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SACW | Feb. 1-2, 2008 / Media Rights in Pakistan / Sri Lanka: More fighting

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | February 1-2, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2496 - Year 10 running [1] Ending the downward spiral in Bangladesh (Irene Khan) [2] Pakistan: (i)
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2008
      South Asia Citizens Wire | February 1-2, 2008 |
      Dispatch No. 2496 - Year 10 running

      [1] Ending the downward spiral in Bangladesh (Irene Khan)
      [2] Pakistan:
      (i) For Journalists in Pakistan, That's the Way It Is (Nicholas Schmidle)
      (ii) Cybercrime Law Infringes on Rights - Activists (Irfan Ahmed)
      [3] Sri Lanka: An agreement to fight some more (Jayadeva Uyangoda)
      [4] India: How To 'Carve Out A Terrorist' from an
      Innocent Person And Say It Works? (Subhash Gatade)
      [5] India: Salwa Judum PIL's (Nandini Sundar)
      [6] India: Third Front or Third Rail? (I.K.Shukla)
      [7] India's Hindu Right and the Assassination of Gandhi:
      (i) Ambivalent views over Gandhi killer (Rajesh Joshi)
      (ii) Delving into Gandhi killer's mind | Godse Cult
      (iii) Anil Nauriya's Book Review of Lets Kill Gandhi
      [8] India - Hindutva Flourishing in Orissa:
      (i) Sign On Online Petition re Protection of
      the Rights of the Christian Minorities in Orissa
      (ii) Orissa: Sangh Parivar demands ban and burns textbook
      [9] Intellectuals concerned over Taslima Nasreen's health
      [10] Announcements:
      (i) Public Meeting: 'Ensuring participation of
      the public in making policy decisions' (New
      Delhi, 3 February 2008)
      (ii) PIPFPD event: "Crisis of Democracy:
      Implications for Pakistan-India Peace Process"
      (New Delhi, 5 February 2008)



      23 January 2008

      by Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International

      As British Airways flight BA144 takes off from
      Zia International Airport in the darkness of the
      night, I look out of the window of the airplane
      and think of the metaphorical darkness from which
      the people of this country are seeking to escape.

      For decades, Bangladesh has been caught in a
      downward spiral of corruption, insecurity,
      political violence and organized crime in which
      human rights and the rule of law have been the
      first casualties. Political leaders have shown
      more interest in abuse of power for personal
      gains than in poverty eradication. The powerful
      and the privileged have acted with impunity, with
      no fear of being called to account by weak and
      ineffective state institutions.

      Repressive laws, including laws granting special
      or emergency powers, have been used and abused by
      successive governments. Police and other state
      officials have sided with the affluent and the
      influential, so that the most vulnerable - women,
      minorities, the poor and the marginalized - have
      been the least protected.

      The declaration of the state of emergency and the
      installation of a Caretaker Government (CTG) in
      January 2007 were desperate measures to save the
      country from ever-increasing levels of insecurity
      and political violence, further bloodshed and
      mayhem, and set on track free and fair elections
      for a democratic government.

      During the Amnesty International visit to
      Bangladesh, journalists constantly asked if the
      human rights situation in 2007 was better than
      that in 2006. They were disappointed when I
      refused to give a simple "yes" or "no" answer.
      And so, sitting on the plane, I turn on my laptop
      in the hope of penning a more satisfactory
      response than I have given so far.

      Of course there has been an improvement in
      physical security and a dramatic decline in human
      rights violations related to political violence
      in 2007 as compared to previous years. Government
      figures also show a fall in the number of
      extra-judicial killings by RAB and other security
      forces from 195 in 2006 to 93 in 2007.

      These developments are welcome but it would be
      wrong to endorse them as indicators of
      improvement in the human rights situation without
      probing more deeply into what is being done - and
      what more needs to be done - to ensure that these
      positive trends will endure beyond the life of
      the CTG.

      We need to analyse more carefully the quality of
      change being brought by the CTG to ensure that
      they are not merely cosmetic. And we need to ask
      - indeed demand - that the political parties will
      uphold human rights and the rule of law when they
      come to power so that what is being done now is
      not undone in the future.

      In a country where the state machinery - courts,
      police and military - not only fails to deliver
      justice and security but is often the instrument
      of persecution, institutional reform is necessary
      to convert perpetrators into protectors. The CTG
      must be commended for taking some much-needed,
      long-awaited reform measures but it needs to
      undertake or at least set in motion some other
      measures to ensure that the reforms are truly

      Guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary
      requires not only separation from the executive
      but also other measures to ensure proper
      recruitment, appointment and security of tenure
      of judges without political interference. A new
      Police Ordinance will not end police brutality
      and inefficiency unless it includes clear
      provisions for independent scrutiny and greater
      accountability, for instance through the
      establishment of an independent police complaints

      The National Human Rights Commission must be
      given real teeth to investigate and take action
      against all organs of the state, including the
      Joint Forces and RAB. The CTG must appoint
      individuals to the National Human Rights
      Commission who are not only competent and
      qualified but command such a high degree respect
      and credibility that no future government will
      dare to sideline or undermine their work.

      These institutional changes, if carried out
      properly, will make a real difference to the
      range of human rights violations, from police
      brutality to gender violence, that plague the
      lives of ordinary people.

      There are two key factors that will determine the
      ultimate success or failure of the human rights
      reform agenda: first, the CTG's willingness to
      close its credibility gap on human rights, and
      second, the readiness of the main political
      parties to embrace the changes and commit
      themselves to upholding human rights and the rule
      of law.

      How can the CTG's initiative to separate the
      judiciary from the executive be taken as a true
      commitment to creating an independent judiciary
      when there is widespread perception that the same
      government is manipulating the criminal justice
      system to deliver some pre-ordained outcomes in
      high profile political cases?

      When I stressed the need for the government to be
      seen to be respecting due process, the Chief
      Advisor responded that this government is using
      existing laws and existing courts. Surely, that
      is not a satisfactory answer when it is
      well-known that these same laws and courts have
      been subject to substantial political
      interference in the past and so open to the same
      level of interference now. A government committed
      to the rule of law must show scrupulous regard
      for due process.

      How can the government's commitment to freedom of
      information be taken seriously when overt and
      covert pressure is exerted on the media? The
      government was keen to point out to me that
      although the emergency rules impose far-reaching
      restrictions, they are not being enforced
      rigorously. So, why leave them hanging like
      Damocles' sword over the heads of media, creating
      uncertainty and encouraging self-censorship?

      With such emergency regulations in existence, the
      chilling effect of a telephone call from a
      Directorate of General Forces Intelligence (DGFI)
      official to a TV station owner, or from the local
      RAB commander to a district correspondent should
      not be underestimated. Add to that a case like
      that of Jahangir Alam Akash, who claims to have
      been detained and tortured by RAB and charged in
      2007 with extortion allegedly committed in 2004,
      days after he reported an incident implicating
      local RAB officials in an attempted
      extra-judicial killing.

      Democratic institutions cannot develop in a
      climate of self-censorship. A period of
      transition and change must be informed by a
      diversity of views. That is why the government
      must immediately lift the restrictions on freedom
      of expression, assembly and association,
      including restrictions on the media.

