If time is measured in deeds, as Sahabzada Yaqub Khan suggests, it is going to be an interesting end to the millennium in Pakistan.
Yaqub Khan, the country's distinguished former foreign minister, was here this week to represent the short-term goals of the new leadership under the army commander and now chief executive Pervez Musharraf. The elderly statesman with a silver tongue is a clever choice as envoy. He is a former chief of the general staff, a lieutenant general who resigned from the army in 1971 as governor and corps commander of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, when force was used to crush an uprising. His act of conscience made him into a hero in Bangladesh and won him international respect at the time.
He told Washington Post editors and reporters last Tuesday that no date has yet been set by the new government to hold elections in the wake of the Oct. 12 coup d'etat that deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif. There is "no time limit that the chief executive has set for democratic elections," he said. "You measure time by events and when these events have been completed, then we are ready to launch the elections."
The objectives include an enterprising drive to make Pakistanis who have held important posts accountable for "a multitude of sins," such as unreturned bank loans, money laundering, illegal allotment of plots and, in Yaqub Khan's words, a "witch's broth" of other doubtful conduct. He expressed hope that a reformed electoral system will supplant the old and "corrupt" one, and that figures who reigned over the mismanagement of Pakistan will be disqualified from running in future elections. Another goal is to "strengthen the hand of the press" and bring former officials such as Sharif and his top aides to justice on "criminal charges." These, he said, include the attempted murder of Musharraf and 200 people, when an airliner carrying the general was refused landing rights in Karachi and was rerouted when it had less than 10 minutes of fuel left.
He said judges and legal experts are working on ways "to validate" the acts that have been taken by the new leadership. "The constitution has been suspended and it has to be modified to some extent. There has to be an act of validation by the Supreme Court for the acts that have been taken," he added. Yaqub Khan said observers will be welcome to see the various processes taking place, such as the reforming of political parties. "Measure us with these objectives and the speed with which we move towards these objectives," said Yaqub Khan, almost too immaculately dressed in a dark blue suit and matching dress shirt, a pearl tie pin and lapis lazuli cufflinks. He said no one will be spared from the accountability drive and that Musharraf has set an example by declaring that all his assets are to be made public. Will other generals follow?
Leap of Faith
Starting with the proposition that various faiths, their churches, mosques and temples are closest to people in poverty and most trusted by them, the World Bank organized an interfaith conference yesterday. These faiths and their communal outlets represent the best distribution network to people in poverty and it seemed sensible to tie the work of the World Bank with the various leading faiths in the world.
"There is a real link there we can benefit from," said World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn in an interview Wednesday.
The first such conference was held in London last year, and since then the World Bank has launched projects in Tanzania and Ethiopia, said Wolfensohn. "You can see it right there in the villages. If you are working on a social program in Tanzania and looking at how the bank can assist, we look at all the faith organizations and see how they cooperate. If we all operate without thinking of one another, we waste resources and that is true in offering food or charity assistance," he added.
The conference included Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, the Agha Khan, Prince Hassan of Jordan, Bahai, Hindu, Jain and Jewish religious leaders and theology experts from around the world.
"Faith gives continuity to a community and you want to build development based on spiritual and cultural continuity. You don't have to be a dreamer to see that," Wolfensohn explained.
Before the bank had contacts with religious groups and faiths, the World Bank and other international institutions would come under attack. Dialogue on points of tolerance and using religion for non-religious purposes beneficial to a community can yield better and more constructive results, he added.