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May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.”

If Palestinians peacefully march to Jerusalem by the thousands every Friday with a clear peace message, it would become a global news event. Every network in the world would be there. Trust me, it would stimulate a real peace debate within Israel — especially if Palestinians invited youth delegations from around the Arab world to join the marches, carrying the Saudi peace initiative in Hebrew and Arabic. Israeli Jews and Arabs should be invited to march as well. Together, the marchers could draw up their own peace maps and upload them onto YouTube as a way of telling their leaders what Egyptian youth said to President Hosni Mubarak: “We’re not going to let you waste another day of our lives with your tired mantras and maneuvering.” -- THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Choosing a non-Parsi spouse, especially husband, is condemned as high treason against the community and, worse, heresy against the faith. Children of 'parjaat' fathers cannot be raised as Parsi-Zoroastrians, and zealots are even trying to exclude the mother from her legal communal rights. It's no coincidence that we have perhaps the world's highest proportion of single females.  Which brings me to the separation of Church and State. Breached boundaries may litter the Indian landscape, but they compound our complex vulnerabilities. Moderates were aghast when, in 2009, the freshly elected 'traditionalist' trustees of the Bombay Parsee Punchayet (BPP) summarily barred two well-versed priests from conducting any ceremonies at Mumbai's Tower of Silence and in the two fire temples under its control. -– Bachi Karkaria


The joint session of parliament, the statement of Mian Nawaz Sharif, the deliberate silence of the government and the open debate in the media raised hopes for policy changes. But, alas, the holy cows go unscathed despite the East Pakistan debacle, the Ojhri camp disaster, the brutalisation of Balochistan and the Kargil operation. This time around the main issues have been skilfully sidestepped. We have suffered crisis after crisis with unending patience because of skewed security and foreign policies. This is not likely to change after the military leadership has turned the tables on civilians who have abandoned their own concerns and joined the establishment’s bandwagon. -- Asma Jahangir

Unless the state can find a way of bringing all the diverse elements in Balochistan to the peace table, an early election to determine the people’s genuine representatives will become unavoidable. The essential fact to be realised is that peace cannot be established in Balochistan without an accord on democratic self-government. .. surrender to the vested interest would only mean adding to the agony of the Baloch people and undermining the state’s capacity to deal with the crisis in future. The risks in allowing the present drift to continue are far greater and more serious than those in seeking peace by accommodating the angry, dispossessed and the deeply hurt Baloch. -- I.A Rehman


Making the powerful answerable for their crimes is the only way to curb these crimes against humanity. I am asking the impossible but this US administration and the previous one as a whole should be arraigned on charges of the violation of the Geneva Conventions on Prisoners and Torture and tried for crimes against humanity, along with those who practice torture here and the world over, and should be kept in a jail for eternity so that horrible crimes like waterboarding are not palmed off as some sort of exotic sport. For as long as torture is officially sanctioned by states and acquiesced in by the world, humanity will continue to be stripped of its dignity without any retribution for the violators. -- Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The US should pursue a two-stage strategy. First, we should formally present any information about Pakistani complicity in shielding Bin Laden to Pakistan's leaders. Then we should follow up with demands that Pakistan break the backbone of Al-Qaida in Pakistan by moving against figures like Ayman al-Zawahri; remove limits on the Predator drone campaign; uproot insurgent sanctuaries and shut down factories that produce bombs for use against American and Afghan soldiers; and support a reasonable political settlement in Afghanistan.-- Zalmay Khalilzad

And so we come to the issue of the policy that India needs to adopt towards Pakistan. In the past ten days, since Osama was sent to his maker, there has been a torrent of criticism of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that Pakistani duplicity undermines the very basis of his peace policy. This would be true if you accept the simplistic, and indeed caricature, version of Pakistani reality trundled out by our chicken hawks. In this version, everyone and everything in Pakistan is duplicitous and therefore there is little use in negotiating with them. There is nothing wrong in holding that belief, but the question that the hawks must answer is: If Manmohan Singh’s flexible engagement is not the right policy, what would they suggest? -- Manoj Joshi