      How can people have confidence in the CTG's drive
      to create a culture of transparency and
      accountability when the government has failed to
      be transparent and accountable about
      investigating reports of serious human rights
      violations by RAB and the Joint Forces? Torture
      allegations made by Rang Lai Mro, a prominent
      leader from the Chittagong Hill Tracts remain
      uninvestigated, as do the allegations by Jahangir
      Alam Akash, or the death of Dulal in Bhola
      reportedly at the hands of the Navy.

      After much adverse publicity, the government set
      up a one-man judicial commission to investigate
      the death of Cholesh Richil, a Garo leader,
      allegedly tortured by a Joint Forces unit in
      March 2007, but has so far failed to publish the
      report or open any criminal prosecution. I
      welcome the statement by the Chief Advisor that
      the NHRC should have the power to investigate
      human rights complaints against military and
      security officials, including RAB, in the future.
      But justice delayed is justice denied.

      The Richil case cannot wait. Only by publishing
      the report of the judicial commission and by
      following it up with criminal investigation and
      prosecution in an open court of law can this
      government show that it is determined to end the
      culture of impunity that has hamstrung the rule
      of law in this country.

      The past year has been marked by a creeping
      expansion of the role of the armed forces in
      activities that should rightly be carried out by
      a civilian administration, from law enforcement
      to electoral registration and investigation of
      extortion cases. I was told by the Army Chief
      that this is because of the lack of capacity and
      competency in the civilian administration. Be
      that as it may, principles of transparency and
      accountability, which lie at the core of human
      rights, require that all activities by the armed
      forces should be circumscribed by law and put
      under civilian scrutiny and accountability.

      If the CTG has the courage to confront and close
      these credibility gaps, then it will go a long
      way in creating public confidence in the human
      rights reforms agenda that no future government
      will be able to undo.
      Turning now to the political parties, I fully
      agreed with the Chief Advisor when he said to me
      during our meeting that institutional change is a
      long term process and its success depends not
      only on the CTG but on the commitment of future

      That is why Amnesty International's
      recommendations on human rights reform are
      addressed not just to the CTG but also to
      political parties. That is why we asked all
      political parties represented in the previous
      parliament to meet with us, and the Awami League,
      one faction of the BNP (the other one led by
      Saifur Rahman did not return our call for a
      meeting) and Jamaat agreed to do so.

      In these meetings, my colleagues emphasized our
      call for political parties to include a human
      rights agenda in their manifesto, and to support
      human rights reforms when they are in parliament.
      The test of the commitments which they declared
      to have for human rights will be in what they
      will say publically and will do in Parliament.

      Regrettably, human rights have yet to enter the
      lexicon of political parties. They have little
      understanding about the relationship of human
      rights to democracy and good governance, and even
      less of their role as political leaders in
      upholding human rights and the rule of law. They
      are primarily preoccupied with protecting the
      human rights of their leaders who are feeling the
      brunt of the law.

      They are yet to fully appreciate the irony that
      they themselves created and nurtured the laws,
      systems and practices of which they are now
      complaining. Now that they are at the receiving
      end of these repressive laws, policies and
      practices, let us hope that they will take more
      seriously Amnesty's oft-reiterated
      recommendations, including repeal of the Special
      Powers Act and the introduction of basic
      safeguards against torture and ill treatment of

      Knowing the role that democratically elected
      governments played in the past in undermining the
      rule of law and human rights, civil society must
      be vigorous in demanding that political parties
      demonstrate a clear commitment to human rights.
      They must call on the political parties to set
      out their vision on human rights and to insert
      clear commitments in their electoral manifesto.
      In the run up to the elections, there is an
      opportunity to educate the political leaders on
      human rights as a means of good governance, and I
      believe the more astute and progressive leaders
      are ready to learn.

      So, the right question is not whether the human
      rights situation today is better or worse than
      last year. It is whether one should be more
      hopeful or less that this country will turn a
      corner on human rights.

      And there I am optimistic. The public today is
      more aware of human rights than ever before.
      Civil society is more determined than ever to
      hold their political leaders to account. The call
      for democracy is not simply for free and fair
      elections but for a new style of governance that
      is transparent, accountable and responsive to the
      needs, demands and rights of the people.

      I leave Bangladesh with a sense of hope, not
      because of what the CTG has done, or what
      political parties promise to do, nor even what
      civil society is determined to do, but because
      of the growing realisation and determination of
      ordinary people to stand up for their rights.

      The day labourers in my ancestral village in
      Sylhet, the women in the legal literacy projects
      in the village in Tangail, the fruit seller from
      whom I bought oranges on the street corner in
      Gulshan, the CNG driver who drove me to the
      market - they spoke to me frankly and simply with
      no sophisticated understanding of law or
      politics. But in their voices I heard the
      uncompromising demand for justice, equality and a
      decent life and livelihood for all. No
      government, caretaker or democratic, no leader,
      elected or unelected, can afford to ignore that

      The flight is about to land at Heathrow and I
      must turn off my laptop. But before I do that, I
      remember the words of the man guarding the door
      of the passenger terminal at Dhaka airport. As I
      entered the building with my luggage trolley, he
      recognised my face from TV and newspaper pages,
      and came running after me. "You have said what
      many of us want to say," he said. "We all want to
      see change in Bangladesh." Then, as I waved
      goodbye, he called out, "Apa, please do not
      forget us."

      How can I ever forget people like him who give me
      hope that the struggle for human rights in
      Bangladesh will endure!


      [2] Pakistan


      Washington Post


      by Nicholas Schmidle
      Sunday, February 3, 2008; Page

      The police came for me on a cold, rainy Tuesday
      night last month. They stood in front of my home
      in Islamabad, four men with hoods pulled over
      their heads in the driving rain. The senior
      officer, a tall, clean-shaven man, and I
      recognized one another from recent protests and
      demonstrations. Awkwardly, almost apologetically,
      he handed me a notice ordering my immediate
      expulsion from Pakistan. Rain spilled off a
      nearby awning and fell loudly into puddles.

      I asked, somewhat obtusely, what this meant. "I
      am here to take you to the airport," the officer
      shrugged. "Tonight."

      The document he'd given me provided no
      explanation for my expulsion, but I immediately
      felt that there was some connection to the
      travels and reporting I had done for a story
      published two days earlier in the New York Times
      Magazine, about a dangerous new generation of
      Taliban in Pakistan. I had spent several months
      traveling throughout the troubled areas along the
      border with Afghanistan, including Quetta (in
      Baluchistan), and Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and
      Swat (all in the North-West Frontier Province).
      My visa listed no travel restrictions, and less
      than a week earlier, President Pervez Musharraf
      had sat before a roomful of foreign journalists
      in Islamabad and told them that they could go
      anywhere they wanted in Pakistan.

