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Archive for August, 2006

Handling Balochistan

No death in the world is a cause for celebration. Given the present geo-political and domestic circumstances, Nawab Akbar Bugti’s reported demise is a moment of extreme concern for the nation. Riding a camel he left Dera Bugti holding aloft a rifle as symbolic of his revolt, it was pure showmanship and he well knew how to exploit the media. He exchanged the camel for a “4 by 4” jeep a mile or so down the metalled road. Akbar Bugti’s followers were certainly targetted, he was scrupulously left alone to avoid his being killed, this has now come to pass more by accident than by any design. The location of the caves he was residing in was well known to the authorities, Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan could have got him anytime during the past year or so. In the emotive circumstances availing, announcement of such deaths at the hands of security forces have to be carefully crafted. Indeed what was the need to do so without recovering his body? Mohammad Ali Durrani can grandstand for his two bosses, what he says as Federal Minister for Information cannot be delivered like a speech in Nishtar Park. The national forum is not a “Pasban” pulpit, Durrani’s display of his “more loyal than the king” posture can adversely affect the destiny of the nation.

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The Shock Of Stalemate

For the first time in its entire history since 1948, Israel walked away from the battlefield without scoring an outright and convincing victory, in effect a stalemate. Israel has never fought a war with numerical superiority, this time the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) was fought to a standstill by a force far less in numbers. Totally dominant in weapons and munitions on the ground, Israel’s Air Force ruled the skies unhindered, over 10000 sorties delivering tons of ordnance in the form of precision-guided bombs, and smart missiles alongwith heavy stuff like “daisy-cutters”, etc. 155 mm self-propelled guns constantly pounded Hezbollah positions, with direct tank fire on Hezbollah strong points from Merkawa tanks (MKs 1 & 2 with the regular 105 mm gun and MK 3 with the smooth barrel 120 mm gun). This tremendous concentrated firepower was followed by waves of mechanized infantry, they could not dislodge dedicated Hezbollah fighters. That failure shattered a myth built up carefully over the years, that the Arabs could not stand upto Israel’s military might. The IDF did achieve, through a UN Resolution a bufferzone of sorts, UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army moving in between Israel’s border and the Litani River in South Lebanon to enforce the ceasefire. One doubts the Hezbollah will allow themselves to be disarmed.

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Exploiting (and Rewarding) Merit

The major difference between the public and the private sector is that private entrepreneurs recognize merit as the touchstone for success, in the public sector (as in bureaucracy) merit can often be a disqualifier. Public sector can be roughly equated to a hereditary monarchy, with heritage, nepotism and favoritism the prime ingredients for career advancement. While the private sector is not completely free from the use of connections and influence for being upwardly mobile, merit commands far more weightage in rewarding performance. The major reason for privatization and denationalization is to provide better management, inculcating corporate culture dedicated to cost-effectiveness devoted to a positive balance sheet, in effect more (profit) for less (overheads).

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‘Business’ of the Media

In January 2002, a very famous TV personality interviewed a leading Indian industrialist and myself in New York for one of the world’s better known channels on the subject of India-Pakistan relationship. The trend of the discussion was satisfying for me even though I felt that the Indian business magnate seemed to go off into anti-Pakistan monologues with no relevance to the questions being asked. At the end of the taping for nearly 15 minutes, he made a very pointed remark to the TV compere, “you will take care of it?” The man nodded assent, a bit sheepishly I thought as he glanced at me. Two days later when the recording went on air, I knew why. In the 7-8 minutes that was aired, I got in only one sentence, the rest of the talking was done by my industrialist friend. Stunned by this axe-ing, I did a little research. In the face of the millions in revenues in advertising spent by that industrialist on that channel, there was no way the particular TV channel was about to allow me to air my views. My presence was as an “extra”, meant to show the “evenhandedness” of the channel and the TV personality in having a Pakistani point of view. That particularly TV compere finds it difficult to make eye contact with me whenever we come across each other in international gatherings. His so-called integrity and principles compromised, one should take all his interviews with pinch of salt.

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The Unkindest Cut Of All

Declaring “no confidence” in Chief Minister Sindh Arbab Ghulam Rahim, MQM’s Provincial Ministers handed over mass resignations, for good measure their Federal Ministers also resigned from PM Shaukat Aziz’s Cabinet. Everyone and his uncle knows the MQM is posturing and will withdraw their threatened exit from government, the timing of their protest is of some consequence. Synchronising with a well orchestrated western media attack against Musharraf and Pakistan, it gives the perception of their ganging up with forces inimical to Musharraf and Pakistan at worst, and at best being opportunists in taking advantage of the crisis Musharraf and Pakistan face, both internationally and internally.

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