A bomb at all cost
IS the bomb necessary to Pakistan’s survival? And is Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, widely credited with being its creator, the mastermind of the global nuclear weapons proliferation ring?
These questions have surfaced yet again because in a recent interview over the telephone to The Washington Post, Dr Khan stated that it was Pakistan’s humiliating defeat in the 1971 war with India that sparked his desire to help Pakistan build the bomb. Khan also said that the development of a nuclear weapons programme was a proud accomplishment for Pakistan, adding that the two rival nations had not gone to war since the atomic explosions in May 1998.
Dr Khan also withdrew the confession that he made on national television in 2004, saying he was coerced into it by people who said, “No one will believe it. This statement has no legal value. Everyone knows you are a national hero.”
Emboldened by Musharraf’s slipping power, Dr Khan has taken the offensive and declared that the Musharraf government was blameworthy for the proliferation of weapons to Iran, Libya and North Korea. He also promised that in due course of time, “the truth will come out”.
Dr Khan seems to have left the door open to having disseminated nuclear weapons technology legally because he claims to have only carried out the government’s bidding and to have briefed then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto regularly. He also denies violating any laws since Pakistan did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The acclaimed scientist also endorsed the most enduring myth in Pakistan’s strategic culture — survival depends on having, but not using, the bomb since India is Pakistan’s inveterate enemy and the war of 1971 is living proof of its malevolence.
But this fable does not stand up to the test of history. It was not India that precipitated the civil war in East Pakistan but Gen Yahya’s myopic policies. The civil war triggered a mass exodus of refugees into India which ultimately invited artillery shelling from across the border. Even then, a full-scale war could have been averted. But after Pakistan bombed Indian airfields in the western theatre on Dec 3, defeat in the eastern theatre was a matter of time. The fact that it happened in less than two weeks was simply a comment on how martial law had sapped the fighting will of the Pakistani army.
Going further back in time to August 1965, we find the same symptoms. Based on a misreading of India’s intentions and an exaggerated assessment of its own capabilities, the army sparked a guerrilla insurgency in Indian Kashmir, hoping to stir up a revolt. That never happened. Some of the guerrillas were turned over to Indian authorities by native Kashmiris and spilt the beans on All India Radio.
The full scale war that erupted when India retaliated against Lahore in September was initially touted as a victory by the generals in Rawalpindi. But with the passage of time, and as one Pakistani general after another penned his memoirs, it emerged as a military debacle of immense magnitude; one in which all the mistakes of the misadventure of 1947-48 were repeated on a grander scale, with armour and jet fighters.
Contrary to Dr Khan’s assertion, the bomb simply makes the Pakistani establishment even more war prone. How else does one explain the debacle in Kargil? Instead of contributing to the nation’s survival, the bomb is inexorably contributing to its decline. On the one hand, national sovereignty has been compromised by myriad interventions from the West to ensure that nuclear weapons do not fall into evil hands. On the other end, the political culture has been destroyed as suicide bombings have been employed to bring about political change.
As to the second issue of Dr Khan’s role in the proliferation ring, we still don’t know the truth and may not live to know it. The topic continues to spawn debate across the world. The latest contribution comes from Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark who have written a copious book, Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy.
Levy and Scott-Clark state that contrary to popular perception, Pakistan’s search for nuclear weapons was not hidden from the US. President Ronald Reagan simply looked the other way so that the covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan would not be compromised. The authors allege that there were people in the US government who wanted to blow the whistle on Pakistan’s nuclear programme but they were silenced by a bevy of American defence contractors and their counterparts in the Pentagon. Decades after President Eisenhower warned of the existence of a military-industrial complex, it was very much alive and well.
They also argue that when aid was cut off by the original President Bush, Pakistan had already acquired bomb-making materials and resorted to selling its technology and know-how to other countries as a means of financing its ever expanding nuclear programme. The country was in a nuclear arms race with India from which there was no exit. The doomsday scenarios kept getting scarier. And tensions along with expenditure on conventional weapons did not diminish either. There was no ‘nuclear dividend’. The book also suggests that Dr Khan could not have set up and carried out an international proliferation ring without the blessings of GHQ. To back-up their assertions, the writers cite numerous interviews that they conducted with senior American and Pakistani officials. But this information is hard to verify.
Few would deny that Dr Khan was instrumental in bringing the bomb to Pakistan. He richly deserves whatever accolades such an accomplishment generates and merits. Whether he was responsible for global proliferation or not, only time can and will tell. Until such time it is unfair to accuse him.