      The truth, however, is that foreign journalists
      are barred from almost half the country; in most
      cases, their visas are restricted to three cities
      -- Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. In Baluchistan
      province, which covers 44 percent of Pakistan and
      where ethnic nationalists are fighting a
      low-level insurgency, the government requires
      prior notification and approval if you want to
      travel anywhere outside the capital of Quetta.
      Such permission is rarely given. And the
      Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where
      the pro-Taliban militants are strong, are
      completely off-limits. Musharraf's government
      says that journalists are kept out for their own
      security. But meanwhile, two conflicts go
      unreported in one of the world's most vital --
      and misunderstood -- countries.

      There's no doubt that journalists in Pakistan,
      and throughout Central and South Asia, face great
      risks. Nine Central and South Asian journalists
      were among the 65 newsmen and women worldwide --
      more than in any other year in the past decade,
      according to the Committee to Protect Journalists
      -- who lost their lives while doing their jobs in
      2007. Five were Pakistanis. One died in FATA and
      one in the North-West Frontier Province, areas
      where the Taliban operate with increasing
      openness. Two others died in Taliban- or
      al-Qaeda-related violence, one during the Red
      Mosque siege in July and one in the terrorist
      attack on Benazir Bhutto's motorcade as she
      returned to Pakistan on Oct. 18, which left more
      than 140 dead.

      Also in October, in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, a
      gunman using a silencer murdered Voice of America
      reporter Alisher Saipov, a good friend of mine
      and a fearless opponent of the regime in
      neighboring Uzbekistan. More recently, Taliban
      militants raided the exclusive and high-security
      Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, one
      detonating himself in a suicide blast while the
      others combed the hallways, seeking and firing at
      targets; one Norwegian journalist died.

      And yet throughout the region, journalism is
      considered perhaps the noblest profession around.
      In many of these countries, information is
      hoarded by corrupt, authoritarian leaders. Trying
      to expose it can be a liberating and empowering
      experience. That's why the state of the media
      there -- and the ability of foreign journalists
      to report what's going on -- should concern the

      It's no secret that stifled societies often
      produce frustrated, angry youth. Pakistan, for
      example, is an amazing and fascinating country,
      filled with amazing and fascinating people, but
      every day, small numbers of young men and women
      there are brainwashed into thinking that the only
      answer to Musharraf's U.S.-backed regime is

      I moved to Pakistan in February 2006 on a
      research and writing fellowship. My wife left her
      job and joined me soon after. We had been married
      just three months; I convinced her that two years
      in Pakistan would be like a honeymoon that just
      wouldn't stop. We both learned to speak Urdu and
      embraced local customs (and clothes). She
      enrolled at the International Islamic University
      (the only non-Muslim American ever to do so), and
      I traveled extensively throughout the country.
      Pakistan became our home. Unhindered by deadlines
      and with a grasp of the language, I uncovered a
      side of Pakistan that few other foreign writers
      have been fortunate enough to experience.

      My desire to explore regions and themes rarely
      addressed in mainstream media coverage took me to
      a number of areas often considered dangerous or
      hostile to Westerners. And yet I found the people
      there overwhelmingly hospitable -- and not at all
      scary. I soon learned how to assess -- and, to
      some extent, manage -- any potential hazards. I
      almost always traveled with a local journalist or
      two who knew the people, languages and customs
      far better than I ever could. Besides
      understanding which roads were safe to travel at
      night, they would also be aware that interviewing
      particular people might attract the unwanted
      attention of Pakistan's intelligence services,
      incuding the notorious ISI. When they advised, I

      Foreign writers in Baluchistan have always
      attracted the nervous attention of the
      intelligence services. A year ago, agents burst
      into the hotel room of a female New York Times
      correspondent and physically assaulted her. (She
      was reporting on the presence of top Taliban
      leaders in Quetta.) Another foreign journalist
      staying at the same hotel received a phone call
      threatening that unless he left Quetta
      immediately he would face the "consequences" like
      Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal
      correspondent whom Islamic militants kidnapped
      and beheaded in January 2002.

      Following my last visit to Baluchistan, in
      October 2006, intelligence goons stopped by my
      house on a regular basis for weeks, demanding to
      speak with me and asking my guard probing
      questions about my wife and me. The guard quietly
      shared these conversations with me out of earshot
      of my wife. I laughed about it with fellow
      writers and reporters, figuring that such visits
      were just the price of researching and reporting
      in Baluchistan.

      But what makes Pakistan and the region an often
      hostile place for journalists is the difficulty
      of assessing the threat. While most fatalities
      last year occurred in random bombings and
      terrorist attacks, deadly incidents in years past
      remain shrouded in mystery. For instance, in
      December 2005, Hayatullah Khan, a journalist from
      North Waziristan, filed a story with photographs
      that gave evidence -- a piece of a U.S.-made
      Hellfire missile -- that the United States was
      conducting strikes against Taliban- and
      al-Qaeda-linked targets inside Pakistani
      territory. The photos were undoubtedly an
      embarrassment to the government, which had
      publicly insisted that U.S. military forays would
      not be allowed inside Pakistan.

      Just a few weeks earlier, Khan had written a
      will, in which he stated, "If I am kidnapped or
      get killed, the government agencies will be
      responsible." The day after his story and the
      photos were published, gunmen ran his car off the
      road and kidnapped him. Six months later, his
      body was dumped in the bazaar in Miram Shah, the
      capital of North Waziristan.

      A couple of weeks ago, a spokesman from the
      Information Ministry said that "the media in
      Pakistan is the freest ever in the history of the
      country." In many ways, he was correct;
      drawing-room columnists can be as critical as
      they wish to be. But opinion-writing shouldn't be
      confused with reporting. And every journalist
      working in Pakistan knows that crossing certain
      undefined lines can become a risky, often
      life-threatening endeavor. Pearl and Khan were
      both doing serious investigative work when they
      were kidnapped and killed.

      Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan's most respected TV
      and print journalists, watched as his TV channel,
      GEO TV, and his talk show were pulled off the air
      after Musharraf imposed a state of emergency on
      Nov. 3. (On Jan. 21, GEO resumed broadcasting,
      albeit without Mir's show.) Mir recently e-mailed
      me: "Musharraf believes in removing people from
      the scene. . . . He cannot remove us from

      Journalism, as the cliche goes, is the "first
      rough draft of history." If that's the case, then
      Pakistan's history is suffering.

      On that wet Tuesday night, I finally connected by
      phone with an influential friend, who placed a
      couple of calls and made the cops go home. But it
      was obvious that my wife and I were no longer
      welcome in Pakistan. My mobile phone had been
      tapped for weeks. For the first time in two
      years, I feared for our safety. The next morning,
      we bought two one-way tickets back to the States.
      Within two days, we had pawned off out cat and
      packed or sold the rest of our belongings.

      On our last night in Islamabad, a half-dozen
      expatriate friends came over to send us off --
      and help drink the rest of our wine. Yet saying
      goodbye to our expat friends wasn't nearly as
      emotional as saying goodbye to our Pakistani
      friends and those who had done everything to
      protect us in those final hours.

