Hafiz Saeed To Chidambaram: ‘Meet Me First Before Heading To Islamabad’


‘India Has Always Betrayed Pakistan’ – JuD Chief

LAHORE: Banned Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed says that India has always betrayed Pakistan in the name of talks.

Addressing a Kashmir Solidarity Rally here on Friday, he has asked Indian Home Minister Chidambaram to meet him first in Lahore before heading to Islamabad. Earlier, he led a rally from Chobrgi to Punjab Assembly to mark the Kashmir Solidarity Day. The participants of the rally were holding placards inscribed with Kashmir slogans.

“There is only one solution to all the problems – liberate Indian-held Kashmir. Otherwise the option of JIHAD is open for us,” Saeed said.

He also warned India that the liberation of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad was also on the JuD’s agenda.

Saeed, also the founder of the banned Lashker-e-Taiba, warned the Pakistan government not to fool the people in the name of the composite dialogue with India.

“Our rulers get happy whenever India expresses its wish for talks with Pakistan. I want to tell them that India will never talk about liberating Srinagar and Jammu and Pakistan must understand this,” he said.

“When the United States is failing to stay in Afghanistan, then how could India remain in Kashmir,” he said. The JuD chief stated India has always deceived Pakistan in the name of dialogue.

Thousands rally for Kashmir in Pakistan

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Thousands of people rallied across Pakistan on Friday to denounce Indian rule in Kashmir, the disputed mainly Muslim state divided between the nuclear-armed rivals.

A Pakistani public holiday, Kashmir Solidarity Day, supports the region’s right to self-determination in line with UN resolutions that call for a plebiscite in Kashmir on whether it should be ruled by India or Pakistan.

This year’s event came a day after it emerged India had proposed foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan, a breakthrough in relations that were frozen after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, blamed on Pakistani militants.

Banners and hoardings calling for Kashmir’s freedom from Indian rule were put up by main roads and intersections across Pakistan.
In the capital Islamabad, several thousand activists from hardline party Jamaat-e-Islami demonstrated and formed a human chain, an AFP photographer saw.

In Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, thousands of people took to the streets chanting “Allah Akbar” (God is greatest), “We want jihad against India” and “Kashmir will become Pakistan”, an AFP reporter witnessed.

Pakistan observed a one-minute silence at 10:00 am (0500 GMT) as a mark of respect to the more than 47,000 people killed since an insurgency broke out in mainly Muslim Indian Kashmir in 1989.

In the Pakistani-administered zone, hundreds of people from the hardline Sunni Muslim party Jamaat-e-Islami rallied in the regional capital Muzaffarabad, while hundreds of other people formed a human chain in the town of Kohala.

“I warn India to stop human violations in Indian Kashmir and pull out its forces from there. The UN and America should also stop India from its cruelties,” Raja Mohammad Naseem, a provincial minister, told participants.

Demonstrators rallied in Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi and the other major cities of Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.

Kashmir was split in two in the aftermath of independence on the subcontinent when British rule ended in 1947. Both India and Pakistan claim the entire territory, which is divided by a heavily militarised Line of Control.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring the Islamist insurgency in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the claim but has often spoken in support of the fighters.

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India Begs US Not To Leave Afghanistan


Bharat Verma

Islamabad aims to create a caliphate with the help of the Islamic regimes running from Central Asia to West Asia and Southeast Asia. India stands in the way. Beijing desires to unravel India into multiple parts based on the pre-British model as it cannot digest the challenge to its supremacy offered in Asia by a liberal union of multi-religious and multi-ethnic States.

While China and Pakistan have joined hands against India and bide their time for the American forces to leave, New Delhi has appealed to Washington not to exit from Afghanistan

With the American declaration of an exit from Afghanistan, Beijing and Islamabad are upbeat. This leaves India in the lurch as it is ill prepared to face the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalists and the Chinese Communists argues Bharat Verma.

The creeping invasion by authoritarian regimes will engulf Asia by 2020 as democracies continue to retreat. India is unprepared and unwilling to safeguard the Asian democratic space.

The growing clout of totalitarian regimes coupled with non-State actors is set to shrink the democratic space in Asia. If the onslaught is not reversed by the end of the next decade, Islamic fundamentalist regimes, Communist dictatorships, military juntas and non-State actors will redraw the international boundaries and largely govern Asia.

