Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pakistan & ISI: Dangerous Mix of Humiliation and Desperation

 A dangerous mix of humiliation and desperation is the prevailing mood in the Pakistani Armed Forces and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden in a clandestine chopper-borne raid conducted by US naval commandos on a huge house next to the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) at Abbottabad in the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province.
2. The humiliation of the ISI arises from the fact that OBL was living undetected at Abbottabad for over five years. The international community and large sections of public opinion in Pakistan itself believe that without the complicity or the silent connivance of the ISI he could not have lived that long in that area.
3. In his secret testimony before an in-camera session of the Pakistan Parliament on May 13, Lt.Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the ISI, tried to shift part of the blame for this huge intelligence failure on to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Police, both of which come under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. His efforts have failed following allegations by leaders and officials of the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province that the responsibility for intelligence collection and security in garrison towns vested exclusively in the ISI and that the IB and the Police had no role in the matter.
4. The humiliation of the Armed Forces has arisen from the fact that neither the Pakistan Air Force ( PAF) nor the Army was able to detect and prevent the intrusion of the US choppers into the Abbottabad area to kill OBL and escape with his body and a large quantity of documents, computer material and other evidence which could ultimately help the US intelligence , inter alia, to trace the links of OBL with influential people in the Pakistani civil society and the Government.
5. Even though the Armed Forces and the ISI have managed to force the political leadership into expressing its solidarity with them despite their shocking sins of commission and omission, their credibility has been badly damaged in the eyes of the people of the country as well as of the international community.
6.The Army and the ISI have thus far managed to avoid any out-of-house enquiry into the huge intelligence failure that could have arisen from suspected complicity of serving and retired officers of the ISI. The only comprehensive enquiry by an independent commission to which they have agreed is into the security failure which enabled the US to conduct its spectacular commando raid right under the nose of the Army and the Air Force.
7. The vaunted professional reputation of the Army, the Air Force and the ISI is in ruins. The desperation seen is in salvaging the severely damaged reputation in the eyes of the Pakistani people and junior and medium level officers of the Armed Forces. There is a danger of the military and the ISI leadership concluding that without an external adventure against India they may not be able to salvage their reputation and restore the morale of the Armed Forces and the ISI at junior and senior levels.
8. The Government of India should be alert to the danger of such an adventure directed against India through the usual surrogates of the ISI such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba ( LET), or the so-called 303 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri or other anti-India jihadi organizations. The Pakistan Army and the ISI might calculate that re-kindling acts of terrorism against India in J&K and outside might benefit them in two ways. Firstly, to salvage their reputation and restore the morale of their personnel. Secondly, to direct the anger of the LET and other jihadi organizations towards India instead of towards the Pakistani Armed Forces.
9. The jihadi organizations seem to suspect that the spectacular raid at Abbottabad by the US commandos might not have been possible without the knowledge, if not the complicity, of the Armed Forces. This anger against the Armed Forces among the jihadi organizations has already led to two simultaneous acts of suicide terrorism by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) against a group of young recruits to the Frontier Constabulary, a para-military unit, on the day they completed their training in a training centre in the Charsaddha District of the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province.
10. To avoid more such attacks on the Pakistani security forces, the anger of the jihadi organizations may be diverted towards India. There is considerable anger against the US in the Pakistani Armed Forces as well as the civil society. This anger could dilute the ability of the US Government to exercise any restraining influence over such adventurous actions directed against India.
11. The prevailing mindset among senior officers was evident from a reported claim of Pasha before the in-camera session of the Parliament that any Abbottabad-like attack by India would invite a befitting response from Pakistan as targets inside India “had already been identified” and “rehearsal” carried out. It was likely he was indulging in bravado, but one should not minimize the danger of the Pakistani Armed Forces and the ISI provoking border incidents in order to give themselves an opportunity for a retaliatory strike against India. There is a need to mobilize and step up our intelligence collection efforts so that we are not taken by surprise.