But on one fundamental issue, Dr Khan is not only wrong but a danger to Pakistan’s future. He has confused cause and effect in history when he argues that the bomb has made Pakistan stronger. In fact, it has made it weaker. It would be best for him to stay out of military strategy, a subject which is clearly not his territory. Surely being immortalised in a future Hollywood production as the Dr Strangelove of Pakistan is not one of his ambitions.
The writer is an associate of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at the University of Bradford.
The unfinished agenda
EVEN to minds hardened by daily reports of violence and abuse of women, reading an overview of the issue comes as a shock. The wide span of cruelty that one human being can inflict upon another is overwhelming; the estimates, and the types of violence, are frighteningly high.
The geographical spread of brutality seems to indicate that abuse of women is part and parcel of everyday Pakistani life, everywhere. As it is, Pakistan has a reprehensible reputation for most of its basic social sector indicators — poverty, gender balance, health, education — in each of these, we are at the bottom of the ladder. In case of violence against women, Pakistan is globally near the shocking top of countries that are prone to abusing their women.
Crimes range from incest, rape, burning, bondage, trafficking, dowry deaths, watta satta, pait likhi, karo kari and other forms of honour killings, to acid attacks and spousal murder. Feudal landlords and tribal leaders have their own private dungeons. Violence and abuse of women in Pakistan is estimated to be in the tragic range of 70 to 90 per cent.
Clearly, the odds are heavily stacked against Pakistani women; equally clearly, the violence is gender-based. The international group Human Rights Watch (HRW) is of the opinion that women’s situation, vis-à-vis men, is one of systemic subordination. The reasons are attributed to uneven socio-economic development and wide social disparities. The impact of tribal and feudal social formations is significant. HRW maintains: “There is no question that Violence Against Women (VAW) in Pakistan is an enormous problem. The state response so far has been minimal…we found staggering cases of intra family VAW, generally interpreted as a private family matter, not subject to government intervention”.
Sharing these views, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) considers women from poor and middle classes to be the worst victims. They face multiple forms of violence: sexual abuse by family members, burning, and disfiguration with acid, beatings, threats, custodial abuse, torture and even spousal murder. “Their resourcelessness”, states HRCP, “makes them primary targets of police and criminals; it also renders them vulnerable to oppressive customs and mores inside homes and outside.”
Since 1979, the introduction of laws which proved discriminatory to women worsened an already disturbing situation. The combination of discriminatory laws and customary practices denied women their human rights. Pervasive institutional and judicial discrimination, along with illegal detention and custodial violence make it nearly impossible for women to obtain justice. In extreme cases women may be driven to suicide. Admittedly, various governments have made an effort to address this critical issue. The Women’s Protection Act, 2007, went a long way in ameliorating some of the worst abuses, but greater efforts at implementation are needed; traditional and customary violence also needs to be stopped.
So great is the range and extent of physical violence that verbal violence and psychological abuse perforce have to take a back seat. It is a well-known fact worldwide, that two thirds of all psychiatric patients are women: much of this may be stemming from abuse within the home. Certainly there are more reasons than abuse alone for this, but only too often, what the family physician classifies as psychosomatic illness may have its roots in abuse at home.
Many in the medical profession are concerned: it is they who treat the end result of violence, battering, and sexual abuse. Numerous research papers vouch for their growing concern.
The UN General Assembly in 1993 defined VAW as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, social or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that worldwide, at least one out of three women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused. Overwhelmingly, men are the abusers, and the victims, women. While recognising that VAW is pervasive throughout the world, it also needs to be recognised that a fair amount of such abuse is prevalent in this country. Gender-based violence is both a human rights and a public health concern, yet the Ministry of Health is in no way involved.
Abuse of women is known to increase during pregnancy, leading to the woman’s own continued illness, miscarriages and possible death. The baby also suffers: premature birth, low birth weight babies, infant morbidity and death are common findings. Additionally, there is heightened risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. VAW further leads to unwanted/unintended pregnancies (and often, unsafe, ‘illegal’ abortion).
The problem remains grim, and by no means adequately addressed. The national statistics on VAW are at variance with the ‘happy family’ picture that Pakistanis are keen to portray. Is that united, loving family largely a superficial daydream? Are our cultural norms and traditions set in stone? Can they never be changed? No matter how damaging they are to society? Do those statistics also indicate that the Pakistani male habitually vents his frustration on the woman closest to him, his intimate life partner, because she is powerless to retaliate? Does it mean that winning the sexual power game is more important to him than having an amicable marital relationship? Going by the high prevalence of sexual harassment, do these statistics also indicate that many men regard girls and women as easy prey?
All men are not abusive, yet the estimates of VAW, and the unsavoury reputation that Pakistan is gaining, seem to point to their abusive behaviour.
