Serious confrontations

Was wondering what y’all think of what’s going on in Pakistan.

Yesterday, an attempt to destroy one of the Intelligence Agency centers in Lahore killed more than two dozen people, injured more than three hundred, and destroyed an emergency services building:

Today (28 May 2009), Pakistan the Taliban warned people to evacuate cities (scary !!!).

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My Own Op-Ed

Well I’ve always wanted to write one, this seems the one place which won’t hand me a rejection slip. Moreover, at last, I think, Ive got something  to say that merits being called an Op-Ed.

News headlines in India on 15 May 09 read “Elections too close to call” , “Exit Polls – Fractured Mandate”, “Weeks of horse trading ahead” and so on and so forth.  On 16 May, Indian voters hit all these experts for a six, proved that they can no longer be taken  for granted and that it is now about time someone credited them with plain, simple common sense.

But first the election itself. Except for the odd violence here and there,  perhaps the largest single security operation undertaken by this country was an unqualified success.  60% of the 714 million electorate apparently cast their vote.The verdict was sealed and delivered within a day. The Election Commision did a job that none want to take on and did it with elan.

At last, a very very clear mandate was given to India’s oldest party. Again most of the experts give credit for victory to the Nehru – Gandhi dynasty which controls it. I think they deserve a lot of credit, this time round. Yet I also think that were it not for the unassuming, mild, honest and efficient Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, this verdict would not have been as decisive. At last we have one party, the Congress, which has been asked by the people – rich, poor, urban, rural alike – to give us governance, unencumbered by petty chieftains who with not even 10% stake held the Government to ransom earlier. It is still a coalition, but it is a coalition of the willing, not one stiched up by political expediency and horse trading.

Another redeeming feature was, and this will gladden Harb’s heart too, most of the hoodlums and dons have been shown the door in no uncertain terms.  Some even fought from jail and some others, who were debarred, fought through proxy by getting their wives and kith and kin to stand. Most have been told their days are gone, face the consequences and the law first, before you come back to us.

The poor rural voter was often accused earlier of voting along religious and caste lines. This was true till recently. This time round though, all those who thought caste was a political bond and made up for lack of performance felt the recoil of the common man in no uncertain terms. Similarly those who exploited and banked on religion as a political tool tasted defeat. Their sell by dates have long passed.  Those who delivered governance over the last few years were rewarded and it is  wonderful  to think that we have at last matured as thinking people who  voted on performance and performance alone. Many voters may be illiterate, uneducated and living in abysmal poverty but they now want things and are not going to waste their precious vote on sentiment alone. Foolish promises must now on give way to performance.

The majority of the electorate was under 35, perhaps it is their new found interest in what concerns this country is what brought about this change.

There’s a lot more that can be said, but it is enough to-day to let the Congress celebrate its victory and let them start tomorrow earning points for 2014. Opportunities such as these don’t come often. They need to grab it now and establish themselves. They have been freed from the left yoke, which shackled it  with unmatched arrogance,  there can be no more excuses.

To-day there is just one word that most Indians carry forward  –  optimism.

Are Things Under Control?

I’m sorry I have to ask this but I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone left  who understands what’s going on.

It all started with 9/11 and look where we are now.

First Afghanistan. Then when things were almost under control Iraq was sprung on an unsuspoecting world. Then  back to Afghanistan but it hasn’t stopped there. Now I wonder where this roadshow will end up. Is Pakistan the priority or Afghanistan?

If the idea is that Afghanistan will stabilise once Pakistan is bailed out , I am unable to understand the logic. Sure they are entwined to an extent. Even so, they are two seperate issues altogether and should be handled individually. One cannot run an operation by shifting focus every few weeks. More problems will arise.

The Great Indian Election

Over 700 million voters – more than the total population of the US and more than the combined population of France, UK, Germany and Holland (so I’ve read). Probably 60%  will cast their vote.  All the booths have Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), this sounds simple. Yet it is mind boggling, not just because of sheer numbers. Some booths are located in the boondocks. Officials can reach them only on foot or on mule and horse back.  The EVM – similar to a vertical key board in shape – has to cater to a large section of illiterate voters. Each candidate’s picture, his party symbol and name have to be reflected. I heard that they were also braille friendly, though I’m not sure they were. The number of candidates was also mind boggling. The choice was between 36 worthies in my constituency. This meant three EVMs on display.

