After the killing of world’s most wanted terrorist and leader of Al- Qaida, Osama Bin Laden (OBL) in Abbotabad, in a surgical operation carried out by the USA navy’s special SEAL commandoes, Indian hawks suddenly came out from their itching hibernation which they were forced to go into after India and Pakistan decided to hold bilateral composite dialogue. The political and military hawks have got an issue and so they are coming up with their fanciful ideas. They have been supported by the like minded media groups, which carry on their views and disseminate in public sphere. Their ideas can be a sure and certain inspiration for, what Prof.Dipankar Gupta, writing in Times of India ( May 5) , has said, a hit script for a second-rate Bollywood movie. To be fair, English media, following a democratic spirit, have also given spaces to alternative ideas. Their columns and speakers are from various backgrounds with different opinions. The problem is mainly with Hindi dailies. They have wide circulation and play important role in building up public opinion in north India, which is flag-bearer of Indian nationalism and jingoistic patriotism. Anything against Pakistan is welcomed by majority living in this part of India due to various reasons. Tuning in with the ideas of the hawkish elements “irresponsible” Indian middle class has started singing the same paean. In their columns two things are assertively presented by the hawkish elements;(a) No talk with Pakistan because one cannot trust and (b) carrying out US type surgical attack in Pakistan by the Indian elite commandos to assassinate the India’s most wanted terrorists ,who are hiding or lavishly living in Pakistan. Both ideas are irrational and not in the national interest of India. Of course, their national interest is different from mine. Thinking rationally, India has no option other than to talk with Pakistan. Peaceful, democratic and harmonious Pakistan is in the best interest of India. Both countries cannot afford another war or even a military skirmish. They are nuclear power and in case of war if one or other side at the verge of total defeat launches nuclear missile, there will be a nuclear genocide. They did not use it in Kargil but there were hints made by some Pakistani leader to use it as last option. Forget whose fault was it or just keep the past aside; truth is that both India and Pakistan are facing challenges and problems due to terrorism. The problem can be only sorted out if both agree to establish certain mechanism to fight jointly against this menace. Terrorism remains a grave challenge for global civil society. It has not come to an abrupt end with the killing of OBL. There are examples, where after the death of founder of a group, the group emerged more powerful and more dangerous than what it used to be earlier. In 1992 in a successful operation Israeli commandos assassinated the founder of Hezbollah, Abbas Mussawi, far from becoming weak it grew stronger under the new leadership of Hassan Nassarallah. It managed to get new weapons and has attacked on various Israeli installations. In 2007 it also forced the Israeli army to retreat upto Litani river when it entered into Lebanon in search of Hezbollah militias. Likewise, organisations or issues don’t come to an end with the death or killing of a leadership. It gets replaced by another and sometime the new leader is much more aggressive and brutal than the earlier one. Hence to overcome the menace of terrorism one need to politically or psychologically kill the ideas. About surgical attacks, Indian hawks have either forgotten the fact that India is not the USA or falsely presume that India can do whatever it wants without any repercussion. One cannot disagree that the USA was wrong in its action and approach. It has violated the sovereignty of a country which no modern state has right to do. But as a global hegemon since 1991 it has done it in Afghanistan, in Iraq and of late in Pakistan. For India, it’s useful to support a civilian government in Pakistan. It’ s always easy to have dialogue and get into agreement with the democratically elected civilian government. According to Michael Doyle democracies don't fight among themselves. Though this theory has been proved wrong in certain cases yet it can be maintained that the chances of making compromises and agreements is more viable in democracy than other existing forms of political system.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Pakistan is in great trouble. Never in its sixty-four year history had the country been confronted with such a grievous crisis like the one it faces right now. It seems that the very existence of Pakistan as a sovereign state is at stake. Why is Pakistan in such a sorry state? There are compelling reasons to be considered. First, Pakistan's strategic relationship with Washington, which it heavily depends on for economic aid and military hardware, had been seriously ruptured when US violated Pakistan's sovereignty and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden. The Pakistani government and its military were embarrassed beyond any measure. Islamabad seemed to be at a loss. Eventually, the government reacted angrily. The magnitude of the anger could be discerned when Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, in an unprecedented joint session of the Parliament on May 15 , threatened US of dire consequences if such acts were repeated again, and of blocking the supply line for the Nato forces in Afghanistan if there was any more drone attack by the US. A review of US-Pakistan relations, never done before, would also be conducted, he added. Obviously, Pakistan is indignant at the violation of its sovereignty. Any self-respecting country would feel the same way. But the point is: has not Islamabad's pro-American government already compromised on it? Otherwise, how can 3 ,000 US commandos, who are outside the jurisdiction of the government, function in Pakistan? How can some elements of CIA operate in the country without the knowledge of ISI? Has not the Pakistani government given implicit permission for US drone attacks on the militants who attack the Nato supply line in Afghanistan? As such, it is no wonder that even after the speech and threats, a grim US president, on the eve of his departure for Europe, reiterated his country's firm resolve that more solo operations would be conducted if other al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, suspected to be hiding in Pakistan, are found. In the meantime, more drone attacks have been carried out since the Laden incident, killing both militants and civilians. Pakistan's response has been a deafening silence. Second, Pakistan is now the main target of attacks by the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban who want to avenge Laden's death. Since his death, suicide bombing by militants claimed numerous innocent lives in northwestern Pakistan. But the recent Taliban attack on the naval airport of Mehran in Karachi, which is only fifteen (15) kilometers from Pakistan's largest naval airport Masrur, where nuclear weapons are supposedly stored, has sent a chill down peoples' spines. It is evident that Pakistan is at war with itself. Clearly, Pakistan is in a mess. A mess for which Pakistan itself is primarily responsible, but US contribution to it is no less. How can Pakistan find a way out? The exit route is extremely difficult and slippery, and it would need all the wisdom, ingenuity and vision that the Pakistani leadership can muster. First, it is commendable that Islamabad is going to review its strategic partnership with the US. In the process, it should be borne in mind that no relationship can bring lasting benefits if it is based on convenience only. Like in the past, the strategic partnership that was forged between the US and Islamabad following 9 /11 in 2001 contained ingredients of mutual needs rather than the convergence of their respective national interests. As such, the vital ingredient, "mutual trust," was missing in their bilateral ties, with Washington becoming impatient with Pakistan's alleged half- hearted commitment for its War against Terror, and Pakistan increasingly turning reluctant to accommodate US more and commit further political capital. The situation was exasperating for both. Last month, top generals of both countries met in Oman in search of a compromise formula. For a compromise, a security analyst recommends that US should demonstrate "long-term improved partnership whereby Pakistan will have its core interests protected," and in return Pakistanis "will have to jettison their working relationships with extremists and militant groups inside their own society." Here is the crux of the problem. What does the US mean by the " core interest" of Pakistan? How does Pakistan view it? Pakistan considers that its "core interest" lies in the resolution of Kashmir issue with India and installing a pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan. Perhaps, for this very reason, i.e. to protect its "core interest," elements within the military, may be without the knowledge of the civil government, maintained links with some Afghan and India-focused groups like Haqqani network, Quetta Shura Taliban and Lashkar-e- Taiba. Washington's interest, on the other hand, is to end the war, stabilise Afghanistan with pro-Indian Karzai government ensuring strong US presence, and total indifference to the Kashmir issue. One can, thus, clearly discern that national interests of Washington and Pakistan are not aligned in any way. Obviously then, Pakistan, while revisiting its relations with the US, should make clear what strategic benefits it expects from their present relationship. Second, now that Islamabad has pledged to review its ties with US, it should do the same for the entire gambit of its foreign policy, especially its India policy, and try to gauge what benefits accrued from its present policy towards India. Pakistan, at present, has that golden opportunity since, for the first time in its history, out of anguish and grief, the entire country -- the party in power, the opposition, and the army, which, for the first time is Pakistan's history submitted before the Parliament -- have coalesced. Together, they should do soul searching in order to find out what went wrong in their country. No self-respecting country should put up with the violation of its sovereignty, though it has been somewhat compromised, but the incident of May 2 should be enough to break the camel's back. Lastly and most importantly, the leadership -- civilian and army -- and the elites should work diligently to strengthen its nascent democracy, bring the army under civilian control, try to destroy the jihadi outfits for its own survival, and establish good governance so that the people of Pakistan can get back their faith in their country's destiny. Ordinary Pakistanis have waited a long time to get their country, which was hijacked by the army, back. It's about time that Pakistani elites live up to their expectations. Only American economic and military aid and carrots like proposed lowering of tariff for Pakistani imports will not alleviate Pakistan's agony. There is a need for a pragmatic foreign policy and efforts to build the country. There is actually no other alternative.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
One lesson India should have learned from past experience in dealing with other countries, especially those in its neighbourhood, is that constructing a foreign policy based mostly around individual personalities is perilous, as once that individual is dislodged then his or her successor may simply undo everything. Another problem with strengthening an individual perceived as being weak and unpopular simply because he or she is pro-India is that in the long run it can breed anti-India sentiment in the country. With these points in mind, Indian policymakers should be careful to cultivate a range of political actors in a given country, especially if a particular leader looks like they are at risk of being too closely associated with India. Failure to do so means India risks that leader reversing policy to protect themselves politically. The India- Pakistan relationship of the late 1980 s is a good example—much was expected of the Benazir Bhutto-Rajiv Gandhi meeting in 1988. But while at the time there looked to be a genuine thaw taking place, Bhutto did a complete about face when threatened domestically, delivering a number of vitriolic speeches against India in the process. Sadly, India doesn’t seem to have learned anything. The clearest illustration of this is its Bangladesh policy, which hinges on Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister and leader of Bangladesh’s Awami League Party. Many in India argue that such reliance is justified as Hasina is pro-India, and they point to her government’s consent to India’s longstanding demand to grant transit facilities to New Delhi as evidence of her good faith. Yet although there’s no doubt that Indo-Bangladesh ties are currently on a high, the goodwill seems based largely around the personal rapport between Hasina and Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. But what if Mukherjee, currently extremely influential in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, should leave office? Or if the current Indian government were ejected from power? Would Hasina still hold India in such high regard? Conversely, there’s the question of whether, when Hasina is out of power, India be able to do business with the Bangladesh National Party, which is considered closer to China. This seems a genuine possibility as Hasina’s popularity wanes at home, not least because she is viewed by critics as an Indian puppet. Shahid-Ul-Islam, a researcher at the Institute of South Asian Studies in Singapore who specializes in Bangladesh, made this point recently in a blog entry on bilateral relations. In an entry titled ‘Transit, the Great Wall of India and Indo- Bangladesh Relations,’ he wrote: ‘Against the will of common people, the foreign policy of the current government in Bangladesh focuses primarily on India at the cost of developing strong ties with other major powers. The masses desire better bilateral ties with New Delhi, but at the same time would not like Bangladesh to be treated as a “satellite state” of India.’ Even if Hasina does survive, India must seriously ask itself if she will continue to support ties with Delhi so strongly now that it’s clearly so politically dangerous for her to do so. Certainly, she will come under increasing pressure to shift tactics as her opponents seek to include an anti-India plank in their political platforms. While India has been mature in assuaging the concerns of Bangladesh on issues like the shooting of Bangladeshis by the Border Security Forces, policymakers should still reach out to other political actors so as to ensure that there’s a genuine and sustainable improvement in bilateral relations, rather than an intense honeymoon followed by an acrimonious divorce. As US statesman Henry Kissinger once said, ‘No foreign policy, no matter how ingenious, has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.’
