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.”
FENGCHENG, China — As a reward for winning an Olympic gold medal in flatwater canoeing four years ago, Yang Wenjun — the son of peasant rice farmers — was handed the deed to a three-bedroom apartment here in a neighborhood called Sunny City.
The local government bought and decorated it, hanging giant scrolls in the living room that announce in Mandarin: “Yang Wenjun won gold in the Olympics. It brings good luck here.” But his mother, Nie Chunhua, said Yang had been anything but lucky. She wiped away tears with hands dark and swollen from farming.
“If I had better economic condition, I would not like him to do sports,” Nie, 49, said this spring. “Every time I think about him training, I feel so sad that my heart hurts. For him, and for me, there is so much pain.”
Yang, one of China’s most successful water sports athletes, has never lived in his apartment. He has not seen his parents in three years. At 24, he lives 250 miles away at his sport’s training center, where he is preparing for the Beijing Olympics.
Yang said he could not stand his life.
For nearly a decade, he has tried to quit canoeing, he told The New York Times during an interview at the training center. He said he would rather attend college or start a business, but acknowledged that he was ill-equipped to do either one.
Many Chinese sports schools, in which more than 250,000 children are enrolled, focus on training at the expense of education. Critics, like the former Olympic diving coach Yu Fen, are calling for changes. They say athletes are unprepared to leave the sports system that has raised them.
“I do not want to work as an athlete, but as an athlete here I have no freedom to choose my future,” Yang said, speaking through the team’s official interpreter. “As a child, I didn’t learn anything but sport, and now what do I do? I can’t do anything else. I have my own dreams, but it is very difficult. I don’t have the foundation to make them come true.”
Officials refused to let Yang retire, even after he won Olympic gold in the C-2 500-meter race with Meng Guanliang at the Athens Games in 2004. He described how they had threatened to withhold his retirement payment if he did not compete through the Beijing Games.
“It is not possible to survive without those benefits,” said Yang, whose parents say he receives a monthly stipend of $230 and performance-based bonuses.
Pressure to remain an athlete weighs on him. His father and sister received white-collar jobs because of his celebrity. His mother stopped working. They all moved into Yang’s apartment from their two-room cottage. Team, province and local government officials receive a percentage of Yang’s winnings and a cut of his endorsement deal with Nike.
But Yang, who trains seven hours every day, is sick of the exhaustion brought on by canoeing, he said. His mother and father, Yang Yixiang, revealed that their son had a liver disease that caused extreme fatigue. Neither Yang nor his parents named the disease, but they said it could shorten his life. Chinese water sports officials said that Yang has had hepatitis since birth, but they could not say which form he has.
Marek Ploch, a Polish-Canadian who is Yang’s coach, knows how much Yang wants out.
“He doesn’t care about the achievement,” Ploch said. “We just count the days to the Olympic Games. After that, it is possible, maybe, for him to relax until the end of his life.”
Government studies have shown that retired athletes — even former champions — often have trouble making ends meet. Ai Dongmei, a former Beijing Marathon champion, sold popcorn and clothing on the street. Zou Chunlan, a former national champion weight lifter, scrubbed backs in a bathhouse; she said a coach had given her steroids that produced side effects like facial hair and a deep voice. The All China Women’s Federation later helped her open a laundry.
“There are many athletes like me who never get the help,” Zou said by telephone. “We are left uneducated, unable to have children and destroyed by a system that told us it would take care of us forever.”
Cui Dalin, the vice minister of the General Administration of Sport of China, said the government had begun to pay attention to the plight of the retired athlete.
“We will train them to have more skills, so that after the retirement from their sports career they can go to society and find a job easily,” Cui said in an interview at the Chinese Olympic Committee in Beijing.
But changing the status quo will take time. Ma Pengpeng, 17, a provincial rower from Handan City, quit her city team in 2006 but was too far behind her peers to attend a regular school.
At her city sports school, she said: “They don’t really care about books. Their goal is to win gold medals.”
Ma enrolled in a technical school to become a machinist. But her father, a coal miner, ordered her back to the rowing team, saying it was her best chance for a good life.
Yu Fen’s diving program at the prestigious Tsinghua University is proving that athletes can juggle high-level training with conventional schoolwork.
As many as 40 divers, ages 7 to 19, train there while attending an on-campus school full time. Five of Yu’s protégés, including the Olympic favorite Guo Jingjing, are on the national team.
Yu, who has a doctorate in sports sociology and the science of education, said her athletes paid tuition and spent more time studying than training because her practices were efficient.
“It is impossible for every child to be an Olympic gold medal winner, and I want parents to understand that children must have education to fall back on,” Yu said at the university’s natatorium in Beijing
For Yang, changes to the sports system may come too late.
“I am so tired and bored,” he said. “I want to travel to other countries to see and learn so many things. But after you retire, the leaders want you to stay and be a coach. I don’t want to do that. It’s frowned upon to be different like me.”
His mother said he no longer talked or smiled much. “If I could go back and re-choose, I think I would like for him to go back to a regular school and study hard,” she said.
But even a decade ago, when his liver disease began making Yang’s life miserable, Yang’s father forbade him to quit the sports school.
“I got really angry and flew there,” Yang Yixiang said. “He was too worried about the disease. I said: ‘Keep up for one year. I just want to see whether you can do better.’ ”
Yang stayed. His breakthrough came at the 2002 Asian Games, where he earned about $28,600 in bonuses for winning, his father said. It would have taken his parents 10 years to earn as much.
“Our hearts would hurt if he quit his sport after all the hard work he put in,” Yang Yixiang said.
Now, Yang is counting on trading his hard work for freedom. He plans to retire in August.
“He’s a rare talent, and that’s good and bad for him,” Ploch, his coach, said. “He could win another gold medal. He’s also good enough to compete until 2012.”
June 22, 2008
The Food Chain
In Fertile India, Growth Outstrips Agriculture
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
JALANDHAR, India — With the right technology and policies, India could help feed the world. Instead, it can barely feed itself.
India’s supply of arable land is second only to that of the United States, its economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, and its industrial innovation is legendary. But when it comes to agriculture, its output lags far behind potential. For some staples, India must turn to already stretched international markets, exacerbating a global food crisis.
It was not supposed to be this way.
Forty years ago, a giant development effort known as the Green Revolution drove hunger from an India synonymous with famine and want. Now, after a decade of neglect, this country is growing faster than its ability to produce more rice and wheat.
The problem has grown so dire that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a Second Green Revolution “so that the specter of food shortages is banished from the horizon once again.”
And while Mr. Singh worries about feeding the poor, India’s growing affluent population demands not only more food but also a greater variety.
Today Indian agriculture is a double tragedy. “Both in rice and wheat, India has a large untapped reservoir. It can make a major contribution to the world food crisis,” said M. S. Swaminathan, a plant geneticist who helped bring the Green Revolution to India.
India’s own people are paying as well. Farmers, most subsisting on small, rain-fed plots, are disproportionately poor, and inflation has soared past 11 percent, the highest in 13 years.
Experts blame the agriculture slowdown on a variety of factors.
The Green Revolution introduced high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, expanded the use of irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers, and transformed the northwestern plains into India’s breadbasket. Between 1968 and 1998, the production of cereals in India more than doubled.
But since the 1980s, the government has not expanded irrigation and access to loans for farmers, or to advance agricultural research. Groundwater has been depleted at alarming rates.
The Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington says changes in temperature and rain patterns could diminish India’s agricultural output by 30 percent by the 2080s.
Family farms have shrunk in size and quantity, and a few years ago mounting debt began to drive some farmers to suicide. Now many find it more profitable to sell their land to developers of industrial buildings.
Among farmers who stay on their land, many are experimenting with growing high-value fruits and vegetables that prosperous Indians are craving, but there are few refrigerated trucks to transport their produce to modern supermarkets.
A long and inefficient supply chain means that the average farmer receives less than a fifth of the price the consumer pays, a World Bank study found, far less than farmers in, say, Thailand or the United States.
Surinder Singh Chawla knows the system is broken. Mr. Chawla, 62, bore witness to the Green Revolution — and its demise.
Once, his family grew wheat and potatoes on 20 acres. They looked to the sky for rains. They used cow manure for fertilizer. Then came the Mexican semi-dwarf wheat seedlings that the revolution helped introduce to India. Mr. Chawla’s wheat yields soared. A few years later, the same happened with new high-yield rice seeds.
Increasingly prosperous, Mr. Chawla finally bought his first tractor in 1980.
But he has since witnessed with horror the ills the revolution wrought: in a common occurrence here, the water table under his land has sunk by 100 feet over three decades as he and other farmers irrigated their fields.
By the 1980s, government investment in canals fed by rivers had tapered off, and wells became the principal source of irrigation, helped by a shortsighted government policy of free electricity to pump water.
Here in Punjab, more than three-fourths of the districts extract more groundwater than is replenished by nature.
Between 1980 and 2002, the government continued to heavily subsidize fertilizers and food grains for the poor, but reduced its total investment in agriculture. Public spending on farming shrank by roughly a third, according to an analysis of government data by the Center for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi.
Today only 40 percent of Indian farms are irrigated. “When there is no water, there is nothing,” Mr. Chawla said.
And he sees more trouble on the way. The summers are hotter than he remembers. The rains are more fickle. Last summer, he wanted to ease out of growing rice, a water-intensive crop.
The gains of the Green Revolution have begun to ebb in other countries, too, like Indonesia and the Philippines, agriculture experts say. But the implications in India are greater because of its sheer size.
India raised a red flag two years ago about how heavily the appetites of its 1.1 billion people would weigh on world food prices. For the first time in many years, India had to import wheat for its grain stockpile. In two years it bought about 7 million tons.
Today, two staples of the Indian diet are imported in ever-increasing quantities because farmers cannot keep up with growing demand — pulses, like lentils and peas, and vegetable oils, the main sources of protein and calories, respectively, for most Indians.
“India could be a big actor in supplying food to the rest of the world if the existing agricultural productivity gap could be closed,” said Adolfo Brizzi, manager of the South Asia agriculture program at the World Bank in Washington. “When it goes to the market to import, it typically puts pressure on international market prices, and every time India goes for export, it increases the supply and therefore mitigates the price levels.”
In April, in a village called Udhopur, not far from here, Harmail Singh, 60, wondered aloud how farmers could possibly be expected to grow more grain.
“The cultivable land is shrinking and government policies are not farmer friendly,” he said as he supervised his wheat harvest. “Our next generation is not willing to work in agriculture. They say it is a losing proposition.”
The luckiest farmers make more money selling out to land-hungry mall developers.
