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February 4, 2002

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Varsha Bhosle

Nothing fails like success

The joke of the week is that our home minister is a wanted criminal in a case of conspiracy to assassinate Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and other dweebs of the "Pakistan Movement". Apparently, "the Shikarpur Colony Conspiracy Case against proclaimed offender L K Advani and 40 other activists of RSS was heard and decided by a special tribunal, constituted under an act of Sindh Assembly, on September 17, 1948. RSS is a radical Hindu organisation, which has been involved in several saboteur activities. One of its activists, Nathu Ram Godse, had assassinated Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in February 1948. L K Advani has been active member of this organisation." (No, the quote isn't from Indian newspapers; though I understand if the convictions therein make you confuse The News with the likes of The Hindu.)

No wonder I'd taken a shine to Advani! No more is he the Putty Man.

But seriously -- never mind that Godse had angrily left the RSS much before the assassination, and that said proclaimed offender, disguised as the visiting I&B Minister of India, had been given the red carpet treatment by Pakistan in the late '70s -- did the MEA have to stoop to taking note of the Pak reports...? Pshaw! I'm going to suggest that my pal Sajid Bhombal forthwith be made India's spokesman. For, his only comment on the "news" was: "If someone has to learn how to self-destruct, then the Pakistani establishment should be their role model."

*****

Another joke, this one delivered by Jasarat, the mouthpiece of Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami: "There was a crisis-like situation at the GHQ when Musharraf was faced with resistance from corps commanders on the steps he was about to announce in the speech because of their reservations on the Kashmir issue and India. These differences reached such an extent that Musharraf even threatened to resign. The corps commanders accepted Musharraf's decision after his threat."

An usurping military dictator resigning...? From what?! Hand the resignation to whom?? Heeheehee!

*****

Speaking of dictatorship, the last we heard from The Great Helmsman (who came to power by eliminating the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharief), was when he told The Times that he planned to lead Pakistan for the next five years, steering the country to a "fine-tuned democracy" since "it is important for the future of the country and democracy that I remain there... There are questions that have to be resolved finally, but I am not going anywhere."

The plight of the Paki is best illustrated by the phrase 'up shit creek without a paddle': A minimum five years of watching the neo-Ataturk make drastic U-turns only to please various infidels, heeheehee!

*****

Ok, this one is better still: Pakistan will face the West Indies in a Test series in... yups, the UAE. And, the ignominy -- that is, the refusal of players from even tiny Caribbean islands to set foot on Pakistan's soil -- is being touted as "Test cricket's first bilateral series on neutral ground". Heeheehee! The pickle they're in can't possibly get more pathetic!

*****

Oops, spoke too soon... The state department has warned US citizens to "consider carefully" plans to travel to Pakistan, since Americans have been targeted for kidnapping or other terrorist actions, with the advisory citing the kidnapping of reporter Daniel Pearl.

In December, The Washington Post reported that many Pakistani clothing makers recounted being told by American buyers that, even if supplies were not disrupted, the "Made in Pakistan" label had become a liability in the US market, which is the single largest customer for Pakistani textiles, absorbing $1.9 billion of the $5.8 billion that Pakistan exported in 2000. The government estimated that because of factors related to the 9-11 attacks, 68,500 workers have been laid off and 177 establishments closed, 70 per cent of them in textiles and textile-related businesses.

The Guardian tells us that Pakistan has already borrowed $450 million in high-interest standby loans since the IMF restarted lending in November 2000, and that "Islamabad already owes $37 billion in foreign loans. Debt servicing and defence spending eat up two-thirds of the budget every year."

Now, with even tourists warned to keep away from the country that is "a frontline state in the war against global terrorism", whither US customers and whither Pakistan's non-economy...? Or is the country planning to depend on handouts from the US Congress, which, according to Donald Rumsfeld, has passed legislation that authorised only "something like $100 million"? I wonder what's the exact cost per day of mobilising the armed forces at the frontiers -- a bill that Pakistan can't dump on the US. I tell you, nothing fails like success!

*****

Handouts reminds me, this is a darn good time for the Pakistani NGO, International Human Rights Observers, to renew its July 2001 recommendation of Musharraf for the Nobel Peace Prize. The president of IHRO, Khalid Sulheri, proposed Mushy's name "for his extraordinary efforts for promoting peace in the subcontinent".

Chances are that the man who has used various methods to muzzle political activists, installed his trusted army officials in key positions, drew up the blueprint of the Kargil invasion, and is cited by sections of Pakistanis as a "war criminal" for being involved in a genocide campaign against the people of Gilgit and Balawaristan, would probably win. Following a word from the right quarters, of course.