Writing in the Newsweek magazine, Abdul Qadeer Khan, popularly known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb tried to defend his country’s nuclear weapons program. “Don’t overlook the fact that no nuclear-capable country has been subjected to aggression or occupied, or had its borders redrawn. Had Iraq and Libya been nuclear powers, they wouldn’t have been destroyed in the way we have seen recently,” Khan said. Khan would have been wiser, if he stopped there. Unfortunately, he went further to add that Bangladesh would not have won independence in 1971 if Pakistan had nuclear weapons. The statement by Khan, quoted briefly in the title of the article, is not only audacious but it also exposes his total ignorance about the war of independence in Bangladesh. By making this statement he is trying to justify the actions of the Pakistani military junta that refused to handover power to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose party won an absolute majority in the general election in 1970 , and unleashed a reign of terror in Bangladesh by killing innocent and unarmed civilians in millions, dishonouring hundreds of thousands of Bengali women and driving ten million Bengalis to India as refugees. The Bengalis fought the war of independence against the Pakistan army to stop the genocide in Bangladesh and to free the country from ruthless political and economic exploitation by the Pakistani rulers. The war was, therefore, fully justified from both moral and political grounds. Knowing Khan’s background, I am not at all surprised by his statement. Pakistan utilised the centrifuge technology to produce enriched uranium that was used to build the nuclear bombs. The so-called father of the nuclear bomb did not apply his expertise to develop this technology. He found it easier to steal it from his previous employer, the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory of Holland, who trusted him and allowed him access to a secret document on centrifuge technology for translation. He failed to keep the trust. Khan contacted President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan and proposed to build the nuclear bomb using enriched uranium. At that time Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission was trying to build the bomb using plutonium. Both enriched uranium and plutonium are suitable materials for making the bomb. Uranium can be enriched by diffusion or centrifuge method. Plutonium can be obtained from irradiated uranium through chemical separation in a reprocessing plant. Bhutto agreed with Khan to try an alternative path to build the bomb. Khan fled from Holland with the secret information and returned to Pakistan. He later established what is now known as Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta. By early 1981 , the enrichment project was fully functional. Khan’s nature did not change even after detonating the nuclear bombs and receiving the national awards like Hilal- i-Imtiaz and Nishan-i-Imtiaz. In 2004 , he confessed in writing that he had provided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with designs of centrifuge technology in exchange for substantial financial benefits! Had he not been pardoned by the President of Pakistan, he would have spent the rest of his life in prison. Khan is not perhaps aware that he is overestimating the importance of the nuclear weapons. Could the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan prevent the US helicopters from intruding into Pakistan territory and killing Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad or can it stop now the flying of the US drones over Pakistan territory? Can Khan explain why was it necessary for a superpower like the United States of America with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world to withdraw its forces from Vietnam and Iraq without winning the wars? Is the USA near victory in Afghanistan now? Khan will surely find it difficult to find answers to these questions with his “stollen” knowledge. Khan’s statement on Bangladesh is unfortunate and ill-conceived when some respectable members of the civil society in Pakistan are demanding that Pakistan should apologize to Bangladesh for the atrocities committed by their army against the Bengalis in 1971. It is time Khan should forget about Bangladesh. He should, instead, concentrate on protecting the rest of Pakistan not only from the intrusion of the US drones but also from frequent attacks by insurgents from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former North West Frontier Province) and Baluchistan? Will his nuclear weapons protect Pakistan against such intrusions and attacks?
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The Daily Star (DS): You have often said misconceptions float around Grameen Bank. What are they? Which misconceptions upset you the most?
Muhammad Yunus (MY): The very common misconception is, Grameen is an NGO, but it is not an NGO because it is a commercial organisation. It has owners and all the features of a business. Grameen Bank is a special organisation, not just another bank. But people like to see it in their own way and put a label on it.
Some think that Professor Yunus owns this bank and is earning a lot of money out of it. I do not own a single share in the bank. I was just an employee.
Now the government is promoting an idea that it is a government bank, which never existed in the minds of the people. Even the review committee report gives the impression that it is a government bank and their entire mental setup was based on the misconception that we are public servants.
To call it a government bank, it has to be owned by the government as the majority shareholder. Even in private banks, the government may have some shares. It does not make a private bank a government bank. In Grameen Bank, the government has effectively a 3.5 percent share, while 96.5 percent shares belong to the borrowers.
The only argument the government is using to try to justify its claim is that Grameen Bank is created under a special law of the government. Even Asian University for Women in Chittagong has been created under a special law. But it is not a government university. It is a private university. The vice-chancellor of the university is not a public servant. How come suddenly we have become public servants?
Grameen Bank is a bank under a charter. That the government created a charter does not mean it is a government bank. It is another misconception that is floating around.
The other misconception is this bank is run by foreign donations. People think that Professor Yunus goes around the world and brings in money, but that is a gross misunderstanding. Since 1995, GB has not received any money from outside. At that time, it was decided unilaterally not to receive money from outside. The money now comes from deposits and is lent to borrowers.
Grameen Bank has now more than Tk 10,000 crore in deposits. Of that, Tk 6,000 crore is coming from borrowers. GB does not take money from outside; rather, it is generated from internal sources. The bulk of the fund is the fund of the borrowers themselves. It is a self-reliant bank.
The other misconception is Grameen Bank charges a high rate of interest. I can say GB has the lowest among all MFIs (microfinance institutions) in Bangladesh. It has been repeatedly proven. Luckily, the review committee has endorsed our claims.
Some doubt whether microcredit activities have any impact on the lives of the poor. They claim that the poor are becoming poorer. GB has 83 lakh borrowers who constitute a major part of the total microcredit borrowers in the country. Whether we did it or someone else did it, the poor are definitely not getting poorer.
These poor people have Tk 6,000 crore in deposits in Grameen Bank. You cannot say there is no impact on their families. Their children are in schools, GB is giving them education and scholarships. So, a new generation is coming out of this.
If you are looking for the impact, there are many ways to see that. You can look at savings, loans, deposits, children and the quality of housing.
It is not that everybody has gained from it. There might be some who could not. It is as following: You open a school, you take students and in the final exams, not everybody gets first class. Some get first class, some get second, some get third. People used the money in different ways -- under different circumstances. Some lost out, some gained a little bit while others gained a lot.
If you look at women's empowerment, you have to see they own the bank. They have got their own money in the bank. They can deal with an institution. It is a big thing.
