South Asia Citizens Wire | 20 June, 2004 via: www.sacw.net
 Pakistan: Transcript of interview with [...] President Pervez Musharraf (Victoria Schofield)
 Pakistan: Pluralism and Qazi Hussain (Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy)
 Pak-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy: No to guns, yes to roses
+ Pakistan-India peace march on PIPFPD's 10th anniversary in Sept
 Bangladesh: An interview with Naeem Mohaiemen
 India: The government must speedily implement the CMP to make its emancipatory mark
Reap the harvest (Praful Bidwai)
 India: Reduce Nuclear Risk With Pakistan (Editorial, The Hindu)
The Telegraph [UK]
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF By Victoria Schofield (Filed: 20/06/2004)
How successful are operations against al Qa'eda and Taliban supporters in South Waziristan?
As far as this operation is concerned it is fairly successful. We do not know the results as yet. The operation is still on. We need to see the results once we flush out everyone and enter those complexes, then only we know what damage has been caused, the exact number of casualties. Firing was very accurate from our side, therefore a lot of damage must have been done.
Will this have an inflammatory effect on the rest of the country and in tribal territory?
No, I don't think it is going to spread in the tribal territory because of the right policies we followed. We followed the political path first. The jirga took certain decisions and the jirga ordered a lashkar to be formed and a laskhar was formed and it went inside but it failed and therefore according to regulations we were authorised to take certain actions against the subtribe which had failed to deliver, and that was followed by this military action.
In fact, we suffered casualties because of certain actions by the militants and therefore all the more reason that we undertook this military operation. I don' t think it is going to spread to other tribal regions. But it can have a fall out - these people have contacts elsewhere in the country and they can retaliate in the rest of the country in the form of bomb blasts, attacks on important persons and installations - and so we have to guard against that.
Looking at the law and order situation in Pakistan with frequent bomb blasts, the recent attack on your Corps Commander in Karachi - how connected is this with what is going on in tribal territory?
We are not very sure if it is related to Wana. We have apprehended the people who were involved. We will show them on television also at the right time. But we are not really sure if there is linkage with Taliban, al Qa'eda and the people who carried out this terrorist attack against the Corps Commander.
Now seems an ideal time to work towards incorporating tribal territory into Pakistan, but in view of the confused situation, are you having to go slow on plans to 'democratise' tribal territory?
Under the present circumstances we have to go slow. Because we don't know the undercurrents working there. It is a society which has been deprived in the past, ill educated, backward so we would not like to take actions where religious extremists get some kind of a hold in some areas, which could be counter-productive to the democratic process,
Because there would be a vacuum if you moved against the tribal leaders?
Yes, so we would much prefer acting with the tribal leadership - the maliks - who we are sure are not religious extremists.
Recently there have been a number of suicide bombings, is this a new phenomenon and much more difficult to control?
Yes - it is a new phenomenon. But it is not widespread; there have been a few incidents in Pakistan but it is not as bad as Palestine or Israel or Iraq. Because most of the incidents which you are seeing are not suicide bombings.
There are a few. However yes it is the most dangerous act because counter measures are difficult. We have to take coun ter measures in the form of breaking the groups. And may I very proudly say that the Intelligence agencies are doing an excellent job in breaking these groups. As I said the Corps Commander's attack was just a few days back and we have already got the people who were in the action.
So I think it's a great achievement if we can keep breaking these various factions who are either operating under sectarian extremism or religious extremism. Both these groups have to be battled with.
You are not prepared to release the names of those involved in the Karachi attack.
Not as yet. There are a few more left. We are very hopeful that we will get them in a few days. Until that time I don't want to comment.
In your talks with the government of India over Kashmir: you are intending to approach the Kashmir issue with flexibility - can you outline what Pakistan's position might be in terms of that flexibility?
I have used this word 'flexibility' very boldy. It does not go well in our domestic environment because there is a UN Security Council resolution of 1948 which says there has to be a plebisicte. Now our stand is unchanged. It does not meant that when I say flexibility that we have given up on our previous stand We are still holding onto the stand that there is a United Nations Security Council resolution.
However when we come to the negotiating table to find a solution, that is the time where I personally feel that each party needs to give up - you can't hold on to your maximalist position. Each party - Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir. Maximalist positions will have to be a compromised by all in a spirit of flexibility. And that is what I meant.
All the groups have to show this spirit of flexibility. If we keep sticking to our rigid maximalist positions, then we will never reach a solution. So this issue of flexibility should be seen in that context. It cannot be unilateral, it cannot be one sided. It has to be by all parties involved.
If the Indian government says that there will be no change in its policy to Kashmir, will the peace process break down? Or will you continue with the confidence building measures?
I am afraid if there is no movement forward on Kashmir, then there can be no movement on Confidence Building Measures. There is no doubt in my mind that the core issue bedevilling relations between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir dispute.
But Pakistan is prepared to resolve all disputes in a sincere and honourable manner. But if this core issue is not being addressed and if India is intransigent and they say that is all, we are not moving forward, and this core issue is out, then all the issues are out.
Then effectively the peace process is being held hostage to this one issue?
