Category - Featured Articles

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Forsaken Crimes of Pakistan Army
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Who Framed Wajid Shamsul Hassan?
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Did Obama Declare War On Pakistan?
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Remembering Student Activism by Malik Rashid
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Remembering Prof. Nauman By Malik Rashid
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Welcome to America, Mr. Singh!

Forsaken Crimes of Pakistan Army

a6 December 1971 marked the end of a nine month long saga of chaos; genocide, arson and rape, when Pakistan army surrendered East Pakistan to the Indian army. This day is etched as the day of ultimate betrayal in the hearts and minds of many Pakistanis who were promised by their President and Commander in chief that the fight would continue indefinitely, just a few hours before their 96,000 soldiers surrendered in Dhaka.

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“Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” Robert Payne writes in his book titled ‘Massacre’, referring to a meeting of Pakistan army’s top brass held
on February 22, 1971.

“For month after month in all the regions of East Pakistan the massacres went on,” writes Robert Payne. “They were not the small casual killings of young officers who wanted to demonstrate their
efficiency, but organized massacres conducted by sophisticated staff officers, who knew exactly what they were doing. Muslim soldiers, sent out to kill Muslim peasants, went about their work mechanically and efficiently, until killing defenseless people became a habit like smoking cigarettes or drinking wine. … Not since Hitler invaded Russia had there been so vast a massacre.” Robert Payne goes on to assert through his analysis that military dictatorship is the most corrupt form of government.

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R.J. Rummel, in his book ‘Death by government’ describes: These “willing executioners” were fuelled by an abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority. “Bengalis were often
compared with monkeys and chickens” said Pakistani General Niazi, ‘It was a low lying land of low lying people.’ The Hindus among the Bengalis were as Jews to the Nazis: scum and vermin that [should] best
be exterminated. As to the Moslem Bengalis, they were to live only on the sufferance of the soldiers: any infraction, any suspicion cast on them, any need for reprisal, could mean their death. And the  soldiers were free to kill at will. The journalist Dan Coggin quoted one Punjabi captain as telling him, ‘We can kill anyone for anything. We are accountable to no one.’ This is the arrogance of Power.

Susan Brownmiller, in her book “Against our will: Men, women and rape” puts the number of women raped from 200,000 to 400,000. She wrote, “Eighty percent of the raped women were Moslems, reflecting the population of Bangladesh, but Hindu and Christian women were not exempt. … Hit-and-run rape of large numbers of Bengali women was brutally simple in terms of logistics as the Pakistani regulars swept through and occupied the tiny, populous land …”  Brownmiller quotes  a description of one such assault which targeted a recently-married woman, as reported by Aubrey Menen: “Two [Pakistani soldiers] went into the room that had been built for the bridal couple. The others
stayed behind with the family, one of them covering them with his gun. They heard a barked order, and the bridegroom’s voice protesting. Then there was silence until the bride screamed. Then there was silence again, except for some muffled cries that soon subsided. In a few minutes one of the soldiers came out, his uniform in disarray. He grinned to his companions. Another soldier took his place in the extra room. And so on, until all the six had raped the belle of the village. Then all six left, hurriedly. The father found his daughter lying on the string cot unconscious and bleeding. Her husband was crouched on the floor, kneeling over his vomit.”

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he human death toll reported during this nine month long genocide varies from 300,000 to 3 million. Mukti Bahini, the armed volunteers waging guerilla war against Pakistan army with the help of India,
avenged by murdering Biharis, the urdu-speaking migrants. Tens of thousands of Bihari men, women and children were murdered, their property looted and women raped. Biharis saw another round of murder after December 16, as Bengalis celebrated their independence by killing the friends of Pakistan army.

With signing of the surrender document, 96,000 Pakistani soldiers and civilians were interned into Indian jails and camps. Indian government that gloated on the success of their war against traditional rivals and gleefully announced themselves as liberators of Bengalis, did not mind sending the perpetrators of genocide back to Pakistan, after a deal was struck on border disputes. Those who committed murder and rape of their fellow countrymen in East Pakistan returned home to
receive pension from the national ex-chequer and they were awarded lands. A commission was set to investigate the war but its findings were never made public in Pakistan.