DS: How do you define the relationships between Grameen Bank and its associated organisations or companies? How were the associated organisations formed? Explain the shareholding pattern, sources of funds and revenue/profit sharing.
MY: Grameen Bank was set up to help the poor, particularly women, in income generating activities by providing collateral-free loans. Along the way, I saw many other problems of the poor. How to get them out of the poverty trap was always on my mind. I started reacting to each problem.
When I saw a problem, my instinctive reaction to solve the problem was to create a business. So I created a company. I went on and set up company after company. Whenever I created an organisation, I used the "Grameen" name for it -- to make it known that it was part of a series.
The word, Grameen, came from me, not from the bank. It was like a pet name from me. I like it. People know that I am involved with it. The Grameen name does not have a trademark right. You cannot register this word as a trademark, as it is an adjective.
I liked the word Grameen as it carries my association with it when I set up any company. None of them has any link, legally, with Grameen Bank. Each one is an independent organisation. Even the review committee was confused about it. They arrived at the idea that all these belong to Grameen Bank and we must do something about it as Prof. Yunus is making a mess of it. They have made strong recommendations about them, without trying to understand what these organisations are.
They are all legally independent and registered with the Office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms. The Grameen Bank Ordinance does not allow Grameen Bank to create any other organisation. The review committee says Grameen Bank has violated rules by creating companies, but we have not violated any rule because Grameen Bank has not created any organisation.
I have created all these organisations in my personal capacity and as a volunteer, not as the managing director [of Grameen Bank].
I do not think becoming members of many boards while working as an employee of Grameen Bank creates any conflict of interest. Most of them are non-profit organisations, so there is no conflict in that sense, as the board members do not gain personally from these. It is not a conflict of interest. It is rather about supplementing each other, as we are trying to address certain problems, not make personal gains out of it.
Most of the companies are non-profit. A few of them are for-profit. All the for-profit companies are owned by non-profit companies. So, there is no way anybody can gain personally from them.
Nobody, including me, owns shares in these companies personally. Our colleagues on board do not get any honorarium or financial benefits or fees for sitting on the board.
Once a non-profit owns a for-profit, the money goes to the non-profit. Individuals do not get it; rather the non-profits get it to promote their objectives, reaching out to the goals they have set for themselves. Many charity organisations rent out places and do other thing to earn money so that they can run their charity organisations. There is nothing unusual about it.
When I created these companies I needed money to start them. Sometimes it came as a donation. In many cases, I created the business so that it continuously brought in money itself and could grow. Grameen Shakti, a good example, has grown big. It started in a small way and then we started selling solar home systems, which made revenues. We reinvested and made more. Luckily, the government created IDCOL, which was looking for this type of an organisation to finance. We borrowed money from IDCOL and continued to grow.
The seed money for these companies did not come from Grameen Bank. There are two entities which received seed money from Grameen Bank: Grameen Kalyan and Grameen Fund. The seed money for these two companies came from donor money. Donors gave the money for special purpose activities, not for regular Grameen Bank activities. One is called Social Advancement Fund and the other is Social Venture Capital Fund.
These funds were created inside Grameen Bank. What we did was, we created independent companies and put the money into these independent companies as loans and purpose oriented grants. This money was not given to Grameen Bank to carry out its core activities.
Each of the companies, such as Grameen Healthcare Services, which was set up later, found a donor or an investor, or took a loan to start the business. One thing must be clear that these are independent creations and are not legally connected with Grameen Bank. There may be institutional connections. For example, Grameen Kalyan provides healthcare services and has a focus on Grameen Bank borrowers. Grameen Shikkha looks after the educational programmes for Grameen and non-Grameen families. They supplement each other.
DS: The review committee suggested that the government merge all associated companies under Grameen Bank. What's your reaction?
MY: The proposal to merge all associated companies bearing a Grameen name or related to Grameen Bank in some way came from a big misconception. The misconception is that all these companies are part of a conglomerate, meaning that Grameen Bank is the mother of all these organisations.
Once you know that they are not, the recommendations become meaningless. And that is what it is. I am sorry that the review committee did not have enough time to study and understand what these organisations are.
The review committee had a very limited time and had no prior experience of Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank is not an ordinary organisation. It is a very originally designed organisation with an innovative character. It is not only an innovative and unique organisation. It is an important organisation -- locally and globally.
You do not see any parallel to it in any other country. Members of the Review Committee had no experience with Grameen through their professional exposure. You are inviting people to do a job they are not prepared for. I feel sorry for them that they had to undertake such an assignment.
DS: Did the review committee visit the Grameen Bank headquarters?
MY: During the review, the committee members did not visit Grameen Bank. They did not visit branches of Grameen Bank to see what Grameen Bank is. They did not meet the borrowers of Grameen Bank. Maybe some of them individually met some borrowers in the past, but as a body, as part of the committee work, it never went on site to see what Grameen Bank really is.
They did not talk to the staff of Grameen Bank. The committee talked to me for an hour when I went to them and answered a few questions. Additionally, they talked to the deputy managing director for a few minutes.
For an organisation that has been running for 34 years and working all over the country and which won a Nobel Peace Prize, a one hour discussion with the CEO of the company does not give you the feel of the company, nor does it give the sense of what it is all about.
The committee had preconceived notions and perceptions about Grameen Bank. Based on their perceptions, they made the recommendations. It was very unkind to give such a big task to them. It is extremely unkind for Grameen Bank to receive those recommendations. After all, we should not take Grameen Bank so lightly.
I think they have studied books and papers on GB but the physical contact, when you are making such important recommendations, is important. It is like you are asking someone who is living in Sierra Leone to amend the constitution of Bangladesh. Would you do that when you did not know the society and their aspirations?
The report said the committee depended highly on one person on legal matters. That person is a highly biased person. I do not know whether he had ever visited Grameen Bank, had a chance to see and understand how it works, or checked through the legal structure of one of the organisations with the Grameen name.
They even recommended that these two organisations [Grameen Kalyan and Grameen Fund] should become "departments" of Grameen Bank. Both are independent companies. How could any one make a recommendation like that? They were so innocent about the legal issues.
The committee could have taken help from other lawyers, sit down and spent a day with them to understand the legal issues, before they made recommendations about a nationally and internationally important institution.
They could have invited the board members -- all board members of Grameen Bank, or at least nine of them who came from villages. They could see their faces, they could have had a conversation with them. After all, they represent millions of borrowers. It is their bank. The committee never consulted the representatives of the people who own 96.5 percent of the bank. Then the committee stated that they are illiterate women!
By meeting the borrower representatives in the board, the committee could assess whether they have any understanding of their bank. This would have given the committee an understanding of what type of a board Grameen Bank has.
DS: According to one observation, Grameen Bank has a rubber-stamp board of directors and women directors don't have an independent voice in the state of affairs. What's your response?
MY: It is not a rubber-stamp board. Grameen Bank has nine seats in the board for the elected borrowers and they come from around the country, which is divided into nine constituencies. A borrower who has a board membership has to be elected at centre level, branch level, area level and zonal level to finally make it to the board. She has to be an outstanding person.
DS: The report said it is a personality-based organisation -- one person decides everything. What's your take on it?
MY: I think this is a very humiliating remark for the board. If the committee had met the board, they probably would not have said such an offensive thing. The Grameen Bank board from the beginning has been headed by the chairmen, who are very distinguished persons of the country. It started with Professor Iqbal Mahmud, then came Professor Kaiser Hossain, Dr Akbar Ali Khan, Professor Rehman Sobhan and Mr Tabarak Hossain.
They are outstanding people of the country. The government has two other nominated board members because they have 25 percent shares in the bank. They were always at the level of secretaries -- active secretaries, not retired ones. Currently, the defence and cultural affairs secretaries are on GB's board.
We always tried to make decisions on the basis of consensus. If there was serious opposition and one was not yielding and insisted that it should not be done in a certain way, then we withdrew that item from the agenda.
We came back to the next board meeting after redesigning the proposal. The board paid attention to all views. Now we are told that it is a rubber-stamp board. It is again a misconception.
It is not that Professor Yunus (or the chairman) dictates everything. It is because what the management proposes is so reasonable and simple. Grameen Bank is not giving loans to big companies that could be debated. It was a routine process. There are not too many things that needed to be strongly debated.
DS: What's your view on the educational level of the nine women board members?
MY: Some of them have some level of education but not higher level. But the important thing is that they bring the reality to the board. If the review committee had sat with them, their recommendations would have been completely different. Then I can guarantee that they would not have made the unfortunate comments about them in the review report, as they have done now.
They bring the reality of life, and the ground realities are reflected in the board. Sitting face to face with them, the tone and the attention level of the seasoned secretaries change. Every time we meet, we talk about how their life is, how the centre is doing, any important news from their centre and how the beggars in their centre, who are also the borrowers, are doing.
When the women board members come to the meeting, they come with many ideas. They suggest things to do because it is their life. They say our husbands suffer so much and our children suffer so much. 'Can you do something about this?' So, passing remarks such as -- 'they are illiterate and what can they contribute? Do they know about banking?' -- is very sad.