Gurmeet Singh Bassi, 33, blessed with a farm on the edges of a booming Punjabi city called Ludhiana, sold off most of his ancestral land. Its value had grown more than fivefold in two years. He made enough to buy land in a more remote part of the state and hire laborers to till it.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chawla’s neighbors migrated to North America. They were happy to lease their land to him, if he was foolish enough to stay and work it, he said. Today, he cultivates more than 100 acres.
Last year, on a small patch of that land, he planted what no one in his village could imagine putting on their plate: baby corn, which he learned was being lapped up by upscale urban Indian restaurants and even sold abroad.
At the time, baby corn brought a better profit than the government’s price for his wheat crop.
This had been the Green Revolution’s other pillar — a fixed government price for grain. A farmer could sell his crop to a private trader, but for many small tillers, it was far easier to approach the nearest government granary, and accept their rate.
For years, those prices remained miserably low, farmers and their advocates complained, and there was little incentive for farmers to invest in their crop. “For farmers,” said Mr. Swaminathan, the plant geneticist, “a remunerative price is the best fertilizer.”
Mr. Swaminathan’s adage proved true this year. After two years of having to import wheat, the government offered farmers a substantially higher price for their grain: farmers not only planted slightly more wheat but also sold much more of their harvest to the state. As a result, by May, the country’s buffer stocks were at record levels.
Nanda Kumar, India’s most senior bureaucrat for food, said the country would not need to buy wheat on the world market this year. That is good news, for India and the world, but how long it will remain the case is unclear.
Will greater demand for food and higher market prices enrich farmers, eventually, encouraging them to stay on their land? There is potential, but other conditions, like India’s inefficient transportation and supply chains, would have to improve too.
How to address these challenges is a matter of debate.
From one quarter comes pressure to introduce genetically modified crops with greater yields; from another come lawsuits to stop it. And from yet another come pleas to mount a greener Green Revolution.
Alexander Evans, author of a recent paper on food prices published by Chatham House, a British research institution, said: “This time around, it needs to be more efficient in its use of water, in its use of energy, in its use of fertilizer and land.”
Mr. Swaminathan wants to dedicate villages to sowing lentils and oilseeds, to meet demand. The World Bank, meanwhile, favors high-value crops, like Mr. Chawla’s baby corn, because they allow farmers to maximize their income from small holdings.
The market may yet help India. Mr. Chawla, for instance, has replaced baby corn with sunflowers, prompted by the high price of sunflower oil. For the same reason, he is also considering planting more wheat.
June 24, 2008
Leadership Void Seen in Pakistan
By CARLOTTA GALL
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is in a leaderless drift four months after elections, according to Western diplomats and military officials, Pakistani politicians and Afghan officials who are increasingly worried that no one is really in charge.
The sense of drift is the subject of almost every columnist in the English-language press in Pakistan, and anxiety over the lack of leadership and the weakness of the civilian government now infuses conversations with analysts, diplomats and Pakistani government officials.
The problem is most acute, they say, when it comes to dealing with militants in the tribal areas that have become home to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Although the political parties and the military all seek a breather from the suicide bombings and nascent insurgency that have roiled Pakistan in recent years, there are fundamental disagreements over the problem of militancy that they have not begun to address, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats say.
The confusion is allowing the militants to consolidate their sanctuaries while spreading their tentacles all along the border area, military officials and diplomats warn. It has also complicated policy for the Bush administration, which leaned heavily on one man, President Pervez Musharraf, to streamline its antiterrorism efforts in Pakistan.
If anyone is in charge of security policy in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats say, that remains the military and the country’s premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, which operate with little real oversight.
While the newly elected civilian government has been criticized for dealing with the militants, it is the military that is brokering cease-fires and prisoner exchanges with minimum consultation with the government, politicians from the government coalition, diplomats and analysts said.
Politicians in both the provincial and central governments complain they are excluded from the negotiations and did not even know of a secret deal struck in February, before the elections.
“You see a lack of a coordinated strategy between the federal level and provincial level, and that includes the ISI and the military, who are clear players,” said one Western diplomat with knowledge of the tribal regions, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “You see it even on principles of negotiation and combined strategy.”
One newspaper, the weekly Friday Times, satirized the situation with a front-page cartoon showing the country’s main political players riding in a plane, all issuing different instructions.
Since coming to power in February, the fragile coalition government, run by Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has been engrossed in internal wrangling over removing President Musharraf.
The coalition is barely functioning after half its ministers left the cabinet in May in a dispute over whether to reinstate 60 high court judges dismissed by Mr. Musharraf last year.
For now it is just accepting the military’s decisions regarding the militants, said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general who is now a political analyst. He characterized the country as suffering from “institutional paralysis and a dysfunctional government, signs of which are showing already.”
The American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, also described the government as “dysfunctional” just before leaving his post earlier this month.
“I have a feeling that no one is in charge and that is why the militants are taking advantage,” Mr. Masood said. “It is a very dangerous situation because what is happening is the Afghan government is getting desperate.”
The frustration is such that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened this month to send troops into Pakistan to pursue Pakistani militant leaders.
That Pakistan’s government appears broken is not surprising, analysts say. Pakistan’s civilian institutions were atrophied by eight years of military rule, and the country’s major political parties were left rudderless by the absence of their leaders, who lived in exile much of that time. The assassination of Ms. Bhutto in December left her party in even deeper disarray.
The military remains the country’s strongest institution, having ruled Pakistan for about half of the country’s 61 years of independence. But it is proving to be an increasingly fickle and prickly partner for Washington. United States and NATO officials are still struggling to decipher the intentions of the army’s new chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Last fall, at the time of his appointment, American officials spoke approvingly of General Kayani, who seemed well aware of the threat the militants posed to Pakistan, and of the dangers of peace deals that have allowed the militants to tighten their grip in the tribal areas.
But despite at least $12 billion in aid to Pakistan from Washington for the fight against the militants since 2001, General Kayani has recently shown a reluctance to use the military for counterinsurgency operations, suggesting that the task be left to the much weaker tribal force, the Frontier Corps. He has encouraged the civilian government to take the lead.
Part of the confusion stems from the shift in power from military rule, after President Musharraf stepped down as head of the army in December, to the new civilian government, one Western military official said. “Kayani is being careful not to get too far out in front and is trying to determine who is in charge,” he said. “We all are.”
The uneasy balance between civilian and military authority was demonstrated this month when the finance minister, Naveed Qamar, revealed details of the defense budget to Parliament for the first time in 40 years. While Mr. Qamar called it a “historic moment,” the document was a mere two pages.
Parliament, tied up with budget negotiations until next month, has not discussed security or militancy. “We do understand this is the biggest issue, and after the budget session it will have to be addressed,” said Farah Ispahani, a Pakistan Peoples Party legislator.
Meanwhile, the military under General Kayani has quietly pursued its own policies, politicians from the government coalition, diplomats and analysts say. The military and ISI negotiated a little-known truce with the tribes and militants of North Waziristan just days before the Feb. 18 elections, a senior government official in Peshawar confirmed.
The deal was so secretive that few in the government know its contents even today. “The civilian government is in the back seat, or not even in the back seat,” said the Western diplomat, who did not want to be identified because of the critical nature of the remarks. The military also began negotiations with the most powerful of the Taliban commanders, Baitullah Mehsud, in January, just weeks after the government accused him of masterminding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination.
An official agreement with the Mehsud tribe has not been completed, but the military has already pulled back from some positions, put in place a cease-fire and exchanged prisoners with the militants.
Western officials are suspicious of the deal. Mr. Mehsud is accused of dispatching scores of suicide bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the agreement initially included no prohibition on cross-border attacks.
Only after strong pressure from the United States and other allies did the military insert such a clause this month, according to a senior official close to the negotiations. In the meantime, cross-border attacks increased by 50 percent in May, NATO officials in Afghanistan say.
The provincial government in the North-West Frontier Province has also expressed its reservations about the deal. Officials from the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist party that leads the government in the province and which is also part of the national coalition, complained that they have not been included in the military’s decisions.
“Our main demand is that we should be included in negotiations,” said Wajid Ali Khan, a party official. “We don’t know with whom they are talking.”
Moreover, the central government’s point man for counterterrorism, the acting interior minister, Rehman Malik, has appeared to have an uneven grasp of developments.
This month he announced in Parliament that the peace deal with militants in the Swat Valley, just outside the tribal areas, had been scrapped. But he retracted the statement the next day, after the provincial government insisted the deal was still on.
Officials of the Awami National Party have complained that his comments undermined their negotiating position. Afrasiab Khattak, a senior official of the party, and other party officials are confident they can make the peace deals in their province work. But few believe that the deals brokered by the military in the tribal regions will last more than a few months, including military officials themselves, senior government officials in Peshawar say.
More fighting and violence is almost certainly on the horizon. What the plan will be then, no one seems to know.
July 23, 2008
Indian Government Survives Confidence Vote
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
NEW DELHI — The Indian government survived a confidence vote in Parliament on Tuesday evening, paving the way for India to seal a landmark nuclear agreement with the United States. But the entire parliamentary process was tainted by allegations of bribery made on the floor of the house.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who initiated the confidence motion, won 275 votes, while his opponents secured 256 votes, and 11 members abstained. It was a wider margin of victory than politics watchers had predicted, and it came on the heels of two days of acrimonious debate and constant heckling, some of it directed at Mr. Singh, who was unable to finish his closing speech to the legislature.
The significance of the vote goes well beyond the survival of Mr. Singh’s administration, or even the fate of the one policy issue on which he has staked his legacy: an agreement initiated by the Bush administration more than two years ago to allow India access to nuclear fuel and technology on the world market.
After the confidence vote, which Mr. Singh called “a convincing victory,” he told reporters that he hoped it would signal to the world that “India is prepared to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.”
Mr. Singh pushed the deal as vital to India’s acceptance as a nuclear power and essential for the country to meet the energy needs of a growing economy, which has been hampered by dire power shortages.
Not least, the nuclear deal was hailed by his government and the Bush administration as a centerpiece of an effort to deepen a partnership; Mr. Singh’s former supporters in the Communist parties deeply opposed the accord for precisely that reason.
The accord now depends on the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and would then go before the United States Congress for a final vote. It has been divisive in Congress as well as an exception to American policies against the spread of nuclear materials.
“We think that we can move forward with this,” Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, said, but “there aren’t that many days left where Congress is going to be in session.”
Even after the tortuous road to the nuclear agreement, India’s strategic relationship with the United States remains troubled by several major disagreements, including Indian policy on Iran and Myanmar.
“India may be ‘emerging,’ but it will be a very high-maintenance friend when it comes to any strategic partnership,” Stephen P. Cohen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said by e-mail.
In this country, the real impact of Tuesday’s vote will be felt in the coming months, as major and minor parties in India’s deeply fractured political system prepare for the next national elections, which must be held by May. The confidence vote has significantly rearranged old political alliances, sharpened the divide between political adversaries and threatened to intensify public cynicism toward elected leaders.