12. The spectacular chopper-borne commando raid would be studied not only by the special forces groups of other countries, but also by terrorist organizations in order to see whether similar chopper borne raids could be organized on our territory. Indian targets which could be vulnerable to chopper-borne commando style raids have to be identified and action taken to reduce their vulnerability.

The Grameen Affair : Time To Learn Lessons And Move On

The present phase of the Grameen affair has now ended with the official probe report in and Yunus ousted from his post as the managing director. The probe report has cleared Yunus of all theft and misappropriation charges.
However, the remit of the report was not to detect theft and the observations are about management and administrative issues which may be serious but the Grameen affair was never about that. The sponsors and writers of the report should also be congratulated for doing such a tough job under pressure.
So let’s learn the lessons from the episode and move on.
* * *
The affair was triggered by a Norwegian documentary of dubious intent, full of innuendoes and half accusations. When the hullabaloo initially occurred, the documentary makers had pushed the charges but once challenged, they retracted on most matters including the theft charge claiming they had never insinuated it. Many in Bangladesh rushed to judgment. Some people who were always convinced that Yunus was a villain and a ‘shudhkor’ thought they had found smoking gun evidence of their prejudices and that too offered by the ‘halal’ hands of a European.
The point raised by the documentary about fund transfer issue between Grameen Bank and NORAD has actually been found to be a settled issue by the probe report though the report has made contingent observations on the process but none of which are about criminal offences. One therefore wonders what the documentary was all about if the points it raised were almost all irrelevant. Its comment on the loan system in hindsight also appears to have been a hatchet job.
* * *
The documentary was produced at least partly by the resentment in certain Scandinavian circles about the Grameen phenomenon which is old hat. These people must have thought that as Bangladeshis were not famously critical thinkers they would swallow the accusations which of course many did.
It is good to remember that many high achievers who work in the spotlight will face such accusations over time. Even a spotless man such as Prof. Muzaffer Ahmed of TIB was charged in media once on matters related to corruption but of course it was later proved false. And a running a multi-billion taka institution like Grameen Bank will involve many glitches but they can’t become an excuse for an attack on a loan system serving the poor.
So the best protection of credibility is healthy mistrust of media materials, local or foreign which do such accusing. We do trust Western media more and they are more reliable in general compared to many Bangladeshis but when dealing with national institutions, let’s trust ourselves first on matters which matter.
* * *
But the Grameen Bank debate goes much farther than matters concerning Prof. Yunus and his operations. It reaches deep into our collective anxieties and aspiration, social and personal about modernity and its contingent mechanisms. People became emotionally involved in this debate and perhaps rightly so because it was on fundamental issues of identity and cultural construction of Bangladeshis. Positions were not taken on the basis of evidence or occasionally, common sense.
For example, Yunus was accused of being a ‘shudkhor, a man who took interests and unfair ones at that. Micro credit was described as synonymous with some sort of foundational ‘sin while ‘interest’ and ‘loan’ emerged as codes for exploitation. The language used by many was that of describing a man who had broken the important taboos, the man who has taken ‘haram’, the ‘sudhokhor’ rejected by Islam. Marxists too have also rejected micro credit saying it is ‘capitalistic’ and tools of ‘imperialism’, terms that are socialist counterparts of ‘Iblish’ and ‘murtad’, words that don’t require analysis. For both followers, it is an issue of protecting the dogma, not arguments.
* * *
There are almost no credible reports that are negative about micro credit and economists after economist from Rehman Sobhan down have publicly stated its benefits without singing its absurd praise as some micro credit agencies do. But it has had no impact on the mind of those opposing micro credit. They assumed their knowledge based on conceptual fundamentalism and some anecdotal encounters rather than qualified evidence or understanding of the mechanism of poverty alleviation and economics of the poor.
