DAWN - Editorial; August 29, 2006

Published August 29, 2006

In the afterlight of the Bugti episode

THE widespread protests in Balochistan and elsewhere in the country over the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti should come as no surprise to anyone. While the situation in Sindh may calm down after some time, it is difficult to predict what shape things will take in Balochistan, which evidently has been given a martyr of its own by the military government. The late Bugti chieftain was a controversial figure. He had more enemies in his home province and even in his own ‘dera’ than elsewhere. His persecution of thousands of dissident Bugti tribesmen testified to the feudal and authoritarian traits of his character in spite of a modern education. Never known for consistency, Nawab Akbar Bugti sometimes collaborated with federal governments if that gave him an advantage over his political or tribal rivals. He kept his cards close to his chest, and that is one reason why even those who knew him closely never had an inkling of what the Bugti sardar had up his sleeve. No wonder, many of those who shared some of his passions and wanted a united Baloch front for pressing their demands kept away from him because of differences over the tactics he invariably chose to adopt. However, with his killing, Nawab Bugti has acquired an image he never enjoyed in real life. In the light of the resort to brute force by the government, even the moderates who disagreed with his style of politics will now probably find it difficult to resist the temptation to switch over to a more hawkish and militant line.

In the wake of the Bugti tragedy, it is obvious that all parties will try to make political capital out of it, no matter what their attitude towards Akbar Bugti was when he and the tribesmen under him were on the war path, blowing up rail tracks and gas and power installations. The MMA, for instance, is in the forefront of the anti-government agitation in Balochistan and Sindh, even though it never really supported the JWP chief, except for record’s sake. Elections are due next year, and it is very obvious that the MMA will attempt to capitalise on the Baloch people’s anti-government sentiments by trying to win over even those voters who otherwise have little sympathy for the MMA’s obscurantist philosophy. Also denouncing the government action is PPP chief Makhdoom Amin Fahim, forgetting that his own party launched a military crackdown in Balochistan after the Bhutto government dismissed the elected Mengal government.

In view of the wave of anger now sweeping Balochistan, the federal government has no choice but to deal with the explosive situation politically. While the law enforcement agencies must protect citizens’ lives and property, the mindless use of force, as evidence worldwide shows, will prove counter-productive. The basic issue still remains Balochistan’s socio-economic underdevelopment and the removal of the Baloch people’s grievances, especially their demand for a fresh look at the quantum of provincial autonomy enshrined in the Constitution. Akbar Bugti’s death has not solved any of these problems. They remain there and could possibly worsen and grow in intensity to provide a rallying point for all political elements, especially the younger generation, which has been denied the fruits of modern life. His killing has hurt the Baloch pride and honour, which count a great deal in the feudal-dominated society that Balochistan by and large is. The government must abandon the attitude of arrogance and impatience that led to the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti and adopt a more patient and conciliatory approach in dealing with the highly sensitive Balochistan situation. As in Waziristan, so also in Balochistan, it is politics, not force, that must be put in command.

Curbing quackery

WHILE the district drug inspector in Gujranwala did well to seal over two dozen pharmacies believed to be run by quacks, the action may not have the desired effect. Previous such moves have not had positive and long-lasting results, and new medical stores selling spurious and expired drugs are often opened to replace those that have been sealed by the law enforcement authorities. Indeed, in a country where the healthcare system leaves much to be desired and where there is a dearth of qualified doctors and affordable medication, it is hardly surprising that quackery should be proliferating. According to the Pakistan Medical Association, there are no less than 600,000 quacks operating in the country. There have been reports of many cases where people have died after being treated by illegal practitioners of medicine who frequently administer drugs without the least knowledge of a patient’s ailment or the efficacy of the medication they provide. In the Gujranwala case, some of the drugs recovered from the stores were meant for veterinary cases.

However, as things stand, there is very little alternative before the people, especially those living in remote rural areas where there is no infrastructure even for meeting the basic healthcare needs of the population. Quackery is rampant in these areas, both because of its relatively low cost and the absence of registered doctors and trained medical staff unwilling to serve in places where living conditions are inhospitable. While campaigns — most of which prove to be short-lived despite the government’s best intentions — to contain the menace of quackery are all very well, it will need a far more sustained effort to establish a comprehensive health delivery system in villages and small towns. A step in this direction would be to make it binding on new medical graduates to serve in rural areas for some years before they are allowed to start practising or working in cities and towns.

