Author Archives: pakpotpourri2

Pakpotpourri2 supports no political party or institution. Pakpotpourri2 only supports a strong, prosperous,independent Pakistan.The views expressed on the blog do not represent the views of the blogs and are the sole intellectual property of the writer(s).

The quadrilateral agreement

Cross post http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/03/13/the-quadrilateral-agreement/

 

BY YASMEEN AFTAB ALI
Tajikistan’s request and approval to join in the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) as Kabul twiddled her fingers to enter into a transit agreement with Islamabad is a major coup. The deal originally between Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, China and Kazakhstan to facilitate transit of goods and traffic will offer a major boost to these Central Asia Republic Countries bypassing Afghanistan relying on the Karakoram Highway via China as an alternate route. Pakistan is placed in an advantageous position to have access to the Central Asian nations sans Afghanistan.
Let the reader be reminded here that a narrow stretch of Afghan territory separates Tajikistan from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The importance of this region for India’s security is huge. Tajikistan is in Central Asia, a gas-rich region in which India has developed growing interests. Tajikistan also happens to be extremely anti-Taliban. India, in order to gain strategic depth, focused on the Ayni Air Base, also called as ‘Gissar Air Base’ located 10 km west of the capital of Tajikistan-Dushanbe. In the post 1979 era of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan it had served as the key air base for Soviet military air transportation of its troops to Afghanistan. It fell into disuse and neglect later. Between years 2002-2010, India invested approximately $70 million in renovations, installing state-of-the-art air defence navigational facilities. The runway was further extended. This access offers immediate strategic depth in the region to India.
The second place of Indian foothold is the Farkhor Air Base; a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan, 130 kilometres south east of the capital Dushanbe. In 1996-97, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) started negotiations with Tajikistan to use the Farkhor Airbase to transport high-altitude military supplies to the Afghan Northern Alliance, service their helicopters and gather intelligence. At that time, India operated a military hospital in the Farkhor region.
Kabul seems to have axed herself on her foot by delaying an agreement with Islamabad by insisting inclusion of India in the agreement. Kabul has yet to think of independent policies that serve her national interests and break out of the proxy mould. This action is a tough call in light of her dependency on others. The longer Kabul delays, the more it gets entrenched in the quagmire of her creation.
The CARs being landlocked countries need access to seaports. QQTA opens the door that links China’s Xinjiang region with Gilgit-Baltistan as a transit tunnel. In 2016, Pakistan had placed an official request to construct the route connecting Ishkashim with Chitral. Transport of goods to contracting parties is without any duties.
Security of the route is well ensured by Transport Permits System, non-transferable, limited to 200 quotas per contracting parties. Only vehicles having valid documents including the permit, registration & fitness certificates and driving license are allowed to enter and perform traffic in transit in the territory of the Contracting Parties. For specific dates one permit per vehicle is issued. The permit holds good for vehicles for one trip including return load. Authorities at check post to check vehicles documents, posted by the contracting parties.
“Douglas (2008) reveals the role of international trade in Asia’s economic growth. He emphasises the role of infrastructure both hard and soft (governance is critical aspect of soft infrastructure). It played an important role in strengthening trade primarily by reducing the transaction cost. The author gives importance to soft infrastructure over physical infrastructure for increasing trade and its profitability, and equitable distribution of the income. Similarly, the authors conclude that regional cooperation in trade facilitation leads to economic integration. Finally, the virtuous circle between growth, infrastructure investment, trade expansion and regional integration is elucidated.” (Ahmed Vaqar and Samad Ghulam, Planning Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics May 2011)
This regional connectivity besides bolstering Pakistan’s economy will not only strengthen her position in ECO as members of both are over lapping but also enhance Pakistan’s status in SCO. The connecting network is interesting and gets more so. Her strength in SCO will enable closer ties with CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) led by Russia. This will strengthen the military relationship of both countries.
The connecting dot retraces its steps to Afghanistan. Russia has been looking for a role in seeking the mess in Afghanistan and a role for Taliban to play aimed to stop cascading of Islam State Group and ancillaries into the Central Asian arena. In a recent news report, Pakistan military has warned US of a mess in Afghanistan “unless the US and UK can halt the advance of IS and the Taliban.” Russia may just decide to step in to deflect a more lethal situation. Militants from Afghanistan are now attacking both sides of the border that Kabul has failed in eliminating.
The heat has been turned up for all stakeholders!
The QQTA, SCO and CSTO are organisations that help build the region into a secure one aiming to bolster economy, develop better understanding between states and mutual benefit to all.
The QQTA with CPEC will give Pakistan economic prosperity and great political outreach owing to its strong geographical standing if she plays her cards right. Strong leadership coupled with good governance is need of the day.
“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

Local Government Elections 2015

Why they are so important

 

Decentralisation of administrative and financial responsibilities to the grassroots levels is crucial to the concept of good governance. The candidates chosen to the seats are responsible to deal with the local problems on a day-to-day basis. This makes governance responsible, transparent and answerable to the public.

However, does it?

Balochistan held the LG polls in 2013, KP held them recently. “Only 30 percent of development funds have been allocated to the district government, whereas Punjab has stated it will allocate 50 percent of its development budget to the local bodies. However, health and education are two subjects that have been taken out of the purview of local bodies already, making it a provincial subject. The barometer for checking the health of any local body law is to measure the degree of administrative and financial independence at grassroots level,” says Fawad Chaudhry, senior analyst and host of a political show at Channel 92. He goes on to say, “Sindh government has in essence re-enacted much of the 1979 law under General Zia.”

According to a UNDP (Pakistan) report, “The Local Government Order 1979 expanded the local governments and empowered the Deputy Commissioners. This ordinance created four levels of municipal government in the urban areas: Town Committees, Municipal Committees, Municipal Corporations and Metropolitan Corporations. Members of each council elect the senior officers of these councils and the controlling authority is the elected house. In the rural areas, the system provided for a three-tier system of local government, where Union Councils, Tehsil or Taluka Councils and District Councils came into existence. The chairmen of these councils were elected by the members.”

Since the decision to award funds at local body levels is vested with the provincial government, it cuts through both the administrative and financial independence of the local representatives. Another interesting aspect of this is that if, for example, the local body representative in Peshawar hails from PTI and in Mardan from ANP, the provincial government reserves the right to release funds to them… and others. What can happen in such cases is that some local areas may have adequate funds for local development whereas some areas may not.

The concept of local governance system was an excellent one introduced by Pervez Musharraf. The crux was to empower the masses by transferring powers, both administrative and financial, to the local bodies. This would have ideally led to developing new leadership for the country as well. It would have ensured better focus on local issues faced by the masses, for example. District Councils and Union Councils under the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 have many overlapping as well as exclusive responsibilities like mobilising the community to provide, improve, and maintain public ways, public streets and public places. The District Councils would provide assistance in provision of relief in the event of any fire, floods, hailstorms, earthquakes, epidemic or other natural calamity and assisting relevant authorities in relief activities, assisting Union Councils in provision and maintenance of rural water supply schemes and public sources of drinking water, including wells, water pumps, tanks, ponds and other works for the supply of water etc.