The squeeze on the democratic space in India will increase once the American forces begin to exit Afghanistan in July 2011. Islamic fundamentalists with the assistance of the sympathetic Pakistan army will take over Afghanistan and Pakistan. This Taliban stronghold will operate on a ‘hub and spoke’ principle to expand influence and territory. To begin with, India will lose $1.5 billion (about Rs 6,900 crore) worth of investment in Afghanistan, as it is unwilling to defend it.

Islamic fundamentalism will sweep into Central Asia once the American wall holding the spread disappears from Afghanistan. Gradually, the resource rich area will come under the spell of the dark forces. Russia will feel threatened. Americans and the International Security Assistance Force are in many ways fighting Russia’s war.

Unlike New Delhi, Moscow is always willing to fight its way out!

Islamabad aims to create a caliphate with the help of the Islamic regimes running from Central Asia to West Asia and Southeast Asia. India stands in the way. Beijing desires to unravel India into multiple parts based on the pre-British model as it cannot digest the challenge to its supremacy offered in Asia by a liberal union of multi-religious and multi-ethnic States.

The simple truth is that Indian democratic values contradict and thereby pose a threat to the authoritarian philosophy of both, the Communists in Beijing, and the Islamic fundamentalists in Islamabad. Similarly, many regimes in Islamic West Asia feel uncomfortable with India’s ability to generate unprecedented soft power. Regression to medieval times helps keep these autocratic regimes in the saddle.

The all-pervading Indian soft power, therefore, poses a serious challenge. Hence, Pakistan is supported by the petro-dollars dished out on a Wahabbi checkbook to neutralise the threat posed by liberal India.

It is obvious that if the Indian model wins, autocratic regimes like China and Pakistan lose.

Primarily, there have been no terrorist attacks on India after Mumbai 26/11 on two counts. First, the raging civil war within has kept Pakistan preoccupied. Second, the intervention of the American forces has forced diversion of the Pakistan army and its non-State actors’s resources away from India. The stated exit of the Western forces beginning July 2010 from the Af-Pak region will render India extremely vulnerable.

The truth is that American forces in many ways are fighting India’s war too. However, New Delhi’s expectation that they will continue to fight such a war without India chipping is being naive.

While China and Pakistan have joined hands against India and bide their time for the American forces to leave, New Delhi has appealed to Washington not to exit from Afghanistan, but is unprepared and unwilling to assist. The Catch-22 is that neither the West led by America can win without Indian help nor can India prevail without a concrete alliance with the West.

New Delhi’s strategic incoherence continues to encourage Beijing and Islamabad’s designs of destabilising the Union. Militarily, India remains underprepared due to the huge equipment shortages on land, sea and air, created by the ministry of defence over the last two decades.

Shirking its primary responsibility of equipping the military leaves it ill equipped to cope with the increasing intensity of the threat once the Western forces retreat.

The stalemate in Afghanistan predominantly occurs on two counts. First, superior technology in a guerrilla war where motivational level of the adversary is very high, unless combined with adequate boots on the ground cannot deliver victory.

The West does not have a large reservoir of manpower to mitigate the situation. Thus, the under-manned war for past nine years has produced difficult-to-reverse battle fatigue despite the most modern technology on display.

The result is the resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda in the region. To win, a fair share of the soldiery needs to be drawn from Asian stock with equally high motivation and equipped with Western technology to surmount the challenge posed by Islamic fundamentalists.

Second, to defend Afghanistan, the war machinery should focus on Pakistan. However, the American strategy in Afghanistan is similar to the Indian fortress mentality.

Despite multiple attacks and infiltrations by the terrorists, New Delhi continues to fortify itself internally in futile attempts to repulse the attacks. Washington’s approach is similar in Kabul for the past nine years.

The Americans and the allied forces keep defending against the irregular guerrilla forces launched in to Afghanistan from Pakistan, clandestinely trained by the Pakistan army and its Inter Services Intelligence. The ghost forces from Pakistan, when attacked, disappear almost unscathed. They reappear in Kabul at will.

Washington and New Delhi cannot win since both refuse to face the fact that Pakistan is the problem.

To lend stability to Afghanistan, the threat from Pakistan covertly backed by China must be neutralised. Similarly to secure India, the joint threat from Pakistan and China needs to be resolved. In both, Pakistan is the common factor.

