Sunday, October 31, 2004

Global Jihad: Transcript of Osama bin Laden's Speech

A frame grab taken from a videotape aired by Al-Jazeera news channel on October 29, 2004.

No, we fight because we are free men who do not sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our Nation and just as you lay waste to our Nation so shall we lay waste to yours. But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real cause and thus the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred. We have not found it difficult to deal with the Bush administration in light of the resemblance it bears to the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half of which are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents. Our experience with them is lengthy and both types are replete with those who are characterised by pride, arrogance, greed and misappropriation of wealth.

To begin: Peace be upon he who follow the Guidance.

People of United States, this talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan and deals with the war and its causes and results.

Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar in human life and that free men do not forfeit their security contrary to Bush's claims that we hate freedom.

If so, then let him explain why did not strike - for example - Sweden.

And we know that freedom haters do not possess defiant spirits like those of the 19 may Allah have mercy on them.

No, we fight because we are free men who do not sleep under oppression.

We want to restore freedom to our Nation and just as you lay waste to our Nation so shall we lay waste to yours.

But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real cause and thus the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred.

So I shall talk to you about the story behind those events and I shall tell you truthfully about the moments in which the decision was taken for you to consider.

I say to you Allah knows that it had never occurred to us to strike towers.

But after it became unbearable and we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the America/Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind.

The events that affected my soul in a difficult way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American 6th fleet helped them in that.

And the whole world saw and heard but did not respond.

In those difficult moments many hard to describe ideas bubbled in my soul but in the end they produced intense feelings of rejection of tyranny and gave birth to a strong resolve

And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressors in kind and that we destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

We have not found it difficult to deal with the Bush administration in light of the resemblance it bears to the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half of which are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents.

Our experience with them is lengthy and both types are replete with those who are characterised by pride, arrogance, greed and misappropriation of wealth.

This resemblance began after the visits of Bush Senior to the region at a time when some of our compatriots were dazzled by America and hoping that these visits would have an effect on our countries. All of a sudden he was affected by these monarchies and military regimes and became jealous of their remaining decades in their position to embezzle the public wealth of the Nation without supervision or accounting.

So he took dictatorship and suppression of freedoms to his son and they named it the Patriot Act under the pretences of fighting terrorism.

In addition, Bush sanctioned the installing of sons as state governors and did not forget to import expertise in election fraud from the regions presidents to Florida to be made use of in moments of difficulty.

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration.

And for the record, we had agreed with the Commander-General Muhammad Ataa, Allah have mercy on him, that all the operations should be carried out within 20 minutes before Bush and his administration notice.

It never occurred to us that the Commander in Chief of the armed forces would abandon 50,000 of his citizens in the twin towers to face those great horrors alone at a time when they most needed him.

But because it seemed to him that occupying himself by talking to the little girl about the goat and its butting was more important than occupying himself with the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers we were given three times the period required to execute the operations.

All praise is due to Allah.

WPR 31/10/2004

Pakistan: Where US policies foster suspicion and hatred

Aisha studies at a Karachi school that receives support from Pakistani American women in Southern California. In Pakistan, where fewer than 30% of girls older than 15 are literate, this 15-year-old wants to be a lawyer when she grows up


Some small exchange programs remain, but over the last two years the number of Pakistanis coming for business, tourism and short-term education plummeted almost by half, to about 31,000. Regular visitors, including former Pakistani government officials, journalists and businesspeople, are routinely pulled aside for questioning and searches. Many no longer want to make the trip. Continue down this path, said Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, and the United States will be handing the militants a huge victory. "You should not let this feeling of bias continue," he said, "because ultimately, that would be the biggest disadvantage, and the perpetrators of the 9/11 crime would have succeeded beyond measure."
In Pakistan, U.S. Policies Foster Suspicion and Hatred
Evelyn Iritani

'I personally feel Americans are losing friends in Pakistan very, very rapidly.'
-- Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistani lawmaker

"We have failed to listen and we have failed to persuade. We have not taken the time to understand our audience and we have not bothered to help them understand us. We cannot afford such shortcomings."

— White House Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — As he watched the collapse of the World Trade Center on his television screen, Imran Hamid's mind raced. What was happening to the Indian friend who had lent him a New York apartment a few months earlier? Classmates from the United Nations high school he attended in the 1960s? The Jewish butcher he befriended while studying at Columbia University?

In the weeks that followed, Hamid traded e-mails and phone calls with friends in America, confirming their safety and sharing their anguish.

"I'm as much a New Yorker as anything else," said the 53-year-old development consultant, sipping a cappuccino in his Islamabad living room, where he surrounds himself with American jazz and classical records and English-language books.

But with each passing day, Hamid's empathy is eroding. He believes that the Bush administration, by pursuing a foreign policy fixated on security, is turning a legitimate battle against terrorism into a campaign of hatred against Muslims.

Take a look around, he says, and you will see the evidence: In the mountains of Afghanistan, where U.S. troops pursue the remnants of the Taliban; the limestone hills of the West Bank, where Palestinians battle America's ally, Israel; at U.S. consular offices and airports where Muslims are subject to extra scrutiny before being allowed into the country. And at prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Many Americans might find it hard to recognize their country in the portrait that emerges across the Muslim world. Bush administration officials argue that their military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the security crackdown at home — though certain to anger many Muslims — are a necessary part of fighting terrorism and protecting the United States. In an effort to improve its image among Islamic nations, the U.S. government has offered increased aid and trade privileges. Officials say that they are working out kinks in the visa-processing system and that they have launched new broadcast services to reach out to the Muslim world.

But even U.S. officials acknowledge that Washington has done a poor job explaining its policies, particularly to Muslims. The struggle for hearts and minds is more than a public relations war, and the stakes in Pakistan are among the highest.

Pakistani politicians and business leaders who once looked to America for ideas and support are strengthening ties with the Muslim world and China. Anti-Americanism has become a powerful tool for religious militants. Even well-meaning U.S. efforts, such as aiding schools, are viewed with suspicion.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, one of the Bush administration's strongest allies in its war on terrorism, has been rewarded with a $3-billion aid package. Though deeply divided by religion and ethnicity, Pakistan — one of the world's most populous Islamic countries — has maintained democratic aspirations that set it apart from many other parts of the Muslim world.

But Pakistan also is home to a strong, militant Islamic movement that has tried to assassinate Musharraf and other high-ranking officials. Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding along its border with Afghanistan, and several leading Al Qaeda figures have been captured here.

The South Asian nation, which has engaged in three wars with neighboring India since 1947, also possesses nuclear weapons. A leading scientist has acknowledged selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Hamid said that in a country squeezed between Musharraf, a general who seized power in 1999, and Islamic extremists, there is little room for Western-educated moderates. He acknowledged with colorful hyperbole that his attitude toward the bearded militants had changed.

"A few years ago, if I answered the door and saw a man with a beard, I would have grabbed a shotgun and chased him away," he said. "Now I would have to hide him under my bed so he wouldn't be dragged away to Guantanamo Bay and be tortured."

In this environment, building bridges to the United States is unpopular and politically risky.

"I personally feel Americans are losing friends in Pakistan very, very rapidly," said Shah Mahmood Qureshi, deputy parliamentary leader of the Pakistan People's Party, whose exiled leader, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was a close U.S. ally. "When the realization finally comes, it'll be too late."

++

Sami Ullah, a graduate student in international relations at Islamabad's prestigious Quaid-i-Azam University, jumped at the opportunity to lecture an American on the U.S. presidency. Woodrow Wilson, who pledged to make the world "safe for democracy," got a thumbs up. But in his mind, President Bush has tipped American values on their head.

"There is no particular sense of morality in American policy today," said the bespectacled 23-year-old.

Ten years ago, an inquisitive young Pakistani would have been encouraged to apply to a U.S. university, where he could have absorbed American pluralism, MTV, fast food and baseball. Many prominent Pakistanis are U.S.-educated. Bhutto, the former prime minister, is a Harvard graduate, and Musharraf's son holds a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The State Department lists more than 170 current and former foreign leaders who have U.S. degrees.

"One of the great aspects of American 'soft power' is that, around the world, there are leaders who understand American perceptions," said Stephen Cohen, a South Asia expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former State Department official. "When you're sitting across the table and talking to a counterpart, if he understands America in a sympathetic fashion, you've got 50% of your battle won."

Bush administration officials say that consular officers have been told to expedite student visas and that the Department of Homeland Security has created a team to help students arriving at airports.

"Those of us who are engaged in public diplomacy are very interested in keeping the doors open for bona fide students," said Larry Schwartz, director of the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

But Sami Ullah plans to continue his studies in Australia rather than the United States. Other beneficiaries are Canada and Britain; last year, the latter enrolled 6,000 fee-paying Pakistani students, triple the number of a few years ago.

The impact of tighter borders extends beyond universities.

Even when official relations have been in the deep freeze, wealthy Pakistanis bought homes in Boston and Washington, and clothing exporters brought their samples to buyers in Los Angeles. Pakistan, like India, has been a leading supplier of doctors to underserved American communities.