There was also the problem of  choosing a candidate. The process finally become one of selecting the lesser evil.  Recall Harb’s thesis on choosing the correct person. Uunfortunately what does one do when there is no right choice/person?  Till last night I was undecided and we had a sort of family conclave to sort out our minds.

The voters too come in all shapes and sizes. From the youthful, bouncy, energetic first timers to the old ancients, equally enthusiastic, some even being carried into the booth in the arms and shoulders  of their family.

Thanks to the ‘international migraine’  infecting our neighbourhood,    terrorism is the biggest concern. Forces  have to be shifted from area to area. The voting process is spread over almost 45 days and  is being conducted in three phases. To-day was the second one. The final results will be out only in mid – May.

Yet at the end of the day one feels dwarfed by the enormity of this whole exercise and I certainly feel a part of  the process.   One little speck out of 700 million others. Yet, I had a voice, if only for a few minutes.

That is the bottom line

Dara

GM Commits Suicide At The Concession Stand

What will it be? If GM cannot appease the Obama administration

with a plan that seems worthwhile, the government will come up

with a brand new PLAN and set them straight. The UAW and it’s

members will have little say on the workings of this new plan.

The workers will have to patiently wait for an actual contract

to mull over. They will be doing this at home instead of in the factories,

for a work stoppage will commence one way or the other.

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Will it work?

Obama’s AF-Pak review has come up with some fresh legs and ideas . There’s also some old wine in new bottles. Am not yet aware of all the details except for what has appeared in the local press and some fairly comprehensive coverage on TV channels.

Personally I like the idea of concentrating on creating a competent Afghan force to look after its own problems over time. This was the focus in Iraq too, didn’t seem to be very successful. Perhaps the lessons learnt there have been assimilated and there will be better results.

Holding Pakistan responsible and extracting commitments from it is, in my view, the key to the whole problem. The key to success in Afghanistan, and success means peace and stability to me, lies in one single question. Does Pakistan have the ability and the desire to take on the Taliban and the Al Qaida? It cannot get away anymore playing footsie with both sides.

Biden’s plan of giving them 1.5 bn a year for the next few years is the old wine stuff. Pakistan has made a flourishing business of taking US money to help it fight its battles. Starting from the ’60s,  its always been with one hand held out for doles.  Just how much of this money has been well spent is a moot question. Personally I think its throwing good money after bad. But the US is rich. I have my doubts this will change attitudes in Pakistan.

I am  not aware of what is planned regarding Afghanistan finding its political feet . The current administration started off with a lot of promise but gradually deteriorated and is now pretty dysfunctional. How is a healthy political environment going to be created and what form will it take?  Given the many tribes and fierce  tribal loyalties, this will not be easy. Yet it is also an imperative.

Now he says “Lets Talk”

Remember Mullah Omar? The guy whose Taliban took Afghanistan into the barbaric age. After the Pak President wrote an Op-ed in an American newspaper about the good and bad Taliban, and Obama endorsed the idea of doing another Iraq by talking to ‘moderate’ elements,  Mr Omar says “speak to me”.

At first I found it funny. However, I have always thought it better to talk than to blow out brains. I think that maybe it’s ok to talk to the guy. Just remember though that the US has a  reward of a few million on this one eyed Jack’s head. The only condition should be that he keeps both hands visible and on the table at all times.

He is reportedly still conducting operations and running his bizzare operation from around Quetta, in Pakistan. Talk to him by all means. I would  keep in mind though that this is the guy who had the Buddha blown up at Bamiyan, whose lackeys carried out executions of women with a bullet through the head during half time at foot ball matches, the guy who is attacking convoys and supply lines and the guy who refused to give up Osama, because as he said, one doesn’t betray a guest in his country.

So when this nut wants to talk, one can bet that he is doing so for a very specific purpose.  He’s either running out of support and finds his leadership under threat. This could be his way of getting back at his adversaries in his fold. Or he could just be plain sick and tired and hoping to get free treatment, kind courtesy Obama. He could be buying time. And maybe, just maybe he has had a change of heart – rather he has probably just discovered he has a heart. So Mr. President, talk to him but never forget he is a leopard.

Dara