No, it is not a hostage. The peace process is Kashmir. We are not fighting on the [inaudible] and Wular dams and Sri Creek.
But in terms of normalisation, easier access, trade - would you see that going forward?
Where there is hatred, when there is mistrust, how can we normalise? When you have cultural activites, these are between countries which have cemented friendly harmonious relations. How can you have trade relations, commerce, cultural activity between countries who are fighting wars and killing each other daily on the line of control. Isn't that very unnatural.? How is it possible?
Some people might say if there was movement on cultural exchanges, then there would be a better spirit of goodwill and it might be easier to resolve the Kashmir issue.
That is putting the cart before the horse. Anybody who is saying this, is not realistic.
Or they have ulterior motives of shelving the Kahsmir issue and just going ahead on culture and trade and commerce. I don't think it is practical..
After the revelations about Dr AQ Khan last February, he was put under house arrest, what is his position at the moment?
He has been pardoned. He is not under house arrest. But he is in Islamabad in his house. For his own security he is not moving much at all. But certainly the family is moving around, the children are going to school. There is no restriction on them at all. They can move around but in their own interests and for their own security, it is better that they stay in one place as much as possible.
But he is not permitted to make any statements?
There is already too much confusion. We would not like to any create more confusion by the media going in and interacting and then coming up with all kinds of stories.
There have been reports of his supporters infiltrating the police and armed forces.
I do not think he is into any extremist gangs. This is absolutely wrong.
Earlier you said that he could 'keep his money'. Is this still the position or are you making any effort to remove any funds that he managed to amass?
We don't know where his funds are.
Are you confident that there are no more leakages from AQ Khan's associates?
Until now whatever we have investigated, we are reasonably sure that this is it, that we have extracted all the intelligence from them. I can't guarantee that something more crops up. And we will again have to investigate and find out our involvement.
As far as our nuclear programme is concerned, we have put the best possible custodial measures protecting our installations. We have a National Command Authority, the highest body controlling our strategic assets, then there is a very well organised strategic planning division, headed by a very capable lieutenant-general who is looking after all our strategic assets.
As far as those assets are concerned, they are under very strong controls of the armed forces of Pakistan. Here we have created an Army Air Force Navy strategic forces command, commanding all these assets. So I think we are very well organised.
As far as our strategic organisation is concerned, the intelligence and security arrangements have been beefed up, they have been strengthened. All possible doubtful areas have been removed. I think we have taken tremendous action. I am very sure that there cannot be any proliferation, there cannot be any assets falling into wrong hands. I am very sure about that.
There have been two serious assassination attempts on your life recently - if a further attempt is successful, what measures have you taken for your successor so that the initiatives you have taken are carried forward?
No - I haven't taken any political measures, if you are talking of some kind of succession.
There is a political system in place. The Assemblies are functioning, the Senate is there. If I am not there, it is the chairman of the Senate who is the President of Pakistan until such time as the Assemblies elect a new President. The political institutions are in place to find a new President.
I don't see this an issue of succession, there is no monarchy going on. There is a parliamentary democracy in place and through the political and democratic system, a successor has to be found to everyone.
Is your alliance with the MMA pushing you in a direction you would prefer not to go ?
There is a total misperception. There is no alliance with the MMA. There was an agreement with the MMA on the Legal Framework Order. We reached an agreement with them and passed the LFO in the interests of bringing political stability with a two-thirds majority.
We could have reached an agreement with the Peoples Party but somehow they did not come forward. So we reached an agreement with the MMA and we put the LFO issue aside. Now they are in the opposition. The leader of the opposition is Fazul ur Rehman of the MMA
Do you think you will be able to move forward on women's rights?
I think on women's issues the vast majority in the assembly will support, I am very confident that these bills need to be drafted, hadood, blasphemy, honour killings, all these must be debated and we must bring in any change which is required, but without violating the Islamic tenets, but ensuring that no victimisation is done against anybody. Whatever elements of these issues are not in line with Islamic tenets should be removed or corrected. And we will do it.
Are you intending to honour your pledge to take off your uniform and step down as COAS ?
I will take a decision when we reach it. I will cross the bridge when we reach it. Or shall we put it like this, there is the 17th amendment which has been passed in which the Legal Framework Order is a part.
I will adhere to the 17th amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan. I will adhere to the Constitution of Pakistan. Having said that, my word that I gave - that I will remove the uniform- if the MMA is talking - because they are talking of the word, of the pledge, that I gave - they themselves have violated two pledges that they gave: firstly, to support my vote of confidence in the Assembly and the second was the National Security Council Bill, supporting that.
They backed out on both. And so therefore I have no qualms at all as far as my word to them. They have broken their word and so I am under no obligation of pleasing them. So that can be set aside.
Now the issue that has to be taken into account is: firstly, sticking to the Constitution, and secondly, the national interest. Now these are two issues which I need to consider seriously and then only will I reach a conclusion.
What about the pledge to the people?
Insofar as the people are considered, I know that the vast majority of people are alarmed at why did I give my word. The number of letters, telephone calls, and the number of people who have contacted me asking me why did I give my word to step down. There are a lot of people are pressurising me not to give my word. It has had an opposite effect that I should not have given my word.
When will a decision will be taken - perhaps in August?