But since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has become less welcoming.

"Before 9/11, I had a great fondness for American life," said Dr. Faiz Bhora, a pediatric heart surgeon at UCLA Medical Center who was stuck in Pakistan for nearly eight months waiting to get a work visa after completing 10 years of medical training in the United States. "That was put to the test after 9/11. I feel discriminated against. I never felt that before."

Some small exchange programs remain, but over the last two years the number of Pakistanis coming for business, tourism and short-term education plummeted almost by half, to about 31,000.

Regular visitors, including former Pakistani government officials, journalists and businesspeople, are routinely pulled aside for questioning and searches. Many no longer want to make the trip.

Continue down this path, said Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, and the United States will be handing the militants a huge victory.

"You should not let this feeling of bias continue," he said, "because ultimately, that would be the biggest disadvantage, and the perpetrators of the 9/11 crime would have succeeded beyond measure."

++

For Pakistanis who couldn't afford a plane ticket to the United States, there were always American cultural centers stocked with magazines and books, lectures by visiting U.S. politicians and academics, movie nights and musical performances.

But the doors began closing after the Sept. 11 attacks, the January 2002 kidnapping and subsequent slaying of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, and the bombing about a month after his death of a church in Islamabad, the capital, in which two Americans were killed.

Today, the U.S. Embassy, at the end of a road blocked by concrete barricades, is operating with a skeleton crew. Washington has placed a hold on Americans coming to Pakistan under government-funded programs such as Fulbright scholarships. The four American centers with their public reading rooms are closed.

U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell ventures out to give speeches, paint schools or visit U.S.-funded programs several times a week, her staff said. The U.S. cultural affairs officer in Islamabad holds film nights for carefully screened audiences.

But UC Berkeley's Urdu language program, which offers instruction in Pakistan's national tongue and is backed by the U.S. government, has had to quit accepting students. Daisy Rockwell, vice chairwoman of the university's Center for South Asia Studies, which oversees the Lahore-based program, argues that avenues for people-to-people contacts are being squeezed shut.

"At a time when the government supposedly wants more people to know about places like Pakistan, there are actually fewer and fewer Americans with access to any knowledge about the region," Rockwell said. "There's all this noise about encouraging knowledge of South Asian languages, and then they make it absolutely impossible to study there."

In May, the Voice of America, the U.S.-backed news organization, launched Urdu-language broadcasts to help rebuild the United States' battered image. But VOA's programs reach only about 1% of Pakistan's nearly 160 million people.

The well-off watch CNN, BBC and other international broadcasters. Most Pakistanis get their news from local papers and TV, and were enraged by images of naked, cowering Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison that appeared this year.

Ijaz Shafi Gilani, chairman of the Gallup/BRB research group in Islamabad, says "arrogant" has emerged as the most frequently used adjective for the United States.

The Internet and telephone cards have made it easier for Pakistanis overseas to report home about their experiences in the U.S. After the Sept. 11 attacks, American authorities began canvassing Muslim communities and detaining hundreds of people. There was also a sharp rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims.

Pakistanis here and abroad say that because none of their fellow citizens were implicated in the attacks, they have been unfairly singled out.

In December 2002, Pakistan was added to the list of countries whose male citizens were required to register with U.S. immigration authorities. At least 1,650 people were eventually deported to Pakistan, many on minor immigration offenses, said Mohammad Sadiq, the deputy chief of staff at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. He said that an additional 5,000 to 10,000 left voluntarily, afraid of being caught up in security sweeps.

Fifty-eight Pakistanis were detained at Guantanamo Bay, where U.S. authorities are holding alleged enemy combatants, Sadiq said. All but three have been sent back to Pakistan, where a small number have been detained by the government for further investigation.

"People invariably ask me, 'Look, our own people are dying on the frontier fighting against Al Qaeda, and look at what the U.S. is doing to us,' " said Imran Ali, a Pakistani government official who has accompanied deportees home on chartered flights. "No doubt it creates extreme hostility for the U.S."

++

Being one of America's closest allies in its war on terrorism hasn't been without rewards. Half of the $3 billion in U.S. assistance is going to schools and anti-poverty programs; the remainder is military aid.

The administration also lifted sanctions that were imposed after Pakistan's 1998 nuclear tests and Musharraf's coup a year later. In addition, the U.S. government forgave $1 billion of Pakistan's debt and urged other lenders to act similarly.

But most Pakistanis never see direct evidence of U.S. aid. Even if it reaches the grass-roots level, many recipients are reluctant to be identified with the United States.

Pakistani officials and business leaders say the United States could do far more. Their biggest disappointment is the administration's decision not to provide more opportunities for textile and apparel manufacturers, who produce two-thirds of Pakistan's exports.

These factories suffered a flurry of canceled orders and a 20% drop in prices after the Sept. 11 attacks. Under pressure from domestic manufacturers, Washington has given Pakistan expanded access in only a few little-used categories.

This month, Pakistan's commerce minister made an unsuccessful plea to the Bush administration to lower duties on Pakistani-made apparel.

Shahid Kamil Butt, a UCLA graduate and chief executive of Shahkam Industries, one of Pakistan's leading knitwear exporters, says the U.S. could blunt the appeal of extremists by opening its markets. In addition to employing 3,000 people near Lahore, Butt's factory supports 180 smaller companies that provide supplies.

"If you put 3,000 people out of work and on the streets, then if even 1% of them join a radical extremist group, that's 1% too many," Butt said.

In the search for the underlying reasons for Islamic extremism, many Pakistanis and Americans focus on an educational system that has left millions of children without basic skills.

The Bush administration has set up a five-year, $100-million program to improve literacy, increase educational opportunity for girls, train teachers and help Musharraf reform religious schools, or madrasas. Musharraf has promised to register the estimated 10,000 madrasas and add reading, math and science to their curriculum.

But many Muslim leaders have refused to cooperate. Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the deputy imam at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, said his mosque had "flatly rejected" the government's money and its reform plan. Muttahida Tulba Mahaz, a religious student organization, has attracted thousands of young people to rallies demanding that the government stop "American agents" from using the educational system to tarnish the image of Islam.

For supporters of educational reform, the key to survival is staying out of the crossfire.

Several years ago, Developments in Literacy, a nonprofit group started by Pakistani American women in Southern California, teamed up with educators in a shantytown of 1.5 million people outside Karachi to support more than two dozen elementary schools.

The payoff can be seen at Saifuddin Halai School, where slender, dark-haired Aisha smiles as she watches one of her classmates pour a clear liquid into a glass beaker being warmed by a flame. She and her friends giggle as they try to explain the effect of heat on liquids.

At 15, Aisha is an anomaly in Pakistan. More than 54% of girls drop out before finishing elementary school, and fewer than 30% of those older than 15 are literate. Aisha dreams of becoming a lawyer so she can help the poor, but the community can't afford to offer her further schooling.

The Southern California women and their Pakistani partner, the Faran Educational Society, downplay the U.S. grants they have received. "Gradually, people will understand," said Nesar Ahmad, Faran's program director. "But you can't just say Americans are helping us. It might harm me or my organization."

++

Darkness has fallen on Lahore, and the evening is buzzing with the sound of insects. Saad Ahsanuddin is enjoying a cigar and a drink on his patio with a few friends.

Feisal Hussain Naqvi is a lawyer and teacher; his wife, Ayeda, is a columnist for a leading English-language newspaper in Pakistan. Mohsin Hamid wrote "Moth Smoke," a bestseller about youth, lust and ambition in contemporary Pakistan.

Virtually everyone sitting around the candlelit fountain has a pedigree: wealthy families; degrees from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Harvard; careers and friends in the U.S. They have all returned to Pakistan, in part because they no longer feel comfortable in the United States.

Ahsanuddin, who worked for several years on Wall Street, has established a personal security company and is raising funds to open Pakistan's first American-style cineplex. Ayeda Naqvi writes columns lambasting religious extremism and the oppression of women. Hamid, the recipient of a 2001 Pen/Hemingway award, is writing a novel about a Muslim businessman living in America.

"I always thought New York had a place for me, no matter what stage of life I was at: student, newlywed, writer," Ayeda Naqvi said. "But I no longer feel welcome there."

Back in Islamabad, Imran Hamid, the consultant, tries to convince himself that it will only be a matter of time before America rights itself. But he is unsure whether these sentiments are only so much nostalgia.

One of his fondest memories of his time in New York is of a noisy protest he stumbled upon shortly after he arrived. Men in suits and ties, women with babies and long-haired teenagers in jeans and T-shirts all were there.

"The spectacle of Americans opposing their government's policies — that is freedom," he said. But Pakistan's next generation may be forging its youthful ideals elsewhere.

"I don't think my son will go to America to study," he said of his 15-year-old, the older of two children. "I cannot risk that he will become a victim of American extremism. He will go to Australia or Canada…. If it was 10 years from now, I would send him to China."