Beijing’s Communists back the Islamic fundamentalists in Islamabad to expel the American influence and subdue the Indians, even as Pakistan draws oxygen for sustenance from the economic bailouts from the West.

Logic dictates that to defend Kabul, with the intention of expanding influence of democracies in Asia, the focus must shift to Islamabad. However, an exit by the American forces set for July 2011 from Afghanistan will herald the process of colouring Asia in a dark hue.

With the declaration of the exit time frame, Beijing and Islamabad are once again upbeat.

This leaves India in lurch, as it is ill prepared to face the threat jointly posed by Islamic fundamentalists that includes the Pakistan army and the ISI, and the Chinese Communists. Both support the Maoists in Nepal and the non-State actors including the Maoists in India.

New Delhi therefore faces a simultaneous three-dimensional threat, — the external war on two fronts, worsening internal front aided by external actors, and lack of governance.

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India’s Dirty Secret Is Flushed Out At Last


More than half of Indian population defecates in the open. More households have TV than toilets.

Rhys Blakely | Times UK

It is possibly the worst job in the world, a task so disgusting, demeaning and dangerous that it has been illegal for 17 years.

However, at least 340,000 Indians (a conservative government estimate – other experts reckon the figure is close to a million) are forced to scrape a living by cleaning up other people’s excrement.

In 1993, the practice of employing a “manual scavenger” – a job description that masks the rank grossness of the work with an Orwellian flourish – was outlawed in India. So was the building of “dry latrines” – the kind that have no flush, have to be emptied by hand, and breed diseases.

The dirty truth, however, is that three government deadlines to eradicate manual scavenging, the most recent on March 31 2009, have passed. Dry latrines are still being dug all over the country, in both rural and urban areas.

A shortage of water and space and a lack of reliable sewage systems often make them the easiest, cheapest option.

At issue, however, is more than the woeful state of infrastructure in India, a country where 660 million people still defecate in the open and more households have TV sets than have proper toilets. For the persistence of scavenging speaks to the robustness of the centuries-old caste system as much as to a chronic lack of basic sanitation.

A new report by WaterAid, an NGO, highlights the how almost all manual scavengers are Dalits, the group at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, who were formerly known as Untouchables. About 80 per cent are women.

“They will often have inherited their ’scavenging rights’ and been tasked from an early age with removing human waste from public or private toilets, which have no flushing system, to dispose of elsewhere. Men who are scavengers usually have to manually clean out sewers and septic tanks. Scavengers are paid a pittance and treated with disdain and social stigmatism,” the study says.

Ninety per cent of scavengers have no protective equipment. Diseases such as dysentery, malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis are common. Men sent down the sewers in T-shirts and loincloths often die from inhaling toxic fumes.

Social taboos complicate the business of rehabilitation. In a small village, it is hard for a former scavenger to shrug off her past. If she tries to start a small business, it is likely to be boycotted by members of higher castes.

Even before she gets that far, however, there is the issue of self worth to overcome. “Imagine how a life spent picking up s*** affects your confidence,” says Indira Khurana, the report’s co-author and WaterAid’s head of policy in India. “For these people to stand up for their rights is a difficult thing.”

Some activists suggest that what scavengers really need is relocation programmes, so they can start new lives in places where they are not known and not burdened by the accident of their birth. It sounds like something out of a spy novel, but the stigma that follows these people around is that great, they suggest.

In some areas, imaginative thinking has produced results. The mothers of the northern state of Haryana, for instance, have adopted a simple message for men who call on their daughters: “No toilet; no bride”.

The government-initiated slogan – often lengthened in Hindi to something like “if you don’t have a proper toilet in your house, don’t even think about marrying my daughter” – has been plastered on hoardings across the region’s villages as part of a drive to boost the number of proper flush lavatories.

The campaign is one of the most successful efforts to combat India’s chronic shortage of proper plumbing, local officials claim – probably because a skewed sex ratio (there are more 8 per cent more men than women) means brides are gaining more leverage in marital bargaining while women have come to resent having to defecate outside under the cover of darkess.

About 1.4 million toilets have been built in the state since it was begun in 2005, many of them with significant government subsidies. “We have more toilets, less shame among women and less disease,” said S. K. Monda, the local government official in charge of the programme.