I would not be able to comment, obviously it is closer to December. August is my birthday all right, but there is no link.
Would you consider stepping as COAS but retaining your military links by making yourself a Field Marshal like Ayub Khan?
I have no intention of assuming the office of Field-Marshal. It would not have a good impact at all. I do not want to promote myself.
What achievements are you most proud of in the four/five year period since you took power?
Economic revival, of course. Setting the economy - bringing health to the economy, that is the biggest achievement. - all the macro economic indicators, that is an achievement.
Secondly, I would like to comment on the local government - that is the greatest achievement I would like to convey to the Commonwealth, if they are talking about real democracy, which was not existing here. We were living in a colonial period where the people were governed by a Deputy Commissioner, one man, a bureaucrat, who used to be king in his district. We have broken that and made the people govern themselves. Now the DCO comes under the people's representative who is the Mayor or Nazem. Now this is our greatest achievement - introducing democracy at the grass roots level and empowering the people politically, administratively, financially.
This is the real development, the real future of Pakistan. There are also many other issues, emancipation of women...
Do you feel that Pakistan will be suspended again from the Commonwealth if you don't step down as COAS?
It's a pity if they do that. I don't accept any conditionality. Pakistan does not accept any conditionality. Pakistan should not be taken for granted. It is a pity and very saddening very annoying, when I see my country being taken for granted and conditions laid on it. This is just not on.
We will take our decisions in accordance with Pakistan's dictates and not according to the Commonwealth's dictates. If they can't understand what democracy is really in its holistic form, then they should leave Pakistan alone on deciding on what is the best form of democracy for us, and they should not base our inclusion into the Commonwealth on any future actions of mine.
How successful have you been in eradicating corruption, as you pledged four years ago?
Corruption has been checked in a very big way at the top level. The corruption of billions, the loot and plunder of banks, all banks were bankrupt, all our organisations, our corporations, PIA, steel mills were bankrupt because of the loot and plunder from the top. That has been stopped. That is our biggest achivement.
At a practical level, the lower level corruption continues and that has a lot to do with many issues, it certainly has a mindset, an attitude and a social problem. And the government structure, maybe the salaries are defective. It is a complex issue which leads to corruption at the lower level which we need to tackle. We have identified that the basis of corruption at a lower level is when a person's salary is not in consonance with what he needs and not sufficient to give him security for him and his family and his future retired life.
We have to make sure that the salary structure ensures these things. This is the root of the elimination of poverty and corruption at the lower level. At a higher level, where there is no reason for the person to be corrupt because they already have sufficient resources, punitive measures, very harsh actions are the only action because they don't deserve any sympathy.
Are you satisfied with your relationship with the United States? By your critics you have been called a puppet of the West.
We are very satisfied with our relationship with the United States. There is concern domestically with people thinking that we have become the puppet of the United States. That is not true at all. People who do understand do realise that.
Some politicians keep harping on this issue because they want to put me down on any issue which can be controversial. So we have got this issue of my being dictated by the United States, but we don't get dictated to by anyone. There are many areas where we have followed a different line from the United States (for example on nuclear issues, Iraq, the issue of handling terrorism in Pakistan, of handling al Qa'eda in tribal territory ).
We are following what we want, we are handling these issues in the interest of Pakistan; if our interests in this issue of handling terrorism is the same as US interests, then that is perfectly fine, and that is the case, what is in Pakistan's interest happens to be in US interest also, then we are acting in perfect cooperation and coordination.
Did the US want a more direct presence in tribal territory?
Initally they did. They thought we might not be able to handle. But that could not be allowed and we did not allow it
What about reports of American aircraft overflying Pakistani territory?
Unnecessarily they make an issue of these minor issues. Whenever there is a violation which can be totally innocent without knowing where the boundary is, because not everyone knows where the boundary is.
These are not deliberate violations. They are unintentional. We launch our complaints and protests; they normally apologise and say they will not do it again. So let's not create a problem out of of a very minor issue.
Dawn [Pakistan] June 19, 2004
PLURALISM AND QAZI HUSSAIN
By Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy
In summer 2001, while visiting the University of Maryland, I went to hear Qazi Husain Ahmad, Amir of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan lecture at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC. He spoke on Islam, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. What I heard both surprised and impressed me.
Much of what Qazi sahib said was more or less along the expected lines - Islam being misunderstood in the West, unfair US embargoes upon Pakistan after the nuclear tests, the unwarranted hostility towards the Taliban (although he disagreed with their rejection of education of girls), etc. But the rest was refreshingly new and remarkably enlightened.
In his opening remarks Qazi sahib praised the US for being a "pluralist" society where he could go to a mosque and freely proselytize, pointed proudly to his shalwar-kameez and declared he could dress as he pleased, and remarked that those of his family members who had migrated to the US felt quite at home.
I had never heard him speak publicly in English earlier, nor had I expected such a sound appreciation from him of "pluralism" (a word that he repeated at least twice).
In essence he had anticipated General Musharraf's celebrated "enlightened moderation" by three years. His acceptance of the fact that different groups within a society could accept a plurality of beliefs and philosophies, and still live in harmony, was welcomed by all. I left with a new respect for his values and skills, as did many others in the audience.
