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2822SACW - 4 Apr 2014 | Afghan Elections / Bangladesh: Find Killers of Labour Activist / Pakistan: Jamaat-e-Islami, CII; sport; health workers / India: Journey towards soft fascism; The Left is painting itself into a corner / Algerian elections and the Barakat movement / War France Has Tried to Forget

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    Apr 3, 2014
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      South Asia Citizens Wire - 4 April 2014 - No. 2815

      1. Bangladesh: Find Killers of Labour Activist | Human Rights Watch
      2. Pakistan: Revisiting the Women’s Movement | Zubeida Mustafa
      3. Pakistan: Sindh Assembly passes a resolution to do away with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) | Editorial Daily Times
      4. Pakistan: The Jamaat-e-Islami’s shenanigans - Editorial Daily Times
      5. Audio: NPR Interview with Carlotta Gall about her book ’Wrong Enemy’
      6. Pakistan: The right to play I A Rehman
      7. Pakistan: Speak up for the health workers | Razeshta Sethna
      8. India: Has Modi Moderated ? | Irfan Engineer
      9. Save Democracy, Vote Wisely! (March 2014) Leaflet for elections
      10. Leaflet in Hindi for 2014 general elections in India
      11. India: Appeal to All Voters to Protect Democracy issued by PADS
      12. Save Indian Democracy and the Constitution / FactSheet on Gujarat - issued by JAVAB
      13. India: Prof Tripathi’s Appeal for the Coming 2014 Loksabha Elections (March 2014)
      14. India: Waiting for the Assassin - a Poem in Hindi | Ashok Vajpeyi
      15. Modi as India’s PM is a cause for worry for environmentalists | Ashish Kothari
      16. India going the Pakistan way: Dangers before the Nation | Shamsul Islam
      17. India: Shrinking base - The Left is painting itself into a corner | Praful Bidwai
      18. India: The Last Opportunity for Indian Communists | Daya Varma, Vinod Mubayi
      19. Debates Among Communists in Pakistan’s Early Years | Kamran Asdar Ali
      20. India: Corruption, Poverty and Pollution - Gujarat model of development - text in Hindi ]
      21. India: Snoopgate scandal and Gujarat Model of Governance (in Hindi).
      22. India: Journey towards soft fascism | Kanti Bajpai
      23. India: Official enquiry on the anti Sikh riots of 1984 recommended filing of cases against BJP and RSS activists
      24. India: Call For Defeating Authoritarian Forces Led By Narendra Modi - Statement by Citizens For Democracy
      25. Selections From Communalism Watch:
      ::: FULL TEXT :::
      26. Bangladesh: Conspiracy theories and self-inflicted wounds | Arnold Zeitlin
      27. Burma census is not counting Rohingya Muslims, says UN agency
      28. Don't expect Afghanistan to change with this list of presidential candidates (Massoumeh Torfeh)
      29. Pakistan: Dealing with the TTP | Talat Masood
      30. India: Righting the left | Jawed Naqvi
      31. Algerian elections and the Barakat movement: "We are saying no to submission" | Mustapha Benfodil and Karima Bennoune
      32. A Life Spent Remembering a War France Has Tried to Forget | Scott Sayare
      33. India: Voters only after marriage - Unmarried women in Haryana denied the right to vote
      34. Review of Demshuk, Andrew, The Lost German East: Forced Migration and the Politics of Memory, 1945-1970'

      The Bangladeshi government should publicly explain what efforts have been made to investigate the abduction, torture, and killing of the labor rights activist Aminul Islam two years ago, including alleged links to state officials, Human Rights Watch said today. While police have filed charges against a missing suspect, there have been no apparent efforts to investigate allegations that members of Bangladeshi security forces were part of the conspiracy to kill the labor activist.

      PAKISTAN is a dichotomous world. This is a country that has produced a woman prime minister – the first to be elected in a Muslim state. Its predominantly male parliament – the lower house – unanimously adopted a bill against domestic violence four years ago, but it failed to become law because the upper house refused to take it up. Its academia are now overflowing with female students – many of them in hijab. But this is also a country where women are murdered for marrying a man of their own choice, where little girls like Malala are shot in the head for going to school and where law makers defend their ‘right’ to bury women alive in the name of honour and refuse to condemn a colleague who has had his daughter killed for wanting a divorce.

      The Sindh Assembly has passed a resolution to do away with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). The recent recommendations given by the CII, all related to women, have caused hackles to rise in many people concerned with the protection of women in a society that still holds primitive views about them. A country where women are treated like dumb driven cattle, and their presence deliberately kept subdued, any law that reinforces their status as second-class citizens is adding more agony to their existence.

      We seem to have been bombarded of late by the stunted intellect of the mullah variety in Pakistan. As if the Council of Islamic Ideology’s edicts on underage marriage and polygamy were not enough, the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s mainstream hardliner religious political party, has moved a motion in the National Assembly that the talent show ‘Pakistan Idol’ is “obscene” and ruining the values of society. One wonders where these maulvis (clerics) come up with such logic from. How can a music and singing talent contest that allows youngsters to showcase their vocal abilities and add some fun and colour to their lives and the lives of the viewers be a vulgarity-promoting activity?

      (npr.org - April 02, 2014) Morning Edition’s Renee Montagne, who’s reporting from Afghanistan, talks to New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall about her new book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan: 2001-2014.

      by I A Rehman
      THE celebration of the first International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on the coming Sunday (April 6, 2014) will be an appropriate occasion to determine whether the children and youth in Pakistan can enjoy their right to play.

      by Razeshta Sethna
      When a community healthcare worker in Pakistan leaves her home armed with a medical kit, she may have stepped on the frontline of a dangerous war in which extremists stand opposed to polio vaccination campaigns.

      by Irfan Engineer
      Ashutosh Varshney in his article in Indian Express (Modi the Moderate) writes that Modi may not have Vajpayee’s style but, substantively, his campaign over the last few months shows roughly similar traits.” Varshney gives instances of Modi paying tribute to Maulana Azad in one of his election speeches; stitching alliances with the dalit parties, including with those who fought against him and finally, Modi pointed out in one of election speeches that Haj quota from Gujarat was full whereas quotas from Bihar and UP could not be filled as Muslims were backward as compared to Gujarat. In all the three instances cited, Varshney claims that Modi’s campaign has departed wholly or very substantially from the tenets of Hindu nationalism. There are two issues here – whether the three instances cited amounts to departing from Hindu nationalist position; and second, if it does, is it merely an election strategy or a substantial ideological repositioning on part of Modi?