1971_E_Pakistan3Two and a half million Biharis languished in refugee camps and their demand to be repatriated to Pakistan was struck down by various Pakistani governments. Families in those refugee camps lived under inhuman conditions for almost four decades and saw another generation grow-up.  A few months ago the Supreme Court of Bangladesh decreed that Biharis be considered citizens of the country and allowed them to vote.

The army took over the rein of power again in Pakistan in 1977 and executed the elected Prime minister. They partnered with America in their war against Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the world forgot their crimes of 1971. There was military operation in Baluchistan. Sindhis were brutalized during Zia’s regime and Pakhtuns have been thrown in a war for 3 decades. The army/ISI, with its choke-hold on President Zardari’s government seems poised to push Sindhis into a clash again.

Pakistan army continues with its murderous ways and receives praise and aid for its efforts. With the International tribunal conducting trials and issuing warrants against culprits of crimes against
humanity, one wonders whether Pakistan army did commit any crime or the victims of their crimes were not humans.

Who Framed Wajid Shamsul Hassan?

Before I write this column here is my disclaimer: Wajid Shamsul Hassan, Pakistan High Commissioner in the UK was editor of The Daily News, Karachi- where I launched my journalism career in 1986. He was my mentor and I am still obliged to his kindness, and guidance. However, I have not benefited from his political positions or government assignments.

Pakistan’s real rulers- the men in khakhi uniforms with stars on their shoulders and all type of fancy color combo badges on their chest, have decided to muzzle the nation again. Because of the direct orders from their American masters this time around they are being subtle about this sudden change.

Instead of removing the elected President Asif Ali Zardari in the middle of the night, they have clipped his wings in broad day light. The Pakistani President practically has no power left. His office is just symbolic; his sway is meaningless.

After the Kerry-Lugar Bill fiasco, the Pakistani envoy in Washington DC, Hussain Haqqani, was ridiculed and sidelined. As a representative of President Asif Ali Zardari he, like the president, has lost influence.

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I have been critical of Ambassador Haqqani as well.  I had questioned how he could reconcile the intellectual Haqqani who has written one of the most credible books on Pakistan’s recent history, “Between Mosque and Military”, a detailed expose on Pakistan’s military mafia and how they have used Mullahs and mosques; and, the Ambassador Haqqani who must represent Pakistan’s civilian government along with that same army.  My fears that you can’t reconcile darkness and light, truth and lies, monsters and victims, proved true.

The second victim of the ISI onslaught was Pakistan’s envoy in London, Wajid Shamsul Hassan.

Many TV journalists including yours truly were made aware that something big was about to happen in Geneva. They were told by army types working in embassies around Europe and the US that their all expense paid trip to Geneva will be a career changing story.

Army and ISI representatives in London, Geneva, Washington DC, and Bern were very actively cajoling credible TV journalists to visit Geneva for an ‘on the spot coverage,’ without explaining what it was for.  When no professional journalist agreed, they brought an unknown stringer for Jang from the Italian city of Carpi on an all expense paid trip to Geneva. Jawaid Kanwal- the stringer had never done a TV news package and the Geo team in Karachi assembled, edited and produced the entire segment with the b-roll that he had sent.

The gentleman who was the liaison in Europe is a known mid level ISI representative in Geneva who is also an office bearer of PML-N, Naseer Malik (owns and operates a local liquor store). He called TV correspondents several times to persuade them to come over with a camera person. Naseer Malik knew exactly what time Wajid Shamsul Hassan will arrive; he knew what type of car he will be using; he knew the license plate of the car.

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The stringer, Jawaid Kanwal, who claims to have a PhD in photography from University of Lahore ( I checked again and no one offers a PhD in photography in Pakistan), walked away famous and wealthier. He simply fell pray to a campaign launched by ISI’s Joint Counterintelligence Bureau. This group of spies is responsible for the surveillance of Pakistani diplomats abroad.

I am not sure if Wajid Shamsul Hasan is guilty of any crime or not; I feel jury is still out. If he has breached law and if the story is accurate than I hope he will resign and face the legal consequences. But I condemn the way he was framed.

In Washington DC and London, diplomatic missions provide an ideal cover and ISI centers are located on the embassy premises. These are the ones that we know of.