However, it can only work if a formula is worked out to allocate funds at local level. Favouritism at the provincial level to give out funds on the discretion of the government will be self-defeating in terms of the very purpose of the local body elections. The downward fiscal decentralisation alone in itself will not ensure results though it is the first step to attain the goal. It will depend in a large part upon the execution of projects and functions of local bodies. Under the Devolution Plan, originally envisaged by Musharraf, the Nazim was entrusted with the responsibility of proposing the size of the budget as well as the budget allocation. There were issues in shifting of administrative powers. A strong bureaucracy coupled with the desire of provincial governments to maintain a control on some services were just two stumbling blocks. Even today, lack of formal infrastructures at local level, lack of trained staff and overlapping of responsibilities between the provincial governments and local governments prevail and they are bound to act as roadblocks.

The corresponding weakness to the administrative part is of a fiscal nature. The local governments have no source of revenue barring what is allocated to them by the provincial government. Further added to this is that the Financial Provincial Award under Musharraf had no representation by the local elected members. In light of this weakness, the locally elected bodies simply awaited for fund allocation instead of being allowed to be proactive members in ascertaining local needs, projects and fund requirement based upon realistic grounds. Further, local governments’ right to levy taxes is marginalised as it is the provincial governments that enforce these.

This does not mean that the Ordinance was ineffective. It most certainly was not. The Ordinance paved the way to bridge the gap between the state and the masses. “The allocation formula was based on an X area being calculated according to population residing within to ensure better evenness in allocating budget,” says Fawad Chaudhry. A fixed share in funds on agreed grounds make a lot of sense instead of leaving it open ended. This is one of the basic steps needed to make good governance possible on an even level in the country.

Here, it will be prudent to note that no infrastructures in the world can bring about prosperity until and unless the pilot and his team piloting the plane are honest and sincere to make the flight a safe one. The quality of people contesting and duly elected at the local government level is what matters the most. If those elected are not qualified to hold the seats on administrative as well as the level of character, no infrastructure, no matter how elaborately developed, can deliver.

But this is not all, Shaheen Atique-ur-Rehman writes, “In the latest Local Government Ordinance…. women’s seats have been done away with or are present in name only; everything is again under the DCO. The role of the Union Council, a pivotal role for the rural, especially the illiterate, is diluted. The question is ‘not’ what ‘should/could’ be but what is happening NOW!”

But that’s not all. We see the same loopholes reflected in the Local Government Act as we see in our Constitution. The member contesting must be a citizen of Pakistan but it is quiet on the issue of dual citizenship. There is no mention of the contestants to file tax returns for a given period to ascertain the compatibility between source of income and lifestyle maintained. The Act is also quiet on the level of education required. Agreed, the level may be less in case of the rural area; however, a certain criteria must be met.

I am reminded here of Abraham Lincoln who stated, “Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Unfortunately for the people of Pakistan, they must choose from the crop offered in absence of NOTA.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Cross post http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/09/14/local-government-elections-2015/

Preserving national heritage sites

A duty every country must observe

 Cross post http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/09/21/preserving-national-heritage-sites/

National heritage is ‘anything of national significance which is handed down and preserved through generations especially, architecture, landscapes, documents, and other artifacts; also, a body set up to carry out this preservation’.

Each of us has parts of the past that connects us to the future. Old photographs, turned sepia. The old pan-dan that a grandmother used. A family house holding wonderful memories. A piece of jewellery passed down from one generation to the next. Whatever we treasure, a part of our past is part of our heritage. It’s not just personal heritage that is important. Equally important are preservation of gardens, parks and sites declared as national heritage buildings. These can be subdivided into three segments: National Heritage, Local Heritage and Urban Historic Cores as detailed on the website of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan.

Though the National Archeological Department has traditionally been responsible for preserving these site, it falls also upon every Pakistani to do their share in ensuring the sites are not made damaged or polluted in any manner by their visits. Local heritage (monuments and places locally situated) have suffered greatly. This is mainly due to lack of availability of funds. One example of decay and dilapidation is Khairpur. Farooq Soomro writing a piece in a local daily speaks from his heart about the decadence setting in. (April 10, 2015) Extracts from his article, “The road curved and passed near Faiz Mahal which was the residence of Mirs of Khairpur. The once mighty walls of the residence have lost its height due to the raised ground level of the road which has been built over and over…. I could not find the staircase to go to the top but according to one of people there, it had been broken.” He writes of the gloriously colourful work on walls and roof with colorful pieces of glass and tiny mirrors, exquisitely hand crafted and woefully ignored. Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar’s residence in Peshawar was declared as part of national heritage by the government of Pakistan. The house reportedly covers an area of 130 square meters and has three stories. Two stories have already collapsed in many places.

A good endeavour was the creation of ICCROM that was created in 1956 in the spirit of international collaboration to provide assistance to those nations facing the challenges of restoring and preserving the tangible symbols of their culture after the war. Indeed restoration owing to war is also one cause of heritage destruction. One example is destruction of five out of six of Syria’s UNESCO National Heritage Sites as viewed via satellite images, reports BBC News. (September 19, 2014) Global Policy Forum laments,The United States and its allies ignored the warnings of organisations and scholars concerning the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage, including museums, libraries, archaeological sites and other precious repositories. Arsonists badly burned the National Library and looters pillaged the National Museum. Looters also damaged or destroyed many historic buildings and artifacts. The US constructed a military base on the site of ancient Babylon. Coalition forces destroyed or badly damaged many historic urban areas and buildings, while thieves have ruined thousands of incomparable, unprotected archeological sites.”

Writes Muhammad Rafique Mughal, “In 1947, Pakistan adopted the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1904 for some time but in 1968 created a new legislation called the Antiquities Act which repealed the 1904 AMP but retained most of its clauses in a modified form to suit the changed cultural and political realities. Under the Antiquities Act of 1968, any building dating prior to 1957 was defined as ancient. It also made a clear distinction between an ancient monument and an antiquity respectively dealing with standing buildings and moveable cultural objects. An important legislation provided for the federal government to assume custody of the antiquities or the building as a guardian if it was in danger and important aspect of history was threatened to be lost. It prohibited dealing in, copying and export of moveable antiquities without the approval of the federal government. The Antiquities Act of 1968 was replaced with another one of 1975, amended in 1990 by which an ancient object was defined to be not less than 75 years old. Integral with the management strategy is proper maintenance of the sites, an aspect which is also related to an overall security and protection of archaeological remains in order to keep them in presentable state as source of inspiration, learning and recreation for the visitors.”

We must remember that the sites stand exposed all the time not only to impacts of war and acts of terrorism but also natural calamities. One example is destruction of Jinnah’s residency in Ziarat by BLA. Reportedly the floor, front of residency and balcony were destroyed in the attack. According to a local newspaper report, “Not only was the historic building destroyed in the attack but also the Quaid’s personal effects, that were preserved as part of Pakistan’s heritage and history, were also reduced to ash along with several portraits of the Quaid.”(June 16, 2013)

In September 2015, after almost 15 long years of renovation, the majestic hall of the Dukhnivaran Sahib Gurdwara in Ludhiana was opened to the public. Says the news report, “Chandeliers hang from the ceiling of the rectangular hall adorned with intricate floral design. The “palki” is made of 8kg of pure gold donated by devotees. Artists from across the country were called in to design the hall based on the Rajasthani design. Close to 40,000 people visit the Gurdwara, which was built around 1932, everyday. The belief is that anyone who prays here will have their wish granted.” What a beautiful tribute to a place of heritage. Also recall how in 1782-83 AD, Maratha King Mahadaji Shinde, brought the Three Gates of the famed Somnath Mandar captured and taken away by Mahmud Ghazni, from Lahore after defeating Muhammad Shah of Lahore. It was and remains a part of Hindu national heritage today.