Another rape case

YET another woman has been subjected to rape as a way of teaching her a “lesson”, this time in Lahore. The victim slapped a man for teasing her for one full year, but little did she know that a worse fate awaited her. She claims to have been picked up the day after she “publicly insulted” her sexual tormentor and gang raped for several days. She also says that she was drugged and made to sign blank papers. Luckily, she escaped and is now seeking justice. It is not surprising that her rapists wield considerable influence and that one of the culprits is a police officer. She now fears for her life as those responsible for her ordeal are threatening her and her family with dire consequences for pursuing the case. This makes it all the more important that the case be given its due importance. The matter has been brought to the notice of the additional IGP who has registered a case and arrested one of the suspects. The case should now be investigated in an impartial manner and any pressure from any quarter should be strongly resisted. If justice is denied to this woman, other rape victims — the HRCP says a woman is raped every two hours in the country — will not come forward to report the crime.

As it is, rape victims often face enormous problems in reporting cases. Invariably, the path of justice is riddled with legal anomalies that work against them. Until rapists are awarded exemplary punishment, rapists will feel that they can get away with this horrendous crime on one pretext or another. One hopes that the authorities will look into the role of the alleged police officer in this crime and punish him accordingly should he be found guilty.

What happened in Lebanon and why

By Qazi Faez Isa

LEBANON was pulverised and innocents were massacred. It is rare that such unbridled violence goes unchecked, rarer still that it is not even admonished. What deep depravity it is to see evil being justified and to hear a chorus of support for it.

Little children were being blown away and all because of two captured Israeli soldiers; the raw pulsating heart of human emotion transforms pain into anger and possibly into a determination that sharpens the desire for revenge. Would the Lebanese have suffered if they were armed to the teeth or had weapons of mass destruction? Might is right is the lesson that Bush and Blair are teaching. The disproportionate imbalance in the killing power possessed by one side creates a bully, and the bully always picks on the weak. Israel, with one of the largest armed forces in the world and a nuclear arsenal, has become a mega bully.

The Israeli mahout sits astride the American behemoth (a Hebrew word meaning something of monstrous size) and directs American foreign policy. America has ravaged Iraq because egomaniac Saddam Hussein made the mistake of sending a few SAM missiles into Tel Aviv during the Gulf War. The Jewish state has a long memory and any country that it perceives as a threat is not spared. Many countries too are in thrall to America’s wishes which make Israeli influence in the world disproportionate to its size.

Iraq is not a failure of Israeli dictated American foreign policy; it is its greatest success. In Iraq, Arab unity has been shattered and deep sectarian divisions are tearing the country apart. However, though the poisonous tree was planted by outsiders in Iraq the fertile sectarian soil was prepared by Muslims themselves who divided their Faith, and thus tasted the violence of one another’s hands (Al-Quran).

General Musharraf, like his predecessor Nawaz Sharif, was seriously contemplating recognising Israel. Will the reality of what Israel is ever dawn? Will our leaders not learn from history and follow the ideals of the Quaid? The Egyptian Arab paper Akhbar Al-Yaum published an article on June 7, 1947, under the title ‘Adversary of Gandhi Speaks’. The author, Taqiuddinn Al-Solh, asked Jinnah to explain the difference between the partition of India, supported by Jinnah, and the partition of Palestine that he opposed.

Jinnah replied: “The case is very different. We are here ever since the existence of the country and we have been its rulers; no one has ever denied our rights therein. We did not come to the country merely a quarter of a century ago to banish its owners from it with force and aggression.”

The article concludes with the following words: “There is no doubt that today Jinnah is merely a leader of a minority — a minority of one hundred million Muslims. Yet in the near future, when his dream and the dream of one hundred million people materialises he would be the founder of the largest Muslim state in the world and the president of one of its biggest republics.”

The press influenced public opinion when the above article was published 60 years ago, but since then media has grown to strongly influence public opinion and the more technologically dependent a society becomes the more pervasive its hold. The destruction in Lebanon is one of the most blatant and senseless acts of planned aggression ever filmed and telecast live. We are made to hear the cold barbaric justification for Israeli action which is no less perverse than those who would want to justify the depraved mind that brought down the World Trade Towers in New York.

Yet America acknowledges Israel’s right to live by another set of rules; they alone are entitled to act as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner in their disputes with the Arabs. Israel has never implemented any of the UN resolutions that affect it, but through America it virtually drafted the resolution on the ceasefire in Lebanon that has been adopted by the Security Council.

