Moving ahead, haltingly
Mr Natwar Singh's just-concluded visit - the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian foreign minister in more than 15 years - will help boost the fragile peace process which had begun to fray at the edges. Three factors added significance to the visit.
It was the first high level interaction between Pakistan and India since the November 24, 2004, New Delhi meeting between their prime ministers. The visit took place in the backdrop of the Indo-Pakistan dispute over the Baglihar dam and the postponement of Saarc's Dhaka summit, owing to India's last-minute withdrawal from the conference. Thirdly, Pakistan was not happy with the progress of the composite dialogue and suspected New Delhi of deliberately slowing down its pace.
The notable achievements of the visit include the agreement on the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service from April; India's readiness to look at a gas project, reopen Khokrapar rail link and an agreement to launch a bus service between Lahore and Amritsar.
Both countries are making efforts for an early reopening of their respective consulates-general in Karachi and Mumbai. They have also decided to initiate discussions for an agreement to reduce risks of nuclear accidents or the unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and to prevent accidents at sea. They have also agreed to consider measures to alleviate the situation of civilian prisoners and detained fishermen.
The generous use of rhetoric by the two foreign ministers in their statements at the joint press conference could not obscure the fact that serious differences over crucial issues continued to characterize bilateral relations. Though it was a joint press conference, the two foreign ministers chose to read out separate statements as Mr Singh was keen on giving his "own version."
Also, it was unusual for the two foreign ministers to leave the press conference abruptly after reading out their respective statements. Reportedly, the Indian foreign minister had agreed to attend the joint press conference on the condition that there would be no question-answer session as that would have brought to light serious differences of viewpoint and approach that continue to block progress on crucial issues like Kashmir.
Interestingly, there was no mention at all of the Kashmir issue in the Indian foreign minister's statement, though a considerable portion of his Pakistani counterpart's statement was devoted to Kashmir.
The time has come for New Delhi and Islamabad to take the bull by the horns. It is the need of the hour that the tricky and critical question relating to Kashmir and confidence-building measures (CBMs) should be resolved once and for all to the satisfaction of both the parties. Pakistan desires that the progress on CBMs should not be at the expense of putting Kashmir on the backburner.
India wants that normalization of relations should not be held hostage to the Kashmir question. Also, it argues that once mutual confidence permeates the relations between the two countries, the Kashmir issue will become less difficult to resolve.
Islamabad's formulation that CBMs and dialogue on conflict resolution should proceed in tandem offers a sensible way out. In simple terms, it means "simultaneity" of progress on Kashmir and normalization of relations.
To begin with, dialogue on Kashmir should aim at the demilitarization of the territory and amelioration of the human rights situation of the Kashmirs in Indian-held Kashmir.
There is some merit in the Indian argument that a solution of the Kashmir issue will take time, and that pushing it at a speed that it cannot withstand will result in a mishap.
It is also true that there cannot be equal, simultaneous progress on all the agenda items of the composite dialogue, because some of them are less complicated than others. But the Indian interlocutors must also understand that some progress or forward movement on each item of the composite dialogue is necessary if the peace process is not to come to a sudden halt.
It is this danger to which President Musharraf referred to in an interview with this paper some months ago when he suggested: "We need to move CBMs and the dialogue process in tandem with each other."
There is a danger that the failure to resolve differences over the Baglihar dam may cast a shadow on the ongoing composite dialogue. Islamabad's objection to the 450 MW hydel power project on the Chenab river is based on the calculation that it would affect the flow of water into Pakistan. But since India started work on the dam in the year 2000, the all-important question remains why it took the Pakistan government five years to raise the issue with the World Bank. Since about 85 per cent of the dam work has already been completed, the likelihood is that Pakistan will have to accept the Baglihar dam as a "fait accompli".
Despite the difficulties and frustrations that have marked the peace process, there have also been some encouraging signs. Both Pakistan and India have found that the exchange of rhetoric and impatience are counterproductive and do not serve any useful purpose.
Two incidents illustrate the point. When the news flashed last month that mortar shelling had taken place across the LoC in the Jammu sector after 14 months of cease fire, the Indian reaction was restrained.
At other times, such a shelling would have led to loud protests by New Delhi or even "a befitting reply" by the Indian army. Pakistan also showed restraint and avoided rhetoric when it failed to resolve differences over the Baglihar dam... This shows that neither Pakistan nor India want to do anything that may harm the peace process.
Additional transportation links have attracted the attention of both India and Pakistan. Noting that the start of the bus service would be a major confidence building measure in relation to Kashmir, foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri said Pakistan would welcome it as it was in the interest of greater access to individuals and divided families.