The Nobel would be another medal -- la "a frontline state in the war against global terrorism" -- that Pakis could wear with pride. The bonus for Indians would be: looking forward to a certain Indian minister's self-combusting in sheer envy.

*****

Just read that the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, a US satellite launched in 1992, burned up on re-entry into the atmosphere, "possibly spreading debris across the Egyptian desert". Just wondering... what if the debris had fallen on a certain structure just across the Red Sea? Would it be called a Mossad conspiracy...?

*****

We're told that "in his drive to crack down on extremists and co-opt moderates", Mushy made his famous U-turns. Whether Salman Rushdie or Daniel Pipes or Vir Sanghvi or yours sincerely, opinion-makers have been trying to draw a line to separate Islamic basket-cases from the M&Ms. And the Bush administration is trying to project even Pakistan as a "moderate Muslim State"!

However, something that a member of my newsgroup wrote has struck a chord in me: If being Islamic is good, why be moderate? Calling some Muslims "moderate" implies that being Islamic is a negative character (eg, alcoholism ain't good, but consumption of alcohol in moderation is okay), and that some Muslims themselves want to be seen as less Islamic. So, do we actually end up saying that the green M&Ms are merely less bloodthirsty...? Point to ponder, no?

*****

Confession: I dreaded last week, expecting massive hate mail from the Bongs. So, I'm extremely happy to report that they took my shot about the Calcutta police officers in their stride. This makes me look at the community with even more respect.

Not that I didn't get hate mail at all -- but it came from US residents angered by my allusion to greener pastures and green cards. Now, I never thought I'd need to explain that all NRIs aren't NRIdiots blah blah. Indeed, some of the most devoted Indians (folks of the HRCBM, Bharat Rakshak, the Kashmiri Hindu groups, readily come to mind) are US residents. However, I'm not about to assess the majority of NRIs as being mindful of India. Here are extracts from e-messages by Indians living in the US that exactly reflect my personal experiences:

  • Indians in US gradually develop a strange sense of emotion about India -- sometimes more Indian than those in India when observing rituals; sometimes more hateful of India than a combination of Amanpours; more materialistic than average Americans, and stingy beyond belief... At [an IT company], we have 8,000 Indians averaging $75K gross... but on an average, only 500 (mostly the same set) contribute to any Indian cause -- others not sparing even $10. For Kargil, we raised $60K from 582, averaging $120 each; for earthquake, we raised 64K from 520 people averaging $140 each... I have seen people from Ghana, Iraq, Ethiopia, Pakistan and even Bangladesh having a lot more respect and affection for their home country than the average Indian here.

  • The Indian community is one of the biggest and richest minorities in the USA, and yet, we have scant control over any US policy decisions. The reason for this is not too hard to find. Most NRIs are far too busy worrying about how to increase their bank balances rather than spend time to make our clout felt in the US political arena. The few desis who do try to be politically active are often busy squabbling amongst themselves or looking for photo ops with the President.

  • This [NRI] brigade is the one that tags its name with MDs, Research Scientists, Post Doctoral Fellows, etc. This is the one that makes a trip back home once in two years only to wear a sullen, irritable look just one step into the airport and lets out loud exasperations about sweat, dust and beggars. This is the one that goes to the local temples in period costumes and fancy-dresses to make a point to their kids.
A news item from the January 22 ToI: "China was receiving an annual foreign direct investment of $30 to 40 billion, 85% of which was from the Chinese diaspora the world over. FDI received by India was just about $2-3 billion."

The South Asia Network of Economic research Institute (SANEI) writes in its paper, Policy Challenges in India: Some Lessons from the International Experience: "Expatriate Indian entrepreneurs played but a minor role in East Asia's growth, and expatriate investment had a negligible share in India's total FDI. Of course, the open door is a far more recent phenomenon in India, dating back only to 1991, as opposed to the early 1980's in China. However, enough time has already passed since 1991 for us to assert that India has not experienced anything like the early surge of expatriate investment in China."

I've monitored the Army Central Welfare Fund during Kargil... In the US, I've encountered two weeping grandmoms (a Marathi and a Punjabi), who were "imported" by their rich sons only to tend to newborns... In short, I've interacted with too many NRIs too often to feel any remorse for my punch. So stuff the holy crap: Everybody needs to be shown a mirror sometime.

Varsha Bhosle

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