Los Angeles Times 30/10/2004

Pakistan: Chuckles - "Tatti" and its literal meaning


If you say ‘toilet’ in the United States you might get a sharp intake of breath in response. The right word is ‘washroom’. This is a step forward from ‘water-closet’ which had to become WC because of its decline into indecent usage. It may amaze some of us to know that Urdu too has done something similar to its own euphemism for a place where we relieve ourselves. The word is tatti. It means exactly the same as toilet, yet you say it in good company and you might get a black eye. While not detracting from the high al fresco pleasures, one must register one’s plaint about the denigration of tatti. A child is today forbidden to say tatti ayee (I feel like defecating) and use bathroom aaya instead. Dictionaries have fallen silent over the word.

Good words gone bad
Khaled Ahmed

It is almost certain that the first latrine created in South Asia was a frame overhung with a kind of rough cloth. Just like ‘toilet’ in English, meaning ‘a piece of cloth’. ‘Taat’ means rough cloth or cloth made of jute. It has a diminutive ‘tatti’. Just don’t say it!

If you say ‘toilet’ in the United States you might get a sharp intake of breath in response. The right word is ‘washroom’. This is a step forward from ‘water-closet’ which had to become WC because of its decline into indecent usage.

It may amaze some of us to know that Urdu too has done something similar to its own euphemism for a place where we relieve ourselves. The word is tatti. It means exactly the same as toilet, yet you say it in good company and you might get a black eye.

Taat means rough cloth or cloth made of jute. It has a diminutive, tatti. There is another usage of tatti and that is a frame strung with roots and straw. A perfectly decent phrase khass ki tatti was in use soon after partition as a hanging that lessened the heat in a room.

A hunter’s term tatti ki ot say shikar khelna was quite normal, meaning hunting from behind a frame covered with straw. It is almost certain that the first latrine created in South Asia was a frame overhung by a kind of rough cloth. Not that our open-air habit is in any way less popular today.

Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul in his Area of Darkness wrote four lyrical pages on how people defecate in India. Award-winning American journalist Pamela Constable in her Fragments of Grace: My Search for Humanity from Kashmir to Kabul revisited the scene recently:

“Often leaving Delhi on a train or highway in the early morning, I would see a dozen solitary figures, perhaps fifty yards apart, hunkered half naked in a field or a weedy back lot, gazing unhurriedly into the distance and studiedly oblivious to the human activity around them.”

While not detracting from the high al fresco pleasures, one must register one’s plaint about the denigration of tatti. A child is today forbidden to say tatti ayee (I feel like defecating) and use bathroom aaya instead. Dictionaries have fallen silent over the word.

The truth is that tatti is no better or worse than ‘toilet’. We had another very fine word for latrine and we had got it from Persian: pakhana. It simply meant a place where to put your feet. What was wrong with it? Yet today if you want to be socially lynched say pakhana aaya (I feel like defecating) to your host.

Decent people use a rather stilted Arabic version: baitul khalaa. It means a place where we empty ourselves. Khalaa is also used for space and that is quite suitable because space is empty. The adjective khaali is very common in Urdu for empty. But baitul khalaa is a bit of a tongue-twister.

At times you may come across ‘lavatory’ which simply means washroom but has somehow descended into the domain of the indecent. If you have come across ‘lavabo’ it is even worse. We had a similar prevarication in ghusl khana (literally bathroom) but that too has not caught on. It is simply not fashionable.

One wonderfully euphemistic expression coined in the countryside has pitifully gone bad too. It was invented in relation to the place where most humanity in the villages went to do the needful. The place was jhaar (bush) and the word that came from there was jhaara. But just don’t say it!

The problem with us is that we do what is natural but don’t want to admit it. And we have to throw away nice words periodically to show our impatience with the smell that takes over good vocabulary in any case. *

Daily Times 31/10/2004

Pakistan: The security "short-circuit" in Islamabad


Short-circuiting is produced by electric wiring and there can be many causes for that, including overloading of electric charge in the case of a posh hotel with high maintenance standards. Short-circuiting produces fire which can spread if there is combustible material in the vicinity. The most damaging short-circuiting happens when there is gas in the air to ignite. Nothing other than gas will produce a sudden explosion that blows out glass with such tremendous force as happened inside the hotel lobby. Buildings may be engulfed in fire after a wiring fault but they will not be blown up unless a material that can cause it is present. What was it that devastated the lobby of the hotel and burnt the guests in the vicinity? The government must let the findings be known.

Short-circuiting of security in Islamabad

The government says the blast at a five-star hotel in Islamabad was due to short-circuiting. Eyewitnesses to the incident think it was anything but short-circuiting because most people know what happens when a short circuit ignites a fire. The hotel lobby was widely damaged and glass was blown out through the breadth of the building, from the front to the swimming pool area. The SSP, who first called it short-circuiting, didn’t even wait for the experts to arrive. When the experts arrived, they may have been given a conclusion to fit their inquiry. Surprising, the interior minister, Mr Aftab Sherpao, was convinced that “there is no evidence of terrorism”.

Unless the government wants to end the matter here, some unavoidable findings will come to the fore, and they will reveal it to be anything but short-circuiting. Body burns received by the victims will surely reveal the chemical which burned them and this chemical would have to come out of the building where the short-circuiting had occurred. The forensics know what burns when a bomb explodes. Some of the victims might remember what happened an instant before the place blew up. Some persons who left the place in a hurry after the blast might have seen the sequence of events just before the blast. A lot will come out in the coming days.

Short-circuiting is produced by electric wiring and there can be many causes for that, including overloading of electric charge in the case of a posh hotel with high maintenance standards. Short-circuiting produces fire which can spread if there is combustible material in the vicinity. The most damaging short-circuiting happens when there is gas in the air to ignite. Nothing other than gas will produce a sudden explosion that blows out glass with such tremendous force as happened inside the hotel lobby. Buildings may be engulfed in fire after a wiring fault but they will not be blown up unless a material that can cause it is present. What was it that devastated the lobby of the hotel and burnt the guests in the vicinity? The government must let the findings be known.

This is important because the targeted hotel is a kind of symbol of Islamabad’s generally secure environment. Most foreign guests and some local diplomats are usually found there in the evenings. The foreigners who protested loudly to Interior Minister Sherpao after the blast were sending Islamabad a message: the country’s premier city could lose its reliability as a safe centre of contacts. Should this compel the minister to take another look at the security mounted by the big hotels in the city? The hotel has its security frame located inside the lobby. One enters the through the door into the lobby and then passes through the special door and submits oneself to a body search, if the security man dare do that. What if an Al Qaeda suicide bomber were to come in and then ignite the bomb on his body in the lobby, just at the security checkpoint, or away from it after rushing past the security?

The lobby is the nerve centre of any luxury hotel. If you want to cause the highest amount of devastation it is the lobby you target. If the charge is big enough — and from Haideri Mosque in Karachi the message is that such a charge can be carried in easily by one man — the hotel will bend like a jack-knife and kill hundreds. There is nothing to stop a terrorist who walks up to the security frame inside the lobby and, before the security check can catch him, blows himself up. The latest incident must be thoroughly investigated and even if it is conclusively proved that it was not a bomb blast, the security system at present in place in the hotels should be revamped. *

Daily Times 30/10/2004

Bangladesh: The Ramadhan Rumble in Rajshahi


A female student, injured in the police action on the general students at Rajshahi University on Friday, is being tended by other students.
It all began when some Tapasi Rabeya Hall residents, who were watching television at about 12:30am Saturday, saw three armed robbers on the roof of the hall. They cried out for help and called the proctor, assistant proctors, provost, house tutors and the hall superintendent. Four women house tutors, provost and the hall superintendent went to the hall after an hour, which angered the students. The robbers meanwhile left the hall. Finding no such outsiders, the proctors and the administration officials charged the students, saying that some students were trying to create trouble on the campus. The university authorities threatened the students with taking punitive measures against those who had been trying to create trouble.The hall residents chanted slogans against the authorities in protest at misbehaviour and the threat. They demanded resignation of the provost, proctor and house tutors.

RU closed sine die after series of clashes
SM HUMAYUN KABIR

The University of Rajshahi was closed for an indefinite period on Saturday after a series of clashes in which more than 200 teachers, students, journalists and police personnel were injured.

The residents, who were asked to vacate the halls by 5:00pm, left the campus by the evening. But most girl students initially refused to leave their halls at such an odd time.

Fifty of the injured sustained bullet wounds in the clashes between the police and the university students that resulted from an incident of armed robbers entering a women’s hall.

More than 50 students, mostly girls, and teachers were admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital and the university medical centre.

The agitating students, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal activists and 544 controversially recruited employees vandalised all the university buses, offices in the administrative building, department and halls of residence.

The police fired 100 rubber bullets, lobbed about 100 teargas canisters and charged at the teachers and students with truncheons.

The police arrested 50 students, including five girls, in this connection. The arrested include the university unit Chhatra Front president, Nasir Uddin and the university unit Chhatra Union president, SM Chandan, and the district unit general secretary, Muniruzzaman Maink.

