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DAWN - Opinion; September 19, 2008

September 19, 2008


Different kinds of terrorists

By Kuldip Nayar

MANGLED bodies, wounded people and fear-stricken faces — every bomb blast, anywhere, leaves this image in its wake. The recent serial blasts in Delhi were no different. What is different is that this blast confirms the existence of Islamist terrorism in India.

Unlike the past, when Pakistan was suspected straightaway in such events, this time the search is within the county. Still, the Indian Mujahideen, the terrorist outfit which has taken the responsibility, is linked to the Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami and the Lashkar-i-Taiba, the two groups said to operate from Pakistan. Defence Minister A.K. Anthony has put the blame on Pakistan but in a general way.

The Delhi blasts have followed a familiar pattern — low-intensity bombs, timer devices and emails to the media — that has been seen in Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Apparently, the group derives malicious satisfaction from killing the innocent, and selects crowded places like markets to obtain the maximum number of casualties. One thing is certain: the killers have no qualms of conscience although their functioning suggests that they are a highly educated lot.

What is disturbing is that the big cities from where they operate seem to have a network of people who support, shelter and guide them. True, money can buy such helpers. But the latter are like-minded and convinced about the righteousness of their task. This indicates that India has come to have a determined number of people who are willing to challenge the state which in any case remains inept and clueless.

Increasingly, people are starting to believe that the culprits are Muslims. The latter themselves want to know the identity of the killers. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is exploiting the situation. But neither the party nor its organisations has condemned the killing of Christians and the burning of their churches. After Orissa, the mayhem has spread to Karnataka, a BJP-run state. This has frightened the minorities. Muslims and Christians are feeling insecure. They are increasingly getting consolidated along religious lines. The added reason for Muslims’ alienation is New Delhi’s tilt towards Washington.

Indeed, the Muslim community has become disillusioned with the ethos of secularism which the dominant opinion in India upholds. Muslims have experienced how the reality is different when it comes to equal treatment. The Sachar Committee has proved the hollowness of the government’s claims with facts and figures which it has collected from official sources at the centre and in the states.

Therefore, the community is tempted to go it alone. The coming polls may show some evidence of it. The Muslim vote can influence some 120 Lok Sabha seats. The feeling of going it alone is understandable, but not beneficial. It may provide an outlet for the community’s exasperation and divide society further. This is not in the interest of Muslims whose numbers are the largest in India, after Indonesia. Even otherwise, the smouldering differences between Hindus and Muslims can catch fire, much to the glee of the BJP which is back to its Hindutva agenda with a vengeance.

However, the Muslim community may be smarting under a sense of denial; it has to strengthen pluralistic society by playing a lead role. Some Muslims leaders should take upon themselves the task of finding out the credentials of the so-called Indian Mujahideen who are trying to destroy India’s fabric of secularism and causing harm to the Muslim community.

A few days ago, some Muslims had announced that they would investigate the blasts at Jaipur and Bangalore to pick up concrete evidence which the government has failed to collect. Many Muslims believe that those who are being arrested on suspicion are not connected to the blasts.

The country is facing a real challenge. The majority and minorities are growing apart and the government doesn’t seem to have any idea how to span the distance. Jawaharlal Nehru also envisaged such a situation. There is something in what he said: communalism of minorities can be fought and curbed but the communalism of the majority would take the shape of fascism.

Another breed of terrorists has cropped up in India. They are not necessarily fundamentalist, nor are they from the underworld. You may call them roughnecks or goondas. Yet, they have acquired muscles to dictate individuals how to lead their life. They are everywhere. But they proliferate in Maharashtra. They are often targeting creative people, film stars or artists or writers because this is attention-grabbing. It also tickles their vanity and gives them the vicarious satisfaction of pulling down celebrities whom they can never equal in terms of name and fame.

In Maharashtra they call themselves the Shiv Sena and in Orissa, the Bajrang Dal. Their religion should not dupe you because they are the scum of society. Their strong point is that they either operate with the connivance of the state or with the confidence that society has no guts to intervene to fight them. They wish to wield political power but seldom come near it because the voters fear them.

For some time, Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray has been quiet partly because age has mellowed him. But also he has come to realise that Maharashtra is a part of India, and not vice versa. His notoriety began with his ultimatum to North Indians to leave the state but then this sentiment was converted into Hindutva and he joined hands with the BJP.

Raj Thackeray, his nephew, has come to reignite the same anti-north phobia. Many poor Biharis had to leave Mumbai following attacks on them and the destruction of their scanty belongings. But film actors are still on the top of the list.

