Archive for May 18th, 2009

A Muslim Revolt: The Hidden story of Congress’ stunning victory in UP – By Amaresh Misra

May 18, 2009

A Muslim Revolt: The Hidden story of Congress’ stunning victory in UP

 

                           By Amaresh Misra

 

        Each and every observer of Indian politics is angling for a simple answer to the vexed question: how and why did the Congress perform so well in Uttar Pradesh?

        The answer however is complex: apart from other reasons, the Muslim voting pattern in UP proved decisive. Muslims were known to be disillusioned with Congress beyond repair. Then what made them switch over from the BSP or the SP to the Congress, and that too at the last minute?

         Since 2004, Muslims in UP have been nursing a sense of betrayal vis-à-vis the SP and the BSP. This  alienation was sharpened after the Batala House encounter, in which boys from Azamgarh were targeted systematically by the UP ATS. Yet, Muslim MPs of the BSP and SP were virtually gagged by their respective party leaders—the MPs were unable to even demand a judicial probe in the affair. After that episode most Muslim MPs were seen more as third grade power brokers

        The incident and its fallout, and the wave of Muslim persecution that followed the July 26th 2008 Ahmedabad/Jaipur and subsequent bomb blasts, led Muslims to grope for a way to establish their independent forums. The thinking amongst the new Muslim leadership then was that if 7% Yadavs in UP can capture power, negotiate with the central government, cut deals and make and unmake governments on the basis of 18% Muslim votes, why can’t, Muslims form alliances with other castes and bargain or negotiate directly?

        This thinking found an echo in the Ulema Council of Azamgarh in eastern UP, which emerged suddenly in the wake of the Batala House encounter. The Council rejected Muslim power brokers; it was soon taking protest trains to Delhi and Lucknow; opposition to all four major parties—the SP, BSP, Congress and the BJP—was announced. Riding on a wave of popular support, the Council also announced 7 candidates—including one from Lucknow in Avadh—from UP for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

        In the wake of the Council’s appeal, several other small Muslim parties of UP also formed a Muslim political front. That this phenomenon was not limited to UP, was borne out by Badruddin Ajmal who also tried taking his AUDF outside Assam and launch it in Maharashtra and UP.

        In Kerala and Bengal as well, attempts were made to float independent Muslim political parties. The Jamat-e-Islami too experimented with the idea. Factions of the Jamiat Ulama Hind also were seen looking for Independent options.

        None of these Muslim formations envisaged themselves as a communal forum. Right from AUDF to the Ulema Council, the attempt was to attract as many Hindus as possible.

         Most, not all, Muslim formations were led by Ulemas, the Deobandis in particular. Jamiat Ulama Hind was always the premier Indian Deobandi organization—it had opposed Jinnah’s two nation theory before partition and had stood by the Congress in the post-Independence phase. Yet on eve of the 2009 elections it was locked in internecine internal strife.

        Otherwise also, the Ulemas were facing a crisis of credibility. Most of the Delhi and Lucknow Ulemas, the two major cities with a sizeable concentration of Muslim clerics, had issued political fatwas in the past. Looking upon political fatwas as retrograde, the Muslim electorate had rejected these; however, the Ulemas of the AUDF and Ulema Council were seen in a different light. Both Badruddin Ajmal and Amir Rashadi, the convener of the Ulema Council, were respected for having aroused political aspirations amongst Muslims.  

        But as the 2009 elections proceeded, it became clear that even the AUDF and the Ulema Council were not sticking to their promise of carving out an independent niche for Muslims. The Ulema Council and Amir Rashadi were seen as hobnobbing with the BSP and the BJP, while the AUDF was looked at as a rich man’s Bania-Muslim party, lacking a sense of real Muslim issues at the grassroots outside Assam. It was not interested say, in uniting the Barelvi and the Shia Ulema and in issues like Muslim harassment by the Indian State.