Isolating Pakistan would simply harden the border and heighten the tension that complicates these two men's lives. And the lives of all of us who live here. By making those sides colourfast. Yes, we must uncover the terror links, the facilitation, but no, we must not sharpen the paranoia or confuse the state with the people, the great majority of the people. And we must not give up on dialogue by other means. Dialogue of any kind will be harder if al-Qaeda ever replace the present rulers of Pakistan. Time is short, and there's enough wounded pride about at the moment to sink a ship of state. Even in Chanakyan terms that's not what we want next door. -- Irwin Allan Sealy


....the accounts portray a man who, while zealously preaching jihad and suffering from bad kidneys, was very mobile, followed a diet of three meals a day, and travelled with Islamic scholars, including one who could interpret dreams.” -- A. Srivathsan


…can this 'turning point' become an opportunity for Pakistan to address the roots of its malaise and explore the possibilities for reform? If so, in these grave times, what is the way forward? Nothing short of a leap of imagination and a concerted move to resolve, once and for all, the enduring uncertainty over the role of Islam in the definition of Pakistan's constitutional identity will do. For that, Pakistan must now consider a fresh constitutional settlement that unequivocally rejects empowering the state and its citizens on the basis of their perceived relationship to Islam. It is this that has nurtured the state's fatal attraction to the language of holy war, which has exacted so heavy a price from the people of Pakistan. Their loss has been the military's gain. Its futile quest to 'match' India abroad has not only deepened Pakistan's dependence on the United States, but left the country dangerously vulnerable to Islamist groups at home.-- Farzana Shaikh

While Bin Laden's death will undoubtedly be seen as a major setback in ideological and material terms to the radical Islamic movement in the region, for India it will not alter substantially the threat that it faces from elements involved in cross-border fomenting of terror against it. Neither should this incident be allowed to engender any romantic notions about emulating a super power's efficient agencies/ special forces in thinking of or talking about taking out personalities inimical to India in similar manner. Instead, vigilance should be enhanced and efforts should continue, to monitor whether this huge embarrassment leads to even minuscule introspection within Pakistan about changing the thrust of policies which have proved counter-productive. -- R Banerji


Simply because one of its several Vice-Presidents was a Catholic priest who recited the Gayatri Mantra at the inauguration of the party, it did not make it secular, he insisted. ‘The Welfare Party of India, spawned from the Jamaat-e Islami Hind, reminds one of the BJP, the offspring of the mother RSS. Its Christian Vice-President Father Abraham Joseph brings back memories of the BJP’s almost permanent Vice-President, a Muslim Sikandar Bakht. -- Yoginder Sikand,

Understanding functioning of godmen requires understanding sociological, psychological and political factors. Human behaviour is of very complex nature and all these factors play important role. The entire phenomenon cannot be explained with reference to ‘blind faith’ alone as rationalists tend to do. ,,, Thus, as against rationalists, I believe, human behaviour as it is, needs godmen very much even in 21st century (though I myself do not approve of it). Asghar Ali Engineer

This year has seen a dramatic acceleration of history in the Arab world, the falling apart of a rotten order; an unraveling that has birthed the “rough beast” of new societies where people will have a say in how they are governed rather than being trampled by Paleolithic tyrants. Just what the embryonic beasts will turn into – whither they slouch – is impossible to say for now. But no foul volley of bullets from Syria’s Bashar Al Assad can stop the convulsive movement of the gyres. Technology and demography have ushered Arab societies into a new age as the once vast information gap between ruler and ruled has narrowed. -- Roger Cohen


The country which in the mid-1960s was heralded as a role model for other developing countries, where the international press had praised its military-led development model no end, stating that it might just reach the levels of development achieved only by the United States, has just appeared as the world`s 10th most failed, or failing, state. On the course towards reaching this rather ignominious distinction, this country has also been called “the most dangerous place in the world”, and a “rogue state with a nuclear arsenal”. S. Akbar Zaidi


I think since Hazare is being described as Gandhian and his struggle as Gandhian, we must first briefly reiterate what Gandhian values are and what strictly speaking, Gandhian struggle ought to be. To begin with there are three essential elements of Gandhian struggle which cannot be compromised: truth, non-violence and utterly simple life style. Of all the three one element was surely present in Hazare’s struggle i.e. non-violence. It is really debatable whether the other two were present or not. Non-violence in long run is possible if, and only if the struggle is based on truth and nothing but truth. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