The vice-chancellor at noon declared the university closed by his special power. The syndicate later approved the decision.

It all began when some Tapasi Rabeya Hall residents, who were watching television at about 12:30am Saturday, saw three armed robbers on the roof of the hall.

They cried out for help and called the proctor, assistant proctors, provost, house tutors and the hall superintendent.

Four women house tutors, provost and the hall superintendent went to the hall after an hour, which angered the students. The robbers meanwhile left the hall.

Finding no such outsiders, the proctors and the administration officials charged the students, saying that some students were trying to create trouble on the campus.

The university authorities threatened the students with taking punitive measures against those who had been trying to create trouble.

The hall residents chanted slogans against the authorities in protest at misbehaviour and the threat. They demanded resignation of the provost, proctor and house tutors.

Tension mounted on the campus in no time and the Rabeya Hall residents confined six university officials in the hall office.

Provost Shahriar Enam, house tutors Monowara Begum, Mahbuba Begum, and Ferdousi Binte Habib and the superintendent, China Rani Sarkar, were confined.

The provost and house tutors were freed before iftar with the help of the Bangladesh Rifles and the police.

More than 1,500 girl students, residents of the four halls of residence for girls, brought out a procession and tried to enter the residence of the vice-chancellor.

But the police stopped them from doing so till noon. Failed to meet the vice-chancellor, the students staged a sit-in demonstration till noon.

Vice-chancellor Faisul Islam Faroqui and proctor Shamsul Alam Sarkar remained confined in their residences for eight hours, between 4:00am and noon.

The university administration employed the police, activists of the Chhatra Dal and Islami Chhatra Shibir, and the newly recruited Class III and IV employees to negotiate the matter, but they failed.

A group of teachers and Chhatra Dal activists allegedly threw stones at the agitating students when the clashes began.

The police then charged at the girl students with truncheons, lobbed about a hundred teargas canisters and fired rubber bullets to disperse the students.

The clashes spread all over the campus and the police began to beat teachers and students.

The police went to the mass communications department and beat three teachers — Shah Nistar Jahan Kabir, Abdulllah Al Mamun and Pradip Kumar Pandey. They also beat the students at the department.

Shah Nister Jahan Kabir and Abdullah Al Mamun, teachers of the mass communications department, Abdul Matin Taluikder, a teacher of the music and dramatics department, Kudrati Khuda of the physics department and another teacher of the economics department were admitted to hospital.

The injured students who were admitted to hospital are Mouli, Mahi, Manju, Jerin, Nipa, Jinia, Shakhina, Shilpi, Snigdha, Monisha, Shima, Sabnam, Pritu, Sushanta, Habib, Bipasha, Ima, Mili, and Mousumi.

An injured police constable, Montu, was also admitted to hospital.

Sangbad staff correspondent Jahangir Alam Akash, and the university correspondent of the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, Anwar Hossain Anu, were among the injured.

A group of pro-BNP teachers, led by Nurul Absar, former proctor, allegedly roughed up the journalists and damaged the camera of four photo-journalists of Prothom Alo, Amar Desh, NTV and ATN Bangla.

The clashes lasted for three hours between noon and 3:30pm.

The girl students, gathered in front of the residence of the vice-chancellor, demanded that their five-point charter of demands should be met.

The demands include resignation of the vice-chancellor, proctor, and the provost of the Tapasi Rabeya Hall.

They burnt the proctor and the provost in effigy at the place, campus sources said.

No vehicles of the university’s transport department could ply. No classes or examinations were held.

More than 500 more police personnel have been deployed on the campus and the main entrance was closed. Bangladesh Rifles personnel and the Armed Police Battalion were also deployed by the evening.

“The police acted on the directive of the university administration to contain the agitation programme on the campus,” the Motihar police officer-in-charge, Akram Hossian, told newsmen.

The vice-chancellor could not be reached for comments. He was reluctant to talk with the journalists, sources in the vice-chancellor’s office said.

The proctor said, “The police acted at their sweet will.”

The Rajshahi University Teachers’ Association president, Khalekuzzaman, condemned the incident and demanded punishment for the attackers.

A syndicate meeting at 7:15pm approved the vice-chancellor’s decisions, made at about noon, of vacating the halls and closing the university “by the special power of the vice-chancellors.”

The meeting also rescheduled the vacation of Eid-ul-Fitr, to begin on October 31 instead of November 2, said a release of the university.

The student organisations of the University of Dhaka, meanwhile, went out on demonstrations on the campus against the incidents on the Rajshahi University campus.

The Progressive Students’ Alliance, a combine of eight left-leaning student organisations, brought out a procession on the campus.

The organisation leaders demanded arrest and trial of the intruders, and punishment for the police officials who attacked the students, teachers and the journalists.

The organisations held the high officials of the university responsible for the campus situation and demanded release of the students arrested in this connection.

Samajtantrik Chhatra Front president Khalequzzaman Lipon, Bangladesh Chhatra Union president Baki Billah, Bangladesh Chhatra Federation general secretary Moniruddin Pappu addressed a rally of the alliance at the arts building.

The alliance will go out on demonstrations on November 1 across the country to protest against the police attack. They will hold a rally on the Dhaka University campus today.

The alliance components, along with Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, Progressive Teachers’ Forum and Shikkha Andolan Mancha, in separate statements, condemned the police action and the intrusion.

New Age 31/10/2004

Nepal: Living with the Maoists


Girija Prasad Koirala deserves the biggest credit and discredit for the Maoist rise because he had the longest tenure of office as the full-powered prime minister. However Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba appeared in the forefront in escalating and intensifying the war when he declared the state of emergency and mobilised the army against the Maoists. Other political parties and the state machinery helped in their own ways in fanning the fire and spreading it out all over the country. Thanks to our political immaturity, misuse of power and corrupt practices that the Maoists have emerged today as a political as well as a military force. More than that, it has given birth to a belief that revolt does make a difference and violence does make impact. It is this state of mind that has made Maoism a lasting feature of our national life.
National crisis - Learning to live with the Maoists
Aditya Man Shrestha

The crux of the problem lies not in suppressing the Maoists but in obliterating the state of Maoist mind.

We, the Nepalis, had the respite during the Dashain festival of nine days of no Maoist offensives matched by no army retaliation. Many people cried for prolonging the truce and converting it into a permanent peace. But that did not happen. However, peace will visit us from time to time in future as it twice reigned in the previous years for a brief period. But, now, we have to learn to live with the Maoists as their presence is going to be a permanent part of our national life. Maoism is not going to die with the suppression of the Maoists in Nepal, if ever it happens. Maoism is a state of mind —rebellious and revolting. Nepal provides by far one of the biggest potentials for its perpetuation. Let us look at the social injustice, economic inequality and political exclusion that exist amidst us.

The continuing bloodshed on the ground and the high-pitched political debate in the media are doing nothing to address these basic problems. When shall there be peace and when shall the critical issues be taken care of to the satisfaction of the affected people? That is certainly a long-drawn process. It is this protracted process that will be reinforcing this state of defiant mind. It has, thus, become a permanent feature of our psyche and society.

The Maoist rebels were born and grew up very ironically during the most open and democratic functioning of our society. At a time when the parliamentary democracy should have taken its roots, it sowed the seeds for the growth of Maoist violence. Girija Prasad Koirala deserves the biggest credit and discredit for the Maoist rise because he had the longest tenure of office as the full-powered prime minister.

However Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba appeared in the forefront in escalating and intensifying the war when he declared the state of emergency and mobilised the army against the Maoists. Other political parties and the state machinery helped in their own ways in fanning the fire and spreading it out all over the country. Thanks to our political immaturity, misuse of power and corrupt practices that the Maoists have emerged today as a political as well as a military force. More than that, it has given birth to a belief that revolt does make a difference and violence does make impact. It is this state of mind that has made Maoism a lasting feature of our national life.

Has anything changed since the royal takeover in October 2002? Nothing much as far as the Maoists and their status is concerned. The two years of constitutionally suspended rule has reinforced the necessity of learning to live with the Maoists. First, the political parties could not prove their mettle despite their long-drawn agitations against regression. If anything, they have appeared as paper tigers. There was no political storm, no big earthquake nor mass uprising the political leaders threatened to create during the last two years of their displacement from power. A peaceful means is of no consequence. Second, the Maoist gun power, on the contrary, is receiving increasing recognition internally and externally. It is they who have made their presence felt in every household, every village and every nook and corner of the country. It will act as an unforgettable inspiration for those who have a state of Maoist mind. Even if the Maoists agree to a peace settlement, the re-emergence of violence will remain around the corner thanks to this state of Maoist mind that has percolated in our society with no visible radical changes for transformation into an egalitarian and prosperous form.

