Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 8:50 am Post subject: ASIA
Bhutto's death means dangerous time for all of us
For The Calgary Herald
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
As with most dramatic events, the significance of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is complex. Many Pakistanis, as many others around the world, were personally touched by her murder. In this respect, their grief resembled that which followed the killing of president John F. Kennedy. Largely because of the geographic, religious, and above all, the strategic position of Pakistan, Bhutto's death has a much wider meaning as well.
To begin with, she belonged to a wealthy and largely secular family from the province of Sind, in the southeast corner of the country. The strongest support for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the leadership of which she inherited from her father, is in Sind but she also had support in Punjab. Many of her supporters, however, have objected strongly to Punjabi dominance of the country.
These PPP supporters expressed their anti-Punjabi sentiments by drawing attention to two things: first, she is the third Sindhi prime minister to have been killed in Punjab, and second, Punjabis control the army. Former army chief and current president, Pervez Musharraf, who is especially detested by Bhutto's supporters, is to all intents a Punjabi.
Sectional conflict thus explains why the most ferocious rioting has taken place in Sind and also why the army has not been deployed in strength to suppress it. As on other occasions when popular leaders have been killed, the army judged it prudent to allow the riots to dissipate the anger of the dead one's supporters. One conclusion seems obvious: military restraint means the actual violence is not as bad as it looks on TV.
Given the animosity between the PPP and Musharraf, it is likely that the new army chief of staff, Gen. Pervez Kayani, is keen to distance himself from his predecessor. The army has not, therefore, lost control of the situation. In this context, losing control means failing to restore order, which the army has not attempted to do. So long as the rioting is sporadic and disorganized, the military will be able to manage the violence as it evolves.
On the other hand, there is enough murk and inconsistency in the conflicting accounts of the details of Bhutto's death to sustain several conspiracy theories. Was she shot twice by a marksman skilled enough to hit a moving target while being bumped around in a crowd? Was she killed by head trauma after an unskilled suicide bomber blew himself up? And then there are questions about her security detail. Did they exercise insufficient vigilance? Why didn't they control the entrance and exit to Liaquat Bagh Park? Why did they allow Bhutto to increase the risk to herself by sticking her head and most of her body through the sunroof? Was it simply a matter of political ambitions overriding the most elementary security precautions?
Whatever the answers to such questions, whether Bhutto was killed by an al-Qaeda affiliate, a rogue faction of the Pakistani military, or some weird combination of the two, the big winners in the short term are the
jihadists. Thus the real question concerns the future role of Pakistan in the continuing fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And that is of great interest to Canadians.
The nightmare for the U.S., its NATO allies, and even India, is increased instability that might eventually enable the jihadists to control Pakistan's nuclear
arsenal. Just before Christmas, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates observed that al-Qaeda and its affiliates have recently been devoting a great deal of attention to Pakistan. A couple of days ago, Najam Sethi, editor of the Lahore Daily Times, observed that al-Qaeda "is now as much a Pakistani phenomenon as it is an Arab or foreign element." Moreover, it has become increasingly clear over the past year that, even though army cohesion is the most essential element in the national existence of Pakistan, the military is incapable of ruling the country in the face of widespread civilian opposition.
Given these concerns, the strategic importance of Benazir Bhutto was that she might have been a key constituent in the efforts to contain and extinguish al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Eventually (it was hoped) she would work with Musharraf. Together with Gen. Kayani they would create a civil-military coalition that would bring together the moderate or at least non-jihadist elements in the country.
Generals can be replaced easily enough. Not so Bhutto.
Accordingly, the next few weeks are going to be dangerous in the extreme, both for Pakistan and for the rest of us.
Barry Cooper, PhD, FRSC, is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary.
January 3, 2008
Pakistani Opposition Parties Decry Election Delay
By CARLOTTA GALL
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The main opposition parties denounced the government’s decision on Wednesday to postpone parliamentary elections for six weeks after the assassination of the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, but they said they would abide by the ruling.
The Election Commission set Feb. 18 as the date for the elections, citing the time needed to recover from the violence that followed Ms. Bhutto’s death last week. Nearly 60 people were killed, election offices were damaged and parts of Ms. Bhutto’s home province, Sindh, were paralyzed.
“It is risky,” said one Western diplomat, who would speak only anonymously, following diplomatic protocols. “Anything could happen, because any straw or incident could ignite more violence or reaction against the government.”
Condemning the violence and expressing his sorrow at the death of Ms. Bhutto, President Pervez Musharraf went on national television to explain the elections’ delay and to dampen public anger. He acknowledged that the government’s conflicting reports had created confusion over how she had been killed, and he said he had requested the assistance of a team from London’s Metropolitan Police Service, Scotland Yard, to help with the investigation.
“I myself want to go into its depths and want to tell the nation,” Mr. Musharraf said. “It is extremely important to bring the nation out of confusion.”
“I am sure this investigation with the help of Scotland Yard will remove all doubts and suspicions,” he added.
The postponement was the right decision, the president said, and he promised free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections, emphasizing the word peaceful.
The Bush administration praised Pakistan’s decision on Monday to ask Scotland Yard to help investigate the assassination of Ms. Bhutto. “It’s very important that a transparent and comprehensive investigation move ahead quickly, and we certainly welcome Pakistan’s decision to consult U.K. expertise,” said the White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino.
The decision to delay the elections was criticized by Ms. Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, now co-chairman of her Pakistan Peoples Party, who had demanded that they go ahead on time, partly to capitalize on the expected sympathy vote. The other main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, called again for President Musharraf to resign and for the appointment of a neutral interim government.
An alliance of smaller opposition parties, which is already boycotting the elections, said it would start planning countrywide protests. They suspect that Mr. Musharraf will keep postponing the voting indefinitely.
Mr. Zardari, speaking to journalists after a party meeting at Ms. Bhutto’s country estate in Naudero, said his party, while condemning the delay, would take part in the elections and would not seek confrontation. “Elections will take place, and the masses will rule,” he said.
But he warned the government not to test the people too hard by trying to rig the elections. “Fear the day when our hearts are torn apart and I won’t be able to control the party workers,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by the other main opposition party. “The country can’t stand another controversial election,” said Ahsan Iqbal, spokesman for the party backing Mr. Sharif. “Our fear is, after Benazir Bhutto’s death a controversial election will be a recipe for disaster.”
The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the United States supported Pakistan’s decision to set a specific date for the parliamentary elections. But he took the unusual step of urging the government, a crucial ally in the campaign against terrorism, to assure freedom of the press and the full and unfettered participation of all parties in free and fair elections.
“You need to allow those candidates and those who are legitimate participants in the political process to access that free media and to make sure that you have the most free, fair and transparent electoral process in the run-up to the election, on election day, as well as after election day, as votes are being counted,” Mr. McCormack said.
Foreign diplomats said they worried that the delay could be destabilizing for the country, particularly since support for Mr. Musharraf and his government has slumped to a record low. Many people here hold the establishment responsible, whether directly or indirectly, for Ms. Bhutto’s death, and view the government’s clumsy attempt to deny that she died from a bullet wound as confirmation of their beliefs.
The chief election commissioner, Qazi Mohammad Farooq, announced the elections’ postponement in the capital and said the commission had made the decision after consulting political parties and the chief secretaries of Pakistan’s four provinces.
He said that 11 election commission offices had been burned and that ballot papers, voting lists and election screens had been destroyed. These could not all be replaced before Jan. 8, the date originally scheduled for the elections, Mr. Farooq said.
Security also remained unsteady and not conducive for elections, he said. Mr. Farooq said the officials were also concerned about elections overlapping the lengthy Shiite religious festival of Muharram, which runs from Jan. 10 to Feb. 8. Police forces are usually deployed across the country to guard shrines and processions during Muharram to forestall sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites. They would be overstretched if they had to handle security for elections at the same time, elections officials said.
Mr. Sharif said by telephone from Lahore that President Musharraf was delaying elections because he was afraid of losing. He said that his party, a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League called the P.M.L.-N, remained opposed to the delay, but that he would not call for protests yet.
He said the party that backed Mr. Musharraf, the P.M.L.-Q, or the Q League, was worried about staging a vote too soon. “It is the requirement of the Q League and General Musharraf to get these elections postponed because their rigging plans are falling apart,” Mr. Sharif said Wednesday evening. “He has done it to buy time and strengthen his rigging plans.”
He said he did not believe that polling places in Sindh Province could not be repaired in a timely fashion. The voting there could have been postponed briefly, he said, while the rest of the country voted on schedule.
Mr. Musharraf said the army, which was deployed in Sindh Province to contain the recent violence, would remain there for the elections as well. He asserted that terrorists who were behind a string of bombings against government vehicles and personnel in recent months were also behind the attack on Ms. Bhutto.
The mood on the streets was one of cynicism about the government, its failure to protect Ms. Bhutto and its decision to delay elections. At Liaquat Bagh in the city of Rawalpindi, where Ms. Bhutto gave her final speech last Thursday, a steady stream of people were still gathering to leave flowers and say prayers.
“The government did the blast,” said Waqar Siddiqui, 25, a trader. “People are saying this was a government effort because the P.M.L.-Q wants the election delayed.”
Others said the government deliberately failed to provide adequate security for Ms. Bhutto. “She wanted democracy and peace, and they hate democracy,” said Sardar Fidar Beg, 32, a leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party youth wing. “They think she would become prime minister a third time.”
Fiza Asar, 23, who was shopping for a wedding present for a friend, said the delay would give the government more time to steal the elections. “There’s a high probability it might be rigged,” she said.
Meena Bashir, 32, said she had never voted in her life and was not planning to this year, but she said she wished the voting would have gone ahead as scheduled. Delaying it will only prolong uncertainty, she said, with the threat of political violence.
“They should have gotten it over with,” she said. “The worst thing is when everything shuts down. Your life shuts down.”
Nor did she think this was the only setback. The governing party was afraid of losing, and it was capable of finding another ruse, she said. “Once this settles down, they’re going to come up with something else,” she said.
Reporting was contributed by Somini Sengupta and Salman Masood from Karachi, Pakistan, Jane Perlez from Lahore, Pakistan, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
U.K. to help investigate Bhutto killing
Pakistan delays parliamentary elections for six weeks
CanWest News Service
Thursday, January 03, 2008
CREDIT: Jerry Lampen, Reuters
A policeman looks down from a rooftop in Rawalpindi on Wednesday. Pakistan's election was postponed.
Scotland Yard has accepted a request from Pakistani authorities to help with their investigation into the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, President Pervez Musharraf said during a nationally televised address.
His announcement came just hours after Pakistan's elections commission announced that parliamentary elections would be delayed six weeks until Feb. 18.
The request for British help with finding out how Bhutto was murdered after a campaign rally in Rawalpindi last Thursday came after opposition leaders, including Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, criticized the objectivity and competence of government investigators.
The move may help temper public anger, which has focused on official explanations of how Bhutto died, and why more was not done to protect her after a failed assassination attempt in October.