      The day after my story about the Taliban
      appeared, our guard, a gruff, bearded man from
      the North-West Frontier Province, had rebuffed
      the ISI inspector who'd arrived on a motorcycle
      and demanded to be allowed inside to conduct an
      investigation. A former ISI commando himself, the
      guard apparently told the inspector that he would
      never get past him and be allowed inside our
      house. Hugging this man on our last morning, as
      tears streamed down his face, was more difficult
      than bidding my family farewell back in February
      2006 had been. Honestly, I don't know when I'll
      see him -- or Pakistan -- again. I miss them both


      Nicholas Schmidle, a Pakistan-based fellow with
      the Institute of Current World Affairs from 2006
      to 2008, is writing a book about Pakistan today.

      o o o


      Inter Press Service


      by Irfan Ahmed

      ISLAMABAD, Jan 23 (IPS) - An ordinance introduced
      this month to curb electronic crime has come
      under criticism for clauses that seem to be aimed
      at censoring free speech and cutting civil

      Promulgated on Jan.10 by the caretaker government
      of President Pervez Musharraf, the Electronic
      Crime Ordinance - 2007 encompasses 18 different
      offences that carry punishment ranging from a
      couple of months' imprisonment and fines to life
      imprisonment and even the death penalty.

      The government claims that the main objective of
      this law is to increase security, safety and
      protection for those segments of society that use
      or deal with information technology (IT). But
      many believe that in reality the law will be used
      to crack down on free expression on the Internet
      because it prohibits the use of Internet and cell
      phones to criticise authorities or send out calls
      for rallies.

      Blog sites and short messaging services (SMSs)
      were used extensively by Pakistanis inside the
      country and abroad to condemn the imposition of a
      state of emergency, gagging of independent media
      and other 'unconstitutional' acts of the
      Musharraf government. Their use increased
      exponentially after the government imposed
      restrictions on electronic channels through
      certain amendments in the Pakistan Electronic
      Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance in June.

      The new ordinance has been criticised by human
      rights bodies, business community and citizen
      groups as a piece of legislation that has too
      many loopholes for misuse.

      In a statement, the South Asian Free Media
      Association (SAFMA) said that ''against the
      backdrop of the use of Internet and cell phones
      to criticise authorities or send calls for
      rallies, the ordinance is liable to be
      interpreted as a drastic measure aimed at putting
      curbs on civil rights.''

      SAFMA asked that the law not be used to obstruct
      freedom of information and said that the way
      ordinance defines cyber crime and 'terroristic
      intent' allows it to be grossly misused.

      Cyber terrorism has been defined by the ordinance
      thus: ''Any person, group or organisation who,
      with terroristic intent utilises, accesses or
      causes to be accessed a computer or computer
      network or electronic system or electronic device
      or by any available means, and thereby knowingly
      engages in or attempts to engage in a terroristic
      act commits the offense of cyber terrorism.''

      The ordinance also declares the sending of
      unsolicited short messages over cell phones
      (SMSs), pictures taken without the permission of
      the person photographed, and e-mails carrying
      obscene material as cyber crimes.

      Jehan Ara, president of Pakistan Software Houses'
      Association, told IPS that the law had been
      drafted without consulting the stakeholders and
      does little good to the industry. She says the
      law does not adhere to the principles or
      definitions of Cyber Crime Convention (Budapest,
      2001) which has been signed by 42 countries.

      She said Pakistan could have signed the Budapest
      convention instead of coming out with an
      ordinance which is full of errors, ambiguities
      and socio-cultural influences. The law, she says,
      allows investigating officers to take control of
      computer networks and data without any chain of
      custody. This means the data under the control of
      the investigators can be corrupted, deleted or
      amended by them. In short, no provision is made
      to preserve the integrity of the data involved.

      The law gives officers of the Federal
      Investigation Authority (FIA) full powers to
      confiscate equipment and arrest anyone who is
      deemed by the government to be acting against the
      'integrity of Pakistan' or having terroristic
      intent, says Asif Bhatti, a software engineer
      based in Lahore. Bhatti pointed out that the law
      contains words like 'lewd', 'obscene' and
      'immoral' which are not legal terms, and are
      highly subjective. This gives the prosecuting
      authorities a chance to use their discretion and
      declare anything immoral or obscene, he added.

      The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
      has also condemned the ordinance. In a letter
      written to Pakistan's ministry of information and
      technology, the media watchdog says: "This law
      prevents any blogger from posting photos or video
      showing persons who have not given their
      consent... Pakistan has understood its right to
      give itself a law for fighting cyber crime, but
      it is vital that this law should not obstruct
      freedom of information."

      RSF has also urged the government to ''clarify
      the content of some of the provisions that we
      think are dangerous. With just one month to go to
      legislative elections, some of the articles of
      this law look like censorship.''

      The organisation also condemns the clause under
      which a service provider is required to retain
      its traffic data for a period of 90 days or more
      and make it available to investigating agencies
      when required. "This gives the authorities
      control over Internet users' data and our
      organisation fears that this provision could be
      abused," RSF said.

      Zia Islam, who works for FIA's cyber crime unit,
      told IPS the allegation that the ordinance does
      not grant the suspects the right to defend
      themselves is not true. "There may be some
      ambiguities but we hope that they will be removed
      with the passage of time."

      Zia said that all the offences mentioned by the
      ordinance, except three, are compoundable,
      non-cognisable and bailable. The non-bailable
      crimes are those which are serious enough to
      merit punishments of seven years in prison or

      According to Zia, in order to make arrests
      against non-cognisable crimes the law enforcing
      authorities will have to secure warrants
      beforehand. But in cases of electronic fraud,
      forgery and cyber terrorism summary arrests can
      be made.

      Cyber terrorism, Zia said, is not a new concept
      as terrorists have been using this means of
      communication to accomplish their goals. For
      example, those found involved in the February
      2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter
      Daniel Pearl, in Pakistan's port city Karachi,
      communicated with each other over e-mail, he said.

      Many believe that the ordinance was prompted by a
      spate of jokes over e-mail and SMS that ridiculed
      President Musharraf.




      February 2008


      With the formal abrogation of the Ceasefire
      Agreement by the Colombo government, the conflict
      in Sri Lanka is headed for a decisive phase. And
      it will be bloody.

      by Jayadeva Uyangoda

      Sri Lanka's descent into a sorry state of war has
      not been a source of great concern within the
      country. Indeed, many outsiders are more worried
      than Sri Lankans themselves about the inevitably
      destructive consequences of the intensifying war.
      Outside observers have been warning that there is
      no military solution to the ethnic conflict, that
      the war will produce only losers, and that an
      escalation will only further intensify the
      deepening humanitarian crisis. But within Sri
      Lanka, many, including both the government and
      the LTTE, seem to view the war as an inescapable
      reality. How does one explain this puzzle?

      The troubled story of the Ceasefire Agreement
      (CFA) at least partly captures some crucial
      dimensions of the conundrum of Sri Lanka's ethnic
      conflict and multiple failed peace processes. The
      CFA came into effect in February 2002 when Prime
      Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, of the United
      National Front (UNF) government, and LTTE leader
      Velupillai Prabhakaran signed the document as a
      prelude to direct peace negotiations. Both the
      CFA and subsequent negotiations were facilitated
      by representatives of the Norwegian government,
      who subsequently acted as representatives of the
      so-called international community. The signing of
      the CFA was followed by six rounds of direct
      talks between the government and the LTTE, all of
      which were held outside Sri Lanka.