DS: What's your reaction to another recommendation that the Grameen Bank Ordinance should be amended? What do you fear the most about any amendment to the ordinance?
MY: We have an ordinance. We needed some amendments to improve it. These amendments were done during the caretaker government's rule. When this government came, it did not present these amendments to the parliament for approval. So we were back to the pre-amendment ordinance. But this ordinance has worked well for us. This ordinance has created the winning institution, which brought the nation global recognition, brought us the Nobel Peace Prize. This ordinance has created the winning management team to make all these happen.
Should we now rush to change the law that produced a winning team and a winning institution? Even the age-old advice says: "Don't fix it, if it is not broken". In the case of Grameen Bank, it is not only not broken, it just got its Nobel Peace Prize. It is in its best shape.
Definitely, I will not take review committee's words seriously. They were time constrained, expertise constrained and biased. Maybe they want to amend it to make it more government-controlled, which will be terrible, simply disastrous.
Who would want an organisation that is running and winning to be handed to the government? While the government is trying to privatise banks, why should we now take a private bank and nationalise it? The moment the government influence comes into an institution like this, it gets caught in political in-fighting, the kind of thing we had seen. That is the end of the story. It will never be the same bank again.
It is a private organisation. Right from the beginning, I was saying that it should be owned by the poor people.
The original ordinance kept 60 percent ownership to the government and gave 40 percent to the borrowers. That's not the ownership pattern I was lobbying for. At that time, the finance minister assured me that he will change it to make the borrowers the majority shareholders. His successor picked it up and amended the ordinance to make it 75 percent for borrowers and 25 percent for the government. But in reality today, the government only has a 3.5 percent share; the remaining 96.5 percent is with the borrowers.
A few amendments that we have been pleading for many years was to have the chairman elected by the board, instead of being appointed by the government, to allow Grameen Bank to operate in urban areas (which is not allowed now), and reduce government ownership to a token amount of under 5 percent. The caretaker government accepted and introduced the first two amendments. The selection of a chairman by the government remains as an opening for politics to creep in. If the chairman is appointed by the board of Grameen Bank, it will be protected from political intervention.
DS: The review report claims that Grameen Bank has a tendency not to follow rules and regulations. How do you respond?
MY: It's again based on a basic misconception. The committee thought all these Grameen companies belong to Grameen Bank. Once you think that way, you start seeing violations, such as, the violation of creating companies that was not allowed by law, and violations of allowing business with each other. The review committee never had a chance to interact with these companies, but they guessed that there must be a chaotic situation out there.Grameen Bank does not have a tendency towards violating any rules. It has always tried to follow the rules and procedures in a transparent manner. It is a very law-abiding bank. Grameen Bank does not violate rules because that's the foundation on which Grameen Bank stands. Grameen Bank is based on trust. Without total commitment to rules and discipline, trust cannot survive. As a result, Grameen Bank cannot survive.
DS: Why did you not retire when you turned 60?
MY: I offered to resign when I was 60, but the board did not let me go. The board said: “We are the appointing authority and you should continue.” Grameen Bank's regulations allowed it. The board said: “You continue until we tell you [to retire].”
I turned 70 and again I offered my resignation. The board said we will not let you go. I tried all the time, but the board was telling me to stay. I wrote a letter on March 15, 2010, to the honourable finance minister, offering to step down. He thought my proposal was a good one.
The question was whether it was a violation of the law. There is no violation. The board said it was very important for me to continue. The board also said the law does not stop them. The board created the regulation. They made the regulation that the managing director does not have an age limit.
This issue of me going over the retirement age was raised by the audit teams of Bangladesh Bank. That team said you are going over your age-limit. We gave our explanation. We explained that there was no age-limit for the managing director of Grameen Bank.
They looked at our explanation. The next year, the issue was discussed in detail. We told them we are ruled by our own regulations. Under the ordinance, we created the regulations.
The audit team told us to bring all our papers. We brought all our papers. There were six people, chaired by the Bangladesh Bank general manager, reviewing these documents. When they saw all the documents, they said you are OK. At the time I was sixty and a half years.
Ever since then, Bangladesh Bank never raised the issue again. That means they had no objection to it. No question was ever raised again since then.
Suddenly the central bank came up eleven years later with a letter. If you discover a mistake 11 years later, you suddenly do not send a letter to fix it. You can pick up the phone, say a sorry we have made a mistake, we missed it and you missed it and let's sort it out. That is how it could be addressed.
I cannot say why they sent the letter after 11 years. I did not think it was legally correct. So I went to court. But the high court said I do not have the locus-standi to seek redress. They did not accept my case. Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision.
DS: What is the future path for Grameen Bank without you at the helm?
MY: Grameen Bank is at a very interesting stage right now. The second generation within Grameen Bank borrowers' families is becoming adults -- in large numbers. We have helped them go to school and finish school. Many went for higher education with Grameen Bank loans. They are completely different from their mothers. They grew up within a Grameen Bank environment. Grameen Bank's policy has been to create a new generation who will not only be free from poverty, but from this generation on, nobody will ever return to poverty. We have been encouraging them to become job-givers rather than being job-seekers.
The future of Grameen Bank could be an exciting journey of exploring new grounds. It could be a glorious journey. But if GB does not manage the transition carefully, it could end up a disaster. A friendly transition is the key to a successful future. We have already damaged that process. But we still have a chance to do damage-control by insisting on smooth continuity, by leaving the existing ordinance alone, by not trying to bring government control, by respecting the decision-making power of the board, by accepting my proposal to the finance minister in March last year, to appoint me as the chairman and by selecting a non-political person of high standing as the next managing director. Grameen Bank is a precious institution. It has demonstrated its ability to govern itself with world-class efficiency. If we keep it that way, we will not have to worry. We can relax and expect more success ahead for Grameen Bank.
DS: What's next in your efforts to help the poor? What's next in your life as a private person (as Muhammad Yunus)?
MY: I started out concentrating on the issue of poverty alleviation. All the companies I created are all focused on that. I will continue with that. I have no intention to slow down. I cannot even if I try to. I will continue -- some people may like what I do, some may dislike it, or some may even hate it. I will go on doing things that I think is the right thing to do. I get the feeling that my way of approaching world problems particularly appeals to young people. I enjoy working with them.
My work comes from a faith that all human beings have unlimited capacities. But society does not allow people to become acquainted with their capacity. We can start to create an environment where people will gradually start discovering themselves.
A part of poverty is because people are not aware of their own capacities. Most of the time, people are made dependent. They are being told that the state will take care of you, or the market will take care of you. They are turned into passive beings. We are not encouraging the person to discover his own inherent capacity to take care of himself.
I want to find ways to encourage people to explore their capacities, to give them a chance for self-help. I am not saying 'do not help them'. I am saying that the important part of the help should be to help them gain independence, not to get used to dependence.
On top of that, I strongly feel that each individual has the capacity to change the world. But he does not always get to use this capacity. We think we are too small to change anything. I want everybody to believe that he is big. He can change the world. He can come up with fantastic ideas. Human creativity is just limitless. We must believe in it.
This generation of young people is very different from ours. They have technology, internet access and are connected with thousands or even millions of others. If they can use the technology, they will be able to change the world much faster than we can imagine.
I started social business to solve social and economic problems. Young people are responding to that call. Many universities have opened their own institutes of social business, centres for social business and chairs for social business in countries such as Germany, the UK, the USA and Japan. Many are coming along in this direction, such as India, Russia and Colombia.
I see the positive responses from people. I see the possibilities. If the idea of social business catches up, it will bring a big change in the economy and the society. My mission will be to concentrate on that and make young people think big and get involved, rather than feel frustrated and withdrawn. I believe the young generation will transform the world in a fundamental way.