But outside the premises of these embassies, ISI operatives often find good cover working closely with the Pakistani community as businessmen. Naseer Malik is a great example. Beside him several very suspicious characters present themselves as journalist because this garb provides freedom of movement. No wonder during press conferences in Geneva whenever Pakistan’s army rule and human rights issues are questioned Naseer Malik is always there in the first row- to disrupt and derail the conversation.

Pakistan’s Mission to the United Nations in Geneva under the leadership of Zameer Akram was front and center in framing Wajid Shamsul Hassan. Zameer Akram is brother of the infamous Munir Akram – former Pakistan diplomat to the United Nations accused of assaulting a mistress in his New York apartment.

Sources in Intelligence Bureau (civilian intelligence organization of Pakistan) admit that they were blindsided by ISI’s  “Operation Kill Democracy,” but now they have sufficient evidence as to how the media was used to embarrass an envoy and Pakistan’s democratically elected president.

In his many speeches throughout the U.S. former President Pervez Musharraf has been vociferously defending the army and the ISI arguing that they do what all national security apparti do in every country. If that is the case, they at least do so under the guise and sanction of a democratically elected government.  In fact, during Musharraf’s Presidency Pakistan was often ridiculed and maligned for its lack of democratic institutions, frequently characterized as a banana republic; a charge that Musharraf was completely ineffective in responding to.

If Pakistan is to redeem itself in the world and defend its sovereignty from a position of power and credibility it can only do so through democratic institutions. Those who actively seek to undermine those institutions are the real threat to our national security. Indeed, Pakistan’s fragile democracy is still being held hostage by the Army. Hopefully Pakistani people will rise to the occasion, and push the men in boots back to the barracks.  We are now approaching a new era of world governance and without a viable democracy Pakistan will not even have a seat at the table.

Did Obama Declare War On Pakistan?

Speaking to a hall full of cadets at the US Military Academy of West Point, President Barack Obama almost seemed like he might be declaring war on Pakistan. Every time he mentioned Afghanistan, Pakistan preceded mention.
Sitting at the back benches of the hall at one point I almost jumped out of my chair when he said: “the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.”  I was shocked because a succession of American officials recently confirmed that the Pakistani arsenal is secure. Through leaks that are whispered in our ears, however, we were told that Americans commissioned studies on how vulnerable Pakistani warheads and laboratories would be if insurgents made greater inroads. Talk like this only serves to embolden those terrorist elements that seek to destabilize the entire region.
I didn’t get a clear sense as to what President Obama might do in Pakistan – and that makes me more nervous. What we hear is that the US will not do anything overt in Pakistan to deflect criticism and mitigate risk. A report in New York Times suggest (again based on leaks) that there will be a two pronged approach- CIA  led covert operations and, to mitigate risks ,the US will sub-contract the overt war within Pakistani borders to the nation’s army.
So basically President Obama confirmed the narrative that was being constructed through leaks to the media for the past 8 years.
Report also claim that President Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan and the Pakistan army is onboard. Many Pakistanis fear that more U.S. troops mean more of the nightmare that we have been living with for the past several years including  more drones, additional CIA and private boots on the ground operating co-overtly, more money for the ISI, and moral support for the army.  Don’t be surprised by drone attacks in Baluchistan as well.
President Obama defined his strategy with three core elements: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.
In the corridors of West Point we met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I asked her what will happen if Pakistan’s democratic government was destabilized. She said “we hope it won’t come to that”. We know people of Pakistan want democracy. We hope whatever the political problems are internally they will be worked out in a lawful and constitutional manner.”  When asked if her government will engage with a dictator should martial law be implemented in Pakistan, she responded, “ in my dealings with the military leadership I have no indication that they are looking to do anything except supporting the democratically elected government.”

Speaking to a hall full of cadets at the US Military Academy of West Point, President Barack Obama almost seemed like he might be declaring war on Pakistan. Every time he mentioned Afghanistan, Pakistan preceded mention.

Sitting at the back benches of the hall at one point I almost jumped out of my chair when he said: “the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.”  I was shocked because a succession of American officials recently confirmed that the Pakistani arsenal is secure. Through leaks that are whispered in our ears, however, we were told that Americans commissioned studies on how vulnerable Pakistani warheads and laboratories would be if insurgents made greater inroads. Talk like this only serves to embolden those terrorist elements that seek to destabilize the entire region.