      A notable development in the negotiation process
      was the understanding, reached in Oslo in
      December 2002, to explore a federal solution to
      the ethnic conflict. But the progress of
      negotiations did not go beyond the Oslo
      understanding, which the LTTE later disowned. The
      talks reached a crisis point in April 2003, when
      the LTTE 'suspended' its participation in the
      negotiation process itself, alleging that the UNF
      government was not committed to implementing
      decisions taken at the negotiation table. Neither
      the pressure from the international community,
      nor the massive tsunami disaster of December
      2003, could revive Sri Lanka's stalled peace

      Relapse and polarisation
      The gradual relapse into war began with
      violations of the CFA. While the LTTE was blamed
      by international monitors for most of the direct
      violations, such as smuggling weapons and killing
      military intelligence operatives, the Colombo
      government also contributed by not implementing
      some of the major commitments made in the CFA.
      The continual refusal by the government to vacate
      villages in Jaffna District that had been brought
      under military-maintained high-security zones was
      a prominent case in point.

      Rather than be enmeshed in the blame game of
      apportioning responsibility for ceasefire
      violations, an observer can gain good perspective
      on some of the larger dimensions of Sri Lanka's
      conflict by looking through the prism of the
      actual politics of the ceasefire and related
      negotiations. The CFA was originally meant to
      provide the ground conditions of de-escalation,
      as well as a framework for political engagement
      between the state and the LTTE. While at the time
      Colombo was willing to consider an advanced form
      of devolution as a framework for a constitutional
      settlement, the LTTE, which was advancing the
      interests of a state-seeking ethnic minority, was
      also exploring acceptable alternatives to

      Addressing the need to fill the gap between these
      two visions constituted the fundamental challenge
      in the negotiations of 2002. Indeed, any success
      was to depend on the capacity of the two sides to
      work out a compromise that could go beyond
      ordinary devolution, but which could also fall
      short of outright separation. With the advantage
      of hindsight, one can now say that, by 2002-03,
      the conflict had not yet reached a point at which
      such a huge compromise could have been considered
      possible, or even feasible.

      Equally important was the fact that the CFA and
      the negotiation process - albeit unintentionally
      - polarised the Sri Lankan polity into two camps:
      those for and those against the agreement. This
      situation was very similar to the polarisation
      that took place following the 1987 Indo-Lanka
      Peace Accord. In a deeply divided and fragmented
      polity, a decisive move towards altering the
      trajectory of the conflict could only sharpen
      existing contradictions.

      This polarisation was felt most dramatically in
      the Sinhala polity. The fact that governmental
      power had been fractured into two antagonistic
      camps, one represented by President Chandrika
      Kumaratunga and her People's Alliance, and the
      other represented by Prime Minister
      Wickramasinghe and his UNF. The agenda of the
      People's Alliance, of toppling the UNF regime,
      found an easy platform in opposition to both the
      CFA and the UNF-LTTE negotiations that had not
      produced a peace agreement as such. The People's
      Alliance and its Sinhalese nationalist allies
      appealed to the insecurities of the Sinhala and
      Muslim masses, on the argument that the CFA
      provided undue legitimacy to the LTTE, thereby
      endangering their safety and security as well as
      the country's sovereignty and territorial

      Ultimately, the obstacles to the agreement were
      significant. The less-than-enthusiastic
      commitment of the UNP leadership to a tangible
      outcome of the peace process; the arrogance and
      intransigence of the LTTE in violating the CFA;
      and the short-sighted policies of the
      international custodians of the peace process,
      who tried out a 'neo-liberal' peace-building
      strategy that pushed an agenda of economic
      liberalisation, along with a minimalist programme
      of democratisation - all of these eventually came
      together to create a situation in which political
      conditions necessary for the sustainability of
      the peace process became less and less viable.
      The moral of this part of the story quickly
      became clear: that an incomplete peace initiative
      can re-polarise the polity, sharpen its
      contradictions, and make the peace initiative
      itself a victim of those very contradictions.

      The incomplete revolution
      This takes us to another peculiar aspect of Sri
      Lanka's conflict. Every failed (or partially
      successful) attempt at restoring peace by
      non-military means has eventually led to a return
      to war with fiercer intensity. In other words,
      the ethnic conflict has demonstrated a peculiar
      capacity to reproduce and sustain itself, not
      because there were no peace initiatives, but
      because there have been peace initiatives that
      have not led to the termination of the civil war
      and a settlement agreement. Indeed, the
      intractable conflict in Sri Lanka is, on a very
      real level, propelled by unfinished peace
      efforts: as an incomplete revolution digs its own
      grave, the incomplete peace process inevitably
      becomes its own negation.

      The CFA has many critics, particularly in Sri
      Lanka and India, and many of their arguments are
      quite compelling. From the beginning they saw the
      CFA as having given the LTTE unwarranted
      political legitimacy on the LTTE's own terms,
      because the CFA institutionalised the LTTE's
      claim to a parity of status based on a military
      balance of power. The CFA also formally
      recognised that there were territories controlled
      by the LTTE in the Northern and Eastern
      provinces. In a way, this accepted a ground
      reality that no other political party in Sri
      Lanka would dare to accede.

      In fact, the LTTE also made the point that it
      accepted the CFA as the basis for negotiations
      because, in their reading, the CFA gave
      expression to a strategic equilibrium achieved by
      military means. The UNF government did not
      contradict the LTTE's claim to parity. On a
      related point, many of those who would advocate
      for a negotiated solution would want Colombo to
      define the terms and scope of the settlement from
      a position of military strength and asymmetry of
      power. But the notion of strategic parity went
      against this proposition. Therefore, undermining
      the CFA and the negotiation process of 2002-03
      was seen by many political and ideological groups
      in Sri Lanka as not only necessary, but also a
      just objective.

      The fact that the Colombo ruling class continued
      to remain fragmented and unable to work on the
      basis of a broad consensus on key policy
      challenges further contributed to the narrowing
      down of the political space within which the CFA
      needed to exist. It is useful to recall that when
      Prime Minister Wickramasinghe signed the CFA in
      February 2002, he did not consult the other
      powerful faction of the ruling class, led by
      President Kumaratunga. Wickramasinghe's strategy
      was to make peace with the LTTE on the basis of
      negotiations between two parties: his government
      and the LTTE. But, as prime minister, he only
      represented half of the Sinhala establishment. As
      had also happened previously, the other half was,
      in the meanwhile, waiting for an opportunity to
      undermine the peace bid.

      This is where the two factions of the politically
      bifurcated Sinhala ruling class once again
      demonstrated how its disunity could derail
      opportunities for resolution of the ethnic
      conflict. Backed by the extreme Sinhala
      nationalist forces, President Kumaratunga
      dismissed the UNF government in late 2003 on the
      argument that both the CFA and the LTTE's
      proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority
      posed a threat to the country's national security
      and state sovereignty. After the LTTE's
      unilateral withdrawal from peace talks in April
      2003, this was the second stage in the trajectory
      that saw the disintegration of the CFA and
      negotiation process of 2002.