      Leaflet in Hindi for 2014 general elections in India

      Appeal issued in March 2014 by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism



      14. WAITING FOR THE ASSASSIN - a Poem in Hindi
      by Ashok Vajpeyi

      Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister will be a development disaster. In Gujarat, his tenure as chief minister has seen worsening or stagnation of the health and livelihood prospects of the poor, and widespread ecological damage.

      Article in Hindi by Shamshul Islam

      17. India: Shrinking base - The Left is painting itself into a corner
      by Praful Bidwai
      India’s Left parties, among the world’s biggest parties belonging to the Communist tradition, face a huge crisis as the Lok Sabha election approaches. The election will largely decide if they can reverse their recent setbacks, or go into a steep decline, with waning political-intellectual influence and growing organisational disarray. The Left, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) — the world’s second largest Communist formation after the Chinese party — saw its Lok Sabha strength plummet from 61 to 24 seats between 2004 and 2009. The Left lost the West Bengal Assembly in 2011 after a world record of being democratically elected to power for 34 uninterrupted years. It was also defeated in Kerala, and later in the West Bengal panchayats. Going by ground reports, and opinion polls, the Left’s Lok Sabha strength could shrink further.

      by Daya Varma, Vinod Mubayi
      The 2014 parliamentary elections are more critical for the future of India than any other in the past. A victory of Bhartiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi would not only end Congress domination of Indian politics, it would set in motion a new culture and reverse the secular foundations of India. There are many factors for the decline of the influence of Congress but none has played as big a role as its denunciation by the block of Communist Parties, mainly the Communist Party of India. At the present critical juncture this denunciation by CPI has not only crossed the limits of decency but also of callousness towards the future of India.

      This paper will introduce intellectual debates from Pakistan’s early years to show how the country’s future culture was being discussed, deliberated and reshaped in these circles at the moment of its own inception as an independent state. By focussing on the communist perspective on Pakistan’s independence, it will seek to illuminate some of those historical moments in Pakistan’s history that have not received much attention either from historians or from the public. Within this context, the paper will present contesting voices that are critical of one another—particularly regarding the place of Islam in the new state—in order to rethink Pakistan’s early history as a period that could have led to a range of possible future historical trajectories.

      Hindi translation of The Gujarat model of development: What would it do to the Indian economy?


      by Kanti Bajpai
      There is every danger that a Modi-led India will be an India marked by soft fascism. At its core, fascism stands for state authoritarianism, intimidation by conservative-minded extra-legal groups, national chauvinism, submission of individuals and groups to a larger-than-life leader, and a Darwinian view of social life (the strong must prevail). A society living under soft fascism is simply a society marked by less extreme levels of authoritarianism, intimidation, chauvinism, submission and social Darwinism.

      A report from Hindustan Times, February 2002 provides information on the cases against RSS and BJP workers filed for their role in the anti Sikh riots on recommendations of the Jain - Aggarwal committee.

      Citizens For Democracy (CFD) in its conference held today at New Delhi on ‘Challenges Before Democracy’ has viewed with grave concern the manner in which RSS has come out openly to contest the present elections by hoisting Narendra Modi as the Prime-Ministerial candidate - a calculated step to impose authoritarianism in the country to serve the corporate interests.


      India - 2014 elections: BJP's complete lack of Muslim candidates from UP

      India’s narrative of political violence | Jyoti Malhotra

      India: In 2014, Hindutva versus caste | Varghese K. George

      India: RSS's open door to door campaign for BJP in UP in 2014 general elections

      India: Hindu Jagarana Vedike Right-wing outfit molests councillor in Mangalore city

      India: CSDS prof Madhu Kishwar Interviews Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Sailal Jediya - wild accusations against Rajmohan Gandhi

      ::: FULL TEXT :::
      by Arnold Zeitlin
      (Dhaka Tribune, April 3, 2014)
      Mujib’s legacy was an independent Bangladesh, with all its faults and its promise

      Ambassador Abdul Monem, the Bangladesh permanent representative at the United Nations, invited me to accept an award at his mission quarters in New York as part of the celebration of the 94th anniversary of the birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on St Patrick’s Day (March 17).

      As a result, I now have a shiny plaque that proclaims I am an “eminent journalist,” because of my reporting for the Associated Press during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971. And the AP thought I was just doing my job!

      Also, I was therefore able to share the Bangladesh UN mission’s feast of curry, nan, dal, spicy cauliflower, and tandoori chicken, as well as a huge chocolate birthday cake, while elsewhere in New York the Irish and Irish-for-the-day had to be content with drinking green beer and eating the St Patrick’s day traditional corned beef and cabbage.

      Lawrence Lifschultz, who doesn’t need a plaque to designate him as an eminent journalist, was also honored. He has written books and articles insightful about Bangladesh and other subjects. We had never met. The opportunity to chat about our Bangladesh experience made the evening special for me.

      I am not so sure Sheikh Mujib would have approved of my award. I last saw him some time in late 1974 or early 1975, in the last year of his life, when he passed through Manila. I was an AP correspondent in Manila back then. When he saw me among the journalists at Manila airport, he pointed me out to his host, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, and said, “Watch this man. He is very dangerous.”

      Three months after Mujib was killed in August 1975 in Dhaka (a dire event I covered until the government threw me out), Marcos threw me out of the Philippines, giving me a record of being expelled by two different Asian governments in less than 90 days.