I didn’t get a clear sense as to what President Obama might do in Pakistan – and that makes me more nervous. What we hear is that the US will not do anything overt in Pakistan to deflect criticism and mitigate risk. A report in New York Times suggest (again based on leaks) that there will be a two pronged approach- CIA  led covert operations and, to mitigate risks ,the US will sub-contract the overt war within Pakistani borders to the nation’s army.

So basically President Obama confirmed the narrative that was being constructed through leaks to the media for the past 8 years.

Report also claim that President Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan and the Pakistan army is onboard. Many Pakistanis fear that more U.S. troops mean more of the nightmare that we have been living with for the past several years including  more drones, additional CIA and private boots on the ground operating co-overtly, more money for the ISI, and moral support for the army.  Don’t be surprised by drone attacks in Baluchistan as well.

President Obama defined his strategy with three core elements: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

In the corridors of West Point we met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I asked her what will happen if Pakistan’s democratic government was destabilized. She said “we hope it won’t come to that”. We know people of Pakistan want democracy. We hope whatever the political problems are internally they will be worked out in a lawful and constitutional manner.”  When asked if her government will engage with a dictator should martial law be implemented in Pakistan, she responded, “ in my dealings with the military leadership I have no indication that they are looking to do anything except supporting the democratically elected government.”

Here is the transcript because YouTube audio is not that good:

{Obama administration has been very supportive of democratic process in Pakistan but the democratic government seems instable. What will be the impact if current government is destabilized?

Well we hope it doesn’t come to that because the people of Pakistan want democracy and we hope whatever internal political problems there might be can be worked out in lawful and constitutional manner. What’s important is for us to partner with Pakistani people. So of course when I came to visit I met with democratically elected government officials – president and prime minister and foreign minister and other ministers as well as members  of parliament. We also met with the military, head of ISI. We believe the future for Pakistan is so positive but of course there has to be stability. There has to be kind of security that military is fighting for in South Waziristan. And, there has to be kind of political stability that comes with a solid democracy. We hope that can be worked out.

Will you engage with Pakistani military if there was a martial law?

Well we hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t want to speculate. I think that — in my talking to the military I didn’t get any indication that they have any intention of doing anything except supporting democratically elected government. Now, I know there are all kinds of challenges to the current government that is for the people of Pakistan- your political process to work out. But of course we want to see a strong, vibrant democracy. And, that is what we are going to continue to support.}

Off the record conversations with US officials indicated that they have diversified contacts in Pakistan: Mr. Hollbrooke called Mr. Nawaz Sharif prior to Obama’s Afghanistan strategy speech. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is talked about with more respect than ever before.

It is pretty evident from Ms. Clinton’s response above as well that democratic process should not be confused with President Zardari’s rule. I believe Americans realize that President Zardari may have only symbolic position going forward and they are prepared to deal with anyone and everyone who represents Pakistan.

I really hope New York Times report is incorrect that there is no expansion of the war. I, absolutely support eradicating terrorists where ever they maybe: but in the process let’s not create more terrorists.

Remembering Student Activism by Malik Rashid

NSF

ews of student-protest at University of California against budget-cuts and fee-hike took my mind wandering into the early 70s when passionate indulgence in student-activism defined my existence, in Karachi, Pakistan. Be it rising bus-fares, appalling work conditions for primary and secondary school teachers or police brutality, students flocked the streets in protest. Cyclostyling and distributing pamphlets, writing slogans and postering, organizing meetings, strikes and processions, I remember working 72 hours straight, without any sleep or much to eat.