Friday, May 27, 2011
India ’s critics have long accused the world’s largest democracy, in size, of practicing intolerance under a carefully cultivated liberal image. Troubling incidents of censorship and undemocratic practices , such as rapes and murders of Christian nuns and 21 st century’s first incident of ethnic cleansing in 2002 , against more than 2 ,000 Indian Muslims, were often ignored by the American and British mainstream media, which preferred to give India a pass largely because the country was seen as an Am-Brit bulwark against China, Pakistan and Russia. But this month it seems India’s political and military establishments have picked up a wrong fight: censoring the prestigious Economist magazine because of a piece that sought to discuss border disputes between Pakistan, India and China. Both Pakistan and China allowed the said edition of the magazine to sell in their markets. But not India. The Indian government was not happy at an Economist map showing existing de facto borders in Kashmir , where a Pakistan- backed autonomous Azad Kashmir government controls one-third of the disputed territory and Indian military the remaining two-thirds. While the article was balanced, Indian officials said it failed to show the entire state of disputed Kashmir as Indian territory. The magazine editors said they only showed the reality on the ground, where India controls less than two- thirds of the region. They said Pakistan too claims the entire region but it didn’t stop the magazine’s distribution in the Pakistani market. The Indian government forced Economist to place a white sticker on the map to hide it. The Indian government is sensitive about Kashmir because its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru pledged at the United Nations to allow Kashmiris to choose their future in an UN-administered plebiscite. India reneged later on its pledge citing complex legal reasons and unilaterally annexed the territory. The Economist editors conceded that India is less tolerant about Kashmir than Pakistan or China, the other two parties to the dispute. Other western news outlets seized the opportunity to highlight India’s censorship practices that belie its declared democratic credentials. The BBC, for example, announced that “The authorities in India routinely target the international media, including the BBC, on the issue of Kashmir’s borders if the media do not reflect India’s claims. ” Kashmiris say India is so intolerant of open media that it has banned foreign news channels in Kashmir which is occupied by nearly 700 , 000 Indian military, police and paramilitary personnel. Pakistanis too have their own experiences with Indian censorship. While Pakistani newspapers and TV allow Indian writers and commentators to criticize Pakistan and contradict Pakistani position on Kashmir, Indian newspapers and TV channels don’t give Pakistani commentators a similar access. Indian news websites routinely ban registered Pakistani comment makers. During the people-to- people exchange of delegations between 2004 and 2006 Composite Dialogue, Pakistanis complained that Indian delegations refused to deviate from official Indian government positions. In contrast, members of Pakistani delegations visiting India freely interacted with the Indian media and often criticized some Pakistani policies. And in at least one occasion, Indian interior minister made an inappropriate remark when a Pakistani newspaper leaked the story of the induction of a battalion of entertainment girls as part of Indian military presence in Kashmir. India continues to enjoy the backing of the governments of the United States and Britain for strategic reasons, but independent-minded journalists in those countries are slowly opening up to the contradictions in India. For example, in 2010 , for the first time mainstream US media covered the massive Kashmiri uprising against Indian occupation after ignoring the conflict for a long time.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
The past week has witnessed major attacks on key Pakistani military and intelligence facilities by the Tehrik-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that for the past several years has fought an increasingly brutal and brash war in the heart of the Pakistani state. Yet while the attacks, and in particular the lengthy siege of the Mehran naval base in Karachi, have brought condemnation on the military for lax security procedures , few within Pakistan have openly questioned the state's long- running dance with militant groups, many of whom cooperate closely while alternately working with and fighting Pakistan. But a string of events in the past few years have made the question of Pakistani support for - or allowance of - terrorist and militant groups unavoidable.[[BREAK]] In the days after the 9 /11 attacks, President Bush's remarks that nations would from then on be "with us or with the terrorists" and his direct threats to Pakistan to sever ties with militants forced then-military leader Pervez Musharraf to take a U-turn and begin targeting selected al-Qaeda and other militant leaders. However, as the dust from the U.S. warning started settling down, truck- loads of Arab and Uzbek fighters and their Taliban facilitators from eastern Afghanistan's Khost province and other parts of the country started traveling to and settling in Pakistan's tribal areas. Through the payment of money along with various kinds of intimidation, those terrorists and their supporters won the loyalties and support, or simply the acquiescence, of the tribesmen, many of whom continue to suffer at the hands of their unwanted guests. Yet even after militants were allowed to settle in the tribal areas with little resistance from the Pakistani state, the tribesmen were (and are still) told that it was because of U.S. drone strikes that these "holy warriors" fled to their areas. Hence, each missile against foreign militants or their Pakistani counterparts increased the potential number of militants flowing in and fueled rising anti-Americanism in Pakistan, serving the short-term political interests of pro- Taliban elements in the country's security establishment, while allowing the army to play on anti-American sentiment domestically while still occasionally offering militants to the United States, either for arrest or targeting by drones, as a sign of good faith and in order to maintain a steady flow of military aid. Recent history provides ample room for suspicion that the relationship between militants and the Pakistani military or intelligence agencies continues. Some key points should lead informed observers, for instance, to suspect some knowledge of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's presence in the highly-secured cantonment town of Abbottabad among Pakistani intelligence officials. For instance, the structure of the house is very different from the rest of the buildings in the area, and that plus the barbed wires atop its 18
to 20 feet high boundary walls would have likely drawn some suspicion to the compound's residents. The compound is located less than a kilometer from Pakistan's Kakul Military Academy. Security officials, who keep a strict watch on anyone entering and living in a cantonment zone, somehow managed to miss the compound, which sticks out from the others around it. The Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani even visited the Kakul Academy less than 10 days before the May 2 raid, something that was undoubtedly preceded by security officials combing the nearby areas for any suspicious people or activities, as is the standard practice for such visits. Additionally, locals told the writer that three gas connections were provided to the house within a few days after its construction, which otherwise takes weeks if not months. But again, no alarm was raised. Additionally, groups like Lashkar-e- Taiba (LeT) and Sipah-e-Sihaba Pakistan (SSP) continue to operate openly despite being nominally banned. Indeed, locals I have spoken with in Kurram agency blame Pakistani intelligence for bringing the Sunnis against the Shi'a there, simply to show the world that Pakistan is heading towards de-stabilization and only U.S. and international support can save the society from becoming radical (not to mention the benefit accrued by the Haqqani network, who now have space to operate if their North Waziristan sanctuary is compromised). And a brief look at some of the militants operating in Pakistan currently raises questions about how they have been able to implant themselves and continue operating. For instance, is it believable that Khyber agency-based militant and former bus driver Mangal Bagh, a warlord with no more than 500 volunteers, can operate just 15 kilometers away from Pakistan's 11 Corps headquarters in the town of Bara, kidnapping people from Peshawar and other parts of the country, attacking powerful tribal elders, ministers, and journalists from Khyber agency, attacking NATO supply convoys, and carrying out public attacks and executions? Maulana Fazlullah, a leading warlord in the Swat Valley, a man who was once a chair-lift operator on the Swat River, became the most powerful commander in the area in a span of two years, with little government opposition. When the military conducted an operation in Swat upon the request of the secular Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) government in Khyber- Puktunkhwa, Fazlullah somehow managed to break a cordon of 20 ,000 soldiers backed by helicopters and jets to escape. And in Bajaur, Taliban commander Faqir Muhammad's forces were "cleared" in 2008 , but though hundreds of thousands of locals were displaced, their houses destroyed, their crops burnt and their cattle killed, Faqir Muhammad continues to leave peacefully in the agency. And those who rose up to confront the Taliban received little protection from the government. When the ANP, after coming into power in Khyber- Puktunkhwa, raised its voice against the Taliban, party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan was attacked by a suicide bomber inside his house in his hometown of Charsadda. Since then, the party leadership has lived in Islamabad. The party's spokesman and Information Minister Mian Iftikhar's son was killed by armed men close to his house last July. Mian Iftikhar and another outspoken minister of the KP government, Bashir Bilour, escaped several attempts on their lives; Asfandyar Wali Khan's sister Dr. Gulalay, who is not involved with party politics, was attacked in Peshawar, and ANP lawmaker Alam Zeb Khan was killed in a bomb attack in the same city, before finally the party leadership and members were forced to stop their vocal opposition to the militants. *** One key problem in the Pakistan-U.S. relationship, particularly in the present situation, is that both countries are dependent on each other despite pursuing contrasting interests in Afghanistan and in South Asia. And to keep this marriage of convenience going, the U.S. will likely come out with some praise for Pakistani efforts, more than Sen. John Kerry did during his recent Islamabad trip , while Pakistan may launch some kind of sham military operation in North Waziristan and may kill or arrest some Haqqani, Taliban or al-Qaeda leaders just to brush aside the U.S. and international opinion about its support for the al-Qaeda and Taliban. Just last week the Pakistani Army announced the arrest of a "senior Yemeni al-Qaeda operative" named Mohammed Ali Qasim, or Abu Suhaib al-Makki, in the teeming city of Karachi. While al-Makki's place in the al-Qaeda hierarchy is in dispute, he was somehow able to live undisturbed in Pakistan for 10 years, only to be arrested just days after bin Laden's death. Expect to see more "senior" leaders arrested or killed, whether in operations or drone strikes, in the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates, drawing covert support from some individuals in the intelligence apparatus, may carry out attacks in cities, on mosques, and even on military and government installations just to remind the world that the country is itself a victim of terrorism - just look for example to last week's devastating suicide bombing in Charsadda on a paramilitary constabulary post, claimed by the TT P, the attacks last week against the Saudi consulate and a Saudi diplomat in Karachi, or this week's attacks against the Mehran base and yesterday' s attack on the police Criminal Investigations Department in Peshawar. The Pakistani media does not and will not help ease the heightened tension between Pakistan and the United States. Heavily influenced by the security establishment, it presents an image of the society that is anti- American to the core. This image is simply not true, but instead originated from the handpicked anchorpersons of the private Pakistani TV channels, who run after interviews with Taliban commanders to increase their profiles, and some selected analysts and commentators, who present that picture of Pakistani society to the United States, constantly raising the specter of a Pakistan on the edge of a collapse into fundamentalism. But instead of turning away from Pakistan, the United States must listen carefully to the demands of the Pakistani security and political establishment, while also plainly conveying their own. And instead of investing in the generals and politicians, the U.S. should focus its attentions more thoroughly on Pakistani society and its long-term economic and social needs that have nothing to do with the Taliban. It is the army and the government who always disappoint the United States, and it is the Pakistani people who always end up disappointed with the United States. These are the simple but key steps that have to be taken. If not, instability will prevail in Afghanistan and terrorist safe havens will survive in the tribal areas. Innocent people in all parts of Pakistan will continue to fall prey to the Taliban and other jihadist groups, and the eventual U.S. withdrawal from and the hastily arranged peace deal in Afghanistan will not alleviate the situation. But no change can take place unless President Obama and the world revive Bush's ultimatum, and tell Pakistan's military and civilian leadership that they are either "with us or with the terrorists."