The Maoist leaders of today should not take these thoughts flattering as they might boomerang on themselves. They are also vulnerable in tomorrow's Nepal to the dangers of this state of mind as the leadership of today is. Supposing the Maoists come to power, they are sure to try to establish a totalitarian state. Whether they would be able to address the issues of economic deprivation, social oppression, ethnic inequality, linguistic injustice and corruption they are championing today is an open question that they themselves are not able to answer. Failing in their commitment to establish a flawless governance system, the most likely possibility, the Maoists cannot control the rise of a violent revolt as a natural outcome of our socio-economic conditions that would be no different from today. The Maoists will inherit a society resplendent with the Maoist state of mind, a state of mind that helped them once to come to power but would put them constantly under the threat of being dethroned from power.

The crux of the problem, therefore, lies not in suppressing the Maoists but in obliterating the state of Maoist mind. The fundamental problems of the people that lead to a state of revolt remain as they were. The current conflicts between the insurgents and the state, on the one hand, and the opposition parties and the government, on the other, are not helping to address these fundamental problems of our society. What they are trying to do is to hold supremacy over the state power, a power that is combating the Maoist power but has never taken the state of Maoist mind into account. It means that this state of mind will continue to exist in our society. It further means that we will have to learn to live with the Maoists and, in all probability, with their state of mind for an indefinite time.

Shrestha is coordinator, Volunteer Mediators Group for Peace

Himalayan Times 29/10/ 2004

India: Rocket Launchers and Shells in My Backyard



The scrap consignment was exported by a company named 'Lucky Metals SZE' of Dubai. The company is owned by a Pakistani Dilwar Hussain. There are credible reports that the munitions embedded in the scrap actually originated in Iraq. The $25000 consignment had sailed from the Bandar Abbas Port in Iran, and and reached the Indian port Mundra, in Gujrat. From, there, it landed at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Tughlaqabad, New Delhi, for clearance. From Tughlaqabad, seven trucks carried the cargo to Bhushan Steels at Shahibabad. The seventh truck was the 'killer truck'. The consignment had been cleared at every single stage of it's journey. Lucky Metals of UAE, the company shipping it declared that there were no 'bombs, shells, ammunition' in it. So did the authorities at Mundra port, and even those at ICD Tughlaqabad in New Delhi. That is, at none of the check points, be they be in India, or in Dubai or in Iran, a full-fledged physical verification was carried out, of the consignment. From one post to the other, the officials rubber-stamped the papers and cleared it. It's easy. Given the state of affairs, it appears that it is almost impossible to check everything physically.

Rocket Launchers and Shells in My Backyard
Sharbani Banerji

The events of the past few weeks have unearthed some frightening facts. "India is being unwittingly turned into a dumping ground for scrap containing explosives from war-ravaged countries" ( "Scrap ammo: The big dump", Hindustan Times (HT), 9th Oct 2004). What no one has pointed out till now is that these are in all probability, depleted uranium munitions, and pose far greater danger than 'explosives' pose. In Iraq, US has even dropped Mark 77 firebombs, which are similar to napalm bombs used in Vietnam. We don't know what their (inactive) shells would look like. Have they crept into the scrap? Everybody talks about "Nuclear Proliferation". What about this "Proliferation of Explosive and Radioactive Scraps" ? What are we going to do to stop it?

On Sept 30th, while a truck carrying scrap iron, which had sailed from Iran, was unloading the cargo in the compounds of a steel factory in Ghaziabad, a portable rocket launcher hidden inside the scrap exploded, thereby killing eight people on the spot, and also injuring eight others. Two more people died in the city hospital later. The unsuspecting workers had used a gas burner to cut the scrap, resulting in a huge explosion. This factory, Bhushan Steel and Strips Ltd., is located in Shahibabad, in District Ghaziabad, in Uttar Pradesh, India. It imports huge quantities of scrap iron from abroad, which are then melted and recast into iron rods. These rods, the most essential component in all kinds of buildings, bridges etc., are then sold in the market.

The rocket launcher wasn't the only ammunition hidden inside the scrap. As the police sprang into action, thereby arresting the GM and the additional GM of Bhushal Steels for causing death due to negligence, and the army and the National Security Guard (NSG) personnel took over, it was discovered that there were about 15 more 81mm mortars embedded in the heap of scrap metal. NSG diffused two of the shells inside the factory premises itself. Realizing that it was too risky, they took the rest to the Hindon river bed, where three more were diffused. They didn't realize that even this was too risky, especialy if these muntions contain depleted uranium, which in all probability they do, as we shall argue. This incident was only the tip of the iceberg.

The "killer truck" (as HT likes to call it), wasn't the only truck carrying cargo for Bhushan Steels. As more and more trucks started to arrive carrying scrap, the army isolated them and moved them to Kanha Upavan area, for further checking. From the 11 trucks which had been brought to Kanha Upavan, a protected forest area near the factory, 56 more rocket shells were found, some of which were live. And, without thinking twice, the NSG started to diffuse the bombs inside this ecological park !

The scrap consignment was exported by a company named 'Lucky Metals SZE' of Dubai. The company is owned by a Pakistani Dilwar Hussain. There are credible reports that the munitions embedded in the scrap actually originated in Iraq. The $25000 consignment had sailed from the Bandar Abbas Port in Iran, and and reached the Indian port Mundra, in Gujrat. From, there, it landed at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Tughlaqabad, New Delhi, for clearance. From Tughlaqabad, seven trucks carried the cargo to Bhushan Steels at Shahibabad. The seventh truck was the 'killer truck'. The consignment had been cleared at every single stage of it's journey. Lucky Metals of UAE, the company shipping it declared that there were no 'bombs, shells, ammunition' in it. So did the authorities at Mundra port, and even those at ICD Tughlaqabad in New Delhi. That is, at none of the check points, be they be in India, or in Dubai or in Iran, a full-fledged physical verification was carried out, of the consignment. From one post to the other, the officials rubber-stamped the papers and cleared it. It's easy. Given the state of affairs, it appears that it is almost impossible to check everything physically.

Thanks to the media, which was quick to highlight the incident, this time, the police did spring into action immediately. The state government ordered an enquiry into the incident. The district was on high alert and so was Delhi police. A country wide inspection of iron and steel units were ordered.

As we said, it was only the tip of the iceberg. Since that incident in the premises of Bhushan Steels, rockets, and shells, a great many of them live, have been found all over the country, from the strangest places, like road sides, fields, ponds, bushes, etc., and they continue to be found everyday.

In Ghaziabad alone, 42 more rockets have been found from different places. Eg., 10 rockets were recovered from behind Delhi Public school on Meerut Road Industrial area, 15 in a bush in a park in Bulandshahar Industrial area, 11 from Kavinagar industrial area, 6 from near Postal Staff College in Rajnagar. They have also been found in Delhi. Atleast 31 empty shells were found in Mayapuri area. 219 shells were found at Dhicchuan Nilwala Road in Najafgarh, out of which, 6 were suspected to be live. 18 'junk rockets' were found by a farmer in a field in Aligarh district, in Harduarganj. 12 Shells were found abandoned at Khurja-Aligarh Road in Bulandshahar.In Meerut four gunny bags containing spent rockets, used machine gun cartridges and other fire arms were found by the road side in Mawikalan village on Delhi-Baghpat road. 120 shells were recovered from Gujrat out of which 50 were found near Shinai village on Mundra road, 5 of them live; 36 were found in Mitiyana village, and 23 at Anjar.

In Siliguri in Darjeeling district, 6 rocket propelled granade shells were found from a riverbed. 72 rockets were recovered from Raipur. In Chattisgarh, about 62 shells have been found in a pond, amongst which about 46 were live. And it continues. Even yesterday, on Oct 26th, hundreds of shells of rocket-launchers, mortars and hand grenades were dug out from a site near Vehlena bypass on Muzaffarnagar-Meerut highway. A godown owner had bought some scrap from a Meerut resident. The consignment contained ammunition shells. Fearing police action, he buried them at that site. It appears that, that is what has happened in all the other cases too. The authorities suspect that the factories dealing in scraps are trying to dispose off the shells, in the wake of stepped up security. That explains why they have been detected in such weird locations. That also rules out a 'terror angle', which the media focussed on, initially. But what comes out is even more dangerous. The incident at Bhushan Steels was just one of the 'explosive situations' which actually exploded. Ammunition-filled scrap has been coming all along, atleast recently for sure. Many more such ammunition-filled consignments had reached the country before 30th Sept, and may be even after 30th Sept, easily dodging detection. They must have slipped from other ports too, as their geographical distribution indicates.

The mess does not end once the killer-shells have been detected. Only NSG has the expertise and infrastructure for disposal of these shells and rockets. But they too seem to be unprepared to deal with such a situation. The ammunitions have not been checked for radioactivity. If they contain depleted uranium, must they be diffused, which essentially means 'exploded'? Initially many shells were thus diffused in the Kanha-Upavan area, thereby causing immense harm to the environment, and may be also to the people who had been exposed to the dust, until protests from the residents of Karhera and nearby villages, from the environment group 'Paryavaran Sachetak Dal', from the officials of Pollution Control Board, from Shri Krishan Gaushala and others, forced them to change plans. Besides, the area is surrounded by the Gas Authority of India Pipe lines and is close to Hindon airbase. The bomb disposal squad then shifted the site for defusal of bombs and rockets from Kanha Upavan to Loni. They buried 94 explosives in that area. On 18th, one of these buried rockets found it's way to a site near a brick kiln under Sihani Gate police station area in the city . Meanwhile, residents of more than eight villages in the Loni area too, launched a campaign against the detonation and piling up of explosives in their area.