It therefore saddened me to read Qazi sahib's article in Dawn (June 10, 2004) wherein he espouses values that stand diametrically opposed to those he declared at Brookings.
This article apparently negates his former stand on pluralism and tolerance. Instead, he now adopts a menacing tone towards Ismailis, referring to them thrice as a "religious minority" without conceding that they are a Muslim sect.
He darkly hints that they may meet the fate of the Ahmadis in Pakistan, and claims that there are deep conspiracies to undermine Pakistan by attempting to change the school curriculum "by taking over the country's education boards".
It is important to put the record straight on the education issue, especially since this has become such an important issue recently. The fact is that none of Pakistan's 24 examination boards (referred to as "education boards" by Qazi sahib) is authorized to change the national curriculum.
The Aga Khan board, if and when it becomes fully functional, will also fall in the category of the other boards in this respect and will be required by law to teach only those materials approved by the government.
Thus Qazi sahib's claims are unsupportable. Indeed, by an act of parliament passed in the mid-1970s, only the Curriculum Wing of the Ministry of Education can prescribe what can be taught in Pakistan's schools. The spirit behind the legislation was to create a Pakistan that would stay together in spite of its religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity.
What happened, tragically, was very different. Under General Ziaul Haq, with full support from Islamic parties, ideologically charged individuals hijacked the Curriculum Wing.
Over the years, they steadily converted Pakistani schools into zealot factories. Children were taught that heinous conspiracies explain the plight of Islam and Pakistan today, told to hate Hindus and non-Muslims, and have the desperation of the besieged.
The curriculum required students to "collect pictures of policemen, soldiers, and National Guards", explained to them that the exercise of democracy was why East Pakistan had separated from West Pakistan, and gave them the notion that the "Ideology of Pakistan" stood for zero tolerance of dissent and diversity.
In contrast with the relatively open-minded education during Pakistan's earlier years, schools bred ignorance and violence. Militant jihad became part of the culture on college and university campuses.
Armed groups flourished, set up offices throughout the country, collected funds after Friday prayers, and declared a war without borders. Over time the Afghan-Soviet jihad metamorphosed into the Kashmir jihad, from there to the jihad of Sunnis against Shias and the jihad of Shias against Sunnis.
Ultimately the sponsors of jihad - the Pakistani state and the army - fell victim to their own success. The attempts on the lives of top army commanders, suicide bombers, the violence in the Northern Areas over the issue of curriculum, and the Wana debacle, eventually convinced at least some people in the establishment that the time for change has come.
To forestall that possibility, the MMA organized street rampages to ensure that General Zia's curriculum would not disappear. Feeling the heat, General Musharraf's minister of education, Zubaida Jalal, promptly declared herself a fundamentalist. Under pressure, the government has now withdrawn every little piece of moderation and good sense that had somehow crept into the curriculum.
Although the MMA leaders are free to declare this as a minor victory, and a demonstrative example of how street power can make a weak government bend, one still hopes that they will look at the broader interests of the country.
If Qazi sahib thinks that pluralism in the US is a good thing, then by extension it should also be a good thing for Pakistan. Teaching hatred and lies to the nation's children can only result in its future citizens being embittered, conspiracy-ridden, fearful, and traumatized.
Although I agree with Qazi sahib's point that educating Pakistan's children should be our responsibility rather than that of the West, he appears rather dismissive about Pakistan's educational backwardness and the need for modernization.
The only thing he appears to see is foreign donors frantically pumping money into the education sector for their "nefarious" ends. Whatever one may think of foreign aid, there can be little progress towards creating a modern Pakistan without a well-educated, scientifically literate, and technologically accomplished populace.
It is impossible to do science with a medieval mindset, impossible to create functioning institutions when torn by sectarian conflicts, and impossible to effectively participate in today's globalized knowledge-based economy and culture.
Not surprisingly, democracy steadfastly refuses to grow roots in Pakistan. The distance between India and Pakistan - already huge - threatens to grow even more. Finally, I cannot see why Qazi sahib chose to bring US foreign policy and Abu Ghraib into his article.
This is not even a matter of debate - every person in Pakistan is deeply critical of American aggression in Iraq and Palestine. For that matter, the majority of people on this planet loathe George Bush's mad imperialism. But this does not mean that they want to opt for religious tyrannies. Indeed, the people of India booted out the BJP precisely for this reason.
If Qazi sahib wishes for a prosperous and peaceful Pakistan - a country to which one's relatives might wish to immigrate into rather than emigrate out of - then he, better than anyone else, knows that pluralism and multiculturalism has to be the way.
The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad and is the editor of "Education And The State - Fifty Years of Pakistan", published by Oxford University Press in 1997.
The Daily Times June 20, 2004
Pak-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy: No to guns, yes to roses
LAHORE: Indian and Pakistani peace activists have demanded both governments promote friendship.
The Asr Resource Centre arranged a reception in honour of the six-member Indian delegation of the Pak-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) on Saturday. Tapan Bose, a peace activist, said, "PIPFPD is striving for the promotion of friendship between the two countries." He said the forum would have to work for the new generation. He said both countries were spending their finances on defence but not on health, the education and other social sectors.