      The recent occasion at the Bangladesh mission was an opportunity to reminisce about Mujib as well as to briefly discuss his legacy.

      Lifschultz also spoke. He detailed the American involvement in the coup in which Mujib was murdered, an association he discovered after much investigation. After our talks, the subject was the central part of a Q&A with the predominantly Bengali audience who filled the UN mission’s meeting hall.

      It was at this point that Lawrence and I disagreed. I tend to discount a shady direct American involvement in that coup, partly because I have heard so often in Bangladeshi living rooms Bengalis whining about American, Indian, Chinese, and Russian conspiracies victimising the hapless Bangladesh. I believe conspiracy theory talk stems from a denial of Bangladesh’s responsibility for its own fate. Disastrous wounds in Bangladesh’s history (and there have been too many) have been mostly self-inflicted.

      Lawrence did point out as evidence for his argument examples of the CIA’s behind-the-scenes presence in such coups as in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile. I’ve seen much the same CIA activity myself in the Congo and, of course, along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

      I concluded that Mujib’s legacy was an independent Bangladesh, with all its faults and its promise. Bangladesh’s more exuberant performance since it split from Pakistan has more than substantiated the claims of Bengalis that they had been suppressed by West Pakistan and the central government, especially when you look at the mess Pakistan has made of itself since then.

      Accessible and generous as he was – to a fault in both cases – Mujib left a darker side that is once more endangering the land he so loved. His grab for total power under a one-party Baksal led to his death and a spiraling into military dictatorship that took decades to halt. The same drive for power ended the lives of two other politicians closely identified with the independence of Bangladesh – Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (hanged in 1977) and Indira Gandhi (assassinated in 1984).

      The country is now in the midst of a political crisis arising out of a foolish boycott by the BNP, which has given almost untrammeled power to Mujib’s daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, leading toward what could be called a “one-person” rule.

      I told the Bengali audience at the UN mission that I preferred to have opposition party leaders in the parliament house instead of being in jail. I have spent too much time over the years trying to help friends jailed for politics.

      That St Patrick’s morning, I received a message from Moudud Ahmed that I read out loud to Ambassador Monem. Moudud wrote:

      “Let people know that there is no democracy in Bangladesh. I had to be in jail for three months recently only for making political statements. So I have stopped talking. I [went] to jail in 1955 at the age of 16 in the language movement, and led the ‘Independent East Pakistan Movement’ in England in mid-sixties, and organised the defence of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, and took part in the war of liberation, [only] to see a Bangladesh where I cannot criticise the government freely for fear of being arrested and have an unelected government run without any accountability to people.”

      Mujib also left the beginning of a legacy of insular family politics that also contributed to his death, and has led to gridlocking at the highest levels of the government. Now we have ruling mothers seeking a repeat of bad history by seemingly grooming their sons, Joy and Tarique, as successors. They threaten to turn the patriotic cry of “Joy Bangla,” to “Joy Tarique.”

      Arnold Zeitlin reported on the 1971 war for the Associated Press. He currently teaches at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China.
      - See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/apr/03/conspiracy-theories-and-self-inflicted-wounds

      - Associated Press
      (theguardian.com, 2 April 2014)
      UN Population Fund says Burmese government has gone back on promises by excluding persecuted group from count

      The UN agency helping Burma conduct its first census in decades has said it is deeply concerned that members of the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim population are not being counted, accusing the government of going back on its word.

      In the violence-scarred state of Rakhine, census workers were asking households to identify their ethnicity. When the answer was "Rohingya", they reportedly said thank you, turned around and walked away.

      Burma, a predominantly Buddhist nation of about 60 million, only recently emerged from a half century of military rule. It held its last count in 1983 and experts say the information being gathered from 30 March to 10 April is crucial for national development and planning.

      But the inclusion of questions about ethnicity and race – approved by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) – have been widely criticised. Experts warned they could inflame tensions at a delicate stage in the country's transition to democracy.

      That is especially true in Rakhine, home to the country's estimated 1.3 million Rohingya. In the past two years, their neighbourhoods have been targeted by rampaging Buddhist mobs. Up to 280 people have been killed and another 140,000 forced to flee their homes. Many are now living in crowded camps on the outskirts of the state capital, Sittwe.

      The UN agency said it had received assurances from the government that everyone in the country would be allowed to self-identify their ethnicity.

      On the eve of the census, however, the presidential spokesman Ye Htut announced that anyone who called themselves Rohingya would not be counted. Though many members of the religious minority were born in Burma to families who arrived generations ago, the government considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

      Ye Htut said only those who called themselves Bengalis would be included in the official tally. The UN agency said that went against earlier promises.

      "In its agreement with the United Nations … the government made a commitment to conduct the exercise in accordance with international census standards and human rights principles," it said in a statement. "It explicitly agreed with the condition that each person would be able to declare what ethnicity they belong to.

      "Those not identifying with one of the listed ethnic categories would be able to declare their ethnicity and have their response recorded by enumerators."

      The UN said it was deeply concerned by the government's about-face, saying it could heighten tensions in Rakhine state and undermine the credibility of data collected.

      The census – funded largely by the world body and international donors – was estimated to cost $74m. Rights groups and analysts have repeatedly criticised the UNFPA for failing to properly consult a broad range of ethnic groups before the count, which took years to plan, and ignoring warnings about the potential dangers of including complex, politically sensitive issues about ethnicity.

      by Massoumeh Torfeh
      (The Guardian - 1 April 2014)
      The imminent Afghan elections are historic, no doubt, but the line-up of familiar faces points towards parochialism and the past

      Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
      'The two frontrunners, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Zalmay Rassoul have both held top posts in President Karzai’s cabinets.' Photograph: Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty

      You would think the final list of candidates for one of the most important presidential elections in Afghanistan's history, and the country's first democratic transfer of power, would provide some excitement. Instead there is little to cheer about. The list comprises many old faces, and it raises questions as to whether the poll due to take place on Saturday will be truly representative across ethnic lines.