We don't know yet, what the authorities plan to do with all the shells that have been found so far, and are continuing to be detected. Nobody seems to have enough expertise on the subject.

It has been pointed out that it is not the first time that live shells have been found in scrap consignments. The incidents were mostly overlooked. They were first detected in 1991 at ICD, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. That particular consignment had originated from Iraq. It was during the first gulf war. In 1993 five people died at ICD Tughlaqbad as the live shells hidden inside a consignment exploded. In 1996 again, explosives were found in a consignment of metallic waste. In April 2004, ICD Ludhiana reported live shells and explosives in a scrap consignment. Three months later, 11,000 live cartridges were found inside an empty container by the Container Corporation of India (CONCOR). In August, ICD Tughlaqabad again detected live shells. In all these cases, though the matter was reported to police, no action was taken. On Oct 9th, at ICD Tughlaqabad, 68 shells found, out of which 47 were live.This consignment originated in Somalia, and was imported by an Indian firm called Norma. Customs officers detected the shells on Aug 7th, but neither CBEC nor police took any notice of Customs report to them. It was only after the incident in Bhushan Steel factory that CBEC and police decided to act. Last month, in Uttaranchal, rocket shells were found in Pauri district.

Given this record, it is obvious that the munitions are sneeking into India, through iron scraps because the ports and ICDs are not equipped enough to check them. Also, they sneek-in whenever US rages a war on Iraq, as it happened during the first gulf war too. And, when business gets high priority, safety and survival takes a back seat.

There are no electronic scanners and sensors at the ICDs or even at the ports. They don't have adequate staff to do physical verification of each and every consignment. Only in suspicious cases consignments are examined thoroughly, that is, manually. But that is time consuming, and business houses donot like that. A proposal has been made that X-ray machines be installed at ports to scan all consignments, and that all scrap containers be subject to 100% examination, before clearance. It has also been suggested that import of loose scrap should be replaced by import of shreddded scrap, as is the norm in most countries. Import of loose scrap if allowed, should be through designated ports only. The suggestions have been acepted by the Director General of Foreign Trade, and notification has been issued. Restrictions on import of scrap from war ravaged countries have also been tightened. Dubai has tightened its rules too. Yes, the authorities have woken up, and directives issued. The administration needs to be tightened at every check point, for banned items can be cleared even by X-ray machines if the officials manning them are not vigilant enough or are corrupt. It happened at Indira Gandhi International Airport on 22/10. The CISF personnel manning X-ray machine failed to detect false revolvers, a banned item, in hand baggage of two passengers, about to board a PIA flight to Karachi. They were caught by PIA sky marshals when they were about to board the aircraft.

The prices of steel are likely to rise as a result of new restrictions. Shredded scrap will eliminate the possibility of shells slipping in, but is costlier. And as is expected, huge volumes of scrap are piling up at ICD as well as at ports like Mundra, Kandla, Mumbai, Kolkata-awaiting clearance. Yes, all this is good and necessary, and we shouldnot complain.

Then, what are we complaining about? Let us come to the bottom of the iceberg, which unfortunately is the most explosive part of the whole story. Metal scrap in India is mainly coming from the Gulf, African and South American countries, as they are cheap. A lot of it is coming from Iraq, via Iran. The port of origin, as declared before the customs is often different from the actual place of origin of the scraps-which would in all probability be a war ravaged country like Iraq. Somalia a war ravaged country is a big scrap collecting port. The rockets, shells and other explosives are passed on by these countries, to the exporting port. Even if India takes up the matter with the exporting ports, we are not sure that they would be able to actually implement full-fledged checking of the consignments, just as in India it has not been possible all these years.

Our contention is that, all the reports revealed so far point to the conclusion that the ammunitions imported with scrap metals are in effect Depleted Uranium (DU) Munitions, hundreds of tonnes of which have been used by US and UK in Iraq. US had used it as a standard weapon in the first gulf war too, and had continued to use it in Balkans and Afghanistan. We can conclude that the same would have happened in Somalia-rather wherever US has intervened so far.

Why do we suspect that the lose rockets and shells imported in India are actually DU munitions? First, consider the properties of DU. DU is a residue left after uranium is enriched for use in nuclear reactors and is also recovered after reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. Thus, it is effectively free. Since it is 20% heavier than steel, it can penetrate steel and concrete much more easily than other weapons. It burns at 10,000C. It is radioactive and has toxic effects. Upto 2000 tonnes of DU has been used in Iraq. DU is an effective tank destroyer and bunker buster. DU shells are lethal. When the DU rod inside a shell disintegrates, it disperses over a wide area, spreading radioactive and toxic dust..

Now see what has been said about the lethal shells and rockets found at Bhushan Steels and other places. (1) Eye witnesses said the explosion at Bhushan Steels was so strong that it could be heard a kilometer away from the accident site. (2) The bombs were so powerful that even their splinters left huge craters while being defused. Had the rocket launcher hit the live bombs, the whole factory would have been gutted. Or if the rockets and missiles had been thrown into the boiler, the explosion could have destroyed atleast a 4 km radius area.(3) Officials said that the rockets and missiles recovered at Bhushan Steels were powerful enough to hit targets in Delhi.(4) And most important, they have come from 'war-ravaged countries'. Now what do we mean by 'war-ravaged' countries? Obviously from countries where US has raged a war --the most war-mongering nation in the world. And DU munitions are standard weapons used by US wherever it has raged a war. (5) No check is carried out when scrap is either picked up from or dumped in the yards in the exporting country. In most cases, bulldozers tear down remnants of buildings and bridges that have been bombed. The scrap is then sold off. It is possible that live shells and partially exploded shells are embedded inside the scrap (HT reported).

Since there has been no 'official-check' or declaration, we can only conjecture with near certainty that the munitions exploded and found so far, active or inactive, are DU munitions, which US is proliferating all over the world.

Now, why should we fear DU munitions even when they are inactive or unexploded? We should, more than we fear a nuclear bomb, because they are radioactive, toxic, and cause slow and untold damage to health, ---- and are 'proliferating'. Yes, nuclear bombs proliferate too, but certainly not as much as DU already has, and is threatening to, in all parts of the world, in an invisible way, even into my backyard.

Though opinions vary, there is a general agreement that DU munitions cause health-hazards of extremely serious nature. The Royal Society in Britain set up an independent expert working group to investigate the health hazards of DU munitions. It's two part report has studied the increased risks of radiation-induced cancer from exposures to DU on the battlefield and the risks from the chemical toxicity of Uranium, non-malignant radiation effects from DU intakes, the long term environmental consequences of the deployment of DU munitions etc. Scientists fear that the effects of DU munitions in Iraq would have a fall out for many generations to come. Scientists have urged shell clear-up in Iraq to protect civilians The Royal Society has recommended that fragments of DU penetrators be removed, and areas of contaminations should be identified, and where necessary, made safe. Pentagon however doesnot consider that necessary. Most scientists believe that DU causes cancer and other severe illnesses. According to the Royal Society, both soldiers and civilians in Iraq were in short and long term danger. Children playing at contaminates sites were particularly at risk. The soil around the impact sites of depleted uranium penetrators may be heavily contaminated, and could be harmful if swallowed by children. For example. If it leaks into water supplies, it would pose a long time threat to health. The UN environment program has been tracking the use of DU in Balkans and found it leaking into the water table. Seven years after the conflict it has recommended decontamination of buildings where DU dust is present to protect the civilian population against cancer. DU contaminates the land, air and water, and ultimately destroying the lives of people exposed to it. DU corrodes the soil and exist for a long time in the dust. Evidence is building that DU causes more genetic damage than scientists suspected, even at levels deemed as low as to be non-toxic. A US soldier Keny Duncan was with the Royal Corps of Transport helping to shift Iraqi tanks destroyed by DU shells in 1991 gulf war. He was exposed to DU. All his three children are born with some kind of deformity.

Given this scenario, what is India supposed to do? It is obvious that the actions taken so far, the directives issued by various offices and agencies have failed to take into account the possibility ( rather a near certainty) that the rockets and shells are part of depleted uranium munitions used by US and UK in whichever country they have landed illegally. It should be the responsibility of US and UK, to clear up the shells not only in Iraq, Afghanistan, Balkans, Somalia and so on, but also in India, where they have proliferated due to their irresponsible and monstrous actions. If they have proliferated to India, it is a near certainty that they would proliferate to many other developing and less developed countries, and ultimately back into the developed countries, including even US and UK. In all probability these munitions are being sold by the hard pressed people of war ravaged countries only for money, and not for terrorism. Also, this is one way to get their own country rid of these lethal weapons. One shouldnot underestimate the knowledge and intelligence of poor and illiterate villagers. They may not know the technicalities, but they sure know that these weapons if lie in their neighbourhood would cause extreme damage to their health and also to flora and fauna. For example, in Ghaziabad, it was the villagers of Kanha Upavan and Loni area who were the first ones to protest against the stockpiling and diffusal of explosives in their area.

