debate in the United States generally assumes that America is the only true home of democracy and freedom, and that other people and countries are 'pro-American' or 'anti-American' because they support or reject those ideals.

Practically nobody on the rest of the planet would recognise this picture, but it is the only one most Americans are shown - and it has major foreign policy implications.

This is what enables President George W. Bush to explain away why the United States was attacked with the simple phrase "They hate our freedoms," and to avoid any discussion that delves into the impact of American foreign policy in the Middle East on Arab and Muslim attitudes towards the United States. It also blinds most Americans to the nature of the strategic game that their country has been tricked into playing a role in.

So once more, with feeling: the 9/11 attacks were not aimed at American values, which are of no interest to the Islamists one way or another. They were an operation that was broadly intended to raise the profile of the Islamists in the Muslim world, but they had the further quite specific goal of luring the United States into invading Muslim countries.

The true goal of the Islamists is to come to power in Muslim countries, and their problem until recently was that they could not win over enough local people to make their revolutions happen.

Getting the United States to march into the Muslim world in pursuit of the terrorists was a potentially promising stratagem, since an invasion should produce endless images of American soldiers killing and humiliating Muslims. That might finally push enough people into the arms of the Islamists to get their long-stalled revolutions off the ground.

Specifically, the Al Qaeda planners expected the US to invade Afghanistan and get bogged down in the same long counter-guerrilla war that the Russians had experienced there, providing along the way years of horrifying images of American firepower killing innocent Muslims.

Osama bin Laden and his colleagues were simply trying to relive their past success against the Russians and get some more mileage out of the Afghan scenario.

In fact, their plan failed: the United States conquered Afghanistan quickly and at a very low cost in lives, and even now, despite huge American neglect, Afghanistan has not produced a major anti-American resistance movement. The reason Al Qaeda is still in business in a big way is that the Bush administration then invaded Iraq. -Copyright

Copying needs no copyright

By Kuldip Nayar

The BJP cannot win in the parliament what it lost at the polls. That is what the party must have realized after creating disturbance in the parliament from day one, session after session. Whether it can face the fact of defeat or loss of office remains to be seen. Its opposition, the party has said, will take "some other shape."

Protests are normal in democracy. They are expressed in different ways to register criticism. But when they assume the proportion of not letting the instruments of democracy to function, as the BJP was doing, they are motivated and serve little purpose.

The pendulum of public opinion swings from one side to another. The protest itself gets trivialized. Ultimately, the BJP seems to have realized that the public was exasperated over its behaviour.

When the government agreed to a debate in the parliament on the recall of governors and the tainted ministers, the matter should have ended there and then. Opposition leader L.K. Advani did not sound credible when he brought in morality to justify what his party was doing.

He himself was a tainted minister who was charged for conspiracy in the demolition of the Babri masjid. It was not the violation of Section 144, the argument he advanced to defend himself. He should have quitted the government. Instead, he rewarded the CBI director who had dropped the charge against him.

There is no doubt that the Congress has not set healthy precedents. Its role was abominable when it disrupted the last parliament again and again. But the BJP was foolish to copy the worst examples of the Congress. The BJP has set a still more reprehensible precedent. How does it help the party or the democratic polity in the country?

If political parties were to assess the fallout from stalling the parliament, the BJP would not have done what it did and the Congress would have expressed regret over disturbing the last parliament.

The BJP might have had the satisfaction of paying the Congress in the same coin. But by doing so, it has brought down the image of Indian parliament. Even BBC showed in its world service the members heckling and the Speaker standing helplessly.

People in Bangladesh began to lose faith in their parliament when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted it after the defeat in elections and when the Awami League did the same thing when it was in the opposition. After perceiving people's anger, the Awami League has decided to return to parliament. Maybe, this influenced the BJP.

By silencing those who differ, no principle can be defended. The BJP's approach is not that of tolerance, of feeling that perhaps others might also have some share of the truth. It looks as if the party's purpose is to get political mileage. It may not even get that. The party is only alienating public opinion.

Is there no forum other than parliament where the Congress and the BJP can settle scores? They are wasting time when so many bills are pending for approval and so many important problems are to be discussed. Members are oblivious of the fact that the parliament session costs 12 million rupees per day.

Coming to the points the BJP has raised, the office of governor has, no doubt, been devalued by the Congress. The party appointed its men, even the defeated ones in election, to the exalted position.

The BJP copied the Congress in appointments and went to the extent of even opting for the RSS sanchalaks (preachers). It is strange that the BJP on the one hand should tell its appointees not to resign and, on the other, point out that a governor is a constitutional authority, above party politics.

The Sarkaria Commission on centre-state relations recommended in the eighties that the governors should be "persons who have not taken too great a part in politics generally and particularly in the recent past." The national commission to review the working of the constitution supported Justice Sarkaria but adversely commented on the institution.