* * *
Many find something deeply repugnant about loans, credit and debt. Credit and debt can never be trusted; the hated ‘rin’ which pauperised the peasantry under the British era zamindary system and of course such haram/usury can never do anyone any good.
This is a cultural issue and must be recognised as such. The middle-class, which finds the present and the future unsettling clings on to an imagined past of golden villages located in some non-existent pre-colonial era. It finds modern capitalism which is negation of such world very unsettling because it negates the village life everyone fantasises of as ‘pure and the pristine.’
This anxiety of the middle-class with the modern era and its tools is perhaps the most disturbing revelation of the episode. It shows how deeply our peasant past, our religion and our imagination of halal –social or religious — economics plays a role in our perceptions of managing the future. In the end, it is our anxiety with modernity that becomes obvious.
* * *
Debt and credit are as impersonal as its management and in a capitalist economy there can be no option other than institutional credit to carry out economic activities. Every entrepreneur is in debt and should seek more credit for enterprise. What happened to ancient Arabia or colonial Bengal, two sources of credit stigma, doesn’t apply to us now. When we condemn loan, credit, debt and tools of the modern world, etc. we condemn without understanding how our present and future works.
Caught between a world which never or no longer exist and a world we resist because we don’t know how to cope with it, we live in denial and look for reassurance that our Rupashi Bangla can exist, free of debts and poverty, free of the modern.
* * *
Yet Bangladesh has millions of capitalists but they are not those who crowd the stock market floors but live in the villages, the micro entrepreneurs. Capitalism didn’t arrive in limousines in muddy Bangladesh, but in bullock carts. And without credit, it is impossible to participate in capitalism. How can people living in such a land-starved economy depend on land for farming? It is no accident that one third of the population is extreme poor. For all living below the poverty line, enterprise is a way out. What are they supposed to do for a living?
Most of us have never seen a micro-credit operation or studied it yet we claim that something nasty must be going on. From this affair, the most important lesson we learn is about ourselves. We are still not sure about evidence based thinking or matters and facts that challenge our emotional and intellectual comfort zones.
We are also deeply into a patron-client culture where we the elite, middle-class or otherwise, assume that we know what is best for the poor. So we are not ready to accept that millions are navigating their lives with tolls that we don’t approve. In the end, we who do nothing for the poor, insist we can decide what is good and bad for them although for nearly 40 years they have been doing it quite well, increasingly without our involvement.
* * *
Micro credit institutions also need to demystify micro credit. That it is nothing more than credit operations serving the poor who can have no access to loans. That micro credit is part of a bigger project and it is not a complete package for poverty alleviation.
Our relationship with private or civil society institutions is always uneasy vis-à-vis the government making us the ultimate victims of the colonial imagination. We believe that the sarkar bahadur is not kind but it alone has the right to deliver social goods because all power comes from the government. We don’t want to be in charge because we have never been in charge and we don’t know how to. Khoirat (charity) particularly official khoirat is preferable because it reeks of doya (mercy) rather than credit which is so impersonal.
* * *
While the middle-class wallows in this mindset, the poor have escaped it though not by choice. Left out there and forgotten by the state, it is the poor who out of survival instincts have left the past more than others. Their world view of other matters is not threatened by the nature of their economic transactions. The middle-class who has no stake in the micro credit system have attacked it because it shakes their world views but not their economics. They feel safe to criticise what doesn’t affect them.
* * *
Another reason why this mess occurred is because of the lack of conversation between the NGOs and the urban elite who influence or control public opinion. Had they been properly exposed to the micro credit process, everyone would have benefited. The NGOs adopt a “we-can-ignore-them” attitude which doesn’t work in today’s world. The government also thought that it could do the same with Grameen ignoring the international friends of Grameen and Yunus. In today’s interconnected world, everyone is part of everything. The NGOs, the governments, and the media should learn this valuable lesson.
Nor can anyone take an arbitrary path of management which ignores accountability while running public institutions like Grameen, BRAC, etc. No matter who founds, transparent and accountable governance is a pre-conditional and obligatory for all.