Recently, a lot of studies have been done on the hazards of DU, but no new regulations have come into effect. We need new International laws and treaties to deal with this menace, which is sure to take a serious turn in the near future, considering the quagmire the US has put itself into, in Iraq. India should speak out, and raise the issue in the UN. Who should be signing the "Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty" (NPT) now?

Meanwhile, at the domestic level, the ammunitions found so far should be given as much weightage as the nuclear bomb was given during Pokhran Test. They should be carried to a desert-may be to Pokhran for disposal, and not to residential localities, or forests, or river beds. There have been suggestions that loose scrap should be banned, and only shredded scrap should be allowed.Yes, shredded scrap would ensure that there are no untoward explosions, but that would still not ensure that shreds of DU ammunitions are not included in that, especially, if imports are being carried out from war-ravaged countries. Thus, imports from war ravaged countries have to be stopped completely. And stringent checks should be carried out at every check-post, even if that means delays and increase in price of steel. Get the priorities right, Mr. Businessman!

In the words of Noam Chomsky (Hegemony or Survival : America's quest for global domiance, Metropolitan books, 2003):

"One can discern two trajectories in current history: one aiming toward hegemony, acting rationally within a lunatic doctrinal framework as it threatens survival; the other dedicated to the belief that "another world is possible", in the words that animate the World Social Forum, challenging the reigning ideological system and seeking to create constructive alternatives of thought, action and institutions."

Keeping this in mind, India should take up the issue with the World bodies.

Notes: "When the dust settles : Depleted uranium may be far more dangerous than previously thought - and we could be dealing with the fallout for many generations to come " The Guardian, April 17, 2003

"Scientists urge shell clear-up to protect civilians: Royal Society spells out dangers of depleted uranium" The Guardian, April 17, 2003.

"The health hazards of depleted uranium munitions: Part 1", Royal Society, May 2001 ISBN: 0854033540

"The health hazards of depleted uranium munitions: Part 2", Royal Society March 2002 ISBN: 0854035745

Z-Net 30/10/2004

Global Jihad: The Demo-Mockery Show


Most of these politicians are not just hypocrites - they behave like prostitutes. It was the late Imam Khomeini who said democracy is like prostitution, each one of the candidate prostitutes his or her principles to secure maximum amount of votes; rights and wrongs simply do not enter the equation. It does not matter where the votes are obtained from, and at what price, as long as they are successful in getting elected. The real power of the vote is restricted to certain pre-determined options. In a dictatorship this may be restricted to one party, in a democracy it is usually two and at the most three or four. These choices have already been produced by the powerful and the wealthy in the society; hence the role of the vote is merely to submit to these predefined alternatives. The power of the vote is therefore illusionary and free election remains the mirage of democracy. So, ‘free’ elections only have any significance when it is ‘fair’. In a fair election all the candidates from all sections of the society have a near equal chance of competing! In the same way it is futile to talk about peace without justice and justice without retribution. The hypocrites with one eye open see one-side of the equation. They constantly yell out words like ‘free’, ’peace’ and ‘justice’ but not what the words really mean in the context of a certain reality.

The Demo-Mockery Show
Yamin Zakaria

In the latest episode of the Demo-Mockery show, starring George Bush, and Hamid Karzai, Tony Blair will soon make a guest appearance. But, please hold your laughter as the show has a serious side to it. The outcome of these shows in the guise of ‘elections’ and ‘election-debates’ will affect the lives of millions in places like New York, Washington, Kabul, Baghdad, Fallujah, and London.

Elections can be entertaining like in the US or relatively sombre like in the UK but most elections are more or less predetermined. The recent election in Afghanistan is an example. Only the US approved candidates could practically participate. Under such a framework coupled with the funding received from the US government, Hamid Karzai was guaranteed to win. He was the hare racing with a motorised engine against the tortoises!

It is the weight of money that generates the loudest voice not the couple of votes exercised every decade by the ordinary people. Anyone attempting to stand as an independent candidate in the US elections without the support of the powerful Multinationals would not get very far. However, people still feel they have some sort of power by their ability to cast a vote and stand as a candidate for election.

The real power of the vote is restricted to certain pre-determined options. In a dictatorship this may be restricted to one party, in a democracy it is usually two and at the most three or four. These choices have already been produced by the powerful and the wealthy in the society; hence the role of the vote is merely to submit to these predefined alternatives. The power of the vote is therefore illusionary and free election remains the mirage of democracy.

So, ‘free’ elections only have any significance when it is ‘fair’. In a fair election all the candidates from all sections of the society have a near equal chance of competing! In the same way it is futile to talk about peace without justice and justice without retribution. The hypocrites with one eye open see one-side of the equation. They constantly yell out words like ‘free’, ’peace’ and ‘justice’ but not what the words really mean in the context of a certain reality.

For these people, the fact that one can theoretically stand in the election race as a tortoise proves that democracy is working. This naturally suits them, as they are higher up the democracy ladder and are guaranteed a slice of the cake. Therefore, they dictate the virtues of free election and democracy to the tortoises. In the same way Blair and Bush taunted the anti-war demonstrators, reminding them of their privilege to demonstrate ‘freely’. This is acceptable as long as the protestors do not become a real obstacle. Therefore, like the ‘free’ elections, the protestors can shout, but in reality they have no chance of succeeding.

Election debates or parliamentary debates are in most cases false, because the candidates are never honest. The opposition seeking power will express certain criticisms and brag on about their commitment to particular principles however, as soon as they are in power, they behave in a similar manner to their predecessor, if not worse.

John Kerry is not differing with George Bush about the substance of his foreign policy but simply that he can do the same thing more efficiently. When born-again Bush was asked about homosexuality during the recent election-debate, he buckled and pleaded ignorance on the subject despite his constant reference to the bible. The real reason for his cautious response was that he did not want to lose the voters in places like San Francisco, New York and of course good old Florida!

Many of the Muslims and the socialist orientated masses in the UK had the perception that the Labour party is a party of the ordinary masses. But Labour leadership ignored their voice and the world opinion and allied with the fanatical rightwing cabal of the US in the war against Iraq. The Labour party in fact proved to be just as nasty, racist, hypocritical and vicious as the rightwing conservatives.

Now Mr. Blair is sending his boys to assist the Americans as they prepare to slaughter the innocents in Fallujah. Their crime is simply not yielding to the designs of the true axis-of-evil - the Anglo-Saxon-Zionist fascists. In line with the nature of hypocrites, the goal post has changed from seeking WMDs to regime change, then ‘hunting’ the ideas inside Saddam’s head and the mythical foreign fighters, finally the Iraqis of Fallujah, Ramadi and anywhere else that refuses to comply with the designs of Adolf Bush and Benito Blair.

Rivalries between election candidates are not based around their conviction in certain principles but sheer opportunism. The only principle that they adhere to is one of maintaining ‘flexibility’, which is simply hypocrisy as they mean different things to different people at different times. If there were a rise in the anti-immigrant sentiments amongst the natives in the UK and the US, the politicians would also start to adopt such ideas in order to appeal for votes.

Most of these politicians are not just hypocrites - they behave like prostitutes. It was the late Imam Khomeini who said democracy is like prostitution, each one of the candidate prostitutes his or her principles to secure maximum amount of votes; rights and wrongs simply do not enter the equation. It does not matter where the votes are obtained from, and at what price, as long as they are successful in getting elected.

If Bush is re-elected it can mean only two things, either the US is a moronic nation that has once again produced another stupid leader or that democracy is not working as the likes of Bush is not representative of the American nation.

George Bush is certainly not very bright; in the words of Nelson Mandela, he cannot think straight. Articulation and even basic general knowledge is not a strong point for Bush but that seems to be one of his appeals to the US masses! Perhaps he is not the real leader; it is the shady neo-cons and big businesses behind the scene that hold the real reigns of power. That said, many would cite the election of Bush as clear evidence that democracy is not working. Such ‘elected’ leaders only function in the interest of the wealthy party ‘donors’. Furthermore, political participation by the masses continues to diminish as they lose confidence in the system.

The US is a superpower; it makes immense contribution towards industry, science, arts and technology. It certainly has people of calibre, sincerity and intellect who are genuinely committed to certain principles. They would not prostitute themselves to big businesses or certain lobby groups and can genuinely represent the masses by addressing their problems. In the current reality, only lip service is given to such notions, which increases in frequency and amplitude during the pre-election time of hunting for votes. This is the real demo-mockery.