      By mid-2004, following the regime change after
      the parliamentary elections, Colombo had been
      slowly moving in the direction of resuming the
      war. The new regime of the United People's
      Freedom Alliance (UPFA), led by President
      Kumaratunga, was mainly a coalition of Sinhala
      nationalist forces committed to undoing what they
      saw as the 'damage' done by the UNF government
      and the internationals, particularly Norway.
      Continuing violations of the CFA, particularly by
      the LTTE, led to the clamour for its abrogation,
      especially among UPFA'a extreme nationalist

      The LTTE's August 2005 assassination of Foreign
      Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who had earlier led
      a successful international campaign to ban the
      Tigers in a number of countries as a 'terrorist'
      entity, further added to the demand for the
      annulment of the CFA. But President Kumaratunga,
      now heading her own government, exercised
      significant caution in her approach to both the
      CFA and the LTTE. She renewed calls for the
      return to negotiations, while the international
      community (notably the European Union, the United
      States and Japan) tried both threats and
      diplomacy to persuade the LTTE to resume peace
      talks. All met with failure. Towards the end of
      2004, there was speculation that the LTTE was
      making preparations for an offensive, in an
      attempt to alter the balance of power with the
      Sri Lankan Army, as a prelude to returning to
      talks from a new position of military strength.

      Lanka no Aceh
      The tsunami of December 2004 significantly
      altered the course of Sri Lanka's conflict,
      during a year in which the country had seemed to
      be moving in the direction of outright war. The
      tsunami devastated vast stretches of coastal
      areas inhabited by Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim
      communities, but some of the worst-hit
      communities were in the LTTE-controlled areas of
      the Northern and Eastern provinces. The disaster
      and accompanying humanitarian tragedy seems to
      have changed the LTTE's decision to resume armed
      hostilities. More importantly, the situation
      opened up a new opportunity for the UPFA
      government and the LTTE to work together in
      humanitarian assistance - and subsequently to use
      that space to resume political engagement.

      The two sides did restart dialogue, and in July
      2005 even signed an agreement to set up a joint
      administrative mechanism called the Post-Tsunami
      Operational Mechanism (PTOM). But this attempt
      fell victim to the opposition mounted by the
      newly mobilised Sinhala nationalists, led
      particularly by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
      (JVP), which opposed any resumption of political
      engagement with the LTTE. The JVP, a powerful
      member of the UPFA coalition with 39 members in
      Parliament, filed a petition before the Supreme
      Court that the PTOM agreement violated Sri
      Lanka's Constitution. The Supreme Court upheld
      some of the JVP objections, thereby effectively
      nullifying the new institutional mechanism
      formulated for the government and the LTTE to
      work together, at the very least on humanitarian
      issues. In contrast, across the ocean to the
      east, the Indonesian government and the rebels in
      Aceh were able to successfully use the
      humanitarian space opened up by the 2004 tsunami
      to work towards a peace agreement - one that
      still holds today.

      If 2005 was a missed opportunity for the
      resumption of the peace process, 2006 marked the
      momentum in a new trajectory towards the
      resumption of war. The election of President
      Mahinda Rajapakse in November 2005 was a crucial
      turning point. Rajapakse won the election due to
      two main factors: backing by the extreme Sinhala
      nationalist forces, and the election boycott
      imposed on the Tamil voters in the Northern
      Province by the LTTE. After the leadership of the
      Sri Lanka Freedom Party did not back him,
      Rajapakse had been forced to establish a firm
      ideological and political alliance with two
      extreme Sinhala nationalist parties, the JVP and
      the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), with whose
      support he ran an election campaign that was
      marked by an essentially Sinhala Buddhist
      nationalist agenda. Rajapakse won a narrow
      victory over the UNP's Wickramasinghe, who had
      run on a platform of returning to negotiations
      for a federalist political solution to the ethnic
      conflict. It was during 2006 that the new
      administration of Rajapakse and the LTTE began
      their 'undeclared war'.

      Why did the LTTE leadership indirectly help
      Rajapakse to win the election over
      Wickramasinghe, for whom a vast majority of
      Tamils would have voted in the absence of the
      enforced boycott? The simple answer is that the
      LTTE wanted a new phase of polarisation and
      sharpening of contradictions between the Sri
      Lankan state and the Tamil polity. Unfortunately,
      the events of 2006 and 2007 served the LTTE's
      strategic objective to a considerable measure.

      In early 2006, President Rajapakse's new
      administration and the LTTE decided to come back
      to the negotiating table, and their
      representatives met twice in Geneva. In the first
      round of talks, in February 2006, they agreed to
      'fully implement' the CFA, which at that time was
      under severe stress in the Eastern province due
      to a mini war between the mainstream LTTE and its
      breakaway group, led by Karuna Amman. The
      violations of the CFA during most of 2005 and
      2006 occurred in the course of this internecine
      conflict, during which the LTTE attempted to
      invoke the clauses of the CFA that vested Colombo
      with the responsibility of disarming paramilitary
      groups. In fact, the split that took place when
      Karuna broke away from the LTTE in early 2004 was
      a crucial factor in pushing the ceasefire into a
      major crisis, and the Sri Lankan Army seized the
      opportunity to back the Karuna faction. As
      eventually became clear, the Geneva talks were
      actually a blatant smokescreen, as both parties
      seemed intent on preparing for war.

      For political reasons, neither side wanted to
      formally withdraw from the CFA, though 2007 still
      became a year of war between the two sides. The
      conflict was considered 'undeclared' due to one
      of the CFA's provisions, Clause 4.4, which
      stipulated that either party could withdraw from
      the CFA only after giving a specified notice to
      the Norwegian government. The 'high point' of
      this undeclared war was the military's early-2007
      capture of the LTTE-held territory in the Eastern
      province. A series of battles over several months
      resulted in large-scale civilian displacement,
      the deaths of many combatants on both sides, the
      murders of humanitarian aid workers and serious
      human-rights violations. Indeed, with the
      escalating war, both humanitarian and
      human-rights issues emerged as topics of
      immediate concern. In fact, throughout 2007 both
      the government and the LTTE treated the CFA with
      scant regard.

      Life after the CFA
      It is in this context that many in Colombo have
      welcomed President Rajapakse's decision, in early
      January 2008, to abrogate the CFA. The epithets
      used in the reactions are telling. For some who
      welcomed the decision, the 'stinking corpse' of
      the CFA has at last been buried; for others, the
      CFA has long been a mere a piece of fiction,
      anyway. For yet others, 'national pride' has been
      restored. In Sinhala society, including among
      political groups opposed to UNF-LTTE
      negotiations, the absence of the CFA now paves
      the way for the military defeat of the LTTE.
      Perhaps for this reason, the LTTE's subsequent
      statement, that it remained committed to the full
      implementation of the CFA, was met with a
      contemptuous response by Colombo officials. And
      indeed, the LTTE's new love for the CFA needs to
      be seen only as a political ploy to justify its
      own military plans.

