Attack on terror with reforms
Ban on Lashkar & Jaish, hedging on handover
Wary India buys time
STD rates slashed
Slogans, not guns, for Kashmir
Calcutta Weather

 
 
ATTACK ON TERROR WITH REFORMS 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Jan. 12: 

Speech bearing Powell stamp

Three things stand out about General Pervez Musharraf’s address to his nation that the world had been waiting for.

By allowing the US state department to openly acknowledge that Musharraf had discussed his speech in advance with secretary of state Colin Powell, the Pakistani leader is pre-empting India’s outright rejection or scepticism about tonight’s television address.

“The secretary (Powell) has been talking to him (Musharraf) about the kinds of steps that he has been taking against extremism and terrorism, the steps he intends to take ... the direction he intends to go,” state department spokesman Richard Boucher said at his daily briefing.

“That has been part of our discussions with Pakistan for some time, including the secretary’s discussions last time. So, yes, we have some idea about what he intends to do and what he intends to say,” Boucher said.

By making such an unusual admission, which virtually impinges on Musharraf’s authority to act independently, the Americans are also sending a message to New Delhi that there is method in Musharraf’s actions.

The Americans would now like India to await the arrival of Powell in the subcontinent before it takes any steps which may be interpreted here as contributing to further tension in the region.

Second, Musharraf has equated the attacks on Parliament and the Assembly in Srinagar with the September 11 strikes in New York and Washington.

By clubbing these three attacks in one paragraph of his speech, he has made amends for India’s criticism that Pakistan sees terrorists as good ones and bad ones and patronises the ones that attack India. Musharraf clearly wants India to note that he is now willing to criticise those who launch operations against India as well.

Third, Musharraf has roundly attacked those who set up Pakistan-Afghan defence councils. This is a message to powerful elements in the Pakistan establishment who were the architects of such councils.

These include elements in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) who have been actively patronising the Taliban as well as terrorists operating in India.

   

 
 
BAN ON LASHKAR & JAISH, HEDGING ON HANDOVER 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Jan. 12: 
It was touted as the most important speech of his life, and it was. After President Pervez Musharraf’s hour-long address today, life in Pakistan may not be the same.

The general went half way to address India’s concerns by banning the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, but set out to travel a longer distance than any Pakistani leader in recent times to reform the country from within.

Mosques and madarsas, a few of which, he said, had strayed from the path of Islam to preach terrorism, hatred and intolerance, are coming under strict government regulation as the President vowed to turn Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state.

With a picture of the founder of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, to his right and the Pakistan flag to his left, Musharraf asked: “What is the final decision? Will Pakistan be a theocratic state?” And proceeded to give the answer himself: “The people have already decided that it will be a dynamic, Islamic welfare state.”

He sought to distance Pakistan from military jihad. “Let us declare a jihad against hunger, poverty, illiteracy, intolerance,” he said.

There was a reference to the border tension with India only once. The general was concentrating all his firepower on combating what he called the threat within. Citing sectarian violence as a serious internal threat, he banned Sipahi-e-Sahaba Pakistan (a Sunni organisation) and the Shi’ite Tehreek-e-Jafaria.

Musharraf stuck to Pakistan’s position of offering moral, diplomatic and political support to the “Kashmir cause”. He said: “Kashmir runs in our blood.” He did not comment on the alleged involvement of Pakistani outfits in Kashmir, but did stress that Pakistan came above everything else, any other external issue. “There is no need for becoming ‘khudai foujdaar’ (interfering in others’ affairs).”

In the midst of his speech, Musharraf digressed: “I want to give a message to Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, as President of Pakistan.” Addressing Vajpayee directly, he said: “If you want to bring in harmony and peace, then you will have to find through dialogues the solution of the Kashmir problem in the light of the wishes of the people of Kashmir.”

He quoted a Vajpayee statement: “The mindset has to change. The historical baggage has to be jettisoned” and offered to take the Indian Prime Minister up on it.

Along with that came the customary warning – from the commander this time – that India should not dare cross the border.

He made it clear that no organisation would be allowed to indulge in terrorism inside or outside the country, and not under the pretext of the “Kashmir cause”. Musharraf did not make the usual distinction between “freedom fighter” and terrorist that has so riled India.

Referring to the list of 20 offenders given by India, Musharraf said: “There is no question of handing over any Pakistani to any other country… We will try them in Pakistan according to our law” if evidence is provided.

“So far as non-Pakistanis are concerned,” he said, without naming names, “we have not provided them asylum. If they are found guilty, we would think of taking proper action.”

   

 
 
WARY INDIA BUYS TIME 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 12: 
A cautious India decided to buy 15 hours more before responding to Pervez Musharraf’s offer of peace.

The only response from South Block that came minutes after the military ruler’s speech was to say India would give a detailed account tomorrow noon.

Home minister L.K. Advani was the only senior leader to offer a comment. On a trip to the US now, he told a TV channel India would judge Musharraf on the basis of what action he takes on the ground against terrorism.

