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All the best, neighbour

What is likely to be the stickiest of all problems facing the nascent democracy will be the equation with its Defence Services, writes Khushwant Singh.
Hindustan Times | By Khushwant Singh
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 12:29 AM IST

Pakistan is undergoing labour pains giving birth to democracy. Asif Ali Zardari plays the role of the midwife. What we know of him is not to his credit. He has pitch forked into eminence by the revulsion of the people at the dastardly assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto. For many days he could not decide on who would make the best Prime Minister. So he sent for his son Bilawal, studying in Cambridge, to help him out of his dilemma. After juggling with a few names they picked on Yusuf Raza Gilani of Multan. Not many Pakistanis were aware of his name. What kind of Cabinet he will cobble up with the advice of Zardari and Bilawal and how much confidence it will inspire among the people remains to be seen. All that those who wish the best for Pakistan (among them I count myself) can do is to pray: ‘Allah Hafiz, May God be your Protector’.

There are a few positives in the future of Pakistan. All the political parties that won at the polls are inclined to improve relations with India. We must cash in on the prevailing mood and remove irritants that continue to jeopardise relations between us. If they put out their hands for a friendly shake, we must respond with a warm embrace, a jhappi.

Pakistan can also go ahead with its plans to modernise its society, and release its women from the bondage of the burqah, gender segregation and discrimination in jobs. The nomination of Fehmida Mirza as the first woman Speaker of Parliament in the history of Pakistan augurs well for other women in the country.

What remains to be settled are the forms of government in NWFP and Balochistan. They had become citadels of religious fundamentalism and are often at variance with the government in Islamabad. It is in areas controlled by them that militant groups have their bases. They continue their nefarious activities, exploding bombs and killing innocent people. They must be crushed — the sooner the better.

What is likely to be the stickiest of all problems facing the nascent democracy will be the equation with its Defence Services. It may be assumed that Musharraf’s tenure as President of the Islamic republic will be terminated in the very near future. Who will replace him? Will they hold the presidential system of government or opt for a Prime Minister with a Cabinet of elected members? All that also remains in the lap of Allah. So once again, Allah Hafiz.

The Deal
What our political parties will do to enhance their electoral prospects even though it is against national interests is mind-boggling. A good example of this is their attitude towards the ongoing talks on the nuclear deal between our government and the United States. They were initiated by the BJP government, under the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Now the same party instead of helping the Congress government go ahead with the deal, is playing the game of wait-and-watch in the hope that if the Communists withdraw their support from the government, it may be forced to call for a general election and they may get a chance of getting back to power. The Communists’ attitude is even more baffling and may be legitimately construed as politics of blackmail. What comrades Karat or Yechury (I can’t tell the difference between the two, as they appear to be identical twins who speak the same language) say makes little sense to anyone. They don’t object to Pakistan getting aid from China and developing its nuclear capabilities but object to India getting it from the United States, even though it is all right for India to get aid from other countries like Russia, France and Australia.

What is the fuss about? We desperately need to double or triple our electric potential. Producing more by using hydroelectricity, coal, oil, wind or solar power will take much longer. Our sole option is nuclear power. We must provide electricity to every home in every village to run tubewells, to irrigate agricultural lands, yield potable water, run factories, trains and whatever. The sooner we do so, the better.

If my reasoning does not convince you, I suggest you read a six-and-a-half page tract entitled ‘Don’t let the deal die’ by Vinay Bharat Ram, chairman of the Delhi Cloth Mills. It is a short, lucid and convincing case for going ahead with the deal. It is not likely to be available in the market but I am sure if you write to him at 18 Barakhamba Road, New Delhi 110001, he will send it to you free of charge.

Singh’s homecoming
Welcome to India, KASHMIR SINGH
In our eyes well up hot, misty tears
How sad you languished in Pak jails
For thirty-five long, long years!
Having been convicted for espionage
For several years, you were on death row
The wheel of fortune so turned every time
The angel of death missed his blow!
Now, the pardon by President Musharraf
Granted you a new lease of life
O’ valiant son of the Punjab
You are back to your home and
devoted wife!

(Contributed by GC Bhandari, Meerut)

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