The Haryana project offers a ray of hope that helps explain why Ms Khurana is optimistic. She says that the new India – the India that has a world-class IT industry and a space programme – is ashamed of its caste-defined past. She thinks that political pressure – Dalits constitute a powerful vote bank – is mounting and can force change – and that schemes where community members pitch in to build proper flush lavatories have been proven viable.

She also reckons that an extensive study that will document the number of scavengers in detail will expose false claims by several state governments that they have eradicated the practice and force them to act.

It is to be hoped that she is right. But even if she is, the world’s worst job seems certain to exist for some years yet.

Also read: India Drowning In Its Own Excrement

Fewer than 10 percent of Indian cities have a sewage system. Some 665 million Indians practice open defecation, more than half the global total. In China, the world’s most populous country, 37 million people defecate in the open, according to Unicef. Incredible indeed.

Read Full Article | Jason Gayle, Bloomberg

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Turkish Foreign Minister: No Dialogue With Israel Until it Ends the Occupation and Stops Killings


By Mehmet Nedim Aslan | Middle East Monitor

Turkish Ambassador made to sit in a lower seat and Turkish flag removed in front of Israeli media.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has made his strongest criticism yet of Israel and its policies. After talks with his British counterpart David Miliband at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the two ministers held a joint press conference during which Mr Davutoğlu answered questions about his country’s lukewarm relations with Israel. Asked whether Turkey’s criticism of Israel was attributed to a policy of “Islamisation”, Mr. Davutoğlu denied the existence of any such policy and said that Turkey had worked actively for regional peace; indeed, until 2008 Turkey had had very good relations with Israel, even to the point of bringing it to the same table with Syria. The war in Gaza a year ago changed this, said Mr. Davutoğlu. “By attacking Palestinians in Gaza, Israel ruined our peace efforts and we cannot tolerate this. Attacking children and women is unacceptable,” he added.

Davutoğlu emphasised that his country’s relations would not be normalised as long as Israel is occupying and attacking Palestine. “If Israel ends its occupation and unacceptable treatment of Palestinians, then we will be ready the next day for normalised and good relations,” he said. “Turkey’s foreign policy is based on equality both with its neighbouring countries and others. A Jewish kid is not superior to a Palestinian kid. Both should be treated as equal. This is our vision for the region.”

Later, Mr. Davutoğlu gave a speech at London University’s King’s College on the topic “Converging Interests of Turkey and the UK in an enlarged EU and beyond”. Answering questions from the audience afterwards the Foreign Minister was asked why Turkey has close relations with “extremists such as Iran and HAMAS”. Emphasising again his country’s commitment to regional and global peace, Mr. Davutoğlu pointed out that HAMAS had been elected by the popular vote and those in the West who lecture the rest of the world on democracy should respect the Palestinians’ choice. He added, “The Palestinian election was the most democratic and transparent election held in the region and the Palestinians elected HAMAS. There is no such thing as ‘moderates and extremists’. When you occupy a land and kill its people you leave them no choice but hopelessness. One cannot call a country moderate which kills Palestinian children and women every day.”

Mr. Davutoğlu also criticised the US former President George Bush’s Middle East policy that labelled Iran and Syria members of the ‘axis of evil’. “We don’t want a Cold War in our region. We don’t believe that the use of military force and a policy of isolating countries will bring peace. The only way to bring peace to the region and the world is to be inclusive, not exclusive, and this is what Turkey has been working on. That’s why Turkey has good relations both with HAMAS and Iran. Anything that happens on our doorstep affects us, so our vision is to minimise tension and bring countries together politically, socially and economically.”

There is a common belief in the Muslim world that US foreign policy is biased towards Israel thanks to the Israel-Jewish lobby. Ever since the foundation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land in 1948, all US administrations have been ardent in their support of Israel, both politically and economically. In a practical sense, therefore, there appears to be very solid evidence for such a belief; indeed, some would say that the influence exerted by the Israel-Jewish lobby and the resultant Israel-bias by successive US administrations is, quite simply, a fact.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by American professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt makes it very clear, in an objective way, how the Israel-Jewish Lobby goes about its work in this respect. In Britain, a Channel 4 documentary film, Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, showed how Britain has been kept on a short rein in terms of its relationship with Israel. The situation in the UK is not as serious as in the USA, but it was still shocking to see how some British politicians are bankrolled by the Israel lobby to support Israeli interests at the expense of the Palestinians. One of many important points raised in the programme was the very subtle ‘threat’ to the Guardian newspaper for its report on ‘Israeli crimes against Palestinians’.