For its part, Pakistan should lay the rail track on its side by October to resume railway services between Khokrapar and Munnabao in the Rajasthan-Sindh sector. If the political will is there, it should not take long for Pakistan to convert the metre-gauge line into a broad gauge line on its side of the border to provide better access to individuals and divided families.
As the British foreign secretary Jack Straw has rightly pointed out, the ongoing composite dialogue, despite the difficulties and frustrations that have so far marked the process, represents the best chance in two generations to end the Kashmir conflict and create a peaceful future for the people of Kashmir.
The important thing is to keep the dialogue process going because as it progresses it will provide both governments with many positive options. The desired results can only be achieved if the dialogue process goes on long enough to open up options and possibilities that cannot be foreseen at this stage.
Both Islamabad and New Delhi need to create an environment in which a lasting solution of the Kashmir issue will be desired by the majority of the people in both countries.
Keeping in view the emotional sensitivities of the Kashmir dispute, Islamabad and New Delhi should scrupulously avoid using the media as a means of communication with each other.
It is equally important that the progress in composite dialogue should not be judged by how Islamabad has scored over New Delhi or vice versa. The ongoing peace process can only move forward in substantial terms if one positive step from Pakistan or India invites a reciprocal one from the other side. This will help transform the environment of mistrust into one of mutual confidence.
The writer is a former ambassador.
No fast exit from Iraq
On the night after the Iraqi elections, Jon Stewart began "The Daily Show" by saying, "We did it! We had the election. And now we can say to Iraq, 'Goodbye!'"
It's not just late-night television stars; everybody seems to be searching for the exit from Iraq. Dozens of Democrats - from Ted Kennedy to Lynn Woolsey - are demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. To be fair, there are many others, such as Joseph Biden and Hillary Clinton, who are not. But even centrist Democrats and Republicans talk about the training of Iraqi forces as the magic formula that will get us out. Perhaps feeling the pressure, Donald Rumsfeld said last week in Mosul that once the Iraqi army had been trained, "our forces, coalition forces will be able to go home."
Addressing the troops, Rumsfeld added, "One day you'll see very clearly the history you made." But if this obsession with an exit continues, the history that we make in Iraq will not be worth seeing.
The situation in Iraq is gray. A Partisans on either side would like to believe that it is black or white. In fact, while there are some hopeful indicators (the elections were a great day), there are also some troubling ones (the insurgency has had a great year). Things could go well, but they could also spiral down. And the easiest way to ensure that downward spin would be for the United States to pull up stakes and leave.
Does anyone really believe that America's leaving Iraq would improve the situation there? It would create a power vacuum, the insurgency would get stronger, the Shias might retaliate against Sunni violence, setting off a civil war, and the Kurds could be tempted to secede. Iraq would then be exporting terrorism and instability.
Some Americans might say, "That's fine, we'll be gone." But any withdrawal would take months, during which the violence would mount. The last US forces to leave under these conditions might not get a more ceremonious exit than they did off the embassy roof in Saigon in 1975. And even if US troops are gone, chaos and civil war in Iraq will deal a body blow to US interests and ideals. It's not just Al Qaeda and its allies who will delight in the mayhem; all anti-American and antidemocratic forces in the region will be emboldened. Whatever you thought of the invasion, to advocate a quick exit from Iraq is neither hawkish nor dovish; it's the foreign policy of an ostrich.
Even the training of Iraqi troops is not the simple fix it is portrayed to be. Once trained, these forces will still need help battling the insurgency. They will still be ill-equipped to deter the much larger armies of neighbouring Iran and Syria. And the newly trained forces will still be largely Kurdish and Shia. A truly national army will take much longer to build.
The core requirement for stability in Iraq is a political bargain among the country's three groups. History suggests that such a deal can better be made when no one group holds absolute power.
An active American - and international - presence can also prod Iraq to respect basic human rights and to keep its bureaucracy relatively honest, its courts independent and its oil revenue transparent - all critical in these formative years. Of course, it's ultimately up to the Iraqis, but from Mozambique to Bosnia to East Timor, outside assistance (and pressure) has made a huge difference.
The biggest obstacle to a productive US relationship with Iraq is the widespread anti-Americanism in the country. That's why some of us were so critical of the many mistakes of the occupation; they threatened to destroy the possibilities of a long-term U.S. involvement there. But I do not believe that this hostility is endemic.