The government has argued Bhutto died from a fractured skull after she ducked to avoid a gun-toting suicide bomber and cracked her head against the sunroof of her car.
Investigators have insisted her body showed no evidence of bullets or shrapnel.
However, eyewitness accounts and video of Bhutto's last moment suggest she was shot by an assassin just before he detonated a bomb.
In his first major address since the assassination, Musharraf, who leads the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic nation, vowed the election would be "free, fair, transparent . . . and peaceful."
Speaking with little emotion, he defended the election's postponement as "absolutely right" because riots in the wake of Bhutto's death left 58 dead and caused hundreds of millions of rupees in damage. The riots were especially serious in Sindh province, which has long been a political stronghold of Pakistan's leading political family.
But Sheila Fruman, a Pakistan expert with the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, said the delay "only enhances our concerns about the transparency of these elections."
Two international delegations sponsored by the NDI have visited Pakistan to investigate opposition claims of vote rigging, intimidation and detention of opposition candidates, the house arrest of Supreme Court justices and a clampdown on media. These allegations were contributing to "a climate of suspicion" about the elections, said Fruman, of Vancouver.
Musharraf, who enjoys strong backing from the Bush administration, described the rioting that followed Bhutto's death as "skullduggery," and said it has created a "situation that cannot be tolerated." Those responsible would be dealt with "drastically with all force," he vowed.
But the recently retired army general also held out an olive branch to Bhutto's family and her supporters.
He said unnamed "terrorists" were responsible for her death, which he called the "martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto."
"I feel the pain of this tragedy and the anger," he said. "I respect the sentiment of the nation."
Both opposition parties said they would reluctantly participate in the now-delayed elections.
January 4, 2008
Bhutto’s Deadly Legacy
By WILLIAM DALRYMPLE
WHEN, in May 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India was killed by a suicide bomber, there was an international outpouring of grief. Recent days have seen the same with the death of Benazir Bhutto: another glamorous, Western-educated scion of a great South Asian political dynasty tragically assassinated at an election rally.
There is, however, an important difference between the two deaths: while Mr. Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lankan Hindu extremists because of his policy of confronting them, Ms. Bhutto was apparently the victim of Islamist militant groups that she allowed to flourish under her administrations in the 1980s and 1990s.
It was under Ms. Bhutto’s watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency’s dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.
While it is true that the recruitment of jihadists had started before she took office and that Ms. Bhutto was insufficiently strong — or competent — to have had full control over either the intelligence services or the Pakistani Army when she was in office, it is equally naïve to believe she had no influence over her country’s foreign policy toward its two most important neighbors, India and Afghanistan.
Everyone now knows how disastrous the rule of the Taliban turned out to be in Afghanistan, how brutally it subjected women and how it allowed Al Qaeda to train in camps within its territory. But another, and in the long term perhaps equally perilous, legacy of Ms. Bhutto’s tenure is often forgotten: the turning of Kashmir into a jihadist playground.
In 1989, when the insurgency in the Indian portion of the disputed region first began, it was largely an amateur affair of young, secular-minded Kashmiri Muslims rising village by village and wielding homemade weapons — firearms fashioned from the steering shafts of rickshaws and so on. By the early ’90s, however, Pakistan was sending over the border thousands of well-trained, heavily armed and ideologically hardened jihadis. Some were the same sorts of exiled Arab radicals who were at the same time forming Al Qaeda in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan.
By 1993, during Ms. Bhutto’s second term, the Arab and Afghan jihadis (and their Inter-Services Intelligence masters) had really begun to take over the uprising from the locals. It was at this stage that the secular leadership of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front began losing ground to hard-line Islamist outfits like Hizbul Mujahedeen.
I asked Benazir Bhutto about her Kashmir policy and the potential dangers of the growing role of religious extremists in the conflict during an interview in 1994. “India tries to gloss over its policy of repression in Kashmir,” she replied. “India does have might, but has been unable to crush the people of Kashmir. We are not prepared to keep silent, and collude with repression.”
Hamid Gul, who was the head of the intelligence agency during her first administration, was more forthcoming still. “The Kashmiri people have risen up,” he told me, “and it is the national purpose of Pakistan to help liberate them.” He continued, “If the jihadis go out and contain India, tying down their army on their own soil, for a legitimate cause, why should we not support them?”
Benazir Bhutto’s death is, of course, a calamity, particularly as she embodied the hopes of so many liberal Pakistanis. But, contrary to the commentary we’ve seen in the last week, she was not comparable to Myanmar’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Ms. Bhutto’s governments were widely criticized by Amnesty International and other groups for their use of death squads and terrible record on deaths in police custody, abductions and torture. As for her democratic bona fides, she had no qualms about banning rallies by opposing political parties while in power.
Within her own party, she declared herself the president for life and controlled all decisions. She rejected her brother Murtaza’s bid to challenge her for its leadership and when he persisted, he was shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances during a police ambush outside the Bhutto family home.
Benazir Bhutto was certainly a brave and secular-minded woman. But the obituaries painting her as dying to save democracy distort history. Instead, she was a natural autocrat who did little for human rights, a calculating politician who was complicit in Pakistan’s becoming the region’s principal jihadi paymaster while she also ramped up an insurgency in Kashmir that has brought two nuclear powers to the brink of war.
William Dalrymple is the author, most recently, of “The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857.”
January 4, 2008
Musharraf Says Bhutto Took Excessive Risks
By CARLOTTA GALL
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday rejected any suggestion that he or any members of the Pakistani military or intelligence agencies played a role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and said it was probably carried out by the same extremists responsible for a number of suicide bombings in recent months.
Taking questions from foreign journalists at the Presidential House here, Mr. Musharraf defended his police force and investigators, saying that Ms. Bhutto had defied the government’s warnings when she decided to go ahead with the rally in Rawalpindi, where she was killed a week ago. He added that she had broken standard security rules by standing in the open top of her vehicle as the crowd swarmed around her and by not leaving the rally quickly.
In a televised question and answer session that lasted more than 90 minutes, Mr. Musharraf appeared relaxed and confident, telling journalists that they often got their facts wrong and that they did not understand the situation in Pakistan.
He denied that he was unpopular in the country and dismissed the accusation from Ms. Bhutto’s party that he was delaying parliamentary elections by six weeks to give his people time to rig them. He said he wanted elections as soon as possible, to create an elected government that could unite the country and help fight terrorism.
“There is no complicity” in Ms. Bhutto’s killing, he said. “Would I or the government be the maximum gainer from doing this? Or would there be someone else who would gain more?”
He said that in the past three months there had been 19 suicide bombings by the militant leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah. Most of the attacks were against military and intelligence targets, he said, calling it a “joke” to suggest that the military and intelligence agencies would be using the same people who were attacking them for their own ends.
“No intelligence organization of Pakistan is capable of indoctrinating a man to blow himself up,” he said.
Mr. Musharraf said that he had invited Scotland Yard to help with the investigation into Ms. Bhutto’s death to alleviate suspicions of foul play by the government, and that he did not fear what the inquiry would reveal. “We don’t mind going to any extent, as nobody is involved from the government or agency side,” he said.
But Mr. Musharraf said the investigators would not be permitted to interview four government officials whom Ms. Bhutto singled out for suspicion last year. In a letter that she wrote before her return to Pakistan in October, she said she would consider the four responsible if anything happened to her. The president said her accusations were political and baseless.
He said the government provided adequate security on the day she was killed, Dec. 27. She was accompanied at all times by a police superintendent of her own choosing, while four police vehicles with 30 policemen were flanking her and 1,000 more police officers were deployed at the rally, he said.
He acknowledged that the government had made mistakes in its handling of the situation, issuing conflicting accounts of how she died before all the facts were known and hosing down the site of the attack too soon. But these were errors, he said, not a hasty effort at a cover-up.
Political analysts and opposition politicians have predicted that Ms. Bhutto’s death will be one calamity too many for the president, after months of blunders and falling popularity since he moved in March to dismiss the Supreme Court’s chief justice.
“I think he is in an extremely weak position,” said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences. He suggested that Mr. Musharraf might still resort to extreme measures, like widespread election fraud or another period of emergency rule, to ensure that the party that backs him wins the elections and provides him with the necessary parliamentary support to continue as president. “This is an election that Musharraf cannot afford to lose,” he said.
Predictions of what government will emerge from the vote vary widely. Mr. Musharraf’s supporters predict that the faction that backs him, Pakistan Muslim League-Q, will be able to form a government. But opposition parties predict a disastrous turnout for the Q League, as the faction is known, which would represent a repudiation of Mr. Musharraf’s leadership.
Yet, far from appearing defensive, Mr. Musharraf showed an unshakable confidence and self-belief on Thursday. “There is a crisis, and I hope the solution is elections,” he said.
The election date, Feb. 18, is the same as his wife’s and daughter’s birthdays, he said. “I don’t know whether this is coincidence. I don’t know whether this is my birthday gift to them,” he said. “But this election is going to be free, fair and transparent.”
January 6, 2008
U.S. Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan
By STEVEN LEE MYERS, DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
This article is by Steven Lee Myers, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt.
WASHINGTON — President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.
Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.
Many of the specific options under discussion are unclear and highly classified. Officials said that the options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces.
The Bush administration has not formally presented any new proposals to Mr. Musharraf, who gave up his military role last month, or to his successor as the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who the White House thinks will be more sympathetic to the American position than Mr. Musharraf. Early in his career, General Kayani was an aide to Ms. Bhutto while she was prime minister and later led the Pakistani intelligence service.
But at the White House and the Pentagon, officials see an opportunity in the changing power structure for the Americans to advocate for the expanded authority in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country. “After years of focusing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize — creating chaos in Pakistan itself,” one senior official said.
The new options for expanded covert operations include loosening restrictions on the C.I.A. to strike selected targets in Pakistan, in some cases using intelligence provided by Pakistani sources, officials said. Most counterterrorism operations in Pakistan have been conducted by the C.I.A.; in Afghanistan, where military operations are under way, including some with NATO forces, the military can take the lead.
The legal status would not change if the administration decided to act more aggressively. However, if the C.I.A. were given broader authority, it could call for help from the military or deputize some forces of the Special Operations Command to act under the authority of the agency.
The United States now has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan. Any expanded operations using C.I.A. operatives or Special Operations forces, like the Navy Seals, would be small and tailored to specific missions, military officials said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was on vacation last week and did not attend the White House meeting, said in late December that “Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people.”
In the past, the administration has largely stayed out of the tribal areas, in part for fear that exposure of any American-led operations there would so embarrass the Musharraf government that it could further empower his critics, who have declared he was too close to Washington.
Even now, officials say, some American diplomats and military officials, as well as outside experts, argue that American-led military operations on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan could result in a tremendous backlash and ultimately do more harm than good. That is particularly true, they say, if Americans were captured or killed in the territory.