"People have been kept in the dark by their rulers," Mr Bose said. "Please, don't have the misconception that army generals from both sides want peace." Peace was a plural process, he added. Anees Haroon said the Pakistanis had nothing but flowers for Indians. "Let us enhance political, economic, trade and friendship circles," she said, adding the forum would hold a peace march in Lahore on September 4. "A candle-light ceremony at the border will be held on the independence days of both countries," she said. Similar celebrations would be held on the Sindh-Rajhistan border. Syed Mazher Hussain, Amit Kumar Chakraborty, Sumit Chakravartty, Jatin Desai, Pushpa Anant Bhave, Nighat Said Khan, Kishwar Naheed and people from Azad Jammu and Kashmir also addressed the meeting. The meetings of the PIPFPD joint committees on Kashmir and minorities would be held today.
o o o
The Daily Times June 19, 2004
Pak-India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy: Activists, journalists walk across Wagah
* Pakistan-India peace march on PIPFPD's 10th anniversary in Sept
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: Indian human rights' activists and journalists from the Pak-India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) who crossed the Wagah border on Friday at noon said Pak-India relations would be strengthened with increased public involvement and people-to-people contact.
The five-member delegation from PIPFPD reached Lahore after crossing the Wagah border on foot. Dr Mubashir Hasan, Saida Deap, Kamran Islam, Idrees Sheikh, ASR Resource Centre people and a number of PIPFPD activists received the delegation at the Wagah border.
The head of the delegation, noted human rights activist, Tapan Bose, has already arrived in Pakistan. The delegates who arrived on Friday are Syed Mazher Hussain, Amit Kumar Chakraborty, Sumit Chakravartty, Jatin Desai, and Pushpa Anant Bhave. Two delegates are expected Saturday morning. The meetings will be held at Asr Resource Centre, where the delegates are also residing.
The delegation is scheduled to attend the meetings of the PIPFPD joint committees on Kashmir, minority rights, a proposed peace march from Karachi to Delhi and a peace convention.
The delegates told Daily Times that they hoped Pak-India relations would improve even more in the new Congress regime.
"Manmohan Singh is not political in that sense. The atmosphere might be more conducive for peace under the Congress regime," Ms Bhave said. "We have been striving for peace for the last 10 years on the PIPFPD platform."
Ms Bhave said Kashmir was the major bone of contention on which both sides would have to change their attitudes. She also said Kashmir should not be made a target of external powers like America.
"We must be especially cautious of America's plan to split Kashmir because of its strategic importance," she said. "Also, we should not let a religious division take place. Kashmiris must come ahead to decide what must be done."
Journalist and editor of weekly newspaper Mainstream, Mr Chakravartty said the change in the Indian government was qualitatively a different situation. He said Congress and Sonia Gandhi had taken positive stands on peace process and that the Indian Foreign Minister, Natwar Singh, in a recent meeting with Mr Chakravartty had been very honest about the peace process. "We have to settle everything including Kashmir," said Mr Chakravartty, quoting the foreign minister.
Mr Chakravartty appreciated President Musharraf's stance and the invitation extended to Sonia Gandhi for a meeting in December. He said another positive development was the strength that the left wing parties had acquired in this Indian election.
Mr Desai, another senior journalist and human rights activist, hoped that the upcoming meetings of the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers would strengthen the peace process. "Relations are bound to improve with the support of the people and their aspiration for peace," he said. He mentioned that the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in India had displayed cordial relations with its neighbours in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), specifically with SAARC countries, which included Pakistan.
"Kashmir is a sentimental issue for both sides," Mr Desai said. "Importance should be given to the Kashmiris and their involvement in the process."
Another delegate and HR activist, Mr Hussain, however, expressed that the regime change in India would retard the peace process to some extent since the governments would take time to get comfortable with each other.
"The new government will not undermine the peace process but can definitively delay it," he said. Mr Hussain said the aim of the meetings in Pakistan was to enhance people-to-people contact.
"There has to be decision making on the part of political leadership," said senior office bearer of the PIPFPD, Mr Chakraborty, who was also doubtful of the expected progress in peace relations. He said the governments would have to be forced into better relations by the public.
Dr Mubashir Hasan also from the PIPFPD told Daily Times that the forum representatives would discuss the Kashmir issue, minorities and gender issues.
"A proposal for a convention and a Pakistan-India peace march on PIPFPD's 10th anniversary in September 2004 will also be discussed," said Dr Hasan. He said different meetings had been arranged to develop the programme.
Talking about peace relations and the new Congress regime, he said Pakistan-India peace was a vital issue for the Pakistani and Indian governments and new governments could not undermine major foreign policies of a country
The Asr Resource Centre is hosting a dinner in the honour of the delegation on Saturday night.
The Daily Star [Bangladesh] June 20, 2004
AN INTERVIEW WITH NAEEM MOHAIEMEN
'In Rangpur, they kidnapped and tortured 15 Ahmadiyyas, forcing them to do tawba and renounce Ahmadiyya Islam. What kind of Islam is this?'