The enormity of the students’ movement could be compared to one of those heavily funded and organized, once in a life-time event, by political parties such as the BeNazeer reception of 18th. October 2007. Students could muster a bigger crowd in Karachi instantaneously. Such following for student activism was the result of hard, honest and passionate work put in by my predecessors. In the paragraphs below, I will try to depict the deterioration that set-in, by sharing instances and events I experienced.

pakistan-student-unionIn 1972, Pakistan Peoples Party had come to power and Z.A. Bhutto was thrown the first curve ball when his cousin, Mumtaz Bhutto’s government presented a language bill in Sindh assembly making Sindhi the official language of the province. I had witnessed turmoil over such issues in East Pakistan and believed that the rights of indigenous population must be respected but the sentiments in Karachi was flared by Raees Amrohvi’s famous couplet published in “Jang” claiming this act of parliament as death for Urdu language. I was preparing for my 12th. grade exam with a friend who was affiliated with National Students Federation(Kazmi). The house where we studied was visited by Amir Hyder Kazmi and others. They knew of my opposition to their stance and took my friend out with them to brief him. During our 12th grade at college, my friend and I stood for the unity of students and got our panel elected as office bearers of the students union. This language turmoil was the first when I experienced the split between students of NSF(Rasheed), to which I was affiliated and NSF(Kazmi) , which my friend subscribed to, getting wider and deeper. However, NSF(Kazmi), that sought to garner support with their opposition to Sindhi language, lost their credibility in the eyes of progressive students and that organization withered away.

By the end of 1972, a convention of National Students Federation(Rasheed), which was called NSF(Pakistan), due to its presence in Sindh, Punjab and NWFP, was scheduled on 7th. of January 1973. The convention would inaugurate the office-bearers for Karachi chapter. A public meeting was to be held to commemorate the January 1953 student uprising the next day at Dow Medical College. Meraj Mohammad Khan had recently returned from his brief stint as Federal Minister in Bhutto’s cabinet and the induction of new office-bearers for 1973 caused a split. A patch-up was reached through negotiations and Ghafoor Kasi, a pushtun student of Dow Medical College, who hailed from Baluchistan became the President.

Couple of months later, a public meeting of NSF was in session at Karachi University when two gun bearing associates of Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba’s thunder-squad, interrupted. Wahab Siddiqui(late) had condemned the al-Shams and al-Badar volunteers for massacre in Bengal. These gun-wielding intruders approached Wahab while he was delivering his speech, pointed gun at him and demanded that he retract his condemnation. When we tried to diffuse the situation, they yelled, “Retract or disperse”. We dispersed and avoided a clash. This episode left a bitter taste of helplessness against gun-toting bullies.

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Hafeez Peerzada, the minister for education and law in ZA Bhutto’s cabinet was paying a visit to Karachi University to initiate a students’ organization. NSF was embroiled in a conflict within its ranks that started before the convention of 1973. The evening before the arrival of the minister, I found myself hanging out with Abid Ali Syed, who earned repute as a journalist later. Abid and I decided to write slogans against government policies on university walls. Abid owned a Honda50 motor-cycle which was sufficient for the two of us to bring the necessary supplies (a bucket full of red color and a brush). We were apprehended in the middle of the night and presented before University Registrar who threatened to hand us over to the police if we continued writing on the walls. He ordered the university guards to wipe off the slogans and allowed us to leave. We rode Abid’s Honda50 to Nazimabad where a pamphlet was written and cyclostyled. This process took a few hours and we were back at the campus to greet the first bus bringing University students, with our pamphlet against the ministerial visit. By 9’o clock the minister arrived at a decorated stage walking on the red carpet laid for him. Some leaders of Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba threw flower-pots at the minister and charged at the stage. The minister jumped to the back of the stage and ran through the Arts corridor towards University road. Two hours later the students of Karachi University witnessed a spectacular procession of about 50 jeeps carrying weird looking characters. The minister arrived with armed loyalists and the University authorities accommodated his entourage at the arts auditorium. The president of the students union, who belonged to Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba was forced to address from the podium and he raised the “Jeay Bhutto” slogan, under pressure.

Later during that year, NSF split into two factions. The reasons for division had nothing to do with issues concerning students. There was no difference of opinion on education, literacy, gender-equality, health-care or freedom of speech. Some had objections on Russia being referred as imperialist. Some made it a point to condemn ‘Soviet imperialism’ while referring to the military operation in Baluchistan. Minuscule communist parties with negligible following wrestled to possess this student organization and divided it.