Nations preserve their heritage. It is who they are, who their next generation will be. They protect and nurture their roots.

Was it not Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Proposed Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015

The way it has been handled should worry every citizen

 Cross post http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/10/05/proposed-prevention-of-electronic-crimes-bill-2015/

The increasing influence the internet on its users worldwide cannot be denied. Crime rates have increased owing to this expanding use of medium. Sajjan M Gohel writes, “The virtual world is fast becoming the most important meeting place for terrorists, and a major venue where extremists can make contact with like-minded individuals. Through these relatively anonymous contacts, an extremist can be brought into the terrorist fold and become physically involved in terrorist plots. Today, there are a growing number of cases in which terrorist groups, or jihadist radicalisers, have used the internet to recruit individuals in the West, providing them a starting point to engage in terrorist activity. By ignoring this developing issue, there is the risk of becoming complacent about an emerging threat that appears to be growing more significant with time.” (December 3, 2009)

A local newspaper reports, “The recent case of two men involved in the horrific murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich has raised serious questions about how the men were radicalised. Evidence has now emerged that the suspects had been keeping ‘in touch’ with the radical preacher Omar Bakri who was deported from the UK but has continued to use the internet as a vehicle to drive home his ‘extremist’ views. In Britain, the fight against online cyber extremism has become a key priority as the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010 highlighted. Moreover, the Home Secretary Theresa May recently told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday that a new workforce would be set up to examine online cyber extremism because as in her words ‘cyber jihad’ was the ‘new’ threat the UK faced.” (June 3, 2013)

With the increasing presence of ‘Cyber Influence’, Pakistan too promulgated the Cyber Crime Prevention Bill in 2007 and Prevention of Electronic Crime 2008. The Ordinance of 2008 gave exclusive right to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to conduct investigation and handle cyber crimes. The Ordinance lapsed. Like much, the need for a law to govern cyber space was brushed under the carpet.

Hate speech in different hues and shades, unfortunately, has become a part of cyber space as have rumours and unverified news that spread like wildfire having negative cascading effects. “In comparison to traditional print-based media, the accessibility and relative anonymity of cyber space has torn down traditional barriers between an individual and his or her ability to publish. Any person with an internet connection has the potential to reach an audience of millions with little-to-no distribution costs. Yet this new form of highly accessible authorship in cyber space raises questions and perhaps magnifies legal complexities relating to the freedom and regulation of speech in cyberspace.” (Noor Alam Khan, Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan)

In light of the changing communication dynamics the new proposed Prevention of Electronics Crimes Bill 2015 was approved for a second time on September 7, 2015, by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Information Technology and Telecommunications.

An organisation ‘Bolo Bhi’ for advocacy, policy and research along with many other digital rights organisation as well as IT industry associations like Pakistan Association of Software Houses (PASHA) and ISPAK offers the following reservations on the proposed bill: “The major concerns regarding the bill and its provisions remain unaddressed. Recommendations on sections pertaining to powers of authorities, agencies and officers; checks and balance through defined procedures; judicial oversight mechanisms, content and speech restrictions; privacy breaches; all remain unaltered. The bill, in essence, remains as problematic as the version approved before it.”

If one takes a cursory look at the proposed bill, one sees loopholes that will lead to confusions if passed in its present form. Section 2 (x) states “offence” means an offence punishable under this Act except when committed by a person under [ten] years of age or by a person above [ten] years of age and under [thirteen], who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.” The age factor is in conflict with the age of 18 determined by law of the land for criminal offences for the offender to be subject to punishment for crimes of serious nature. The proposed law sets no difference between an offender attaining maturity and that of a juvenile. There is a difference between punishment for both world over. “For example, in 2005, the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders because “people under 18 are immature, irresponsible, susceptible to peer-pressure and often capable of change.” (NYT, June 5, 2012) Kelly Richards in his paper for the Australian Institute of Criminology writes about the doctrine of doli incapax, “The rate at which children mature varies considerably among individuals. Due to their varied developmental trajectories, children learn the difference between right and wrong—and between behaviours that are seriously wrong and those that are merely naughty or mischievous—at different ages. The legal doctrine doli incapax recognises the varying ages at which children mature.” Note that in Pakistan it has been fixed at 18.

Yet another confusion can be created by Section 27: Power to investigate — (1) Only an authorised officer of the investigation agency shall have the powers to investigate an offence under this Act. Under the Prevention of Electronic Crime 2008, the cyber crime section fell under the FIA. The website provided a complaint form that could be filled and submitted electronically which was treated as an FIR. Further, the section and subsequent sections do not lay out the parameters within which the investigative officer is to operate in terms of duties to carry out the investigation.

Section 3 on unauthorised access to information system or data, states: Whoever intentionally gains unauthorised access to any information system or data shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine up to fifty thousand rupees or with both.”

An interesting question arises here: how does one determine the access was accidental or intentional? A computer glitch not shutting off a site properly can lead to another user logging in as the initial authorised user did not sign out properly. The system may have server problems whereby it was not possible, or a genuine oversight. Yet the proposed law does not make a distinction between “white hacking” and “black hackers” and “blue hat hackers”. Techopedia defines, “People who break into a computer system and inform the company that they have done so, they are either concerned employees or security professionals who are paid to find vulnerabilities. White hat hackers are the “good guys”. Contrast with black hat hacker and blue hat hacker.” The black hat hacker is defined as, “A person who breaks into a computer system with the purpose of inflicting damage or stealing data. In other words, a “bad guy”. Whereas a blue hat hacker is defined succinctly as, “A security professional invited by Microsoft to find vulnerabilities in Windows.” Yet the proposed law lumps all in one category.

Afia Salam, a journalist having over three decades of experience of print and electronic journalism and digital rights activist, has the following to say, “As an ordinary citizen of Pakistan who has been closely following the developments related to the proposed Pakistan Electronic Crime Bill, I am actually perturbed at the way it is being handled. I have been over the many drafts, and have seen the civil society as well as industry reservations, and am not at all comfortable at the criminalisation of innocent mistakes, and overbroad definitions without checks and balances which render it liable to misuse.

However, more than the letter of the law, the spirit that is being displayed is alarming as there is a definite streak of obstinacy being displayed to push it through brute majority, without taking into account the reservations voiced by the Joint Action Committee and the members of the opposition from PPP, MQM PTI and ANP.

Despite promised, on public platforms, the members of civil society were not called for meetings and NA Standing Committee approved the bill in a manner that drew the ire of one of its members Shazia Marri. This means that there is every likelihood of a NA Senate scenario taking place.

This is totally against the spirit of the understanding of ‘no legislation without representation’. I have tried to share the bigger picture here. Dissecting the proposed law in a few hundred words is simply not possible, but I hope the point is conveyed. Hilary Mantel, who is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, correctly states, “When you are writing laws you are testing words to find their utmost power. Like spells, they have to make things happen in the real world, and like spells, they only work if people believe in them.”

May I request our lawmakers to kindly visit the real world?

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Glorious Warriors of 34 Legions

Caving in to pressure or standing the test of time?

