Daniel Pearl, the movie – Starring Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt

Yes, its true. Vogue Magazine features an interview with ‘Rachel Green’ from Friends:

(Jennifer) Aniston and (Brad) Pitt, along with Brad Grey, have formed a production company, Plan B, and they hope to make a film together about Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered in Pakistan. Pearl’s wife, Mariane, initially refused to sell the rights to her book, A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl, but changed her mind after meeting with the couple. “She is one of the most inspiring and courageous women I’ve met in a long time,” says Aniston. “And if the film is something that seems worthy of the story that she told, if it’s done in the right way, then it will be made. That was sort of the deal that we all set with one another, as well as with her, because it’s such delicate subject matter.”

Aniston, who says she would love to play a purely dramatic role someday (“I can see it”), is tentative when I ask her about playing Mariane Pearl. “If it works,” she says, “I would love to think that I could, but I reserve the right not to. We’ll have to see when it happens. I’m just excited about nurturing it.”

When I interviewed Aniston a year and a half ago, she worried out loud about needing to be better educated about current world events. Taking on the Pearl film would appear to be part of her making good on a promise to herself.

Let’s hope they consult Bernard Henri-Levy too, for his book “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” provides a made for Hollywood script.

Varied Reactions

To Washington, this means some headway is being made

“The United States welcomes the proposal by President Musharraf that’s been reported in the press,” US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. “We think it’s constructive to relinquish the demand for a referendum on the status of Kashmir, if those reports prove to be accurate, and it seems they are,” Mr Boucher told reporters.

India is still making up its mind on how to react, but the approach is cautious

According to one view in (New Delhi), the (Musharraf’s) willingness to meet India half-way is not a new position, but was made even during the Agra summit. In fact, analysts say, Musharraf several times before and after Agra pointed out that both sides must abandon predetermined positions, but never did he once speak about his commitment to end cross-border terrorism. Indian Express

While Kalim Bahadur echoes my thoughts

Kalim Bahadur, who teaches foreign relations at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the UN resolutions were no longer relevant. “The UN resolutions are 50 to 55 years old, they hold no validity now and cannot be implemented,” he said. “These comments are more of a gesture for public relations effect.” The Gulf Daily News

Daily Times of Pakistan thinks this marks a change in tactics…

The differences with the international community related to the modus operandi, not to whether or not Pakistan is a party to the dispute. Unlike India, the international community has always accepted Pakistan’s locus standi vis-à-vis Kashmir. With the changed paradigm, India will find it hard to deny Pakistan its legitimacy on that score.The Daily Times

…while the Foreign Office is in denial,

President General Pervez Musharraf’s interview on Kashmir was reported and quoted out of context as he did not state that the resolution of the issue should not be in accordance with the UN resolution passed 50 years back, said Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan.
“Both India and Pakistan should find a midway to resolve the issue for the durable peace in the region but only which is acceptable to Kashmiris,” he said quoting Musharraf. On withdrawal of principal stand on Kashmir, Masood Khan said that neither the issue could be sidelined nor it could be forgotten but Pakistan would persuade it on every front. The News/Jang

And the voluble Sheikh Rashid is clueless in Karachi

“We are for the implementation of the UN resolution on Kashmir, but if India is serious in solving the issue of Kashmir, other things can also be discussed,” Rashid said. He gave no details. Rashid stressed that Pakistan still supports the UN resolution, central to its stance on Kashmir since it was adopted by the UN Security Council in 1948. The News/Jang

Dont get too close to the truth!

When Hamid Karzai told the Times that Mulla Omar was seen at a mosque in Quetta, Pakistan it was based on the photographs taken by two French reporters.

It looks like these gentlemen got a little too close for Pakistani regime’s comfort. Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau of L’Express magazine have been arrested for visa violations which confined them to travel to only Islamabad and Karachi. By many measures these Frenchmen are lucky, if they had gone further they themselves would have ended up in short films from the Sheikh Omar Saeed school of videography and vivisection.

While Musharraf is praised by the Pakistani press for generally giving the press a free rein, his generosity is not uniformly applied to all issues. Hamid Mir was ousted as the editor of the Weekly Independent newspaper when he covered one expose too many. He then went on to report for The Herald, a magazine of the Dawn group.

