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Archive for October, 2003

Tinted Division

A recent incident in Lahore where a policeman on duty stopped a car, ostensibly having tinted windscreen, has evoked a lot of comment, most of it out of motivation and/or plain ignorance of the facts. It was 6:15 pm late in the afternoon and the policeman was wrong, the windscreen was not tinted, those who do obey the law almost never tint their windscreens (the side and rear windows are), it obstructs the driver’s vision.

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Muslim Unity

The recent OIC Summit in Malaysia was long on rhetoric, it is yet to be seen whether the reforms proposed for OIC become a fact of life. A lot of unity and emotions is given lip-service when muslim leaders come together but their commitment to the organization and to each other almost never comes to fruition. This is off course not true for bi-lateral relations which remain strong, as in the case of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. OIC presently is an Arab-centric organization, it does not really cater to the less-developed non-Arab muslim countries.

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Adversely Tilting The Balance

India and Israel appear to have reached a new dimension in their defence partnership during Ariel Sharon’s recent trip to New Delhi, three Phalcon Airborne Radar Systems, estimated to be worth one billion dollars, will certainly trigger a new arms race in South Asia. The deal is more Pakistan-specific than being “China-Pakistan” in general. The United States, which had a few years earlier blocked the sale of the same Phalcons to China, has now given Tel Aviv go-ahead to sign the AWACS deal with New Delhi. Israel has become India’s second largest defence supplier after Russia with armament sales touching 60 billion rupees (1.25 billion dollars) in 2001 alone. Setting aside US$ 65 million for formation of “lethal platoons” with the help of the Israelis to counter militancy, especially in the insurgency-wracked Kashmir, India is also looking at Israel for joint production of unarmed aerial vehicles (UAVs), night-vision devices for its main battle tanks and battlefield surveillance equipment, besides Barak missiles for the navy and Arrow anti-missile system for the Indian Aerospace Force (IAF). Interestingly India labels Kashmir as an insurgency as a raison d’etre for acquiring state-of-the-art weaponry, otherwise it portrays the Kashmiri freedom fighters as “terrorists”.

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Loan Pyramiding Caught At Last

As a frequent critic of the country’s financial management, it is a privilege to note with the great pleasure (and pride) when such a senior financial manager as Dr Ishrat Hussain, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), takes up the challenge that I made to him in “Different Strokes” (THE NATION, Oct 04, 2003). To his credit Dr Ishrat did not respond to it in a negative fashion as an affront to his ego, SBP has initiated action on the “loan pyramiding” scam. Any senior manager in a responsible public appointment is expected to react positively to good advice and observations, accept the anomalies pointed out if they are right and made in good faith, and take the appropriate corrective measures. Unlike Dr Ishrat’s positive response against the “pyramid scam” artists, when two months ago I had pointed out something to a senior functionary in the public interest, it was taken as a personal attack. The negative response was for the (more loyal than the king) lower minions to drag my poor (and only) sister who died 26 years ago almost to the day (26 Oct 1977) into the “Get Sehgal” process!

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Give Us The Tools

When the Northern Alliance rolled into Kabul in Oct 2001 on the back of relentless bombing of the Taliban by the US, they did not have to fight their way in, they were led into the city by the first man to walk in down the main highway, BBC’s Simpson. A “covering force” of a few hundred Pakistanis and a handful of other foreigners roamed around like headless chicken within the city, the balance of the much vaunted fighting force disappeared into the Afghan hinterland. When several thousand Taliban were trapped in Konduz, the Afghan element led by Mullah Dadullah negotiated their own freedom in exchange for marching the remaining (mainly Pakistani) Taliban into Dostum’s custody, the tens of thousands of Afghan Taliban literally took to the hills. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. Most of the Pakistanis ended up buried alive by Dostum in Shebergan.

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Different Strokes

Even though in the past week both the President and the PM crossed the Atlantic separately to meet the presently unchallenged Lord Manor of Earth, US President George W Bush Jr, and receive plaudits respectively for, viz (1) being in the forefront of “the war against terrorism” and (2) being the torch-bearer of the “new democratic order in Pakistan”, the uneasy apprehension in the mind politic of Pakistan that things are not so rosy as portrayed persists. In a contradiction one also gets the feeling that neither are they as bad as being bandied about by politicians left out in the cold in the present process. One should not count the nonsense emanating from the BJP rulers of India, one can never expect anything good about Pakistan to ever originate from them.

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