 

The hunting of houbara bustard may be banned vide cancellation of all permits of hunting by a provincial High Court of Balochistan in 2014 but this does not stop our Saudi masters from hunting in the Land of the Pure. Come one, come all. Conditional of course to the blood coming is royal. And from Saudi shores. According to a newspaper report of April 22, 2014, special permit was issued by the federal government to the Gulf States’ royalists inspite of international and local ban. ‘A report titled ‘Visit of Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud regarding hunting of houbara bustard’ prepared by Jaffar Baloch, divisional forest officer of the Balochistan forest and wildlife department, Chagai at Dalbandin, says the prince hunted for 21 days – from Jan 11, 2014 to Jan 31– and hunted 1,977 birds, while other members of his party hunted an additional 123 birds, bringing the total bustard toll to 2,100.’

So why surprised that Pakistan was added to the ‘Glorious Warriors of 34 Legions’ without its knowledge? A nation flouting international and national court rulings for the right blood. The Saudis did no wrong in treating us as we ourselves placed ourselves to be treated.

Come one, come all. Conditional of course to the blood coming is royal/closely connected to royal. And from Saudi shores.

Brothers of the ‘Glorious Warriors of 34 Legions’ unite.

Then comes Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister to Pakistan in the backdrop of spiraling sectarian tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. ‘Several of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies have broken diplomatic ties with Iran after demonstrators ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran.’ (January 7, 2015) This followed the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, leading member of the Qatif Shiite community, a cleric held in high respect.

Pakistan had distanced itself from a proposed joint offensive with Saudi Arabia in Yemen not so long ago. This is a tight rope for Nawaz who was recipient of Saudi hospitality for many years after being ousted by the military takeover.

What are our options, really?

“Pakistan’s options are almost nothing to nil. Spiritual monopoly holders are here. When they announced without asking us that we are part of their 34-nation alliance, they had issued the sealed orders. We need to use our parliament to deflect such impositions as we did when there was a demand on us to send troops to KSA to fight in Yemen. Unfortunately, neither we have proactive foreign policy nor proactive leadership. There is still time to call for a joint session of the parliament to discuss all probabilities, pros and cons. Remember in such matters time is the essence. Iraq is the best example. Americans first used Saddam to fix Iran and then they got Iraq involved in a bigger conflict with the sole objective of decimating it as well, to create turmoil in the whole region and secure for themselves its resources.

“We must stop the two going the reckless path to doom and destruction. It will have direct bearing on us. Thousands of our labour in KSA would lose their jobs as the economic consequences would be colossal. One-sided decision other than top of the order diplomacy going into active flurry could make Iran our permanent enemy just on the border. And this will be the point when we will come to be known in history as the most suicidal nation surrounded on all sides by hostile neighbours for taking on them because of our failure to be strategically expedient.” (Wajid Shamsul Hasan)

‘Riyadh has continued to ratchet up pressure for Pakistan’s increased military involvement in the Saudi-led alliance. During the last eleven days, three high ranking officials of the Kingdom have called upon the civil and military leadership, beginning with Assistant Defence Minister Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Ayish, followed by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and finally Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.’ (Editorial, Pakistan Today)

Let’s revisit a more recent encapsulation of events here. Hundreds had joined the Shia-led protest in Islamabad two days ago to protest against Pakistan’s decision to join the ‘Glorious Warriors of 34 Legions’, presenting a memorandum to a Foreign Office spokesman demanding Pakistan leave the alliance. (Newsweek, January 9, 2016) The same report continues, “In a separate rally in the capital, an estimated 1,500 people chanted slogans against Saudi’s execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Jan 2, which sparked a deepening crisis between Riyadh and regional rival Iran.”

Let’s step back here to view a wider canvas.

Terrorism has many faces: religious terrorism, ethnic terrorism, so on and so forth. Pakistan is high on the list of those suffering from these multifaceted acts of terrorism. These can be broadly divided into acts of terrorism on civil population, acts of terrorism on security personal and apparatus and high profile sieges.

It becomes difficult at times to distinguish different acts of terrorism, especially within Pakistan. There are proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran being fought internationally, Yemen and Syria being two examples only. Pakistan is the third. Then there are outside infiltrators on our local turf i.e., from an impossible to manage border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, also being used by India, to create trouble within Pakistan. However, the homegrown terrorists and their impact on the overall scenario cannot be overlooked and needs aggressive addressal. Nevertheless, remember, military operations are inclusive of non-military operations to cleanse the society. It takes years if not decades to nullify the impact.

It took Sri Lanka over 25 years. The war traumatised the population, exacting a heavy price on lives of the citizens and economy of the country. The first thing Pakistan needs to do is to step back and take a stock of its policy to deal with terrorism. Yes, our military is engaged in a battle against terrorism on home ground. However, we need to have a clear-cut policy internationally too. It was reactionary of us to say yes to Saudi Arabia for Yemen operation before backtracking. Likewise, we must play the role of peacemaker in Syria. Pakistan must not give in to pressure by visiting FM of Saudi Arabia or upon the invitation of King of Bahrain and subsequent visit of PM there. We are the second country in the world after Iran with the highest rate of Shiite population. We cannot afford to give out a wrong message here.

If we take the false step of being one of the ‘Glorious Warriors of 34 Legions’, I am afraid it brings to question the operation the support given to Zab-e-Azab directly into conflict.

We cannot afford to overlook the situation on ground within Pakistan in terms of many challenges and a struggling economy.

We cannot afford to forget the enmity of India.

Talking of the attack on Pathankot, the timing is rather interesting: following on the heels of Modi’s ‘unexpected’ dash to Lahore. Unexpected, yet being able to pick up a pretty pink turban for PM Nawaz Sharif?

I quote the Hindustan Times (Jan 6, 2016). The rest I leave to your understanding:

“Even as security forces wrapped up their operation to clear Pathankot airbase, it emerged on Tuesday that the attack blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed was linked to the assault on the Indian consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

“The three terrorists who stormed a large house from which they targeted the Indian consulate left two messages written in blood on the walls of a strong room in which they had holed up. Both messages were in broken Urdu and one described the attack as “revenge for Afzal Guru”, who was hanged for his role in the 2001 parliament attack.

“The terrorists involved in the Pathankot attack had told Rajesh Verma, a Gurdaspur resident they had taken hostage, that they were going to attack the airbase to avenge the hanging of Afzal Guru.

“One of the messages scrawled by the attackers in Mazar-e-Sharif read: “Afzal Guru ka inteqaam (Revenge for Afzal Guru).” The other read: “Eik shaheed, hazar fidayeen (One martyr, thousand fidayeen).”

The Pajhwok Afghan News posted photos of the messages that were scribbled in blood on walls that appeared to have been hit by bullets and shrapnel.

Let there be no doubt that Pakistan cannot be party to any adventurism led by either Saudi Arabia or Iran. If Pakistan enters into such folly, it will be akin to setting fire in its home turf. The only role Pakistan must play is that of the peacemaker.

I do not envy PM Nawaz Sharif to the tight spot he has been placed in.

However, let him bear in mind that history will record whether he stood the test of time or caved in to pressure pitching his country in chaos for times to come.