In part, the White House discussions may be driven by a desire for another effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. Currently, C.I.A. operatives and Special Operations forces have limited authority to conduct counterterrorism missions in Pakistan based on specific intelligence about the whereabouts of those two men, who have eluded the Bush administration for more than six years, or of other members of their terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, hiding in or near the tribal areas.
The C.I.A. has launched missiles from Predator aircraft in the tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials said they believed that in January 2006 an airstrike narrowly missed killing Mr. Zawahri, who had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village. But that apparently was the last real evidence American officials had about the whereabouts of their chief targets.
Critics said more direct American military action would be ineffective, anger the Pakistani Army and increase support for the militants. “I’m not arguing that you leave Al Qaeda and the Taliban unmolested, but I’d be very, very cautious about approaches that could play into hands of enemies and be counterproductive,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. Some American diplomats and military officials have also issued strong warnings against expanded direct American action, officials said.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani military and political analyst, said raids by American troops would prompt a powerful popular backlash against Mr. Musharraf and the United States.
In the wake of the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, many Pakistanis suspect that the United States is trying to dominate Pakistan as well, Mr. Rizvi said. Mr. Musharraf — who is already widely unpopular — would lose even more popular support.
“At the moment when Musharraf is extremely unpopular, he will face more crisis,” Mr. Rizvi said. “This will weaken Musharraf in a Pakistani context.” He said such raids would be seen as an overall vote of no confidence in the Pakistani military, including General Kayani.
The meeting on Friday, which was not publicly announced, included Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and top intelligence officials.
Spokesmen for the White House, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon declined to discuss the meeting, citing a policy against doing so. But the session reflected an urgent concern that a new Qaeda haven was solidifying in parts of Pakistan and needed to be countered, one official said.
Although some officials and experts have criticized Mr. Musharraf and questioned his ability to take on extremists, Mr. Bush has remained steadfast in his support, and it is unlikely any new measures, including direct American military action inside Pakistan, will be approved without Mr. Musharraf’s consent.
“He understands clearly the risks of dealing with extremists and terrorists,” Mr. Bush said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “After all, they’ve tried to kill him.”
The Pakistan government has identified a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda, Baitullah Mehsud, who holds sway in tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, as the chief suspect behind the attack on Ms. Bhutto. American officials are not certain about Mr. Mehsud’s complicity but say the threat he and other militants pose is a new focus. He is considered, they said, an “Al Qaeda associate.”
In an interview with foreign journalists on Thursday, Mr. Musharraf warned of the risk any counterterrorism forces — American or Pakistani — faced in confronting Mr. Mehsud in his native tribal areas.
“He is in South Waziristan agency, and let me tell you, getting him in that place means battling against thousands of people, hundreds of people who are his followers, the Mehsud tribe, if you get to him, and it will mean collateral damage,” Mr. Musharraf said.
The weeks before parliamentary elections — which were originally scheduled for Tuesday — are seen as critical because of threats by extremists to disrupt the vote. But it seemed unlikely that any additional American effort would be approved and put in place in that time frame.
Administration aides said that Pakistani and American officials shared the concern about a resurgent Qaeda, and that American diplomats and senior military officers had been working closely with their Pakistani counterparts to help bolster Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.
Shortly after Ms. Bhutto’s assassination, Adm. William J. Fallon, who oversees American military operations in Southwest Asia, telephoned his Pakistani counterparts to ensure that counterterrorism and logistics operations remained on track.
In early December, Adm. Eric T. Olson, the new leader of the Special Operations Command, paid his second visit to Pakistan in three months to meet with senior Pakistani officers, including Lt. Gen. Muhammad Masood Aslam, commander of the military and paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan. Admiral Olson also visited the headquarters of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from border tribes that the United States is planning to help train and equip.
But the Pakistanis are still years away from fielding an effective counterinsurgency force. And some American officials, including Defense Secretary Gates, have said the United States may have to take direct action against militants in the tribal areas.
American officials said the crisis surrounding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination had not diminished the Pakistani counterterrorism operations, and there were no signs that Mr. Musharraf had pulled out any of his 100,000 forces in the tribal areas and brought them to the cities to help control the urban unrest.
Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Islamabad, and David Rohde from New York.
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January 7, 2008
In Musharraf’s Shadow, a New Hope for Pakistan Rises
By DAVID ROHDE and CARLOTTA GALL
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Over the last several months, a little-known, enigmatic Pakistani general has quietly raised hopes among American officials that he could emerge as a new force for stability in Pakistan, according to current and former government officials. But it remains too early to determine whether he can play a decisive role in the country.
In late November, the general, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, took command of Pakistan’s army when the country’s longtime military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, resigned as army chief and became a civilian president. At that time, General Kayani, a protégé of Mr. Musharraf’s, became one of Pakistan’s most powerful officials.
The Pakistani Army has dominated the country for decades and the army chief wields enormous influence. Over time, as General Kayani gains firmer control of the army, he is likely to become even more powerful than Mr. Musharraf himself.
“Gradually, General Kayani will be the boss,” said Talat Masood, a Pakistani political analyst and retired general. “The real control of the army will be with Kayani.”
But within weeks, General Kayani’s loyalties — and skills — are likely to come under intense strain. The two civilian political parties that oppose Mr. Musharraf are vowing to conduct nationwide street protests if Mr. Musharraf’s party wins delayed parliamentary elections now scheduled for Feb. 18.
The parties already accuse Mr. Musharraf — who is widely unpopular according to public opinion polls — of fixing the elections. If demonstrations erupt, General Kayani will have to decide whether to suppress them.
What General Kayani decides will determine who rules Pakistan, according to Pakistani and American analysts. The decision also could affect whether the country descends into even deeper turmoil.
They predict that General Kayani will remain loyal to Mr. Musharraf to a certain extent. But they say he will not back Mr. Musharraf if his actions are viewed as damaging the army.
“He’s loyal to Musharraf to the point where Musharraf is a liability and no longer an asset to the corporate body of the Pakistani military,” said Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. and White House official who is an expert on Pakistan. “They will say: ‘Thank you very much for your interest in security affairs. Here is your ticket out of the country.’”
As he has risen through the military, General Kayani has impressed American military and intelligence officials as a professional, pro-Western moderate with few political ambitions. But the elevation to army chief has been known to change Pakistani officers.
Mr. Musharraf was seen as uninterested in politics when he became army chief in 1998. A year later, he orchestrated a coup and began his nine-year rule of the country.
General Kayani has become an increasingly important figure to the Bush administration as Pakistan’s instability grows and Mr. Musharraf faces intensifying political problems, according to American and Pakistani analysts.
Mr. Musharraf’s declaration of de facto martial law in November was widely seen in Pakistan as an effort by him to crush his civilian opponents and cling to power, according to opinion polls.
At the same time, many Pakistanis blame Mr. Musharraf for failing to prevent the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last month. They contend that the government did not provide adequate security.
General Kayani’s personal views are difficult to discern. Since taking command of the army, he has continued his practice of never granting interviews.
In his first act as army chief, he declared 2008 the “year of the soldier,” an attempt to improve the weakening morale of the Pakistani Army that was praised by American military officials. The army has struggled in combating militants, with more than 1,000 soldiers and police officers killed since 2001. Last summer, several hundred soldiers surrendered to militants, causing intense concern among Pakistani military officials.
His early political moves as commander were two small gestures that were interpreted as attempts to ease simmering tensions between the government and civilian opposition parties. Following the assassination of Ms. Bhutto on Dec. 27, he sent soldiers to place a wreath on her grave and privately met with her husband.
On Thursday, General Kayani led the first meeting of Pakistan’s corps commanders — the dozen generals who dominate the military. It was the first time in nine years that Mr. Musharraf did not attend. During the meeting, he stressed unity.
“It is the harmonization of sociopolitical, administrative and military strategies that will usher an environment of peace and stability in the long term,” the state-run news media quoted General Kayani as saying. “Ultimately, it is the will of the people and their support that is decisive.”
The son of a junior officer in the Pakistani Army, General Kayani is from Jhelum, an arid region in Punjab Province known for producing Pakistani generals. Raised in a middle-class military family, he attended military schools and is seen as loyal to the army as an institution above all else.
His appointment was popular among army officers, some of whom blame Mr. Musharraf for hurting the army’s image.
His career has included repeated military education in the United States. He received training in Fort Benning, Ga., and graduated from the Command and General Staff College run by the United States Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He also attended a 13-week executive studies course at the Asia Pacific Center of Security Studies in Hawaii in the late 1990s.
In an army deeply enmeshed in Pakistani politics, he has declined to ally himself with any political groups, according to retired Pakistani military officials. As a junior officer, he briefly served as a military aide to Ms. Bhutto during her first term as prime minister in the late 1980s, but has stayed away from politicians since then.
“Kayani throughout his career has shown little in the way of political inclination,” said a senior American military official who has worked extensively with him but did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivities of Pakistani politics. “He is a humble man who has shown a decided focus on the soldier.”
When he was appointed deputy army chief last fall, his first move was to visit the front lines in the tribal areas. Spending the Muslim holiday Id al-Fitr with soldiers prompted American military officials to praise him as a “soldier’s soldier.”
He is also an avid golfer and the president of the Pakistan Golf Association. Intensely private, he is the father of two children and spends great deal of time with his family.
In meetings, General Kayani is known to listen intently but rarely speak. He is so soft-spoken that one former American official complained that he mumbled, but he expressed confidence in General Kayani’s ability to lead the army in the fight against militancy.
The senior American military official predicted that the Pakistani Army would perform better under General Kayani than Mr. Musharraf, who was often distracted by politics while serving as both president and army chief.
He praised General Kayani for embracing new counterinsurgency training and tactics that could be more effective in countering militants in the tribal areas.
But any progress General Kayani achieves militarily could be undermined by continuing political turmoil in the country, according to Pakistani analysts. To end that instability, General Kayani might have to strike a “grand bargain” with Pakistan’s civilian political parties that would end the army’s dominance.
“If Kayani, in a way, tries to promote democracy and becomes the protector of democracy,” said Mr. Masood, the Pakistani political analyst and retired general. “Then I think Pakistan has a chance.”
Carlotta Gall reported from Islamabad, and David Rohde from Islamabad and New York. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
January 7, 2008
Conspiracy and Democracy in Pakistan
President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan has bowed, somewhat, to domestic pressure and called in Scotland Yard to help figure out who killed Benazir Bhutto. A credible investigation is urgently needed and Mr. Musharraf — who has no credibility of his own — needs all the help he can get.
Unfortunately, the ex-general immediately raised doubts about how much freedom British police will have to do their job. Even as he insisted that he wants to know how his political rival really died, he insisted that no government officials were involved and warned against investigators going on a “wild goose chase.” That doesn’t sound as if he’s ready to encourage full cooperation.
The government says the assassin was a Qaeda operative, while Ms. Bhutto’s followers charge that it was the work of people with either past or present ties to Mr. Musharraf. Until there is a credible explanation, there is no hope of calming the country’s turmoil. And more turmoil is the last thing that Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and its cozy ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, needs.