“The polite veils that are thrown over the workings of democracy have been lifted,” said the political analyst and president of the nonpartisan Center for Policy Research, Pratap Bhanu Mehta. “Politics is going to get really, really ugly.”
The two-day debate in Parliament was at its most rambunctious late Tuesday afternoon. Three lawmakers with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., accused Mr. Singh’s new allies, with a North Indian regional party called Samajwadi, of offering them roughly $750,000 each in exchange for abstaining from the confidence vote.
The allegation was made barely two hours before the scheduled vote. B.J.P. lawmakers stormed the well of Parliament, waving wads of cash and forcing Parliament to adjourn. B.J.P. leaders soon appeared before television cameras to detail the bribery allegations, and Samajwadi leaders went on air to deny the accusations and accuse senior B.J.P. leaders of bribery attempts.
A private television news station, CNN-IBN, said it had acquired what it called a “cash for vote” tape in the course of an investigation into bribery allegations. The station did not broadcast the tape, but said it had handed it over to the speaker of Parliament, Somnath Chatterjee.
Whether any money changed hands, how, and between whom, is not likely to be resolved soon.
Tuesday’s victory in Parliament could allow Mr. Singh’s government to remain in power until next May, when its five-year term expires, but not without serious challenges to its credibility and its political future.
After losing the support of the Communists, the government secured the backing of the Samajwadi Party, an archrival that until recently had been among the loudest anti-American voices in Parliament. It also won support from several smaller parties.
The Communists linked arms with a party they had frequently criticized, led by the most prominent politician from the so-called low-caste Dalits, Kumari Mayawati. Together with the B.J.P., they sought to bring down Mr. Singh’s government.
Mohammed Salim of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) accused the government on Monday of betraying its allies at home for the sake of a partnership with the United States.
The finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, jabbed at the Communists on Tuesday without naming them, suggesting that “some people” supported China’s advance while holding India back. “I want India to become an economic power,” he told Parliament, “an economic superpower.” His comments were met with angry gibes and arm-waving from the Communists.
July 28, 2008
Facing a Wave of Violence, India Is Rattled
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
NEW DELHI — Over the past several years, terrorist attacks in India have become an everyday presence in everyday places. The targets seem to have nothing in common except that they are ordinary and brazenly easy to strike.
In eastern Varanasi, a deadly explosion interrupted Hindu devotees as they lighted oil lamps to Hanuman, the monkey god, one Tuesday at dusk. In southern Hyderabad, a homemade bomb planted inside a historic mosque killed worshipers on a Friday afternoon. In Mumbai, India’s largest city, nearly 200 commuters on packed city trains died in a series of blasts.
And, in the most recent attack, 17 back-to-back explosions struck shoppers and strollers on Saturday evening in Ahmedabad in western India, and then two blasts hit the very hospitals where the wounded and their relatives rushed for help, killing 49 people and wounding more than 200.
In a country long familiar with sharply focused violence — whether sectarian or fueled by insurgencies in Kashmir in the 1990s — the impersonal nature of the latest violence is new and deeply unsettling.
“This is different, because for the first time it’s everyday, it’s utterly anonymous, it’s excessive,” said Shiv Vishvanathan, a professor of anthropology in Ahmedabad. “The familiar becomes unfamiliar,” he said. “The apple seller you meet might be carrying a bomb. It creates suspicion. It’s a perfect way to destabilize society.”
Officials have said the attacks are attempts to provoke violence between Hindus and Muslims that have not succeeded so far. Virtually none of the attacks have resulted in convictions; a suspect in the Varanasi bombings was shot and killed by the police.
Reminders of the danger are everywhere. There are metal detectors at the gates of multiplex movie theaters and commuter trains, and even at the threshold of prominent temples and mosques. Yet they have had no bearing on the far greater number of easier, more densely crowded targets.
India’s congested cities offer rich opportunities. A small bundle of explosives, hidden as they have been in lunch boxes, pressure cookers and on the backs of bicycles, can cause grievous damage. It is also why the attackers have so successfully eluded punishment.
A report last year by the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington concluded that from January 2004 to March 2007, the death toll from terrorist attacks in India was 3,674, second only to that in Iraq during the same period.
Ahmedabad, home to 3.5 million people and Gujarat’s commercial center, is no stranger to violence. In 2002, a train fire that killed several dozen Hindus led to the killing of 1,000 Muslims over several days, one of the worst outbreaks of religious violence in India’s history.
An obscure group calling itself the Indian Mujahedeen warned Saturday that an attack was about to take place “in revenge of Gujarat,” plainly referring to the 2002 killings. The statement was sent in an e-mail message, written in English, to television stations just before the first blasts.
H. P. Singh, the city’s joint police commissioner, said Sunday that some of the explosives had been strapped to bicycles in crowded streets and markets. Later in the evening, a pair of car bombs went off in front of two city hospitals. At one of them, Civil Hospital, the dead included husband-and-wife doctors and two sanitation workers.
The police said two additional bombs had been found and defused, in Ahmedabad and nearby Gandhinagar, Gujarat’s capital. On Sunday afternoon, the police found two abandoned cars in Surat, an industrial city in Gujarat, one stuffed with bomb-making chemicals and detonators, the other with live bombs. The police said they were still tracing the cars’ ownership.
On Friday, there was a series of similar low-intensity blasts in southern Bangalore, one of which killed a woman standing at a bus stop. Two months ago in Jaipur, synchronized blasts on bicycles killed 56 people; the Indian Mujahedeen sent an e-mail message claiming credit for those attacks.
On Sunday, a police official, P. P. Pandey, said “a single mind” was suspected to be behind the three latest attacks. The police said they had detained people for questioning; The Associated Press reported 30 were in custody. Officials offered no further details about who was involved in the group or a possible motivation behind the bombings.
The morning after the Ahmedabad blasts, residents of this sprawling Indian capital pointed out that while it was virtually impossible to take precautions against terrorist attacks, they had grown increasingly vigilant of the strangers around them.
Hari Om Suri, 52, stood outside a popular seafood restaurant at the Defense Colony Market, scanning the parking lot for anything that looked suspicious.
Mohan and Helen Nanjundan ordered a chicken sizzler for lunch at Moet’s, a popular restaurant, and warily eyed the bicycles parked outside. Bicycles, a poor man’s transport here, are common. “Every few months, there is another one in another city,” said Mr. Nanjundan, 52. “Sometimes we tell ourselves to stay away from dangerous places, but it’s hard to say where that is.”
“I’ve never looked at a bicycle before,” said Ms. Nanjundan, 56.
Puneet Gupta, 23, said he was trying to avoid crowded markets, but his girlfriend, Jyotsna Malhotra, 21, said she was determined not to let it get in the way of her fun. “We are not sure what is going to happen tomorrow,” she said. “Better to live today, shop, get him to spend some money on me.”
Last August, after a pair of synchronized bombs tore through an amusement park and a fast-food restaurant in Hyderabad, killing at least 40 people, an Indian newspaper called the violence “a war on the way we live.”
August 1, 2008
China’s Industrial Ambition Soars to High-Tech
By DAVID BARBOZA
SHENZHEN, China — Few people have heard of the BYD Corporation — BYD for Build Your Dream — but this little-known company has grown into the world’s second-largest battery producer in less than a decade of existence. Now it plans to make a great leap forward: “We’d like to make a green energy car, a plug-in,” said Paul Lin, a BYD marketing executive. “We think we can do that.”
Even in go-go China, such lofty aspirations may sound far-fetched. But BYD has built a 16-million-square-foot auto assembly plant here and hired a team of Italian-trained car designers; it plans to build a green hybrid by the end of the year.
No longer content to be the home of low-skilled, low-cost, low-margin manufacturing for toys, pens, clothes and other goods, Chinese companies are trying to move up the value chain, hoping eventually to challenge the world’s biggest corporations for business, customers, power and recognition.
The government is backing the drive with a two-pronged approach: using incentives to encourage companies to innovate, but also moving to discourage low-end manufacturers from operating in southern China. That step would reverse one of the crucial engines of this country’s spectacular economic rise.
But by introducing tougher labor and environmental standards and ending tax breaks for thousands of factories here, the government has sent a powerful signal about its global ambitions, and helped encourage an exodus of factories from an area long considered the world’s shop floor.
President Hu Jintao hinted at China’s vaulting ambitions during a meeting of China’s scientific elite last June at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he called on scientists to challenge other countries in high technology. “We are ready for a fight,” he said, “to control the scientific high ground and earn a seat on the world’s high technology board. We will make some serious efforts to strengthen our nation’s competence.”
Government policies now favor high-tech economic zones, research and development centers and companies that promise higher salaries and more skills. A computer chip plant being built by Intel in the northern city of Dalian is welcomed; a textile mill churning out $1 pairs of socks is not.
“When a country is in its early stages of development, as China was 20 years ago, having an export processing center is good for growth,” said Andy Rothman, a longtime China analyst at CLSA, the investment bank. “But there’s a point when that’s no longer appropriate. Now, China’s saying, ‘We don’t want to be the world’s sweatshop for junk any more.’ ”
Chinese firms are expanding into (or buying companies that work in) software and biotechnology, automobiles, medical devices and supercomputers. This year, a government-backed corporation even introduced its first commercial passenger jet, a move Beijing hopes will allow it to some day compete with Boeing and Airbus.
In some ways, the government is only riding the economic currents that come with development and high growth. For instance, many manufacturers in southern China — the country’s biggest export zone — are moving to the interior because land and labor costs are cheaper, or expanding operations to include in lower-cost countries, like India, Vietnam or Bangladesh.
World-class brands that have grown dependent on outsourcing labor-intensive production to China are now searching for alternatives. Even the retail behemoth Wal-Mart, which moved its global procurement center here to Shenzhen in 2002, is going to be forced to find new sourcing channels to fill its 5,000 stores worldwide.
For millions of consumers around the world, experts say the policy shift could also mean higher prices for a broad array of goods, from pens and hammers to Barbie dolls and running shoes.
“Basically the cost of things China produces for Home Depot and Wal-Mart are going up,” said Dong Tao, an economist at Credit Suisse. “But there is another side. In some areas that China’s going to grab, like telecom equipment, they’ll push prices lower.”
Economists say China’s development is following in the footsteps of Japan and South Korea, which successfully evolved from low-skilled manufacturing to high technology, services and the creation of global brands.
There are still plenty of obstacles here, including weak intellectual property rights enforcement and a culture of copying or stealing technology from foreign companies or joint venture partners. But experts point to positives like a rising aggressive entrepreneurial class, legions of newly minted science and engineering graduates and a fiercely competitive domestic marketplace.
Peter J. Williamson, a professor of management at Cambridge University, challenges the notion that China does not have technological know-how.