Chillig details about extensive plots to strike high profile and sensitive targets in India are coming out in the closely- watched trial of Pakistani-born businessman Tahawwur Rana who is charged with helping the Lashkar-e-Taiba plan the 2008 strikes that killed 160 people. The documents that have come to light in trial of Rana show how the Lashkar plotted attacks, in great details, on India’s nuclear installations, Jewish organizations and crowded markets. The emails, transcripts, recce videos and photos also show a plan to target Bal Thackeray, the head of the Shiv Sena while exposing the links between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) and elements in Pakistan's military with the terror outfit. The trial also put on stand David Coleman Headley, the LeT operative who is said to have scouted targets across the length and breadth of India in his nine visits to the country, including detailed reconnaissance of the National Defence College, Chabad houses in Goa, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune and the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre. Headley has said Pakistan's Inter- Services Intelligence directorate ( ISI) and elements in Pakistan's military coordinated with Lashkar and other Pakistani militants to launch the daring attacks on Mumbai. The gradually unravelling terror trail links Headley to his various contacts in India, according to emails, photos, videos and transcripts and other documents related to the trial of Rana put up as trial exhibits by the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois on its website. On exhibit are Headley's email exchanges with Raja Rege, who he refers to as the ‘Shiv Sena PRO’ as part of a bigger plot to get access to Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, high on the LeT list as a possible target. Rege writes in June 2008 to Headley asking for details of his company and the work done so far and agrees to his visit to India in the coming weeks to set up a ' business opportunity' with the Shiv Sena chief. Rege calls Headley ‘ Dave’ and boasts of contacts in India and the scope that lies in various projects. Headley promptly forwards the mail to one 'Chaudhery Khan' who he identifies as Major Iqbal, an ISI officer. Writing from an email id ' impervious2 email@example.com' and 'ranger1 dave2 yahoo.com', Headley also discusses funds and cash transactions with Rana in emails dated March 2007 , about the time he visited India. According to a document, Headley got his name changed from Dawood Gilani in February 2006 to David Coleman Headley. He updates Major Iqbal in an email sent in April 2008 on commercially viable spy cameras and surveillance material. One of Headley's conversations with Pasha months after the Mumbai raid turned to Headley's anger at a man identified as Major Iqbal of Pakistan's ISI, who had provided guidance during Headley' s surveillance work in Mumbai. He called Iqbal a "coward" for telling Headley, "Friend, do not have any contact with me any more." According to the National Investigation Agency’s interrogation report, Headley gives an extensive report of his nine visits to India and his reconnaissance in places such as Paharganj in Delhi, the Taj Hotel in Mumbai and identifying places for the Mumbai attackers to land after crossing over on boats from Pakistan. Headley, who has been put under witness protection programme of the federal government and is being treated as a star witness in the trial of Tahawwur Rana Hussein Rana, admitted that his reconnaissance videos on the five targets in Mumbai which were attacked on 26 /11 were crucial for the success of the LeT. His reconnaissance videos in respect of other targets in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Goa and Pushkar was intended for use by the LeT to attack India and cause large scale damage. The report clearly states that the money which was used by Headley for reconnaissance was provided by Major Iqbal. During conversation with Abdur Rehman Hashim Pasha in 2009 , Headley believed an attack on the National Defence College is imminent. After his training Headley was told to go to India and several Indian cities were discussed – Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore Pune, Nagpur, Gujarat and Hyderabad. From his first visit to his ninth visit to India, Headley carried a camera he had taken from his mother-in- law in Pakistan. Headley said during his visit to India in April and June 2008 , he carried a Sony Eriksson model of mobile phone given to him by Major Iqbal and GPS device given to him by Sajid Majid, one of the earliest members of LeT. Headley conducted detailed videography of places for future attacks including residence of the Vice President of India, India Gate, Paharganj in Delhi and the CBI office in Mumbai. Headley identified some of the prominent locations on Google Earth. In 2005 Headley was getting impatient after having completed his training which included hand to hand combat and wanted to be sent to Kashmir. He, however, was told to wait. Between October and December 2005 Headley said the LeT conducted a surveillance of the Rajkot Oil refinery, a possible target. September 14 2006 to December 14 2006 During his first visit to India he stayed at Hotel Outram in Mumbai. He purchased a cell phone and a sim card. He bought memory sticks from a showroom near his hotel. He befriended Rahul Bhatt during this time. Headley said he made extensive photography of the Bombay Municipal Corporation building, Haji Ali, Gateway of India, Hotel Taj, the Apollo Bander, State Police Headquarters of Maharashtra, Azad Maidan, areas close to hotel Outram, and Marine Drive. Headley watched videos of Kumbh Mela and was asked by Sajid if these places could be attacked. On his second visit to India in February 2007 , a third in March, 2007 , and fourth in May 2007 he said he made some general videography of the city. His fifth visit to India In September 2007 , he came to India for the fifth time and this time the target was Pune. He conducted a reconnaissance of the NDC in Delhi. In Mumbai he made a detailed surveillance of the entry and exit points of the Taj Hotel, the jewellery shop 'Jazdar' of the Taj hotel. The Shiv Sena Bhavan was videographed as Headley visited the house of Bal Thackeray and spoke to some guards. He was also asked to do a recce of the staff colony of the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre. In April 2008 , his seventh visit, he videographed the entire BARC residential areas, believed to be one of Asia's largest. He also conducted boat rides for reconnaissance of the landing sites. He went to Cuffe Parade area where the attackers finally landed. He also conducted a reconnaissance of the VT railway station and a bus terminus near VT. He took videos of the Mumbai central railway station. He discussed his surveillance with Rana who told him of an Indo-Pak agreement on non-use of force on each others’ nuclear installation. Detailed maps of Mumbai, images of operatives, the landing sites in Mumbai for terror operatives were submitted as evidence in the trial as Headley said told the US District Court jury about secretly recorded telephone conversations he had with Rana and retired Pakistan military officer Abdur Rehman, known as Pasha. Headley said he and Rana gloated over the success of the Mumbai raids and praised its planners, listening to recordings of cell phone conversations between the attackers and Headley's main Lashkar contact, Sajid Mir, during the raid. In July 2008 , Headley said he finalized his surveillance of the the Taj hotel, naval air station, police HQ, state assembly building, Siddhi Vinayak Temple, Chabad House, Mumbai Stock Exchange, Leopold Cafe, Colaba police station, Delhi Durbar, Israeli consulate, DN Road and Trident Hotel. He covered the VT railway station and the bus stand to plot an exact egress point for the attackers. It was at this time that he went to Osho Ashram in Pune and bought a gown. During the discussion for the boat ride he suggested the attackers wear vests which he said saved them during a botched attempt in September 2008. He said he wanted to name the Mumbai attacks the Mickey Mouse Project but Sajid did not like the name and renamed it Northern Project. When back in Pakistan in June 2008 Headley said he was getting frustrated due to the lack of action. He met Sajid and Abu Quhafa and it was decided that the sea route was to be used to go to Mumbai. He was asked to take a stock of train timings at the VT railway station. The Taj Presidency, World Trade Centre, Chabad House, Maharashtra Police Station, State Assembly Building, Bombay Stock Exchange and the Radio Club were discussed as possible targets. Soon after, in October Headley shifted to Denmark for a reconnaissance. He said he watched the Novenmer 26 , 2008 attacks on Geo TV and CNN. While videographing the Raksha Bhawan, he also videographed the outer boundary of the Prime Minister's residence. He informed the handlers that the best time to attack Pushkar was in winter and they could hide weapons in surrounding mountains. He was shown a oil refinery on Google Earth, possibly the Reliance Oil Refinery near Gujarat. On his final trip to India in 2009 , Headley conducted reconnaissance of Chabad Houses in Delhi, Pushkar, Goa and Pune. He took videos of all three entry points to Delhi's crowded Paharganj area. He visited India Gate and surveyed the Vice Presidents house, Sena Bhawan and NDC and made extensive footage of Israeli embassy and entries to NDC. Paharganj looked like a likely target. His last visit also brought him to Pune where he extensively surveyed the entire Koregaon area, including the German Bakery.