      All the eight candidates in this Afghan-managed and Afghan-led election are from the majority Pashtun ethnic group, with two, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Zalmay Rassoul, leading the polls. Only one lead candidate, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, is half Pashtun and half Tajik.

      Although Pashtun make up 42% of the poulation, the main non-Pashtun groups combined – Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks– also represent a sizeable proportion of the population at over 45%. Yet prominent political figures from these groups, such as Hazara leaders Karim Khalili and Mohammad Mohaghegh, or the powerful Uzbek leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum, are running mates not presidential candidates, and one of the most important Tajik political players, Atta Muhammad Noor, has refrained from participating.

      Instead there have been strange alliances. Ghani, a respected former World Bank official and finance minister, an advocate of human rights, who says his main agenda is the rule of law, has chosen Dostum as his running mate. Dostum stands accused of a string of alleged war crimes and Ghani openly criticised President Karzai for choosing Dostum as running mate in 2009 elections.

      Another point to consider is that both Ghani and Rassoul have over the past 12 years held top posts in President Karzai's cabinets, and if elected would probably allow him a strong say in the country's future. They have both made statements indicating that they see him as a man of influence. So their cabinets are very likely to be the Karzai team reshuffled.

      Abdullah was also the foreign minister in President Karzai's first cabinet, but in the past eight years he has been a consistent voice of opposition. He refused to do a deal with Karzai after finishing runner-up in the 2009 elections. He has a strong following among Tajiks and those who remember him as the right hand man of the iconic Tajik commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud. However, many would regard this association as a negative. Although most initial polls indicate strong support for Abdullah, it is not clear he could hold an outright majority. To do this he would need to win a large portion of the Pashtun votes.

      There are still more familiar faces from the past. Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is said to have had ties to Osama bin Laden; Gul Agha Sherzai, the former mayor of Jalalabad and a former warlord; and Qutbuddin Helal, the spokesperson for another warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with links to the Taliban.

      So when people of Afghanistan go to the polls on Saturday they will see many of the old faces, either as presidential candidates or running mates: most of them reminders of a past they would really like to forget.

      Even if we take the most positive view that the elections on 5 April will be inclusive, with reasonable security and minimal fraud, then the most likely outcome is that none of the three main contenders will win an outright majority. In that case the two main Pashtun contenders – Rassoul and Ghani – would unite and force Abdullah out of the race.

      That result would lead to a reshuffled Karzai cabinet, possibly with increased influence for warlords and the Taliban. While the Taliban machinery of terror continues to kill civilians, including hundreds of Muslim women and children, that is not a cabinet that would bring any hope to the people of Afghanistan.

      At this crucial juncture in Afghanistan's transition, only a credible political transition can provide stability. This could only be gained through a popular mandate across ethnic lines for a wider political, economic and social agenda – including peace and reconciliation.

      by Talat Masood
      (The Express Tribune, 2nd April 2014)

      When it comes to dealing with security issues, Pakistan is akin to a ship that is without radar lost on high seas and caught in a storm that is pulling it in different directions. The government while dealing with the TTP and other militant groups is not clear what it is aiming to achieve— peace of the graveyard or buying time so that the economic agenda can be pushed through and somehow things will work out by process of elimination between the “good and bad” militant groups. This approach will only address symptoms but not cure the disease. This is so apparent when we reflect on how talks with the TTP are being conducted. The TTP gives an impression that it is a state above the state and the government deals with it as an equal entity. The whole discourse centres on as though it is a clear choice between military operations against militants or seeking peace through negotiations. Interestingly, those who lean towards use of force are branded as agents of the West or tools in a conspiracy to unravel Pakistan. Those who favour talks are considered as apologists for the Taliban. The question is, at what cost peace is to be achieved in terms of territorial and ideological concessions and what sort of worldview would then emerge and characterise our state?

      In the fight against terrorism and in counter-insurgency operations, the government needs the support of the people for which a forceful national narrative is a prerequisite. As of now, the government has no narrative, not even a counter-narrative. Instead of being on the back foot, it should develop a forceful narrative that exposes the atrocities of the TTP and the damage that its terrorist activities have done to Pakistan and to its innocent citizens. To add to the confusion, the vacuum is exploited by Imran Khan and other religious leaders by placing blame on the “Americans, Raw, or foreign agents”. A narrative based on self-denial can never be a prescription for dealing with the Taliban or other militant groups.

      The country today stands deeply polarised and equally confused as to where its future lies. Let me at the outset clarify the issue is not about denying freedom of tribal life or the martial traditions of tribal societies that have been the hallmark of the people of Fata. This should not only continue but be preserved. On the contrary, everyone must be allowed to live their lives within the constitutional and democratic framework of Pakistan and no one group allowed to impose its will on others in any part of Pakistan including Fata. It is also not a tussle between the centre and periphery. In fact, they should strengthen and reinforce each other through mutuality of interests.

      Clearly, events of 9/11 exacerbated the effects of extreme neglect of Fata for decades. Pakistan’s subsequent association with the US in the “war on terror” acted as a catalyst and made matters worse. Education, health and physical infrastructure in the form of roads, communication networks and employment opportunities for the youth, etc. should now be the government’s top priority. But this is not what the TTP and other allied groups are demanding. On the contrary, they are destroying the existing schools, killing health workers and are disinterested in development of roads and opening of their areas to the world.

      More problematic is that they are demanding concessions and changes that, if implemented, will transform Pakistan into a pariah state. Their ambitions and goals are both national and transnational, and unlike the government, they are very clear on how they want to achieve them.

      The initial demands of the TTP are release of prisoners and establishment of peace zones. It is possible the government may agree to the release of some prisoners who are not charged with grave and heinous crimes either publicly or secretly, as part of a confidence-building measure. This goodwill gesture should be reciprocated from the Taliban by the release of Professor Ajmal Khan, Shahbaz Taseer, Ali Haider Gilani and several other innocent persons that are held in their custody.