“They are some of the biggest in launching satellites. They have a lot of technology locked up in the military, and now the government is reducing budgets and pressing agencies to privatize,” he said. “So suddenly, a lot of technology people thought didn’t exist has come out from behind the curtain.”
This is what China is betting on.
At BYD, executives are ramping up research and development spending, and studying global marketing strategies. Founded in 1995 by a scientist who studied metallurgy, the company has made lithium batteries, cellphones, camera equipment, auto parts and other components for Nokia, Motorola and Sony, among others, gaining experience in producing high-quality goods.
“The technology for a car is not that sophisticated,” Mr. Lin said. “It’s big, but a lot of low technology.” Five years ago BYD bought a state-owned carmaker to help make the transition.
Another company hoping to make the leap is Hasee, a fast-growing computer maker also based in Shenzhen.
Founded just six years ago, Hasee is already selling 100,000 laptops a month and is the second biggest Chinese computer maker behind Lenovo, with revenue forecast to reach $800 million this year.
Hasee executives say the company is spending heavily on research and development, and that by focusing on innovative computers and laptops that now sell for just $370, it is on track to become the world’s biggest computer maker within a decade.
“Our strategy in China is to always focus on innovation,” said Zhang Xianyong, a Hasee vice president and sales manager for greater China. “We’re now in the domestic market, but we’ll spare no effort to grab overseas expansion.”
The government is pressing companies to move up the value chain for economic, but also political reasons, analysts say. Promoting innovation and brand-name companies would probably bolster the economy and create better jobs.
In April, Credit Suisse forecast that one-third of all export-oriented manufacturers could close within three years. And a study released in March by the American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai and Booz & Company, the consulting firm, says foreign investors are growing bearish on China and that rising costs are driving American manufacturing out of the country.
For many Chinese economists, that is just fine. “The low-end industries used to make a great contribution to Guangdong,” said Liang Guiquan, an economist at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank. “But an enterprise is like a creation. They must get used to changes in the environment. If the environment changes, they must die out.”
August 8, 2008
Pakistan Coalition Moves to Impeach Musharraf
By JANE PERLEZ
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan —A move by the civilian leadership on Thursday to impeach President Pervez Musharraf left Pakistan on the brink of a political crisis that threatened to paralyze the government at a critical moment when the United States is demanding greater action against militants based in this country.
The governing coalition set no formal deadline for the start of impeachment proceedings against Mr. Musharraf, a favored American ally, leaving open the possibility of a protracted and debilitating political fight that could take months of haggling to secure the parliamentary votes needed for impeachment.
It also raised the threat that Mr. Musharraf would try to dissolve Parliament or that he would look to the army for protection, though many analysts said the military was unlikely to intervene. “The army preference is not to get involved and for the constitutional process to be followed so there is the least amount of disruption to the system,” said Shuja Nawaz, the author of “Crossed Swords” (Oxford University Press), a book on the Pakistani military. “They would not want to be drawn into it.”
The announcement that the civilian leaders would seek impeachment, made at a news conference here, was the culmination of months of wrenching political changes after the assassination of the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in December and the decisive victory of her party in elections in February. Since then, the leaders of the country’s two major parties, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, have forged a tense governing coalition that has teetered on collapse.
Mr. Zardari, the head of the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Mr. Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, have barely been on speaking terms. For the last several days, they had been closeted in meetings on how to keep their coalition together.
Mr. Sharif, who was ousted as prime minister by Mr. Musharraf in a 1999 coup, has pushed Mr. Zardari to join impeachment proceedings against the president. Mr. Zardari had resisted. But this week he apparently decided that the one way to keep the coalition functioning was to undertake a frontal attack on Mr. Musharraf, who is immensely unpopular here after having led Pakistan as the head of the army for eight years, until the end of 2007.
On Thursday, the two coalition leaders issued a joint communiqué saying that their government would “immediately initiate impeachment proceedings” and that it would “present a charge sheet against General Musharraf.” Mr. Musharraf was described by his allies as determined to fight back, and met all day on Thursday with his political backers and his constitutional lawyer, Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada. In an indication of the gravity of his situation, the president called off his trip to attend the opening of the Olympic Games.
Many Pakistani officials said they believed that Mr. Musharraf would seek support from the Bush administration. It has endowed Pakistan with more than $12 billion of mostly military aid since 9/11 for its cooperation in combating the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which is washing over the border into Afghanistan and attacking American troops there.
The effectiveness of that cooperation has been called into question, most recently by American officials who presented Pakistan with evidence that its spy agency played a part in the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan in July.
But Mr. Musharraf, a dominant, outspoken and sometimes cavalier figure, has enjoyed a personal rapport with Mr. Bush, who has leaned on the president as his principal support here.
Publicly, the State Department called the bid to impeach Mr. Musharraf an “internal” Pakistani matter. “Our expectation is that any action will be consistent with the rule of law and the Pakistani Constitution,” said Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman. But privately, one administration official said that Mr. Musharraf’s influence within Pakistan had all but evaporated since he removed his army uniform at the end of last year and since the sweeping defeat of his party in elections this year.
While Mr. Bush has kept up his relations with Mr. Musharraf — including regular telephone conversations — the administration has also been trying to build its relations with the new Pakistani government.
That effort, the administration official said, has yet to bear much fruit. The official requested anonymity because he did not want to be seen commenting publicly on internal Pakistani affairs.
Looking for new political levers, a succession of the administration’s most senior military and intelligence officials have visited Pakistan in recent months, but they have focused their attention on Mr. Musharraf’s successor as army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
General Kayani has pledged to keep the army out of politics — a rare promise in Pakistan — and it seemed doubtful that the army would come to the rescue of a diminished Mr. Musharraf, said Mr. Nawaz, the author, who is based in Washington but is currently visiting Pakistan, where he met with senior military officers.
The army under General Kayani wanted to protect its institutional interests, not one personality, he said.
Others agreed. As president, Mr. Musharraf has the power under the Constitution to dismiss the Parliament, but in practice he would have to have the acquiescence of the military, said Senator Tariq Azim Khan, a former minister of information in the Musharraf government. That support would probably not be offered, he said.
After the news conference of the two civilian leaders, Ahsan Iqbal, the spokesman for Mr. Sharif, said the impeachment proceedings would be completed “in the next couple of weeks.” But there was wide skepticism that things would proceed so neatly.
A constitutional lawyer, Babar Sattar, who writes frequently about the need for democracy in Pakistan, said that Mr. Zardari had already broken a pledge to restore judges dismissed by Mr. Musharraf. There was little reason to believe he would push ahead with the impeachment. “Why should we believe him this time?” Mr. Sattar asked.
Impeachment proceedings were indeed uncharted waters: no Pakistani president has been impeached, politicians said. But there is a clear process laid out in the Constitution, lawyers said, and it involves two steps.
First, the coalition would need at least half the members of either the upper or lower house of Parliament to pass an impeachment resolution, they said.
Then, two-thirds of both houses of Parliament, sitting together, would have to vote actually to remove Mr. Musharraf from office on the basis of whatever charges are presented against him.
Coalition officials said they were sure they had 305 votes, 10 more than the 295 required. But others said the 10-vote margin could probably be reduced by a determined Mr. Musharraf. “That’s not a very comfortable majority,” Mr. Sattar said.
The impeachment move comes amid growing public concern that the four-month-old government has failed to deal with the problems facing the country, including an economic crisis and the expanding Taliban insurgency.
While an apparent attempt by the coalition to reinvigorate and bolster itself, the move could just as easily embroil and distract it and bleed the government of energy, some warned.
A former member of Parliament, Ishaq Khan Khakwani, who resigned from the Musharraf cabinet last year, suggested that the coalition government was unleashing a process that could cause significant turmoil.
“An elected government was meant to bring stability; unfortunately it is destabilizing Pakistan,” Mr. Khakwani said.
Still, a poll by the International Republican Institute in June showed that 85 percent of Pakistanis believed that the president should resign.
While they have yet to be announced, the charges against the president are likely to center on the legality of his election to his current five-year term and his emergency decree last fall.
Mr. Musharraf argues that he was elected democratically last October, according to the politicians who support him. But the ruling coalition government disputes the legality of that vote, which was held by the outgoing Parliament and provincial assemblies dominated by the president’s supporters. Moreover, the coalition says that Mr. Musharraf’s emergency decree last November was unconstitutional, as was his dismissal of nearly 60 judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
One of the politicians who is part of the bloc in Parliament that seemed up for grabs by both sides said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he had instructed his colleagues to be in favor of impeachment.
The politician, Munir Khan Orakzai, who represents the Kurram district in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where the Taliban insurgency has gathered strength, said Mr. Musharraf was to blame for the problems. “He has made things worse for us,” Mr. Orakzai said.
Another member of the national assembly from the tribal areas, Kamran Khan Wazir from North Waziristan, said Mr. Musharraf should not wait for impeachment. He should resign first, he said.
Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.
August 14, 2008
After the Games, Tibet
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
China’s cup runneth over. The Olympics are a milestone in Chinese history, a celebration of the Middle Kingdom’s return to international greatness after nearly two centuries of torpor and humiliation.
Yet the Olympics could end up being the second-most-significant event in China this year.
The Chinese leadership and the Tibetan government in exile have delicately discussed a possible visit by the Dalai Lama to China, nominally to commemorate the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan Province in May. That would be the first meeting between the Dalai Lama and Chinese leaders in more than 50 years and would give enormous impetus to resolving the Tibet question.
The opportunity arises in part because of the Dalai Lama’s public acknowledgement last week for the first time that he could accept Communist Party rule for Tibet. Previously, the Dalai Lama had seemed to demand something like the “one country, two systems” model of Hong Kong, and his concession was a courageous signal of his yearning to reach a deal with the Chinese government.
“The Dalai Lama has taken the kind of courageous step that great political leaders make at crucial turning points in history,” said Melvyn Goldstein, a prominent historian of modern Tibet and a professor at Case Western Reserve University. “After more than 20 years of stalemate, the Dalai Lama, at great risk to his standing in the West and among Tibetans in exile, has unilaterally sent Beijing a clear signal that he is now ready to accept the kind of difficult compromises that are needed to resolve the conflict.”
“For the first time in decades, reconciliation is now genuinely possible,” Professor Goldstein added.
Since then, the Dalai Lama has been scolded by many Tibetans who think that he has been too conciliatory toward China. President Bush and other leaders should praise his courage in taking such a difficult step toward reconciliation.
The big question now is whether China will respond with its own olive branch. At a Foreign Ministry press conference on Wednesday, a spokesman, Qin Gang, said only: “Our position and policy on the Tibet-related issue is clear and persistent. We should not only take into account what the Dalai Lama said, but what he has done. We need to see concrete action.”
That was less than an effusive welcome but better than another knee-jerk denunciation of the Dalai Lama. My sense is that Chinese government officials are waiting for direction from their own top leaders.
