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Archive for May, 2005

Blind, Deaf and Dumb

Nearly fifty eight years after Pakistan came into existence as the finest experiment in nationhood in its time and almost thirty four years after it dissolved into one of history’s great human tragedies, there is no visible change in either the personality traits of its people or for that matter, the character of its leadership. The profile of the upper hierarchy only represents the psyche of the masses, the people of Pakistan remain deaf and dumb, the leaders are blind and deaf. Nowhere is this underscored more than Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s recent book, “We’ve Learnt Nothing From History”, an authentic record of “Pakistan: Politics and Military Power” for the present and future generations of this country. The book underscores the pathetic performance of the leaders of this nation, mostly incapable of rising above themselves for the good of the populace and the country. It also documents the apathy with which the people of this country are afflicted despite being shaken by tumultuous events, each of which would have changed the character of the people of almost all other nations in the world.

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Divided We Stand

Events over the past week or so are witness to why the uniform is so important to the President, the ruling PML is a “democratic” house of cards held together by the authority of Pervez Musharraf as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Pakistan Army. While not less than 70% of the PML (and allied) parliamentarians have individual political clout in their own constituencies and thus legitimacy on their own steam, almost 30% would never have made it into the Assembles had it not been for those in charge of political manipulations in the ISI and MI, directly under the direction of the COAS. An alliance was cobbled together in 2002 to give legitimacy to our democratic pretensions, if the system has survived until now it is only because the ISI and MI remain Swords of Damocles, without discounting of course the personality of the President as COAS. Seeing the PML edifice in danger, Musharraf called all the faction heads to an enlarged meeting of the PML’s heads on Monday May 16, 2005, ostensibly to discuss the present economic and geo-political situation, mainly to give the “loyal” Parliamentarians a pep talk and paper over the chinks and cracks appearing in the body armour of Pakistan’s ruling party.

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Economic Cooperation In South Asia

Academics, experts from NGOs, businesspersons and retired government officials and speakers from South Asia gathered recently in Colombo to attend the Regional Seminar on “Economic Cooperation in South Asia” organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) organization in collaboration with the CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment (CUTS-CITEE), Jaipur, to dilate on their views and perceptions about the important issue of South-South economic cooperation in South Asia. Mr. Saman Keligama of IPS, Colombo set the trend by saying that we should guard against attempts by vested interests to discourage South-South trade, he cited a recent World Bank Report that opined that compared to North-South trade it was a failure, on the contrary there was enough evidence to show South-South trade has increased. It is true that market access comes at a cost but we must be careful about efforts to divide the economic unity of South Asia. He did not propose that links with North be done away with, on the contrary it should be complementary. Mr. AN Ram Former Secretary Indian External Affairs Ministry said that SAARC was a flawed concept and that it was agreed to without preparatory work, there should have been studies to delineate the parameters. Mr. Ram laid down a road map of six points, viz (1) economic cooperation must maximize inter-structural linkages where possible i.e. road, rail, pipelines (2) promoting sub-regional cooperation, we could also include Myanmar and Afghanistan (3) we should have bi-lateral Free Trade Agreements (FTA), alongwith a common investment regime (4) South Asia should not ignore linkages with other regions (5) South Asia should harmonize and coordinate policy on global issues and (6) we must remember that economic cooperation can be very beneficial for political issues. Speakers were apprehensive about the role of India within SAARC, taking into context the adverse trade regime that they have with Bangladesh. There are concerns whether SAPTA will really come into effect in January 2006, speakers opined that there will be shortcomings but it will come into effect and the differences can subsequently be ironed out.

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British Elections 2005

Iron-lady Margaret Thatcher led Conservative Party to three straight victories in 1979, 1983 and 1987, recording a maximum majority of 143 seats in 1983 with 42.4% votes (and 397 seats) in an electoral turnout of 72.7%, the Labour Party polling 27.6% for 209 seats. Despite Labour presently leading Conservatives on the average 39% over 35% in most polls, of concern to Labour is possible voter apathy among its hard-core supporters. Among the people “likely to vote”, the gap narrows dramatically to 34% Labour to 32% Conservative and 24% Liberal Democrats. The Conservative Party voter being more likely to vote, Blair-ites are concerned a high voter turnout favouring the Tories, particularly in the marginal seats, a 100 of which are being targetted by Labour’s opponents.

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