Pakistan is not the original birth place of the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadi orgs. Islamic fundamentalism and jihadi terrorism were born elsewhere in the Ummah and thereafter spread to Pakistan after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. But, Pakistan is the original birth place of the concept of the nuclear jihad, which highlighted the need for an Islamic bomb and advocated the right and the religious obligation of Muslims to acquire WMDs and use them, if necessary, to protect their religion. The jihadi terrorists and their ideologues in Pakistan perceived the nuclear weapon as the ultimate weapon of retribution against States which they viewed as enemies of Islam, particularly the US and Israel. It was, in fact, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a Western-influenced liberal and not a religious fundamentalist, who first projected Pakistan’s clandestine quest for an atomic bomb as the quest for an Islamic bomb to counter what he described as the Christian, Jewish and Hindu atomic bombs. He used this depiction in order to convince other Islamic States such as Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iran to fund Pakistan’s clandestine military nuclear programme. It was only subsequently that Paki jihadi orgs such as Harkat-ul- Mujahideen and fundamentalist orgs such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-ul- Ulema Islam adopted Bhutto’s depiction of the Islamic bomb and projected it as rightfully belonging to the Ummah as a whole. They described Pakistan’s nuclear and missile capability as held by it on trust on behalf of the Ummah. In 2000 , when Abdul Sattar, Musharraf’s then Foreign Minister, advocated Pakistan’s signing of the CTBT, the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadi orgs started a public campaign against him and projected him as a traitor and as anti-Islam. Thereafter, he gave up his advocacy. After he shifted to Afghanistan from the Sudan in 1996 , Osama bin Laden not only started speaking of the right and religious obligation of Muslims to acquire WMDs and use them if necessary to protect Islam, but also initiated a project for the acquisition/ development of WMDs under the leadership of Abu Khabab in his training complex in Afghanistan. After 1998 , Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish People IIF launched a campaign for the recruitment of students of science and scientists already working in the scientific establishments of Islamic countries for helping them in their quest for the acquisition/development of WMDs. Many analysts of what has come to be known as catastrophic or new terrorism have remarked on the presence of a large number of educated persons in the ranks of the jihadi terrorist orgs. Even the pre-1991 ideological terrorist orgs of the world, influenced by leftist ideologies, had attracted a large number of educated youth. Thus, the attraction of educated youth to terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Most of them were students or graduates or teachers of humanities. There were hardly any students of science or scientists in their ranks. What is new about jihadi terrorism is the gravitation of a number of students of science or working scientists to the jihadi orgs to help the terrorists in their jihad. While the students of science came to the jihadi orgs from many Islamic countries, working scientists came mainly from Pakistan. Gen Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled from 1977 to 1988 , strengthened the Islamic motivation of not only the Armed Forces, but also of its scientific community in the nuclear field. Just as he started projecting the Army not only as the Army of Pakistan, but also as the Army of Islam to serve the Islamic cause, similarly, like ZA Bhutto whom he overthrew and sent to the gallows, he started providing a religious justification for Pakistan’s clandestine quest for the atomic bomb. Zia’s policies resulted in the injection of the fundamentalist virus into Pakistani Army and scientific establishment. While the increasing influence of fundamentalism in the lower and middle levels of the Armed Forces received the attention of analysts of the world, a similar increase in the influence of fundamentalism in the scientific establishment did not receive similar attention despite the fact that sections of the Pakistani media had been reporting the presence of unidentified scientists of Pakistan’s nuclear establishment in the religious conventions of Pakistani jihadi orgs such as Lashkar-e-Toiba. The first indications of the presence of pro-jihadi scientists in Pakistan’s nuclear establishment came to notice during the US military ops in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and Taliban, when documents recovered reportedly spoke of the visits of retired Paki scientists Sultan Bashiruddin Ahmed and Abdul Majid to Kandahar when bin Laden was operating from there pre-9 /11. Bashiruddin was the first head of the Kahuta uranium enrichment project before AQ Khan replaced him in the 1970 s. At the instance of the US, Pakistan authorities detained the two for some weeks and interrogated them. They admitted visiting Kandahar and meeting bin Laden, but maintained that the visit was in connection with the work of a humanitarian relief org for helping Afghan people which they had founded and had nothing to do with Al Qaeda’s quest for WMD. Since no evidence linking them to Al Qaeda’s Abu Khabab project could be found, they were released but banned from traveling abroad. However, the US and, at its instance, the UN Security Council initiated action for banning their so-called humanitarian org and for freezing its bank accounts. Since 9 /11 , one of the major concerns of US intel and counter-terrorism agencies has been over the dangers of Al Qaeda and its jihadi associates in the IIF managing to acquire a WMD capability. In this connection, attention was particularly focused on Pakistan as the most likely spot from which such leakage could occur. Pakistan has been the epicentre of State-sponsored nuclear proliferation since the late 80 s. Having benefited from funds contributed by Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia for its clandestine military nuclear project, the Pakistan State had to agree to requests from these countries for helping them in acquiring a similar capability. Large sections of the media and the community of strategic analysts have been writing as if the Pakistan State’s collusion with Iran in the nuclear field came to light only last year. In fact, this came to light in the early 90 s when Nawaz Sharif was PM. The Pakistani political and military establishment, including Sharif himself, had then strongly refuted these reports. If one goes back to the 90 s - immediately before and after the 1991 Gulf war - one would find reports of the role played by Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, then COAS, and Dr AQ Khan in the clandestine nuclear co-operation not only with Iran, but also with Iraq. Dr Khan had been the honoured guest of Saddam Hussein on many occasions. The reports of those years were dismissed by the apologists for Pakistan in the US on the following grounds: - the reports about the co-operation with Iran came from sources in the anti- Teheran Mujahideen-e-Khalq, which were not reliable. - it did not sound logical that Pakistan should be helping Iran as well as Iraq, both sworn enemies of each other. Such arguments have no validity in the case of Pakistan. Duplicity has been the defining characteristic of Pakistan’s foreign policy since 1947. It co-operated with China against India, and with the US against China. It co-operated with the US against Iran by allowing the CIA to use Pakistani territory for its ops against the Islamic regime in Iran and, at the same time, had no qualms about helping Iran in strengthening its conventional capability and developing a nuclear capability. The political and military leadership of Pakistan clandestinely helped not only other Islamic countries, but also North Korea. Whereas in the case of the Islamic countries, the motivation was money and religion, in the case of North Korea it was the desire for the North Korean missile technology. When Pakistan faced difficulties in the late 80 s in developing its indigenous missiles (based on the Hatf series), it was to China it turned. Beijing helped it by supplying technology and fully tested short and medium range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons up to Delhi and Mumbai, but was reluctant to supply long-range missiles capable of striking Chennai and Kolkatta. It was then that Pakistan turned to North Korea, when Benazir Bhutto succeeded Nawaz in 1993. During her visit to North Korea from China, the agreement for co-operation in the missile field was concluded. Gen Musharraf, her DGMO, was made responsible for co-ordinating this project. He and AQ Khan had made many secret visits to North Korea in this connection - together as well as separately. Initially, Pakistan paid for North Korea’s missiles and related technology with dollars and wheat purchased from the US and Australia and diverted to it. The supplementary agreement to help North Korea in developing a military nuclear capability was reached after Musharraf assumed power in Oct 1999. Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua [who succeeded Beg], Gen Abdul Waheed Kakkar, his successor, and Gen Jehangir Karamat, his successor and Musharraf’s predecessor, were all privy to the clandestine nuclear/missile relationship with Iran, Libya and North Korea. Right from its inception, the clandestine nuclear and missile projects in Pakistan were treated as a top secret intel op of the ISI to ensure deniability. All payments to the foreign suppliers were made not from the accounts of the Govt of Pakistan, but from private accounts in the BCCI, which collapsed in 1991 , and other Dubai and Geneva based banks. These accounts were opened by the Gokul brothers of Geneva, one of whom was jailed for cheating in the UK after the collapse of the BCCI; Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan’s present Finance Minister, who was working in the Gulf for the Citibank in the 1990 s; Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia leader who was designated by the US as an intl terrorist in Oct; Dubai-based Pakistani smugglers, and AQ Khan and other trusted Pakistani scientists. The financial contributions from Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia were transferred to these accounts from numbered Swiss accounts, and payments to the overseas suppliers were made from these accounts. In response to periodic Western media reports about Pakistan’s clandestine co- operation with these countries, Musharraf has been taking shifting stands just as he has been doing in the case of Paki links with Al Qaeda and other jihadi groups. When the first reports about Pakistan’s clandestine co- operation with North Korea in the missile and nuclear fields appeared, he totally denied them and repeatedly maintained that Pakistan’s medium and long-range missiles were totally indigenous and there was no North Korean role. In Oct last year, during a visit to South Korea, he changed this stand and openly admitted for the first time North Korean inputs in Pakistan’s missile programme. However, he continues to deny any Pakistani inputs into North Korea’s nuclear programme. At the same time, he sought to blame the previous Govts of