      The empty rhetoric and past experience aside,
      life in Sri Lanka without the CFA is going to be
      very difficult. Despite the fact that it has been
      subjected to repeated violations by both the
      government and the LTTE, the existence of the CFA
      and the presence of the Sri Lanka Monitoring
      Mission in the conflict areas provided at least a
      minimum assurance that the war would not descend
      to the level of outright barbarism. In post-CFA
      Sri Lanka, however, there is now no such external
      check on the warring parties.

      This tells us something unique about Sri Lanka's
      ethnic conflict, as it is being enacted jointly
      by the Rajapakse regime and the LTTE. Both
      parties have managed to establish a distinct
      measure of relative autonomy from the
      international actors, in their decision-making
      processes and actions with regard to the
      conflict. The 2002 peace process
      internationalised the conflict and its resolution
      process to an unprecedented degree, symbolised by
      the CFA. Both President Rajapakse and V
      Prabhakaran have claimed this level of
      internationalisation 'excessive'.

      With the umbilical cord between Sri Lanka's
      conflict-management process and the international
      community, in the form of the CFA, having been
      severed, both parties are now relatively free to
      conduct the war in the way they feel suitable,
      with no external pressures regarding human rights
      or humanitarian consequences. In the coming
      months, the conflict will become a war without
      checks or balances, a war without inhibition.




      by Subhash Gatade

      (Judge: The papers on my table show he is
      not Mukhtar. So what is his real name?

      Officer: He is actually Aftab Alam Ansari.

      Judge: That means you have arrested a
      wrong person. How can this horrible blunder take

      The officer stayed silent.

      Judge: If he is neither Mukhtar nor Raju,
      why did not you write that in the petition
      clearly? Have you written that? Please underline
      that and show it to me.

      As the officer began scanning the petition, he looked puzzled.

      Judge: I'm not going to accept this
      petition. Please go and make a fresh one.)

      Aftab Alam Ansari, an electrician with a power
      company in Kolkatta, is finally free. And the
      ordeal through which he had to go through as a
      'terrorist' is finally over.Recenly he met with
      the Chief Minister of Bengal to apprise him of
      the whole situation and seek help for his
      mother's frailing health.

      It is now history how he was arrested from
      Baranagar in Kolkatta on 27 th November with
      Bengal police's help supposedly for 'ferrying the
      entire cache of explosives for the November
      blasts in UP'.

      It is now revealed that the Special Task Force of
      the UP Police had been set on Aftab's trail by a
      claim by two arrested militants - Mohamad Khalid
      and Tariq Quazmi - that the mastermind of the
      court blasts in the state called himself Aftab as
      well as Mukhtar, Raju and Bangladeshi. The duo
      however, had mentioned no middle name or surname.

      Though Aftab is now free, Ayesha Begum - Aftab's
      mother has other worries staring in her eyes.
      Whether they would be able to live a normal life
      and would ever be able to get out of the 'stigma'
      attached to the whole operation and Aftab's brief
      sojourn in Jail.

      It is now clear that Aftab's arrest by the
      overenthusistic UP STF was a case of mistaken
      identity as he also hailed from Gorakhpur like
      the ringleader of the November blast and also
      shared his nickname 'Mukhtar'.

      But now that Aftab, a innocent citizen of this
      country is free at last, will it be OK to say
      that the tragedy which befell Aftab would be the
      last one of its kind. And henceforth no Aftab
      living on this part of the earth would ever be
      traumatised in a similar manner. Looking at the
      track record of the Indian police and the bigotry
      and sectarianism of the powers that be it would
      be dishonesty to make any such grand claim.

      In fact the day the news of Aftab's freedom in
      jail appeared, one came across the strictures
      passed by the Maharashtra high court against the
      Maharashtra police's arbitrariness in handling
      the Khwaja Yunus case. It is now history how
      Khwaja Yunus, a Gulf returned software engineer,
      was arrested by the police on December 27, 2002
      and booked under the Prevention of Terrorism Act,
      in connection with the Ghatkopar blast. On
      January 7, 2003 Yunus was found dead amidst
      police claims that he had escaped after the
      vehicle in which he was being escorted to
      Aurangabad had met with an accident. Later it was
      revealed that Yunus was tortured to death by some
      police officers. After persistent protests by
      human rights activists about this custodial death
      and struggle for justice launched by Yunus's
      mother Aasiya Begum, FIR was lodged against the
      guilty policemen. Of course the dillydallying on
      part of the Maharashtra government continued
      unabated.The highcourt 's query was simple 'Why
      were ten top police officers initially named by
      CID for their alleged involvment in the custodial
      death of Yunus let off ?'

      While Aftab is finally a free man, Mohammad
      Moarif Qamar and Irshad Ali, two residents of
      Delhi seem to be not so lucky even after
      languishing in jail for more than two years. Both
      of them were victims of well-planned conspiracy
      hatched by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police
      in collaboration with the intelligence bureau
      operatives. CBI found to its dismay that IB
      officials colluded with Delhi police personnel to
      'plant' RDX on these youths who were arrested as
      'Al Badr' terrorists. While Qamar was abducted
      from his Bhajanpura residence on Dec 22, 2005
      itself ; Irshad Ali had gone missing from his
      Sultanpuri home 10 days earlier. Their relatives
      had informed the police about their sudden
      disappearance. On February 9, 2006 the family
      members were told that both had been arrested
      with 2 Kg RDX and pistols. It was clear that they
      were kept in illegal detention by the special
      cell all this while. One can just imagine if the
      high courts had not intervened in the case and
      directed the CBI to look into the matter, the
      'terrorist' label on both these youths would have
      stuck to them all their lives.

      May it be the case of Aftab or for that matter
      Khwaja Yunus, or Mohammad Qamar, Irshad Ali - it
      is becoming increasingly clear that framing of
      innocents and branding them as terrorist is the
      latest norm among lawkeepers of the country.Of
      course anyone familiar with the Indian situation
      may easily notice the continuity in the rampant
      misuse of various laws of detention and
      confinement. Post 9/11 a significant change has
      occured in the whole process. It is for everyone
      to see that muslims as a community are
      increasingly becoming the target of
      criminalisation and terrorisation.

      To be very frank, in all such cases it is
      difficult to differentiate whether the people are
      ruled by forces of the 'programmatic communalist
      variety ( like the BJP or Shiv Sena) or the
      'pragmatic communalists' like Congress.

      It then becomes impossible to forget Mohammad
      Afroz , who was arrested after 9/11by the Mumbai
      police and was charged for planning a terrorist
      attack . It was told to the pliant media then
      that this 'dreaded terrorist' wanted to crash a
      plane piloted by him on the British house of
      Commons and Australia. A special team from Mumbai
      police especially went to these countries but
      could not bring back any evidence. Ultimately it
      took the whole charge as a grand fabrication. It
      was a time when Maharashtra was ruled by a
      Secular front which comprised of parties like
      Congress and NCP.

      The 'dreaded terrorists' arrested in connection
      with the five year old attack on the Raghunath
      temple in Jammu also faced similar ordeal.The
      courts finally absolved all the accused of any
      charges and advised the police to properly use
      its minds in handling sensitive cases of such
      nature.These innocent people had to languish in
      jail for such a long period for no fault of

      It is worth noting that despite many such fiascos
      the powers that be never attempt to draw any
      important lesson to avoid recurrence of such
      incidents. On the contrary, the whole attempt is
      to 'individualise' all such cases and proceed
      with the established practice of stigmatisation
      and brutalisation of the social and religious

      It is high time that they are told about the way
      the Canadian government handled similar case.