* * *
Finally, let’s not overdo the prize bit. Yunus got the Nobel Prize but so what? As events show he was not above the law, criticisms, mistakes, self glorification and what have you. It is not something which just the admirers of Yunus should know but members of the present regime as well, who regularly demand a Nobel for Sheikh Hasina. And she should remember when her sycophants speak that her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the most successful Bengali ever, never got a Nobel Prize. Greatness doesn’t need a medal as proof nor shallowness any certificate of evidence.

Immediate - Past Chief Justice Raises Unpleasant Questions

THE tentative response of the immediate-past chief justice, Justice ABM Khairul Haque, on Tuesday, to the question whether or not he would take charge of the next caretaker government must have taken many by surprise. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, when talking to journalists after his ceremonial last visit to the Supreme Court, Justice Ahmed said: ‘Time will say who will head the [ next] caretaker government. Law will take its own course.’ The roundabout answer to a reasonably straightforward question appears rather unbecoming of a judge under whose stewardship the Appellate Division declared void the 13 th amendment to the constitution, which made the provision for an election-time caretaker government in the first place. Although the Justice Ahmed- led seven-member bench said the next two general elections could be held under caretaker governments, it specifically suggested that the parliament should, in the meantime, ‘bring necessary amendments excluding the provisions for making the former chief justices or the Appellate Division judges the head of the non-party caretaker government.’ As such, one must have expected Justice Ahmed to respond in the negative to the question for the sake of the dignity of the judiciary. Why the immediate-past chief justice chose to evade a straightforward answer is best known to him; any attempt at discerning the reason would be speculative. However, it may be safely concluded that his evasive answer would undermine the moral stance he took on the issue of caretaker government as the chief justice when issuing the judgement. Moreover, it may give rise to the reinforce the impression that the heightened judicial activism of the apex court under his leadership, which has seen invalidation of the fifth, eighth and finally 13 th amendments to the constitution and is viewed to have generally gone in favour of the Awami League’s interest, may have actually been at the bidding of the ruling party. Besides, given the fact that he will also be in the reckoning for the position of the chief adviser come the next general election and that he was also appointed the chief justice in supersession of the then senior- most judge in the Appellate Division, his tentativeness could be construed as concealed ambition for state power, even if for a brief period of time. On the whole, the immediate-past chief justice seems to have put his personal reputation and integrity and also the credibility of the highest judiciary on the line with his refusal to come up with a straightforward answer to a straightforward question. At one point of his conversation with the journalists on Tuesday, Justice Ahmed said, ‘A good judge can never become popular.’ He was so right because a good judge never hesitate to say the right thing, even if it puts him or her at odds with the power that be. Ironically, on his last visit to the Supreme Court, he chose not to.