If President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao respond with approval, and especially if they pursue a visit by the Dalai Lama in November on the six-month anniversary of the earthquake in Sichuan Province — then they just might resolve the Tibet problem that has dogged all previous Communist leaders. As a first step, they should take over the Tibet portfolio from the United Front Work Department, so that top-level talks can proceed directly between the Dalai Lama and either Mr. Hu or Mr. Wen.
Some Chinese officials believe that the best strategy to deal with Tibet is to wait for the Dalai Lama to die. Without a leader, they think, Tibetans will be more compliant — but that is a catastrophic miscalculation.
On the contrary, the Dalai Lama, who is 73, is restraining Tibetans, and he speaks some Chinese and has roots in China in a way that younger Tibetan exiles do not. Once he is gone, more radical groups — including the Tibetan Youth Congress — will gain sway and many frustrated Tibetans, left on their own, are likely to turn to violence.
President Hu this year engaged in bold diplomacy to defuse tensions with Japan and Taiwan alike. China’s willingness to sound out the Dalai Lama about a visit to commemorate the earthquake victims is a ray of hope for similar outreach to Tibetans. The United States can’t do much to help — this has to be worked out between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership — but we can do more to encourage the process and nudge it to a higher level.
Western leaders, including President Bush, have mostly engaged in the politics of symbolism regarding Tibet — choreographing photos with the Dalai Lama, issuing protests, or calling for China-Tibet talks that everyone knows will get nowhere. What we need is less symbolism and more diplomatic heavy-lifting aimed at a practical settlement of the Tibet question.
President Hu and Prime Minister Wen are basking in good will from their management of the Olympics, so far widely perceived as a triumph for China. If they can also bring the Dalai Lama back to China in November and engineer a deal to resolve Tibet’s future, that would be an even more monumental achievement.
August 15, 2008
Musharraf Is Expected to Resign in Next Few Days
By JANE PERLEZ
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Faced with desertions by his political supporters and the neutrality of the Pakistani military, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, an important ally of the United States, is expected to resign in the next few days rather than face impeachment charges, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats said Thursday.
His departure from office would be likely to unleash new instability in the country as the two main parties in the civilian government jockeyed for the division of power.
The details of how Mr. Musharraf would exit, and whether he would be able to stay in Pakistan — apparently his strong preference — or would seek residency abroad were now under discussion, the politicians said.
Mr. Musharraf was expected to resign before the governing coalition presented charges for impeachment to the Parliament early next week, said Nisar Ali Khan, a senior official in the Pakistani Muslim League-N, the minority partner in the coalition government.
Similarly, Sheikh Mansoor Ahmed, a senior official of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the major party in the coalition, said Thursday that the president would probably leave in the “next 72 hours.”
Inexorable pressure has built on Mr. Musharraf, a member of the military by profession and often impetuous by nature, to take a way out from the current crisis that would save him from embarrassing disclosures during impeachment procedures and that would protect the nation from a prolonged political agony.
The United States and Britain sought last year to put a democratic face on the unpopular Mr. Musharraf — who was then also chief of the army — by engineering the return of the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as his partner in a putative power-sharing arrangement. Now the two countries are virtual bystanders as Mr. Musharraf’s rule seems to be coming to an end.
Ms. Bhutto was assassinated in December, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, now the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, emerged as a major force urging Mr. Musharraf’s ouster last week. The two major political parties in the coalition said last week that they would seek to remove Mr. Musharraf, and that the grounds for impeachment included mismanagement of the economy, his imposition of emergency rule in November and the firing of nearly 60 judges.
The American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, met with senior officials of the political parties seeking Mr. Musharraf’s ouster in the past few days, and a senior diplomat in the British Foreign Office, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, met with Mr. Musharraf here this week, Pakistani officials and a Western diplomat said.
The envoys did not argue against Mr. Musharraf’s departure but rather stressed that he should be granted as dignified an exit as possible, the Pakistani officials said. The officials and diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
“The United States is now accepting Musharraf’s removal as a fait accompli,” Mr. Khan said.
“They just want that he should not be humiliated. We don’t want his humiliation either.”
The Bush administration’s continued support of Mr. Musharraf, anchored by the personal relationship between the two presidents, has infuriated the four-month-old civilian coalition, which routed the president’s party in February elections. “Now the reaction from the American friends is positive,” Mr. Khan said.
While Mr. Bush has kept up his relationship with Mr. Musharraf — including regular telephone conversations — the administration has also been trying to build its relations with the new Pakistani government, as it demands greater action against militants based in Pakistan.
The coalition parties said that the impeachment charges would be presented to Parliament early next week, and that the charges would be far-ranging and touch on, among other things, Mr. Musharraf’s decision to suspend the Constitution last November and to introduce emergency rule.
The leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, Nawaz Sharif, has demanded that if Mr. Musharraf is impeached, a trial must follow, a proceeding that would be very messy, and could rip the country apart.
In his hour of need, as the politicians move against him, Mr. Musharraf has been greeted by silence from the military, his former power base.
As army chief of staff, Mr. Musharraf grabbed power in October 1999, overthrowing Mr. Sharif, who was then prime minister.
Mr. Sharif has maneuvered for Mr. Musharraf’s ouster since returning to power after the February elections.
As president and army chief, Mr. Musharraf worked hand in hand with the United States against terrorism until last November, when he handed the army post to Gen. Ashfaq Parvaz Kayani, who promised to keep the army out of politics.
Since assuming the army leadership, General Kayani has remained true to his promise.
The neutrality of the military has actually tipped the scales against Mr. Musharraf, said Arif Nizami, editor of the daily newspaper The Nation.
“They are not even putting pressure on the civilians” to stop the president’s ouster, Mr. Nizami said of the military. “They are saying, ‘If you do it according to the book, it’s none of our business.’ They have pushed against Mr. Musharraf.”
Mr. Musharraf gave a routine but subdued national day address on Wednesday, calling for reconciliation. But by then many of his supporters had left him. He was seeking solace from “only a handful of people,” most of whom harbored personal interests in Mr. Musharraf’s survival, according to an account in a national newspaper, Dawn, by Zaffar Abbas, a respected political journalist.
Many members of Mr. Musharraf’s political party have deserted him, although a powerful political group, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is based in Karachi, still supports him, Mr. Abbas wrote.
One prominent supporter, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, who served as the interior minister in Mr. Musharraf’s government, said Thursday that he could no longer justify his allegiance to the president.
Mr. Sherpao represents a parliamentary constituency in the North-West Frontier Province on the edge of the tribal area, where the Taliban are winning control of village after village with little opposition from the military or government forces.
After consulting “with every friend” in his area, “not a single person was in favor of Musharraf,” Mr. Sherpao said.
“With one voice they said: ‘This is the time you have to be with the democratic forces.’ ”
While it appeared almost certain that Mr. Musharraf would leave before facing impeachment, there was great uncertainty over what would follow.
“Everyone feels that the Musharraf era is over,” the Daily Times wrote in an editorial on Thursday. “But no one is actually in the mood to see what it is going to be like to be in the post-Musharraf era.”
Many Pakistanis believe the country could suffer even greater instability after Mr. Musharraf goes.
The coalition partnership between Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif became troubled by deep suspicions between the two sides soon after the February elections, and the current accord on ousting Mr. Musharraf is likely to fragment as soon as he is gone, politicians say.
There is little agreement, for example, between the two men on the choice of the next president. That question is a subject of almost as much jockeying within the coalition as the plan to get rid of Mr. Musharraf.
Mr. Zardari, a highly controversial figure in Pakistan who was jailed on corruption charges for more than eight years, would like the post, according to his party supporters and senior members of the Pakistan Muslim League-N. The charges against Mr. Zardari were dismissed as part of an amnesty agreement when Ms. Bhutto returned to Pakistan.
Mr. Sharif is opposed to Mr. Zardari’s ascendancy to the presidency, but would go along with it if the presidency were stripped of many of its current powers, Pakistan Muslim League-N officials said.
According to the Constitution, an election for the president by the national Parliament and four provincial assemblies must be held 30 days after the office becomes vacant. Mr. Sharif and Mr. Zardari agreed last week that the choice of a presidential nominee would be made by a consensus between them.
“We very, very strongly feel it has to be a man of national consensus, a man of stature, a man everyone looks up to as a head of state,” Mr. Khan said.
August 17, 2008
Malcontents Need Not Apply
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
To put a smiley face on its image during the Olympics, the Chinese government set aside three “protest zones” in Beijing. Officials explained that so long as protesters obtained approval in advance, demonstrations would be allowed.
So I decided to test the system.
Following government instructions, I showed up at an office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, found Window 12 and declared to the officer, “I’m here to apply to hold a protest.”
What I didn’t realize is that Public Security has arrested at least a half-dozen people who have shown up to apply for protest permits. Public Security is pretty shrewd. In the old days it had to go out and catch protesters in the act. Now it saves itself the bother: would-be protesters show up at Public Security offices to apply for permits and are promptly detained. That’s cost-effective law enforcement for you.
Fortunately, the official at Window 12 didn’t peg me as a counterrevolutionary. He looked at me worriedly and asked for my passport and other ID papers. Discovering that I was a journalist, he asked hopefully, “Wouldn’t you rather conduct an interview about demonstrations?”
“No. I want to apply to hold one.”
His brow furrowed. “What do you want to protest?”
“I want to demonstrate in favor of preserving Beijing’s historic architecture.” It was the least controversial, most insipid topic I could concoct.
“Do you think the government is not doing a good job at this?” he asked sternly.
“There may be room for improvement,” I said delicately.
The official frowned and summoned two senior colleagues who, after a series of frantic phone calls, led me into the heart of the police building. I was accompanied by a Times videographer, and he and a police videographer busily videoed each other. Then the police explained that under the rules they could video us but we couldn’t video them.
The Public Security Bureau (a fancy name for a police station) gleams like much of the rest of Beijing. It is a lovely, spacious building, and the waiting room we were taken to was beautifully furnished; no folding metal chairs here. It’s a fine metaphor for China’s legal system: The hardware is impeccable, but the software is primitive.
After an hour of waiting, interrupted by periodic frowning examinations of our press credentials, we were ushered into an elegant conference room. I was solemnly directed to a chair marked “applicant.”
Three police officers sat across from me, and the police videographer continued to film us from every angle. The officers were all cordial and professional, although one seemed to be daydreaming about pulling out my fingernails.
Then they spent nearly an hour going over the myriad rules for demonstrations. These were detailed and complex, and, most daunting, I would have to submit a list of every single person attending my demonstration. The list had to include names and identity document numbers.
In addition, any Chinese on a name list would have to go first to the Public Security Bureau in person to be interviewed (arrested?).
“If I go through all this, then will my application at least be granted?” I asked.
