Reporters on the Job

Cricket Connections: When Atta-ur Rehman was arrested in Pakistan on terrorism charges, his name did not at first ring a bell with correspondent Owais Tohid. But after talking with two friends, Owais realized there was a connection.

"I remembered that he had been at Karachi University at the same time as I was," says Owais. "In fact, he was in the statistics department, and I recalled playing interdepartmental cricket matches against him."

When Mr. Rehman appeared in court, Owais saw a changed man from the one he had played against in student days.

"He would recite only the Koran and speak of jihad. But when we were in school, he wore jeans and casual clothes, like me - and was known to hang out in the popular corner of the library known as lovers' lounge," Owais recalls. "So he wasn't so fundamentalist in those days."

Let's Debate: Correspondent Nicholas Blanford says he sees signs of an increasing outspokenness about Syria's firm hold in Lebanon. One of the most obvious indications are the posters that state, in effect, that "UN Resolution 1559 [calling on Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon] equals sovereignty and independence for Lebanon."

"The posters have been put up by the National Liberal Party, a Christian party that strongly opposes Syrian interference," says Nick, who lives in Beirut.

The new willingness to challenge the status quo is appearing elsewhere as well, according to Nick. It was galvanized by last week's assassination attempt on Marwan Hamade, a respected former minister. The move, which many link to Syria, had chilling echoes of Lebanon's devastating civil war, when such attacks were frequent.

"On one talk show yesterday, there was an intense and colorful debate between a Hizbullah member of parliament, a Syrian academic, and a fellow who is pro-Israel and a critic of Syria," Nick notes. "There's a lot of that kind of lively debate taking place. The old taboos seem to be gone - even analysts who would have been reluctant to talk on the phone or to be quoted are becoming more outspoken."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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