It said: "By and large, the picture has not been an inspiring one. This is because very often active politicians, politicians defeated at the polls and men lacking in integrity and fairness and individuals not possessing an understanding of the constitutional system - persons who were more interested in their personal career than public good - were chosen for this office."

In all fairness, the political appointees should themselves quit when a new government assumes power. It is up to the incoming government to ask them to stay back. But neither the Congress nor the BJP has followed this precept. What the Janata government did in 1977, Mrs Indira Gandhi repeated in 1980, dismissing governors not to her liking.

The question is not constitutional, as former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has claimed. The constitution says clearly that the governor will hold office "at the pleasure" of the president, although a tenure of five years has been mentioned.

The question is moral. Should a new government ask the governors appointed by its predecessor to quit before the end of their term? Both parties have acted wrongly.

The BJP dismissed governors appointed by Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda and Inder Gujral. The Congress has acted likewise. Unfortunately, the latter's first two appointees - R.L. Bhatia in Kerala and Balram Jhakar in Madhya Pradesh - were defeated in the Lok Sabha elections. Neither of the two parties can take a moral stand.

My hunch is that the BJP is making all the noise to stop the Congress from firing the RSS men who penetrated the fields of education, information and social welfare during the Vajpayee's regime.

True, the tenure of the appointees should be respected. But what should the Congress-led government do when the BJP men have blocked top positions in most of the institutions? The point to consider is why should the government appoint people with ideological commitment in the first instance?

The operation of a new regime becomes difficult when the instruments it has to work with are defective. One glaring example is that of the Prashar Bharati chairman. He contributes a weekly column to The Organizer, the RSS official organ. No wonder, the entire setup has developed a pro-BJP tilt. It has even a black list to keep the critics out of Doordarshan and Akashvani programmes.

The appointment of "tainted ministers", indeed, raises pertinent questions. Legally, there is no bar for a minister to continue till he or she is convicted by a court of law.

But morally, no person should be appointed minister if there is any criminal case pending against him. The Vajpayee government had Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and the Manmohan Singh government has such ministers as Laloo Prasad Yadav and Taslimuddin.

The predicament of the Congress is that if it were to drop the tainted ministers it would endanger the life of its government. The BJP's predicament was how it could ask two of its top leaders to quit. Consequently, political considerations came to the fore, pushing norms and values into the background.

So long as the civil society does not assert itself, the nation will continue to be buffeted by winds of politics and opportunism. Can it refuse to be co-opted into the system which is reeking with corruption - be it that of money or power - is the question.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in New Delhi.

The role of military in national affairs

By Muhammad Asghar Khan

For one who saw the birth of this nation, saw and heard the Quaid-i-Azam and played a part in building the country's defence to see the values which the Quaid held dear wither away is an unhappy experience. Politicians and generals alike have destroyed the foundation on which this country was built.

We have seen Generals drag the country into unnecessary wars which we should never have started and we have seen the manner in which elected politicians and the armed forces have been used to destroy the unity of the country.

A majority party which had won the elections and had the right to rule was denied the opportunity because it represented East Pakistan and was thus forced into separation. We saw the surrender of the army in a disgraceful scene in Dhaka. Ninety thousand were taken prisoner and many were killed.

We have seen a popularly elected leader try to foist an authoritarian regime on the country, followed by a military dictator who masquerading as a religious reformer, tried and almost succeeded in turning Pakistan into a nation of bigoted mullahs.

We have seen the powerful role of military intelligence in our politics and the ease with which politicians have been selling their loyalties and support. The arrival of another general in a position of political power is the natural result of the country's slide away from the Quaid-i-Azam's teaching.

The decline in values has been steady and a stage has been reached when people fail to see the level of absurdity that we have reached. The steady erosion of the powers of the judiciary and its role in giving legitimacy to the unconstitutional role of the military in national affairs started very soon after the creation of the state and continuous to this day.

There are not many examples in contemporary history where elected members of parliament have led hooligans to attack the Supreme Court of the country, as happened in Pakistan. It would be no exaggeration to say that the judiciary has ceased to be an institution from which the people can expect justice.

The defence budget has never been discussed by the elected representatives of the nation and this is now considered quite normal. If this enormous expenditure which the country can ill afford is questioned, it fails to raise any interest in the public.

Now that we have a nuclear deterrent, the country needs a smaller regular army. The defence budget can thus be reduced by at least Rs 40 billion. With the elimination of the high living of our rulers and of the thoughtless waste of the country's meagre resources on unnecessary projects, we can bring about a dramatic change in health, education and other important sectors of our society.

I addressed a well represented press conference in Islamabad on this subject recently, which was reported in most national newspapers. However, it evoked little interest or comment.