Polls suggest that most Iraqis have been frustrated, disappointed and enraged because the occupation failed to deliver to them basic security and a better life. If and when conditions improve, they will see the United States in a different light. -Dawn/Washington Post Service
Fresh light on 1984 riots
Riots were "organized", some Congressmen instigating the anti-social elements to "target the Sikh community" without any "meaningful intervention" by the police. This is the import of the report by former Supreme Court judge G.T. Nanavati on the 1984 riots.
Understandably, he is reluctant to reveal the contents of the report because the home ministry, to which he has submitted it, is yet to place it before parliament. But he makes no secret of his unhappiness over the nexus that he has found between some Congressmen and the police. He describes one as exploitative and the other in-disciplined.
Nanavati's observations more or less confirm what some NGOs had said in the pamphlet, 'Who are the guilty?', published soon after the killings in Delhi. The pamphlet said that "the attacks on members of the Sikh community in Delhi and its suburbs during the period, far from being a spontaneous expression of 'madness' and of popular 'grief and anger' at Mrs (Indira) Gandhi's assassination as made out to be by the authorities, were the outcome of a well-organized plan marked by acts of both deliberate commissions and omissions by important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by the authorities in the administration."
Nanavati believes what happened in Delhi can happen anywhere in India and at any time because the police knows no limits and politicians no norms of behaviour. "I have seen the same pattern in Gujarat" where he is currently investigating into the rioting which had made Muslims as the target. He sees many similarities between the happenings in Delhi and Gujarat and he has no good word either for the politicians or the authorities.
"The army was late to arrive," says Nanavati. It was not familiar with Delhi and hence took some time to get acquainted with the different localities. To begin with, according to Nanavati, the army wanted to go only into the two areas that were adjacent to the Cantonment.
However, he does not comment on the allegation that the government had purposely delayed the induction of the army. He is particularly harsh on the prosecuting agency. "There should be something like the National Prosecuting Agency for the country" so that prosecution is independent, without any outside pressure.
Nanavati has no hesitation in saying that the authorities were not obeying instructions from above. "I have seen the orders issued by the top but there was no implementation."
This is, indeed, a serious charge which suggests that the authorities, particularly the police, had become itself a mob, without any check or control. Connivance is bad enough but the participation is something horrendous to contemplate in a democratic society.
When it comes to action against the guilty, Nanavati expresses helplessness. After 20 years, he says, there was no concrete evidence to pursue, nothing to bring the killers to book.
Still he has named four, five Congressmen, including a member of parliament. Nanavati opened five or six cases from the many the police had closed but gave up because he found it to be a wild goose chase. Two or three cases were going on in the court against some police officials, he says. Apparently, he had not gone beyond.
Nanavati's report says that the first incident took place around 2.30 pm on October 31, 1984, in the neighbourhood of All India Institute of Medical Sciences when some Sikhs were dragged out from their vehicles.
The then president, Zail Singh's motorcade was stoned around 5 p.m. Hell broke loose the following day, according to Nanavati. He is of the view that the fury lasted for one day, although some stray incidents took place subsequently. This is contrary to the general belief that the rioting continued for three days.
Nanavati admits that he is conscious of "limitations" in the report. To pick up the thread two decades later was not easy. Many people had died in the meantime and the court had given its verdict on several cases. Still he had done his best.
"I have not tried to whitewash anything. The report has to be read in its entirety to know where the blame lay," says Nanavati. "Some in the media were unfair to me because what was used as a leak was partly concocted and partly torn out of context."
He takes the credit for suggesting two steps for the rehabilitation of victims and their families. One recommendation is to pay the same compensation in other parts of India as has been done in Delhi - Rs 3.5 lakh for every person killed. The second is to ask the government to provide job to the son or any other person of the family which lost its breadwinner.
I wish the Nanavati Commission had gone beyond the rioting. I had something else in mind when I raised the demand in the Rajya Sabha for another commission. I wanted something on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission appointed by South Africa to go over the period of apartheid.
The whites were asked to confess what they did and were promised that no action would be taken against them. Many came forward and told the truth. For example, one said that he tried to kill Nelson Mandela.
Had New Delhi gone about the same way, some from among the politicians and authorities might have come forward to tell the truth. We would not have been clueless as we are today even after several inquiry reports.
Probably, our laws do not permit this. Even then, the commission's terms of reference should have been different. None expected any new evidence or something clinching to get at the guilty.
Nanavati was also for a similar commission. He says that he tried to pursue the same path but did not succeed in his efforts. "I asked many witnesses and others who appeared before me to rise above politics. But it looks as if I did not succeed." (The Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee was keen on finding the culprits and hanging them. It was not willing to condone their guilt even if they were to come out with the truth.)