 The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.
Cross post http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/01/12/glorious-warriors-of-34-legions/

Saudi Arabia’s alliance of 34

A wake up call

 

‘It was nothing short of a Saudi Royal decree. Its compulsory acceptance is inbuilt religiously, economically and also for very private reasons of brotherly humility for the never ending dole-outs by the current ruler, calling upon it subjects, more so the government in Pakistan to be on the front line of the Saudi conjured coalition to defend what it calls Islamic interest as franchised by it under the brand name of Wahabism, having proved to be more divisive and destructive than anything else in Islam,’ states Wajid Shamsul Hasan, former High Commissioner of Pakistan for Britain.

Pakistan claimed unawareness of joining any such alliance when news broke. From being unaware to welcoming the alliance took barely a few days and exclusion of parliamentary discussion to decide upon this hugely important issue. However, some sanity remains, whereas a local newspaper reports quoting FO spokesman Qazi Khalilullah writes that Pakistan is part of the alliance against terrorism, “We are participating in this alliance against terrorism. The only thing that needs to be decided is the extent of our participation in various activities of the alliance.” (December 18, 2015)

In the meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is taking onboard opposition parties of coalition countries to lobby for their cause. The same report quotes Asif Ali Zardari with Senator Rehman Malik and some family members to be in Saudi Arabia upon an invite.

What is the alliance about? Is it about terrorism or is it about extending Saudi Arabia’s area of influence?

Two extremely valid points raised by Adam Taylor need attention: “Perhaps the most damning criticism of the alliance is just how vague it is. Jubeir has said that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to the alliance, which will not only have a military component but also tackle terror funding and ideology. What that means in practice is anyone’s guess. The exclusion of Shia nations in an alliance designed to represent the Islamic world seems to reinforce the belief that Saudi Arabia’s alliance is motivated by a sectarian rivalry with Iran and not terrorism. The problem is that sectarianism often feeds further into extremism. And while this new alliance may appear to target terrorism, it’s not hard to see it as an extension of the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting in Yemen – a war that sums up the sectarian quagmire currently engulfing the Middle East.”(Washington Post, December 17, 2015)

“General Raheel Shareef should treat it as a direct threat to his crusade against terrorism. As this would pump in more foreign sectarian money and arms for the different groups proxy-ing for various foreign masters on behalf of Daesh or against it,” says Wajid Shamsul Hasan. “Most importantly, our emphasis should be that lessons need to be learnt from history. Never in recent history any war coalition/military alliance or an axis opposing it, has resulted in restoring peace. We have seen the aftermath of 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Algeria, Lebanon, Vietnam etc. Millions got killed, economies destroyed, dislocations of populations, miseries all around—peace is only restored at the negotiating table and only there issues are settled.”

Lest we forget, Pakistan is the second largest country having Shia population. Such an alliance in exclusion to any Shia country will inevitably lead to a worse situation of sectarian violence in Pakistan.

Brigadier Rashid Ali Malik, Chairman APSAA is bull’s eye when he says, “Pakistan by any stretch of imagination is not Mideast. Pakistan is totally involved in its own war for survival. India can never be trusted. Pakistan cannot take sides in any Sunni-Shia war. Pakistan at best can play an advisory role.” Yes, Pakistan must play a conciliatory role, that of a mediator. Not as an aggressor or a partner in terms of inflicting aggression on another state. Wajid Shamsul Hasan is on the same page, “Pakistan should urge upon all the Muslim countries to join hands and invoke the United Nations into action. It should ask the Arab League and OIC to wake up to get down to resolving the issue. After all it is an Arab issue fast escalating into sectarian conflict.”

A day after Wajid Shamsul Hasan gave his opinion, Al-Jazeera broke the news that the fifteen members of UN Security Council agreed upon a draft resolution calling for peace conference in January and ceasefire, and adopted unanimously. Let us hope something positive comes out of this that can be implemented being acceptable to all involved.

This is not the first time Saudi Arab wants Pakistan to fight its war. In Yemen, Pakistan refused to fight the war for Saudis and rightly. On March 30, 2015, facing the same decision for Yemen on behalf of Saudi Arabia, in my op-ed I had written and its worth repeating here as the ground realities remain the same, still: “Pakistan has its plate full of its share of problems. Homegrown terrorism, sponsored terrorism, an untenable border between her and Afghanistan, a hostile neighbour, and its army engaged in a war within its borders that needs to be fought with single-minded focus. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Then there are practical considerations: Does Pakistan has the surplus troops to send to Yemen? Can we undertake this venture when we are at war on our own home ground? It was therefore with a huge sigh of relief that many read Khawaja Asif’s statement that Pakistan would not participate in a conflict that could divide Muslim Ummah. In addition to it came another positive statement that, ‘Pakistan is ready to facilitate the end of conflicts in the Islamic world with a pragmatic view that involvement in conflict could aggravate fault-lines in Pakistan.’ I think similar must be the stance of Pakistan in case of Syria.

The thirty two countries announced magnanimously in the coalition of 34 are: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, Palestine, Comoros, Qatar, Cote Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Yemen.

Read that list carefully and you will see only Pakistan and Turkey with armies of strength in number and quality. “Pakistan needs to remember that none of the members of 34-country alliance has an army that could qualify to be better than red tag. The whole brunt would fall on the shoulders of Pakistan and Turkey. Let Turkey decide what it wants to do, Pakistan should be firm that it can’t be part of fratricidal conflict whatever money Saudis offer.”(Wajid Shamsul Hasan)

Pakistan must also keep in mind while taking the decision, that Pakistan needs Russia and Iran on their side in the upcoming China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. With USA’s overtures to India, converging of interests between Russia-China-Pakistan is the call of the future. Iran has her own interests as the corridor definitely works for Iran opening up the reach to the east. China, seen as Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’ will not like to see the project yet again being placed on the backburner at the cost of playing ‘tea-boy’ to Saudi interests. “The world’s largest explosives manufacturer, Beijing Auxin Chemical Technology Limited, is all set to establish a plant in the country. The company will manufacture emulsion explosives which will “meet the future demand of explosives and blasting accessories in the light of CPEC, large-scale mining and hydroelectric projects.” (The Diplomat, October 14, 2015) This is only one example.

‘Why is Pakistan coming down so heavily on the Saudi side when this opens up big risks in its relations with its large and powerful neighbour, Iran? The answer has much to do with Pakistan’s economic troubles. A terrorist insurgency and the government’s inability to deal with it has also scared off any foreign investors who might have injected money into the ailing economy. An energy crisis has slowed down work in factories and offices, and importing oil has become increasingly expensive. With dwindling reserves of foreign currency, Pakistan has been surviving from one IMF loan to the next, with some additional respite in the form of American reimbursements for money spent on the Afghan war. Pakistan has always been dependent on American aid, whether in the form of development funds or F-16s. Now the American money is dwindling and Pakistan must look elsewhere for financial support.’ (The American Interest, March 15, 2014)

The cost Pakistan is paying and will continue to pay for God knows how long, for choices made by Zia to succumb to USA’s need to counter Russia in Afghanistan in raising the Mujahedeen with USA, UK and Saudi Arabia as its funders, rechristened later as Taliban, should be a lesson in history. Pakistan is facing a war on terror within its borders that has cost thousands of lives of civilians, army and police personnel. It has damaged the social fabric of the country and economy has been a heavy casualty. Pakistan must not repeat the disastrous mistake the second time round.