Israel maintains a formidable “hasbara” (propaganda) campaign worldwide to develop good relations within the media so that empathic coverage of the conflict caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine favours Israel and ignores, covers-up or seeks to justify Israeli crimes against Palestinians. The hasbara campaign to lobby politicians and the media does not exist only in the west. Surprisingly, the Israel lobby also operates in Muslim countries to such an extent that in some places it influences the policy-making process. One of those countries, without doubt, is Turkey. It is true that the AK Party in government has, unlike previous governments in Turkey, demonstrated its opposition to Israeli policies, cancelling a military exercise with Israel, for example, and PM Erdogan’s public condemnation of the assault on Gaza 12 months ago. This is countered, of course, by the fact that Turkey was the first country with a majority Muslim population to recognise Israel.

The unofficial but very strong Israel lobby in Turkey has always been a hot topic of discussion among Turkish politicians, intellectuals, media and ordinary people who follow political affairs. As in many other countries, when the subject of Israel is debated, the ultra-secular mainstream media in Turkey has condemned critics of the Zionist state as being biased against Jews or Israel, and try to downplay the severity of the Israeli occupation and killing of Palestinians. Conversely, when rockets are fired into southern Israel from Gaza, the news in the mainstream media focuses on the suffering of Israelis at the hands of Palestinians without mentioning the historical and political context that Palestinians are resisting Israel’s illegal occupation, as they are legally entitled to do.

On the first day of the Gaza attack last year, when Israel bombarded the police academy compound in Gaza, Hurriyet (which is similar to Egypt’s semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper in terms of its connection with the state’s ideology and is the most influential Turkish newspaper) commented: “After 200 rockets fired by Hamas into Israel, Israeli forces have fought back.” This gave a clear message to its readers that Israel was “forced” to resort to violence, but ignored the fact that a Hamas-Israel truce had been broken by Israel in November 2008, prompting a Hamas response, to which Israel’s murderous assault was the response.

When huge rallies were held in Turkey to protest against the deliberate targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians by Israel’s war machine, in Hurriyet and its sister newspaper Milliyet, Posta and Radikal there was little coverage. Hurriyet’s editor-in chief, Ertuğrul Özkök, once called ‘the most influential journalist’ in Turkey, wrote in his daily column that he feared these protests might result in arousing anti-Jewish sentiments.

Anyone who does not know Turkey well may find this surprising, even shocking, but it is a reality that the most influential media organs in Turkey are indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians but very enthusiastic about Israel. This enthusiasm for Israel among Turkey’s ultra-secular establishment is rooted in their campaign against Islam, which they see as an obstacle to the hegemony of the country’s founding Kemalist ideology. Israel is, in their eyes, a natural ally in the fight against their common enemy.

Because the foundation of modern Turkey was based on the removal of religion from public life – by coercion or ‘coerced consent’ if necessary – while anything connected with Islam was rejected as backward and an obstacle to the development of the state and society, this ultra-secular ideology used very subtle methods so that its indoctrination was not counter-productive. Hence, the word ‘Islam’ was not used in their campaign of secularisation. Instead, they used the terms Arabs, Sheikhs, Sherif Hussain, and Mullahs to indicate where the blame for what happened to the Ottoman Empire should be lodged; they overlooked the fact that the secular establishment was hostile to the Ottoman Empire too. Following the Gramscian concept of hegemony, in which the state, through building state-funded civil and bureaucratic institutions to control society, the Turkish establishment attacked, and continues to attack, religion using all of the apparatus at its disposal.

As Islam was suppressed by the establishment of modern Turkey, so was the ideology of “Turkishness” promoted by the state. The idea was that if people have the political nous to take pride in being a ‘Turk’ as a member of a superior race, then religion would disappear altogether. Looked at in the current context, it is interesting to note that some Jewish politicians have been among those who were promoting the new anti-Islam ideology. For example, Moez Cohen, a member of the Jewish community in the early years of modern Turkey, changed his name to a pre-Islamic Turkish name, Tekin Alp , was a leading member of the Turkish nationalist movement and once said “Down with Islam”.