Investigators are already facing serious technical obstacles. The crime scene was hosed down by government workers, washing away potential evidence. And there was no autopsy done on Ms. Bhutto’s body — both because her husband didn’t want it and because Pakistani officials failed to order it. An autopsy may be the only way to determine if she was shot, as her supporters believe but the government initially denied, and who aimed the weapon.
Even if he permits a serious investigation, Mr. Musharraf will need to do a lot more to calm furies in Pakistan. He delayed this week’s planned parliamentary elections until Feb. 18. For the vote to have any hope of legitimacy, Mr. Musharraf must now release jailed democratic activists and lawyers, lift press restrictions, allow international monitors to observe the polling, and permit Nawaz Sharif, now the country’s most prominent opposition leader, to stand for election. The United States must insist that Mr. Musharraf do all of this and make clear that ballot-rigging will be exposed and condemned.
The weaknesses of Pakistan’s democracy go beyond Mr. Musharraf. The fact that Ms. Bhutto’s political party quickly chose her husband — long tainted by charges of corruption — and her college-student son as its leaders underscores the system’s feudal nature. Real democracy will take a long time to build in Pakistan, but it’s the only path to stability. And it needs to start now.
January 17, 2008
Education Push Yields Little for India’s Poor
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
LAHTORA, India — With the dew just rising from the fields, dozens of children streamed into the two-room school in this small, poor village, tucking used rice sacks under their arms to use as makeshift chairs. So many children streamed in that the newly appointed head teacher, Rashid Hassan, pored through attendance books for the first two hours of class and complained bitterly. He had no idea who belonged in which grade. There was no way he could teach.
Another teacher arrived 90 minutes late. A third did not show up. The most senior teacher, the only one with a teaching degree, was believed to be on official government duty preparing voter registration cards. No one could quite recall when he had last taught.
“When they get older, they’ll curse their teachers,” said Arnab Ghosh, 26, a social worker trying to help the government improve its schools, as he stared at clusters of children sitting on the grass outside. “They’ll say, ‘We came every day and we learned nothing.’ ”
Sixty years after independence, with 40 percent of its population under 18, India is now confronting the perils of its failure to educate its citizens, notably the poor. More Indian children are in school than ever before, but the quality of public schools like this one has sunk to spectacularly low levels, as government schools have become reserves of children at the very bottom of India’s social ladder.
The children in this school come from the poorest of families — those who cannot afford to send away their young to private schools elsewhere, as do most Indian families with any means.
India has long had a legacy of weak schooling for its young, even as it has promoted high-quality government-financed universities. But if in the past a largely poor and agrarian nation could afford to leave millions of its people illiterate, that is no longer the case. Not only has the roaring economy run into a shortage of skilled labor, but also the nation’s many new roads, phones and television sets have fueled new ambitions for economic advancement among its people — and new expectations for schools to help them achieve it.
That they remain ill equipped to do so is clearly illustrated by an annual survey, conducted by Pratham, the organization for which Mr. Ghosh works. The latest survey, conducted across 16,000 villages in 2007 and released Wednesday, found that while many more children were sitting in class, vast numbers of them could not read, write or perform basic arithmetic, to say nothing of those who were not in school at all.
Among children in fifth grade, 4 out of 10 could not read text at the second grade level, and 7 out of 10 could not subtract. The results reflected a slight improvement in reading from 2006 and a slight decline in arithmetic; together they underscored one of the most worrying gaps in India’s prospects for continued growth.
Education experts debate the reasons for failure. Some point out that children of illiterate parents are less likely to get help at home; the Pratham survey shows that the child of a literate woman performs better at school. Others blame longstanding neglect, insufficient public financing and accountability, and a lack of motivation among some teachers to pay special attention to poor children from lower castes.
“Education is a long-term investment,” said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and the government’s top policy czar. “We have neglected it, in my view quite criminally, for an enormously long period of time.”
Looking for a Way Up
Arguments aside, India is today engaged in an epic experiment to lift up its schools. Along the way lie many hurdles, and Mr. Ghosh, on his visits to villages like this one, encounters them all.
The aides who were hired to draw more village children into school complain that they have not received money to buy educational materials. Or the school has stopped serving lunch even though sacks of rice are piled in the classroom. Or parents agree to enroll their son in school, but know that they will soon send the child away to work. Or worst of all, from Mr. Ghosh’s perspective, all these stick-thin, bright-eyed children trickle into school every morning and take back so little.
“They’re coming with some hope of getting something,” Mr. Ghosh muttered. “It’s our fault we can’t give them anything.”
Even here, the kind of place from which millions of uneducated men and women have traditionally migrated to cities for work, an appetite for education has begun to set in. An educated person would not only be more likely to find a good job, parents here reasoned, but also less likely to be cheated in a bad one. “I want my children to do something, to advance themselves,” is how Muhammad Alam Ansari put it. “To do that they must study.”
Education in the new India has become a crucial marker of inequality. Among the poorest 20 percent of Indian men, half are illiterate, and barely 2 percent graduate from high school, according to government data. By contrast, among the richest 20 percent of Indian men, nearly half are high school graduates and only 2 percent are illiterate.
Just as important, at a time when only one in 10 college-age Indians actually go to college, higher education has become the most effective way to scale the golden ladder of the new economy. A recent study by two economists based in Delhi found that between 1993-94 and 2004-5, college graduates enjoyed pay raises of 11 percent every year, and illiterates saw their pay rise by roughly 8.5 percent, though from a miserably low base; here in Bihar State, for instance, a day laborer makes barely more than $1 a day.
“The link between getting your children prepared and being part of this big, changing India is certainly there in everyone’s minds,” said Rukmini Banerji, the research director of Pratham. “The question is: What’s the best way to get there, how much to do, what to do? As a country, I think we are trying to figure this out.”
She added, “If we wait another 5 or 10 years, you are going to lose millions of children.”
Money From the State
India has lately begun investing in education. Public spending on schools has steadily increased over the last few years, and the government now proposes to triple its financial commitment over the next five years. At present, education spending is about 4 percent of the gross domestic product. Every village with more than 1,000 residents has a primary school. There is money for free lunch every day.
Even in a state like Bihar, which had an estimated population of 83 million in 2001 and where schools are in particularly bad shape, the scale of the effort is staggering. In the last year or so, 100,000 new teachers have been hired. Unemployed villagers are paid to recruit children who have never been to school. A village education committee has been created, in theory to keep the school and its principal accountable to the community. And buckets of money have been thrown at education, to buy swings and benches, to paint classrooms, even to put up fences around the campus to keep children from running away.
And yet, as Lahtora shows, good intentions can become terribly complicated on the ground.
At the moment, the village was not lacking for money for its school. The state had committed $15,000 to construct a new school building, $900 for a new kitchen and $400 for new school benches. But only some of the money had arrived, so no construction had started, and the school committee chairman said he was not sure how much local officials might demand in bribes. The chairman’s friend from a neighboring village said $750 had been demanded of his village committee in exchange for building permits.
The chairman here also happens to be the head teacher’s uncle, making the idea of accountability additionally complicated. One parent told Mr. Ghosh that their complaints fell on deaf ears: the teachers were connected to powerful people in the community.
It is a common refrain in a country where teaching jobs are a powerful instrument of political patronage.
The school’s drinking-water tap had stopped working long ago, like 30 percent of schools nationwide, according to the Pratham survey. Despite the extra money, the toilet was broken, as was the case in nearly half of all schools nationwide.
Thankfully, there was a heap of rice in one corner of the classroom, provisions for the savory rice porridge that is one of the main draws of government schools. Except that Mr. Hassan, the head teacher, said the rice was not officially reflected in his books, and therefore he had not served lunch for the last week.
What about the money that comes from the state to buy eggs and other provisions for lunch, Mr. Ghosh asked? That too remained unspent, Mr. Hassan explained, because there was no rice to serve them with — at least not in his record books.
(Analysts of government antipoverty programs say rice can be a tempting side income for unscrupulous school officials; food meant for the poor in general, though not at this particular village school, is sometimes found diverted and sold on the private market, but one of the brighter findings of the Pratham survey was that free meals were served in over 90 percent of schools.)
Mr. Ghosh went from befuddled to exasperated. “You have rice. You have money. You prefer that kids don’t eat?” he asked.
Mr. Hassan shook his head. He said he could only cook what rice was in his records, or cook this rice if a senior government officer instructed him to do so. Mr. Ghosh went on to point out that one of the aides had shown up more than an hour late, and then with a crying baby in her arms. Two teachers were altogether absent. Even Mr. Hassan, Mr. Ghosh added, had pulled up a half-hour late.
“You’re the head of this school,” Mr. Ghosh told him. “Only you can improve this school.”
Mr. Hassan fired back: “What are you talking about? For the last 25 years this school wasn’t running at all.”
New Plans, Old Attitudes
Mr. Ghosh could not dispute that. There were times when the school doors did not open. One father, an agricultural laborer, said he had tried a few times to enroll his children but gave up after the former principal demanded money. Many parents in this largely Muslim village chose Islamic schools because they were seen to offer better discipline.
Others saw no need to send their children to school at all.
Mr. Ghosh, too, went to government schools, in a small town in neighboring West Bengal state, which is only slightly better off than here. But if he dared skip class, he recalled, he would be thrashed by his father, a public school principal. The children of this village, he knew, would not be so lucky. “When I first started coming here,” Mr. Ghosh recalled, parents “would ask me, ‘What are you going to give me? Your porridge isn’t enough. Because if I send my child to herd a buffalo, at least he’ll make 3 rupees.’ ” Three rupees is less than 10 cents.
One morning Mr. Ghosh reached the mud-and-thatch compound of Mohammed Zakir, a migrant laborer who goes to work in Delhi each year. Mr. Zakir’s son, Farooq, about 10 years old, was going to school for the first time this week. And as Mr. Zakir saw it, that was fine until Farooq turned 14, the legal age for employment, when he too would have to go work in Delhi. Keeping children in school through their teenage years, the father said flatly, was not a luxury the family could afford.
Walking out of the Zakir family compound, Mr. Ghosh looked utterly worn out. “If I don’t get this child in school,” he said, “then his child in turn won’t go to school.”
February 1, 2008
Drawn and Quartered
By SELIG S. HARRISON
WHATEVER the outcome of the Pakistani elections, now scheduled for Feb. 18, the existing multiethnic Pakistani state is not likely to survive for long unless it is radically restructured.
Given enough American pressure, a loosely united, confederated Pakistan could still be preserved by reinstating and liberalizing the defunct 1973 Constitution, which has been shelved by successive military rulers. But as matters stand, the Punjabi-dominated regime of Pervez Musharraf is headed for a bloody confrontation with the country’s Pashtun, Baluch and Sindhi minorities that could well lead to the breakup of Pakistan into three sovereign entities.