Terrorism has different faces; it can be ethnic, sectarian, religious based so on and so forth. Is Wajid Shamsul Hasan right when he says, “Besides giving our people jobs, chopping their heads off whenever need be, hosting their palaces to our VIPs, doling out chunks of their zakat money to keep us surviving on their ventilators, its major threat to our existence is its violent and suicide-bomber cult of Wahabism.”

This is a wake-up call for those in power.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Cross post http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/12/21/saudi-arabias-alliance-of-34/

Will to fight terrorism?

The curse for our social fabric

 

 

Bacha Khan University attack was a Black Day for Pakistan. The purpose of such attacks is undoubtedly to cripple a society with fear, destroy the social fabric by creating divisions, creating chaos and mayhem, establish lawlessness as the law of the land and bring the state apparatus to its knees.

Regarding the Charsadda tragedy, many friends from KP tell me there had been a general alert for a security threat for the past few days before terror struck again. Two questions basic in nature raise their head. One: did the institutions like courts, schools, universities that are enclosed buildings and thereby better manageable and can be monitored, beef up their security? Two: who were the local collaborators for the attack? Reportedly, three suicide bombers had entered District Charsadda, at least two of which were of Afghan descent.

Let us get the basics clear here.

No one must be allowed to challenge the sovereignty of a state. These people who are at the forefront of terrorism are mere pawns of vested interests being used to serve political interests. Yes, there can be and there are those directing the orchestra from abroad. To quote Sartaj Aziz who was addressing the Foreign Ministers’ Forum at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, ‘the country had ample evidence of Indian interference and promotion of terrorism in the country.’ The reality is, even if this is true, there are people or groups within who believe that what they are doing is for God and that theirs is the right belief to subscribe to.

Military action alone cannot curb this mindset. To curb the mindset, funding of terrorist outfits must be choked, the collaborators, protagonists picked up and dealt with. The need of good governance assumes great importance, with better distribution of funds to education, health care, employment opportunity among masses. It must trickle down to grass-roots levels.

It is important to ensure divisions within the social fabric of the society by vested interests are not allowed. Only inclusive steps emanating from good governance can deliver. Not military steps alone. The divisions of ethnicity, caste, religion must be overcome. This is an uphill task. Bringing in the underprivileged in the mainstream must be a concentrated effort of the government. Madrassas reforms are a part of this concentrated effort. This is one of the salient features of NAP as well. A registration of these seminaries has become a must. Equally important is the syllabus being taught there. This must be centralised and developed on positive lines to make the students positive and contributing members of the society. The quality of education offered in these seminaries offers no employment opportunities to its graduates, its students. It is equally important to know exactly where each seminary is being funded from. Regarding Punjab, ‘After nearly a year-long denial, authorities in the Punjab government have finally admitted that some 17 Muslim and non-Muslim countries were contributing hundreds of millions of rupees to around 1,000 religious seminaries in the province. The disclosure was made by the special branch of Punjab police in a secret document submitted to Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges Senator Col (retd) Tahir Mashhadi.’ (February 17, 2015)

Yet another report published in Pakistan Today says, “Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mushtaq Sukhera on Wednesday said that 147 madrassas in the province are receiving foreign funds. Sukhera informed the Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges (SSCRPP) that there were in fact nearly 150 madrassas that were receiving funds from foreign countries.” (March 4, 2015)

According to another newspaper report, “During Friday’s session of the Senate, Minister of State for Interior Baligur Rehman informed the House that Middle Eastern countries namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Iran and the United Arab Emirates were giving aid to religious seminaries in three provinces. According to the report presented before the Senate, 23 religious seminaries in the country are receiving foreign assistance. Out of the 23 seminaries, five belong to the Shia sect and are located in Balochistan. Other seminaries are based in KP, Sindh and Balochistan and are part of the Sunni sect. No information was given with regards to the province of Punjab. However, reports have said that the seminaries in Punjab are not receiving any assistance.” (January 30, 2015)

Michael Busch writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, discusses WikiLeaks cable stating that Saudi financed madrassas are more widespread in Pakistan and reports findings of Bryan Hunt, then-principal officer at the US consulate in Lahore, who reported a string of troubling findings on his forays into southern Punjab, where he “was repeatedly told that a sophisticated jihadi recruitment network had been developed in the Multan, Bahawalpur, and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions”. (May 26, 2011) ‘Locals claim that the Deobandi or Ahl-e-Hadith maulana will generally be introduced to the family through these organisations. He will work to convince the parents that their poverty is a direct result of their family’s deviation from “the true path of Islam” through “idolatrous” worship at local Sufi shrines and/or with local Sufi Pirs. The maulana suggests that the quickest way to return to “favour” would be to devote the lives of one or two of their sons to Islam. The maulana will offer to educate these children at his madrassa and to find them employment in the service of Islam. The concept of “martyrdom” is often discussed and the family is promised that if their sons are “martyred”, both the sons and the family will attain “salvation” and the family will obtain God’s favour in this life, as well. An immediate cash payment is finally made to the parents to compensate the family for its “sacrifice” to Islam.”

Then there are those who pull the strings from across the borders as pointed out by Aziz.

We need to understand that we must meet and overcome the challenge facing us. We do not have a choice.

Do we have the will to fight terrorism?

Cross post http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/01/26/will-to-fight-terrorism/

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Pakistan’s intolerant social media

And verbal diarrhoea one has to face every day

 Cross post: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/02/15/pakistans-intolerant-social-media/

Intolerance is becoming a national hallmark. I am not talking of religious intolerance only, which is what springs to mind with this word. I speak of a general intolerance on political and personal views blatantly expressed on the social media. Social forums, more especially Twitter and Facebook, discussion groups, WhatsApp groups etc, are a living example of this.

More unfortunate is the tolerance of this intolerance.

“Social media is basically standing at a bucket filled with other people’s vomit and you suck the vomit through a straw, and gag and wince at the unbearable taste of other people’s vomit. Yet, strangely, we continue to suck through the straw as if we’ve never tasted such lovely vomit. And then before you know it you’re old and you’re grey. And that’s the end of you. A lonely death. Your gravestone is marked with the six saddest words:

“Social Media Drained My Soul Away”

Rupert Dreyfus, a UK writer, in ‘The Rebel Sketchbook’”

At this point, my focus is not on the accounts by political parties and others whose objective is to pursue an agenda of self-promotion and running down of others. The focus is the people not so affiliated, who nonetheless descend to a level one cannot associate with those hailing from backgrounds imbibing good breeding in their offspring. Differing with views is one thing, argument within parameters is another thing but using hate speech and slanderous words another thing altogether. The reason for such pathetic exchanges can be anything; views against a favoured political leader, views against a community or a personality clash. It can also be a personal problem, wrong timing to be on your laptop or a phone in your hand when an opinion or view comes that is opposed to yours — and it becomes a venting point and beginning of a match that can only shame the participants if they give themselves time to read what they write. This they do not do. Do such ignobles realise the public at large is reading the verbal diarrhoea being unleashed and the impression it creates of the participants? Not only a ‘common man’ but also well-known public figures hailing from different fields in life are perpetuators of this ignoble conduct. This includes people from left, right, moderates et al.

Whereas these forums should be springboards of discussions, open exchange of views on issues and solution based, constructive way-forward dialogue, more and more they are regressing into an extension of the problem called intolerance afflicting the Pakistani society.