"I saw people's nails being ripped out and people hung from the ceiling by their arms or legs," said Adel Reda, 39, trembling as he recounted his nine months inside the complex. "They would throw our food in sand before giving it to us and splash us with cold water day and night. Sometimes it was so dark you couldn't see your hands." When asked whether he was ever allowed access to an attorney, Reda raised his hands heavenward and replied: "My lawyer was God." Egyptian military tanks were positioned outside the security structure and the army's elite Thunder Squad pleaded with protesters not to enter the forbidding complex. Egyptians chanting "Down with State Security!" stormed past them and flooded into the building. They lingered even as military police fired warning shots into the air. Outside, several families of detainees gazed at the scene in disbelief, mumbling prayers and shouting the names of the disappeared. They cornered army commanders, demanding to know whether the military had apprehended the agents who'd apparently escaped before the crowds arrived. "Did you arrest them? Did they come out as prisoners?" a protester asked. -- Hannah Allam 

In General Musharraf’s case, there were two radical new elements of the initiative: Pakistan closed the tap of jihad in Kashmir and offered out-of-the-box-thinking on Kashmir that buried the UN Resolutions for good. This was carried forward by way of a back channel dialogue that went quite far. In Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s case, there are also two new elements of the Indian initiative: India has agreed to share details of the Samjhota Express case which exonerates state or non-state elements in Pakistan and indicts Hindu extremists instead; and it relents pressure on the ISI to crack down on Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the Lashkar e Tayba, following the acquittal of two Indian Muslims in the case of Ajmal Kasab who were alleged to have confessed to direct links with Mr Saeed. One factor seems to have been in common between the initiatives taken by General Musharraf and Dr Singh – that of time. General Musharraf cut the ice midway through his term. Dr Singh is doing much the same, a year into his second term when he doesn’t have to worry about too many coalition partners tugging at his sleeves. The Indian initiative is based on the notion of ‘permanent peace’ articulated by Dr Singh. For tactical reasons South Block isn’t talking about the ‘composite dialogue’ which is a red rag to the Indian media in the wake of Dr Singh’s abject backtracking after Sharm el-Sheikh last year. -- Najam Sethi


The Bush administration went into Iraq with a multitude of objectives, from finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction to building a new democratic country in the heart of the Middle East. But even at the highest levels, US officials disagreed over how central the creation of a democratic Iraq was to American ambitions and interests. This ambiguity of purpose helped create a serious dilemma: The United States undertook a complicated, multifaceted occupation and nation-building project without the planning and resources required for it to succeed.  Yet, even after Obama’s speech Monday at the National Defence University, it remains unclear what the president considers an acceptable outcome in Libya. Engaging in military action and claiming a desire for regime change, yet expressing unwillingness to use force to achieve that aim, even while providing support to those seeking to oust Qaddafi — this is a recipe for confusion, both within the administration and among the public. -- Meghan O’Sullivan

And as I apply the last touches to this piece, Pakistani hearts were broken and we vowed vengeance -- the vengeance of supporting Sri Lanka, and the vengeance of "next time!" We supported and support still our team of ragtag misfits and sports pariahs, and especially our impossibly good natured and charismatic captain, Shahid Khan Afridi, who fulfilled his incredible promise of bringing a battered team to the semi-finals. All in good fun, and not in bad taste. Sometimes serious, never deadly. No fights, no broken ties. Millions across the border -- and thousands across the stands in Mohali, split into blazing green and sky blue -- had their hearts in their mouths for the best part of a day. A victory, and a loss. No harm, no foul. We make for tragic enemies, but excellent rivals. Cricket diplomacy works because it plugs into what we have in common, what is a mad everyday passion for us. And indeed, what we have in common in our daily existence is not nearly so split as the far chasm of our abstract grievances. -- Zaair Hussain


After witnessing enormous death and destruction during World War II, the United Nations (UN) was established to resolve all disputes between nations in a peaceful manner. But, over time, the UN has become a forum where the US and the West — neo-cons and neo-colonialists respectively — manipulate the decisions to invade countries like Iraq and Afghanistan either on the pretext of a threat against the West, or, in the case of Libya, to protect the citizens from atrocities perpetrated by the state. One would not hold a brief for Libya’s President Gaddafi despite the fact that the country had performed the rituals of elections, and for the fact that, till recently, he was a popular dictator. Having said that, the US and the West have no right to decide as to who should be in the saddle in developing countries. One could rue the fact that Gaddafi’s failure to resolve contradictions and his stubbornness provided an opportunity to the adventurists to destroy Libya by creating civil war-like conditions, as the Libyan polity is so sharply divided into eastern and western parts on tribal lines. -- Mohammad Jamil