      The government will have to be very careful while conceding to the proposal for the establishment of a peace zone, for it could be a cover by the TTP to consolidate and expand their hold in South Waziristan. Moreover, any area where the government has no control can always be used as a sanctuary for launching attacks within Pakistan or across the border with serious consequences for internal security and foreign relations.

      The demand that troops be withdrawn from Fata is equally untenable, as the army is needed both for internal security as well as border management.

      By giving any undue concessions to the TTP the government would be setting precedents that will invite similar demands from other militant groups. It is already becoming clear that groups like Jamaatud Dawa and other radical outfits are getting emboldened and even posing as though they are the true defenders of the Islamic Republic. It is so sad that on March 23 the government for fear of the militant threat has not been able to hold the military parade for years. In this way, the militants have cleverly succeeded in ensuring that the bond that ties the armed forces with the populace is weakened.

      Almost every aspect of Pakistani life has been affected by the intertwined threat of terrorism and radicalism. Most acts of terror go unpunished and are forgotten. While we take pride in being a nuclear power, we fail to acknowledge that we have one of the poorest records in human security. No other nuclear country, (not even North Korea) faces a continuous and expanding terrorist threat as we do, knowing full well that the intersection of terrorism and nuclear is a lethal combination.

      The question is also fundamental — do we want to regress into the dark ages by giving into the Taliban’s philosophy or move towards a brighter future with the rest of the world by influencing them to modify their behaviour ? The choice is ours.

      The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

      by Jawed Naqvi
      (Dawn, 1 April 2014)
      WHERE is the left in the crucial Indian elections and what role is it hoping to play when the hurly-burly is done with? People say the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has gingerly stepped into the vacuum the left’s palpable absence has created. And it is a fact that the AAP has picked up many of the motifs that were or still are identified with communists and old socialists.

      For instance, high-octane corruption was hitherto seen as a facet of a politician’s compromised morality, his proclivity to become rich overnight. The AAP has brought the politician’s corporate ally into the frame, starkly, irrevocably.

      To begin with, belling the corporate cat has not been an easy enterprise for most Indian parties, notably including the communists. Other than the legendary Feroz Gandhi and a little less stridently, though still relatively earnestly, communist deputy Gurudas Dasgupta, politicians have been coy in going for the jugular of big business, the fountainhead of corruption in India.

      To name names authoritatively of big tycoons or to spell out their precise nexus with the political class has been a rare occurrence. Some years ago a Bahujan Samaj Party MP had dared to publicly unveil a dossier on Reliance Group, but he later switched his party.

      Journalist Hamish MacDonald wrote a researched exposé of the house of the Ambanis in 1998. The book was not even allowed to be circulated in India though how or why this could happen remains a mystery. I am not aware of any communist intervention in parliament or outside, much less from a bourgeois party, to probe how an important exposé could just disappear from the country’s bookstores.

      On the contrary, there is an oft-quoted comment, which riles. Tycoon Mukesh Ambani apparently assured Hillary Clinton, that she need not worry excessively about Indian communists since they were potentially better at free market business than their Chinese counterparts. Eyebrows were raised again when the Left Front, while in power in West Bengal, reportedly helped Ambani favourite Pranab Mukherjee pluck an unlikely Lok Sabha victory. Mukherjee showed up in MacDonald’s insightful book on Reliance. He figured in the AAP’s anti-corruption campaigns.

      When Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980 after a stint in the post-emergency wilderness, Reliance founder Dhirubhai Ambani was said to have escorted her on the victory lap. There is little irony that the AAP sees a reversal of roles whereby Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, is the new favourite of big business. The AAP stresses though that Mukesh Ambani is running both Congress and BJP politics.

      The left’s slogans in 1977 have waned. “Ye Tata-Birla ki sarkar nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi.” (Damned if we let this Tate-Birla government work.) The roles switched when the communists invested a bulk of their political capital in shoring up Tata’s Nano car project on land they took from the poor. Defeat in the next elections became inevitable.

      Unless there is a profoundly sound reason for their stand, people do feel a degree of embarrassment at the communist stand on political probity. The left had opposed, uncharacteristically it would seem, a proposal to bring sources of donations to political parties under public scrutiny. By contrast, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, with whatever little political clarity he may have, insists on accepting only transparent donations.

      That still doesn’t answer the question though. Where is the left today?

      The last we heard, the communists were seeking a tie-up with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha. The former movie star is expecting to sweep the polls in her state.

      Not only did Jayalalitha dissolve the short-lived bonding with the left in Tamil Nadu, she heaped humiliation on them by dialling up their bête noire in West Bengal, the state’s Chief Minister Mamata Bannerji.

      Someone asked Arvind Kejriwal whether he would try to forge an alliance with Jayalalitha. “Were there no corruption charges against her?” he asked, in the process subtly underscoring his own watchword of probity. That’s how the left used to speak of bourgeois politics; not any more though. They have generally had a very good assessment of the pervasive opportunism their regional allies from previous experiments have gone on to embrace.

      Perhaps that’s why the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the principal vanguard of the Left Front, is chary of holding forth about a third alternative this time around. Yet they have the closest of ties with the Samajwadi Party, which had replaced the left in the UPA II after supporting a civilian nuclear deal with the US. The Samajwadis stirred the communal pot in Muzaffarnagar.

      Two or three things matter to India’s mainstream left without generating enthusiasm among its supporters. They include issues on which it is seen as coming close to the right-wing state. The left is perceived as according primacy to the decimation of the Maoists in Chhattisgarh even ahead of their fight against the BJP’s communal fascism. Maoism is an existential issue for the left and there can be arguments on both sides about how to move forward.

      The other issue is the left’s perceived alienation from the Muslim masses. Apparently this is being corrected by seeking out Saifuddin Chodhury, a former comrade who has credit with secular Muslims of West Bengal.