Naeem Mohaiemen is the New York-based director of Muslims or Heretics? a documentary about the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims. He previously co-produced Rumble in Mumbai, a documentary about globalization. Muslims or Heretics? screened for five weeks at different venues in Bangladesh and is presently screening at festivals in the US. The Daily Star's Zafar Sobhan recently caught up with Mr. Mohaiemen to ask him a few questions about the Ahmadiyya issue.
DS: What was your main intention with the film? What do you hope to accomplish?
NM: The main intention is to build up public opinion in Bangladesh against the government's ban on Ahmadiyya books. Our government must come to its senses and lift the ban. The government claims they imposed a ban for the sake of "law and order." Well, law and order has not been restored by this ban. The anti-Ahmadiyya group Khatme Nabuwot has actually increased its campaign since the ban. Now they have given a June 30 deadline of declaring Ahmadiyyas non-Muslim. They have also started calling themselves the "International Khatme Nabuwot" which makes you wonder who is funding them.
Khatme Nabuwot now has an executive committee with 33 members, which had pledged to go from village to village in Bangladesh until all 91 Ahmadiyya mosques are "liberated." In Rangpur, they kidnapped and tortured 15 Ahmadiyyas, forcing them to do tawba and renounce Ahmadiyya Islam. What kind of Islam is this? Did the Prophet Mohammed (SM) teach us to torture in the name of Islam? Khatme Nabuwot is perverting the meaning of Islam and giving a black eye to all Muslims. The government cannot be a passive spectator. They must step in and arrest the zealots of Khatme Nabuwot. And they need to take quick action to remove the ban.
DS: What sort of responses did you get at the screenings? Were audience members urging government action in this matter?
NM: One journalist made an excellent point at a screening at the Goethe Institute. He said, "Any time there is any sort of communal trouble, our liberal Muslim neighbors come forward and say, 'We will protect you.' But why should people need to protect people? That is the state's role. Only if the state mechanism is broken does this sort of 'people protecting people' need to happen." I agree with that sentiment. The state needs to play a positive role in safeguarding minorities. And the state has done that at times. When some major riots happened in India, the Bangladesh government played a positive role in making sure retaliation riots didn't happen here. But the state has failed in the case of Ahmadiyyas and given in to the extremists.
When the police and local administration takes take affirmative steps, such as in Barisal and Patuakhali recently, they have successfully stopped persecution of Ahmadiyyas. But for the most part, the government has not taken any steps to prevent attacks against Ahmadiyyas, and certainly they have not reversed the book ban. The problem is, this coalition government is beholden to both the Jamaat and the Islami Oikko Jote. The religious parties have cunningly decided that this is the issue they want to push. There are always political points to be scored by beating up on a minority. In Rangpur, for instance, the persecution has taken place in a constituency which is at present controlled by the Jatiya Party and has been targeted by the four-party alliance in the next election. The anti-Ahmadiyya campaign is their first shot at establishing a presence there with the ultimate goal of taking the seat.
DS: Recently [US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia] Christine Rocca visited Dhaka, and expressed concerns about the ban on Ahmadiyya books. What are your feelings about this sort of visit, especially since you live in the US?
NM: It actually infuriates me that the government will respond to US officials when they complain about this issue, yet we Bangladeshi activists have been protesting about this for over six months. The government doesn't feel any need to respond to domestic human rights activists. ASK and three other organizations filed a "Demand Of Justice" notice the day after the ban, but the government has yet to respond to that petition. Ultimately, Bangladesh's problems have to be solved by us. You can't solve these problems through external pressure. Even if external pressure causes something to happen, it is a temporary fix. We have to build up the infrastructure and support for human rights and tolerance from inside Bangladesh. Also, I don't want my work co-opted by those who would divide the world into "us and them." I am fighting religious extremists, but I don't consider Bush's "Pax Americana" project to be my ally.
DS: How does the Ahmadiyya issue intersect with your other work as a political activist?
NM: In the context of the US role in today's world, I am always interested in making linkages and parallels with other global situations. One of the things I have talked about at these film screenings is my own experience working with people like Blue Triangle and Not In Our Name in the US. These groups work to protect the civil rights of Muslim immigrants. In fact, Muslims are victims of the same racial profiling that tormented black Americans for decades. Now, in the post 9/11 hysteria, Muslims have become the new disenfranchised minority in America and Europe. Yet, in our own country where we Muslims are the majority, we do not hesitate to disenfranchise our own minorities. So, global activists cannot condemn only oppression against Muslim minorities in America. We have to speak out against oppression being carried out by our fellow Muslims. Otherwise it's a double standard.
DS: Any theories as to religious political parties and their sources of strength?
NM: One disturbing trend is that a lot of people in Bangladesh think the religious parties are the only ones resisting neo-imperialism. Therefore, they tolerate and quietly support the religious parties. I keep hearing how the mosques and religious parties in Dhaka brought out large rallies against the Iraq war. In fact, this is the failure of the Bangladesh left. Why couldn't they bring out massive rallies against the Iraq war? Kolkata had a very strong anti-war movement. They even mobilised a very successful boycott of American products. But the Kolkata left organized this, not the religious parties.