The genesis of Israel reveals that it is the only state founded through terrorist acts. The first terrorist act of modern times was the bombing of King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946, by a Zionist group called Irgun. The present Israeli penchant for blowing up bridges, 70 on last count in Lebanon, can also be traced to 1946 when another terrorist group, Hagana, blew up bridges in Palestine.

To avoid being labelled anti-Semitic (a deadly weapon which has brought to a grinding halt the careers of even those aspiring to the American presidency) let us recount history as recorded by Jews sympathetic to Israel. The following excerpts are from Who’s Who in Jewish History by Joan Comay, with revisions for the 1995 edition by Lavinia Cohn-Sherbok, and published in 1995 by Routledge.

“The Irgun ... under Begin’s command was on the operational level one of the most effective and audacious underground groups in modern times. The Irgun had several thousand members and operated in small groups, relying on careful planning and surprise. Like the Hagana, it maintained a secret radio transmitter. Its attacks were directed against British.... The Irgun’s political aim and belief in force were illustrated by its emblem — a rifle held in a clenched fist against a map of the Mandatory area, including Transjordan, with the slogan Rak Kach (‘Only Thus’).

“British counter-terror measures became tougher as the fight intensified. There was a price of ten thousand pounds on the head of Begin. In July 1946, it blew up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Ninety-one people were killed and 45 injured. On April 10, 1948, Irgun carried out one of its most controversial actions. Together with Lehi, it attacked the Arab village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem, killing 241 of its inhabitants. This stimulated the exodus of the Arabs...”.

Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir both served twice as Israel’s prime minister. Shamir’s second stint was throughout the Intifada period. Shamir was “a founder-member and leader of the Stern Gang.” The founders of the Stern Gang considered Irgun too soft and “broke away (from Irgun) with a small extremist group. It attacked British policy and army personnel and tried to make a deal with the Axis powers.”

Its members were “responsible for the assassination in 1944 of Lord Moyne, the British minister of state in Cairo, and probably also of the United Nations mediator Count Bernadotte in 1948”. Britain, which then governed the area, could not take the pressure and succumbed to terrorism proposing to the United Nations to partition Palestine between a Jewish and an Arab state.

The ‘terrorism pays’ doctrine finds its living proof in the existence of Israel. Its friends may, however, contend that having achieved its aim of statehood Israel has abandoned terrorism. This is not quite so. “In 1982 Israel launched an attack against Palestinian bases in Southern Lebanon and world public opinion was dismayed by the killing of Muslim refugees ... in the Sabra and Shatila camps which were under Israeli control.” Ariel Sharon was defence minister then and subsequently he too rose to the highest political office. He had “joined the Hagana as a very young man”.

Israel spins and hypnotises world opinion-makers into forgetfulness and mesmerises them into confusing violence with peace. Begin, the head of Irgun, declared by the British government to be a terrorist, received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. America has declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organisation despite the fact that even Hezbollah’s detractors don’t suggest that it has mercilessly subjected defenceless people to acts of death and destruction comparable to those of the founding fathers of Israel. Is this then the only reason that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah is not a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Planetary downsizing

PLUTO has been downgraded, reduced to the ranks with the status of a planetoid. It never deserved its superior status. Its admission to the club, in 1930, was based on the misapprehension that it was several times larger than the planet we live on ourselves: if Earth belonged in the astronomical premiership, then logically, Pluto must do so too.

Subsequent research, however, caused Pluto to be downsized. It retained its place within the collection on sufferance until another, larger celestial presence was discovered last year, and alarm began to spread that if present trends continued, the number of planets might rise as high as two dozen. On the basis of GK Chesterton’s teaching — one sun, he maintained, is sublime; six would be merely vulgar — this might devalue the concept.

Accordingly, about 400 scientists voted at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague that Pluto would have to be relegated. The decision in Prague is also a posthumous triumph for the composer Gustav Holst, who, invited after the discovery of Pluto to add one more item to his Planets Suite, completed in 1917, said he would rather not. Since then, another composer has tacked one on. Its survival must be in doubt: on the face of it, you can scarcely have something that isn’t a planet in a Planets Suite. It is not quite clear how this issue might be resolved, unless by a vote of 400 musicologists, if such a number exists, on the model of the recent assembly in Prague. —The Guardian, London



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