        In UP, the Ulema Council seemed to be on its own trip—parochialism ruled the roost—the attempt was to remind the Muslims repetitively that they have to create their own BSP.

        In this, the Ulema Council missed a vital point—namely that Indian Muslims are not Dalits. They do not have a BAMCEF type support organization; secondly, they form part of the ex-ruling class and would like their party to be progressive and forward looking as well.

         In Azamgarh and other strong Ulema Council constituencies, the Council failed to link the issue of Muslim persecution with the massive anti-BJP, anti-sectarian, middle-path undercurrent that was perhaps the single most important feature of the 2009 elections. 

        Seeing their leaders lacking in anti-BJP fervor, Muslims began to doubt the secular credentials of the  Ulema Council. The same happened to a lesser degree with the AUDF on seats outside Assam. Then, the Lucknavi Ulema issued directives or semi-fatwas, asking votes blatantly for the Lucknow BSP candidate, known as a big neo-rich, money-bag.  

Enraged Muslims of Lucknow revolted—the  Ulema Council failed to read, or ignored deliberately, the anti-big Ulema sentiment. Ditching the Ulema Council as well, Muslims voted en masse for the Congress all over Avadh.     

         For the first time in the history of Independent India, Muslims launched a passive political revolt against their own Ulema, who filled their own pockets while the community starved; who bought huge donations from Arab countries for madrasasbut seldom paid heed to the plight of the Muslim under-trials; who while asking Muslims to unite themselves remained fragmented; who never taught the Muslims their glorious secular past in India or elsewhere; who kept the community backward while acting as dishonorable and parochial middlemen. While reaping the harvest of what Shah Waliullah and Shah Abdul Aziz—the  premier, reformist Muslim clerics and political thinkers of the 18th-19thcentury—sowed, these Ulemas had forgotten to even mention their legacy.      

This anti-Ulema revolt is against Muslim power brokers as well—that is why there are so few Muslim MPs in the new Lok Sabha. Secular forces ought to grab this moment and provide justice and a modern vision to Muslims. This is also the time for the non-Ulema, non-broker Muslim leadership to assert itself.      

 

(The author is a historian and was the Lucknow Lok Sabha candidate of the Ulema Council) 

Comments posted on NYT site over article: Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says

May 18, 2009

http://community.nytimes.com/article/comments/2009/05/18/world/asia/18nuke.html?s=1&pg=2

 

 

READERS’ COMMENTS

 

Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding

Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says

 

By THOM SHANKER and DAVID E. SANGER

There are new concerns on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.

 

41.

May 18, 2009 8:24 am

Link

Without going through the article, the very headline to me appears to be a crude job to manufacture news to fit future plans on subjugating Pakistan, through the same tactics that Bush used in Iraq and Israel is using in Iran. The Goebbellians in NYT feel they can fool all of the world, all of the times.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

— Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai, India

 Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader

 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/world/asia/18nuke.html

 

 

Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says

By THOM SHANKER and DAVID E. SANGER

 

Published: May 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Enlarge This Image

Matthew Cavanaugh/European Pressphoto Agency

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the assessment of the expanded arsenal in a one-word answer to a question on Thursday in the midst of lengthy Senate testimony. Sitting beside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he was asked whether he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

“Yes,” he said quickly, adding nothing, clearly cognizant of Pakistan’s sensitivity to any discussion about the country’s nuclear strategy or security.

Inside the Obama administration, some officials say, Pakistan’s drive to spend heavily on new nuclear arms has been a source of growing concern, because the country is producing more nuclear material at a time when Washington is increasingly focused on trying to assure the security of an arsenal of 80 to 100 weapons so that they will never fall into the hands of Islamic insurgents.

The administration’s effort is complicated by the fact that Pakistan is producing an unknown amount of new bomb-grade uranium and, once a series of new reactors is completed, bomb-grade plutonium for a new generation of weapons. President Obamahas called for passage of a treaty that would stop all nations from producing more fissile material — the hardest part of making a nuclear weapon — but so far has said nothing in public about Pakistan’s activities.

Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who served as the co-author of Mr. Obama’s review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, reflected the administration’s concern in a recent interview, saying that Pakistan “has more terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on earth, and it has a nuclear weapons program that is growing faster than anyplace else on earth.”

Obama administration officials said that they had communicated to Congress that their intent was to assure that military aid to Pakistan was directed toward counterterrorism and not diverted. But Admiral Mullen’s public confirmation that the arsenal is increasing — a view widely held in both classified and unclassified analyses — seems certain to aggravate Congress’s discomfort.

Whether that discomfort might result in a delay or reduction in aid to Pakistan is still unclear.

The Congressional briefings have taken place in recent weeks as Pakistan has descended into further chaos and as Congress has considered proposals to spend $3 billion over the next five years to train and equip Pakistan’s military for counterinsurgency warfare. That aid would come on top of $7.5 billion in civilian assistance.

None of the proposed military assistance is directed at the nuclear program. So far, America’s aid to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure has been limited to a $100 million classified program to help Pakistan secure its weapons and materials from seizure by Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “insiders” with insurgent loyalties.

But the billions in new proposed American aid, officials acknowledge, could free other money for Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, at a time when Pakistani officials have expressed concern that their nuclear program is facing a budget crunch for the first time, worsened by the global economic downturn. The program employs tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including about 2,000 believed to possess “critical knowledge” about how to produce a weapon.

The dimensions of the Pakistani buildup are not fully understood. “We see them scaling up their centrifuge facilities,” said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been monitoring Pakistan’s continued efforts to buy materials on the black market, and analyzing satellite photographs of two new plutonium reactors less than 100 miles from where Pakistani forces are currently fighting the Taliban.

“The Bush administration turned a blind eye to how this is being ramped up,” he said. “And of course, with enough pressure, all this could be preventable.”

As a matter of diplomacy, however, the buildup presents Mr. Obama with a potential conflict between two national security priorities, some aides concede. One is to win passage of a global agreement to stop the production of fissile material — the uranium or plutonium used to produce weapons. Pakistan has never agreed to any limits and is one of three countries, along with India and Israel, that never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Yet the other imperative is a huge infusion of financial assistance into Afghanistan and Pakistan, money considered crucial to helping stabilize governments with tenuous holds on power in the face of terrorist and insurgent violence.

Senior members of Congress were already pressing for assurances from Pakistan that the American military assistance would be used to fight the insurgency, and not be siphoned off for more conventional military programs to counter Pakistan’s historic adversary, India. Official confirmation that Pakistan has accelerated expansion of its nuclear program only added to the consternation of those in Congress who were already voicing serious concern about the security of those warheads.

During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, veered from the budget proposal under debate to ask Admiral Mullen about public reports “that Pakistan is, at the moment, increasing its nuclear program — that it may be actually adding on to weapons systems and warheads. Do you have any evidence of that?”

It was then that Admiral Mullen responded with his one-word confirmation. Mr. Webb said Pakistan’s decision was a matter of “enormous concern,” and he added, “Do we have any type of control factors that would be built in, in terms of where future American money would be going, as it addresses what I just asked about?”

Similar concerns about seeking guarantees that American military assistance to Pakistan would be focused on battling insurgents also were expressed by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman.

“Unless Pakistan’s leaders commit, in deeds and words, their country’s armed forces and security personnel to eliminating the threat from militant extremists, and unless they make it clear that they are doing so, for the sake of their own future, then no amount of assistance will be effective,” Mr. Levin said.

A spokesman for the Pakistani government contacted Friday declined to comment on whether his nation was expanding its nuclear weapons program, but said the government was “maintaining the minimum, credible deterrence capability.” He warned against linking American financial assistance to Pakistan’s actions on its weapons program.

“Conditions or sanctions on this issue did not work in the past, and this will not send a positive message to the people of Pakistan,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his country’s nuclear program is classified.