Despite repeated flack from human rights bodies and activists, despite daily reports of these crimes in our newspapers, the state has continued to be lax in addressing this critical issue. Agreed, it may not have the same significance as the many political crises that engulf us, but nonetheless, it is important if it affects half the country’s population.
The shame of VAW has been with us since Pakistan’s inception; if the aim is real gender justice, and elimination of violence and abuse, when can we look forward to greater justice?
One can only agree with eminent lawyer Rashida Patel when she says, “Change can only come about when the political will exists to achieve change”. Can we hope for that political will?
Every drop counts
AN overview of the availability, supply and demand of drinking water in Karachi, during the last three decades, would show that practical application of water conservation strategies has never been adopted.
We have followed the business-as-usual approach and most people are yet to show awareness of the strategy for water conservation, let alone turn to water conservation methods.
To get an idea of how water is wasted in Karachi, one has only to visit the Clifton and Defence areas in the morning hours and see how people wash their cars and water their lawns.
Water metering is an important component, which contributes significantly to the efficient use of water. Just like electricity and gas, a household owner would be careful in using water, once it is metered. The wasteful habit of washing cars with a hose pipe directly connected to a water pump would be taken care of with a meter. In the case of industries and large water consumers, the savings can be phenomenal once metering is introduced. Water pricing must be judicious and practical, that is, neither too strict nor too relaxed, with different pricing mechanism for small and large water consumers.
There is much scope for saving water in indoor environments, principally in toilets. As much as 40 per cent of the water used can be saved, if efficient water devices are installed in toilets. ‘Retrofitting’ is the term used for replacing older water-wasting facilities with new water-efficient facilities. Leaking taps, fixtures and pipes waste water to a great extent. The volume of flush tanks connected to water closets, which are available in the market, are of the capacity of about 11 litres.
In most cases, five litres are sufficient to flush away the waste. The water agency in Karachi needs to direct sanitary companies to produce five-litre flush tanks. Since, in Karachi, all households have 11-litre flush tanks, the appropriate way out would be to motivate the public to put bricks in flush tanks, such that a space taking a volume of six litres is occupied by the bricks. Consequently, only a five-litre volume would need to be filled with water.
Shower heads with flow regulators help reducing water usage for each bath. Flow regulators constrict the pipe, reducing the flow of water. Alternatively, aerators also help reduce the water pressure. These are pieces of gauze through which tap water passes causing air to enter it. A mixture of air and water (bubbled water) is delivered to the user, reducing the volume. High-class hotels have shower heads and taps with aerators.
Consumers should also be motivated to switch off the water supply while soaping and shaving. Spring taps also conserve water. The moment the hand is taken off the tap handle, the water stops. Examples are taps used in aircrafts. Some faucets also have hand-sensor systems in them; the water flows once hands are placed under them and stops when hands are removed. The use of hose pipes, connected to a pump to wash cars and floors, watering lawns and plants should be banned, as it leads to heavy wastage. Cumulatively, this will have a profound beneficial impact on water conservation.
Plumbers in Karachi need to be trained by the Karachi water agency so they have extensive knowledge and skills to be aware of and create awareness for water conservation and ensure that their work is thorough. They should also be registered with the Karachi water agency.
The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) will also have to play its role in conservation. Water leakages from the mains in the city are a common sight. In Karachi, the ‘unaccounted for’ water is 30 per cent of the total water supply. In Singapore, the figure is less than five per cent. Incidents such as overflowing overhead tanks when water is pumped from underground tanks are perfectly avoidable with a low-cost, shut-off device that automatically switches off the pump in time.
Apart from domestic consumers, industries, especially the water-intensive ones, can make a major contribution towards water conservation. Hotels are also large water users. By recycling waste water to reuse it for irrigation in parks, playgrounds, golf courses, green belts and roadside plantations, the authorities can lessen the demand for freshwater. Presently, an estimated 300 mgd of wastewater is generated in Karachi. This is a significant quantity and, if put to judicious use, can offset pressure on drinking water. Wastewater must be used after appropriate (secondary-level) treatment.
Rainwater harvesting is an effective way of augmenting water supplies. This is practiced extensively in Thailand, Philippines, Australia, Botswana and India. Thailand’s rainwater harvesting project called ‘The Thai Rainwater Jar Programme’, under which 10 million rainwater jars were constructed in just over five years in 1985, dramatically improved the access of the rural population to potable water supplies.
In 1996, a detailed study on the impact of water conservation measures on water savings was conducted in the US. The average water consumption was found to be 274.5 litres/person per day. Water conservation techniques (low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, leak repair and horizontal axis clothes washers) were instituted. The results showed that water consumption came down to 187.8 litres/person per day. In other words, the water saved amounted to 86.6 litres/person per day, which translates into nearly 32 per cent reduction in the use of water.