In fact, there are many ways to resist imperialism. In America, some of the strongest voices against the war have been families of GIs, Vietnam vets, labor unions, artists, musicians and black and Latino groups. So I have found other allies in the fight against imperialism, I don't feel any need to cozy up to the religious parties.
Zafar Sobhan is an Assistant Editor of The Daily Star.
The Hindustan Times June 19, 2004
THE GOVERNMENT MUST SPEEDILY IMPLEMENT THE CMP TO MAKE ITS EMANCIPATORY MARK - REAP THE HARVEST
BY Praful Bidwai
If markets were everything, flesh-and-blood people wouldn't matter. Politics, even social life, would become meaningless. This applies a fortiori to India's share markets, in which less than two percent of our households invest, accounting for just four percent of our savings. Dalal Street is only distantly related to the real economy, and even more remotely to the social processes that shape it.
The United Progressive Alliance would do well to remember this as it strains to soothe the part-rigged, part-speculation-led volatility in the markets. More importantly, it must know its mandate is to move India from "market-driven politics" (the title of Colin Leys' excellent book) to politics as if people mattered. Besides a resounding rejection of Hindutva, that is the cardinal message of the electoral verdict. (See Platform, May 28).
Forging a people-oriented politics against the forces of neoliberal globalisation, while tapping energies from diverse sources, including the market, is an exciting project. The UPA's Common Minimum Programme encapsulates this in many ways, although it falls short of defining its inspiration as an emancipatory Social Democratic Vision. Yet, that's precisely what the "six principles for governance" spell, including social harmony, empowerment of the underprivileged, a "safe and viable livelihood" for all, equality of opportunity, especially for women, Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs and religious minorities. The CMP marks a considerable improvement even on the United Front's 1996 common programme.
If successfully implemented, the CMP will ensure the UPA's survival for the full term. More important, it will inflict a decisive defeat upon retrograde forces of communalism and social conservatism. The first 100 days of the UPA's rule will set the tone for this transformation and its imprint upon society and politics. Three areas of the CMP are of critical importance: economic measures, social policy, and an independent foreign policy orientation. The UP must deliver something tangible in the coming weeks, not months. What is the very minimum the government must do?
The greatest economic promise lies in the pledge of Employment Guarantee Act to provide "100 days of employment Š on asset-creating public works programmes every year Š for at least one able-bodied person in every rural, urban poor and lower-middle class household"-and "in the interim, a massive food-for-work programme". The rationale is frankly Keynesian.
No less important is the commitment to significantly step up public investment in agriculture, rural infrastructure and irrigation, and double the flow of rural credit in the next three years, with an emphasis on small and marginal farmers. This must be front-loaded, through the writing off of burdensome loans, and pumping-in of massive credit for the coming kharif season. The enactment of a National Minimum Wage Act for agricultural workers-our most underprivileged people-is vital.
Two measures are of key value: correcting fiscal imbalances and reducing regional disparities. The first involves eliminating the revenue deficit, now over 3 percent of GDP, and pruning subsidies for the affluent. (The CMP promises a "roadmap" within 90 days.) The second is imperative for balanced development through stepped-up public investment in backward areas, enforcing priority bank lending (now well below stipulated norms), enhancing minerals royalties, reducing interest on loans, and transfer of Centrally-sponsored schemes to the states.
These programmes can be financed-if the UPA raises direct taxes. These currently account for an abysmal 3.5 percent of GDP, utterly unacceptable in our mass-deprivation society. Our rich have to contribute more than a miserable 1.6 percent of GDP through income-taxation.
Social policy presents a challenging agenda in health, education, culture, food security, panchayati raj, welfare of women and children and Dalits and Adivasis. The CMP's commitment to raising public spending in health from the current 0.85 percent to "at least 2-3 percent" of GDP is long-overdue. It will prevent India's further slippage into a cesspool of disease, stunted growth (of half of our children) and waste of human life. It must be implemented at the earliest. The government must not hesitate about widening control of essential drug prices-no matter what the "markets" say.
The UPA must ruthlessly cleanse all educational and research institutions of "obscurantist and fundamentalist elements". This means detoxifying communalised textbooks and getting them rewritten by unbiased and thoughtful scholars, dissolving the existing Councils of Social Science and Historical Research and reforming the UGC, whose numerous committees has been saffronised. The government must not allow itself to be deterred by semi-literate ranting about "witchhunts". The real culprits are those who subvert a pluralist and multicultural vision of India and introduce outrageous courses in astrology and karmakand. It is equally vital to revive the National Literacy Mission.
In culture, a complete overhaul of the Akademis, the museums, the Archaeological and Anthropological Survey and the IGNCA is imperative. The existing bodies must be dissolved forthwith and incompetent and communal elements systematically weeded out. Any delay in this and in purging Doordarshan and AIR of bigotry will cost us dear. There's no other way to halt and reverse Hindutva's Long March through the institutions. No less important is legislation to ban Togadia-style hate-speech and punish hate-acts.
Ayodhya presents a big opportunity. The chargesheets in the litigation must be rectified to reinstate the conspiracy charge-what else caused the Babri demolition, prepared over long years by BJP-VHP leaders? A bold effort must simultaneously be made to negotiate a just temple-plus-mosque solution. This must happen within the coming 60 days. Nothing else will take the wind out of the communalists' sails. The UPA would be ill-advised to wait for a judicial verdict.