Still we have the right to know why those who indulged in the rioting did so and how "the organized" killing came to be planned and executed. The pattern in Delhi and elsewhere was the same: looting and burning the property and then setting it on fire and even killing or burning the owners and occupants along.
The report, I am afraid, may not satisfy the Sikh community that has been wronged. But then even the most critical report cannot heal the wounds. Yet the government owes an explanation to the Sikhs or, more so, to the country.
Let the Prime Minister say in parliament at the next session that however limited the Nanavati report, the government seeks forgiveness from the nation and the victimized community. This will be statesmanship even though it may not serve the calls of politics.
The writer is a leading columnist based in New Delhi.
Facts about the crisis in Balochistan
Agreements abound which detail how the Khan of Kalat, the Jams of Lasbela, the Bugti and Marri Tumandars and other sardars sold bits and pieces of Balochistan to the British.
For instance, the agreement between the British government and Sardar Mehrullah Khan Marri executed on October 24, 1885 states: "I, Sardar Mehrullah Khan, son of Nur Muhammad Khan, Bahawalanzi Guzni Marri, do hereby, in consideration of receiving from the British government an allowance in the form of service to the amount of Rs.300 to be increased to Rs.500 per mensem... cede in perpetuity to the said government the exclusive right to all petroleum or other mineral oil whatsoever found or which may hereafter be found at Khatan or in any other part of the Marri country with full liberty for the said government to extract and remove such petroleum or other oil in any manner and by any way that it may seem fit."
A telegraph Agreement with the Jam of Beyla, dated 21st December 1861 says: "Jam Meer Khan, Chief of Lus Beyla...for a sum of Rs.10,000 yearly paid by the Political Agent at Khelat" permitted setting up of telegraph lines, with the stipulation, that, "obstruction or injury to the line may cause revocation of this agreement on the part of government at any time".
An agreement entered into by the Khan of Kalat Mir Khudadad Khan executed at the Dasht Plain on June 8, 1883 states: "Mir Khudadad Khan of Kelat on behalf of himself and his heirs and successors hereby makes over and entrusts the entire management of the Quetta District and Niabat absolutely and with all the rights and privileges as well as full revenue, civil and criminal jurisdiction...with effect from 1st April, 1883," for an annual payment of Rs 25,000. The British also paid an allowance of "Rs.5,520, to the Bugtis, who had behaved themselves".
In 1947 the people of Balochistan wholeheartedly endorsed the vision of Pakistan. The message of independence was welcomed and brought the hope of emancipation from the sardari yolk.
Significantly, no sardar was in the forefront of the Pakistan movement. Economic vibrancy, agricultural self-sufficiency and the peoples' penchant for education started to progressively transform the province.
Later, every political party in the National Assembly voted in favour of the Constitution adopted in 1973 and the regionalist or factionalists (mistakenly referred to as nationalists) stood rejected.
The hangman of an elected prime minister however reopened settled issues. General Zia feared retribution and his self-preservation instinct made him undermine the PPP and the entire political process.
The interest of the generals and the state of Pakistan started to diverge. Pursuant to a depoliticization policy non-party elections were held. The people were encouraged to vote for ethnic and tribal considerations. In Balochistan this policy gave a boost to the sardari system that was dying a slow and natural death.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had directly come up against the intransigent ways of the Sardars in Balochistan when he wanted to build roads, schools and hospitals in areas where the sardar exercised influence.
The sardar realized that development and education would result in the weakening of their control over the people. The National Assembly passed the System of Sardari (Abolition) Act in 1976 which prescribed punishment of three years imprisonment for anyone exercising any right of sardari, or being "in possession of, or derive any benefit from, any land belonging to a tribe".
This law stated that sardari "is the worst remnant of the oppressive feudal and tribal system which, being derogatory to human dignity and freedom, is repugnant to the spirit of democracy and equality as enunciated by Islam and enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and opposed to economic advancement of the people".
The Marri and Mengal sardars raised the nature and scale of revolt; they never forgave Bhutto for trying to complete the pre-independence work of the Muslim League in liberating the people of Balochistan.
Zia's coup was rapturously applauded by the sardars of Balochistan, and a partnership was forged between the generals and the sardars. The sardars were pampered and handed state largesse and provided unstinted support by the agencies. The generals effectively revived the sardari system by violating the law.
The sardari clan draws deep into the resources of Balochistan and ensures that the people remain subjugated so that they cannot object. Balochistan has had the misfortune of a succession of sardars as its chief ministers, senior ministers and governors. The sardars of the Mengal, Bugti, Marri, Raisani and Jams of Lasbela; a kaleidoscope of Baloch and Brohi sardars have wielded power since Zia's days.
