To gauge the disturbing nature of US President George W. Bush’s intervention to spare a convicted former vice-presidential aide from prison, just imagine if it happened in Hong Kong (HK).
Let’s say a senior official serving a key minister was, like “Scooter” Libby, sentenced to 30 months’ jail having been found guilty by jury of perjury and obstructing justice. The chief executive intervenes so the offender does not have to serve jail time but stops short of a full pardon, describing the original sentence as “excessive” and leaving a hefty fine in place. Howls of outrage would rightly rise, questioning Hong Kong’s proud judicial independence and the role of government under “one country, two systems”; mass protests would be a distinct possibility.
Bush is facing stiff criticism, albeit not on the predicted HK scale. He deserves to face considerable heat, given a move that mocks the higher motives of the US justice system.
Save the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is an architectural marvel that is famed throughout the world. For more than (350) years this majestic monument has been admired as a uniquely beautiful structure and an unforgettable tribute to emperor Shajahan’s love for his deceased wife Mumtaz and a manifestation of his artistic sensibility...
In recent years the Taj Mahal has been appearing on the headlines for the wrong reason. The gleam of its marble, which remained undimmed for centuries, is now the helpless victim of pollution. Fumes, industrial discharges and acid rain are conspiring to rob the structure of its sparkle. The mausoleum is ageing and sick and may not long escape the ravages of time unless special steps are taken for conservation.
This is still not clear to the casual onlooker. The government and people of India will have to take emergency measures to save this hymn to love which is a world heritage.
Looking outward on 4 July
This is a working day in the rest of the world, and, for that matter, a working day in the middle of the working week. The fourth of July, a day that is central to our sense of our own history, will pass uncapitalized around the rest of the globe...
But the idea of freedom is not local. It is universal. Even in these difficult times, four years into a war that has turned much of the world against this country, when some political leaders seek to arrogate the idea of freedom as their own political preserve, universal freedom described in the Declaration of Independence remains a fundamental truth.
Ideas have a way of recommending themselves by the behaviour of the men and women who hold them, and this is no less true of nations. The question isn’t simply whether we can project our ideal of freedom around the world. The question is whether, by who we are and how we behave, we can make freedom that animates us compelling to others. (NYT)
Lengthening shadow of spies
Every state in this world has its quota of intelligence agencies and spymasters, but in Pakistan the “invisible government” now has become very visible. On Monday, short of throwing the Advocate on Record out of the court, the Supreme Court judges seemed beside themselves over the “scandalous” document submitted to them by the government...
Astonishing as it may seem, this was a document on which the senior government lawyer, Malik Mohammad Qayyum, was to base his argument before the court. The case concerned not “Mohammad Din and Allah Ditta”, the court said, but two top personalities, the chief executive and the Chief Justice.
The truth is that whether it is domestic politics, foreign policy, electioneering or the judicial process, nothing happens in the country without the intelligence agencies being there...