Under the constant barrage of propaganda, many assume that ‘free’ election is exclusive to democracy, which is false. Election is a feature of most societies. For elections to be free and fair there has to exist a certain framework. As an example, business should be prevented from funding candidates. Power has to be distributed so that those who are at a disadvantage can have a better chance to compete. Part and parcel of this would be to allocate certain amount of position to those who are guided by ideas rather than material interests. In the Islamic world this could be the Islamic Scholars, journalists, academics. And in the West, this could be the equivalent group of people, dedicated to certain set of beliefs and they cannot be bought cheaply at the marketplaces.

Email to Dak Bangla Yamin Zakaria who writes from London, UK


Copyright © 2004 by Yamin Zakaria





Saturday, October 30, 2004

Bangladesh: TI Corruption Index - A Failure in Journalism


The approach adopted by TI has an inherently dangerous consequence for nations found at the bottom of this index. It may incite some unscrupulous businessmen to resort to further corrupting tactics in these states and on the other side prevent real FDI entering the country. This result, naturally affects all the citizens of the country, as poverty and corruption may become further ingrained if Bangladesh is not provided with the much needed foreign investment. In nearly every respect, Bangladesh faired better than its counterparts in South Asia. If we use TI’s own assumptions (in regard to the GCB results that deal with a very similar range of issues as the SAS) there should be some correlation between the SAS and CPI results - but there is none. What should Bangladeshis make of this discrepancy and why have none of our journalists pointed this out yet? They appear good at defending their rights but useless in doing their jobs.

A FAILURE IN JOURNALISM (THE TI CORRUPTION INDEX)
M.B.I.Munshi


1. The TI corruption perception index (CPI) has in the past, only taken perspectives and opinions of businessmen and not ordinary citizens or residents. In this year’s report the perceptions of residents have also been taken but it is not clear who these residents are e.g. resident businessmen, ordinary citizens, journalists, professionals, politicians, bureaucrats etc. As you have rightly mentioned, how corruption affects different sections of society vary immensely and how this differs from nation to nation is also highly variable. Massive or grand corruption carried out by a few elite families does not affect the vast majority of Bangladeshis who have no experience of it (at least directly) but it may affect big businessmen and foreigners adversely, while small scale corruption affects many people, its significance may be limited and it really depends on who is doing the bribing i.e. the giver or the taker. But as TI points out, “The sources do not distinguish between administrative and political
corruption or between petty and grand corruption.”

2. Instead, they have a Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) that gauges public sentiment about corruption. In the survey the following three questions were asked:

Question 1 looks at how seriously respondents believe corruption affects the different spheres of life, such as their personal and family life, the business environment, political life, and the culture and values of society in their country.

Question 2 investigated respondents’ expectations as to how the level of corruption will change over the next three years.

Finally, question 3 asks respondents for their first choice to eliminate corruption from an institution such as courts, political parties, police, the private sector etc. The results from these surveys conducted by Gallup International are all very interesting, but most important from a Bangladeshi perspective, was that a significant relationship seemed to exist between the TI Global Corruption Barometer and the CPI. In other words, in the case of countries with a low CPI score, that is countries perceived to be high in corruption, the respondents within these countries felt that corruption had a significant effect on the different spheres in their lives. This would have been a useful device to see whether there was any correlation between Bangladesh’s’ standing in the CPI and the GCB but unfortunately Bangladesh was not included in GCB survey of 3 July 2003 but both Pakistan and India were.

3. Instead, a special South Asia Survey (SAS) was conducted to investigate the perceptions of the most corrupt public institutions in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It is interesting that a special note of appreciation was extended to Transparency International – Bangladesh for having coordinated the planning and design stages of the study. As with the GCB we can assume that there will be some correlation in results between the SAS and the CPI - so if Bangladesh has a high level of corruption in the public sector as reflected in the SAS then that will be mirrored in the CPI results where Bangladesh was ranked the most corrupt nation in the world in 2004 (that would be now four years in a row). The report that was published on 17 December 2003 entitled, ‘Corruption in South Asia – Insights & Benchmarks from Citizen Feedback Surveys in Five Countries’ came up with the following conclusions and results,

‘In India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, 100% of respondents that interacted with the police during the past year reported encountering corruption. In Bangladesh, this figure was 84% and in Nepal, 48%. In their experiences with the judiciary, nearly all Indian (100%), Sri Lankan (100%), and Pakistani (96%) households polled reported paying bribes. Judicial corruption was also significant in Bangladesh (75% of users) and Nepal (42 % of users) ... After the police and judiciary, land administration was identified as the next most corrupt sector across the region, according to the experiences of South Asian households ... In Pakistan, 100% of respondents with experience with the land administration authorities reported corruption and in Sri Lanka this figure was 98%. Land administration was somewhat cleaner in Bangladesh (73% of users reported corruption), India (47% of users) and Nepal (17% of users).”

In nearly every respect, Bangladesh faired better than its counterparts in South Asia. If we use TI’s own assumptions (in regard to the GCB results that deal with a very similar range of issues as the SAS) there should be some correlation between the SAS and CPI results - but there is none. What should Bangladeshis make of this discrepancy and why have none of our journalists pointed this out yet? They appear good at defending their rights but useless in doing their jobs.

4. There is one other report that requires comment and raises further apprehensions and disquiet about the credibility of all these surveys - The Transparency International Bribe Payers Index ranks leading exporting countries in terms of the degree to which international companies with their headquarters in those countries are likely to pay bribes to senior public officials in key emerging market economies. In that sense, it measures the supply side of bribery in the countries where the bribes are paid. Countries are ranked on a mean score from the answers given by respondents to the question "in the business sectors with which you are most familiar, please indicate how likely companies from the following countries are to pay or offer bribes to win or retain business in this country?" This was one of my biggest complaints in my original article so I was pleasantly surprised that TI had in fact already considered this proposition a long time ago (2002). However, with the other reports and surveys this
one also suffers from a major impediment,

‘The Transparency International Bribe Payers Index (BPI) 2002, published on 14 May 2002, is based on surveys conducted in 15 emerging market countries by Gallup International Association. The BPI 2002 was conducted in: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, which are among the very largest such countries involved in trade and investment with multinational firms. The questions relate to the propensity of companies from 21 leading exporting countries to pay bribes to senior public officials in the surveyed emerging market countries.’

In other words, Bangladesh was excluded from this survey so any benefit that might have been gained or derived in Bangladesh’s favor in relation to the CPI results is out of consideration. The more observant would have also noticed that India has been designated an emerging market country and was included in this survey (this has probably relegated Bangladesh into the category of a country never to be able to achieve emerging market status – with the CPI result this appears a foregone conclusion).

5. It is also wrong to suggest that the media role is negligible in the CPI report as one of the questionnaires submitted to businessmen requires their impressions to the following statement, “Extent of corruption as practised in governments, as perceived by the public and as reported in the media, as well as the implementation of anti-corruption initiatives.” In an objective analysis, this is a fair question but it has enormous drawbacks when considered in the circumstances I have already mentioned in my original article. In another context, relating to the BPI survey, the question was asked, ‘Please describe where your knowledge about this subject (perceptions about multinational firms) comes from?’ 55% of the respondents answered ‘press and media reports.’

There is another drawback admitted by TI, “In addition, in those cases where government and/or others have made substantial efforts to combat corruption, with demonstrable results, and where there is no improvement in a CPI score, there is the possibility that these efforts – however successful – have not been adequately communicated.”

6. There is an inherent bias in the perspectives represented in the CPI in favor of foreign businessmen and western nations. All the institutions where the surveys are carried out and perceptions recorded are based in the West i.e. Columbia University, Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, Information International, International Institute for Management Development, a multilateral development bank, Merchant International Group, Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Transparency International/Gallup International, World Bank/European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, World Economic Forum and World Markets Research Centre.

The manner in which the questionnaires are submitted to the business community and the responses are highly touch and go and lack certainty and discrepancies can be immense. The TI itself admits this problem, “The reliability differs, however, between countries. Countries with a low number of sources and large differences in the values provided by the sources (indicated by a high Standard Deviation) convey less reliability as to their score and ranking. Some countries may be overly represented as corrupt and others far less so.” If anyone bothered to look at the web site they would be able to understand my discomfort with this index.

The approach adopted by TI has an inherently dangerous consequence for nations found at the bottom of this index. It may incite some unscrupulous businessmen to resort to further corrupting tactics in these states and on the other side prevent real FDI entering the country. This result, naturally affects all the citizens of the country, as poverty and corruption may become further ingrained if Bangladesh is not provided with the much needed foreign investment.

I completely that corruption for ordinary citizens is like extortion. There is no doubt that corruption is widespread and pervasive in Bangladesh - I am not denying any of this. I do believe that corrupt people in our society should be severely punished and I have been saying so for more than 5 years and have written numerous articles on the subject. However, I believe that there is a direct bearing or nexus between how Bangladesh is perceived abroad and how well it can do in the future. If we blithely accept everything said about the country with an uncritical attitude then we are doing a disservice to the nation. Essentially, this is the role of the journalist and the writers but they have appeared to have taken a long leave of absence when Bangladesh’s interests are involved and most need of defence.

Email to Dak Bangla from M.B.I. Munshi