“How can we tell?” a policeman responded. “That would prejudge the process.”
“Well, has any application ever been granted?” I asked.
“We can’t answer that, for that matter has no connection to this case.”
The policemen did say that if they approved, they would give me a “Demonstration Permission Document.” Without that, my demonstration would be illegal.
I surrendered. The rules were so monstrously bureaucratic that I couldn’t even apply for a demonstration. My Olympic dreams were dashed. The police asked me to sign their note-taker’s account of the meeting, and we politely said our goodbyes.
Yet even though the process is a charade, it still represents progress in China, in that the law implicitly acknowledges the legitimacy of protest. Moreover, a trickle of Chinese have applied to hold protests, even though they know that they are more likely to end up in jail than in a “protest zone.” Fear of the government is ebbing.
My hunch is that in the coming months, perhaps after the Olympics, we will see some approvals granted. China is changing: it is no democracy, but it’s also no longer a totalitarian state.
China today reminds me of Taiwan in the mid-1980s as a rising middle class demanded more freedom. Almost every country around China, from Mongolia to Indonesia, Thailand to South Korea, has become more open and less repressive — not because of the government’s kindness but because of the people’s insistence.
I feel that same process happening here, albeit agonizingly slowly. Someday China’s software will catch up with its hardware.
Pakistan's ruling coalition has prepared impeachment charges against President Pervez Musharraf focusing on violation of the constitution and misconduct, a coalition official said on Saturday.
Speculation has been mounting the former army chief and firm U.S. ally would quit after the coalition government, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said last week it planned to impeach him.
Musharraf's spokesman insisted he would not resign but would face the accusations. He dismissed as malicious reports of the president's imminent resignation and said they were damaging the economy.
But negotiations on an exit for the president have been going on, officials admit, while the media reports important ally Saudi Arabia was trying to help mediate a solution.
A coalition team has finished drafting impeachment charges and handed them to the minister of law for scrutiny, said Ahsan Iqbal, a member of the drafting team.
"There is a long list of charges against him . . . we will file them, by the latest, by Tuesday," said Iqbal, a senior official of the second biggest coalition party, led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
August 19, 2008
Musharraf Announces His Resignation
By JANE PERLEZ
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Under pressure over impending impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced that he would resign Monday, ending nearly nine years as one of the United States’ most important allies in the campaign against terrorism.
Speaking on television from his presidential office here at 1 p.m., Mr. Musharraf, dressed in a gray suit and tie, said that after consulting with his aides, “I have decided to resign today.” He said he was putting national interest above “personal bravado.”
“Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose,” he said, adding that he was not prepared to put the office of the presidency through the impeachment process.
Mr. Musharraf said the governing coalition, which has pushed for impeachment, had tried to “turn lies into truths.”
“They don’t realize they can succeed against me but the country will undergo irreparable damage,” he said.
In an emotional ending to a speech lasting more than an hour, Mr. Musharraf raised his clenched fists to chest height, and said, “Long live Pakistan!”
His resignation came after 10 days of intense political maneuvering in Pakistan, and cleared the way for the four-month-old coalition government to choose a new president by a vote of Parliament and the provincial assemblies. But there were intense concerns in Washington that Mr. Musharraf’s departure would open a new era of instability in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country of 165 million people, as the fragile coalition jockeys for his share of power.
The White House's reaction was muted. President Bush, at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., made no statement about Mr. Musharraf's resignation. A spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe , said that the president was "committed to a strong Pakistan that continues its efforts to strengthen democracy and fight terror."
"President Bush appreciates President Musharraf's efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan as well as his commitment to fighting Al Qaeda and extremist groups," Mr. Johndroe said.
The president of the Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro, assumed the office of acting president several hours after Mr. Musharraf’s resignation.
Mr. Musharraf was given a ceremonial guard of honor as he left the president’s office for the last time and returned to an army house he lived in during his presidency in Rawalpindi, the neighboring city to Islamabad.
Mr. Musharraf, 65, will stay in Pakistan in the immediate future, a condition he had insisted on, according to Nasir Ali Khan, a senior member of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, a partner in the coalition. The coalition, led by Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, the chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, were scheduled to meet here in the capital on Monday afternoon to discuss the way forward, Mr. Khan said.
The senior leaders of the coalition immediately began deliberations in Islamabad, but there were few indications of who the next president would be. According to the Constitution, a new president must be chosen within 30 days.
The choice will be made by an electoral college of the parliament and four provincial assemblies.
The talks are likely to be long and contentious. American officials have said that Mr. Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister who was assassinated in December, would like the post. But Mr. Sharif, who maintains a barely civil relationship with Mr. Zardari, is said to be strongly opposed to the elevation of Mr. Zardari.
A colleague of Mr. Sharif’s said the Pakistan Muslim League-N might agree to Mr. Zardari in the post if it was stripped of its current powers, including the power to dissolve the parliament and to choose the army chief.
Mr. Musharraf has been under strong pressure in the past few days, as the coalition said it had completed a charge sheet to take to Parliament for his impeachment. The charges were centered on “gross violations” of the Constitution, according to the minister of information, Sherry Rehman.
The language from the coalition mounted over the weekend, but the leading politicians wavered on an exact date for bringing the charges, thus leaving a window for Mr. Musharraf to leave.
In his speech, Mr. Musharraf tore into the coalition for what he called their failed economic policies. He said Pakistan’s critical economic situation — a declining currency, capital flight, soaring inflation — was their responsibility. In contrast, he said, his policies had brought prosperity out of near economic collapse when he took charge in 1999.
He then gave a laundry list of his achievements, ranging from expanded road networks to a national art gallery in the capital. Although Pakistan’s literacy rate hovers around 50 percent, and is much lower among women, he took credit for new schools.
The army, the most powerful institution in Pakistan, stayed publicly above the fray in the past 10 days. But in remaining studiously neutral and declining to come to Mr. Musharraf’s rescue, the new leader of the army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, tipped the scales against the president, politicians said.
Mr. Musharraf grabbed power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, ousting the prime minister, Mr. Sharif, who had picked Mr. Musharraf as army chief. For eight years, he ruled as head of the army and president, positions that gave him almost unfettered power and allowed the Bush administration to rely on Mr. Musharraf in the campaign on terrorism.
In recognition of this, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described him on Monday as “one of the world’s most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism.”
“We will continue to work with the Pakistani government and political leaders and urge them to redouble their focus on Pakistan’s future and its most urgent needs, including stemming the growth of extremism, addressing food and energy shortages, and improving economic stability,” Ms. Rice said in a statement. “The United States will help with these efforts to see Pakistan reach its goal of becoming a stable, prosperous, democratic, modern, Muslim nation.”
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, government officials expressed satisfaction that Mr. Musharraf was leaving. The relationship between the neighboring countries has long been tense, with Afghan officials blaming Pakistan’s failure to crack down on militants in the border region for the increasing violence in Afghanistan.
An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman, Zemeri Bashary, said Monday that Mr. Musharraf had been an ally of the United States “in words only, not by actions” and argued that his rule had not been good for Afghanistan, The Associated Press reported. Also, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sultan Ahmed Baheen, said Afghanistan hoped the resignation would strengthen democracy in both countries, The A.P. said.
As Mr. Musharraf began to lose popularity last year, Washington tried to forge a power-sharing relationship between him and Ms. Bhutto, who had been in exile since the late 1990s and returned to Pakistan last fall. She was assassinated on Dec. 27.
The Musharraf government accused the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud of carrying out her murder. By then Mr. Sharif had also returned from exile to run in elections. The Pakistan Peoples Party of Ms. Bhutto, under the stewardship of her husband, Mr. Zardari, and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, under Mr. Sharif, swept into power in elections in February.
Mr. Musharraf leaves office as the Taliban insurgency in the tribal areas has taken on renewed vigor in the past week, prompting civilians to leave their homes there, and pitting the paramilitary Frontier Corps, directed by the army, directly against the insurgents.
Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, and Tom Rachman from Paris.
August 21, 2008
China’s Rise Goes Beyond Gold Medals
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
China is on track to displace the United States as the winner of the most Olympic gold medals this year. Get used to it.
Today, it’s the athletic surge that dazzles us, but China will leave a similar outsize footprint in the arts, in business, in science, in education.
The world we are familiar with, dominated by America and Europe, is a historical anomaly. Until the 1400s, the largest economies in the world were China and India, and forecasters then might have assumed that they would be the ones to colonize the Americas — meaning that by all rights this newspaper should be printed in Chinese or perhaps Hindi.
But then China and India both began to fall apart at just the time that Europe began to rise. China’s per-capita income was actually lower, adjusted for inflation, in the 1950s than it had been at the end of the Song Dynasty in the 1270s.
Now the world is reverting to its normal state — a powerful Asia — and we will have to adjust. Just as many Americans know their red wines and easily distinguish a Manet from a Monet, our children will become connoisseurs of pu-er tea and will know the difference between guanxi and Guangxi, the Qin and the Qing. When angry, they may even insult each other as “turtle’s eggs.”
During the rise of the West, Chinese culture constantly had to adapt. When the first Westerners arrived and brought their faith in the Virgin Mary, China didn’t have an equivalent female figure to work miracles — so Guan Yin, the God of Mercy, underwent a sex change and became the Goddess of Mercy.
Now it will be our turn to scramble to compete with a rising Asia.
This transition to Chinese dominance will be a difficult process for the entire international community, made more so by China’s prickly nationalism. China still sees the world through the prism of guochi, or national humiliation, and among some young Chinese success sometimes seems to have produced not so much national self-confidence as cockiness.
China’s intelligence agencies are becoming more aggressive in targeting America, including corporate secrets, and the Chinese military is busily funding new efforts to poke holes in American military pre-eminence. These include space weapons, cyberwarfare and technologies to threaten American aircraft carrier groups.
President Bush was roundly criticized for attending the Beijing Olympics, but, in retrospect, I think he was right to attend. The most important bilateral relationship in the world in the coming years will be the one between China and the United States, and Mr. Bush won enormous good will from the Chinese people by showing up.
Having won that political capital, though, Mr. Bush didn’t spend it. Mr. Bush should have spoken out more forcefully on behalf of human rights, including urging Beijing to stop shipping the weapons used for genocide in Darfur.
It’s a difficult balance to get right, but China’s determination to top the gold medal charts — and its overwhelming efforts to find and train the best athletes — bespeaks a larger desire for international respect and legitimacy. We can use that desire also to shame and coax better behavior out of China’s leaders.
When the Chinese government sentences two frail women in their late 70s to labor camp because they applied to hold a legal protest during the Olympics, as it just has, then that is an outrage to be addressed not by “silent diplomacy” but by pointing it out.