In that event, the Pashtuns, concentrated in the northwestern tribal areas, would join with their ethnic brethren across the Afghan border (some 40 million of them combined) to form an independent “Pashtunistan.” The Sindhis in the southeast, numbering 23 million, would unite with the six million Baluch tribesmen in the southwest to establish a federation along the Arabian Sea from India to Iran. “Pakistan” would then be a nuclear-armed Punjabi rump state.
In historical context, such a breakup would not be surprising. There had never been a national entity encompassing the areas now constituting Pakistan, an ethnic mélange thrown together hastily by the British for strategic reasons when they partitioned the subcontinent in 1947.
For those of Pashtun, Sindhi and Baluch ethnicity, independence from colonial rule created a bitter paradox. After resisting Punjabi domination for centuries, they found themselves subjected to Punjabi-dominated military regimes that have appropriated many of the natural resources in the minority provinces — particularly the natural gas deposits in the Baluch areas — and siphoned off much of the Indus River’s waters as they flow through the Punjab.
The resulting Punjabi-Pashtun animosity helps explain why the United States is failing to get effective Pakistani cooperation in fighting terrorists. The Pashtuns living along the Afghan border are happy to give sanctuary from Punjabi forces to the Taliban, which is composed primarily of fellow Pashtuns, and to its Qaeda friends.
Pashtun civilian casualties resulting from Pakistani and American air strikes on both sides of the border are breeding a potent underground Pashtun nationalist movement. Its initial objective is to unite all Pashtuns in Pakistan, now divided among political jurisdictions, into a unified province. In time, however, its leaders envisage full nationhood. After all, before the British came, the Pashtuns had been politically united under the banner of an Afghan empire that stretched eastward into the Punjabi heartland.
The Baluch people, for their part, have been waging intermittent insurgencies since their forced incorporation into Pakistan in 1947. In the current warfare Pakistani forces are widely reported to be deploying American-supplied aircraft and intelligence equipment that was intended for use in Afghan border areas. Their victims are forging military links with Sindhi nationalist groups that have been galvanized into action by the death of Benazir Bhutto, a Sindhi hero as was her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The breakup of Pakistan would be a costly and destabilizing development that can still be avoided, but only if the United States and other foreign donors use their enormous aid leverage to convince Islamabad that it should not only put the 1973 Constitution back into effect, but amend it to go beyond the limited degree of autonomy it envisaged. Eventually, the minorities want a central government that would retain control only over defense, foreign affairs, international trade, communications and currency. It would no longer have the power to oust an elected provincial government, and would have to renegotiate royalties on resources with the provinces.
In the shorter term, the Bush administration should scrap plans to send Special Forces into border areas in pursuit of Al Qaeda, which would only strengthen Islamist links with Pashtun nationalists. It should help secular Pashtun forces to compete with the Islamists by pushing for fair representation of Pashtun areas now barred from political participation.
It is often argued that the United States must stand by Mr. Musharraf and a unitary Pakistani state to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. But the nuclear safeguards depend on the Pakistani Army as an institution, not on the president. They would not be affected by a break-up, since the nuclear weapons would remain under the control of the Punjabi rump state and its army.
The Army has built up a far-flung empire of economic enterprises in all parts of Pakistan with assets in the tens of billions, and can best protect its interests by defusing the escalating conflict with the minorities. Similarly, the minorities would profit from cooperative economic relations with the Punjab, and for this reason prefer confederal autonomy to secession. All concerned, including the United States, have a profound stake in stopping the present slide to Balkanization.
Selig S. Harrison is the director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy and the author of “In Afghanistan’s Shadow,” a study of Baluch nationalism.
February 16, 2008
In Pakistan, Islam Needs Democracy
By WALEED ZIAD
WHILE it’s good news that secular moderates are expected to dominate Pakistan’s parliamentary elections on Monday, nobody here thinks the voting will spell the end of militant extremism. Democratic leaders have a poor track record in battling militants and offer no convincing remedies. Pakistan’s military will continue to manage the war against the Taliban and its Qaeda allies, while President Pervez Musharraf will remain America’s primary partner. The only long-term solution may lie in the hands of an overlooked natural ally in the war on terrorism: the Pakistani people.
This may come as a surprise to Americans, but the Wahhabist religion professed by the militants is more foreign to most Pakistanis than Karachi’s 21 KFCs. This is true even of the tribal North-West Frontier Province — after all, a 23-foot-tall Buddha that was severely damaged last fall by the Taliban there had stood serenely for a thousand years amid an orthodox Muslim population.
Last month I was in the village of Pakpattan observing the commemoration of the death of a Muslim Sufi saint from the Punjab — a feast of dance, poetry, music and prayer attended by more than a million people. Religious life in Pakistan has traditionally been synonymous with the gentle spirituality of Sufi mysticism, the traditional pluralistic core of Islam. Even in remote rural areas, spiritual life centers not on doctrinaire seminaries but Sufi shrines; recreation revolves around ostentatious wedding parties and Hollywood, Bollywood and the latter’s Urdu counterpart, Lollywood.
So when the Taliban bomb shrines and hair salons, or ban videos and music, it doesn’t go down well. A resident of the Swat region, the site of many recent Taliban incursions, proudly told me last month that scores of citizens in his village had banded together to drive out encroaching militants. Similarly, in the tribal areas, many local village councils, called jirgas, have summoned the Pakistani Army or conducted independent operations against extremists. Virtually all effective negotiations between the army and militants have involved local councils; in 2006, a jirga in the town of Bara expelled two rival clerics who used their town as a battleground.
The many militant outfits in the frontier regions are far from a unified popular movement. Rather, they are best characterized as ethnic or sectarian gangs, regularly changing names and loyalties. More often than battling the army, they engage each other in violent turf wars. For many of them — some with only a handful of members — “Taliban” is a convenient brand name that awards them the status of international resistance fighters. It is not uncommon for highway bandits to declare themselves Taliban when stealing tape decks from vehicles.
The Taliban franchise that has battled the army for months in the Swat Valley is held by an outfit whose founder marched thousands of local youths to their death in a campaign in Afghanistan in 2002. Upon returning, he virtually solicited his own arrest by Pakistani authorities to escape the vengeance of the victims’ families. The group is now led by one “Mullah Radio” who, armed with an FM station, preaches that polio vaccinations are a Zionist plot and that the 2005 earthquake was retribution for a sinful existence. A worrisome crank, yes, but hardly Osama bin Laden.
The big problem — as verified by a poll released last month by the United States Institute of Peace — is that while the Pakistani public condemns Talibanism, it is also opposed to the way the war on terrorism has been waged in Pakistan. People are horrified by the thousands of civilian and military casualties and the militants’ retaliatory attacks in major cities. Despite promises, very little money is going toward development, education and other public services in the frontier region’s hot zones. This has led to the belief that this war is for “Busharraf” rather than the Pakistani people.
Naturally, Washington must continue working with Mr. Musharraf’s government against extremism. But we also need a new long-term policy like the one outlined by Senator Joe Biden last fall that would strengthen our natural allies and rebuild faith in the United States at the public level.
This isn’t just wishful thinking. Interestingly, the Musharraf era has heralded a freer press in Pakistan than ever before. Dozens of independent TV channels invariably denounce the Taliban, while educational institutions are challenging the Wahhabist ethos. My conversations with Pakistanis, from people on the street to intellectuals, artists and religious leaders, only confirmed that after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, anti-militant sentiments are at a peak.
This is where the lasting solution lies. As Donya Aziz, a doctor, former member of Parliament and prominent voice in the new generation of female leaders, told me: “Even now, as the public begins to voice its anti-militancy concerns, politicians across the board are seizing the opportunity to incorporate these stands into their political platforms.”
What can America do? Beyond using our influence to push the government to expand democracy and civil society, we need to develop close ties with the jirgas in the violent areas. The locals can inform us of the best ways to infuse civilian aid. (According to Ms. Aziz, “the foremost demand of the tribal representatives had been girls’ schools.”) We should also expand the United States Agency for International Development’s $750 million aid and development package for the federally administered tribal areas.
If next week’s elections are free and fair, it will be an encouraging sign for Pakistan. But as far as Washington is concerned, this should constitute only the first stage of a broader policy intended to make average Pakistanis see the United States as a long-term partner. In the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake, American popularity soared as American aid helicopters — widely called “Angels of Mercy” — soared to the rescue. If we can bear in mind that our long-term interests are the same as those of average Pakistanis, the challenges of fighting the militants and rebuilding credibility may not be as daunting as they seem.
Waleed Ziad, an economic consultant, is an associate at the Truman National Security Project.
Parliamentary elections in Pakistan last month delivered a verdict that was just clean enough to be credible — a stern rout of President Pervez Musharraf’s party. Now, rivals Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, the leading opposition politicians, have further defied expectations by joining forces in a deal that could force Mr. Musharraf from office.
Assuming the agreement holds, the new Parliament, set to convene on Monday, would reinstate the Supreme Court judges whom Mr. Musharraf fired last year in a desperate bid to hold on to power. Once reinstated, the Supreme Court is likely to do exactly what Mr. Musharraf feared: invalidate his re-election. Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif also agreed to pass legislation stripping the former army chief of the power to dissolve Parliament and appoint military leaders.
As a monthlong surge in suicide bombings attests, this is a dangerous time for Pakistan, which has both nuclear arms and a far too cozy relationship with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. If Mr. Musharraf is ousted as a result of Pakistan’s democratic processes, that is Pakistan’s decision. The United States should not interfere.
The Bush administration stubbornly supported Mr. Musharraf as he ran roughshod over the Constitution and Pakistan’s people. The administration has promised to work with whatever government emerges, but it has refused to take a position on reinstating the judges and still seems to be betting that Mr. Musharraf will survive.
That may happen, but it must not stop Washington from supporting Mr. Zardari, Mr. Sharif and other secular moderate leaders who say they will want real constitutional democracy and the rule of law. President Bush can prove his commitment to democracy — and real stability — in Pakistan by vastly increasing nonmilitary aid for projects that would strengthen Pakistan’s battered institutions and improve the daily lives of Pakistanis.
Senator Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed tripling nonmilitary aid to $1.5 billion annually for schools, roads and clinics and providing an annual $1 billion “democracy” dividend — as reward and encouragement for Pakistan’s new government to stay on a democratic path. That is a good starting point.
Extremists will capitalize on any sign of weakness, and Mr. Musharraf and his rivals must make the political transition as free of conflict as possible. The army that helped put Mr. Musharraf in power — and stayed out of last month’s elections — must fully divorce itself from politics. Instead, it should focus on retooling its skills to confront Al Qaeda, the Taliban and homegrown insurgencies — all are increasingly powerful. The intelligence services must end their double-game with the militants.
What happens in Pakistan directly affects Afghanistan. The two share a lawless border; neither can withstand much more upheaval.
Pakistan’s new civilian leaders are undeniably flawed — both Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif are seriously tainted by corruption. But they deserve Washington’s support as they try to set their country on a new course. They do not have a lot of time to get it right. Every suicide bombing is a reminder of the extremists’ strength and how determined they are to see democracy fail.