Bin Laden's Killing : Impact On Indo - Pak Relations

HOW will Osama bin Laden’s elimination by US Special Forces impact on Indo-Pak relations? The Pak army is demoralised. The civilian authority, without any sheen at the outset, is looking creditable. It is beginning to look like 2007 all over again. General Pervez Musharraf had signed on with the Americans post 9 /11 , in November 2001. The theatre for military action was Afghanistan, but even in early 2002 , militants or their relatives had started crossing over to the North West Frontier. Of course, Musharraf made the U- turn on Afghanistan but with one caveat. He would join the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan, but the jihad in Kashmir would continue because the Pak establishment would not be able to cushion the backlash if Pakistan were to turn its back on both the militancies. New Delhi must remember: Americans accepted the difference between global and regional terror. The Americans and the Saudis understood Musharraf’s predicament. The general had committed himself to fighting the very same militant Islamist forces his all-powerful Inter-Service Intelligence had diligently put together since 1980. Initially, Musharraf was given room to play both sides of the street. But as the theatre of war shifted from Afghanistan to the Af-Pak border, indeed regions like Swat, Pakistani military action invited a huge backlash in terms of suicide attacks and general unpopularity among the people, as the impression was amplified that Pakistan, in fighting America’s war, was killing its own people. Remember, these were days when President Bush’s regular incantation was that President Musharraf was his stoutest ally. In fact, Musharraf’s grades in the White House were in inverse proportion to his grades in the Pak streets—particularly after the Lal Masjid crackdown in the heart of Islamabad, killing hundreds of Madrassah students, including women. Opposition by the chief justice, lawyers’ agitation, the pressure from US Congress to have democratic elections in Pakistan ( because both Afghanistan and Iraq had gone woefully wrong for the US) were all votes of no confidence in the army. The atmosphere in which the elections of February 2008 were held was something of a watershed. Not once was an anti- India slogan raised. Kashmir was not even mentioned. The Pak army, its head bowed over the Af- Pak operations, bereft of the anti- India card, its raison d’ être, because of total public disinterest in the theme, had never felt so humiliated since the creation of Bangladesh. To be seen in uniform was an embarrassment. This was the state of affairs when the Taj in Mumbai was set ablaze on November 26 , within three weeks of President Obama’s victory and barely nine months after the most India-neutral election campaign in Pakistan’s history. It was such high voltage drama on live TV that the Indian media virtually declared war on Pakistan. Pakistani media, which behaved with exemplary restraint on the India theme so far, willy- nilly retaliated. All promises of Indo-Pak bonhomie were turfed out of the window. The Hamsaya Dushman (enemy neighbour) Hindu India loomed once again. The army uniform was back in vogue. Despite the uneasy CIA-ISI equation (for over a decade), the apparently cosy drift continued until the US Navy SEALS administered a lethal one-two punch on the army’s chin in Abbottabad. It was supposed to be a routine sparring round in the ring, not the real thing. In other words, as in 2007 , the army’s stock is dismal. PMLN leader Nawaz Sharief has criticised the army and demanded a judicial inquiry. Even Jamaat-e-Islami is chastising it. The Supreme Court Bar Association, Lahore and Peshawar High Court bar associations, among others, are seeking judicial inquiries. The decline in public esteem in 2007 was galling for an army which generally keeps itself pampered. But it bounced back after 26 /11. How will the army seek to rehabilitate itself in the public eye this time? The end of Osama bin Laden will loom so big in global consciousness that anything resembling terrorism (even the cross-border variety) will come under close scrutiny of the international community. Pushed thus against the wall, the mind may furnish some sensible solutions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has the right ideas on Pakistan. The Indian media can help by gloating a little less.

Whereabouts Of The C-In-C On 16 Dec : 1971