Nawaz and Benazir for the missile co-operation with North Korea as if he had no role in it. After 9 /11 , when there was considerable speculation about the dangers of Pak’s WMDs falling into the hands of Al Qaeda, he asserted on innumerable occasions that Pakistan’s nuclear capability was in the secure hands of the military and that there was no question of its leakage to anybody outside Pakistan. However, after Libya and Iran made a clean breast of the inputs received from Pakistan, he has again shifted his stand. He is now trying to give the impression that this was the unauthorized doing of rogue elements in Pakistan’s scientific community who, according to him, betrayed Pakistan’s nuclear secrets out of greed for money. He has been enacting an elaborate nuclear charade of detaining and " debriefing" A.Q.Khan and eight other nuclear scientists close to him and four ISI officers who had served in the Kahuta uranium enrichment factory and by projecting the proliferation which has taken place, which he no longer denies, as the act of these rogue elements. When President Vladimir Putin of Russia visited India a year ago, he stated in an interview that Musharraf had repeatedly assured him that Pakistan’s nuclear and missile assets were in the safe hands of the Army and that there was no question of their leakage to Al Qaeda or other jihadi terrorists. Putin added that while he had no reasons to distrust Musharraf, he continued to be concerned over the dangers of individual members of the Pakistani scientific community helping the jihadi terrorists to develop a WMD capability. Even though he did not say so explicitly, it was apparent that he was having in mind the case of Sultan Bashiruddin and Abdul Majid and was worried that they represented only the tip of the jihadi rogue iceberg in Pakistan’s nuclear and missile fields. Putin’s concerns have been justified by the recent discoveries of the role of over a dozen members of Pakistan’s WMD community, civilian scientists as well as their military supervisors, in the proliferation of nuclear technology and material to Libya and Iran. Even if one were to accept Musharraf’s unconvincing arguments that this was a rogue operation by greedy scientists without the knowledge of the military, these concerns would only be aggravated and not lessened because if greedy scientists were prepared to help other States in return for money, they would be equally capable of selling material and expertise to jihadi terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, which can pay as well as these Islamic States. I f an Islamic fundamentalist orientation was an additional factor in their sale/ transfer of these technologies to Iran and Libya, the international community would have reasons to be even more concerned. Till now, strategic analysts have been focusing only on the dangers of a possible Talibanisation or Al Qaedisation of the Pakistan Army. It is time now to pay more attention to the dangers of a Talibanisation or Al Qaedisation of Pakistan’s scientific community. The recent developments and the shifting stands of Musharraf only add to the misgivings in the minds of many about him. If he has been telling a lie by putting all the blame on individual scientists, it shows how he continues to be as unreliable as before befitting his reputation as "tricky Mush". If he is telling the truth, it shows how ineffective is his control over the jihadi elements in the Pakistani Army and scientific establishment.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Pakistani security forces have reclaimed the Mehran naval base in Karachi after an 18- hour battle with militants who had earlier infiltrated it. The attack on the base by the Pakistani Taliban, which has claimed responsibility for the assault, left ten security men dead and at least twenty injured. This latest predicament in which Pakistan finds itself comes only days after some naval buses came under fire from the militants. In October 2009 , the headquarters of the Pakistan army in Rawalpindi came under a similar assault, leaving open the question of how much of a breach of security has occurred in the country's armed forces. The Mehran incident only reinforces the feeling that Pakistan is today in a most vulnerable state from the very militants its notorious inter-services intelligence has often been accused of patronising. There is little question that Pakistan's people are trapped in conditions their government is unable to handle. Certain regions of the country, such as Waziristan, have clearly slipped out of government control and into the hands of the militants. The mountainous borders between Afghanistan and the Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former North-West Frontier Province) have been easy routes for militant elements to move around freely. Add to that the recent sighting and killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad only yards away from Pakistan's elite military academy. Compounding matters further for Pakistan is the regularity with which American drone aircraft have been pounding militant positions. President Obama has held out the promise of more such attacks should they become necessary. The attack on the naval base is a patent reaction to the Osama killing. What is worrying, though, is the absolute inability of the Pakistani authorities to prevent the militants from operating so freely as to target the country's military establishments. It will be easy to suggest that the Islamabad government take adequate measures to halt the drift to further chaos. The reality, however, is that for now the militants clearly have an upper hand. And Pakistan's military, long the dominant voice in the country, salvaging its image. The picture is disquieting for Pakistan and the region. Pakistanis deserve a better deal.
Thieves sometimes follow in the traditions set by their politicians. When Abdul Qadeer Khan peddles the idea that had Pakistan been privy to nuclear arms in 1971 there would be no Bangladesh, he only reminds us of the flaws his country has systematically suffered from, to its eventual shame and regret. You think back on the killing and rape and pillage the Pakistan army indulged in so cheerfully in occupied Bangladesh forty years ago. And then you come to the present, to pity that same army which must now contend with the ( till recent) presence of a global outlaw residing within yards of its principal training academy for officers, which must watch horrified as armed men invade its headquarters in Rawalpindi and set chaos loose among its brave jawans. There is something of comeuppance there. So we are not surprised at A.Q. Khan's fulminations, for he is not the first Pakistani to display a propensity for the barbaric to be brought into a handling of civilised people elsewhere. Back in the 1960 s, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, always prey to delusions of grandeur, saw nothing wrong in threatening Bengalis with the language of weapons should the latter insist on carrying their autonomy movement forward. In case you have missed it, the fact remains that until its not too glorious defeat in the 1971 war, Pakistan consistently pursued policies distinctly racist in tone when it came to dealing with Bengalis. In the 1950 s, Iskandar Mirza made himself a silly spectacle when he spoke of shooting the very respectable Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani like a dog. Bhashani was to die a venerated figure in politics. It was Mirza who did not find a grave in his beloved Pakistan. Leading Pakistanis have not quite been known for their sophistication of language. As foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto told the world that Pakistanis would eat grass but would have the atomic bomb. Well, Pakistanis did not eat grass. It was just that A.Q. Khan stole nuclear technology from the West and scampered back home. You now raise the question: is nuclear power so crucial as to have a nation eat grass to come by it? Bhutto's education, now that you think of it, had been misplaced. At the United Nations Security Council in 1965 , he described the Indian delegation led by the eminently honourable Sardar Swaran Singh as dogs. He got away with it, just as he was to get away with his puerile behaviour before the same forum in December 1971. Lyndon Johnson, Alexei Kosygin and Harold Wilson despised him. In early 1971 , he decreed that any West Pakistani lawmaker travelling to Dhaka would have his legs broken. In 1974 , he did have some legs broken -- those of his party colleague and minister J.A. Rahim and Rahim's son. Large sections of Pakistanis have not quite got over their time- honoured attitude to Bengalis. Any demand for political rights in East Pakistan was always, for them, an assault on Pakistan's integrity. Pakistan's break-up in 1971 ( and you can check it up in the history Pakistani schools teach their children) was the result of a conspiracy by treacherous Bengalis and India's Hindus. General Yahya Khan, having had the political negotiations in Dhaka aborted through stealthily making his way out to Rawalpindi on March 25 , 1971 , felt not a bit of embarrassment terming Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leader of the party winning the elections three months earlier, as a traitor to the cause of Pakistan. Subsequently, he would refer to Indira Gandhi as "that woman." In the mid-1960 s, Ayub Khan would demonstrate his contempt for the short-statured Lal Bahadur Shastri, until Shastri taught him a lesson in September 1965. Language, then, has generally been a casualty at the hands of the mighty in Pakistan. Bangladesh's freedom fighters were "miscreants" (and these "miscreants" eventually ran Pakistan out of Bangladesh). For years on end, the Pakistani establishment promoted a lowly propaganda programme it called " Crush India." We now know who got crushed in the end. Pakistan has since its creation found itself regularly caught on the wrong foot. In January 1948 , Mohammad Ali Jinnah sent Pakistani soldiers, disguised as tribals, into Kashmir. It was a blunder that was to leave a dispute festering over time. In 1960 , Francis Gary Powers took off from an American base in Peshawar in a U2 aircraft and was soon shot down over the Soviet Union. The incident left Pakistanis red in the face. It was consistent Pakistani provocation in 1965 which impelled General J.N. Chaudhury to have Indian soldiers march toward Lahore. When Pakistan's air force attacked Indian bases in early December 1971 , the act swiftly led to conditions where, in addition to losing East Pakistan to the Mukti Bahini, Pakistan was threatened with obliteration in the west. In 1999 , Pakistan's army chief Pervez Musharraf kept Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the dark as he ordered his forces into Kargil, leaving Pakistan once more vulnerable to charges of aggression. In early 1971 , Z.A. Bhutto cheerfully described the hijackers of an Indian aircraft to Lahore as heroes. The Indians swiftly imposed a ban on overflights between West and East Pakistan. The Pakistani military, through Inter-Services Intelligence, beefed up the Taliban and cheered its ascent to power in 1996. In 2008 , the terrorists who hurled themselves on Mumbai came from Pakistan by sea. Abdul Qadeer Khan has only tried to build on this tradition. Why expect any better from a felon, one who should have been hauled up before the International Criminal Court long ago and put away for good?