      Canadian-Syrian Mahel Arar - a young software
      engineer - was seized by CIA operatives during a
      stopover at New York in 2002 and was secretly
      sent to Syria.Lodged in a grave like cell in
      Syria, Arar was repeatedly tortured to extract
      information which he did not know. Ultimately his
      tormentors released him within a span of year and
      half without ever being charged with a crime.
      Looking back it is clear that Mahel Arar became a
      victim of the Islamophobia manufactured by the
      likes of Bush-Blair in the immediate aftermath of

      Last year Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of
      Canada sought public apology for the ordeal which
      Maher went through and for the role played by
      Canadian officials in the whole affair . The
      Canadian government also gave him nine million
      dollars as compensation. Mr Harper said in full
      public view of the media "On behalf of the
      government of Canada, I wish to apologize to you,
      Monia Mazigh (Arar's wife) and your family for
      any role Canadian officials may have played in
      the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced
      in 2002 and 2003."

      Is anyone listening ?

      - subhash gatade, h 4 pusa apts, rohini sector
      15, delhi 110085 Ph: 011-27872835




      by Nandini Sundar
      [Jan 28, 2008]

      Dear Friends

      The PILs on Salwa Judum were heard by the SC
      yesterday (Justices Balakrishnan, Raveendran and
      Tarun Chatterjee). The newspaper reports on the
      case need some correction. There are two PILs -
      Nandini Sundar and ors vs State of Chhattisgarh
      and Kartam Joga and ors vs State of Chhattisgarh
      and Union of India. Notice in the first was
      issued on May 17 2007, and the CG government
      responded only on January 23rd 2008, after 8
      months. The counter does not address any of the
      specific allegations of violations, and denies
      that there is any violation of rights. It instead
      resorts to name calling. The CG government was
      not successful in having the petition dismissed.

      Notice on the second (Kartam Joga and ors) was
      issued on October 12 asking for a reply within
      four weeks. CG government has not responded even
      to date. The Court has now given them three weeks
      time to respond to this petition. This petition
      is filed by three persons who are themselves
      affected - one had his house burnt down and is
      now a refugee, one was severely beaten by Salwa
      Judum and had to have an operation, and one
      barely escaped assault from Salwa Judum. The
      petitioners are all current or former elected
      representatives in Dantewada district. The PIL
      provides a list of 537 persons who have been
      killed by the Salwa Judum and security forces
      from June 2005 till the present, including 33
      children, 45 women, 416 men and 43 unnamed
      persons. This is a small fraction of the likely
      killings, most of which have gone unreported. At
      least 2825 houses have been burnt in the
      undivided district of South Bastar (Dantewada).
      At least 99 women have been raped. The petition
      statements from the residents of over a hundred
      villages detailing incidents of killing, rape,
      arson and loss of property at the hands of the
      Salwa Judum.

      Nandini Sundar
      Professor, Department of Sociology
      Delhi School of Economics
      University of Delhi, Delhi 110007
      Co-Editor, Contributions to Indian Sociology


      [6] India:


      by I.K.Shukla

      With elections looming on the political horizon,
      CPI-M's doughty general secretary Prakash Karat
      has begun floating the idea of a Third Front
      which would band together all secularist parties.
      It would keep BJP and Congress out and away since
      these have been communally driven, and would
      counter their hard (overt) and soft (covert and
      coy) variants of communal virus. The voters would
      be offered a choice between the peddlers of
      theo-fascist terrorism which has cost the nation
      thousands of innocent lives and the protagonists
      of secularism which is antithetical to every kind
      of discrimination.
      Given the pervasive atmosphere of mayhem and
      meanness that saturate the current political
      landscape, Karat's idea, at first glance, comes
      as a whiff of fresh air long sought and longingly
      awaited. Any formation that promises some respite
      from the death squad savagery of BJP and the
      fecklessness of Congress that throws to winds the
      victims of BJP's relentless series of communal
      carnages would be more than welcome. But are good
      intentions enough? Is it not true that sometimes
      they pave the way to hell?

      In terms of the electoral game, proudly touted as
      democracy, is it realistic to hope for many
      partisans of sincere and substantive secularism?
      Is it merely temporizing, an electoral slogan, a
      tentative tactic, or an ideological credo
      affirming respect for and commitment to
      republican India and its Constitution? Does CP-M
      believe in the separation of religion and state?
      Do its prospective associates? Secularism is not
      visiting mandirs, mosques, churches and gurdwaras
      by politicos and state functionaries who preside
      over religiously marked events and noisily queue
      up for iftar parties. This is, in fact, invasive
      intrusion of religion in the affairs of the
      state, and it breeds plethora of troubles as
      manifest so far. It is not even equal respect for
      all religions, platitudinous assertion to the
      contrary notwithstanding. In fact it is vulgar de
      rigueur, instrumentalizing religion in the bid
      for personal power, just like US presidential
      hopefuls holding a baby for the journalists'
      cameras every poll season of carnival and charade.

      Secularism posits egalitarianism, respect for
      diversity, embrace of pluralism and rule of law,
      equality between citizens, and justice for all.
      These absent, secularism is reduced to an empty
      Does Karat believe there are political parties
      around which are devoutly so committed? Does he
      believe secularism will or can be promoted
      through the parliament? Were it so, why are child
      marriage and bride burning still so rampant? Is
      parliamentarism be all and end all of progressive
      and socially transformative politics? How does he
      square this solicitude for parliamentary path
      with the fact that not just abominable characters
      continue to become law-makers but also
      yesteryear's rajas and ranis have morphed
      overnight into custom-designed democrats?

      It is identity-mired, caste-encrusted,
      region-pulled, and individual-centred chiaroscuro
      that is politics now all across India. Can he
      eschew or escape it? Can he dent it, moderate it?
      Very unlikely. Not to put too fine a point on it,
      here are a few examples. Mayawati joined forces
      with BJP several times, to the extent that she
      stumped in Gujarat for Modi, the notorious
      merchant of death! She also became cozy with
      Congress, impelled not by noble motives like
      secularism but by her calculus of power grab. The
      cases of Jayalalita, Deve Gowda, and Chandrababu
      Naidu are some of the stark disappointments.
      Mulayam Singh-Amar Singh (Ambani pals)? If wishes
      were horses we would ride them. Time servers and
      opportunists, aya rams and gaya rams now form the
      staple of poll politics, which is, in plain
      words, power grab, all salivating for a piece of
      the pie.

      Urgently much needed and far more viable would be
      a national left front to galvanise the masses,
      not just the voters, and defeat the deadly
      duopoly of Congress and BJP, as mooted by Kshiti
      Goswami of RSP.

      The Congress whine that the Third Front would
      divide and weaken secularists is no more than
      that, a whine, only to enable its sustenance in
      power. Its secular credentials lie tattered all
      over the length and breadth of India.

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