      That still doesn’t explain why the left has fallen off the radar, nor why it let the AAP step into its enormous if faded shoes.

      The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

      Mustapha Benfodil and Karima Bennoune
      (Open Democracy - 2 April 2014)

      President Bouteflika and his team broke the people as a whole and Algerians as citizens. Mustapha Benfodil, founding member of the new Barakat ( Enough!) Movement, spoke to Karima Bennoune about the awakening of the tradition of activism and the search for consensual politics.

      This is the first of two interviews by Karima Bennoune with the founders of the Barakat movement. Read the interview with Amira Bouraoui here

      Karima Bennoune: Can you explain why you founded the Barakat Movement?

      Protester holds up a sign Mustapha Benfodil protests for freedom of expression in front of Algeria's national TV station on March 24Mustapha Benfodil: The Barakat Movement was born out of the desire of a group of citizens to respond to the Algerian regime’s efforts to keep President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in power, even though he is ill and entirely unable to discharge his constitutional duties. Through this candidacy, the regime is sending a signal that it is willing to enter into a confrontation with the society. There are different constituencies within the regime. They include the presidential camp around President Bouteflika and his brother, Said Bouteflika, on one side. There is General Toufik who was always the real president of Algeria. There is the DRS (Department for Information and Security, an internal intelligence agency), and the military leadership, and there are even some elements within the army who want to change things. When the candidacy of Mr. Bouteflika was announced, there was a consensus about this, even if a fragile one, among these different forces. Meanwhile, there is a strong demand from the society for change. But the regime responds by saying, ‘we want to retain the authoritarian status quo.’ Algerian society is terribly afflicted by political fatalism and inertia. A large majority of Algerians believe that absolutely nothing can be done to change this political situation.

      KB: What were the factors that created such a political climate in Algeria?

      MB: The good economic health of Algeria - which is exclusively due to oil revenues, not to the president’s economic program - has benefited the ruling class. However, it has not benefited the Algerian people very much. During the last 15 years, billions of dollars have been poured into poorly considered programmes that have had a small impact on the daily lives of Algerians. There have been some steps taken in terms of infrastructure, but in terms of social issues there have been many things that have been very badly run due to corruption and poor governance. In the 2000s, the politics of President Bouteflika and his team were based on corrupting the society - the political class, the media, and even the unions. They wanted to buy everyone through the politics of the chequebook. They created a citizenry that is completely passive.

      We also suffered from the after effects of the way Algerian society was shaken by the Islamist terrorism of the 90s. Afterwards people wanted to have a normal life. Algerians withdrew from political life en masse. We saw the emergence of a new pseudo-middle class and we drifted into consumption, accompanied by the destruction of the national companies and the national economy. This constituted a wild neo-liberalism. What did this produce in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century? A new rich class on one side - a business class that supported the regime naturally and are its clients - and on the other side a pseudo-middle class that does not want to be involved in politics, even in its own neighborhoods.

      We witnessed the complete disintegration of the society. This started during the time of terrorism, with the squandering of the achievements of our own “Arab Spring” of October 88. Terrorism destroyed civil society. There were mass assassinations of intellectuals and civil society activists. And then, later on, civil society was destroyed by dirty money. So, by 2008, we reached the lowest level you can imagine. And that is when Bouteflika took advantage of the generalized lethargy and passed an amendment - with votes of deputies who had themselves been bought off - that gave him authorization for a presidency-for-life.

      KB: What has the impact of Bouteflika’s politics been on Algeria and how does Barakat seek to respond?

      MB: From 2008 onward, we saw that the biggest danger was the destruction of citizenship in Algeria. The Algerian of the 21st century is broken, bullied, castrated. So, the Barakat movement was born from a desire to rehabilitate citizenship and to restore popular sovereignty. The critics of Barakat say you must accept that nothing is possible in Algeria - the Algerian people as a whole should take up residence in the cemetery of El Alia. It is a discourse of submission. This was the achievement of Bouteflika and his team, and the DRS, and the political police. They broke the people as a whole and Algerians as citizens. Barakat means, above all else, saying Barakat (Enough!) to submission. We refuse the politics that made us subjects of Mr. Bouteflika.

      KB: Can you explain how the history of recent political contestation in Algeria, since at least 2011, and perhaps even earlier, has led up to the emergence of the Barakat Movement?

      Protester holds up sign A young Barakat support demonstrates for freedom of expression at the national TV station on March 24.MB: Things were moving here, at the same time as in Tunisia, in the beginning of January 2011. There were riots at the same time as the self-immolation of Bouazizi. We had not seen something similar since October 1988. The government’s communication team wanted to break this movement. They labelled these events ‘riots of sugar and oil,’ as if Algerians were not capable of claiming their dignity. They are digestive tracts only. So, it was urgent, like in October 88, to give this popular uprising a political superstructure. In response to this need, the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD) formed, but personality struggles and political dissention led to its break up.

      Across the region there was an “enchanted interlude,” with the fall of Ben Ali on 14 January 2011, and then the fall of Mubarak on 11 February. However, the turning point was Libya. Events there disrupted what was happening in Algeria because Algerians are very sensitive to international intervention due to our anti-colonial history. And there the regime played the card of fear. It is an old theme. Even George W. Bush could beat a man like John Kerry because of 9/11. So, we fell back into our torpor because the images of Libya and Syria evoked the nightmare of the 90s terrorism. Algerians said, ‘we do not want a return to violence and terror,’ and they accepted their fates, provisionally. Then, on 8 May 2012, Bouteflika gave a speech in which he said, “Our time is over.” There was a moral contract in which the president consented to pass the torch, and on the other side the opposition made concessions to avoid the country falling into violence

      At that time, I was active in a group called Bezzef that carried out small citizen actions, but nothing on the level of Barakat. We were getting ready to react because we felt we must do something quickly to restore citizenship. But we all thought that in 2014 we will have a change and the regime will be obliged to make concessions. We were sure Bouteflika would not run again. And there might even be a new president, perhaps from within the regime, who - under pressure from the society - would undertake a few reforms. Then, on 22 February 2014, we had our answer. Bouteflika announced his candidacy by proxy with contempt for protocol, morals and ethics.

