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The Emerging Political Scene in India Starting from September 5 this year over 590 million people of India will go to polls in order to ellect their 13th parliament since independence in 1947. Within a short period of two years three governments have fallen. The phenomenon of coalition governments at the center is taking roots. What is important in India is that these ruling coalitions at the federal level are with regional and provincial parties.

Eqbal Ahmad
Eqbal Ahmad, perhaps the shrewdest and most original anti-imperialist analyst of Asia and Africa, has died, aged 66, in Islamabad following an operation for colon cancer. A man of enormous charisma and incorruptible ideals, he was a prodigious talker and lecturer.

In the Name of Honour: Samia Sarwar is sitting in advocate Hina Jilani's room. For the first time in a few years she feels a sense of relief. Her parents has sent word that they have agreed to her getting a divorce from an abusive husband. In fact, her mother is bringing the settlement papers. It is only to meet her and receive the documents that Samia has been brought here from Dastak, a shelter for women in distress. Well-known intermediaries have persuaded her lawyer to arrange this meeting and they have offered complete assurances of good faith. Samia will soon be free to make a new life, there is a tangle feeling of optimism all around.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stopped from publishing its newsletter: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), one of the largest and most effective human rights NGOs in South Asia has come under attack from the Pakistan Government. The Government of Pakistan's Punjab province, has recently stopped HRCP from publishing its quarterly newsletter. This has been done apparently because HRCP had not submitted two copies of the newsletter to the Home Department of the Punjab Government. The Punjab Government claims that a notice was issued to HRCP some time ago.

Lead: The 51st anniversary of the independence of India and the founding of Pakistan was celebrated not only in New Delhi and Islamabad but also in most major cities across North America and elsewhere in the aftermath of the senseless Kargil war. Leaders of both countries used their confrontation at Kargil to arouse jingoism after scheduling its end at the behest of the USA. Both claimed victory. The dead and the displaced became the vehicle for generating rivalry in patriotism and the people of Kashmir watched their fate being debated without their participation. It is nonetheless heartening that voices of sanity both here and in the subcontinent organized protests, helped the innocent victims fleeing from the war zone and opposed the call by RSS (Rashtria Swayamsevak Sangh) mouthpiece "Organiser" to use nuclear weapons and by Pakistani charlatans to fight till the finish.

Letter from Pakistan: I am very sorry not responding you quite efficiently on your previous e-mail. But I am sure that you will give us margin when I tell the situation that we are facing here. The government seems to have gone crazy. It seems that people in power want to see nobody with independent thinking. The political opposition has just been cornered. Judiciary, courts and judges seem personal servants of Prime Minster. The NGOs that have been raising voice of Human Rights issues are under continuous and sever attack of government.

Patriotism and the People: Kargil fighting and its aftermath, including the downing of the Pakistani aircraft near the Gujarat-Sind border, have generated an orgy of patriotic hype among the establishment elites in both India and Pakistan. Vested interests in both countries, whose entire careers, fortunes, and lives have been constructed on a foundation of maintaining an unending and eternal hostility between India and Pakistan, have naturally been at the forefront of this brand of patriotism. Their views are aired endlessly over the media, TV, radio and newspapers in both countries and it is hardly surprising if people become affected to some extent by this ceaseless propaganda. More fanatical religio-political elements who are at the fringes of the ruling parties in India and Pakistan have been driven into a frenzy by these events, as can be expected. Overt hostility between these countries is grist to both the Hindutva and the Islamist mill; actual fighting is no doubt nectar from their own peculiar version of Heaven. But do the ordinary people of India and Pakistan and the many thousands living abroad in the South Asian diaspora have anything to gain from participating in this patriotic orgy?

Refugees: NOIDA, May 23: Midnight, a jhuggi in Sector 10: The only sounds inside Suleman's small tenement are that of his sleeping family and a slowly whirring table fan. In a split-second, the peace is shattered when somebody breaks down his door. A man's deafening voice orders the family to get out. Other intruders barge into the small space. The sleep-drugged family struggle to find their feet. In the streetlight, Suleman, 57, realises that the midnight intruders are local cops. It must be a mistake, he is convinced.

Rise of Religious Fundamentalism in Pakisan: To a large extent Pakistani society’s conflicting tendencies towards religious fundamentalism are a result of the ambiguous ideology that led to the "land of the pure". How to establish a secular republic in a country that has been founded on the principle of religious identity has been a constant dilemma. The relatively progressive era of Pakistani politics came to an end when General Zia-ul-Haq established a military dictatorship that he promised to end "as soon as the rule of Allah has been established". While establishing Shariah was a convenient excuse for Zia to prolong his tenure (after all how do you know when the process of establishing the "rule of Allah" is complete? Who can say that we have had enough Islamization?), religious fundamentalism at that point was actively supported by the powers in the West, especially the US. The religious groups in Pakistan were the ones most enthusiastic about providing support to the Afghans fighting against communist Russia, a bigger danger to the US interests at that point.

Safhr on Kargil: In war, all attention focuses on war news. The soldiers are the main concern of the media. This is natural. However, this one sided coverage often ignores the plight of the civilian population who are affected by the war. Non-combatant civilians get killed, maimed and dispossessed. They are forced to leave their home and hearth. The government often fails to come to the rescue of these hapless victims of war as it gets tied up in war efforts. There is enough evidence to show that during war the border population gets pushed around by the very army which is supposed to protect it. The media also tends to ignore or play down the plight of the war refugees as these stories are perceived as less important.

Let me Visit India: Many years ago when I was born for no obvious reason, India was one big country. It was British India then. Thus, I was born a British Indian. I am not conversant with the legal or illegal status of dual or multiple nationalities available to a person. I very strongly feel I am in possession of three nationalities. I was born a British, as well as an Indian national. After the disintegration of India, and coming into being of Pakistan, I automatically became a Pakistani national! Therefore, technically I have three nationalities, but of no avail! I don't think there was any logical reason behind my coming into this world. We all are pre-ordained first to be born, and then die just for nothing. You can't come to this world on your own. I, on a very ordinary day, was born in a small, neat and clean city of British India, called Karachi, along with countless other children. We were born in different parts of India in different families, and different communities. Providence did not give us an option to determine the caste, creed, community and the family of our choice. Thus, we were simply born. It did not take us long to realise that we were not merely children. We were Hindus, we were Muslims, we were Sikhs, we were Parsis, we were Christians, we were Bohras, we were Jews, we were Bahais, and we were Khojas.

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