Repeal of POTA with retrospective effect brooks no delay. The UPA has rightly refused to treat Naxalite violence as "merely a law-and-order problem", it's "a far deeper socio-economic issue". This must be translated into practice. As also the pledge that "false encounters" will not be permitted.
The test of independence of foreign policy is already upon us-with the installation of Iraq's Interim government. This is a puppet regime which cannot conceivably enjoy "sovereignty" while the military occupation continues, when it cannot change any laws or policies of the occupation regime and has no control over the US-led forces. It is of the utmost importance that India does not recognise this government or send troops to Iraq-irrespective of manipulated UN resolutions.
The UPA has rightly reiterated its commitment to Palestinian nationhood-in sharp contrast to the NDA's blatantly pro-Zionist policy. But it must do more to help the Palestinians in their grimmest hour since 1967. Today, the threat of their national territory being broken up into countless Bantustans looms large. The UPA must reverse the NDA's attempt to construct an exclusive strategic triad with Israel and the US, re-examine weapons-purchase agreements, and cease intelligence-sharing, joint military exercises and counter-insurgency "cooperation".
It's only thus that the UPA can actualise its pledge "to promote multi-polarity in world relations and oppose Š unilateralism", while putting relations with Washington on an even keel. Sustaining the India-Pakistan dialogue-for-peace process is a major imperative today. Equally important is reducing the grave regional nuclear danger through risk-reduction measures, most importantly, non-deployment of nuclear weapons. The first step in India's re-assuming its advocacy of global nuclear disarmament is to withdraw support to the US's Ballistic Missile Defence programme and reject its offers of cooperation.
The UPA has a historic opportunity on its hands-to transform domestic politics and India's global role. It must not squander it through indecision or pusillanimity.
The Hindu [India] June 19, 2004 Editorial
REDUCE NUCLEAR RISK WITH PAKISTAN
THAT NUCLEAR WEAPONS in the hands of India and Pakistan have made the region a much more dangerous place is in the nature of an axiom that only advocates of the discredited doctrine of deterrence will bother to contest. Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction, instruments of genocide. In India, democratic opinion has always regarded such weapons with horror. However, subsequent to the Pokhran and Chagai explosions of mid-1998, there has been a concerted effort by the so-called strategic affairs community and by influential sections of the political establishment to legitimise, even glorify, nuclear weapons as acceptable means of achieving regional and global power. The sophisms of deterrence theory and false claims made to the effect that nuclear bombs are political weapons meant not for use but for self-defence and national empowerment have been recruited to the job of inuring public opinion to the real implications of producing, stockpiling, inducting and deploying these weapons of mass destruction. Until Pokhran-II, official Indian policy ranged itself firmly against the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. That position was subverted by a bizarre South Asian variant: a `minimum credible nuclear deterrent' not backed by any coherent doctrinal elaboration. An extraordinarily hawkish nuclear doctrine was drafted only to be left on hold; nobody knows what India's nuclear doctrine amounts to in practice. A fallout from Pokhran was that India's voice was virtually silenced on issues of global nuclear disarmament. Indeed its establishment became a late convert to the discriminatory global nuclear bargain, going so far as to welcome the National Missile Defence and Theatre Missile Defence proposals of the United States. There was also dubious posturing: India's nuclear weapons, it was claimed against the evidence, were not Pakistan-centric.
The new Congress-led Government in New Delhi is yet to indicate its nuclear doctrine. However, the Common Minimum Programme adopted by the United Progressive Alliance promises that while "maintaining a credible nuclear weapons programme," the Government will evolve "demonstrable and verifiable confidence-building measures with its nuclear neighbours" and, on the international stage, "assume a leadership role in promoting universal nuclear disarmament and working for a nuclear weapons-free world." Against this background, External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh's informal advocacy of a "common nuclear doctrine" to be worked out among India, Pakistan and China holds much appeal; so far as the first two neighbours are concerned, it looks like an idea whose time may have come. The first ever official meeting between Indian and Pakistani experts to discuss nuclear confidence building measures, which opens in New Delhi today, provides an opportunity to identify common ground and work on a practical agenda to reduce nuclear risk in South Asia. In this connection, an article by M.V. Ramana and R. Rajaraman, both physicists, published on the editorial page of The Hindu (June 4, 2004) made two eminently sensible recommendations that "do not compromise national security in any real sense." The first is that the Indian Government should offer not to deploy nuclear weapons. The second is that it should stop installing early warning systems that clearly, in the specific South Asian context where the response time is dangerously short, increase the risk of accidental or unauthorised nuclear war. These two positive elements could constitute the basis of a common nuclear doctrine with Pakistan - and prove far more credible, as confidence building measures, than repetitions of the `no-first-use' mantra that has virtually no practical value. But a red herring must be got out of the way: the quest for some kind of nuclear parity with China, which is in a different league and poses no strategic threat of any kind - any more than nuclear weapons in the hands of the United States, the United Kingdom, France or Russia threaten India.
Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on matters of peace and democratisation in South Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit citizens wire service run since 1998 by South Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
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