We have been discussing the surrender ceremony held in the afternoon of 16 th December 1971 at the Ramna race course whereby the Pakistani Armed Forces on the soil of East Pakistan, nay Bangladesh, surrendered to the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. The famous, well publicized and popular photograph of the signing ceremony shows Wing Commander AK Khandakar of the Headquarters Bangladesh Forces standing behind General Aurora ( second from left). The Commander-in- Chief of the Bangladesh Forces was not present. Was he invited and did he decline the invitation? Was he invited and he decided to depute Wing Commander Khandakar? Was he not invited at all, instead Wing Commander Khandakar invited? Was neither of them invited? Instead was the government of Bangladesh requested to depute a suitable personality? Where was Osmani on the 14 th or 15 th or 16 th December physically? If he was away from Calcutta then why did he leave Calcutta on the eve of the impending surrender by the Pakistanis in Dhaka? Was there no coordination, or no exchange of vital information, between headquarters of Bangladesh Forces and headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army? Was it in any way known to Osmani that the headquarters of the occupation army in Dhaka was about to crumble? Did Osmani feel it improper to sit away or stand as an onlooker while Aurora would receive the surrender? Did he feel marginalized or, in other words, were the efforts of the freedom fighters inadequately recognized? The answers are not clearly known. Osmani did not leave an answer in black and white; at least not to my knowledge.       In the last column we quoted General Jacob, who wrote “…unfortunately, Colonel Osmani could not attend the ceremony. The helicopter sent for him was damaged en route by hostile fire and could not be made serviceable in time. His absence has been misrepresented and was to cause problems later…” It is not clear from Jacob’s writing as to where was the helicopter sent? Osmani was physically in the Indian stronghold north of greater Sylhet. In those days one of the General Officers Commanding under the Indian army corps operating in then Sylhet was Major General KV Krishna Rao. Rao later became the chief of army staff of the Indian army. He has written a number of prominent books. One of them is ‘In the service of the nation’ first published by Viking in 2001 and later also published by Penguin Books. I am quoting from General Rao in slight detail.   Talking of the situation of 14-15 December 1971 , on page 109 of the said book, KV Krishna Rao writes “… Bunty and I had been discussing for some time the question of clearance of Sylhet town itself. We came to the conclusion that we should tackle it from the north and east where we already had a bridgehead in the form of 4 /5 Gorkha Rifles, and employ Zia with his East Bengal guerrillas to get behind the enemy and harass him from the west. With the troops on the southern bank of the Surma River, an impression was to be created that the attack was coming from the front, that is, the south. The enemy was to be subjected to considerable bombardment by air and artillery. The corps commander was keen that the enemy was adequately softened down before we attacked to reduce casualties. “Whilst we were conducting the operations in the Sylhet area, I received a message from my colonel general staff, Colonel Pathania, to the effect that General Osmani and his companions were shot up while flying in the area and had fetched up at the main headquarters of the division, where they were being attended to by the doctors. I was rather upset at this news, as this was the last thing that anyone could have wished to happen at this stage of the war. Upon return to my headquarters, I was happy to find that Osmani, though badly shaken, was unhurt and fit. He was wearing his battle uniform, which was drenched with engine oil. He explained to me how the incident came about. “As he hailed from Sylhet, he wanted to be the first among the Bangladeshis to get there, and requested the corps commander to arrange accordingly. The corps commander had told him to meet me at my headquarters, but as he could not contact me he tried to fly over Sylhet and land there, thinking that Sylhet was captured. As the helicopter descended it was fired upon. The pilot flew out to an area outside Sylhet on the Kalaura road and landed on the roadside, and Osmani proceeded in a vehicle from there to my main headquarters. “While Osmani was safe, his chief of staff and ADC (who happened to be the son of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) were wounded, and were being attended to by our doctors. The pilot was the same person who had flown me in the area on the previous day, and after flying back from Sylhet landed him at the same place where he landed me earlier! Although considerable fuel had leaked out, there was just enough for getting till there. I must say that this pilot had shown great presence of mind and flying skill. Osmani reiterated his desire to be the first in Sylhet of Bangladesh leaders. I expressed my faith in the Almighty and assured him that I would personally take him there at the appropriate time, God willing.” On page 116 of the same book, Generao Rao continues “… Soon after the capture of Sylhet, General Osmani once again contacted me about his visit. As soon as we made Sylhet safe enough, I invited him. I personally accompanied him on the visit. The first place that we went to was the Dargah Hazrat Shah Jalal, which is a shrine respected by people of all faiths and where Osmani’s parents were buried. There was quite a big crowd shouting