Talented Jaya Bachchan was Raj Thackeray’s target because she said she did not have to necessarily stick to Marathi in Maharashtra and would speak in Hindi since she belonged to UP. Unfortunately, when public opinion was building up in her support, her husband Amitabh Bachchan offered an abject apology. Why don’t people put up a fight against injustice?

Another person to surrender to goondaism was Maqbool Fida Husain, the leading painter. Artists and others fought for his right to show Bharat Mata in the nude. While dismissing the 3,000 cases against him, the Supreme Court said that there are many such pictures, paintings and sculptures and that some of them were in temples. Husain should have come back to India but he preferred to celebrate his 93rd birthday in Dubai. It is a pity that decent people have no appetite to confront the indecent.

The writer is a leading journalist based in Delhi.

The future divide

By Ayesha Siddiqa

SOMEONE once asked his friend what he would do if a tiger entered his room. The friend replied that whatever had to be done would be done by the tiger, so why ask him.

This joke fits in well with the current state of US-Pakistan relations. The media was first excited by Gen Kayani’s statement about the army not tolerating American intrusions into Pakistan’s territory and then by President Zardari’s visit to the UK and his forthcoming one to the US.

There are many who believe that Islamabad’s forthright reaction to the US attacks on the tribal areas will stop the incursions. The question is that will these statements and visits have any effect? And will it end the war?

The answer is a simple no. Washington will not be impressed by Islamabad’s reaction for the following reasons.

First, US policymakers know that given Islamabad’s dependence on Washington there is nothing much it can do other than issue statements. The few demonstrations in Peshawar or other parts of the country constitute minimal cost which is not to be borne by the US but by the new government in Pakistan. Other than this, there is no evidence of any intense reaction.

The Pakistani government is begging for more weapon systems such as the upgraded F-16s, and there is not even any boycott of symbols of the American economy including well-known eateries. The queues for American visas have not diminished either.

Second, the American government knows that Pakistan’s so-called liberal elite and many among the Pakistani expatriate community would be happy with the removal of the Taliban or other militants. If the Pakistan Army can’t do it then let the US forces achieve the objective. Moreover, eliminating this threat would fundamentally readjust the military’s power vis-à-vis the civilian establishment because it would essentially mean roping in the intelligence agencies as well. This means that Pakistani society is divided and will not be able to pose an extensive threat to American attacks.

Third, Pakistan’s poor are so depressed by their poverty that despite their unhappiness with the attacks there is nothing much they would be able to do that would cost the US heavily.

Finally, considering that Washington has played a significant role in restoring democracy in Pakistan, the new government will not do anything excessive to counter the American position. The NRO is owed to American assistance. Therefore, it took Mr Zardari quite a while to issue a statement condemning the attacks.

From Washington’s perspective, it is simply protecting American security interests. Even if the Americans are told that they were responsible for creating the threat of militancy, this harping on the origins of the threat would not solve matters from their standpoint. The American-cum-Pakistani liberal point of view is that since negotiations will strengthen the militants, who use peace as an opportunity to demand the implementation of the Sharia, war is the only way to contain matters.

The American war, however, will further weaken Pakistan because it will clearly divide state forces and society. There is a division within the establishment regarding the threat and how it must be handled. Resultantly, we are now caught in a quandary regarding the future of the threat. Should we handle it ourselves or let the American forces do so for us?

Washington had been threatening Islamabad with direct intervention but was being pushed back up until now with the argument that such an action would destabilise Pakistan. Having helped remove Pervez Musharraf, who had lost credibility internally, Washington now believes it can conduct a military operation directly, leaving the political government to bear the cost. After all, there is hardly any evidence of a direct cost to American security in launching a military operation.

Having returned to democracy after nine years, society will remain divided on the issue of pushing the elected government to take serious measures to stop Washington. The calculation is that patronage politics will work quite well to minimise the reaction. People will be too concerned about putting food on their tables than doing anything serious to stop American action. So, Gordon Brown can happily put the responsibility in the lap of both Afghanistan and Pakistan whose leaders are still too weak to sort out the problem.

Recently, a senior Pakistani bureaucrat told me the good news that Pakistan was now moving towards a stable future. His assessment was that a decision had been made by the country’s ruling elite that Pakistan has to be stabilised through the partial restoration of democracy and the judiciary and the elimination of militants and extremists.

Such a calculation is linked to another assessment that the more capable upper middle and middle classes of the country want a liberal social system that would be a complete departure from the one introduced by Gen Ziaul Haq. Such an assessment perceives the middle class as being liberal and progressive.

However, this in itself is an erroneous calculation that does not consider the fact that we all tend to forget about a large proportion of the middle class that is highly conservative in its world view. The middle class in Pakistan is not confined to graduates who have qualified from abroad or those working in the NGO sector or making their millions working as consultants for multilateral aid donors. It also comprises the trader-merchant class and similar groups that show a very conservative mindset.