When the Mengal sardar's government was dismissed in Balochistan the beneficiary was another sardar, Akbar Bugti. However, now Attaullah Mengal supports Akbar Bugti wholeheartedly.
The sardari interest transcends any other. The 'unionized' bond of sardars never permits the mantle of power to slip from their hands. The province once again has a sardar in the chief minister's seat.
The people of Balochistan are unlikely to see development as long as the preferred choice of the agencies for the post of chief minister remains the sardar. Of the development amount earmarked in the last budget for Balochistan only 30 per cent has been spent by the provincial government headed by a sardar, confirming that sardars do not want Balochistan to develop.
With Zia's exit and the revival of the political process the sardari system again came under pressure. The sardars of the Mengal went to sojourn in London and of the Marri to Afghanistan. There were no longer any safe seats in elections.
The larger Bijrani group of the Marri tribe openly rebelled against the Marri sardar. Shairoo Marri ('General Shroff') declared that the sardari system has brought nothing but misery to the Marri people and that henceforth no one be considered a sardar amongst the Marri.
With the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul the Marri sardar became a hostage to the Taliban, but not for long. Generals came forward again to resuscitate a sardar. A Pakistan Air Force plane was flown to retrieve the Marri sardar and bring him and his family safely back to Pakistan.
On the return of the Marri sardar the ubiquitous agencies decided to put together a cache of money for the 'rehabilitation of the Marri' of which the common Marri did not see a single rupee.
Generals have been emulating the British practice of purchasing sardars under the mistaken belief that they represent the tribe. The British documented purchased loyalties: their successors in uniform struck secret deals. Money is doled out to the sardars from 'secret funds'.
No questions, no accountability, no transparency. This largesse helps the sardar in his weaponization programme. No sardar dares go into his own area without the security of his heavily armed lashkar.
Bugtis also rebelled against the Tumandar of their tribe. From amongst them Mir Hamza had the audacity to stand against the nominee of the sardar in an election. Mir Hamza was murdered, but his father, the eccentric Khan Muhammad, promised to avenge his death.
The murder of Salal Bugti followed. Akbar Bugti, with all his might, could not contain his own people. Khan Muhammad and his entire clan were removed to Multan and the Bugti Tumandar given a free hand by those whose duty is to uphold the law.
Those convicted of Salal Bugti's murder filed an appeal in the Balochistan High Court. No local dared accept the brief and Advocate Talib Rizvi was flown in from Lahore, but he could not represent his clients as he was shot at the gate of the high court. The agencies are still working out who shot Talib Rizvi.
Today, Suleman, the self-proclaimed Khan of Kalat, is waxing eloquent about the Balochistan Liberation Army. However, his uncle adorned General's Zia's federal cabinet. Suleman also forgets to enlighten us how he managed to beat the murder charge against him as an absconder.
During the Marri sardar's absence the common Marri started to prosper. Mohammad Nawaz Marri, a local of Kohlu town in the Marri heartland, became a high court judge and was in line to become the chief justice of Balochistan. He would refer to the sardars of Balochistan as 'evergreens' and joked about their strong 'trade union'.
To a sardar such a man is an anathema. He was mercilessly gunned down in the cantonment area of Quetta on his way to the high court - the first murder of a high court judge in the history of Pakistan and it happened during General Musharraf's time.
The sardars, their fathers and their children, despite having never worked, have ample money; live princely lives, in a flurry of land cruisers and a retinue of armed guards, while their people are in utter poverty. Today there is no writ of the government in Balochistan.
The sardars directly or impliedly admit blowing up telegraph and electricity lines, gas pipelines and railway tracks under the bogey of the Balochistan Liberation Army.
Having removed all opposition from within their own tribes with the help of the generals and having been permitted to maintain their private lashkars, their 'trade union' is all set to renegotiate the wages of blackmail.
The three members of the government who are going to resolve the 'Balochistan issue' hail from Punjab, had supported Gen Zia, and have displayed flexible loyalties. They have not so far met a single lawyer, teacher, doctor or businessman of the province.
Before this trio gets busy tampering with the Constitution, again, they should ensure implementation of the existing laws such as the System of Sardari (Abolition) Act, and "private armies forbidden" (Article 256 of the Constitution).
The people of Balochistan want disclosure of the amounts paid by the agencies to the sardars and seek justice for their slain. They want the federal and Balochistan governments to realize that the resources of Balochistan belong to its people, and not the sardars.