Thursday, September 24, 2009


So it took a four page letter written by the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb A Q Khan to his wife and leaked by a British journalist to confirm the world's worst kept secret: That Pakistan the most 'dangerous place on Earth' is a nuclear proliferator. Till the letter, written in a loose scrawl by AQ Khan, wasn't made public the world was made to believe the Pakistani nuclear scientist was a Dr. Strangelove running a basement nuclear Walmart unbeknownst to the ruling establishment. Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf even went on record to describe Khan as a nuclear entrepreneur working in complete secrecy to line his own pockets. But that theory now lies in tatters. If anything, the letter blows the lid off a Pakistan government nuclear nexus with a number of countries (Iran, North Korea, China and Libya) that have defied international convention and even law in their pursuit to acquire nuclear weapons technology

As is to be expected Pakistan has quickly dismissed the letter as pure fiction cooked up by A Q Khan to blackmail the country. But that claim doesn't stand to reason. After all, why would Khan want to antagonise Pakistan especially after he's been let-off by the courts and is effectively a free man? And why would he want to risk extradition to the United States? That A Q Khan is equally shaken by the leak is underscored by the fact that he has hurriedly brushed aside questions related to the veracity of the letter.

But the bigger questions persist. Why then has the letter been leaked now, six years after it was written? And who stands to gain from it being made public? The answer could have been provided by British Journalist Simon Henderson who 'leaked' the letter in the Sunday Times. But he isn't talking so questions abound: Has the Obama administration (which is in zealous pursuit of non-proliferation) orchestrated the leak to get a universal treaty to ban all nuclear testing passed in the next 12 months? This remains a not too far fetched possibility. Especially when one considers that on September 23, 2009 Obama spoke at the United Nations warning that "countries that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences".

Administration insiders say Obama is particularly keen to act against Iran and North Korea and the Khan 'letter bomb' helps the U.S build a case and approach the United Nations or other multi-lateral forum to act against the so-called rogue states. Aside from the answers one hopes to supply to the questions raised by the ‘letter bomb’ expose there is little doubt that A Q Khan is once again the crucible of a 'fission' reaction that could have far reaching geo-political consequences.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


If the Law Commission has its way the punishment for rash and negligent driving will be increased from two to ten years and most importantly the offence will be non-bailable. In other words the police will have no power to release on bail a person accused of causing death by rash and negligent driving.

It is quite apparent that the proposal is a result of the worthies at the Law Commission becoming greatly exercised by the fact that in recent years several accused have walked free after mowing down pedestrians and other commuters. And they should rightly be.

The statistics suggests that only four per cent of all accused of rash and negligent driving in tens of thousands of cases in India ever get convicted.

But the proposal that putatively looks to steer rash and negligent drivers onto the right track is raising concerns in many quarters chiefly because it could spawn a law that could easily become an instrument for harassment in the wrong hands.

For one, it unduly tilts the balance in favour of victims, witnesses and most worryingly the traffic police. The proposal injects a degree of subjectivity - an extra judicial dimension - if you like to the whole process of assessing if the driver was rash or negligent. Can the 'friendly' traffic constable be trusted to take that call? Given the propensity of traffic policemen to act arbitrarily, to extort at the drop of a hat and to blackmail, one shudders to think of the consequences. Even a witness may be motivated by other interests to trump up charges against the driver, once again to disastrous consequences.

Then again on closer examination if the Law Commission's proposal is motivated by the need to enhance the conviction rate it may not serve that end as it doesn't do anything to guarantee justice.

A person can, after all, only be awarded a sentence after he is convicted. Denying bail to the accused won't make a difference to the outcome of a trial. In case after case where the accused has been let-off it is because witnesses have turned hostile, the forensic evidence has been destroyed or there has been large scale collusion. The Law Commission therefore needs to address the problem at a more fundamental level.

In any case the new proposed amendment will only add more clutter to what is already a fairly inscrutable penal code. A driver that runs over a pedestrian or is involved in a car crash that has resulted in a fatality can always be booked under any number of laws that already exist on the statute books to deal with such eventualities. What’s the need to add more?

Instead, the Law Commission would be better advised to look at a system that makes it difficult for witnesses to retract their statements or even at introducing steps to overhaul the system so that justice isn't delayed or denied.

History shows the fear of conviction more than anything ensures compliance with the law.