slogans like ‘Joy India’, ‘Joy Indira Gandhi’, ‘Joy Indian Army’, even ‘Joy Krishna Rao’, but, strangely, hardly anything about Osmani! I felt a little embarrassed and told them that Osmani Shabeb who was their chief during the war was here and had come to see them at the first opportunity. Osmani himself felt very happy to be the first visitor from the Bangladesh government.” Earlier in this column we quoted five lines from the book by General Jacob. He had said, “…His absence has been misrepresented and was to cause problems later…”  Indeed the feeling that absence of Osmani would continue to pose problems were expressed by others also. JN Dixit was a young diplomat with less than twelve years service when he was asked to be in charge of the specially created Bangladesh desk in the ministry of foreign affairs of the Government of India in 1971. Later, early in 1972 when it became urgently necessary to open a diplomatic mission in Dhaka, the Government of India decided to send JN Dixit to do the job; although a high commissioner followed in a few weeks time. In his famous book titled ‘Lbieration and Beyond: Indo-Bangladesh Relations’ published by The University Press Limited in 1999 , Dixit writes (page 109) : “… A major political mistake at the surrender ceremony was the Indian military high command’s failure to ensure the presence of General M.A.G. Osmani, Commander from the Bangladesh side on the Joint Command, at the ceremony and making him a signatory. The formal excuse explaining his absence was that his helicopter did take off but could not reach Dhaka in time for the surrender schedule. But there was widespread suspicion that his helicopter had been sent astray so that he could not reach Dhaka in time and the focus of attention at the ceremony was riveted on the Indian military commanders. This was an unfortunate aberration which India could have avoided. The event generated much resentment among Bangladeshi political circles. Osmani’s presence at the surrender ceremony could have helped in avoiding many of the political misunderstandings which affected Indo- Bangladesh relations in the initial days of Bangladesh’s independence.” We hope some day, someone, with authenticity, will clarify the matter for the satisfaction of the present generation of Bangladeshis. Why was Osmani not a signatory in the receiving side or at least not even present at the surrender ceremony?

An Open Letter To Yunus

The text of your explanation for going to the apex court of this country ached my heart as I read it. My response to it was ambivalent. One part of my mind tells me it was beneath your dignity to have gone to the court to seek ‘justice’. But on second thought I was convinced there was another side of the coin. It is the baby you have raised from a tiny tot to a world figure that has made you knock the doors of the highest court of justice. Its clients, some 40 million women, must know the ‘father’ of Grameen Bank is not a slithering coward, but a hero, who like the protagonist of a Greek tragedy, holds his head high even when slain by cowards. You knew all the way you would not get justice, didn’t you? Yet you followed it up to the highest house with a dome that mocks the neutrality it is supposed to assert in dispensation of justice. Our track record as an ethnic community has not been all that glittery. Look at Rabindranath, what we did to him. Read the filthy lampoons ridiculing him published in the “ Shanibarer Chithi”. This is how the anguished poet reacted in one of his letters – “My countrymen are not hurt when I am publicly insulted, and therefore those engaged in slandering me have no fear of suffering any rebuke or loss. In a sense they act as the representatives of the whole country; they are proxies for the rest. And it is pretty obvious to me why those who are supposed to be my blind supporters and those who are counted allies of mine do not seek public redress for my humiliation. They lack the courage and craftiness of the other group chiefly because they know they do not have the support of the public. In no other country are those who have earned their countrymen’s respect dragged down by slander of this kind; they are never subjected to helpless humiliation in full public view.” (Letters ed Dutta and Robinson, italics mine). It was just a rare stroke of luck that Tagore went to England, translated his own poems that came to the notice of W.B Yeats. It was through the efforts of his English friends that his translated Gitanjali with 103 devotional songs was submitted to the Swedish Academy. He got the Nobel Prize and Banaglis had a change of attitude overnight. They went to him with bouquet and wreaths of flowers. Rabindranath wrote a song on that occasion, and I am sure you know it, – E monihar amay nahi shaje (This garland of gems does not become me). With choked emotion he said I can neither wear it because wearing it hurts me, nor tear it, because tearing it breaks my heart. Tagore too wanted to help the poor farmers of his country. He invested a big pot of money from his