March 31, 2008
The Baton Passes to Asia
By ROGER COHEN
It’s the end of the era of the white man.
I know your head is spinning. The world can feel like one of those split-screen TVs with images of a suicide bombing in Baghdad flashing, and the latest awful market news coursing along the bottom, and an ad for some stool-loosening wonder drug squeezed into a corner.
The jumble makes no sense. It just goes on, like the mindless clacking of an ice-dispenser.
On the globalized treadmill, you drop your eyes again from the screen (now showing ads for gourmet canine cuisine) to the New Yorker or Asahi Shimbun. And another bomb goes off.
There’s a lot of noise and not much signal. Everywhere there is flux and the reaction to it: the quest, sometimes violent, for national or religious identity. These alternate faces of globalization — fluidity and tribalism — define our frontier-dissolving world.
But in all the movement back and forth, basic things shift. The world exists in what Paul Saffo, a forecaster at Stanford University, calls “punctuated equilibrium.” Every now and again, an ice cap the size of Rhode Island breaks off.
The breaking sound right now is that of the end of the era of the white man.
I’d been thinking about this at Dubai airport in the middle of the night, as the latest news came in from the United States of the bloody end to the mother of all spending binges. I was watching the newly affluent from other parts of the world — Asians and Arabs principally — spend their way through the early-morning hours.
The West’s moment, I thought, is passing. Money and might are increasingly elsewhere. America’s little dose of socialism from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson might stave off the worst but cannot halt the trend.
Then I arrived in Hong Kong. The talk was all about how U.S. economic woes could impact Chinese growth. Might it tumble to 8 from over 11 percent? And what of India, powering along with growth of a mere 8 percent or so?
The West should have such troubles! Even revised downward, these growth rates are at levels Europe and the United States can only dream of.
Decoupling — another Hong Kong buzzword — is not possible in an interlinked world: export-led Asian economies are vulnerable in some measure to U.S. troubles. But that measure dwindles as the Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese domestic markets explode.
Asian statistics can be numbing. With one third of humanity, the numbers get big. There are now 450 million cell phones in China.
But take another — the likelihood that some 300 million people will move from rural to urban India in the next 20 years — and you get a sense of the shifts underway. By 2030, India will probably overtake Japan as the world’s third-largest economy behind the United States and China.
But in the end, transformation is not about numbers. It’s about the mind. Come to Asia and fear drains away. It’s replaced by confidence and a burning desire to succeed. Asian business leaders are rock stars. The culture of education and achievement is fierce. China is bent on beating the U.S.A.
What you feel in Asia, said Claude Smadja, a prominent global strategist, is “a burst of energy, of new dreams, and the end of the era of Western domination and the white man.”
Hong Kong purrs. Its efficiency and high-speed airport train make New York seem third-world. All the talk of Shanghai rising and Hong Kong falling was wrong: they’re both booming. Mainland Chinese tourists come here in droves to play and spend.
I went to see Frederick Ma, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce. He’s suave in that effortless Hong Kong way, the shrewdness wrapped in a soothing patter of bonhomie. How is it that this is the only place on earth where people think of what you want before you’ve thought of it yourself?
He eased seamlessly from talk of mind-boggling infrastructure plans involving bridges and high-speed trains to a gentle lament for America.
“I am very worried about the U.S. economy right now,” he said. “When I was visiting last November, I asked a banker friend what’s going on, and she told me that a Wall Street problem was soon going to be a Main Street problem.”
Yep, it’s a Main Street problem all right when people lose their homes and realize overnight they’re illiquid and have 1930s visions as Bear Stearns goes “Poof!” in the night.
Everything passes. In the 17th century, China and India accounted for more than half the world’s economic output. After a modest interlude, the pendulum is swinging back to them at a speed the West has not grasped.
It’s the end of the era of the white man; and, before it even began in earnest, of the white woman, too.
By Watson Sims
April 2, 2008 12:15 am
What is going to happen in Pakistan? The question was raised at a dinner party in Asheville, but may also be heard in the Oval Office and around the world.
The most interested people are those who live in a country six times the size of North Carolina, with 20 times as many people, but some Asheville residents also have special interest in this nuclear-armed country that is often torn by violence.
They include Marie and Henry Colton, whose daughter, Elizabeth, is the official spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, and Chick and Horace Brown, whose grandson, Maj. Robert Brown, attended a Stanford University MBA seminar last year where a classmate was the son of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf.
More than 1,000 Pakistanis died in violence last year, and suicide bombers have killed dozens, perhaps hundreds, this year, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. National elections were held on Feb. 18, but no political party won a majority in Parliament. Gen. Musharraf, who took power in 1999 and largely appointed himself as president, fared poorly in the elections but refuses to resign. With several factions now dickering for control, the direction of the country remains in doubt.
So what will happen in Pakistan? Groping for an answer, I thought of an incident in 1961, when I was Associated Press bureau chief for that area. Prince Karim, newly-installed as the Aga Khan, decided to visit his Ismaeli Muslim followers in the ancient land of Hunza, then, as now, part of Pakistan, and I was invited to come along.
A personal experience
With the Aga Khan sometimes personally at the controls, we flew in a twin-propeller plane to the mountain outpost of Gilgit.
Next came a journey by Jeep over narrow and often dizzying trails to the Hunza River, southern border of the ancient kingdom. There an awesome prospect lay before us.
Years earlier, the river had flooded and washed away the only bridge to Hunza. Hundreds of feet above the river, three steel cables had been stretched 1,000 yards to connect hills on each side. Suspended from two cables were hooks to carry cargo such as our Jeep. Attached by pulley to the third cable was a wooden box, five feet square, with sides rising 18 inches, This was our only way to Hunza.
The five journalists in the party, which included one other American, were horrified, and despite urging from Pir Ali Allana, the Aga Khan’s advance man, none would get into the box.
“Come on, Sims,” pleaded Pir Ali. “We’ve GOT to do this.” He sat in the box, and, fearfully, I climbed in beside him.
Far across the river, men pulled on a rope, and, swaying and shaking, the box shot out over the swift-flowing stream. During World War II combat in submarines and torpedo boats, I had rarely known a more uneasy experience. Then came another yank on the rope, and the box flew farther over the river.
Pir Ali’s teeth had chattered as loudly as mine, but then he suddenly became astonishingly calm. “It’s all right,” he said. “We are going to make it.”
“H-h-h-do you know that?” I asked.
“I’ve had my horoscope read,” he said. “It is not God’s will that I should die here.”
Having never had my horoscope read, I was less reassured, but Pir Ali’s faith proved justified, and after a passage that seemed to take years, we reached the other side.
Today the people of Pakistan face horrifying threats from extremists within and beyond their own borders, but I believe one day the journey will end, and they also will arrive on peaceful ground. But in the meantime, even more frightening experiences may lie ahead and even more horoscopes are likely to be consulted.
May 4, 2008
Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Islam
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
KARACHI, Pakistan — Praying in Pakistan has not been easy for Mesut Kacmaz, a Muslim teacher from Turkey.
He tried the mosque near his house, but it had Israeli and Danish flags painted on the floor for people to step on. The mosque near where he works warned him never to return wearing a tie. Pakistanis everywhere assume he is not Muslim because he has no beard.
“Kill, fight, shoot,” Mr. Kacmaz said. “This is a misinterpretation of Islam.”
But that view is common in Pakistan, a frontier land for the future of Islam, where schools, nourished by Saudi and American money dating back to the 1980s, have spread Islamic radicalism through the poorest parts of society. With a literacy rate of just 50 percent and a public school system near collapse, the country is particularly vulnerable.
Mr. Kacmaz (pronounced KATCH-maz) is part of a group of Turkish educators who have come to this battleground with an entirely different vision of Islam. Theirs is moderate and flexible, comfortably coexisting with the West while remaining distinct from it. Like Muslim Peace Corps volunteers, they promote this approach in schools, which are now established in more than 80 countries, Muslim and Christian.
Their efforts are important in Pakistan, a nuclear power whose stability and whose vulnerability to fundamentalism have become main preoccupations of American foreign policy. Its tribal areas have become a refuge to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the battle against fundamentalism rests squarely on young people and the education they get.
At present, that education is extremely weak. The poorest Pakistanis cannot afford to send their children to public schools, which are free but require fees for books and uniforms. Some choose to send their children to madrasas, or religious schools, which, like aid organizations, offer free food and clothing. Many simply teach, but some have radical agendas. At the same time, a growing middle class is rejecting public schools, which are chaotic and poorly financed, and choosing from a new array of private schools.
The Turkish schools, which have expanded to seven cities in Pakistan since the first one opened a decade ago, cannot transform the country on their own. But they offer an alternative approach that could help reduce the influence of Islamic extremists.
They prescribe a strong Western curriculum, with courses, taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare. They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.
“Whatever the West has of science, let our kids have it,” said Erkam Aytav, a Turk who works in the new schools. “But let our kids have their religion as well.”
That approach appeals to parents in Pakistan, who want their children to be capable of competing with the West without losing their identities to it. Allahdad Niazi, a retired Urdu professor in Quetta, a frontier town near the Afghan border, took his son out of an elite military school, because it was too authoritarian and did not sufficiently encourage Islam, and put him in the Turkish school, called PakTurk.
“Private schools can’t make our sons good Muslims,” Mr. Niazi said, sitting on the floor in a Quetta house. “Religious schools can’t give them modern education. PakTurk does both.”
The model is the brainchild of a Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen. A preacher with millions of followers in Turkey, Mr. Gulen, 69, comes from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam. He has lived in exile in the United States since 2000, after getting in trouble with secular Turkish officials.
Mr. Gulen’s idea, Mr. Aytav said, is that “without science, religion turns to radicalism, and without religion, science is blind and brings the world to danger.”
The schools are putting into practice a Turkish Sufi philosophy that took its most modern form during the last century, after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder, crushed the Islamic caliphate in the 1920s. Islamic thinkers responded by trying to bring Western science into the faith they were trying to defend. In the 1950s, while Arab Islamic intellectuals like Sayyid Qutub were firmly rejecting the West, Turkish ones like Said Nursi were seeking ways to coexist with it.
In Karachi, a sprawling city that has had its own struggles with radicalism — the American reporter Daniel Pearl was killed here, and the famed Binori madrasa here is said to have sheltered Osama bin Laden — the two approaches compete daily.
The Turkish school is in a poor neighborhood in the south of the city where residents are mostly Pashtun, a strongly tribal ethnic group whose poorer fringes have been among the most susceptible to radicalism. Mr. Kacmaz, who became principal 10 months ago, ran into trouble almost as soon as he began. The locals were suspicious of the Turks, who, with their ties and clean-shaven faces, looked like math teachers from Middle America.
“They asked me several times, ‘Are they Muslim? Do they pray? Are they drinking at night?’ ” said Ali Showkat, a vice principal of the school, who is Pakistani.