We also must recognize that informal pressures are becoming increasingly important. The most important figure in China-U.S. relations today isn’t the ambassador for either country; it is Yao Ming, the basketball player — and David Stern, the commissioner of the N.B.A., is second. The biggest force for democratization isn’t the Group of 7 governments, but is the millions of Chinese who study in the West and return — sometimes with green cards or blue passports, but always with greater expectations of freedom. China’s rise is sustained in part by the way the Communist Party has grudgingly, sometimes incompetently, adapted to these pressures for change.
On this visit, I dropped by the home of Bao Tong, a former senior Communist Party official who spent seven years in prison for challenging the hard-liners during the Tiananmen democracy movement. The guards who monitor him 24/7 let me through when I showed my Olympic press credentials.
Mr. Bao noted that Communist leaders used to actually believe in Communism; now they simply believe in Communist Party rule. He recalled that hard-liners used to fret about the danger of “peaceful evolution,” meaning a gradual shift to a Western-style political and economic system. “Now, in fact, what we have is peaceful evolution,” he noted.
That flexibility is one of China’s great strengths, and it’s one reason that the most important thing going on in the world today is the rise of China — in the Olympics and in almost every other facet of life.
August 25, 2008
After Glow of Games, What Next for China?
By JIM YARDLEY
BEIJING — The elaborate closing ceremony that ended the Olympic Games on Sunday also ended nearly a decade in which the ruling Communist Party had made the Games an organizing principle in national life. Almost nothing has superseded the Olympics as a political priority in China.
For Chinese leaders, all that effort paid off. The Games were seen as an unparalleled success by most Chinese — a record medal count inspired nationwide excitement, and Beijing impressed foreign visitors with its hospitality and efficiency. And while the government’s uncompromising suppression of dissent drew criticism, China also demonstrated to a global audience that it is a rising economic and political power.
But a new, post-Olympic era has begun. The question now is whether a deepening self-confidence arising from the Olympic experience will lead China to further its engagement with the world and pursue deeper political reform, or whether the success of the Games and the muted Western response to repression will convince leaders that their current model is working.
“China was eager to present something that shows it is a new power that has its own might,” said Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. “It has problems, but it is able to manage them. It has weaknesses in its institutions, but also strengths in those same institutions.”
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, declared Sunday afternoon that selecting Beijing as a host had been the “right choice” and that the event had been a bridge between China and the rest of the world. “The world has learned about China, and China has learned about the world,” Mr. Rogge said. “I believe this is something that will have positive effects for the long term.”
To a large degree, the Beijing Games reflected the might of the centralized power of China’s authoritarian system: The stunning sports stadiums contributed to a $43 billion price tag for the Games that was almost completely absorbed by the state. China’s 51 gold medals, the most of any nation, were the product of a state-controlled sports machine. Those successes are one reason that some analysts doubt Chinese leaders will rush to change the status quo.
“They have earned a tremendous amount of face because of the Olympics,” said Hung Huang, a media executive in Beijing. “They are going to ride on that for a while. We don’t have a culture that is pro-change. China, by nature, has got to be provoked to make changes. The economic reforms came about because we were desperately poor.”
Indeed, for all the attention to the Olympics, 2008 also marks the 30th anniversary of China’s initial embrace of the market reforms that have powered the country’s rapid economic rise. As the population becomes more urban and wealthy, the leadership will probably have to contend with rising expectations and demands for better services. Liberals in China have hoped this anniversary would inspire new reforms, especially to a political system still marred by corruption and a lack of transparency.
But critics say that the Olympics have underscored the deep resistance within the Communist Party to becoming more tolerant of dissent. The party had faced a procession of crises during the prelude to the Olympics: the violent Tibetan protests that began in March, the protests during the international Olympic torch relay, and the devastating May earthquake in Sichuan Province.
Protests seemed inevitable during the Games, and the authorities initially seemed to signal more openness toward legal dissent when they announced three designated protest zones in city parks.
But those zones remained empty. Chinese citizens made formal applications to protest, but none were approved during the Games. Two elderly women who applied to protest about a land dispute were sentenced to a labor and re-education prison camp. Meanwhile, eight Americans were among a group of foreigners jailed after they tried to demonstrate about China’s Tibet policies. The authorities released the Americans on Sunday and placed them on a flight to Los Angeles as the closing ceremony began.
“For the Chinese authorities to sentence them at all shows the government’s insecurity and intolerance of even the most peaceful challenges to its authoritarian control,” Students for a Free Tibet, a New York-based advocacy group, said in a statement.
Even so, the Communist Party most likely won the overall public relations battle, given the enormous television coverage, largely positive, that the Olympics brought to Beijing. David Shambaugh, a China specialist at George Washington University in Washington, said the Games were a “win-win” for the party and bolstered its international image. But Mr. Shambaugh said that success would be more meaningful if it increased national confidence in a way that allowed China to move past simmering historical grievances that erupted this year, especially during the Tibet crises.
He said the Games should help China put a symbolic end to its self-described “century of humiliation” that saw the country weakened by foreign intervention that began during the second half of the 19th century. “I would hope that we would look back at this as a major threshold of when China ditched all its baggage of the historical narrative of aggrieved nationalism,” Mr. Shambaugh said, “and just rewrote that narrative and began to act with more confidence about itself and its role in the world.”
No issue poses a more immediate test than Tibet. In October, the Chinese authorities are expected to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. The Communist Party renewed that dialogue after the March crisis, but some analysts questioned whether Chinese officials had agreed to the talks merely to defuse international criticism in advance of the Games. With the Olympics now concluded, China’s willingness to engage in real negotiations will be closely watched.
“That’s going to be a really good test case,” Mr. Shambaugh said.
Beneath the sphere of geopolitics, many analysts were impressed with ordinary citizens in Beijing during the Games. The authorities had worried that the angry strain of nationalism that erupted during the Tibet crisis might mar the Games with local crowds jeering other teams. But little of that came to pass.
Fans even enthusiastically greeted the return of Lang Ping, a volleyball legend in China who now lives in the United States and coaches the United States women’s volleyball team — and guided the United States to a victory over the Chinese team.
Yu Zhou, a Beijing native who is now a professor of geography at Vassar College, returned for the Games and described the positive public mood and welcoming attitude as proof that enhanced national self-esteem would serve as a moderating influence on China. “I would like China to be more confident,” Ms. Yu said. “I think that would make China and Chinese become more tolerant and open.”
Any Olympic host city experiences a blend of letdown and relief once the torch is extinguished, and Beijing is likely to be no different. Major problems will need attention. The relatively blue skies during the Games were achieved only by restrictions that removed two million vehicles from the streets of Beijing and forced the temporary shutdown of many factories around the region. The city’s air pollution, which ranks among the worst in the world, will return when the restrictions are lifted after the conclusion of the Paralympics in late September.
“Beijing will return to being, well, cloudy — full of smog,” said Mr. Shen, the Fudan University professor.
He predicted that the Olympics would raise public expectations. He said Beijing residents, having enjoyed startlingly nice weather during the Games, will demand that officials find ways to keep the skies clearer.
He said the Games would bolster national confidence and help “make China a more normal country.” But he added that the country still had many problems and should not try to hide them or pretend they did not exist.
“With its increase of wealth, China is entering a stage where it needs to have better transparency, good governance and more accountability,” Mr. Shen said. “This Olympics is a good start for us to think about how China is strong — and where we are weak.”
August 27, 2008
A Jihad Grows in Kashmir
By PANKAJ MISHRA
FOR more than a week now, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have filled the streets of Srinagar, the capital of Indian-ruled Kashmir, shouting “azadi” (freedom) and raising the green flag of Islam. These demonstrations, the largest in nearly two decades, remind many of us why in 2000 President Bill Clinton described Kashmir, the Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan, as “the most dangerous place on earth.”
Mr. Clinton sounded a bit hyperbolic back then. Dangerous, you wanted to ask, to whom? Though more than a decade old, the anti-Indian insurgency in Kashmir, which Pakistan’s rogue intelligence agency had infiltrated with jihadi terrorists, was not much known outside South Asia. But then the Clinton administration had found itself compelled to intervene in 1999 when India and Pakistan fought a limited but brutal war near the so-called line of control that divides Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani-held portion of the formerly independent state. Pakistan’s withdrawal of its soldiers from high peaks in Indian Kashmir set off the series of destabilizing events that culminated in Pervez Musharraf assuming power in a military coup.
After 9/11, Mr. Musharraf quickly became the Bush administration’s ally. Seen through the fog of the “war on terror” and the Indian government’s own cynical propaganda, the problem in Kashmir seemed entirely to do with jihadist terrorists. President Musharraf could even claim credit for fighting extremism by reducing his intelligence service’s commitment to jihad in Kashmir — indeed, he did help bring down the level of violence, which has claimed an estimated 80,000 lives.
Since then Pakistan has developed its own troubles with Muslim extremists. Conventional wisdom now has Pakistan down as the most dangerous place on earth. Meanwhile, India is usually tagged as a “rising superpower” or “capitalist success story” — clichés so pervasive that they persuaded even so shrewd an observer as Fareed Zakaria to claim in his new book “The Post-American World” that India since 1997 has been “stable, peaceful and prosperous.”
It is true that India’s relations with Pakistan have improved lately. But more than half a million Indian soldiers still pursue a few thousand insurgents in Kashmir. While periodically holding bilateral talks with Pakistan, India has taken for granted those most affected by the so-called Kashmir dispute: the four million Kashmiri Muslims who suffer every day the misery and degradation of a full-fledged military occupation.
The Indian government’s insistence that peace is spreading in Kashmir is at odds with a report by Human Rights Watch in 2006 that described a steady pattern of arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial execution by Indian security forces — excesses that make the events at Abu Ghraib seem like a case of high spirits. A survey by Doctors Without Borders in 2005 found that Muslim women in Kashmir, prey to the Indian troops and paramilitaries, suffered some of the most pervasive sexual violence in the world.
Over the last two decades, most ordinary Kashmiri Muslims have wavered between active insurrection and sullen rage. They fear, justifiably or not, the possibility of Israeli-style settlements by Hindus; reports two months ago of a government move to grant 92 acres of Kashmiri land to a Hindu religious group are what provoked the younger generation into the public defiance expressed of late.
As always, the turmoil in Kashmir heartens extremists in both India and Pakistan. India has recently suffered a series of terrorist bombings, allegedly by radicals among its Muslim minority. Hindu nationalists have already formed an economic blockade of the Kashmir Valley — an attempt to punish seditious Muslims and to gin up votes in next year’s general elections. In Pakistan, where weak civilian governments in the past sought to score populist points by stirring up the emotional issue of Kashmir, the intelligence service can only be gratified by another opportunity to synergize its jihads in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
What of the Kashmiris themselves, who have repeatedly found themselves reduced to pawns in the geopolitical games and domestic politics of their neighbors? In 1989 and ’90, when few Kashmiris had heard of Osama bin Laden, hundreds of thousands of Muslims buoyed by popular revolutions in Eastern Europe regularly petitioned the United Nations office in Srinagar, hoping to raise the world’s sympathy for their cause. Indian troops responded by firing into many of these largely peaceful demonstrations, killing hundreds of people and provoking many young Kashmiris to take to arms and embrace radical Islam.