Immediately after Musharraf’s address, there were reports of offices of jihadi organisations being sealed in different places.

The Indian leadership has been in touch with the US and other key world players. Indications suggest Delhi is not totally satisfied with what the Pakistani President had to say. The ruling party has already announced its displeasure. “He has not said anything which can satisfy the feelings of Indians after the December 13 attack,” BJP spokesman Sunil Shastri said.

Before giving its formal response, the government would like to assess the international mood to ensure a harsh reaction does not isolate it.

Another obvious reason for the delay is Musharraf peppering his peace offer with lots of riders. The obvious ones are calling for a much greater role for the international community to resolve the Kashmir issue and the silence on terrorist outfits operating out of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Musharraf said he would not allow terrorist activities from Pakistani territory. But he did not clarify whether the rules were also applicable to PoK.

Syed Salahuddin, chief of the United Jihad Council, was quick to latch on to this as a positive signal. Musharraf banned the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, as India has demanded, but Salahuddin was quoted by a news agency as saying the edict would make little difference to their activities in Kashmir.

“What the President has uttered regarding Kashmir is encouraging for the people and the mujahideen of Kashmir,” he said.

Musharraf rejected the possibility of handing over Pakistani nationals figuring on the list of 20 criminals submitted by India. This obviously means that Masood Azhar of Jaish and Hafeez Saeed of Lashkar will not be given to Delhi.

But he did not rule out handing over of Indian nationals taking shelter in Pakistan after committing crimes in India, though he restricted himself to only promising action if evidence was provided.

Another encouraging sign for Delhi is the absence of the term “freedom fighter” while the President referred to Kashmir and his iteration of shunning terrorism in all forms. So far, Musharraf has described as “freedom fighters” what India calls terrorists.

“For the first time after several years, if not many decades, a leader of Pakistan has said he is going to give a new orientation to Pakistan’s society and polity… He has totally discarded religious fundamentalism and declared his intention to build a modern, progressive Pakistan,” PTI quoted former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey as saying.

   

 
 
STD RATES SLASHED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 12: 
STD rates are dropping by over 60 per cent from midnight, but off-peak-hour rates will remain unchanged.

An STD call from Calcutta to Delhi will now cost Rs 9 per minute as against the earlier Rs 24. Off-peak call rates will continue to be Rs 4.50 a minute. The new rates will be applicable to both cellular phones as well as calls made from fixed-line phones.

The time slabs for STD calls have been reduced from four to two — off-peak hours from 8 pm to 9 am, and peak hours from 9 am to 8 pm.

But Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd officials now fear the long-distance lines will get jammed with calls. “It is a challenge and we will try to face it. Congestion will certainly be a factor initially. But we hope that once the traffic is balanced, network congestion will be down to normal levels.”

The lower rates will pose a threat to Bharti which had announced a 50 per cent cut in mobile-to-mobile STD calls, triggering a rate war.

   

 
 
SLOGANS, NOT GUNS, FOR KASHMIR 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA AND MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
New Delhi and Srinagar, Jan. 12: 
If the general has his way, politics, not terror, will decide the fate of Kashmir.

Under tremendous international pressure to renounce terrorism, President Pervez Musharraf did not lose sight of Kashmir. “Kashmir runs in our blood. No Pakistani can break this bond,” Musharraf said, making it clear that Islamabad would neither abandon nor dilute its support to the cause. But the support would be at the “moral, political and diplomatic” level.

The doves in Kashmir cooed support to Musharraf, but the hardliners were not too happy. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, former chairman of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, said it was “unfortunate” that Pakistan planned to ban Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

“These groups who are helping suppressed Kashmiris in their freedom struggle should not be banned,” he told a news agency.

But he added: “I am satisfied with the stand President Pervez Musharraf has taken that Pakistan will continue diplomatic and political support to our freedom struggle.”

Shabir Shah, chairman of the Democratic Freedom Party, backed the President’s stand. “I have been saying the (Kashmir) issue needs a political solution,” he said.

But a senior police officer preferred to wait and watch. “If he (Musharraf) is serious, then the violence graph must come down in the coming days. It is too early to comment on the steps he has taken.”

Musharraf has also appealed directly to the US for help in providing a solution to the Kashmir problem.

He managed to put India on the defensive by shifting the focus from militancy to “human rights abuse” by Indian security forces. He has asked for Amnesty International and other rights groups to monitor the situation in Kashmir.

India has always been wary of outside interference in its internal affairs, whether by another country or by international human rights groups.

New Delhi may have to change tack if Pakistan’s plans to sponsor a political agitation in Kashmir succeeds. A Kashmir struggle in non-violent form will be widely accepted by the rest of the world.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 26.3°C (-1)
Minimum: 13.8°C (0)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 93%,
Minimum: 44%

Sunrise: 6.24 am

Sunset: 5.06 pm

Today

Mainly clear sky. Possibility of morning mist in some parts. Minimum temperature likely to be around 14°C
   
 

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