What does one make of the numerous affluent shopkeepers in Islamabad and other cities and towns who fund jihad in the quest for spiritual forgiveness or those who fund militants and madressahs because, according to them, orthodox Islam is the only way to negotiate power in a politically stagnant society?

These people might not jeopardise their interests in the short term as they continue to put faith in militancy and religious extremism. But it does mean that the threat of militancy is not likely to dissipate in the medium to long term and that what we will get is a more divided society. There are those who support American action or keep silent and others turn more adamant in their dislike of the US and the West in general.

In short, Washington’s direct intervention is likely to prolong the conflict and deepen its roots in Pakistani state and society. There is enough poverty and underdevelopment in this country to provide fresh recruits for future jihad. Tolerance, of course, would be one of the primary casualties of military action. This is a conflict that might not end with dialogue or war. It is difficult to turn back the clock.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.

Growth without jobs

By Jamil Nasir

DESPITE the much-touted stellar growth of the past few years, the economy has failed to absorb the teeming millions of an unemployed workforce.

The Economic Survey issued every year invariably shows positive growth in all three major economic sectors i.e. manufacturing, agriculture and services, but this growth seems to have bypassed the unemployed workers especially those in the category of the low-skilled, the semi-skilled, the illiterate and the poor. This phenomenon has aggravated the sufferings of the poor segments of society.

Indeed, things have reached a stage where reports of suicides frequently appear in the press as a stark manifestation of the fact that society is unhappy and discontented and a volcano of social upheaval may erupt anytime if concrete measures are not taken to change the current trend and contours of economic growth.

Our economy seems to be suffering from ‘jobless growth’, meaning that the economy is growing but without any jobs having been generated or without an increase in jobs that is commensurate with the rate of economic growth.

A number of causes are attributed to jobless growth. It is argued that increased productivity through the use of capital-intensive manufacturing accelerates economic growth without job creation. Jobless growth may also stem from structural changes in the labour market, which results in unemployment. Free trade is also suggested as one of the causes of jobless growth as companies are more likely to move factories and jobs to other countries and areas to cut costs.

These general causes are not, however, relevant to every economy and country. The structural changes in the labour market and the shifting of factories are predominantly phenomena of the developed world and do not explain jobless growth in a developing country like Pakistan where the majority of the workforce, especially the low-skilled and illiterate members, is employed in the informal sector of the economy.

In the urban areas, the informal economy includes street vendors, small workshops, construction workers and people who have set up small family enterprises in their homes. In the rural areas, small tenants, agricultural labourers, artisans, people rearing livestock or poultry, etc are included among the working poor of the informal economy. This type of economy holds a dominant share (constituting some 60 to 80 per cent) of the employment sector in Pakistan.

In the area of formal manufacturing, the textile sector is considered the biggest single employment provider to the low-skilled and illiterate workers but due to the changing global dynamics of trade, this sector is losing its vibrancy and chances of saving it from the current downslide are minimal in the near future.

The same is the case with other labour-intensive manufacturing sectors like leather and sports goods. The implications of this dismal scenario in the manufacturing sector are easy to imagine from the employment angle. Not only does the formal manufacturing sector not have much potential for job creation, it is also feared that further shrinkage in employment may occur due to layoffs and closure of manufacturing units.

The agriculture sector is likely to attract investments in the coming year due to favourable trade trend over the past few years. New players in this sector will operate on the principle of profit maximisation and agriculture is likely to undergo further mechanisation. The investors will use capital-intensive techniques to extract maximum profit from their agricultural ventures.

The big land owners have either already mechanised their farms or are in the process of doing so. This phenomenon will further aggravate the unemployment issue in the rural areas as growth in agriculture will essentially be jobless growth in view of the emerging scenario.

As regards the formal services sector, it is a fact that some jobs were created in the telecom and banking sectors in the last few years but job creation in these sectors was restricted to the skilled and educated workforce. The construction sector was the only labour-intensive sector which registered reasonable growth in the past years but the boom turned out to be a transitory phase. There is no noticeable increase in other services from the perspective of job creation. It can, therefore, be assumed that there is little or no scope for employment growth in the organised sectors of manufacturing and agriculture as well as services.

This situation warrants an overview of existing strategies and economic models of growth adopted in the country. It is a common perception that existing growth strategies are biased in favour of big businesses and tend to eliminate the street traders and businesses. The policy prescription is to promote the development of labour-intensive small and medium enterprises in the manufacturing and services sector by facilitating credit access and market entry.