In the 1990s the Turkish army generals backed a media campaign supporting Israel and Israeli interests. In 1996-97 Necmettin Erbakan’s government brought together eight Muslim countries to form the ‘D-8’ (Developing Countries) organisation aimed at tackling political, social and economic problems faced by Muslim nations. This alliance of Muslim countries was seen as a threat to Israel so the Turkish media started a campaign intended to provoke the generals by claiming that this move could take Turkey back to the ‘dark ages’ and Erbakan’s agenda was to impose shari’ah law. As a result of this campaign, Israel’s friends in the media succeeded in bringing the government to its knees.

After the 2002 general election in Turkey friends of Israel in the media and politics were cautious about the newly-formed AK Party government, adopting a “wait and see” policy. The AK Party took on a heavy agenda, from the EU reforms to the collapsed economy, so did not get involved immediately in the Palestine issue, with the result that the media seemed to be friendly towards the government. In turn, as its self-confidence grew, the government found its voice against Israeli attacks on Palestinians. The reaction of Dogan Media – owning newspapers, including its flagship Hurriyet, TV channels, weekly and monthly magazines and about 50% of the whole media sector in Turkey – was a campaign claiming that opposition to Israel would damage Turkey’s goal of joining the European Union. Some commentators went further, saying that it was not Turkey’s business to get involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Those who were against such Turkish involvement were, at the same time, and for the sake of Israel, upset at the Turkish government’s decision not to allow on its soil US troops involved in the occupation of Iraq.

An ‘official partnership’ between Israel and Turkey’s Dogan Media was uncovered when tax investigators discovered this year that Dogan had evaded taxation on its share sales to German media company Axel Springer AG in 2006. This prompted journalists working for other companies to investigate further the details of Dogan’s sales to its German partner. Yener Donmez, working for Vakit newspaper, found that Axel Springer’s employees must adhere to five main principles, one of which is “support for the vital rights of the State of Israel”; the journalist wrote that since Dogan was Axel Springer’s partner, the same principle would require Dogan’s journalists not to report anything against Israel. The newspaper also claimed that the Israeli state had shares in Axel Springer, making Dogan and Israel partners.

Releasing a statement about its partnership with Axel Springer and the claims that Israel is immune from criticism across its media output, Dogan did not deny its partner’s principle of supporting Israel, but said “Axel is a German company and even if the claims in Vakit were true, this would not affect their publishing policy.”

Today, whether Dogan Media is directly linked to Israel or not, it still owns almost 50% of the Turkish media sector and has not withdrawn its subtle support for Israel. However, its voice is not as powerful as it was a few years ago and may disappear altogether in the light of the tax evasion charges. Be under no illusions, though, for ‘the lobby’ will plan new strategies and find new friends, such is its influence.

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I AM A WORLD CHAMP FROM PAKISTAN, SAYS AMIR KHAN


KARACHI: British boxing prodigy of Pakistani descent Amir Khan says as he considers himself a world champion from Pakistan and that his visit should also serve as an assurance that the country is safe for holding sporting activities.

The 23-year-old believes the world community should stop portraying Pakistan negatively because of some incidents of violence. He feels that although there has been some violence in the country, things should not be blown out of proportion.

‘Pakistan is a beautiful country. It is a great sporting nation. The world must support it by coming here for sporting activities. If Pakistan is isolated then the talent here will not be groomed,’ Khan told a press conference on Thursday.

Khan, also known as ‘King Khan’ for his sensational feat at the 2004 Athens Olympics where he grabbed the silver at the age of 17 after losing to Cuban hero Mario Kindelan in the final, said he will also try to convince English cricketers to visit Pakistan.

Pakistan has seen a slump in international sporting activities since the attacks on the visiting Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore. Cricket being a high-profile sport was hit badly when International Cricket Council shifted the Champions Trophy to South Africa last years after several countries including England refused to play in Pakistan because of security concerns, while hockey is also suffering owing to violence in the country.

Khan, who turned professional after the Athens Games and became a sensation in the UK and his country of origin Pakistan after winning the WBA light-welterweight title last year, defeating Ukrainian Andreas Kotelnik, is on a visit to Pakistan on an invitation of Pakistan Boxing Federation.

