DAWN - Editorial; December 25, 2008

December 25, 2008

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The right response

IF one were to go by statements alone, the threat of war between Pakistan and India is yo-yoing wildly on a daily basis. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement on Tuesday that there is “no question of war” between the two neighbours will have allayed some of the fears that the tension on our eastern border may spiral out of control. With chest-thumping bravado still evident in some quarters on both sides of the border, statements designed to reduce the tension are a welcome sign of responsible statesmanship. The first responsibility of a leader of a nation is to protect his people from harm — a responsibility that entails pursuing with vigour every avenue for conflict resolution short of war. Clearly, the Mumbai attacks were an escalation in tactics to put pressure on the Pakistan-India peace process. With the composite dialogue put on hold by India, the terrorists have already partially achieved their goal.

However, there is an unfortunate tendency in Pakistan to only look at half the problem. Not allowing the terrorists to win, i.e. preventing war between the two countries, is not the same as defeating the terrorists, which would require meaningful action against jihadi networks. India has made it clear that it is determined to ensure Pakistan’s compliance on the latter, a position that keeps alive the possibility of conflict if Pakistan drags its feet. In this regard, the statement by Richard Barrett, coordinator of the Security Council’s Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, that Pakistan has given “across-the-board” cooperation is encouraging. The international community must emphasise to India that it should be pragmatic about the process for dismantling militant groups.However, an honest appraisal of the Mumbai aftermath would reveal a missed opportunity so far in Pakistan. Terrorism has blighted this nation and other than die-hard security state loyalists few would argue the growing menagerie of militants, terrorists and the like has served Pakistan’s interests, at home or abroad. The Mumbai attacks represented a frightening new capacity for militants to perhaps coordinate their actions across borders in South Asia. In Mumbai, the militants went for India’s economic jugular; what’s to stop them from upping the ante in Pakistani cities next? The Marriott bombing and attacks in cities across the country indicate that militants are pursuing an agenda beyond seeing the Indian state cow before the Pakistani state. Unfortunately, Indian pressure makes Pakistanis forget the real problem. The Economist, in a piece entitled ‘United against the wrong enemy’, has put it best: “If Pakistan’s leaders had ever united against Islamist militancy as they have against India over the past three weeks, their country would not be the violent mess that it is.” Tough words for us to swallow perhaps, but nevertheless true.

Rights of provinces

RESENTMENT grows when citizens of the state are denied the opportunity to benefit from the exploitation of local resources. Withholding this share in the collective pie does not serve the cause of harmony between the federating units as well as the centre and the provinces. Much to our detriment, we have seen how denying the people of Balochistan rightful control over their mineral and gas wealth has, over the decades, led to disaffection with the state and even full-blown insurgencies. The gross underdevelopment of regions that should, on paper at least, be among the most prosperous in the country points to an iniquitous system that is yet to be reformed despite 61 years of independence. We know all too well how disputes over the sharing of Indus waters has strained relations between upper and lower riparians, not to mention the devastating blow dealt to coastal ecosystems and livelihoods dependent on downstream resources. We have seen the ill effects of the hostile distinctions made between provinces labelled large or small, irrespective of size or their contribution to the national kitty. These are tags that do nothing for the well-being of the state. These are mistakes that ought to be rectified, not repeated.

Sadly, our learning curve seems to be long. The views aired at a recent workshop in Thatta make for disturbing reading, highlighting as they do the denial of the rights of areas in Sindh that produce a majority of the country’s oil and gas. It was claimed at the workshop that the relevant petroleum concession agreements (PCAs) dictate that companies engaged in oil and gas exploration and production must pay a royalty amounting to 12 per cent to the districts in which these resources are being tapped.

This, apparently, is not happening in a majority of districts. Companies are also expected to spend ‘production bonuses’ on the socio-economic uplift of the areas in which they operate, besides training and hiring local people. Again, these rules are allegedly honoured more in the breach than the observance. In August this year, the Sindh Assembly passed resolutions that urged the provincial government to approach the centre to ensure that all such regulations are followed. Nothing seems to have come of it nor have greater powers been devolved to the provinces by abolishing the Concurrent Legislative List, which this government promised to do when it came to power. It is time to act, for a festering sense of injustice can only spell trouble.

Devolving heritage

THE Sindh culture and tourism minister Sassui Palijo needs to be heard when she says that Islamabad should fulfil its promise to hand over national heritage monuments located in Sindh to the provincial government. The People’s Party-led ruling coalition has committed itself to provincial autonomy and to devolution of power to the provinces in most sectors. Archaeology should be no exception. The bureaucracy, which according Ms Palijo, is citing hurdles in implementing this policy should be simply told to fall in line. If there is any legislation that is required to transfer national monuments to Sindh, it should be undertaken sooner rather than later. An executive order should suffice to get the needful done, as was the case under Gen Musharraf’s devolution plan which handed over national monuments located in Punjab to Lahore in 2004-2005. At the time the other three provinces showed lukewarm interest in replicating the policy, because the Frontier and Balochistan hardly had provincial archaeology departments and Sindh said it was ill-equipped in terms of technical expertise and personnel required for the job.