During 1974 and 1975, progressive students held their strength by winning student union elections in most of the colleges in the city. The primary and secondary school teachers went on a strike for their demands. NSF supported and organized strike and a huge procession of teachers, students and political activists marched the city. In 1975, a police officer of North Nazimabad police station entered the premise of Shipowners College and shot a member of NSF. The students of Karachi went on a strike and the protest was supported by all students. Even the Jamaatis joined in the large procession that started from Government College Nazimabad and headed to the Deputy Commissioner’s office. It was a mile long crowd of marching students. There were no stalls on the way to replenish these students with water or food. There was no personal reward in it but they stood up for their rights and opposed state-repression. During this period NSF lost election in their stronghold of Dow Medical College as the ethnic divide resurfaced in the form of Mohajir Students Organisation.

Above incidents that I narrated depict political opportunism, violence and bullying, conspiracy to divide the student-power and the determination of some free souls to stand up against repression. The years that followed saw the rise of gun-violence and murders at campus. Jamaat-e-Islami, MQM and Peoples Party, all contributed to the gun culture. Martial-law regime of Zia-ul-Haq promoted religious conservatism and Afghan war brought a flood of weapons and drugs. Subsequent short spells of democracy did nothing to purge the society of violence. Instead, the political parties fortified their own ranks with weapon-wielding volunteers and guards.

NSF used to organize medical camps in the poorest neighborhoods of Karachi where students of Dow Medical College provided vaccination and medicine. Regular publication of a student magazine was considered compulsory. Promoting reading by establishing neighborhood library which could serve as a literacy & vocation training centre could become a productive outlet for student activists in Pakistan.

Remembering Prof. Nauman By Malik Rashid

(Professor Nauman, a leading Marxist, a well know activists who had touched lives of many of us in Karachi passed away last week. Below is a work in progress : a fellow activist recalls how Professor Mohammad Nauman, associate professor with the NED University made an impression his life.)

A convention of National Students Federation (NSF) Karachi was scheduled to be held on January 7, 1973 but members were sharply divided over issues ranging from an earlier stance of Bangladesh-Namanzoor to loyalty towards Meraj Mohammad Khan.

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I was new to the organization and believed that the two groups formed thus far could pitch their candidates and let the general members decide through votes. But senior members of the two groups felt that election on convention floor would split the organization.

Therefore conciliation efforts started. Dow Medical College was the venue of hectic politicking. Nauman, who was pitched for President by one group represented one side in these talks while the other side was represented by Zahid Hussain. After days and nights of negotiations the two sides reached a settlement. A cabinet of NSF,

Karachi, consisting of the two groups was agreed upon. Ghafoor Kasi became President and Sohail Ahmed was declared General Secretary. Nauman made the central working committe.

However, this patch-up did not last long and the members finally split a few months later. During those few days, I was approached by both sides and opinions on every political issue under the sun was expressed. Nauman was quite articulate in expressing his views and criticized the other side without raising his voice. Though I decided to align myself with Rasheed Hassan Khan's group and they retracted from their stance of Bangladesh-Namanzoor, but Nauman left a deep impression on my mind because of his rational arguments and gentle demeanor.

Welcome to America, Mr. Singh!

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When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes to Washington DC next week his priority number one will be to dispel any doubts of Washington’s commitment to New Delhi in a region where it rivals China and Pakistan — both seen as U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Indian diplomats and White House representative tell us that two leaders will discuss issues ranging from environment to accelerating the completion of a landmark civilian nuclear deal signed last year with Bush administration. It is rather interesting that Mr. Singh will be in Washington a week after President Obama in Beijing pledged to strengthen ties with China.

It is no secret that America views India as a countervailing force against rising China. America encourages India’s increasing involvement in Afghanistan, and calculates that Indian and American interests coincide in seeking to develop pipelines that would draw central Asia’s oil reserves toward the Indian Ocean.

Analysts argue that the current Indo-US relationship is good, but lacks a central defining issue, such as the civilian nuclear deal, that shaped the relationship during the presidency of George Bush.

Singh and Obama will try to regain some of the momentum back- with possibly more Indian involvement in Afghanistan.  India has been critical of the Obama administrations Afghan strategy and claims it’s focus on Pakistan comes at the expense of other regional stakeholders such as India. India and the US have been concerned with China’s engagement in Afghanistan as well.