The world champion will watch the Benazir Bhutto international boxing tournament finals on Friday, the first international sports tournament after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers.

Raja Iqbal Amir Khan, commonly known as Amir Khan, also a cousin of England cricketer Sajid Mahmood, says he is proud of his Pakistani roots and even considers himself a Pakistani world champion.

‘When I was in London to support the Pakistani cricket team at Twenty20 World Cup final, there were two champions from Pakistan – the Pakistan cricket team and the second one was me,’ said Khan who says he never faced any discrimination or racism in England because of his Pakistani descent.

‘I have never faced any problem, discrimination or racism. People in UK love me and see me as a fellow Briton just like the way Pakistanis see me as their countryman,’ said Khan who is also known as the ‘Golden Boy of UK’ since he became the youngest British boxing Olympic medallist.

Khan promised he will at least fight once in Pakistan in his career but it will not be before 2011 or 2012 because of his professional commitments.

‘I want to promote boxing in Pakistan and I will definitely have at least one fight here in my career but that cannot be expected before 2011 or 2012. But one fight in Pakistan is something I will surely like to happen,’ said Khan in an exclusive interview with Dawn.com.

The Briton, whose boxing idol is legendry former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, said although professional boxing was exciting, he missed the amateur version of the game as he cannot participate in Olympics being a professional.

‘I must say amateur boxers should come into professional boxing only after some experience, not before that,’ said Khan.

Khan’s Dec 5 fight last year against Dmitriy Salita of the United States was seen in the Western media with much interest as he was a British Muslim while the American was Jewish. The Briton, however, says he never saw the fight as a clash between civilisations or religions.

‘It was all made up in the media. He (Salita) belongs to another religion but I took it professionally rather than making it a religious issue,’ said the world champion who successfully defended his title by thrashing mandatory challenger Salita in just 76 seconds in Newcastle, England, to break the unbeaten record of the American.

Having an impressive record of 22 victories and a loss against Colombian Breidis Prescott, Khan he said would love to have Pakistani boxers train with him at his Bolton academy, adding that he expected enormous improvement in Pakistani boxing within a year.

‘With a younger president of Pakistan Boxing Federation and promotion of the game, I can see huge changes and vast improvement in Pakistani boxing. Boxing is a sport for the brave. You need a brave heart for boxing. Boxing is not poor man’s game in the UK. It is a rich sport. So my advice for Pakistani boxers is to work harder and aim high, and I am sure they will achieve success’ said Khan.

Khan, however, did not agree that Britain can ever become the next Cuba in amateur boxing, saying it was not likely to happen as most of the British boxers turned professional.

‘No, I don’t think Britain can be what Cubans are in the amateur boxing because the British boxers usually turn professional, while Cubans don’t as they have restriction on joining professional ranks,’ said Khan attired in a white coat, jeans and boxing-style white leather shoes.

Khan’s father Shajaad Khan said his son’s achievements came because of his hard work and his parents’ support.

‘We (Khan’s parents) are behind him. If he wants to box, we will never stop him. Whenever he says it’s over, we will never force him to box. But since he is into boxing, he has our support,’ says Shajaad Khan.

‘Amir has always been a down-to-earth kid. He replies each and everyone’s e-mails. Once he sent an e-mail to British champion Prince Naseem Hamed when he was just 11. Naseem never replied. When Amir had a chance to meet Naseem, he asked why he never replied to his e-mail. Now he (Amir) still remembers this and never forgets to reply to e-mails from his fans,’ Khan’s uncle Tahir Mahmood told Dawn.com.

Khan will leave Karachi on Saturday for his ancestral town Rawalpindi where he will spend some time before leaving for UK.

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India’s challenge


Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor inspects the guard of honour during the Army Day parade in New Delhi. –Reuters Photo/B Mathur

The statement by Indian army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor regarding his army’s capacity to fight a two-front war upset a lot of people in Pakistan. Both Pakistan’s army chief and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee rebutted such superfluous claims.

Pakistan’s military high command did not mince its words in dissuading its Indian counterparts from giving any thought to ‘military adventurism’, and highlighted the severe implications of this and of the Pakistan military’s capacity to respond.