There were many hurdles in the way of Punjab acquiring the control of its monuments, too, including objections from Unesco which has enlisted the Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens as World Heritage sites. Unesco cited the Punjab archaeology department’s many inadequacies to stop the transfer of monuments to the province. But what Punjab did was clever: once the federal government agreed to hand over the monuments, it demanded that the federal archaeology department’s personnel and its technical assets should also be transferred to Lahore. The needful was done; Punjab bolstered the department by pumping in some Rs600m, devising a master plan for the improvement of its monuments. There should be no reason why such an action plan cannot be followed by Sindh which now says it is ready to assume charge of its monuments. If the provinces, do not have enough resources of their own to take the custodianship of national monuments located on their soils, Islamabad must provide help.

OTHER VOICES - Middle East Press

Mofaz is to blame

Haaretz

The Egyptian Gazette

THE US Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to downgrade Israel’s flight safety rating came as no surprise…. It restates virtually word-for-word the Lapidot Committee’s report….

Successive Israeli transportation ministers, from Yisrael Kessar to Shaul Mofaz, have all treated the Civil Aviation Administration and the Israel Airports Authority as convenient places to make political appointments…. These dangers are not theoretical. The Lapidot Committee was created after a collision between an El Al plane and an Iberia plane was narrowly averted (and following the accident investigator’s report, which pointed to serious lapses by Ben-Gurion airport’s control tower).

...“The findings point to a deterioration over dozens of years,” said Maj Gen (retd) Amos Lapidot upon submitting the report. And Mofaz hastened to announce: “Israeli aviation is in an emergency situation.” One would have expected someone who used such harsh language to also accelerate the necessary corrective measure. But Mofaz merely chopped off heads, appointing Brig Gen (retd) Giora Rom as the Civil Aviation Administration’s new director. He did not implement a single one of the committee’s recommendations…. — (Dec 23)

Suspicious silence

WHY … [this] suspicious silence surrounding a recent court ruling against the former adviser to the Minister of Agriculture … sentenced to 10 years for trading in carcinogenic pesticides at the expense of the public’s health? The ruling raises important points. First, it has highlighted corruption in the agricultural sector that allowed a senior official to import carcinogenic pesticides to damage the soil and endanger the public’s health. More and more Egyptians have been dying of cancer in recent years. Second, though the ruling confirms that cancer-causing pesticides were imported into Egypt, we haven’t heard a single official … a scientific study of the Egyptian soil to establish what damage these lethal pesticides have done to it and whether the crops grown in this contaminated soil are still a health risk. Third, this ruling was issued in absentia.

...However, the ruling hasn’t done anything to establish a connection between the noticeable deterioration in [the] Egyptians’ health.... Though it has a ministry for environment, the Egyptian government continues to underestimate its opinion when it comes to carrying out development projects. There is also a lot of enthusiasm about foreign investments, even if they create terrible environmental pollution…. — (Dec 22)

An anatomy of those who kill

By Kausar S.K.


THOSE who kill, like the recent killers in Mumbai, are pitiable creatures. Devoid of any feeling for others, they epitomise heartlessness as they gun down total strangers at a railway station, and unleash bullets on those crowded in an elitist cafe.

Oblivious of impending terror and death, victims are always an easy target, as terror takes diverse forms. Besides the guns and grenades, it has appeared as a truckload of explosives rammed into a five-star hotel or as a suicide bomber blowing himself up at a peace jirga or at a funeral or in a congested bazaar.

Those who so kill are furthest removed from humanity and compassion. Their motives seem to reside at an abstract level, as if to say: ‘There are injustices against the Muslims and/or Islam, so we shall kill you, you, you and you; and you may be Muslim for all we care.’

With every massive terrorist attack there follows a range of responses, from knee-jerk reactions calling for immediate counter-attacks (even if those to be blasted into pieces cannot be identified) to more sobering ones calling for the upkeep of peace. The reactions present perhaps the greatest challenge to all peace supporters whether the latter be political leaders, government officials, opinion leaders, the media (especially the mainstream popular media) or the average citizen.

The suicidal killer in South Asia today has brazenly appropriated violence as the only means for achieving his end. He is basically a criminal, despite the cause he invokes to justify his ruthless and indiscriminate killings. He is an unabashed terrorist who does not believe in democratic processes of change. He has said no to any prevalent rules of the game, and has decided to make and follow his own rules. So far he has been successful in spreading terror.

The terrorist works for the creation of mayhem that follows the massive explosions sending parts of human bodies flying in all directions. He aims for the making of chaos that follows when he blows up people as they sit together in a peace process, mill around in a marketplace, or, as it happened in late November, are present in Mumbai. He strives for the pandemonium and havoc that emanates when those in silent worship are ripped apart in a mosque.

For the killer people are mere fodder for advancing his hatred and of those who patronise him. Life of others has no meaning, as he rolls out the meaning of his own short-lived life. He and his brethren in arms carry a common logic, a common programming of mind and a deep disconnect with the life of others. This is perhaps the colossal tragedy of the human race. Where does this disconnect begin?