Indian policy makers viewed the Afghan war a godsend – an opportunity to reverse Pakistan’s increased influence in Afghanistan and more importantly to advance its geopolitical interests in oil-rich central Asia. It was based on these two key fundamentals that India decided to support the US invasion of Afghanistan. India facilitated contact with  Northern Alliance and provided intelligence from ground.

Just like America had showered Pakistan with ‘blessings’, Bush administration also expanded ties with India for being it’s eyes and ears on Afghan soil. This romance developed so rapidly that the US declared its eagerness to assist India in becoming a “world power.”  For the services rendered to the ‘new masters,’ India received a unique status within the world nuclear regulatory regime – despite being a non signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But India has been sensitive to Washington’s perceived growing ties with China and Pakistan. During his presidential campaign, Obama had committed to addressing regional issues including Kashmir.

India has also complained abut Obama administrations’ stance on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on all nations to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India has refused to sign the CTBT on the grounds that it could imperil the development of India’s “strategic deterrent,” i.e. its nuclear weapons arsenal.

This week Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued a joint statement pledging to “promote peace, stability and development” in south Asia. Indian Foreign Ministry fired back: “The Government of India is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through a peaceful bilateral dialogue in accordance with the Simla Agreement. A third country role cannot be envisaged.”

India has been inserting itself in Afghanistan in past years. But India is not completely behind Karzai government either- Hamid Karzai believes a negotiated solution of Afghan problem is possible. He is intent on persuading sections of the Taliban to enter into peace negotiations and ultimately incorporating them into Afghanistan’s government. Indian officials and media commentators have repeatedly declared that there is no such thing as “good Taliban.”  Indians fear that Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan will grow significantly in the event of a rapprochement with elements hitherto associated with the Taliban.

Obama is likely to assure Singh that his country’s interest will be protected in Afghanistan.

Singh needs this assurance specially because General Stanley McChrystal in a confidential report submitted to the US President Barack Obama on August 30 wrote: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”

Needless to say Indians did not fancy McChrystal’s recommendation.

The Indian government has invested more than $1.2 billion since 2001. Mr. Singh will want Obama to ensure that McChrystal’s reports lands in the trash and a guarantee Obama will facilitate India’s regional hegemonic role. From what I hear in Washington DC, it seems Singh will leave happy.

Indians were busy today (Friday) on the Hill to make progress on the civilian nuclear deal. America wants guarantees from New Delhi — that it won’t pass on its nuclear know-how. In other words- India will not proliferate but India refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

During her recent visit to India Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a deal allowing two US companies, General Electric and Westingouse, to build a pair of new nuclear power reactors at a cost of $10 billion. Before any contracts are signed, the US companies are asking the Indian parliament to pass legislation which would limit the companies’ liability in case of nuclear accidents.

Before this deal goes any further, Indian law needs to be modified to set limits on the liability assessed to American companies involved with any kind of nuclear development. Even in the United States, liability is limited to about $11 billion, whereas the damage caused by accidents at nuclear power plants are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. US companies want similar liability protections, and it remains to be seen whether the Indian parliament will satisfy those requests.

Under current international law, the nuclear industry, or rather, state-owned nuclear enterprises, operate under sovereign limitation. In other words, Russian and French nuclear reactors can protected by the built-in liability insurance provided by their respective governments, since they are publicly owned. However, Westinghouse and General Electric are not accorded this same security, as they are privately owned. In an analogous circumstance, during the US-Russia negotiations over the use of Cold War plutonium, including surplus plutonium from weapons in Russian reactors, the failure to arrive at a liability agreement was the major stumbling block in the execution of the deal.

The Convention on Supplementary Compensation is a UN convention responsible for limited liability, and its aim is essentially to deny fair compensation. Basically, the US wants India to sign and ratify this convention as a precondition of their participation in the deal. This is a topic that has not been the subject of the domestic debate as of yet, because there were bigger barriers the governments of India and the US government had to cross. Now that those obstacles have all but been bulldozed, this issue of liability protection is bound to be quite politically sensitive. The text of the defense agreement has not been made public, and chances are slim that it will be made public in its full form. Nor do we know, as of now, the future locations of the specific reactor sites.

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