“Fifty percent of the users access the internet on their phones, and with over a hundred million mobile phone subscriptions in the country, the fifth highest in Asia, the number seems likely to keep up a rapid growth as cell phone companies offer more and more attractive net packages. A youthful population, the huge popularity of social media and the extraordinary pace at which it permits information to be disseminated makes it an immensely popular tool.” (PPF, December 17, 2015)

Social media can be used to bridge polarisation, something mainstream media in Pakistan has failed to achieve, generally speaking. It can help create a new social reality. Unfortunately, social media practitioners are not an island in themselves, they are members of the society. A society riddled with biases, intolerance, sarcasm, hatred and general abusive behaviour. Of course there are many who will not subscribe to this code of behaviour (or code of misbehaviour would be a more apt term) but the numbers of not indulging in verbal spats are dwindling slowly but surely. In their blocked frame of minds, they do not really read what is written by the other, their mind is more focused on how to respond in as caustic a manner and as quickly as possible.

This behaviour of intolerance is reflective of individual frustrations, but should this frustration be projected onto those one engages with on social forums? This is a question these perpetuators must ask themselves.

Social media has offered an alternate platform to the common man to interact with public figures, offer and solicit views, build social activism for a cause, support what they feel is good. Infecting social media with individual frustrations and failings is taking this forum down, with them.

Many indulging in such ignoble behaviour may not even realise how they expose themselves. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, a Russian novelist, dramatist and historian, notes, “It’s a universal law — intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

Human behaviour is also reflective of one’s background and upbringing. Let me offer an example to explain my point better. I come from a world where men are supposed to stand up if a woman enters a room, where they are supposed to open the door and step back to allow her to precede him from the room, where the man will open the door of the car for her and ensure she’s comfortably seated before he sits in the car, if accompanying her, where on the dining table he will never help himself before the ladies have helped themselves. Though this example may be gender related, it is used to state that men, who are gentlemen (not all are hence I differentiate between the two terms) will not allow themselves to indulge in verbal diarrhoea, especially in the public eye. Neither will women if they are ladies.

A friend Raju Jameel sent me this which is relevant in the given context on ‘Shouting Words’:

“A saint who was visiting river Ganges to take a bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other.

He turned to his disciples, smiled and asked,

‘Why do people shout at each other when they are angry?’

The followers thought for a while.

Then one of them said,

‘Because we lose our peacefulness, we shout.’

‘But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner,’ asked the saint.

Followers gave some other answers but none satisfied the other followers. Finally, the saint explained,

‘When two people are angry at each other,

their hearts distance a lot.

To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other.

The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.

What happens when two people fall in love?

They don’t shout at each other but talk softly,

Because their hearts are very close.

The distance between them is either non-existent or very small…’

The saint continued;

‘When they love each other even more, what happens?

They do not speak, they only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally, they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all.

That is how close two people are when they love each other.’

He looked at his followers and said:

‘So, when you argue do not let your hearts get distant.

Do not say words that distance each other more,

Or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.’

Whither Pakistan’s tolerant social media?

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Quaid, CPEC and provincialism

United we should stand

 

 

Cross post: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/02/22/quaid-cpec-and-provincialism/

The following was posted on a WhatsApp group, presumably an extract from an article written on CPEC:

“It doesn’t matter whether there is this corridor or that corridor.

It doesn’t matter whether it is biased in favour of Punjab or not.

It doesn’t matter whether $46 billion is a loan or investment.

It doesn’t matter whether Chinese have ulterior motives or are really sincere in developing Pakistan.

It doesn’t matter whether there is transparency or whether there is a hidden agenda.

It doesn’t matter whether there are any projects for Karachi or not.

What really matters is that Karachi will be paying for all this since Karachi contributes 65% of the nation’s revenue.”

We forgot Quaid-e-Azam’s statement, “We are now all Pakistanis — not Balochis, Pathans, Sindhis, Bengalis, Punjabis and so on — and as Pakistanis we must behave and act, and we should be proud to be known as Pakistanis as nothing else.” Unfortunately, we act as Balochis, Pathans, Sindhis and Punjabis and so on — anything but as Pakistanis.

However, is the above excerpt a true reflection of Karachi’s economy? Tariq J Qureshi, CEO at Menaa Group-Global, notes: “All exports from Pakistan are recorded at exit point Karachi, all imports entering Pakistan are also recorded in Karachi. It’s the same reason why entire Faisalabad textile community set up offices in Karachi. So it is not a true reflection of reality.” Gohar Ijaz, CEO of Ejaz Textile and Lake City Holdings Ltd, opines, “Karachi is the biggest in terms of collection or revenue contribution? There is a huge difference between the two. Karachi is no doubt the biggest collection point of revenue collection, not revenue generation. However, Karachi port collects this revenue on behalf of Pakistan, not Karachi.”

Ejaz’s stance is substantiated by data compiled on ten years of Annual Reports of Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), Government of Pakistan. These reports contain zone-wise collection of both direct and indirect taxes as well as other relevant data. (Business Recorder, May 13, 2015) “Before presenting and analysing data on taxes we should know two terms, namely impact and incidence. Those persons or institutions that pay a tax but pass on the final burden to others are bearing the impact of a tax, but those who bear the final burden are bearing the “incidence”. Thus if an imported vehicle or a piece of machinery is unloaded at Karachi (and taxes are paid in Karachi) but it is being used in Punjab or KP, the burden of taxes paid on such items is on users in Punjab or KP, as the case may be. Those talking of Karachi contributing 70% of federal tax revenue refer to collection (which actually is about 54%), conveying the impression that collection is identical with incidence. This is the source of misunderstanding.”

But this is not the issue I want to address; the issue is much bigger — a cancer of ethnicity gnawing at our innards. In my article in a leading newspaper I had written, “Let me submit here that nations geographically and demographically bigger than us have had more cultural diversity in terms of ethnicity than we can imagine, yet they have managed to emerge as one nation. One such example is the US. The US Census Bureau map shows the ancestry of its 317 million people, of which Germans are by far the largest with 49,206,934 people. This is followed by the African-Americans. Then there are roughly 4.5 million Irish people settled in the larger cities of the US including New York, Boston and Chicago, to name a few. The English-Americans are also sizeable in number. Those claiming a Mexican ancestry are said to be at 31,789,483 in number. Yet, this does not stop any one of them from thinking and acting only as Americans.

In countries having served time under colonial rule, English has more often than not been given a legislative status. Most African states, for example, had English as their national and official language to curb ethnic disputes, which would otherwise arise from existence of multi-tribes and ethnicities. No country can develop as a nation if it negates its component parts. Translated, it means, a Pakistani Identity cannot establish and entrench itself in the psyche of its people minus the identity of being a composition of all its multi-cultural and multi-religious roots. Acknowledgement and nurturing of sub-cultures making up these layers does. Imposition of any form that is alien will not create an identity; it will only destroy the existing one leaving one groping in the dark in confusion. Subscribing to the thought expounded above, Hywel Coleman, an Honorary Research Fellow of Leeds, did a research paper for the British Council in 2010 addressing the weightage awarded to English language competency in the Civil Service Exams in Pakistan. He suggested that applicants should need to demonstrate not only competency in English language but also the language generally understood by all, Urdu, as well as competency in at least one regional language. In one stroke of brilliance, Hywel told us that though English is necessary in today’s world based on inter-linking of nations, important too is to link Pakistanis across board under the ‘umbrella’ of Urdu understood by all. He has at the same time awarded equality to regional languages as well thereby emphasizing upon the importance of one’s roots.”(March 2015)

Instead of provinces embroiling themselves in a brawl over CPEC, there should be a consolidated effort to join in if something good is coming to the country.