Yes, yes, I know the standard mantra that we are God’s chosen people and Pakistan was created as a special gift from heaven (there is no shortage of Pakistanis who actually believe this). Still, it would improve the tone of things in Pakistan if we learnt to shout less about matters of faith. Why don’t we take a page from Bangladesh’s book? It is now not the Islamic Republic but the People’s Republic of Bangladesh but its Muslims are no less Islamic for this change of name. The people of Pakistan, left to their own devices, for the most part are perfectly sensible in these matters, firm in their religious beliefs but going about their everyday lives without paying too much heed to the usual ranting of the clerical crowd. Indeed, throughout the history of Islam in the sub-continent, the role of the mullah has been largely confined to two functions: performing the nikah at marriage ceremonies and leading funeral prayers. The saint or the qalandar commanded popular respect and even adulation, not, alas, the fire-breathing maulvi. The names of how many traditional mullahs have stuck in the popular imagination? But the names of Ali Hajveri, Lal Shahbaz and Moinuddin Chishti, to name only these three, are on everyone’s lips. And, such was the force of their example, not only on the lips of Muslims but Hindus as well. -- Ayaz Amir

A whole range of self appointed guardians of Muslims were at the forefront of a campaign to turn Jamia into a minority institution. Some of these stalwarts include the current custodian of Munger Khanqah, the beleaguered and besieged Arshad Madani of whatever is left of the Jamiat Ulama e Hind, retired bureaucrats tangentially connected to Muslim education, out of job Muslim politicians and an alumni network of Jamia who think that Muslims are best served by organizing occasional educational seminars in places like Jeddah. In the best feudal tradition of Muslim politics, none of these players even for a moment thought that the minority issue was a contested one within the teaching community of Jamia. Thus the move to turn Jamia into a minority institution is first and foremost an undemocratic one as it has not been thoroughly debated neither have its implications been discussed within the teaching or the student community. -- Arshad Alam,


The offer of Arab nations to participate in the military operation against the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi has taken many experts by surprise. The United Arab Emirates is sending at least 24 fighter jets to help enforce the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya, while Qatar has pledged six. I’ve heard from sources that Egypt plans to supply Libyan rebel forces with small arms, and that Jordan and Saudi Arabia have offered logistical and intelligence support. There are also unconfirmed reports that elite fighting units from several more Arab countries have arrived in eastern Libya to assist the rebel forces. Saudi Arabia, whose Air Force is among the strongest in the region, could play an even more active role if needed. During Desert Storm, General Khaled bin Sultan, the eldest son of the Saudi king, explained that it was easy to integrate his country’s air units with the main coalition force as Saudi Arabia’s military doctrine, training methods, weapons and combat capabilities are compatible with those of the United States and UK. He was also impressed by the coalition’s “brilliant array of modern aircraft weapons, some of which have never been used in combat before.”-- Yelena Suponina


As for cricket diplomacy, we may recall that it was initially the initiative of General Zia-ul-Haq, who went to Jaipur to watch an India-Pakistan cricket match in 1987. A couple of years later, of course, events in Kashmir totally spoiled the pitch on which the two countries were playing their diplomatic games. And since relations between out two countries have been a roller-coaster, there was this spectacle in 2004 when Rahul Gandhi, possibly a future prime minister of India, and his sister Priyanka came to Karachi in March 2004 to watch a cricket match. During the same Indian tour, Lahore presented a show of love and friendship between cricket lovers of the two countries that is truly memorable. Then, General Pervez Musharraf was in New Delhi in April 2005 to watch Pakistan rout India in a one-day played at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground. And his visit was marked by some unprecedented declarations of friendship. I was there at that time and it was a very festive occasion. Manmohan and Musharraf went so far as to talk about borders eventually becoming irrelevant. There were hints that the Kashmir puzzle was about to be solved. -- Ghazi Salahuddin

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