Such exchanges represent the heightened tension between the two traditional rivals. For many political pundits the year 2010 does not bode well for bilateral ties. The tide of peace and amity has been reversed even though people thought that the peace process, started during Musharraf’s reign, was ‘irreversible’. At that time, one of the major reasons for hope on both sides was that a possible deal could be negotiated between an elected government in India and a military dictator in Pakistan, who, it was assumed, could carry his institution along in reaching out to New Delhi. Now things are back to square one with hawks on both sides intensifying tensions.

Kapoor’s statement and its response from Rawalpindi is not the last time that such an exchange will take place. Needless to say, such exchanges do not bode well for peace in the region.

The Indian army chief had spoken of a capability that India desires but does not possess at the moment. Taking on two neighbours militarily and ensuring a ceasefire on its conditions is New Delhi’s dream. But it does not have the capacity to translate this into reality. In fact, India does not even have the capability to successfully try out ‘cold start’, its strategy to allow the Indian military to strike specific targets inside Pakistan and pull back without incurring a high cost. The basic assumption is that if India targets terrorist training camps or headquarters in Pakistan and pulls out without holding Pakistan’s territory or annihilating its military, Rawalpindi will have no excuse to deploy nuclear weapons.

Theoretically, such an adventure is possible because it is based on another calculation that the Indian army will not waste time in regrouping but would already be regrouped to carry out a strike. Official sources believe that activating ‘cold start’ could mean Pakistan deploying nuclear weapons at forward positions or keeping them ready for use. Such a situation would result in India deploying its arsenal as well, making the atmosphere highly charged.

Thus far, the Indian strategy is not in place. It requires complete inter-services harmony and would essentially be a joint services operation which could only succeed if well simulated. So far, there is no indication that India has this capacity. There are internal problems in establishing a new force structure. The establishment of this would indicate that headway is being made in bringing necessary changes to the organisational structure.

So, should Pakistan just laugh off Kapoor’s statement? It would be wiser to understand the nuances of the statement which are more important than the actual content of what he said. It basically indicates the shifting of plates in terms of civil-military relations in India. This is not to suggest that the Indian military is getting ready for an internal coup or that it could take over politics or even wage a war on its own.

However, Kapoor’s statement is one of the many symbols of the growing significance of India’s military in the country’s security and foreign policy paradigm, particularly as far as Pakistan, China and the US are concerned. It is no longer the military of Nehru’s days that sat silently waiting for orders from Delhi as it saw the Chinese army creeping into areas India considered part of its territory.

The modern-day Indian military has access to the media and has managed to build a partnership with it to get its message across when it is in need of public pressure on the political government regarding a particular issue or policy. Furthermore, the military’s overall significance in military security decision-making has increased for a number of reasons.

First, the current lot of Indian politicians is comparatively less skilled to deal with security issues than their predecessors and so tend to seek advice from military officers on security issues. Second, given India’s desire to become a global player and its acquisition of modern technology to achieve this objective, the significance of the armed forces has increased. Third, India’s security partnership with the US has bolstered the Indian military’s significance. Finally, (as in Pakistan) senior commanders who retire from the service find jobs in think tanks. This has allowed them to influence the national security discourse in the country.

For instance, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently published a report on national security and terrorism proposing extreme measures. Thus, senior retired military officers and hawkish civilian experts drive the thinking of businessmen and traders who are key to peace in the region. This is indeed unfortunate and depicts a reduced capacity of the civilian sector in India to take on or oppose the military’s perspective.

From Pakistan’s perspective the important thing is that Indian politicians might find it difficult to go against their military’s opinion in case there is a crisis in the future. Not to forget the fact that both the Indian and Pakistani military have changed qualitatively as far as their class structure goes.

Greater indigenisation of the officer cadre and troops has meant larger numbers from the lower, lower middle and middle classes. One of the distinguishing features of these classes is their sympathy for socio-cultural traditions that have a significant religious flavor. Consequently, the men in uniform might view matters of war and peace differently.

Such factors as mentioned above are difficult to quantify but have a greater bearing on military planning and decision-making than what one would imagine. Under the circumstances, any misadventure or misperception could cost heavily.

These are two neighbors who do not know or understand each other and this makes an accidental conflict or some other dangerous miscalculation possible. Perhaps it is time that the two rivals began to understand each other.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
ayesha.ibd@gmail.com

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