Goats nap by piles of rubbish near the school’s entrance, and Mr. Kacmaz asked a local religious leader to help get people to stop throwing their trash near the school, to no avail. Exasperated, he hung an Islamic saying on the outer wall of the school: “Cleanliness is half of faith.” When he prayed at a mosque, two young men followed him out and told him not to return wearing a tie because it was un-Islamic.
“I said, ‘Show me a verse in the Koran where it was forbidden,’ ” Mr. Kacmaz said, steering his car through tangled rush-hour traffic. The two men were wearing glasses, and he told them that scripturally, there was no difference between a tie and glasses.
“Behind their words there was no Hadith,” he said, referring to a set of Islamic texts, “only misunderstanding.”
That misunderstanding, along with the radicalism that follows, stalks the poorest parts of Quetta. Abdul Bari, a 31-year-old teacher of Islam from a religious family, lives in a neighborhood without electricity or running water. Two brothers from his tribe were killed on a suicide mission, leaving their mother a beggar and angering Mr. Bari, who says a Muslim’s first duty is to his mother and his family.
“Our nation has no patience,” said Mr. Bari, who raised his seven younger siblings, after his father died suddenly a dozen years ago. He decided that one of his brothers should be educated, and enrolled him in the Turkish school.
The Turks put the focus on academics, which pleased Mr. Bari, who said his dream was for Saadudeen, his brother, to lift the family out of poverty and expand its horizons beyond religion. Mr. Bari’s title, hafiz, means he has memorized the entire Koran, though he has no formal education. Two other brothers have earned the same distinction. Their father was an imam.
His is a lonely mission in a neighborhood where nearly all the residents are illiterate and most disapprove of his choices, Mr. Bari said. He is constantly on guard against extremism. He once punished Saadudeen for flying kites with the wrong kind of boys. At the Turkish school, the teenager is supervised around the clock in a dormitory.
“They are totally against extremism,” Mr. Bari said of the Turks. “They are true Muslims. They will make my brother into a true Muslim. He’ll deal with people with justice and wisdom. Not with impatience.”
Illiteracy is one of the roots of problems dogging the Muslim world, said Matiullah Aail, a religious scholar in Quetta who graduated from Medina University in Saudi Arabia.
In Baluchistan, Quetta’s sparsely populated province, the literacy rate is less than 10 percent, said Tariq Baluch, a government official in the Pasheen district. He estimated that about half of the district’s children attended madrasas.
Mr. Aail said: “Doctors and lawyers have to show their degrees. But when it comes to mullahs, no one asks them for their qualifications. They don’t have knowledge, but they are influential.”
That leads to a skewed interpretation of Islam, even by those schooled in it, according to Mr. Gulen and his followers.
“They’ve memorized the entire holy book, but they don’t understand its meaning,” said Kamil Ture, a Turkish administrator.
Mr. Kacmaz chimed in: “How we interpret the Koran is totally dependent on our education.”
In an interview in 2004, published in a book of his writings, Mr. Gulen put it like this: “In the countries where Muslims live, some religious leaders and immature Muslims have no other weapon in hand than their fundamental interpretation of Islam. They use this to engage people in struggles that serve their own purposes.”
Moderate as that sounds, some Turks say Mr. Gulen uses the schools to advance his own political agenda. Murat Belge, a prominent Turkish intellectual who has experience with the movement, said that Mr. Gulen “sincerely believes that he has been chosen by God,” and described Mr. Gulen’s followers as “Muslim Jesuits” who are preparing elites to run the country.
Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor at the University of Utah who has had extensive experience with the Gulen movement, offered a darker assessment.
“The purpose here is very much power,” Mr. Yavuz said. “The model of power is the Ottoman Empire and the idea that Turks should shape the Muslim world.”
But while radical Islamists seek to re-establish a seventh-century Islamic caliphate, without nations or borders, and more moderate Islamists, like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, use secular democracy to achieve the goal of an Islamic state, Mr. Gulen is a nationalist who says he wants no more than a secular democracy where citizens are free to worship, a claim secular Turks find highly suspect.
Still, his schools are richly supported by Turkish businessmen. M. Ihsan Kalkavan, a shipping magnate who has built hotels in Nigeria, helped finance Gulen schools there, which he said had attracted the children of the Nigerian elite.
“When we take our education experiment to other countries, we introduce ourselves. We say, ‘See, we’re not terrorists.’ When people get to know us, things change,” Mr. Kalkavan said in his office in Istanbul.
He estimated the number of Mr. Gulen’s followers in Turkey at three million to five million. The network itself does not provide estimates, and Mr. Gulen declined to be interviewed.
The schools, which also operate in Christian countries like Russia, are not for Muslims alone, and one of their stated aims is to promote interfaith understanding. Mr. Gulen met the previous pope, as well as Jewish and Orthodox Christian leaders, and teachers in the schools say they stress multiculturalism and universal values.
“We are all humans,” said Mr. Kacmaz, the principal. “In Islam, every human being is very important.”
Pakistani society is changing fast, and more Pakistanis are realizing the importance of education, in part because they have more to lose, parents said. Abrar Awan, whose son is attending the Turkish school in Quetta, said he had grown tired of the attitude of the Islamic political parties he belonged to as a student. Now a government employee with a steady job, he sees real life as more complicated than black-and-white ideology.
“America or the West was always behind every fault, every problem,” he said, at a gathering of fathers in April. “Now, in my practical life, I know the faults are within us.”
Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Karachi and Quetta in Pakistan and from Istanbul.
May 15, 2008
By SIMON WINCHESTER
IT is a cruel and poignant certainty that the children who died in the wreckage of their school during the earthquake this week in Dujiangyan, China, knew all too well that their country once led the world in the knowledge of the planet’s seismicity.
They would have been taught, and proudly, that almost 2,000 years ago an astronomer named Chang Heng invented the world’s first seismoscope. It was a bizarrely imagined creation, with its centerpiece a large bronze vessel surrounded by eight dragons, each holding a sphere in its mouth.
A complex system of internal levers ensured that if an earthquake ever disturbed the vessel, a ball would drop from a dragon’s care into the mouth of a bronze frog positioned underneath. By observing which dragon had dropped its ball, Chang Heng could ascertain the location of the quake. And always, as the emperor for whom Chang Heng fashioned the device noted, the earthquakes came from the mountains in the west, where Dujiangyan lies.
As we watch with mounting melancholy the devastation from Sichuan, a question lingers, and troublingly. Why, if the Chinese had come to know so much about earthquakes so early on in their immensely long history, were they never able to minimize the effects of the world’s contortions — to at least the degree that America has? Why did they leave the West to become leaders in the field, and leave themselves to become mired, time and again, in the kind of tragic events that we are witnessing this week?
The question applies to very much more than the science of earthquakes. In almost every area of technology the Chinese were once supreme, without competition. The stirrup, so hugely important in peace and war, was invented by the Chinese. Printing, gunpowder, the use of the compass — the three inventions that Francis Bacon once said defined the modern world — are all thought to have been first made in China. So too, many think, were vaccination, toilet paper, segmental arch bridges, iron chains and perhaps chess — the list seems endless.
And yet, in the 16th century China’s innovative energies inexplicably withered away, and modern science became the virtual monopoly of the West. There had been any number of Chinese Euclids and Archimedes but there was never to be a Chinese Newton or Galileo. The realm fell steadily behind, century by century; it became impoverished, backward and prey to the caprices of nature.
There is a peculiar paradox in the Sichuan disaster. Dujiangyan is known across the nation as the site of one of China’s greatest ancient wonders. In 256 B.C. an engineer named Li Bing, concerned about the catastrophic annual flooding of the Min River, completed a huge water diversion and irrigation scheme. It involved cutting a long trench through a granite mountainside — achieved by the patient process of burning grass bonfires on top of the rocks and pouring cold water until the granite cracked. It took decades, but Li Bing’s 2,300-year-old project still stands less than a mile from the town’s ruined school, and it still works.
And yet, did the Chinese continue with their early expertise in flood prevention? Just as with Chang Heng’s seismic mastery, Li Bing’s expertise counted for nothing; year upon year, thousands of Chinese die in immense inundations in the great rivers that course across the country; some 400 dams sustained damage in this week’s quake.
Historians have long debated why the Chinese so signally failed to exploit their early promise. Lack of internal competition, some suggest. Others blame the long-held central ambition of every young Chinese man to become a Confucian mandarin, a bureaucrat, rather than an engineer or scientist.
Not a few others, however — admirers of China and optimists in the main — say that in the long sweep of Chinese history, a mere 400 or 500 dark, non-scientific years are a mere blip, a hiccup, and that China’s innovative energies are now roaring back, with the universities and scientific institutions brimming as they did back in the golden ages of the great dynasties.
That had better be the case. China, in its headlong attempts to modernize, has often demonstrated a dismayingly cavalier attitude toward the well-being of its people: skyscrapers are built with little attention to safety standards and are invariably far from earthquake-resistant; huge dams — not least the monstrosity that has so ruined the Three Gorges of the Yangtze — are erected in a slapdash fashion; subways, like the system burrowing through the waterlogged alluvium beneath Shanghai, are built with incautious haste; freeway tunnels are bored through earthquake fault zones.
If the country does not occasionally stand back and pause for breath, then its future — at least so far as nature’s occasional moments of seismic madness are concerned — will continue to be marked by calamity. Until this week Dujiangyan was a place of which China could be proud; today its wreckage stands as a tragic monument to a culture that turned its back on its remarkable and glittering history.
Simon Winchester is the author of “The Man Who Loved China.”
May 18, 2008
Fed Up With Peace
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
A Tibetan monk, recently out of jail and still in pain from beatings by the police, said he reveres the Dalai Lama but also regards him as a political failure.
“We think the Dalai Lama has been too peaceful,” he said. “There is a big discussion now about whether we should turn to violence.”
Another monk at Labrang Monastery here in Xiahe on the Tibetan plateau put it this way: “For 50 years, the Dalai Lama said to use peaceful means to solve the problems, and that achieved nothing. China just criticizes him.”
“After he’s gone,” the monk added, “there definitely will be violent resistance.”
This impatience seems widespread among young Tibetans, and the rioting and protests across ethnic Tibetan areas of China in the last couple of months may be a turning point. Unless the Tibet question is resolved, we may see a Tibetan equivalent of the Irish Republican Army or Hamas.
A harsh crackdown is under way in greater Tibet, as I found when I slipped into these Tibetan areas in the back of a car with local license plates. China’s heavy hand is adding to the antagonisms: the authorities are beating monks, confiscating pictures of the Dalai Lama, and forcing monks to attend “patriotic study” classes — up to two hours a day, six days a week — full of propaganda praising the Communist Party and denouncing the Dalai Lama.
“That just turns us against China more than ever,” one monk said.
The gulf between Tibetans and the Han Chinese ethnic majority has never been greater. The television images of Tibetans in Lhasa attacking Chinese civilians — devoid of any context of decades of repression — left many Chinese more hard-line than the Communist Party.