A new generation of politicized Kashmiris has now risen; the world is again likely to ignore them — until some of them turn into terrorists with Qaeda links. It is up to the Indian government to reckon honestly with Kashmiri aspirations for a life without constant fear and humiliation. Some first steps are obvious: to severely cut the numbers of troops in Kashmir; to lift the economic blockade on the Kashmir Valley; and to allow Kashmiris to trade freely across the line of control with Pakistan.
India’s record of pitiless intransigence does not inspire much hope that it will take these necessary steps toward the final and comprehensive resolution of Kashmir’s long-disputed status. In fact, an indefinite curfew has already been imposed and Indian troops have again killed dozens of demonstrators. But a brutal suppression of the nonviolent protests will continue to radicalize a new generation of Muslims and engender a fresh cycle of violence, rendering Kashmir even more dangerous — and not just to South Asia this time.
Pankaj Mishra is the author, most recently, of “Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond.”
August 27, 2008
A Biblical Seven Years
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
After attending the spectacular closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics and feeling the vibrations from hundreds of Chinese drummers pulsating in my own chest, I was tempted to conclude two things: “Holy mackerel, the energy coming out of this country is unrivaled.” And, two: “We are so cooked. Start teaching your kids Mandarin.”
However, I’ve learned over the years not to over-interpret any two-week event. Olympics don’t change history. They are mere snapshots — a country posing in its Sunday bests for all the world too see. But, as snapshots go, the one China presented through the Olympics was enormously powerful — and it’s one that Americans need to reflect upon this election season.
China did not build the magnificent $43 billion infrastructure for these games, or put on the unparalleled opening and closing ceremonies, simply by the dumb luck of discovering oil. No, it was the culmination of seven years of national investment, planning, concentrated state power, national mobilization and hard work.
Seven years ... Seven years ... Oh, that’s right. China was awarded these Olympic Games on July 13, 2001 — just two months before 9/11.
As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.
The difference is starting to show. Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.
Then ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?
Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.
I realize the differences: We were attacked on 9/11; they were not. We have real enemies; theirs are small and mostly domestic. We had to respond to 9/11 at least by eliminating the Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan and investing in tighter homeland security. They could avoid foreign entanglements. Trying to build democracy in Iraq, though, which I supported, was a war of choice and is unlikely to ever produce anything equal to its huge price tag.
But the first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, stop digging. When you see how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001, under the banner of the Olympics, and you see how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001, under the banner of the war on terrorism, it’s clear that the next seven years need to be devoted to nation-building in America.
We need to finish our business in Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, which is why it is a travesty that the Iraqi Parliament has gone on vacation while 130,000 U.S. troops are standing guard. We can no longer afford to postpone our nation-building while Iraqis squabble over whether to do theirs.
A lot of people are now advising Barack Obama to get dirty with John McCain. Sure, fight fire with fire. That’s necessary, but it is not sufficient.
Obama got this far because many voters projected onto him that he could be the leader of an American renewal. They know we need nation-building at home now — not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in Georgia, but in America. Obama cannot lose that theme.
He cannot let Republicans make this election about who is tough enough to stand up to Russia or bin Laden. It has to be about who is strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America. The next president can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless, utterly useless, if we, as a country, are weak.
Obama is more right than he knows when he proclaims that this is “our” moment, this is “our” time. But it is our time to get back to work on the only home we have, our time for nation-building in America. I never want to tell my girls — and I’m sure Obama feels the same about his — that they have to go to China to see the future.
September 1, 2008
Tajikistan Hopes Water Will Power Its Ambitions
By DAVID L. STERN
NUREK, Tajikistan — The inscription just above a tunnel at the foot of the colossal Nurek hydropower dam in south central Tajikistan is succinct: “Water Is Life.” The frigid, frothing Vakhsh River rushing under it adds a visual punctuation mark.
In Tajikistan, the source of more than 40 percent of Central Asia’s water, this is no mere platitude. The mountainous state lacks the industry and natural riches that bless other former Soviet Central Asian republics. Water is one of the few resources the country possesses in great abundance.
For this reason, President Emomali Rakhmon has pinned Tajikistan’s economic hopes — and perhaps even its continued political existence — on developing its hydropower potential.
Three projects are either under construction or being considered, including Rogun, a gargantuan structure farther up the Vakhsh River. Tajik officials say they have hopes of building more than 20 hydroelectric plants and dams.
But a number of sizable hurdles must be surmounted before the plans for a great hydropower future can be realized. Tajikistan is in an earthquake zone and the dams must be built to withstand major seismic shocks. Officials are expected to conduct environmental impact studies to determine whether any flora or fauna will be threatened.
The Tajik government is also heavily in debt and must find heavy foreign investment to build the dams. On Wednesday, China agreed to build a $300 million hydroelectric power plant, Nurobad-2, with a capacity of 160 to 220 megawatts. But Tajik officials say Rogun alone will cost up to $3.2 billion.
Further afield, the region’s complicated water politics, where upstream and downstream countries have diametrically opposed needs and aims, threaten to intensify.
Here, water irrigates endless fields of cotton, one of the main sources of income in this primarily agricultural land. Nurek — the world’s highest dam, at 984 feet, and a prestige project of the Soviet Union — is the difference between light and darkness, heat and no heat, for the majority of Tajikistan’s seven million inhabitants, supplying nearly all the country’s energy needs. It also provides cheap electricity to power the Talco aluminum plant, the nation’s largest industrial enterprise.
Rogun, as it is now envisioned, would surpass Nurek’s height by more than 100 feet.
Though for the moment it seems to be managing, Tajikistan threatens to become a failed state, say Western experts and diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. The country still has not fully recovered from a devastating civil war a decade ago. State coffers are virtually empty, while the government is viewed as unable to meet basic needs.
The situation was laid bare last winter when prolonged subzero temperatures overloaded the Soviet-era electrical grid, plunging the entire country into cold and darkness. For Western officials working in Tajikistan, the emergency was a disturbing revelation of the government’s dysfunction.
“The crisis was not caused by the winter weather,” said an official of an American nongovernmental organization, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “The crisis was triggered by the winter weather, but caused by chronic mismanagement.”
All of Tajikistan’s power troubles will be remedied by the dam projects, the Rakhmon government hopes. They will not only provide for all of Tajikistan’s energy needs but also allow the country to export power to neighboring countries.
“It’s a good idea — hydropower is one of the few resources that Tajikistan can exploit,” said John Morgan, an official with Usaid, the American assistance program, and a power specialist. “Power lines could go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are both energy-starved countries, and to the rest of Central Asia as well.”
Rogun, for example, will generate about 13 billion kilowatt hours per year, more than 80 percent of the country’s average consumption, officials at the construction site say. In the short term, Sangtuda-1, a hydropower plant that began operating last winter, will take on some of the country’s electrical heavy lifting, though its introduction failed to resolve the electricity crisis.
But outside investors are leery. While individual investors who are more accepting of risk may materialize, international donor organizations and banks have become more circumspect with Tajikistan. Besides the dysfunction and corruption revealed by the winter crisis, the International Monetary Fund recently announced that Tajikistan had misreported its finances six times over the last decade, an I.M.F. record. President Rakhmon has asked Tajiks to voluntarily forfeit a month’s wages, or about $10 million, to finance the initial building stage.
“I urge all the patriots and sons of our land to take active part in constructing the first phase of the plant and add your contribution to the country’s energy independence,” he said.
Water issues must also be resolved. Central Asia’s disagreements over how to allocate water resources resemble the Middle East’s in their complexity and potential for conflict. Downstream countries, most prominently Uzbekistan, have steadfastly opposed Tajikistan’s hydroelectric plans. The two countries are engaged in an undeclared cold war, Western diplomatic analysts say.
The Uzbeks, who need to provide for their expansive and inefficiently irrigated cotton fields, say that the dams will disturb the water cycle, withholding water in the summer when it is needed and releasing it in the winter for electricity.
Tajik authorities say that the opposite will be true and that the dams will better regulate water distribution: water will be held in the winter and released in the summer.
Other analysts say that the Uzbeks, who supply electricity to Tajikistan, fear they will lose leverage over their neighbors.
“The thing is, the more dams, the more control the Tajiks will have over the water, and that’s what the Uzbeks are afraid of,” said one Western diplomat in the capital, Dushanbe.
September 1, 2008
Russia Claims Its Sphere of Influence in the World
By ANDREW E. KRAMER
MOSCOW — President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Sunday laid out what he said would become his government’s guiding principles of foreign policy after its landmark conflict with Georgia — notably including a claim to a “privileged” sphere of influence in the world.
Speaking to Russian television in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a day before a summit meeting in Brussels where European leaders were to reassess their relations with Russia, Mr. Medvedev said his government would adhere to five principles.
Russia, he said, would observe international law. It would reject what he called United States dominance of world affairs in a “unipolar” world. It would seek friendly relations with other nations. It would defend Russian citizens and business interests abroad. And it would claim a sphere of influence in the world.
In part, Mr. Medvedev reiterated long-held Russian positions, like his country’s rejection of American aspirations to an exceptional role in world affairs after the end of the cold war. The Russian authorities have also said previously that their foreign policy would include a defense of commercial interests, sometimes citing American practice as justification.
In his unabashed claim to a renewed Russian sphere of influence, Mr. Medvedev said: “Russia, like other countries in the world, has regions where it has privileged interests. These are regions where countries with which we have friendly relations are located.”
Asked whether this sphere of influence would be the border states around Russia, he answered, “It is the border region, but not only.”
Last week, Mr. Medvedev used vehement language in announcing Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Though he alluded in passing to respecting Georgia’s territorial integrity, he defended Russia’s intervention as necessary to prevent a genocide.
Mr. Medvedev, inaugurated in May, was an aide to Vladimir V. Putin, the former president and now prime minister.
Mr. Putin appeared on Russian television on Sunday from the nation’s far east, where he was inspecting progress on a trans-Siberian oil pipeline to China and the Pacific Ocean, a clear warning to Europe that Russia could find alternative customers for its energy exports. He was later shown in a forest, dressed in camouflage and hunting a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun.
Leaders of the 27 members of the European Union, who will meet in an emergency session on Monday, were considered highly unlikely to impose sanctions or go beyond diplomatic measures in expressing disapproval of Russia’s conflict with Georgia.
The members in Eastern Europe have tended to be more wary and more confrontational toward Russia, while Western European countries have tended to be more concerned with not jeopardizing energy imports from Russia.
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