Jobless growth is not a desirable phenomenon as any effort to minimise the poverty levels is destined to fail unless jobs are created for the unemployed and poor. If growth does not produce jobs, then its purpose to foster development and alleviate poverty will eventually be defeated. Accordingly, there is a need for a paradigm shift — from jobless growth to inclusive growth where everybody enjoys the fruits of economic growth and income gaps are not widened between different segments of society.

Growth patterns in Japan, Korea and China are pertinent examples of inclusive growth where income gaps did not widen during the process of economic growth. During their initial stages of development, economic policies were designed to promote the labour-intensive industries which reduced unemployment in these countries.

One size does not fit all but due to heavy population pressure, it is prudent for a country like Pakistan to choose a growth pattern which is conducive to job creation by developing labour-intensive industries and enterprises. Job creation rather than economic growth per se should be the important ingredient of economic and social policymaking as the sustainability of growth rates hinges on broadening inclusiveness.

Lead or follow?

By Andleeb Abbas

WHAT is the definition of a leader? Is it somebody who gives a new vision, takes bold initiatives to set a new direction, empowers people below him and becomes a source of motivation and inspiration due to his principled behaviour? Or is it somebody who cannot see beyond his own self-interest, loves to accumulate power, and allows his unprincipled behaviour to make him an object of derision?

Going by theory, the first definition holds true, but seen in the perspective of current practices at home the second seems more accurate. The big question then arises: what if people falling in the second category are reaching the top? Maybe, we need to revisit the whole concept of leadership or see where the correction lies.

We need to examine why despite the many changes in our leaders there is no change in the country. It seems that our so-called leaders, instead of leading from the front, are actually following their predecessors.

To lead is to have a vision of what can be, to see what others cannot see and thus chart a path leading to a clear destination. Has the present, or for that matter, the past leadership ever been successful in doing that? After Jinnah, it has been a hit-and-miss approach where for a short time, due to some external opportunities the country has seen better times, but overall it has been a leadership without vision or direction.

The present set of leaders is evidence of this. Having come in with loud claims of creating unity and security in the country, they seem to have become blind to the direction the country is taking vis-à-vis foreign and local policies. They seem to have no clue as to what to do about the horrible mess the economy is in and the threats to its security and sovereignty. The president goes off to his favourite venues of London and Dubai, while the prime minister appears to be making statements without meaning.

On the foreign policy front, the first statement of the president was that all manner of cooperation would be extended to the Americans against terrorism. Did this give the Americans the licence to kill in our territory? Unfortunately, our politicians’ apathy towards the country they are supposed to lead is quite obvious and no plan is in view for handling the many crises devouring the sanctity of the state.

Is this leading from the front or following the powers who they think will ensure their perpetuity at the expense of the country’s sovereignty?A hallmark of great leaders is their ability to develop a high-performing and capable team which has the energy to face the challenges confronting it with motivation and expertise. All the president’s men are found lacking in these areas. There is a body of opinion that in selecting his team, he has again followed his predecessor by appearing to disregard merit and capability and instead appointing people with whom there are personal connections. The result is that with no issue being dealt with in an intelligent manner, every single day the country is plunging deeper and deeper into an abyss.

The ministers also know their limitations in leading breakthrough initiatives and are simply following the moods and whims of their bosses by agreeing to all and sundry with complete disregard for the consequences of such actions. The tragic situation in Bajaur and the country’s unmet energy needs, growing by the day one might add, point to the utter lack of initiative in the respective departments. The most innovative idea of saving energy so far has been to push the clock forward by one hour with plans to give two days off in a week — hardly genius suggestions for increasing productivity.

Great leaders always lead by example and set such high standards of behaviour that they inspire others to follow them. They earn the trust of the people by being men of principles and they practice what they preach and mean what they say. There is no rhetoric, and action is in evidence. Unfortunately, our president has earned the reputation of not living up to his promises as is amply clear in the unimplemented charters and memorandums signed with coalition partners. These examples will only serve to decrease the credibility of our leadership.

Leadership is not a title, a rank, a position; it is a kind of behaviour which does not derive from the exercise of legal or illegal power but is earned by being of strong exemplary character and inspiring personality; by having the integrity to admit one’s mistakes and standing by one’s commitments. It is these qualities that qualify one to lead, otherwise one is simply following what so many others have done.

For their own interest in retaining power, our leaders need to be reminded that if they do not change, they will be changed, as were people before them. In order to keep their positions, instead of following their predecessors by giving in to foreign pressure, they need to focus on leading with courage, commitment and conviction, the qualities that can prevent them from being subjected to the humiliating fate of all leaders who failed to live by these principles. So our present set of leaders should be different for their own sake, if not for the sake of the country.

The writer is a consultant and CEO of FranklinCovey.