“Most of us think that the policy toward Tibetans has been too soft,” said a Han Chinese man in Qinghai Province who often travels in Tibetan areas. “They get all kinds of special preferences, but they’re just not as hard-working, and they drink too much. And then after we help them so much, they riot against us. So most of us think the policy toward Tibetans should be stricter.”
The recent uprising by Tibetans underscores the utter failure of Beijing’s policies in Tibet. But it also reflects the failure of the Dalai Lama and of America.
The Dalai Lama has played a waiting game, but as China gains global power — and as more Han Chinese flood into Tibet — that has been a losing strategy. The Dalai Lama has won acclaim internationally, but that acclaim triggers the deep Chinese sensitivity to foreign bullying and thus has antagonized the audience that may count the most: China.
The Dalai Lama missed opportunities by neglecting outreach by General Secretary Hu Yaobang in 1981, by spurning an invitation to China in 1989 and by announcing the choice of the Panchen Lama in a way that Beijing felt insulting. When the Dalai Lama and those around him refer to “genocide” or claim roughly one-quarter of China as Tibet, they undercut Chinese moderates.
As for the United States, it may have made things worse. Melvyn Goldstein of Case Western Reserve University, whose book “The Snow Lion and the Dragon” remains the best introduction to Tibet, writes that the United States has hurt the interests of Tibetans: its symbolic gestures have encouraged unrealistic Tibetan dreams of independence, and Washington has neglected the serious diplomatic work — both with China and with the Dalai Lama — that might actually improve the lives of Tibetans.
Both China and the Dalai Lama exaggerate, and the historical evidence about Tibet is contradictory. One can make a good case that Tibet has been a part of China at least since 1720. One can also make a good case that Tibet became independent around 1911. The evidence is simply mixed.
A deal to resolve the Tibet question is still attainable. The Dalai Lama would have to put aside claims to vast areas outside the present “Tibet Autonomous Region,” and he would have to accept much less political autonomy than he wants. China would have to ease religious controls and allow the Dalai Lama to return as a spiritual leader. Most important, Beijing would have to end Han Chinese migration to all Tibetan areas, to preserve their Tibetan character.
The upshot would be a Tibet that would be under China’s thumb, but with greater religious freedom — and with real hope of remaining authentically Tibetan through this century. And China would improve its international image and avoid the risk of Tibetan terrorism.
President Bush would do far more for the Tibetan people if, instead of just being photographed with the Dalai Lama, he assigned a top-notch diplomat like Christopher Hill to explore such a compromise.
Time is running out, however, for at this rate, Shangri-La may become a breeding ground for terrorists.
June 9, 2008
Inside Gate, India’s Good Life; Outside, the Servants’ Slums
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
GURGAON, India — When the scorch of summer hit this north Indian boomtown, and the municipal water supply worked only a few hours each day, inside a high-rise tower called Hamilton Court, Jaya Chand could turn on her kitchen tap around the clock, and water would gush out.
The same was true when the electricity went out in the city, which it did on average for 12 hours a day, something that once prompted residents elsewhere in Gurgaon to storm the local power office. All the while, the Chands’ flat screen television glowed, the air-conditioners hummed, and the elevators cruised up and down Hamilton Court’s 25 floors.
Hamilton Court — complete with a private school within its gates, groomed lawns and security guards — is just one of the exclusive gated communities that have blossomed across India in recent years. At least for the newly moneyed upper middle class, they offer at high prices what the government cannot, at least not to the liking of their residents.
These enclaves have emerged on the outskirts of prospering, overburdened cities, from this frontier town next to the capital to the edges of seam-splitting Bangalore. They allow their residents to buy their way out of the hardships that afflict vast multitudes in this country of more than one billion. And they reflect the desires of India’s small but growing ranks of wealthy professionals, giving them Western amenities along with Indian indulgences: an army of maids and chauffeurs live in a vast shantytown across the street.
“A kind of self-contained island” is how Mrs. Chand’s husband, Ashish, describes Hamilton Court.
India has always had its upper classes, as well as legions of the world’s very poor. But today a landscape dotted with Hamilton Courts, pressed up against the slums that serve them, has underscored more than ever the stark gulf between those worlds, raising uncomfortable questions for a democratically elected government about whether India can enable all its citizens to scale the golden ladders of the new economy.
“Things have gotten better for the lucky class,” Mrs. Chand, 36, said one day, as she fixed lunch in full view of Chakkarpur, the shantytown where one of her two maids, Shefali Das, lives. “Otherwise, it is still a fight.”
When the power goes out, the lights of Hamilton Court bathe Chakkarpur in a dusky glow. Under the open sky, across the street from the tower, Mrs. Das’s sons take cold bucket baths each day. The slum is as much a product of the new India as Hamilton Court, the opportunities of this new city drawing hundreds of thousands from the hungry hinterlands.
In China, the main Asian competitor to which India is often compared, the state managed early on to harness economic expansion for huge public works projects and then allow more and more Chinese to partake of the benefits. There, the poor are far less likely to be deprived of basic services, whether clean water or basic schooling.
In India, poverty has also dropped appreciably in the last 17 years of economic change, even as the gulf between the rich and poor has grown. More than a quarter of all Indians still live below the official poverty line (subsisting on roughly $1 a day); one in four city dwellers live on less than 50 cents a day; and nearly half of all Indian children are clinically malnourished.
At the same time, the ranks of dollar millionaires have swelled to 100,000, and the Indian middle class, though notoriously hard to define and still small, has by all indications expanded.
For those with the right skills, the good times have been very good. Mr. Chand, 34, a business school graduate who runs the regional operations for an American manufacturing firm, has seen his salary grow eightfold in the last five years, which is not unusual for upper class Indians like him.
The Chands are typical of Hamilton Court residents: Well-traveled young professionals, some returnees to India after years abroad, grateful for the conveniences. Some of them are also the first in their families to live so comfortably.
Mr. Chand attended an elite but government-financed school. His father was in the military. Mrs. Chand’s father was a civil servant; her mother, a teacher. Some of their expenses, Mr. Chand said, their elders consider lavish.
Gurgaon, a largely privately developed city and a metonym for Indian ambition, has seen a building frenzy to satisfy people like the Chands. The city’s population has nearly doubled in the last six years, to 1.5 million. The skyline is dotted with scaffolds. Glass towers house companies like American Express and Accenture. Not far from Hamilton Court, Burberry and BMW have set up shop.
State services, meanwhile, have barely kept pace. The city has neither enough water nor electricity for the population. There is no sewage treatment plant yet; construction is scheduled to begin this year.
India has long lived with such inequities, and though a Maoist rebellion is building in the countryside, the nation has for the most part skirted social upheaval through a critical safety valve: giving the poor their chance to vent at the ballot box. Indeed, four years ago, voters threw out the incumbent government, with its “India Shining” slogan, because it was perceived to have neglected the poor.
It is little wonder then that the current administration has seized on “inclusive growth” as its mantra, and as elections approach in less than a year, it is spending heavily on education, widely acknowledged as a key barrier to upward mobility for the poor.
That the bottom of the pyramid votes became obvious to the Chands when they last went to the polls. “I didn’t see too many people like us,” Mr. Chand recalled.
Hamilton Court, meanwhile, is rarely courted at election time. Inside its gates, the Chands have everything they might need: the coveted Sri Ram School, a private health clinic and clubhouse next door, security guards to keep out unwanted strangers and well-groomed lawns and paths for power walks and cricket games.
“Women and children are not encouraged to go outside,” said Madan Mohan Bhalla, president of the Hamilton Court Resident Welfare Association. “If they want to have a walk, they can walk inside. It’s a different world outside the gate.”
For the Chands, the school was one of the building’s main draws. They bought their apartment just after the birth of their eldest, Aditya, who is now in first grade. Next year, they hope to enroll their youngest, Madhav.
The school recently hosted a classical music concert. The business school guru C.K. Prahalad gave a lecture the following week. Mr. Chand called Hamilton Court a community of “like-minded people.”
Some 600 domestic staff members work at Hamilton Court, an average of 2.26 per apartment. The building employs its own plumbers and electricians. At any one time, 22 security guards and 32 surveillance cameras are at work.
“We can’t rely on the police,” Mr. Bhalla said. Gurgaon has one policeman for every 1,000 residents — lower than the national average — and a surfeit of what Mr. Bhalla calls official apathy. “We have to save ourselves,” he said.
The guards at the gate are instructed not to let nannies take children outside, and men delivering pizza or okra are allowed in only with permission. Once, Mr. Bhalla recalled proudly, a servant caught spitting on the lawn was beaten up by the building staff.
Recently, Mr. Bhalla’s association cut a path from the main gate to the private club next door, so residents no longer have to share the public sidewalk with servants and the occasional cow.
The Gurgaon police chief, Mohinder Lal, said the city’s new residents had unrealistic expectations of the Indian police. If a police officer does not arrive quickly, Mr. Lal rued, the residents complain. “They say, ‘You’re late. Come back tomorrow.’ ”
He, too, said that the police could not cope with the disorder of Gurgaon’s growth. “Development comes, mess comes, then police come and infrastructure,” he said.
Gurgaon’s security guards, most of whom live in Mrs. Das’s slum, likewise have little love for law enforcement. They accuse the police of raiding their shanty, hauling men to the local stations and forcing them to clean and cook before releasing them back to their hovels, often without a single charge. The police say migrant workers are a source of crime.
One afternoon, Mrs. Das returned from her duties at Hamilton Court, cleaned up the lunch plates that her sons had left on the floor and took her plastic water jugs to stand in line under the acacia tree, only to discover that there was a power failure, which meant the water pump could not be turned on. Next to the water line, workers were ironing a pile of orange janitors’ uniforms from a neighborhood mall; the laundry service is one of Chakkarpur’s many thriving private enterprises.
Mrs. Das already had two of her sons in a charity-run school nearby, but much to her shame, she missed the registration deadline for her youngest, now 6, who will now be a year behind his peers.
Her biggest regret is being unable to check her sons’ homework. Mrs. Das has worked in other people’s homes since she was 7. She cannot read. “If they are educated,” she said of her boys, “at least they can do something when they grow up.”
Next door to Mrs. Das’s brick-and-tin room, a 2-year-old lay on a cot outside, flies dancing on his face. His mother, Sunita, 18, said the child had not been immunized because she had no idea where to take him, and no public health workers had come, as they are supposed to. The baby is weak, Sunita reckoned, because she cannot produce breast milk.
During repeated visits in recent months, a government-financed childhood nutrition center was closed. The nearest government hospital was empty.
Mrs. Chand, a doctor who decided to stay home to raise her children, trained in a government hospital. Her other maid told her recently that her own daughter had given birth at home, down there in the slum.
Sometimes, Mrs. Chand said, she thinks of opening a clinic there. But she also said she understood that there was little that she, or anyone, could do. “Two worlds,” she observed, “just across the street.”
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