Pakistan has done well in lifting sanctions against Iran recently. With the lifting of restrictions, economic and trade relations between Iran and Pakistan will undoubtedly take a positive turn. The most important need is to contain terrorism en route. The investments envisaged over the next fifteen years are worth $45 billion covering energy and transportation infrastructures, smart cities and industrial projects. It is an ambitious programme. A shrewd calculation reveals that it is in China’s interest to have a route; it is also in China’s interest to have energy en route. However, whether or not smart cities develop, whether or not industries develop along the way can offer no great advantage to China.

Pakistanis as one nation need to ensure development of the CPEC as a whole, not a stunted growth at the expense of the nation. Let us not cut off our nose to spite our face.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

In and out

Leaders, national interests and political expediency

 

Pakistanis were clearly divided over Musharraf being allowed to leave for Dubai purportedly for medical treatment. Is it another NRO question for the political pundits? Will he return, ask others? PPP-P opposes the permission duly trashed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. He states that the elimination of Musharraf’s name from ECL was the result of Supreme Court ruling. He said, “People who once gave guard of honour to the former military ruler are now staging a political drama.” Political drama or not, one needs to look into the cascading effects of the decision and the culture developing as a result thereof.

Associate Editor of Pakistan Today Shahab Jafry gives a hard-hitting opinion with no punches held back, “Ordinarily, there could be a situation more unsettling for a country supposedly fighting to return to democracy than letting a former dictator, finally being tried for treason, off the hook. However, scratch the surface a little and you will understand why few except the frenzied media paid much attention.

“Our champions of democracy are hardly an inspiring bunch. The ruling party is little more than many sheep feeding off a tightly knit kitchen cabinet that was knitted together by the establishment, then fed off the extreme right wing and has now suddenly decided to turn secular/progressive. The prime minister and his close circle hardly ever attend parliament, make all decisions among themselves, have little sense of prioritising public expenditure and are known to build mysterious fortunes.

“The PPP, on the other hand, remains a so-call left of centre, secular party dominated by feudal lords and has just completed the first hereditary transfer of party leadership/ownership in the country. Former PMs, sitting senators and ministers all duly bowed before Bilawal – who still needs more miles under his belt and continues to rely on string-pulling – and now sell the ‘fish does not need swimming lessons’ lessons.

“And those that do not loot out of reflex action have parked themselves so far to the right that they are falling on themselves; PTI, for example.

“In such times, even Musharraf’s fiercest critics of the last two decades are forced to pause and think. There is really no difference between democracy and dictatorship for the people. Moreover, while the politicians still enjoy ‘saving democracy’ etc, the people found little proof of the pudding in the eating. Little difference who stays and who manages to leave. In fact, if anyone has a regret today, it is Musharraf for signing the NRO to prolong his presidency, only to resign soon enough and un-bottling once again the genie he had himself so miraculously bottled.”

The question involved here is two prolonged, the ongoing relationship between the civil and military leaderships and the developing culture of ‘forgiveness’, leading to more frustration by the general populace.

Fawad Chaudhry, a lawyer and a leading anchorperson, caps an interesting angle, “So Musharraf sahib reached Dubai, and proved another failure of Fauj in politics. However, this is a good decision of Nawaz Sharif in the wake of threat of religious forces. The civil/military relations in Pakistan are far more important than any other issue currently on the cards. This decision will give Nawaz more space. On the other hand, Raheel Shareef can claim his victory before the troops. It’s a win-win for both. Initial criticism on Nawaz will subside in a few days. Pakistan is far larger than the personal vendetta of two individuals to put her interests at stake. Musharraf symbolises a classic case of structural problem of our civil/military relations. Unfortunately, since civil governments are not powerful enough and competent enough, this creates a vacuum that is filled by army, therefore army becomes a vital component of Pakistan’s governance structure. Wishes in themselves are not enough to minimise army role, to turn such wishes into reality needs far more than that. Unless civilian structures are not reformed, dependency on army shall remain a vital course for Pakistan.”

Though what Fawad says in essentially true in terms of ground realities, it has created more frustration amongst the general populace. For them it is not about Musharraf, for the common person it is about the most powerful being placed outside the ambit of law. For them it is about the laws of the land being applicable only to the common man. The NRO by Musharraf helped Benzair Bhutto sahiba and Nawaz Sharif in their comeback to Pakistan. Interestingly, Musharraf’s visit to Dubai follows close on heels of Mustafa Kamal’s breakaway from his mother party and announcing one of his own. Related or no, the timing is of interest to me as a student of politics. In either case, frustration is the expected negative cascading effect.

The mis-governance has permeated the pores of the institutions. Whether it is lack of law enforcement by the law agencies or tax frauds by the powerful, the negligence and irregularities in power sector, chaos in health and education areas or questioning the practices of law practioners at any level, the frustration of the populace rides high at the repeated practice of allowing the rich and powerful to go to greener pastures to return once the sun shines again to amass greater wealth — as the perception goes.

Brig (retd) G M Mohatarem, who served as the Commander of MI and later as the Home Secretary to the Government of Sindh under Musharraf, says, “The media is flush with all kinds of comments on muk muka and a deal behind the government’s decision to allow Musharraf to go abroad for medical treatment. The bottom line is that General Musharraf has been allowed by the government to proceed abroad for medical treatment. The Supreme Court actually did not give any binding decision on ECL, it simply provided the space for action to the government. Well done, SC. At times the highest court in any country may have to take decisions or non-decisions for the sake of national aspirations.

“Those who criticise SC’s leaning on the law of necessity fail to indicate an alternate which would have saved the state from avoidable constitutional turmoil and maybe bloodshed. In this case, Supreme Court’s non-decision has allowed much needed medical treatment abroad to a sick old man who has lived a wholesome military and political life and reached the highest level of national leadership and thus carries a lot of baggage. He did good things and being human made terrible mistakes like the NRO, which unfortunately affected all of us as a nation.

“Nobody ever questioned his loyalty to the state, nobody accused him of corruption or building a business empire at the cost of the state or political family dynasty etc. He shall return to the country as and when he is required for legal proceedings after the doctors clear him and I am prepared to bet on that. It is unlikely that he shall use the period of relative freedom to explore political possibilities. One should not forget that there were hardly any restrictions on him even in Pakistan to remain politically active, which he was. Actually, this move abroad takes away the pressure from Musharraf of indicating his preferences in the MQM divide. Nawaz, on the other hand, has got rid of the label of being vindictive and being driven against Musharraf in a personal vendetta.

“Nawaz has also made a point loud and clear that he does not in any way consider Musharraf a threat or a political heavy weight who threw any kind of challenge to him. If the military was exerting any kind of pressure or if there was tension between the political government and the military over Musharraf, then I suppose Nawaz has smartly got over it by allowing Musharraf to go abroad for treatment under the cover of SC orders. General Raheel Shareef is very popular among the troops as well as the public. If he was behind the push to let Musharraf go, it would add to his stature among the troops.”

The question though then one escapes while addressing the issue, not just in this case but in others before, and many likely to follow in future, is, what about lack of accountability? Should national interests be used to ensure clean leaders are sacrificed at the altar of political expediency?