The fact that elected representatives are not allowed to discuss the defence budget in parliament does not appear to have been the subject of any debate. No one appears to have thought that an opinion on such an important subject by one who has some knowledge of defence merits attention.

No national newspaper except one thought it worthy of comment. A few days later, a leading English daily (not Dawn) which had not reported my press conference, reported on its front page that the prime minister's grandson had been circumcised.

For over half a century the dominance of the military in national affairs has given place to the armed forces in the affairs of the nation that will not be easy to change.

The United States' obsession with its war on terrorism, which will last for a long time, is likely to further strengthen the involvement of the armed forces in the political affairs of the country.

In this situation only powerful public pressure to restrict the armed forces to their defence responsibilities under political directions can bring about a change. Hopefully, improved relations with India could provide the incentive for sending the defence forces back to their proper place in our society.

In the meantime, we must ensure that we discuss our defence requirements and insist that the people's representatives decide what these are. The media which is enjoying a level of freedom it has not known before should play its part in educating public opinion on this vital national issue and determine the relative importance of the circumcision of the prime minister's grandson and a reduction in the defence budget.

E-mail: masgharkhan1@yahoo.com.

A setback to democracy

By Syed Shahid Husain

Our slow lurch to militaristic democracy received a minor jolt when Mr Zafarullah Khan Jamali who had vowed not to resign from the office of prime ministership finally resigned.

Mr Jamali remains an enigma to people. Who is he, they ask? And why has he been removed? He has developed a constituency among those who credit him with being a decent person. He belongs to an educated Baloch tribe. In the tribal hierarchy, his is a minor tribe but its strength lies in the education that other tribes lack.

He always had a hard time winning his National Assembly seat. In 1985, although he was a federal minister in Gen. Ziaul Haq's regime, a deputy commissioner had to be transferred in the middle of night to make it possible for him to file the sole nomination paper.

When his opponent somehow succeeded in filing his nomination paper too, he was bribed out with a 17-grade job offer to become assistant commissioner. He is still serving after a brief stint in jail. Subsequent successful bids for earning a seat in the National Assembly have not been without controversy.

In one case, the provincial election commissioner was suspended because the chief election commissioner Justice Nusrat Hasan wanted to be the first to inform Gen Zia that Jamali had been returned unopposed. But the general said he already knew.

Anyhow, what is new in the current, familiar political spectacle is the induction of an interim prime minister who will keep the seat warm for the ultimate beneficiary.

Although it appears to be a sure outcome, still what is the guarantee that Shaukat Aziz will win the elections, police ordinance or no police ordinance? Elections are easy to fix in terms of date, place and even outcome but yet one never knows about future.

An MNA, who is sacrificing his seat does not command the attention of his constituency any more. One will then have to depend on the Police. But would it suit the 'interim' PM and his cousin in Punjab with the chosen chief secretary as a teammate to allow Aziz to win. Politics and politicians can never be trusted.

Chaudhries' meteoric rise to power similar to Sharifs' owes in no small amount to the single-handed machinations of Tariq Aziz. The Choudhries of Gujrat were the top borrowers and the biggest beneficiaries of bank loans, which were written off.

They were not disqualified like everybody else from contesting the elections in 2002. The scheme so assiduously put in place by the hard working generals may thus appear to be unravelling.

It all started with the sack of CM Sindh. Now the PM. Next the governor of Punjab or the CM Balochistan or/and NWFP. The last one committed the most unforgivable crime of not attending NSC meeting when summoned to it. He ought to realize that he is a 'subordinate' functionary of the federal government.

The military has hard time understanding all the fuss about democracy. Their chief thinks, decides and orders on behalf of 149 million people of Pakistan and every one else has to blindly follow.

They like it neat and clean. The debate, delay, and discussion are considered totally unnecessary particularly by institutions like the National Assembly, the Senate, the Judiciary and above all the hullabaloo with regard to the Constitution. All that is anathema to the people and presents a clear and formidable impediment to the clear-cut solutions that the military can always come out with readily.

No government in Pakistan has ever changed without covert or overt military involvement. Benazir Bhutto in her second term tried to avoid her previous mistakes. She was determined to stay close to the Americans and tried to keep the army happy as best as she could. She accommodated ISI, military's autonomous arm, with all the patronage it needed. But that did not save her from a second sack and an exile.

When Justice Sajjad Shah took the unprecedented and unconstitutional step to suspended the constitutional provision and thus restoring the president's powers specifically to dismiss Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the latter would have become history had Gen Karamat gone along with such a 'nefarious' design.

The intrigue failed because the military conformed to its oath of loyalty to the Constitution. But that is rare indeed. The other time it happened so was when Zia died in an air crash and Gen Aslam Beg went ahead with the scheduled elections.

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