On November 22, unidentified persons had set fire to Mir’s car and shots were fired outside his home in Lahore, in the eastern province of Punjab.

Says Mir, now the deputy editor of the Herald, an English-language monthly, “During the past few months, I have been threatened with dire consequences in one-on-one meetings with several senior military and political leaders.”

According to the editor, the authorities had told him General Musharraf was angered by his articles and that he should desist from writing against the general and the army.

The August and November issues of the Herald carried investigative reports by Mir on the presence in Pakistan of a don of an Indian crime syndicate, Dawood Ibrahim.

According to the General, the articles gave weight to the Indian allegation that Pakistan was protecting the don – who is on the run from Indian police. Oneworld.net

Hamid Mir is not alone and neither is he the first one to be terrorised by Musharraf’s regime. Shaheen Sehbai of the News daily was forced to escape to the United States when he came close to disclosing details of the Daniel Pearl case, he now runs an online newspaper called the South Asia Tribune (which really seems like one long tirade against his tormentors). The Frontier Post was also forced to shut down and its founder was tortured while in the custody of ‘agencies’. The Hoot has compiled a list of acts of violence and intimidation against journalists just in 2003.

The 2003 Annual Report for Pakistan by the French NGO Reporters Sans Frontiers is out. However it came too early to include the Epstein and Guilloteau incarceration.

New: RSS feeds from The Acorn

The Acorn’s RSS feeds are now available. Click for RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 feeds. (To the uninitiated, these feeds have nothing to do with nutritional issues pertaining to a certain large right wing organisation). I update this blog a few times a day so the feeds will keep you up to date.

I switched to MovableType today, which is a fine piece of software. I could import all my previous posts and archives from Blogger. Blogger remains a cool tool, but my requirements have outgrown the features it provides. Thanks, Blogger!

Blog Awards

Voting for the best Indian blogs has commenced at the Indibloggies. The Acorn is one of the four contenders for the Best New Indiblog category. This way to the polling booth.

Meanwhile, I agree with Jivha and Melodrama that something is afoot at the other Awards – The Best Asian Weblogs seem to be have incidents of booth-capturing or vote stuffing.

Next year we should all request TN Seshan or JM Lyngdoh to host the awards.

The Saffron bird sings a new tune

Once roads, electricity (and telephones) become the issues on which elections are contested there certainly is a great positive change in the air. And this happened in MP and Rajasthan. Given a sufficiently strong mandate the BJP is sure to push a robust reform programme. Its much too early to tell, but it looks like Indian democracy was successful in pulling back the BJP from the extreme religious right with five-years of coalition governments exerting the moderating influence.

But at the start of (Uma Bharati’s) campaign she told me Hindutva was a matter of her personal faith.

She promised a campaign based on development – criticising the Congress record after 10 years in power in the state. In particular, she criticised the state of roads in Madhya Pradesh and the lack of electricity. Development was also the major issue raised by the BJP in the other three states that have voted.

The results show its importance. The Congress had ruled all four states that voted.

The only one they have managed to save is Delhi where the chief minister had established a reputation for good governance, with improvements to the roads, fewer electricity cuts, cleaner air and better schools.

In the other three states the BJP convinced the electorate that Congress and development don’t go together.Mark Tully, BBC

(The BJP that won is) a party that does not need those divisive issues to court the voter, for one. Even before the postmortems rush in, it is blindingly clear that these elections were not won on the temple or other hoary things. If in Madhya Pradesh the BJP was able to catapult voter dissatisfaction about sadak and bijli into the issue at the hustings, in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh too its appeal to the voter was crafted of governance and development issues, save in a few pockets… It could even ask itself: does it need Modi and Moditva as much as it once convinced itself it did?