Nobel cash and set up an agriculture cooperative bank at Shahjadpur. The result was bankruptcy; the loanees did not return the money they borrowed from the bank. Anyway, you can’t blame him; he was not an economist like you. Talking of economics reminds me of Amartya Sen who also became a Nobel Laureate in 1998. His mind too was preoccupied with the poor, their poverty and famine. But he was a theorist, wrote about the poor and did nothing to change the face of vast poverty in India. But with you it was different; you treated poverty as your adversary, grabbed it by the forelock and you won wherever you took your Grameen Bank. What is important is that you could instill confidence in your poverty-ridden clients that they could change their own lot. You put your trust in them and they in return put their trust in you. That’s how the poor could have their own bank, nearly all of it owned by them. We Bangladeshis never gave you the honour that you deserved. Not until you got the Nobel. I did not congratulate you, but others did and I remember a sea of crowd converging on your residence with the civil society at the forefront. But where are they today? We Bangalis are fond of going with the tide, not against it. And we are also noted for our ignorance and our jealousy. Look at Amartya, he became the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge ( 1998-2004) and Kolkata did not even notice it properly. In my opinion it is an honour much higher than the Nobel Prize. Trinity’s famous alumni comprise Francis Bacon, John Dryden, Isaac Newton, Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Allama Iqbal, Jawaharlal Nehru, Raymond Williams, Rajiv Gandhi and at least two Prime Ministers of England and one of France with 32 Nobel Laureates to its credit. An Indian Bangali becoming the Master of Trinity! That’s an impossible dream come true. But he is luckier than you. He had an economist-Prime Minister who was not an aspirant for the Nobel Prize, so Sen had no problem in getting the highest civil award, Bharat Ratna (1999). Had his Prime Minister been a candidate for this award, there would have been a government inquiry against him on count of inciting the Maoists, if not outshining the economist-turned-Prime Minister! Now that you have resigned as the Managing Director of Grameen Bank, I congratulate you heartily. There are millions of others who will miss you as its founding father, but believe you me they would never cease to love you, respect you. Your departure has once again proved the historicity of the Bangali culture. Shilavadra became the Mahadhyaksha of Nalanda Mahavihara and hundreds and thousands of non- Bangalis became his disciples. Atish Dipankara after much persuasion went to Tibet and came to be treated as the reincarnation of Buddha. He is worshipped there as a God even today. Poet Alaol became a court poet in the Arakan royal court. The anxiety expressed by your ‘great’ friends from abroad only reminds me of these illustrious forefathers. Shall I tell you one thing? I am proud of you, really, really I am. It is perhaps an accident of history that I became one of your class mates a little over 6 decades ago. But there could not have been a more welcome thing than that in my life. Should you decide to go to Nigeria and found a Grameen Bank there, you will find me by your side. Perhaps the Africans would understand you better than we do.

The writer, a professor of English, is Associate Editor of The Independent.

Pak Scientist's Irreverence : Highly Condemnable

THE recent article by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan carried in the Newsweek, excerpted in our paper yesterday on the basis of an AFP Washington dateline story has caught our attention. It says that if Pakistan had nukes in 1971 Bangladesh would not have won its independence. This is a rabid expression of insensitivity towards a people's war waged against a genocidal force in 1971. His remarks demonstrate a very poor knowledge of history of the events that led to the war of liberation against Pakistan occupation forces in 1971. His observation is not only far removed from the contextual reality but also echoes the views of the prejudiced segment of the Pakistani population. To our knowledge, many among the intelligentsia in Pakistan have long since spurned any self- deceiving notion against Bangladesh's freedom struggle. While emphasizing Pakistan's case for going nuke in a foreign weekly magazine, he had no business of undermining Bangladesh's liberation war. It is a crude attempt to denigrate not only the legitimate struggle of freedom loving people of Bangladesh but also a revelation of a convoluted mindset. Besides, his pointer to Bangladesh is entirely misplaced because if nuclear might could decide fate of freedom struggle or right to independence, Soviet Russia could still remain in Afghanistan and Vietnam should have been under US occupation forces till today. A man who has been infamously involved in nuke-secrets black marketing cannot be credited with any high sense of ethics.