Those who kill had been part of families. Recall the picture of one of the killers of the Mumbai carnage. A pleasant, youthful face, hair neatly placed on a head that must have on many occasions rolled back in laughter; hair perhaps ruffled many a time in affection by his elders. Had they known that a snake had coiled deep into his heart to forever seal it against any good feelings for the living ‘other’?

How complex is the making of human beings, a bewildering phenomenon that has become a greater challenge today than even 20 years ago. Today, the multiplication of killers has taken terror to a dizzying height. Killing is no longer the prerogative of the powerful, whether in the form of dropping the atom bomb on unsuspecting citizens or slaughtering hapless people in concentration camps.

The right to kill has been appropriated by millions around the world, and it takes the form of butchering indiscriminately small or large groups simply because the other is different — different in religion, class, sect, ethnicity, race or sex. What at one time was confined only to the rulers or the raiding parties galloping to dislodge the rulers is now an eerie entitlement of whoever chooses to appropriate it.

Appropriation of power to kill reflects a weakening of the larger social structure that is meant to maintain safety and security of populations within the fold of a given social order. When in Pakistan sectarian killings are conducted with impunity or military actions cold-heartedly oppress a population without fear or when in India communal slaughters take place or in an African state one tribe hacks to death another tribe, are all these not signs of a failed state, or just a state that has become callous when it comes to ordinary people?

Ordinary citizens are those not connected to anybody in a position of power. When they are vulnerable to physical abuse whether in a police station, in the private jail of a landlord or at the hands of a tribal chief, then the state has betrayed them. A state that betrays its average citizen can be indicted as a failed state irrespective of the pomp and sophistication exhibited by its political rulers and elite.

Killers thrive in an environment of state indifference. Herein perhaps lies the icy truth of the display of the freezing of all compassion and the eerie determination behind killing. How is it formed, for people cannot be born with it. It has to do with both the family dynamics and the larger society within which the family is located.

The interplay between family and the state, the two fundamental institutions of any country is perhaps the domain to explore the making and/or breaking of the individual. This is not a formula for finding solutions to all ills, but a step for enhancing understanding of a baffling phenomenon of desensitised individuals and groups. If we understand then actions would have a clear direction. If we act without understanding, then only confusion and chaos will be the winners.

Animal rights extremists

By Sandra Laville


ANIMAL rights activists are continuing a campaign of threats and intimidation against scores of companies linked to the controversial animal research laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences, despite a GBP3.5m police undercover sting which will put key extremists behind bars.

Police sources said the seven extremists, all of whom claimed their actions were on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front, targeted thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies in attacks designed to shut down HLS. The firm is licensed to carry out testing for pharmaceutical and other companies.

All seven were members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac). They face up to 14 years in prison when they are sentenced next month.

A jury at the crown court in Winchester southern England, took 33 hours to convict Heather Nicholson, 41, Kim Gerrah Selby, 20, Daniel Wadham, 21 and Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, of conspiracy to blackmail. One juror requested not to be in court when the verdicts were given for fear of reprisals.

Gregg Avery, 45, his wife, Natasha Avery, and Daniel Amos, 22, had earlier pleaded guilty to the same charge. Trevor Holmes, 51, was acquitted.

The Averys and Nicholson were founding members of Shac and veteran activists. All seven were considered key figures within the Animal Liberation Front.

During the three-month trial, the jury heard how employees of firms linked in any way to HLS would be targeted at work and at home. Groups of extremists wearing masks would turn up at night with sirens, fireworks and klaxons. They would daub slogans with paint on the individual’s home and car. In some cases families received hoax bombs, and many employees were smeared by false campaigns alleging they were paedophiles. The intimidation included sending used sanitary towels in the post, saying they were contaminated with HIV.The blackmail would only stop when the firm put out a “capitulation statement” to Shac saying they would not supply HLS.But despite the success of the police operation, launched in 2005, the Shac campaign goes on. On its website recently was a list of companies to target, including those who trade on the New York Stock Exchange Euronext, which now lists HLS shares.

“Customers are the main thing keeping HLS in business,” the posting read. “It’s simple No Customers = No HLS.

“HLS struggle to keep shareholders because of our campaign ... when new ones come to light demonstrations and action alerts will happen across the globe.”

Police sources said the campaign’s continuation did not detract from the success of the operation. “These things will never go away,” a source said. “But we hope the debate will come back to reasoned discussion and a political settlement.”

An HLS spokesman said: “Freedom of expression and lawful protest are important rights, but so is the right to conduct vital biomedical research or to support organisations that perform such research without being harassed and threatened.”Police Detective Chief Inspector Andy Robbins led the two-year operation. He said: “The verdict reflects the continuing commitment of law enforcement and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to bring to justice those who seek to repress reasonable discussion and who commit serious offences in the name of animal rights.”

Alastair Nisbet from the CPS said the investigation was “made all the more difficult by the fact that the defendants concealed their criminal activities behind a cloak of lawful protest, by their use of encryption and file-wiping software on their computers, and by the routine destruction of any documents that they thought might incriminate them”.

— The Guardian, London