      Happily, there are still some Algerians – women and men – who want to defend our dignity, including Amira Bouraoui. The group organized around Dr. Bouraoui went out to protest on the morning of 22 February. Meanwhile, I wrote a manifesto for counter-elections, saying we must work with the population and try to change the balance of power, or we will have a civil war in Algeria. I, myself, am marked by the years of terrorism. I launched an appeal for a meeting in Algiers, for all those who want to think of political solutions to come together. This is how we joined with the group of Amira Bouraoui, and Barakat was born.

      KB: The Barakat Movement calls for a democratic transition. What does that mean?

      MB: There are two schools of thought. One thinks that a transition will be like the beginning of the 90s – an interruption of elections, and a transitional government. I do not support this. My idea is to work within the existing structure. For example, we never said to stop the electoral process. We respect the elections as they are even if we know there will be fraud.

      We call on Algerians to stay home on election day, April 17, so as to say to the regime that these are not our elections. You are spending money and asking us to waste our time on elections that you do not believe in. Then, on 18 April Barakat will likely take to the streets and call for the application of Article 88 of the Constitution. This provision holds that in case of physical incapacity, the Constitutional Council should meet to relieve the president of his functions. Then there is a short time when the country is run by the president of the senate until there are elections. They did not do this last time because they were afraid, and the regime was strong. But, things are changing. There are political parties and sectors of the society that are on the move. So, maybe we have a chance to apply Article 88. We already appealed to the Constitutional Council once before, saying, ‘Don’t you want to be able to look your children in the eye, and say we did our jobs?’ We said ‘we appeal to your conscience. When you sleep at night you will think of Barakat and of the signature you put on the document saying Bouteflika is well enough to govern. You know you are lying. And you know we know you are lying. And you will be judged by history.’ We will do this again if the Constitutional Council validates this masquerade. They have to provide a medical certificate. Yesterday, Bouteflika exposed them when he said in his own letter that he is very sick. We will say ‘apply Article 88,’ even if it will not work.

      KB: What is the long term agenda of Barakat, after the April 17 elections?

      MB: We will work with all political and social forces for a consensus around a draft constitution. If we can even get the limit of presidential terms to two, like in the time of President Zeroual, this would be an advance. There will be progressive change. We ourselves do not want too brutal of a change, because either there will be suicidal types who can bring us down with them, or there could be a moment of terrible political instability. We want the state to keep functioning. And we will engage at every level, whether about issues like the constitution or municipal and legislative elections, or on other sectorial questions. For example, the multi-nationals are colonizing Algeria again. We say we need a second independence. We will also scrutinize public spending. How can we not demand an accounting from these people?

      KB: So you are talking about reform, not revolution?

      MB: Yes, because we are not an insurrectional movement. Given the terrorism we suffered in the 90s, and the damage caused by the “Arab Spring” - which either brought the army or extremist movements to power in different countries - reform is better. We do not want a violent solution. We are profoundly traumatized. No country knew the violence we did. I am against the “Arab Spring.” For us, the most important mission of Barakat is to offer political mediation. We understand that either we will have politics and a political solution, or chaos. Within Barakat, there is both a movement, and an initiative. The Barakat initiative is a consensual political project. We just finished our first month. Today we demonstrated in front of the national TV. We want to take concerted action that will probably assume the form of a new constitution.

      KB: Can you describe the activists of Barakat? Who are they?

      MB: We have a mix of people among our activists. At first, we were particularly identified with certain personalities, like Amira Bouaroui who is a gynecologist. In the founding meetings we held between 22 and 27 February, which were decisive for the movement, the participants were mainly middle class people, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, doctors, civil society activists, and students. The average age is between 20 and 30. Over time, everyone joined in. We were accused of being feminists, gays, drinkers and Kabyles (Amazight/Berber). I say, thank you for the four compliments, because we are for diversity.

      Now, we also have supporters who are from the popular class. They recognized Barakat as a rallying symbol. They have taken to heart a slogan which is now everywhere. I am stopped in the street all the time, every day, by people who make political suggestions. This is citizenship restored. We begin to have the kind of citizens who say I do not agree, but they discuss this with you without getting angry. Our meetings, and even our experience of arrests, awaken new traditions of activism that we had lost. Politics had become taboo. Slowly, people are beginning to come back to politics.

      Our strength is our organization. We are ready to sacrifice and lose our jobs and be arrested. We cannot be bought off.

      KB: Barakat’s protest this morning at the National TV station had a significant media impact, but the protestors were small in number. Do you aim for mass mobilization?

      MB: We have modest goals. We are not going to change the world, or Algeria as a whole. But even appearing in front of the national TV station with ten people is in itself an achievement here. We cannot expect too much. We are not bothered by numbers. We are not politicians. When someone proposed to me to mobilize a mass protest I replied, only if you can assure me no one will be killed. I am happy to have ten people and to know who they are, and then they go home safely. Real civil society is not a question of numbers or money.

      KB: Barakat is an Algerian movement, with messages aimed at Algerians. However, what should the international community or civil society elsewhere understand about your struggle?

      MB: To the formal international community of governments, we say, “leave us in peace. Don’t interfere with us. We will take care of our own problems.” The solution will not come from outside. We know there are many who would like to use us. We are not naïve about this. We do not even want any financing. The best support is just to let us do things in our own rhythm. This is an Algerian movement that is happening inside Algeria. For Algerians outside who want their country to change, we ask them to organize and not to fight amongst themselves, because Barakat is a movement to federate people. It is an entirely non-violent movement.

      I am always pleased to work with people in civil society who struggle. There is a global movement of peoples to retake sovereignty. All these peoples’ movements are working for the same things. It is not just the countries of the Third World that have work to do. Even in the world’s leading democracies there is work to be done.