Music & Olympics
WHEN the Beijing Olympics open in August, to a heady mixture of sporting celebration and political controversy, music will play a huge part in reinforcing the image and message of the games. The opening ceremony will feature a programme of world music, including new work by Giorgio Moroder.
Award ceremonies will feature national anthems, athletes will use music as a (legal) stimulant and motivational aid, and for events such as the much-maligned synchronised swimming, music will of course be integral.
A cultural olympiad for the 2012 London games is already the subject of much debate, but it’s worth bearing in mind that music has always played an important role in the event. In ancient Greece, singers received laurels for hymns composed for the various ceremonies, such as the elaborate sacrifice to Zeus.
Athletes would be summoned by trumpets, while flautists accompanied the pentathlon. According to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the Parisian aesthete, who at the turn of the 20th century revived the games for a modern world: “The arts, in harmonious combination with sports, made the Olympic games great.”
Coubertin believed sport and the arts had become artificially separated. He wanted to integrate music — and other art forms — into the competition itself. The 1912 Stockholm Olympics were thus the first to include a “pentathlon of the muses”: competitions for music, literature, painting, sculpture and architecture. Coubertin entered the literature contest under a pseudonym, winning gold with his inflated Ode to Sport (“O Sport, delight of the Gods, distillation of life!”).
Meanwhile, Italy’s now-forgotten Ricardo Barthelemy snatched the music gold with his Triumphal Olympic March. No silver or bronze medals were awarded.This meanness on the part of the judges became a feature of the music Olympics over the coming years. Competitors were urged by Coubertin to “study the main rhythms of athletics” but few, it would seem, succeeded.
Another problem was that composers of stature preferred to sit on the judging panel, rather than risk denting their reputations by winning an ignominious bronze (should one be deemed worth giving). Worse still was the prospect of an “honourable mention”.
At the Paris Olympiad in 1924, a vast panel of 43 judges — including Vincent D’Indy, Stravinsky, Bartok and Ravel — failed to reach a decision. Four years later, a measly bronze was awarded to Denmark’s Rudolf Simonsen for his Hellas Symphony. In 1932, the single award of a silver medal damned with faint praise the most eminent of all Olympic music competitors, the Czech composer Josef Suk, for his patriotic Into a New Life march.
At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, new categories were introduced: orchestral compositions, instrumental music, solo and choral works. The judges, predominantly German, were particularly generous to native entrants. Werner Egk won gold for his orchestral work Olympische Festmusik, while all three medals in the choral category went to host nationals — thus proving the musical superiority of the master race.
The Nazis also pulled off a coup by commissioning no less a figure than Richard Strauss to write a work for the opening ceremony. After an oration by the Fuhrer, a cannon salute and the release of thousands of white pigeons, Strauss led the Berlin Philharmonic and the National Socialist Symphony Orchestra through his rousing Olympic Hymn.
He was far from enthusiastic about writing “sports music”. In a letter to the writer Stefan Zweig, he said: “I am whiling away the dull days of advent by composing an Olympic Hymn for the plebs — I of all people, who despise sports.”
The 1948 games, hastily convened in war-torn London, opened with a performance of an ode by Roger Quilter and saw the Polish composer Zbigniew Turski take gold for his Olympic Symphony. Coubertin would have glowed at the presence of Micheline Ostermeyer, the remarkable Frenchwoman who won gold in both shot-put and discus, as well as bronze in the high jump. She celebrated her shot-put victory by giving an impromptu Beethoven recital at the French team headquarters. “Sport,” she said, “taught me to relax; the piano gave me strong biceps and a sense of motion and rhythm.” In 1950, she retired from athletics to resume her career as a concert pianist.
The 1948 games saw the end of the Olympic arts competitions, due to the growing difficulty of proving the amateur status of participants, but they had at least fulfilled Coubertin’s ambition of enshrining music in Olympic culture.
As Beijing will show, many types of music play a part — but it is classical music that has traditionally set the Olympics apart from what Coubertin called “plain sporting championships”. John Williams, the US composer of film scores, wrote works for the 1984, 1988 and 1996 Olympics. He explained the attraction of the games thus: “The inspiration comes from the mythological idea we all seem to feel. It’s about deities and heroes that lived up in the mountain somewhere, that could do something we couldn’t do.” Although Coubertin’s view of the Olympics now rings a little hollow, as drug-taking and rampant commercialism threaten to consume today’s games, he would doubtless have approved of Williams’ lofty sentiments.—The Guardian, London