…The BJP that has won three of the four states is a more professional organisation, more attuned to the changing lay of the land and flexible enough to alter its strategy accordingly. It is a party that is becoming more mainstream every day and accommodating — yes, more like what the Congress once used to be. Basically, there is a new voter out there who is more demanding, more assertive in the demand for bread and butter and flyovers. The BJP needs to remain the organisation that can silence its rabblerousers to hear this voter. Indian Express editorial

Elections 2003 have shown that the voter is drawn to visions for development in which she has a tangible stake. After a decade and more of often painful economic reforms, the voter has announced his preference for progress over populism. It is ironic that the Congress, whose own government at the Centre kickstarted those reforms, has rewinded further back in history to supplement outdated populism with incoherent critiques of liberalisation and reform. It is also reaping the bitter dividends of believing that a charismatic leader, one touched by the Nehru-Gandhi mystique, is enough to rally the crowds and guarantee votes. Therein lies most of the trouble. By relying on diktats from the Leader, by allowing mechanisms for intra-party democracy to erode, they have stopped debating issues. Once, in the Congress party’s internal conversations the narrative of India was played out. Now, in the silence at its headquarters at 24, Akbar Road, the party’s estrangement from the voter is being enacted. Indian Express editorial

Remaining secular

For all of Kuldip Nayar’s softie-softies with respect to relations with Pakistan – which I’ve condemned in my posts, I’ve got to hand it to him on his stand on secularism. In this
article in Dawn he points out that Pakistan and its agents (Geelani) have lost their credibility in Kashmir. Events have driven the Hurriyat to adopt a more conciliatory attitude which could form the basis for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue. I’m strongly with him when he writes

Before discussing anything concrete (with the Hurriyat), it would be better if New Delhi and APHC were to agree on some principles which would govern the settlement. And one of them should be not to entertain any arrangement on the basis of religion. The subcontinent has gone through the traumatic experience of partition. It killed 10 lakh people and uprooted 20 lakh of families. India cannot afford to have another situation like that.

A settlement that divides Kashmir along religious lines will be in deep dissonance with India’s founding principles – and an endorsement of the Jinnah’s two nations theory. I’m personally inclined towards formalising the current status quo and converting the Line of Control into an international boundary. Yes, it would probably meen legitimising Pakistan’s illegal occupation of some parts of the old Kashmir state. But any move to change the status quo involves paying a huge price in human terms – the scars of 1947 are only healing now – and no civilised government should ever expect to pay that price in this day and age.

The seat with a veto

Sarmila Bose argues that permanent membership of the UN Security Council is not for India

Her first argument is that one does not qualify on population alone. Well, in India’s case one billion people are free to express their opinion on global issues. That’s more free people than that of all the current members of the current UNSC put together.

Next, she is right to say that India’s economic power is nothing much compared to a lot of others. But when the UNSC was constituted in 1945, Britain and France were broke and China was poor. Maoist China was on its knees after the Cultural Revolution when it took its seat in the 1970s. And today’s Russia is in worse shape than India. So that economic argument is hollow too.

She then goes on to argue:

Far from being a “natural choice”, India’s very ambition to become a permanent member has a rather ‘unnatural’ twist to it. Why does a country that shows utter disregard for numerous resolutions of the Security Council pertaining to itself, wish to become its permanent member?

And I guess people like the United States, France, China and Russia are model UN members who not only pay their membership fees on time, but honour the letter and spirit of UN resolutions.

A principal task of the Security Council is peace-keeping around the world — India has proved itself unable to keep the peace with any of its neighbours. As Kofi Annan let slip, it is unthinkable that one or both parties of those engaged in bitter and dangerous conflicts such as exists between India-Pakistan or Israel-Palestine be allowed to sit permanently on the Security Council.

The US is not at peace with countries far away from its boundaries. China threatens Taiwan every week. France has backed coups in its North African colonies in the past.
The current Security Council is a relic of the WWII and the Cold War. None of the reasons cited by Sarmila Bose applied to China when it took up the seat in 1975.

So it is but ‘natural’ that instead of seeking the abolition of permanent membership of the Security Council as a matter of principle, what India really wants is to join privileged few and feel it has ‘arrived’.

Has it not ?

In my view there is no objective qualification to take up a seat on the Security Council. And there is no good reason why India should’nt be there. But there is a good reason why it should – to protect its national and economic interests.