      This interview was conducted by Karima Bennoune on March 22nd in Algiers

      by Scott Sayare
      (The New York Times - March 28, 2014)

      "We still haven’t taken the full measure of how much this war, this history, this French presence in Algeria, has marked and traumatized French society," said Benjamin Stora, an Algerian-born historian. Credit Lauren Fleishman for The New York Times
      The Saturday Profile

      ASNIÈRES-SUR-SEINE, France — Benjamin Stora arrived in Paris in the summer of 1962, a boy exile swaddled in as many layers of clothing as his parents could fit on his little body. He came amid a flood of refugees, one million French colonists, Arabs and Jews fleeing the murderous tumult of revolutionary Algeria.

      His family, suddenly destitute, brought with them as much of their homeland as they could. But Mr. Stora learned quickly not to speak of Algeria, he said. To do so would make him a reminder of France’s national disgrace, he feared, an emblem of the brutal, failed war to keep Algeria under the yoke of the receding French empire.

      He trundled off to school and, with a sense of isolation and resentment that he was then too young to understand, set about forgetting.

      France did the same. The forgetting of the Algerian war, a campaign begun in 1954 that left at least 400,000 Algerians and 35,000 French dead, in fact began well before the fighting ended in 1962. The conflict was inglorious in both aim and execution — the French made routine use of torture, for instance — and censors hid much of it from the populace, seizing newspapers, books and films deemed dangerous to national morale.

      Only in 1999 did France officially recognize the fighting as a war at all, and only since then has the conflict entered school textbooks here. Though more than two million French soldiers were sent to fight, memorials are scant.

      Mr. Stora, 63, has made a life of remembering, at first despite himself, later by conviction. A prolific historian, he is perhaps France’s foremost chronicler of the Algerian war, of its unavowed forgetting, and of the ways in which it continues to shape modern France: in the country’s discomfort over immigration and Islam, in its nostalgia for a more triumphal past, in its confusion over national identity. If France has begun a more honest reckoning with its colonial era, it is due in no small part to Mr. Stora, to his three dozen books and films and to his dogged belief that Algeria remains a toxic force here.

      “We still haven’t taken the full measure of how much this war, this history, this French presence in Algeria, has marked and traumatized French society,” like a bitter “family secret,” Mr. Stora said. “Everything — everything — stems from Algeria.”

      Algerians and North African Arabs constitute France’s largest immigrant population by far, making a confrontation with the past all the more uncomfortable and pressing, he said.

      Mr. Stora studied Algeria well before such work was considered desirable; at the time, in the 1970s, open discussion of collaboration during the Nazi occupation was only just beginning. Now a pleasantly rumpled man with a round belly and a grave brow, he has helped train a generation of researchers. His best-known work, “Gangrene and Forgetting,” published in 1991, was among the first books to address the unspoken memory of the war. “Denial” was “eating away like a cancer” at France, he wrote.

      “Stora’s book said openly what a lot of people had been thinking and feeling,” said Joshua H. Cole, director of the Center for European Studies at the University of Michigan.

      More recently, Mr. Stora has turned to popular histories, often with particular attention to the traumas the war left as its legacy. “He’s done it with a certain empathy,” said Mohammed Harbi, a French-Algerian historian.

      His work has been a form of personal psychotherapy as well, Mr. Stora said, helping him to enter a French society for which he never “held the social codes.” An Algerian-born French Jew, he calls himself a “sort of stateless person.” His work has helped, too, to untangle the knot of shame and pride that he long felt toward the land of his birth.

      “He’s given Algeria back to us all,” said Annie Stora-Lamarre, his sister and a fellow historian.

      Their family fled Constantine, a city with a once-boisterous Jewish quarter, set above gorges that echoed with gunfire during the war. In Paris, they lived in a garage for two years. Mr. Stora would bring friends to the entryway of a grand building next door, presenting it as his home, but never inviting them in.

      His mother, from a family of jewelers, worked on a Peugeot assembly line, as did Mr. Stora briefly. His aging father found work at an insurance company. His sister became a typist at 16.

      “We were thrown completely out of history,” Mr. Stora said.

      The “pieds noirs,” the French inhabitants of colonial Algeria, were met with disdain in mainland France. Many were poor to start, and had fled Algeria with even less. Their resentment toward Algerians, but also toward the French government, which they felt had betrayed them, is deep even now.

      SO, too, is that of the Harkis, Algerians who fought for the French. Perhaps 80,000 Harkis and family members fled to France in 1962, by Mr. Stora’s estimation, only to be held for years in internment camps. Many more were left behind; thousands, if not tens of thousands, were slaughtered as “traitors.”

      Meanwhile, the French government excused itself and its soldiers of any possible wrongdoing, with a succession of amnesties.

      “The French had to forget in order to live,” Mr. Stora said.

      A sense of revolt drove Mr. Stora into radical politics, he said. He joined a Trotskyist group and studied the Algerian conflict because it was a revolution, he said, and “I was a revolutionary.”

      Still, after a childhood of exile and poverty, his central preoccupation was with finding steady work, he said. He became a professor, a state position he has now held for 35 years. (He has abandoned proletarian internationalism.)

      In the 1990s Algeria fell into a decade of civil war, and he was called upon frequently to explain the violence, some of which reached French soil, with bombings in Paris in 1995. He received death threats — from whom remains unclear — and the French security services moved his family. They stayed in Vietnam until 1997, a second exile of a sort.

      Algeria has for years demanded an official apology from France for colonization, but it has not come. Just a few years ago, the French legislature passed a law, later repealed, that would have had schoolteachers emphasize France’s “positive role” in its former colonies.

      There has been a shift, though. In what Mr. Stora deemed the first “great speech on colonization” by a French president, François Hollande in 2012 called for an end to French and Algerian “denial.”

      “The truth does not damage,” Mr. Hollande declared. “It repairs.”

      Still, the French tend to ruminat<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)